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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

08 Sep 1995: Kane-Berman, John

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POM     Mr Kane-Berman, let me ask you first what direction do you think the country is going in after what amounts to 18 months of the government of national unity?

JKB     Well it's quite a tricky question to answer at this stage. There are some quite healthy developments and some distinctly disturbing developments. The constitution and the subsequent election that laid the foundation of the liberal democratic state, but it's only the foundation; we can build on that or we can undermine those foundations and it is too early to say which way we are going. I think that people that assumed that the end of apartheid, by which I mean statutory racial discrimination which implied a great deal of state intervention in every walk of life, economic and otherwise, people who assumed that the end of apartheid meant the unbundling of the state have been proved perhaps a bit too optimistic and one of the disturbing developments is the extent to which we are simply seeing old style interventionism in the name of one ideology replaced by interventionism in the name of other political agendas. Either way it's intervention in the private domain and if that trend continues we could see ourselves heading in the direction once again of a fairly authoritarian society. It's too early to be certain as to exactly how we're going to end up.

POM     Do you see elements of that authoritarianism emerging in the last 18 months?

JKB     Yes I do. By authoritarianism, let's not say authoritarianism, we're moving in the direction of new kinds of state intervention in the private domain. If that continues at the present pace we will find ourselves once again in a fairly authoritarian society, but there have been definite trends towards interventionism, the most recent being a bill tabled in parliament, the Commission on Gender Equality Bill which provides for the establishment of a state financed commission on gender equality which will have extensive powers of search and seizure with warrants, of subpoenaing of people to give evidence in the pursuit of what the commission decides is a gender related issue and the commission is also entitled if the bill becomes law in its present form to make use of the police in carrying out its investigations. Earlier we had enacted a Human Rights Commission Act which provided for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission. That has the power to investigate any alleged violations of human rights and, again, people may be subpoenaed to give evidence, warrants can be obtained to search homes and premises to take possession of documents and so on.

     Now what both bills have in common is not that they empower people to investigate breaches of any law. It's open-ended. You can be subpoenaed to give evidence because the commission believes that you have information about some gender related issue or some human rights related issue. The South African Institute of Race Relations strongly criticised both pieces of legislation. The Human Rights Commission Act was somewhat watered down. Partly as a result of our criticism the search and seizure now has to be conducted under warrant, previously no warrant was necessary. The Gender Commission Bill has extensive intrusive powers that we think are completely incompatible with a liberal democratic society and by a liberal democratic society I mean a free society, a society in which people are basically entitled to do as they please provided they do not break the law. Both of these bills provide for investigations of offences in our view against political correctness. They don't confine themselves to investigating breaches of the law and I think both pieces of legislation are quite unacceptable in a free society.

POM     And in each case does the commission have the power to decide what is a gender related issue or a human rights related issue?

JKB     Yes.

POM     So that they can really investigate anything they wish?

JKB     They can investigate anything that they think may be a human rights or gender related issue, absolutely. It is open-ended. That is one of our most fundamental objections.

POM     I want to turn for a moment to the local elections. As far as I can judge from talking to people the arrangements appear to be fairly chaotic. The first question I would ask is, I have not been able to come across any two people, knowledgeable people, who have been able to explain to me precisely what the voting procedure is. What votes people are casting, what kinds of votes they are, whether there are property votes or there are not property votes and if there are property votes where they can be exercised? Everyone has a different interpretation. What's your understanding of what the voting procedure is?

JKB     I cannot recall, we have published material on this. We published an article in our quarterly journal, Frontiers of Freedom, under the headline 'Apathy is the only remedy', pointing out a number of things that the voting procedure, the delimitation of wards and constituencies, the entire electoral system was enormously complicated. That was the first point. The second point was that it was not at all clear how much real power the various institutions of local government would have. Now I as a ratepayer in Johannesburg would not be interested in voting for a local authority that didn't have any real power. It's part of the unanswered question about South Africa and that is, how is power going to be distributed between the central, provincial and local levels of government. At the moment we have a pretty centralised political system. The indications are that the final constitution, which is due to be enacted by about the middle of next year, is going to provide for a system at least as centralised as the present one. All power will ultimately be in the hands of central government which is what was the case under the apartheid system. The Johannesburg City Council, for example, did not even have the power under the old system to decide who could sit on a park bench. The central government passed the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953 which gave it the power to impose segregation down to the level of benches in public municipal parks. Now if we're going to see that kind of central government laying down the law right down to local government level, what is the point of voting for local authorities which have no power? So I think if there is public apathy and public confusion about the whole local government system and the local elections it's a rational response to a system which looks far too complicated to operate and all these complications don't yield you any real influence over the outcome of the election in any event.

POM     Well to your knowledge are there property votes? If I own property in different wards do I get to cast an additional vote?

JKB     An additional vote? I don't recall to be quite honest.

POM     If that were so would that be against the constitutional principle of one person, one vote?

JKB     Well it might be but what I do remember is that a draft legislation that the National Party government produced some years ago with regard to local government provided for the occupiers of property to have a second vote and this was widely misinterpreted as entrenching the rights of property owners. The additional vote was not confined to property owners, it was given to people in occupation of property which would include tenants paying rent to landlords, not only property owners. In fact I think at the time somebody did a study which showed that there were more people in most cities that were occupiers of property owned by others than were owners of property in their own right. It was misrepresented in the press. What the position is under the present local authority interim arrangements and the proposals for this election I honestly don't recall I'm afraid.

POM     If I were to go out into a township and if I were to ask people a number of questions, if I said, what is local government? Would they know what it is?

JKB     In black townships?

POM     Yes.

JKB     Well, black townships have had various systems of local government dating back to the 1920s. There were advisory committees to the white local authorities, black township residents had some sort of say in the election of those advisory committees, but those were advisory committees to local authorities whose power was steadily whittled away by the National Party government. In the sixties and seventies, but most importantly in the early 1980s, legislation was passed to create elected black local authorities which had more power than the old advisory committee system. There were a couple of problems with this, however. The one was that the municipal franchise that was given to black people was publicly advertised by the National Party government as a substitute for the parliamentary franchise. So the thing was unacceptable in principle to most black people from day one, they weren't going to accept the municipal franchise in lieu of parliamentary franchise. So it was discredited right from the start. That was the one problem.

     The second problem was that the black local authorities had no financial base because the way in which local authorities generally get revenue is from rates on property, the property in black townships didn't belong to the people living on it, it belonged to the government. That subsequently changed but at the time the legislation came in the government was the owner of the houses, there was no sound financial base to the black local authorities. So they had no money really to do anything in the townships. They were lumbered with increasing amounts of responsibility for such things as housing and transport but no financial wherewithal to do anything about it.

