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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
13 Sep 1995: Moosa, Mohammed Valli
POM Let me ask you first, what direction do you think the country is going in after 18 months?
MVM That's a very strange and broad question to ask frankly. Why don't you narrow the question.
POM OK. Let me begin then with something that disturbs me slightly. You had an interim constitution passed at Kempton Park. In the last 18 months that constitution has been amended sixteen times which seems contrary to the spirit of constitution making itself. Just in contrast, the American constitution which has been around for 250 odd years has been amended twenty-six times during that period. It would appear to me that every so often when the ANC doesn't get its way it simply amends the constitution to get its way.
MVM Padraig, I would want to even amend the constitution more than we did. I have absolutely no regrets about amending the constitution. You must take your mind back to what this transition is all about and the framework within which we are working. The interim constitution for me, and as you know I have been very deeply involved in the shaping of that constitution, and now in my portfolio in the implementing of that constitution. The interim constitution is a settlement agreement, is a record of the South African settlement. That is what it is. It records the agreement and like any settlement agreement it's long, it's convoluted, it has all sorts of details in there, it has features in it which the US constitution certainly doesn't have and many other constitutions in the world do not have. The interim constitution is an instrument for the transformation of South Africa from an apartheid system to a democratic system, that is what it is, it's an instrument.
So I think when one classes and boxes the interim constitution generically as a constitution, and a constitution should mean the following things, one is making a mistake, it could well have been called something else. It could well have been called the terms of agreement, the Transition to Democracy Act, that is what it is, Transition to Democracy Act. One could have called it more appropriately something of that sort. And because no transition can be clinical, transitions by their very nature are somewhat messy on the edges, somewhat unpredictable and it's for that reason that we have had to amend it as often as we did and I think that we would probably have to amend it a few more times before it expires. I'm quite convinced of that. We would certainly have to do that. So it's certainly by no accident. That doesn't cause me sleepless nights. In fact I've been very pleased that we have in fact been able to generate sufficient consensus in parliament amongst the parties to be able to amend the constitution.
The other point I would just like to make is that there is a philosophical, I think, conflict between whether the law and the constitution is there to serve the people or whether the people are there to serve the law and the constitution, and I think that the interim constitution is there to serve the ideals which the South African nation stands for. That is really what it is, and where we find, and where at times all of the parties have found, that it stands in the way of those ideals then that constitution should be changed. The criticism that where the majority party finds that it cannot get its way then it changes the constitution I think holds absolutely no water whatsoever. As a member of the majority party I can tell you that we are deeply committed to democratic ideals. We are fresh out of the revolution, in fact we are still in it. That accusation certainly would be unfair to level at us. The majority party does not have the power to amend the constitution. Whenever the constitution has been amended it was amended with the consent of parliament. Yesterday's amendment, as you are aware, today is 13th September, was supported by 376 of the 490 members. That's well over a two thirds majority in the House, so there hasn't been, in fact none of the amendments you refer to were achieved by just a two thirds plus one. There have always been much more than that.
POM Yet if the IFP continue to boycott the Assembly, it means the ANC in effect has more than a two thirds majority.
MVM No, no, it doesn't work in that way because to amend the interim constitution a two thirds majority of all the members is needed, not a two thirds majority of those in session, not a two thirds majority of those present. It's a two thirds majority of all. So whether or not a party is present does not alter that configuration at all.
POM Does that apply to the Constitutional Assembly?
MVM It applies to the Constitutional Assembly and it applies to all constitutional amendments, so even in the Constitutional Assembly we would need a two thirds majority of all of those sitting.
POM What I find slightly paradoxical is that when I've talked to you on previous occasions and asked you on a scale of one to ten how you would rate the interim constitution you would give it a seven, eight, sometimes even a nine, and yet here you say it is in need of not just the number of amendments that have been made to it but probably even more amendments before it runs out. Is there a paradox there?