     And the third problem was related to the first, that the black local authorities were seen by the ANC and its front organisation at the time, the United Democratic Front, because of course the ANC was still banned, was seen as an attempt to co-opt local black politicians into apartheid structured institutions. They were therefore targeted for assassination, many black local councillors were in fact assassinated. The same was true of local black municipal policemen in the black townships. It was a strategy from the ANC to bring about the collapse of black local government as part of the revolutionary struggle. So there has been a history of local government in black townships but not a very happy or satisfactory one.

POM     If I were to ask them, say, what are you voting for on 1st November, do you think many could tell me?

JKB     I wouldn't want to hazard a guess on that. I really don't know.

POM     If I asked them, how will it work, what powers and competencies would the new structures have, would they have any idea? Does anybody have any idea?

JKB     I don't know too many ordinary people that have an idea of how the system is going to work. One of our researchers did a detailed study of this which I had to read three or four times before I could understand what was going on it was so complicated.

POM     Do you think people, black and white, know how to actually cast their votes, when they are voting first past the post, when they are voting PR, when they are voting ward, when they are voting local council, when they are voting Metropolitan Chamber, when they are voting if they are the occupier of a property in more than one ward or whatever, or do you think there is just a great mass of confusion still out there?

JKB     I don't know, it depends what the ballot paper looks like. In the general election in April last year you had, I think, if I recall correctly you had two ballot papers, one for the national election and one for the provincial election. You put a cross, I think, next to which party you wanted at provincial level and which party you wanted to vote for at national level. There seemed to be far more confusion in the office of the Independent Electoral Commission which was running the election than there was in the minds of the voters. I stood for three or four hours in a queue near my home and everything seemed to go off perfectly smoothly. There were many messes around that election, people were supposedly going from one polling booth to another, some didn't have identity documents in the morning and if you didn't have identity documents you weren't allowed to vote, they ran out of dye. The chaos in that election was partly because of supposedly sophisticated people running it. The ordinary voters were not in any way the problem. I suppose that if there are three or four franchises to be exercised in the municipal election there will be three or four ballot papers and we will vote for the party by a photograph of the leader or symbol or his name. There's the problem of people making their choices. I think it depends on how the ballot papers are structured.

POM     Why the apathy? Here you have a situation where a liberation movement for forty years fights apartheid, is looking for the right of one person one vote. They finally succeed in getting it, there is an election in April 1994. 18 months later there are another set of elections and people are not anxious to register, they don't know why they need to vote again. What happened? This vote that was bought at such great cost, great human cost seems to have become something that people no longer feel very strongly about.

JKB     Well I'm not sure that it's correct that there has been an unwillingness to register. There has been quite a pick-up as far as I'm aware in the rate of registration of voters. But I think one is looking at two entirely different elections. The election in April 1994 was a great watershed, it was seen by black people, it was the first time they could vote for parliament, I mean that was an historic day for the country. It was the first time many white people had the opportunity to vote in a genuinely democratic election in that everybody had the vote on the basis of universal adult suffrage. It was the first time white people had the opportunity to vote for black parties. So it was a radically different election from anything in our history and everybody knew perfectly well that the result of the election would be the end of white minority, National Party rule and it's replacement by a black government and people, as it turned out quite rightly, the vast majority assumed that the ANC would win the thing hands down.

     This time round we have an election for the third tier of government, the voting system is complicated. It's not at all clear what real powers local government will have. That's why I take the view that apathy is a rational response to this whole local election saga and there is also a fair amount of suspicion. I think that gerrymandering is going on. There was a deal struck in the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Transitional Chamber or whatever it's called, Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Chamber, I think. There was a deal struck on the delimitation that the greater area would be divided up into seven wards. I woke up one day and read in the newspaper that I was living in the neighbouring city. I then woke up a few months later and found I was living back in Johannesburg, not in Roodepoort. Nobody gave me an opportunity to say anything about this. I was quite relieved to wake up one morning and find that I was living in Roodepoort. I regarded this as a promotion because Roodepoort is a relatively small local authority on the West Rand that's a lot better run than Johannesburg, and I hoped that at least the rubbish in the streets would be picked up by the new local authority. I was disappointed to find myself back in Johannesburg.

     Then the seven wards were restructured into four and there was a lot of suspicion that this was done, well it was done at the behest of the ANC in order to strengthen its position vis-à-vis the other parties. That was contested by some parties in court as an act of gerrymandering. The courts upheld the ANC's position. Quite frankly the to-ing and fro-ing and the changing of the boundaries and the borders has left most people befuddled and confused, bemused. I don't even recall which of these four municipal sub-structures, I think they are called, I am supposed to vote in. I've lost interest. And I know as a ratepayer of some years standing in Johannesburg that the key decisions inevitably don't get taken in Johannesburg at all. I've been part of hearings with regard to the rezoning of property in Johannesburg and this has been a notorious thing for twenty, thirty years, that the Johannesburg City Council can take certain decisions about who should be given business rights and whatever, and these are upset by bureaucrats in Pretoria. As far as I can see nothing seems to have changed and there is no indication that anything is going to change.

POM     I remember a year ago or so this great emphasis being put on the new local government structures that would emerge, that these would be the vehicle that would be used for the implementation of the RDP. I've really got two questions, one, those structures appear to be poorly thought out, if thought out at all, and, two, the RDP appears to have disappeared off the face of the map as being the driving force of economic and social redevelopment?

JKB     Let's just talk a little bit about the history of local government here. The period in which more was done successfully to reduce the housing backlog in Soweto was during a period of National Party rule at central government and United Party rule in Johannesburg, and the United Party controlled the Johannesburg City Council, not necessarily more liberal than the National Party government but more pragmatic. They had a Non-European Affairs Department which succeeded in getting a mass housing programme going in Soweto, state built housing, to cope with the huge influx of what are now called squatters, but people were attracted into what became Soweto in vast numbers to come and work in the industries in the second world war. When the war came to an end the United Party government was out of power in 1948 in Pretoria and Cape Town but remained in power in Johannesburg, and a plan was launched with a major loan from the gold mining industry and from Sir Ernest Oppenheimer in particular, to build houses. What eventually happened was that all of these shanties were on the - behind the shanties proper houses were built, the people moved into the houses and the shanties were demolished. And I remember the Institute of Race Relations at that time was producing figures measuring the housing shortage in Soweto, "Gee whiz, horror, it's gone up from 2100 to 2200". The National Party government in 1971 did not like the fact that the Johannesburg City Council and its Non-European Affairs Department were using their power to build houses to do precisely that and build houses for black people, so they took over the control of housing to the central government. Johannesburg was removed from the delivery of housing. Central government imposed a housing freeze in 1968. That was not lifted until after the Soweto riots in 1976.