MVM Certainly not because we have not amended the fundamental principles of the interim constitution and the fundamental philosophy contained in the interim constitution has not been amended. We have not tampered with the Bill of Rights for example. We have not tampered with the manner in which government is composed or takes its decision. We have not altered the composition of parliament. We have not altered it in a manner which alters the influence of the opposition or minority parties. We have not derogated from the essential separation of powers contained in the constitution, the rights regime, constitutionalism, constitutional state, multi-party democracy, regular elections, free and fair, the most essential elements, government of national unity, guarantees that various ... may have. We have not taken any of that away at all. We have the Public Service Commission for example, we have said that there would be a continuation of the old Public Service Commission into the new. We haven't altered that. I think we would have a two thirds to alter some of those things if we wanted to. I think we would have been able to muster two thirds to alter some of those. We have not altered the procedure for the adoption of the new constitution, the procedure for the functioning of the Constitutional Assembly, the deadlock breaking mechanisms contained in those. We have not even attempted to do so. Those are sacred agreements which we think that if any of those are to be amended there would have to be not just a two thirds majority but virtual consensus.
POM How much concern is there that if the IFP stay out of the process and essentially a constitution is passed which they do not recognise and that you have largest province in the country not accepting the constitution, what kind of difficulties does that pose?
MVM The first thing I would do is question the commonly held perceptions and assumptions that some commentators and some people in the media have and which seem to have crept into the manner you ask this question. If the IFP stays out of the process or if it rejects the constitution that is not equal to the people of the province of KwaZulu/Natal rejecting the constitution, it's not equal to that. It's equal to the IFP and its supporters rejecting the constitution. That is what it means. Recent surveys indicate that if an election is held tomorrow for the province of KwaZulu/Natal the IFP would lose its majority. There's a recent Markinor survey, for example, you could look at. Our own research as the ANC also indicates that. So I don't believe that for a moment. But it may be fair to assume that the IFP does have substantial support and if they reject the constitution it may well be that a fair number of South Africans, well below 10% of the population but that still constitutes a fair number of South Africans, would find the constitution unacceptable. That is a bad thing. It would not be our first prize.
Our first prize would be to have the IFP on board, to make them part of the constitution making process and you may have seen the statement which was made by President Mandela I think the day before yesterday, the occasion was he was with Chancellor Kohl somewhere or the other where he seemed to have been referring to the IFP, although he didn't mention them by name, he said that if we need to consider greater powers for the provinces for the sake of having everybody on board then we would be quite willing to exercise that kind of flexibility. And I think that's an indication that we are quite prepared, if it means bending here and there, for the sake of bringing the IFP in. We think it would be well worth doing that.
On the other hand one has got to remember that you would always have, as far as I'm concerned, your Conservative Party type of syndrome which you had when the interim constitution was passed by the apartheid parliament. The Conservative Party rejected it and really the question which faced De Klerk and company was, do we allow ourselves to be led by the right wing, by those who are opposed to democracy, or do we take a bold step forward and be vindicated by history? And that is a question which would face us as far as the IFP is concerned. Inevitably we would have to take that decision and I think at the end of the day we would have to decide to make progress, to go ahead and if the IFP is not part of the process they would simply have to be left out. It would be unjustifiable, unjustifiable historically for us to allow the IFP to prevent the adoption of a final democratic constitution for this country. That's my view.
POM Do you think it would lead to further destabilisation in the province, like the violence is on the increase?
MVM Well there is already destabilisation in the province and the IFP certainly has the capacity to maintain a level of destabilisation for some time to come I think. In my view that is a possibility. The IFP of course does enjoy the support of right wing elements outside of itself. This is not a Zulu issue, it may well be that the majority of Zulus even now do not support the IFP. We know that a substantial number of Zulus do not support the IFP. It's not a Zulu issue as such but they do have support from other right wing elements elsewhere in the country, from other parties. They have sympathy in the National Party for example, there is the white right wing that has a lot of sympathy for the IFP, and then of course there's the international right wing network that would always support the IFP. So they would have the ability to cause some instability. I think, however, that there are very, very serious limits on their ability to destabilise either South Africa or the province to the extent that Renamo or Unita were able to destabilise those countries. I don't think that they have the capacity to do that. The conditions are completely different. On the one hand they have failed what they tried. They have attempted to mobilise an entire ethnic group against the new South Africa. They failed in doing that, quite clearly. Secondly, they do not enjoy overwhelming support in the province even if we assume that they have 50% support, which is what the first elections have shown. Thirdly, they do not have a rear base to retreat to or rear base from which to conduct any meaningful armed struggle whatsoever. South Africa is a fairly advanced country, fairly sophisticated communications and road network, etc., etc. with a fairly sophisticated police and army and I don't think anybody can really conduct the kind of destabilisation that could bring the province down to ashes or anything of that sort. I don't think so. I mean I'm not saying it's not a problem but I think we must acknowledge that there are limits to that.
POM To turn to the local elections for a moment. Since I have come here everybody I interview, and I have some set questions that I ask everybody to see what their understanding of things are, and one of the questions I've been asking people is, what in fact is the voting procedure? Who gets more than one vote? Is there a property vote? Can you vote within your ward? I know you get to cast three ballots but could you just maybe very simply tell me if I were somebody from the township who walked in here and said, I've registered to vote and I'll be voting but to tell you the truth I haven't the slightest idea.
MVM I will answer your question, just give me a moment. All citizens, residents of that local authority area and ratepayers are entitled to vote.
POM Ratepayers as distinct from a renter have the right to vote?
MVM Yes, you are resident then. If you live in Cape Town in an apartment across the road from parliament, you are renting the place, you are entitled to vote in the local government elections. If you own an apartment across the road from parliament but you live in Johannesburg, you pay your rates to this council, they tax you, you are also entitled to vote. So that's what it is.
POM So that would be the two vote or the multiple vote?
MVM No, that doesn't constitute a multiple vote, you vote once. It's an entitlement to vote. If you're a resident and you own property it does not give you two votes, you still have one vote.
POM But if I owned property in Johannesburg and owned property in Cape Town but was a resident of Cape Town?
MVM You could vote in Cape Town and you could vote in Johannesburg.
PM I could? OK.
MVM It would cost you R1000 to fly out there to vote but if you really want to you could do it, so you could vote in both places. You wouldn't have more than one vote in a local authority area, you would have one vote. Now you would vote on election day, then if you're a resident in an apartment across the road from parliament you would enter the polling station and receive a ballot paper to vote for your ward candidate. You would be living in a ward probably called the precinct of parliament, let's assume, you would vote for a ward candidate, there would be a number of names of people on the ballot paper, some of those may be members of parties, some of them may be non-members of parties, you would choose the individual of your choice, the person you would like to have as your local councillor. You would then get another ballot paper and there you would vote for the party representatives who would serve on the Cape Town sub-structure, the Cape Town municipality, and there you would vote for the party of your choice. So you would have listed there a string of parties and if you had any knowledge of the parties you would probably vote for the ANC. And then you would get a third ballot paper where you would vote for the party representatives that would serve on the Metropolitan Council. You would again vote for the party of your choice. So that is what you would vote for. To simplify it, you vote for an individual of your choice and then you vote for the party of your choice.
POM 60% of the ...?
MVM 60% of the councillors on your sub-structure would be made up of ward representatives. The other 40% would be made up of party representatives, people from party lists as such. That would be in a sense the equaliser. On your Metropolitan Council again 40% would come from your party lists as such. The other 60% are not directly elected, they are indirectly elected by the sub-structures in the metropole. If you are living outside a metropolitan area then your local council would be a little simpler in that you would vote for your ward representative and you would vote for your party representative, you wouldn't have the metropolitan level to vote for because there would be no metropolitan government there.
POM Now some wards have been designated as white wards and some which comprised whites, Indians and Coloureds and some as black African wards.
MVM Yes, in a very sort of simplistic way you would put it like that, but in what the Act says, and this is part of the settlement agreement, that at least half the wards would be in the former white local authority area, at least half the wards would be in the former black local authority area. It so happens in reality that in the former black local authority areas those areas are still very black, not many whites have moved into former black local authority areas but in the former white local authority areas there are a lot of black people who live there so it's not a white ward. There are black people who work there, there are domestic workers, there are gardeners who live in people's backyards who invariably are black, there are informal settlements in the former white local authority areas, they fall into the former white local authority areas. So it's not really white as such, although one could say it in that sort of way.
POM That was going to be my next question.
MVM And the idea of this is really to, the settlement agreement here is really a compromise, a real compromise, there's nothing else to say about it, no fancy explanation about it. But the idea behind the compromise was really that in any local authority area one should have at least 30% of all the councillors, which is what the case would be now, at least 30% of all the councillors should be from the former white local authority area. It also means of course that at least 30% would be from the former black local authority area. It's a kind of a softening of the impact of democracy on those that fear it. That is what it's really all about and I think in the end it may well be a good thing. It would be bad if early in the transition one alienates and marginalises the entire white community in some areas. Of course, in the Western Cape you must know that it works the other way around because the white local authority areas are the big areas and the black local authority areas are small in comparison, so it actually works in a sense in favour of the black local authority areas. That is why you would find in the Western Cape the National Party doesn't like this provision, but the National Party loves it everywhere else in the country. I have said to the National Party in the Western Cape that if the National Party wants to drop this provision I am happy to do it immediately, we would drop it immediately, but we are not just dropping it because it's an agreement we've entered into and we stick by our agreements, but if you no longer require that then fine, let's drop it.