     Since then housing has been a matter for central government. There is no indication that this is going to change under the new government. We know from our bitter experience in South Africa that local government builds more houses than central government and I will not be convinced that much will be done about housing in South Africa whether it's called the RDP or some other name until it is made the responsibility of local government and local government is given the wherewithal and the power to make decisions about what constitutes an acceptable house and local authorities can make the building regulations. Then we might get some housing going in South Africa. We are not going to get housing going in South Africa as long as it's driven by a central government which is busy fighting all kinds of battles about standards with provincial government, and some of the provincial governments are about to remake all the mistakes with regard to squatter housing, as it's called, that the National Party government made. The National Party government was hostile to what it called squatters. It used housing regulations as a means of keeping black people out of the cities. It said that housing must be of a certain standard or else it's not a house and must be demolished. The vast majority of people could not afford housing of that standard so the houses were demolished and the people had no houses that were recognised as houses. They just went and built a shack somewhere else. It took the National Party, jogged into awareness by the Soweto riots, and lobbied by business, about ten to fifteen years to give up on that absurd anti-squatting policy. We've now got some of the provincial governments wanting to go back and make precisely the same mistake again and lay down standards for housing that are far too high for 70% of the homeless population to meet. The problem will not be solved until South Africa recognises that self-build shacks and shanties are part of the solution to the housing problem and not a problem. Government's mindset is totally at sea. If one had control of housing devolved to local level I think you would get a much more realistic and pragmatic attitude than you're getting at the moment.

POM     Looking at the RDP, this was touted as like manna from heaven, it was going to be the programme that brought together all other programmes under a common umbrella of reconstruction and development and it seems to simply have fizzled. From what I gather the President has a discretionary fund which he can use as he wishes, has projects that it can be used for, and Premiers have discretionary funds that they can use as they wish for projects that they wish to use the funds for, but that these projects may overlap, there's no consultation, there's no planning and it's just more money being spent on things, being doing a good job than is being spent on projects themselves.

JKB     Well I think there are a number of problems with the RDP. Number one it was over-sold from day one. Number two, it was not sufficiently critically appraised by the media and number three, a whole lot of businessmen welcomed it with rather too much enthusiasm because I think they saw an opportunity to cash in, especially as far as housing is concerned. When the RDP was first launched I took a look at the figures, I went to see some people in the Finance Ministry and I said to them this whole thing is a bit of a puzzle because if you look at the fine print and the figures and the critically important statement that was made by the Finance Ministry and by Minister Naidoo in the RDP office, that the financing of the RDP was not going to be over and above the budget but financed within the budget, then it seemed to me that in fact what the RDP was, was a plan not to spend more money but to ensure better expenditure of the existing budget. The more money that Minister Naidoo could persuade other ministers to save, the more he would have to spend on particular RDP projects.

     It seemed to me that if the budget then was 120 million, whatever it was, rand, the national budget, I forget what, let's call it in round figures, if the national budget was R150 million and the RDP I think the first provision was R5 million, the question I asked myself was that if R5 million of the budget is going on reconstruction and development what is happening to the other R145 million? And, of course, the major expenditure on what might be termed reconstruction and development was all in the votes of the other government departments. If more schools were going to be built in black areas that was in the education vote. If more houses were going to be built that was in the housing vote. I always thought that the RDP was a kind of a gimmick when what should have been critically assessed was, here is R18 billion (of course my figures should have been R150 billion not million and R5 billion not R5 million), if R20 billion, whatever the figure is, is going to be spent on education the attention should have been a critical analysis is how that expenditure was being divided up, how much was going on primary, secondary, tertiary? How much was going on a sorely neglected area which is adult literacy? How much is going on classroom construction? How much is going on teachers' salaries? Instead attention was focused on this relatively unimportant slice of the budget of R5 billion out of which somehow miracles were expected.

     The whole thing was, I think, misconceived from day one. There were a certain number of presidential projects that were launched in a blaze of publicity, that's fair enough, that's how politicians operate. There was going to be certain free maternity care and other free health care for people. As far as I am aware the hospitals and clinics were not consulted about this. Probably part of the reason we've got this great bitterness among the nurses in the public sector at the moment is that they suddenly found themselves with a huge additional burden. A whole lot of people started, or so I'm told, flocking to hospitals for these services that are now promised free, when those services to the extent they could be provided in the first place were a matter for clinics not for teaching hospitals. So the whole thing was badly managed, over-sold, badly conceived and we are now sitting with the consequences.

     The other problem was that the RDP didn't seem to take much account of the priorities of ordinary people as expressed in opinion surveys to the extent that the opinion surveys, and this is one I think by the Human Sciences Research Council, they said the priorities of ordinary people, the top three priorities were jobs, water and housing. All the ballyhoo in the press and the high profile visibility of people like Joe Slovo was focused on housing for which relatively little money was provided by the state. There is still nobody among the three big players in the country, government, business and organised labour, that is thinking seriously about creating jobs. It's not a priority in South Africa. In my view it should be a priority. In the view of ordinary people as revealed in opinion surveys it should have been a priority. The RDP was busy with other things so it's been out of kilter with what ordinary people seem to be concerned with and as one person said, "What is the point of building me a house that is of a standard which I can't afford anyway, and arranging me easy finance or subsidised finance on a bond when I haven't got a job to pay anything towards that bond? The whole thing is back to front."

POM     In fact I find that, and it's been one of my consistently repeated questions throughout the years, and that is one talks about economic growth and the need for 8% or 9% economic growth to be generated in order to really tackle the problem of creating jobs and I have had three finance ministers in a row, Barend du Plessis, Derek Keys and Chris Liebenberg all whom have laughed when I have mentioned the creation of jobs and simply said that between now and the year 2000 South Africa would be lucky if it reduces its unemployment rate by 1% a year and even that is kind of guesswork. So it's not a priority, but would this come back to haunt the ANC? We're back to the expectations thing that people expected jobs, they expected housing, they expected water, they expected electricity, yet in all of these areas after 18 months little visible is on the ground to see.

JKB     Well I think that, yes, the ANC is already coming under pretty strong criticism and there seems to be a lot of disillusionment all round. I'm not sure that, with the exception of the housing fiasco, that the ANC is to blame for creating inflated expectations. The responsibility for creating inflated expectations is much, much wider than that. There was this great housing summit held last year in Botshabelo and that was hailed as a great triumph by the media and nobody read the fine print and said ... It's only now becoming part of public awareness in this society. With regard to jobs I don't think one can blame the ANC for creating expectations that people would get jobs, and the fact that our economy doesn't attract sufficient foreign investment to create jobs in anything like the numbers we need is something that is as much the fault of business and organised labour as it is of government. I think that big business, big labour and big government are basically ad idem on this new Labour Relations Bill which will be hostile to job creation in its impact.

POM     It will be hostile to job creation?