POM But theoretically you could have say a place like Houghton or Parkview in Johannesburg, very white, very upscale, but with what you say are many black residents or domestics or gardeners who work in the area or whatever, and if they registered and all came out to vote they could in fact elect a black councillor?
MVM Oh yes. Oh yes.
POM So that the area that thought it was safely white might find itself not so safely white.
MVM In theory yes. But that of course depends, it depends on the ability, a lot of them are actually ANC supporters so let's just talk, it depends on the ability of the ANC in such an area to organise that vote and I think that in those areas where the ANC is successfully able to organise that vote I think we would run away with the elections, frankly, because the white community, unlike the black community in those areas, would be deeply divided. The black community would be generally supporting the ANC in the sort of areas you're talking about, Houghton, Parkview, etc., there's no other party they would support. The white community would have the choice between the Democratic Party and the National Party and that vote in any case would then be a divided vote so we stand a very good chance of taking the ward seats there, but I think the one thing that may work against us is that it's not the easiest of voters to organise, domestic workers and gardeners and such things. The areas you're talking about all of these people live at the far end of a 2000 square or 4000 square metre plot which is surrounded by very high fence and dogs, so it's not all that easy to mobilise that kind of voter although the home owner in those areas would not, I think in general wouldn't deny you access in the areas you've mentioned. It's the kind of place where people are fairly enlightened and they would allow it, but it's not all that easy. But anyway, let me not make excuses for the possibility of us losing the seats in some of those areas.
POM Patricia and I were just talking about this last night. We rent a house in Cyrildene, three people stay in the house but there are four blacks on the property who are there either as domestic servants or gardeners and just live there, the wife, the husband and whatever. We were just saying if we were registered voters and they were registered voters they would simply outvote us in what people would consider to be a very white area of Johannesburg. Have the powers and the competencies of local government been worked out? Again, do people understand, do you think, what they are voting for or are they still confused?
MVM I think that there is still an element of confusion. I have always believed that in the final weeks of the election campaign the real education takes place then, so I think it's a bit early to say whether on election day people would have a much clearer idea of what they are voting for or not. But I do think that most people have a sense that the local authority is responsible for the water that flows in your tap and the electricity when you switch on the electricity and the removal of your garbage and the street light outside your house, it may not be lighted, or the upkeep of the streets. I think people have some sort of sense of that kind of thing, that local council deals with your immediate environment, I think so. But of course as far as the electoral system itself is concerned I think it's very confusing for people. I was on a television programme recently and somebody said, "How are people to understand all these sorts of things, proportional and ward and fifty/fifty and sixty/forty and metropole and sub-structure and all those sorts of things, so complicated." And I said to the guy that I had been on a tour not a long time ago in the US in order to look at the US constitutional system there, and I must tell you that I spent a week there and I am not exactly dumb, I found it very hard to understand how they work, from local government level, the county government, the state legislature, the State Senate and the state senators and House of Representatives and the President and all of these sorts of things, and I was speaking to a lot of very educated people, people who were involved in these things, the kind of people who were supposed to give us a sense of how that system works and very few people were able to explain it with any degree of lucidity I must say. I don't think we should be alarmed at the fact that the South African citizen doesn't understand all the complexities of all of this, I don't think it's a disaster and I don't think it's an obstacle to democracy necessarily.
POM Where does the RDP fit into this? When the RDP was first launched 18 months ago with a great deal of fanfare it was supposed to be the primary vehicle, as I understood it, for the implementation of RDP would be the local structures, yet one hears less and less talk about the RDP and few people can point to accomplishments that could be regarded as driving the engine of growth.
MVM Let me say in the first place, I have no doubt that the establishment of democratic, stable local authorities will be a huge boost, will service a huge boost to development at the local level, not only infrastructural development as far as service provision is concerned but also other sorts of development I think that planning decisions, etc., are holding back at this point in time. As far as the broader question you're raising about the RDP, the one thing that we have found is that it's easier to set aside money for reconstruction and development, it's more difficult to actually get the reconstruction and development under way. It's easier to put aside money to build a house, it's more difficult to get people to actually find a site, dig a foundation, build a house and to find a way of making that house accessible to a person who needs a house. It's more difficult, so I think there has been a gap between that which certainly we are noticing at this point in time and that is the one, in a sense, the delivery problem that we have experienced. From our side we administer the RDP programme which is referred to as a municipal infrastructure extension, upgrading and extension programme which is 850 million rand and I can tell you that we have allocated the entire 850 million rand to specific projects with detailed business plans already and that should well be going on the way.
One of the things that I've been championing in this ministry, with this department and with the provincial local government MECs also, is that perhaps we need to administer less of the RDP at the central level and maybe what we should have done six or eight months ago was take that 850 million rand, allocated it according to some formula to the provinces and left it to them to allocate it to projects. I think we would have cut out about six months time delay in doing that sort of thing. So I think the idea really is to give greater responsibility and a greater say to the provinces. I do feel that it is slightly over-centralised at this point in time and also this has led to a misunderstanding amongst many people of what the RDP is all about and that is why I think the Masakhane campaign has been a very useful supplement to the RDP campaign as such. People see the RDP campaign as Jay Naidoo and the RDP fund, waiting for Jay Naidoo to come to the area to say this is what I am going to do and this is the amount of money you're going to get. So they are waiting for the money and they are waiting for the RDP office to do something for them. I think we need to turn that around a little bit, the RDP is more about - it's less about how much you get from the RDP fund and how much you get from what Jay Naidoo decides he should do. It's more about what you decide for yourself and how you re-prioritise your own budget as a local authority, as a province and as a government department in order to invest in infrastructure, to invest in development.
POM What I think you are saying is that the RDP should be an instrument of empowerment, people doing things on their own behalf and accepting responsibility for doing things on their own behalf, whereas in the past they have been waiting, they are used to governments just coming in and doing it, or have been so alienated from the different structures of government that ...
MVM I think from the government side, and I'm talking about all levels of government, the RDP is about each level of government, each government department, each institution of government, specifically addressing itself to the question of development. I think that is really what it's about and that's what we are now trying to get done.
POM In 1994 I was told, mostly by people within the ANC, that 1994 was going to be the year of restructuring and that 1995 would be the year of delivery. Yet when one looks around not an awful lot has been delivered in many ways. Joblessness is just as high as it was two, three, four years ago. The housing programme in which the ANC had invested so much of its political ... is still not really off the ground in the sense that there is large scale housing under way. Education is up in the air, an ambitious bill being passed but still you've got black areas with schools that will not change over a short period of time. Added to that you've had these two new phenomena, one has been this spate of almost wildcat strikes, not in the private sector but in the public sector, the nurses strike being maybe the most conspicuous in terms of what it said, that professional workers are so alienated from the system were willing to allow their patients to die. Tough, we're on strike. You have police who go on strike. You have the President's bodyguards who went on strike. You have what would seem to be a slight collapse in public sector institutions as such. And the second phenomena is the one that has surfaced just in the last week or two, this incredible rate of absenteeism in parliament. You fought so long to get representation in parliament and you cannot put together a quorum to pass the budget, the single most important piece of legislation to come before parliament that allows the country to run. Just your observations, what do these things singly or jointly mean?
MVM I don't know if there's a single general analysis that will fit all of these different things that you have mentioned. As far as the delivery question is concerned I think you are quite right that on the face of it, it does appear as though not much is happening. But if you ask yourselves a question, if you woke up on 10 May last year and you, Padraig O'Malley, decided that you are going to build your own house in South Africa, you want to settle down here, you're going to build your own house, think about how long before that house would have been ready, think about the stuffs, just you as an individual, forget about houses for the nation. You would have to firstly decide on which part of the country you wanted to build that house in, which city, and in that city which suburb and you would have to look around for a plot and you would have to shop around quite a bit and you would have to sort out your finances with the bank and at a suitable cost you would have to find a contractor, an architect and all of those sorts of things and I think it would take you some amount of time to do that even if you worked at it more or less full time and did nothing else. So when you think about it in that way it brings to you the sense of reality and realness into this whole thing. And then if you thought that perhaps you're going to find twenty buddies with whom you would build a townhouse complex which each of you could share and buy jointly, you could think about the problems, the time it takes accumulating much more. So I think it's always important to maintain that sense of reality about things.