JKB     In its impact, yes, because it's going to provide for people that are not parties to industrial agreements. There will be mechanisms for them to be bound by such agreements. There is no lobby in South Africa of any real consequence for the deregulation of the labour market. There just isn't one. And in the absence of that kind of lobby it's asking too much of the lethargy that's inherent in government to change the mindset. This is a country which doesn't have much of a proper work ethic, so it's not only that the ANC is bogged down, it's a much wider problem in South Africa, the lack of awareness of the critical ... , about the proportion of the work force that is unionised. A Professor at the University of Cape Town ... exclude the four million who are members of the work force but don't have any jobs ...

POM     What do you think ...?

JKB     I would like to see the government remove from unions and business the power to lay down wages for people other than those that actually sign agreements. I would like to see that happen. That is a pretty radical reform. I would like to see the government generally trying to promote the notion that the unskilled and the unemployed actually have no comparative advantage in the labour market other than their ability to work for a wage lower than the wages laid down by the big organised interests. I would like to see the government taking into account in all its policy planning and legislation formulation the largest and the fastest growing constituency in the country which is the unemployed. Nobody represents the interests of those people in parliament and we've got a commission of enquiry set up to look at the South African labour market and I suspect it's going to take as its starting point some of the ILO conventions and we will get more restrictions from the labour market and continue with the situation where employers are simply not allowed to take on people unless they pay a wage far above what some of those people are willing to work for. That's the single most important thing the government needs to be doing, which is to deregulate the labour market and that means head on confronting the too great power the big business and big labour has in determining national economic policy. I think that's one of the most important things it needs to be doing.

     The second thing that requires major attention, I think, is adult literacy and there is very little going on with regard to adult literacy in this country. It's always been a political minefield because the National Party in a sense was paranoid about night classes which was the way that working black adults normally got their literacy training because the National Party government feared, perhaps rightly, that the Communist Party would use night schools as a means of expanding its influence. One of the most callous things that I remember directly they ever did, was my parents used to run, they didn't used to run it, we had a double garage years ago when I was a schoolboy in Waverley and the YMCA approached us and said you've got a large garage, can you park your cars in the street every Thursday night, whatever, and we will invite all the domestic servants from the neighbourhood to a night class in your garage. All you've got to do, we'll supply the teacher, all you've got to do is give everybody a cup of tea before they go home or whenever it starts. And we ran this thing, well we didn't run it we provided the room for it for a couple of years, and the government then came and closed it down. They concocted some nonsense under the Group Areas Act and they closed it down. Since then there hasn't been any real attempt to deal with the problem of literacy.

     The third thing I would like to see them doing, and I think some progress is being made here but it's probably the trickiest out of every issue, and that is the deregulation of our international trading regime. I said a year ago that Trevor Manuel, the Minister of Trade & Industry, was probably by far the most radical person in the government and I think he is, but a necessary radicalism in that we've got to get rid of the high levels of protection in this country. We've made something of a start. We are already seeing the benefit in a lower rate of increase in food prices and therefore a lower rate of inflation because we're getting some cheaper imports, that's putting pressure on the farmers. It's an immensely complicated reform to manage, the liberalisation of trade. Not only are there powerful vested interests at stake but if suddenly we were to conform to all the requirements of GATT and the World Trade Organisation a lot of jobs would be at stake, so Manuel has got a very difficult job but I think that he's on the right track.

     The fourth thing that I think they need to do, and they are shying away from it, is wholesale privatisation. I think that ESCOM, the Electricity Supply Company which is actually very efficiently managed as it happens and has lots of spare capacity, the power stations, they've got about twenty operating power stations, some state of the art four megawatt, I think the big ones, those need to be sold. You can have some restriction that no purchaser may buy more than one or two because you don't want a private monopoly to replace them. They need to sell ESCOM. They need to sell South African Railways. They need to sell the Post Office. They need to sell South African Airways. They need to sell the ports. They need to sell all, well not all, there are some assets that one would leave in state ownership, but major assets such as this need to be sold. In other words we need to get with the global trend towards privatisation. The proceeds of such sale can then be used in a development fund for capital expenditure on such things as clinics in rural areas, schools in rural areas. One would have to use some of the money for running expenses because you've got to put people into those institutions as nurses and teachers and so on, but that would generate money for reconstruction and development and one could also use some of those funds from the proceeds of privatisation to reduce the size of the government debt which is now running at 55% of GDP. I think 18% of the budget is spent on servicing government debt. If we could get the size of the budget that goes towards servicing government debt down to half that we would have a lot more money available for paying nurses in particular the kind of salaries that they deserve. But this government is scared stiff of privatisation, it doesn't even use the word, they talk about reorientation of state assets or some such nonsense. They should go for privatisation and they should market it vigorously. Telkom is another thing that should be privatised. We'd get better services and we'd get injections of foreign capital. So that's the fourth thing that they need to do with the kind of determination that one saw in the UK once a reluctant Margaret Thatcher had been persuaded by some of the Tory ideologues to go in this direction.

POM     Is part of the reason of the reluctance of the ANC to take these radical decisions because it is in effect a coalition and that each part of the coalition has different interests and that this could put intolerable strains on the glue that holds them all together?

JKB     Well I am sure there are different opinions but I don't think that your problem is that there's a strong lobby for privatisation within the ANC that doesn't have enough influence over the people that are opposed to it or is scared of the unions. I think the problem is not that the ANC is a coalition but that the political leadership of the country has not taken a decision in favour of privatisation. If Nelson Mandela were to decide that privatisation were the way to go it would be his job as president to get his Cabinet and the National Executive Committee of the ANC to go along with him and to ride out whatever opposition he gets from trade unions but that's what political leadership involves. It involves taking tough decisions and actually seeing opportunities and going for gaps, but I don't see the conviction; that's the problem, not that it's a messy coalition, it may or may not be. There's no conviction that privatisation is the way to go; I think that's the problem.

POM     Just talking about President Mandela whose moral authority is unrivalled across the world, he's probably the most revered statesperson there is, yet the way you talk of him is that you would fault him, it seems to me, for not taking tough political decisions, that while he's good at giving a moral authority to the country that it did not have before, that he does not have the same skill when it comes to making and executing tough political decisions?

JKB     It's not necessarily a lack of skill to make and execute tough political decisions. Maybe Nelson Mandela just doesn't believe in privatisation. If he did believe in privatisation maybe he would have the skill and the authority to do it, but if he doesn't believe in it then he's not going to do it. But I was answering your initial question, what did I think the government should do. I said it should privatise. Your question wasn't, did I think Mandela was capable of carrying it out or did he believe in it. I think that if Mandela himself were personally convinced that that was the way to go then he could get away with it. The problem is not that he doesn't have the skill, it's that he doesn't believe in it. You asked me what the government should do. He doesn't think it should, clearly.

POM     You had in 1994 the government or the ANC saying this is the year of restructuring so don't expect much in terms of delivery, but 1995 will be the year of delivery. Now we come back down to the last couple of weeks in parliament and the whole parliamentary procedure has appeared to be in shambles between mismanagement and mis-organisation, between too many committees, between committees and plenary sessions of parliament meeting at the same time, between inability to get legislation passed and because it is either sloppily drafted in the first place, but there's a paralysis that needs addressing.

JKB     I think there are two problems and that's the lesser one in a sense. Parliament yesterday couldn't muster a quorum in order to pass a bill to circumvent the constitution. I say three cheers to that. If every time parliament wanted to pass legislation to circumvent the constitution or to steamroller the Labour Relations Act through parliament or to steamroller this Education Act through parliament, I would cheer if there wasn't a quorum to do things. Possibly the lack of quora, the committees, the general shambles there is teething troubles, partly it's an attitude question. I'm not there talking to people on the ground on a daily basis, I don't really have a feel for what the underlying problem leading to the absenteeism is. I think the parliament in Cape Town is thoroughly bad idea. The great majority of the members of parliament are Africans and there's a relatively small African population in the Western Cape. Parliament should be in Pretoria. This is the industrial heartland of the country and that's where most of the voters are so they should make that move. Going down there is quite a strain and a considerable expense so that's possibly an argument in mitigation.

     But I think there's a more serious problem and that is attempts now to steamroller through parliament two pieces of legislation that will shape or mis-shape this country for years to come. The one is the Labour Relations Act, quite a radical Act in some ways that was hammered out in meetings between big labour, big business and big government with Tito Mboweni, the minister, showing considerable skill as somebody banging heads together to get an agreement. I think he showed himself to be quite skilful there. But there are a number of very important interests which were not adequately consulted, small business being one of them. Nobody paid much attention to the unemployed. Now this bill has been published and it looks as if, as we speak now, the minister is determined to get that thing through within the next couple of weeks. We've seen in the Education Department, the minister has suddenly surfaced with a bill based on a report that was made public only last week. The bill has now surfaced and the minister seems determined to get this thing enacted at the end of the month. This is abuse of power by a majority party attempting to steamroller major pieces of legislation through without adequate time for discussion and debate either inside or outside parliament.

POM     Would you say that the latter is, in your view, unconstitutional?

JKB     No I'm not saying it's unconstitutional, that was a separate thing. There are two bills, the Labour and the Education Bills, major pieces of legislation that need adequate public debate and that is not being allowed because the intention, as we speak, is to steamroller them through parliament. There's no suggestion that either bill is unconstitutional. The unconstitutional thing is a different issue and that is that a bill was tabled in order to remove the salaries of traditional leaders from provincial competence to the competence of the central government. If I understand it correctly this legislation could not be passed until a Council of Traditional Leaders had been consulted. There was a threat that this bill would be challenged as unconstitutional in court because the Council of Traditional Leaders had not been established. The constitution is now being amended in order to obviate the need for such constitution. Now this is an attempt, you write a constitution enacted 18 months ago, and you now find it gets in the way of things you want to do and you change the rules of the game.

POM     Do you need 662/3% to amend the constitution?

JKB     ... majority that they didn't have. I mean they (the NP) simply used the power to create Senators, they packed the Senate full of tame Nationalists, gave them a two thirds majority, they got the thing through and then they sent all the Senators home having lobbied for them in parliament. Now that was an incident where each technical step was lawful, constitutional, but the spirit of the thing was to circumvent an express clause in the constitution which related to the removal of the Coloured franchise. We are seeing the ANC government using exactly the same kind of tactic that the National Party government used and that rings fire alarms in my head as do these attempts to steamroller the Labour and Education Bills through parliament. I'm not saying that at the end of the day the majority party cannot get the Labour and Education Bills through parliament, it is the majority party, it's entitled to do that. I do not believe it's in the spirit of a so-called transparent society or of open government to do this thing without allowing adequate time for people to lobby for an against, for meetings to be held, for discussion in the media, for consultation and canvassing. It's not in the spirit of an open and democratic society.

POM     What kind of statement does the fact that on two occasions the government couldn't put together a quorum to pass the Budget Bill, probably the single piece of legislation that allows for the operation and the provision of services on a day to day basis? In other countries a government that failed to put together a quorum to pass it's Budget Bill would be on a vote of confidence kicked out of office. Does it worry you that this kind of mentality has already set in so quickly after April 1994?

JKB     It worries me in the sense that it's a gross dereliction of duty. The country can't function unless the budget is enacted, the government can't function if the budget is not enacted and if MPs who are paid to go and do these things don't muster a quorum it's thoroughly bad management on the part of the party whips. What on earth is the Speaker of parliament doing legitimating that dreadful regime in Beijing at the moment when there's chaos back home in parliament? Of course MPs should be there to vote on the budget and these other things. I'm not sure whether we're seeing a fundamental malaise, a problem that parliamentarians sense that the real power is in the Cabinet or the various ministries, or the parliamentary committees and that parliament itself doesn't matter terribly much and therefore there's no point in being there. I'm not sure what the problem is. As I said to you, I'm not there and I have no feel for it. All I know is that there wasn't a quorum to pass the budget. That's a dereliction of duty on their part quite obviously. When there wasn't a quorum yesterday to pass this attempt to circumvent the constitution it was also a dereliction of duty but I was very delighted because I didn't like what they were trying to do. If the National Party government had never had a quorum we might not have had group areas and all these other terrible laws. The more fundamental point is that MPs are not doing the job that they are supposed to do.

POM     Would you see part of the problem as part of the teething process that parliament has a lot more work to do, a lot of its management procedures are outdated? The fact that the attendance register is, I thought this was an hilarious story in the Mail about the poor woman who has to keep the attendance register, one person, and she has to check off everybody's name and then find out whether they are in committees or not in committees and then there's no way of telling whether if you do go to parliament whether you are there for five minutes or fifteen hours since you drop a piece of paper in a box on the way out and you don't account for the time that you've been there. These things can be addressed. What I'm getting at is, is an attitude developing where parliament is a place where you go, you, I won't say socialise, you earn good money, you're on whatever 'gravy train' exists, but that ultimately there is, as you say, an awareness on the part of MPs that they don't have very much power over what happens?

JKB     Well it might be, but one can make a number of points, the one of which is that to the great majority of people in this country parliament is an alien institution, they have never been there, they've never had the chance to be elected to parliament and most of what parliament did to them was bad. That's the experience of the great majority of people in this country with regard to parliament. I think that with all it's well known weaknesses, the tedium and the boredom and the low standard of debate and so on, the British House of Commons is an absolutely essential democratic institution, but that's been built up over several hundred years. We've got a parliament which is open to the majority of the population for the first time and perhaps they don't view parliamentary democracy in the same way as I might. I'm a thoroughgoing believer in the Westminster system. Perhaps the majority of the people in this country don't quite see parliament in that light, don't see democracy as a question of having the vote and getting rid of white racist minority rule, they don't see it as representative via parliamentary institutions. I don't know. Maybe one problem, and maybe a tradition has to be built up. Maybe we are seeing teething troubles and maybe we are seeing something more fundamental which is a problem of alienation.