But I think in spite of that a lot has been achieved as far as I'm concerned. Nobody really talks about, for example, the extent of electrification. The RDP target was that there would be something like 340,000 homes electrified in the first year and in the first year there were something like 376,000 homes that were electrified and the electrification programme is going on at a rate that is really unprecedented anywhere I think. As far as provision of water is concerned there have been a whole number of water projects that have got off the ground and actually supplying clean water to people. I don't have the figures with me but I think that a lot of that sort of thing has happened. The RDP was also about transforming institutions of this country which we have begun to do in quite a big way. The question of strikes and such things, I think that one must remember that people in the public sector more than any other workers have felt the brunt of repression over the decades. These are people who were really vulnerable. The repressiveness of the system as a whole was I think felt in the first place by public servants, in the first place by policemen, by nurses and other such people and we should not be surprised that we find this kind of airing that is taking place from these sectors. It may not be a good thing necessarily but that is what is happening and I think that's really the explanation for me, together with genuine demands which they have. These people are genuinely underpaid and overworked and they have poor working conditions. I don't think it's as though some sort of ultra-leftist group of activists are saying to people, bring down the system. I don't think it's that sort of thing.
POM It's more ad hoc organisations that are doing it all the time?
MVM Well I think it's rooted in some very real things; poor working conditions, low salaries, authoritarian structures within the departments which they work for which are still in place, together with years of not feeling empowered, not being able to do anything. I think people are taking advantage of the democracy, which they should, to fight for their rights and express their feelings. As far as parliament is concerned I think that the chaos in parliament is being over-stated. We could do much more to organise ourselves better. My own feeling is that most members of parliament are working very, very hard. Also one has got to remember that parliament is working at a furious pace, at a furious pace attending to major pieces of legislation, major, thoroughgoing pieces of legislation as such, together with the fact that you have new parliamentarians. we have a completely new system in a sense and although that would take some time to settle, but I think it's really over-stated if one takes the Constitution Amendment Bill which we didn't get through last Thursday and we got through yesterday. It's not unknown in many other parliaments for a bill to be put to the vote over and over and over and over again in order to get the requisite majority. Frankly, I think that it's overstated. It would be a problem if the apparent disorganisation in parliament led to genuine delays in legislation, genuine problems as such. I don't think that has been the case. I don't think that anybody can say we haven't been able to do this because the members of parliament were not there. It may well have been that for some or other vote there wasn't a quorum.
So what, really? It's got to be improved. But it's amazing that all over the world members of parliament don't sit in parliament, all over the world, yet all over the world the media criticise them for not sitting in parliament. Why the hell should I as a member of parliament sit through a three-hour debate on an obscure transport bill dealing with some or other obscure detail about toll roads when I know nothing about it, I'm not going to contribute to the debate and I won't understand what people are saying there? Why the hell should I sit there when I've got a hell of a lot of work to do? I should do my work, and that's how parliaments all over the world operate. When I was in Germany recently, what they do is that when the debate on one bill is over you literally find members who were sitting there evacuating parliament and a new lot coming in, those that are interested in the next bill, that's what you find, that sort of movement. That's how it should be. I don't think we get paid just to sit round on our backsides listening to things we know nothing about. Does that sound a bit defensive, Padraig?
POM What do you make of the criticism launched, obviously for political purposes, by the DP that an extraordinary number of very important pieces of legislation have been left to the last moment and are being steamrollered through without the requisite degree of public debate about their merits and their implications? Two that have been mentioned to me have been the Labour Relations Act and the Education Act which people say the Labour Relations Act was big business, big labour and government but it didn't invite wider participation by either the public or by smaller businesses, and that the Education Bill has just been released and suddenly it's going to become law.
MVM Let me say to you that the Democratic Party has the luxury of having voters who are not in a hurry for transformation, these changes could come about in five or ten years time or whenever, you know middle class whites, it doesn't really matter to them so they have the luxury of having that kind of voter base who they talk to. They also have the luxury of not being in government so they don't actually have to govern and it's very easy for a party that doesn't have to govern to say, oh well, delay this or that for another six months. I think that's the perspective from which they talk. We have the pressing need to transform this country, to transform the education system, to transform the health system, to transform labour relations and this needs to be done urgently. We think that's what our constituency wants, it's what the people of this country want and what the overall needs of the economy demand.