     There is a wider problem in South Africa which is difficult to get a complete grip on and that is what seems to be the general sort of high degree, let's call it the high degree of alienation in our public institutions, nurses going on strike regularly and violently sometimes, no regard for how many lives may be lost among their patients, policemen going on strike. Policemen going on strike at the drop of a hat and getting Mandela's blessing when they do so. Soldiers going on strike and on AWOL. President Mandela's own bodyguards going on strike. Postmen dumping post in the veldt instead of delivering it. An inability of Johannesburg City Council to keep the streets clean, and I spoke to the head of one of the major cleansing branches of the City Council some months ago and I said to him, "What's going on?" And he said on a good day 49% of his work force comes to work because of wild cat strikes and other problems, and he said, "I'm expected with 49% of my work force who come to work on a good day to keep 2000 kms of pavement and 9000 kms of street clean." And I said, "Well how can you possibly expect to do that?" And he says, "I don't, that's why I'm taking early retirement."

     Now the visible deterioration of the city, filthy, traffic lights not being kept in good working order, I went to Pretoria, a place which I always visit with great reluctance, a few days ago and I see that city in the last six months has become as filthy as Johannesburg. There's a general alienation in the public sector in this country, an attitude, you find it the same at the SABC. You find that there's an attitude that, a don't care attitude towards the public, that the civil service is supposed to be there to serve because the public pays them salaries by taxes and you see the same attitude in parliament. I think there's a problem of malaise, alienation. Do you know of any country in the world which has got a public service as unruly as we have? You don't get this kind of behaviour in the private sector in this country. So maybe we're looking at the beginnings of a process of disintegration of public institutions, maybe. Businessmen complain that the customs barriers don't work, that goods get in and out of the country never mind what the customs and excise people say, taxes can't be collected. We're sitting with a legacy here that may take a very long time to get rid of.

     To come back to the whole question of reconstruction and development, I think a great many people, this Institute one of the very, very few exceptions, took the view that with the end of apartheid there would suddenly be a vast dividend to be paid of money that could be diverted from apartheid projects to reconstruction and development. This was the view that was widely pedalled by the financial press. One or two banks queried it, the Institute queried it systematically. It was nonsense, it was based on a failure to analyse the budget and in fact the discrepancy between black and white spending by the state on blacks and whites and between urban blacks and rural blacks was so high, so large, that it will take a very long time to eliminate. I think that if black people had an expectation that suddenly there would be equality in education as far as state spending was concerned, that expectation was fuelled by - those who read the financial press or the press in general or who listened to the Democratic Party would have come away with the same view. It was nonsense.

     The only way in which you can achieve equality in state expenditure in this country, the only way in which you can do that is to get per capita spending by the state equal between urban and rural and black and white, is to drastically lower the average. Nothing else can be afforded and we're going to find through this Education Bill, it's one of its better aspects I think, that black parents are going to have to pay for education on a means test. Previously white education was virtually free in government schools. It was entirely understandable that black people should expect exactly the same once there is a black government. The numbers don't work like that. So the size of the backlogs especially in education is huge. This country has been much more distorted than people realise. I'll give you a figure to give you some idea of the discrepancy. The average per capita GDP as between East and West Germany, East was 40% of the West. The discrepancies here are that the poorer parts of South Africa, such as the Northern Province, are 15% of where we sit, Gauteng. So the distortion is much, much greater than it was between East and West Germany and look at the horrendous costs that unification has entailed. Here it's going to be infinitely greater and we don't have a German economy to do it. We've got basically a third world moribund economy.

POM     So when Bengu talks about there being equality of education by the year 2000, which is just around the corner, is this just simply not possible?

JKB     No he may get equality shortly after the year 2000 in state expenditure as between black and white, but then you've got the major problem of what do you do with vast numbers of under-qualified teachers that the President has promised cannot be retrenched. It would appear that there are enough teachers in the country. The problem is that the popular subjects in which many, many black teachers are qualified, such as Biblical Studies, are not much good if you've got major shortages of Science and Maths teachers. Now those kinds of inequalities backlogs you can't deal with in the short term. And the vast majority of black children, 70% in fact, are at school in what were formerly the homelands, in many cases rural areas. How many white qualified teachers from white schools are going to go and teach in schools in rural strike-torn KwaZulu? How many black teachers from urban areas are going to go and teach at remote rural schools in the Northern Transvaal or the North West Province, wherever it might be? You've got the whole urban/rural dimension to this which is very often overlooked.

     Then if you come to housing, if the government is going to try and provide everybody with a house, a built house, the private sector will not go in at that end of the market, no money to be made, the state can't afford to. The state can only build housing if they do what Harold Macmillan did and that's just print money to do it and saddle your country with many years of inflation which then takes a Thatcherite revolution to squeeze out of the system. These kinds of distortions are very much greater, I think, than many people anticipated and what seems to be happening is that where you had a reasonably high standard of services, such as Johannesburg previously, those are disintegrating but you're not seeing a commensurate increase in what's available to people in Soweto.

     Something is just going wrong somewhere as far as services are concerned. The overall problem of distortion in what the state spends on people is very, very difficult to deal with. You've got infrastructure built up here in Gauteng, for example, hospitals, high quality teaching hospitals, first world hospitals in many respects. Now in order to equalise expenditure in per capita terms as between people in the provinces what you have to do is start spending more money in previously neglected areas such as the Northern Transvaal. You try and do that and you are in effect diverting state funding away from these high-tech institutions in which vast amounts of capital have been invested in Johannesburg to spend in the rural areas now. I think, and we publicly commended the government for these diversions of the money, it's equitable, but what happens to the infrastructure that you've built up here? Does it just disintegrate? And the same would apply to schools. What are you going to do? You've got a good school infrastructure built up in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, the southern suburbs, very good government schools. Equity in state spending on education must be in a freeze of expenditure on those schools and the money that you would have used to repair leaking roofs, to maintain buildings of schools in white suburbs of Johannesburg, will go to build more schools in rural parts of KwaZulu or the Eastern Cape or somewhere. That's an equitable thing to do. But then what happens if you don't carry out your necessary maintenance work on state buildings? Those assets go to wrack and ruin. I wouldn't like to be the minister having to make these kinds of decisions.

     The point I was trying to make is that there was a widespread assumption I think among ANC supporters, among black people in general, that once the National Party was out of power then the equality would be a reasonably easy thing to achieve. It's going to be very, very much more difficult. The Democratic Party here attacked the Institute when we said the minister was right to divert money from Gauteng to the Northern Province. We said you can't keep on giving more money to the richest province. Equity means you give more money to the poorest province. But then they said to us, what happens to all our hospitals? So it's immensely difficult, as I said I'm glad I'm not the minister. It comes back to privatisation. You've got to find the money to do it without, you've got to find the money to do it at the same time as we keep on reducing the budget deficit. I keep my fingers crossed that the budget deficit this year might turn out to be a little less than last. We've got to reduce the budget deficit to 3% by the year 2000 which means halving it. We've got to drastically reduce government debt in order to find the funds for reconstruction and development. There's only one way of doing that, one economically rational way of doing it, which is mass privatisation. But as I said, I'm not sure that the ANC believes in it.

POM     Just two other things. One, the situation in KwaZulu/Natal, what does it mean if the IFP stays out of the Constituent Assembly and essentially you have a constitution passed that is rejected by one of the provinces in the country? Two, what would it mean if KwaZulu/Natal managed to pass its own constitution giving it a far greater degree of autonomy than is even allowed under the present interim constitution? Those two mainly I suppose are my concerns.

JKB     Well I'm not sure that it matters terribly much if the IFP doesn't participate in the Constitutional Assembly for the final constitution. Whether it is there or not is not going to make any difference. Ramaphosa says they should be there to participate. I say that's bullshit. The previous constitution, the interim constitution, all the key deals were struck in secret bosberade between the ANC and the National Party and the World Trade Centre was nothing but a fig leaf over a rather disgraceful process of secret bilateral wheeling and dealing and the Democratic Party, to its discredit, lent respectability to this farce at the World Trade Centre. The final constitution is going to be drafted in precisely the same way although I should imagine that the ANC will pay less attention to the National Party which is a party all at sea, it doesn't know what to believe in. So the ANC will decide what it wants in the final constitution. It will get that. It will muster its two thirds majority.

     So whether Inkatha is in the Constitutional Assembly in Cape Town or not I don't think will make any difference to the content of the final document. Inkatha will then say that it rejects the legitimacy of that document. Does that matter in terms of national, political stability? I would have thought not. Buthelezi, well not Buthelezi, Inkatha is in an ambiguous position rejecting the legitimacy of the interim constitution. They are still sitting in parliament and some in the Cabinet. Buthelezi even sometimes chairs Cabinet meetings, so he's caught in the same bind as was the case in the old days, participating in an institution which he rejects. I don't think he rejects the institution but he doesn't accept the legitimacy of the constitution. It's more of a problem in KwaZulu/Natal. I presume that if Inkatha were able to, and I presume it needs two thirds I'm not sure, if it were able to enact a constitution providing for much greater autonomy in KwaZulu/Natal and that constitution did not square with what the constitutional principals in the final national constitution said, it could be set aside in the Constitutional Court. So any aspects of it could be set aside. That's the legal position because any constitution for KwaZulu/Natal must conform with the constitutional principles. So there might be some disputes over a longer period of time in the International Court. Maybe it would be disputes over particular clauses. Maybe the whole thing would be thrown out by the Constitutional Court, I don't know. But there's a prior question and that is, is it Inkatha's intention to enact a constitution that takes more power at a provincial level than is allowed for in the constitutional principles that are a schedule to the interim constitution? I don't know, I have the impression, I haven't studied the documents, I have the impression that Inkatha's most recent constitutional demands are compatible with the constitutional principles. There are grey areas but there is nothing to my knowledge that is fundamentally incompatible with the exception of one thing which is their demand for a separate court, I think, Constitutional and Supreme Court in KwaZulu/Natal.

POM     Do you see this violence between Inkatha and the ANC just continuing, that it's a fact of life that in a sense will make the holding of local elections in KwaZulu/Natal very difficult if not well nigh impossible since now you're fighting over specific pieces of territory unlike the list system where it was the territory as a whole was the battleground, not it's like every ward becomes a battle-ground?

JKB     I suppose it will be a continuing problem unless an accommodation is reached, but it looks as if we're heading for a solution based on power, deployment of troops, taking the KwaZulu/Natal chiefs on to the central government's payroll, same tactic as the National Party used of course, state of emergency. It looks as if the central government has decided that it will not agree to international mediation which will mean Inkatha stays out of the Constitutional Assembly, that the central government looks as if it's decided that the way to deal with the KwaZulu/Natal situation is what you might term a military solution. That's the way it seems to be going. Whether that works or not time will tell. I think there's a danger that if you start circumventing the constitution in order to get this Traditional Leaders' Bill through the central parliament, if you start increasing your police powers, declaring local states of emergency or regional states of emergency without even consulting the provincial premier, if the government starts doing that with regard to KwaZulu/Natal in order to deal with the IFP, it will get away with it, the press aren't going to take it up, nor are any foreign Ambassadors going to complain.

     The government can do practically, my guess is that they can do practically what they like in terms of opinion outside KwaZulu/Natal and what business thinks, what the international community might think with regard to KwaZulu/Natal, and if they go for a sort of security clamp-down they will get away with it. Whether it will work on the ground is a different matter. They will get away with it. Having got away with it there of course, once governments introduce these two boxes of security measures, our history tells us that use it against one the appetite grows by what it feeds on and you use it against others. So if you circumvent the constitution in order to get traditional leaders onto central government's payroll, well when something else gets in the way you'll circumvent the constitution. So we will see a gradual erosion of the kinds of values on which the new society was supposed to be built and which was supposed to distinguish the new South Africa from the old.

     We come back to the point I made at the beginning I think, that we were not so much unbundling the state as moving from one form of intervention to another form of state intervention. I would include under that such things as using states of emergency against the opposition and once you start with incremental bits of intervention we'll be straight back into an authoritarian system. One sign of that is what looks like an attempt at a security or military solution in Natal but then you've got your Gender Bill, your Human Rights Commission Bill, your turning the SABC into a propaganda instrument and no doubt they will achieve that again, getting nasty with critical newspapers, not that we have too many of those really critical newspapers, diverting funding away from non-government organisations as is happening with the willing acquiescence of most of the foreign donors. One sees a risk down the road that we are back into a system where power will once again be abused and as the government finds itself flailing around more and more because the RDP cannot possibly delivered, by definition it can't be delivered, and people will become more disenchanted and critics grow in volume, how will the government react to that? Crime escalates and gives the country a thoroughly bad image abroad, what will happen? Will the media be told to stop sensationalising crime because it's bad for foreign investment? I wouldn't be surprised if we saw some ministers starting to complain that the press is giving us a bad image by playing up crime.

     So we sort of head down a slippery slope and I suppose, ironically a perverse kind of point, that our best guarantee against becoming a fully fledged authoritarian system is that MPs won't show up in parliament regularly to vote all those laws on to the statute books. So maybe the best defence of liberty in South Africa will turn out to be the incompetence of our rulers. That's why I said, if they can't muster a parliamentary quorum to put through a bill designed to gerrymander the constitution, I say three cheers. If they can't muster a parliamentary quorum to put through labour and educational legislation which needs far wider discussion and consultation, I say three cheers to that as well.