As far as the Labour Relations Bill are concerned I think that they are wholly incorrect. It has been published long beforehand, it's been current in the news for a fair amount of time, and there, of course, I think, has been sufficient opportunity for even those outside the main actors in the sense to participate in the process and to impact upon in if they really wanted to. So, as far as I'm concerned, it's politicking. I haven't been following the Education Bill very closely so I am unable to say whether there has been sufficient time or not. It's sort of a stock thing that the DP says just about everything. You know when you vote against a bill or when you want to show your constituency that your presence in parliament is meaningful you've got to say something.
They made a big thing yesterday in parliament about the ANC throwing the rules of parliament overboard in order to vote on the Constitution Amendment Bill the second time and Colin Eglin said, "Well this is the old authoritarian thing, the ANC has learnt quickly from the National Party to disrespect the constitution, to disrespect the rules of parliament", because we passed the motion setting aside certain rules in order to table the bill a second time. Now that was done in terms of the rules because rule No. 2 in the book says that parliament with the requisite majority can set aside any of these rules if it so wishes to. So it was really an application of the rules. But the essence of it really is that the interim constitution says you require two thirds to change the constitution. That's the main thing. The question they should ask is that was there a desire amongst two thirds of the members to change the constitution or not, not some technical thing, so I don't take that all that seriously.
POM On affirmative action, has your thinking on that evolved over the last twelve to eighteen months, particularly affirmative action, again, in the public sector? That's one, and then the last question would be, when delivery was planned of the RDP or whatever, was the question of possible bottlenecks that would arise adequately taken into account, like again going back to your statement to build houses you need carpenters.
MVM Your latter one, I don't think that the bottlenecks were taken into account sufficiently. Short answer to that. As far as the affirmative action question is concerned, I don't know if it's correct, I suppose one's thinking always evolves, but what I have found in practice, if you look at the Director Generals that we have, more than half of all Director Generals in the country are now black, in a very short space of time. All of them have gone through a rigorous interviewing process, all of those posts were advertised properly, everybody was given the opportunity to apply for those posts. There were laid down procedures in terms of which interviews and selection processes take place, and more often than not one found that the best available person was black. One can hardly point to a black Director General who is an affirmative action appointee in the sense that you put the person there because he or she is black but doesn't have the ability to do the job. So that there is a pool of talent in the black community and the application of affirmative action really means that where you've got to decide between two persons, one white one black who are more or less the same, or the white person just may have one or two additional things in his or her CV, that you may want to choose the black person in order to change the face of the public service and I think that is the way generally in which it has been applied. There has been a real search for proper talent. At the end of the day we're going to suffer if one puts in place people without talent it's because they have the right ideological leaning or they have the right colour of skin. So I don't think that the application of affirmative action has been done in a manner which disrupts the administration as far as we are concerned. If anything it improves it.
POM Last question, which I've just forgotten, yes, in the Constituent Assembly is there any single or more than single issue that is emerging as the most contentious, that would require a major change in whatever clause in the interim constitution?
MVM I think for me, and maybe I'm biased because of where I sit, but for me the central issue that needs negotiating in the constitution is the question of provincial powers and the relationship between central government and provinces, the allocation of powers between the two, the scope for central government and the scope for provincial government. I think that's really at the heart of cracking the work in the Constitutional Assembly.
POM Will the provincial parliaments in turn have to negotiate the powers they would devolve to the local structures or are the powers more or less defined already?
MVM I think those are more or less defined. The only question that arises there is whether we entrench the local government powers in the constitution, something which I am in favour of. I think that not only provinces but local government should also have their powers entrenched so there should be more certainty for them, greater autonomy and I think that if we prevent a situation where they are reduced to mere administrative entities I think it would be better for South Africa. I think we need responsible, autonomous, powerful local authorities in this country. Thank you very much, Padraig.
POM You sound more and more like a federalist.
MVM No, if you go back to the earliest interviews you have done with me I have never been opposed to a decentralised form of government, I've always been in favour of it, but I am also in favour of central government having sufficient power to ensure a thoroughgoing transformation of this country, and that's what I will fight for in the Constitutional Assembly.
POM OK. Thanks very much.