POM     Two last things. One is coming back to something you mentioned earlier and that's what's going on with the nurses in the hospitals. When you consider that they are in fact, despite whatever justification there may be for their demands, they are allowing people to die where their deaths are unnecessary and there is at that level a certain callousness about it with regard to the sanctity of human life, do you think this is one of those outgrowths of apartheid that life was held in such low esteem that it will just take a long time to overcome or do you think this is something new?

JKB     Ultimately many of these problems can be traced back to apartheid, but we've got sitting in parliament on the public payroll the people who put car bombs outside night clubs and killed innocent civilians and don't show any sign of any regret or remorse about that, who were sentenced to death and the sentence commuted to life imprisonment and let out of prison after a ridiculously short space of time. That's who our leaders are. Our Foreign Minister publicly supported necklacing and the National Party government never brought anybody to book for sixty or seventy deaths in detention. Nelson Mandela himself is responsible for initiating the Shell House cover up, that was a massacre just like Sharpeville, in the spirit of covering it up. There is a callous disregard for human life in South Africa. It starts at the top, always has, that's the problem. You can't blame nurses for having a callous attitude towards their patients if religious institutions actively supported revolutionary violence and actively campaigned against any notion of reconciliation.

     We are a society, but not uniquely, which has experienced in the last fifteen years, I'm delivering a paper on this in a couple of weeks time, the disintegration of moral values which one needs for society to function in a civilised kind of way. I think that is part of the problem, that it's not only nurses. You see it in the way taxi drivers will stop without warning in the middle of the road, in the way. I mean a friend of mine was strangled to death in his flat in Hillbrow on Monday night by what was apparently a well organised and planned robbery. The mass releases of prisoners and violent criminals from prison. This is a brutal and callous place and what happened in the last fifteen years is that the sort of systematic brutality of the apartheid system was at least matched by the brutality and the callousness that was involved in the revolutionary struggle. Four hundred people necklaced and Alfred Nzo supported it. And the liberal community in South Africa, by and large, turned the other way. We are about to publish a book about that. So there is a great deal of callousness around.

POM     Finally, on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, is this one more instance of a deal between the ANC and the NP to protect the brass, so to speak, or will it become more divisive than healing as each person is going to point a finger upwards and say I did everything on orders. One of the people I've interviewed over the years, in fact since 1990, has been Colonel Louis Botha.

JKB     Natal fellow?

POM     Yes. And he was the interlocutor in the Inkathagate but he said to me after that, "I can tell you one thing, I have never, never done anything without clearance from above." And when he was told to turn to community policing in Port Elizabeth he poured the very same energy into it as he might have poured into activities into KwaZulu/Natal. So where does one draw the line? You have Judge Goldstone calling for the indictment of people for crimes against humanity in Bosnia and yet the same Judge Goldstone wouldn't call for the indictment of people in South Africa for crimes against humanity. Is there a case to be made, that those who were involved in crimes, those crimes should be exposed and that they should be tried and perhaps punishments are forgiven but that there should be accountability particularly when it involves the taking of life, it's something that just can't be overlooked?

JKB     Well two points, with regard to Botha and the question of he never did anything without orders. Yes, maybe, but it depends on what you mean by orders. Who was it, Henry II said to these four knights one of whom was an ancestor of mine, "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" And they went out and murdered Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Was that a direct instruction to kill or was there some other way of getting rid of the guy? One doesn't actually need to say, to give a direct order to kill in a certain context and environment. As far as crimes of violence are concerned the Institute has taken a pretty absolutist position against this all along, that people convicted of crimes of violence must be prosecuted in open court, they must be allowed to defend themselves, the evidence must be mustered against them. If they are convicted according to due process of law they must be put in jail and they must stay in jail and they must not be amnestied. We criticised from day one the release from prison, the premature release from prison of people who had been convicted of crimes of violence. That's the Institute's position. Our position now would be if anybody is suspected, well the crimes of political violence or any other crimes, I mean crime must be prosecuted. If you want to plead in mitigation that you were given orders by PW Botha or Nelson Mandela or Buthelezi or something, well you plead that in mitigation in court but you must be prosecuted and if you're convicted, taking into account whatever mitigating factors the judge accepts, you must be sent to jail. That would be our position today. The Truth Commission is not going to be a procedure like that. The Truth Commission is going to be a political body. It's going to be a political body, it's not going to follow due process of law and it's going to be highly selective.

     We know from the statement by the Minister of Justice that there is no equivalence morally between crimes committed to overthrow apartheid and crimes committed in defence of apartheid. Well I don't accept that position. If you're going to prosecute members of hit squads in the South African Defence Force or the KwaZulu Police or the South African Police, then you must criticise members of uMkhonto weSizwe hit squads, then you must prosecute them all in an even-handed way, but of course what we're seeing is people are going against attempts to prosecute or expose certain hit squads while members of uMkhonto weSizwe, I presume who were not playing tennis at Wimbledon during all those years of exile, are being pensioned off on the public payroll. This is sending out a clear statement that it's OK to kill for certain political causes but not for others. We're entrenching in the new South Africa a double standard and I don't think the way to deal with crimes of violence is by Truth Commissions or Goldstone Commissions. The way to deal with them is to bring a prosecution in the courts and if the man is found guilty, or woman in this age of gender equality, if people are found guilty of such crimes without mitigating then do what happens in America, send them to jail for 375 years so that we can't have some bureaucrat or some minister deciding, oh well this man got life imprisonment but I'm letting him out after eight years. It's monstrous.

     So there must be no let up in prosecutions but you've got to prosecute everybody. Would somebody prosecuted for necklacing then be able to plead in mitigation that Alfred Nzo condoned it? Do you put him into the dock? What do you do? What were Mbeki, when Mandela was in prison and maybe that prevented him from doing certain things and maybe it didn't, what orders did he give? What orders did Mbeki give? What orders did Buthelezi give? What orders did De Klerk give? PW Botha? We're in a total mess which is the reason that the Institute is roundly condemned by the Police Commission in that the other ranks will get shot, that the people that were politically responsible and may be criminal accessories will not be prosecuted. I think it's unconscionable that the small fry should be witch-hunted and not the big boys. I think the Truth Commission is monstrous. If the National Party has done some deal on it I hope it blows up in its face.

POM     Just clarification on one thing. You said Mandela is responsible for the cover up on the Shell House killings?

JKB     Well he was the one that stopped the police going in.

POM     Going in?

JKB     To Shell House after the ...

POM     After?

JKB     Yes. That's what I was referring to.

POM     OK, I think I've done enough for one sitting. Very provocative and I'm very thankful.

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.