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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
23 Oct 1995: Holomisa, Bantu
POM Let me start with a general question. I remember seeing you in Cape Town in your house, I think that was a year or a two ago, just after you had moved in and it was a big empty house and you felt lost a little bit and were missing the Transkei and your family. Have you settled down more or do you still miss the Transkei?
BH I still miss Transkei because that's my home, I miss people, friends and so on and the culture of living in cities, big cities and built up areas is that you are always indoors, you are inside your yard whereas in Transkei we have that culture of greeting neighbours, asking how are you and so on, but here it's different.
POM Do you find it difficult to, given the freedom of movement that you had in the Transkei and you could move about on your own and, as you said, it is a much looser culture, now here you are programmed for meetings, to meeting in parliament, your duties, do you find that a difficult adjustment?
BH No it's not a difficult adjustment because even in Transkei that was the sort of life I was living. Once you are a head of government you don't have free movement, the protocol doesn't allow that. But even President Mandela is in agreement with my notion that when you are in Transkei you have got free movement. He moves around all the time visiting people, enjoys the countryside, the landscaping, green rolling hills of Transkei, but here living in built up cities you see only the skyscrapers and so on, you don't feel the countryside life. I am a countryside boy, but otherwise I don't have problems. I have settled, I am working and my family is here now in Pretoria.
POM They are? Your children are going to school here in Pretoria?
BH Yes, yes.
POM And is your wife working?
BH No, no, she's at home so I pay her salary. Remember she was a lecturer in Transkei so part of my salary, I divide it into half, one half goes to her. She is not working because she was working for the government and I didn't feel that we should be both working for the government but I think she is comfortable to have a break as well.
POM This is not a permanent break?
BH No, no, definitely not.
POM You have recently made a lot of headlines with the treatment you received in London at the London Embassy when you were there with a number of MECs and MPs.
BH It is true that we were given the cold shoulder, or call it a calculated snub, by those former Nationalist Party diplomats who are still there because they invited us to visit them, to go to their house for a cocktail.
POM South Africa House in Trafalgar Square?
BH And they told us we must be ready at six o'clock and they sent transport to pick us up and when we arrived there the doors were closed and the drivers and the lady who was escorting us had to rush up to check why the doors were closed. After ten minutes when other people also were there, apparently they invited other people from Britain who were shivering there in front of their office, suddenly they opened the door, a tall big man with a moustache says, "Come in you people." Right, we came in and we were still subjected to stand on the line inside to be identified and then I protested, I said, "No, if we allow this, this would be tantamount to embarrassing our government. If we were alone yes, but now there are other guests from around Britain." And no seniors to welcome us and later Deputy Commissioner, High Commissioner, Mr Grobbler, came and apologised for being late and so on and apologised for the inconvenience caused when the doors were closed. But it transpired later that they were having a party on the fifth floor in the same building, it was a farewell of one of the Intelligence officers, hence they were smelling of liquor. But the matter now has been referred to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the ball is in his court to correct the image. If he feels that his staff was correct it's OK, it's up to him, the public will give a judgement.
POM Did President Mandela have a remark on it?
BH Oh yes he did remark when I met him and he said he has demanded a report from Mr Nzo as to what went wrong there.
POM Now here at the ministry do you like what you're doing? You once said that you were at heart just a soldier and I assume you could have gone back to the SANDF if you had so chosen to. You said you weren't a politician and now you are.
BH I am a converted 'green general' now. Well I must be honest with you, defence is one thing, or Department of Agriculture is one thing, but environment is about everything, so environment impacts on a number of departments and life in general and I think it is a challenge for me especially if one talks about the use of resources in this country which have been reserved only for a certain few. You look at the people now who are busy looking for water, importing water from the Lesotho highlands scheme, but you will find that we do have a lot of water which we can still share, all of us around Johannesburg as people who are living here if one can come up with policies of regulations and so on, how to use water, how to share. Other people like myself, I do have a swimming pool where I stay at the back of my house, but other families a few kilometres from me don't even have a tap of water, so that's what I like, the politics of environment, give direction to ministers. You can't build homes in a wetland area, you can't build homes in a sandy area. That's what I'm doing, I'm a policeman of some kind. And also concerning the competitiveness which we are back into in the international arena, the industry of South Africa, the honeymoon is over for them now not to be environmentally friendly when they are manufacturing their products. The mining industry also is under pressure that some of the radio active which tended to find its way to the rivers, rivers which are used for drinking water and also irrigating our agricultural farms which would affect in one way or another the products which will come out of those vegetables. So everybody now is tightening up, pulling up his socks to make sure that environmentally we are in the same area as other countries. So in a nutshell Holomisa enjoys working in the Department of the Environment and I am also campaigning for new policies.
POM Do you have a good relationship with the minister, Dawie de Villiers?
BH Oh yes, we are both ruggerites, so it has come up I am a flyer, I carry the ball, I pass the ball.
POM I knew something would bring you together.
BH I work very well with him and his staff and my staff and the department. We have also employed a number of black people now in senior positions, up to the level of directors and so we are a nice family, we are growing here.
POM There is a process of transformation going on within the department and the pace at which it is going is pleasing to you?
BH As far as I am concerned I am happy because there is good co-operation we are getting from the public, the level of awareness on environment is also growing. The way of educating people in environment, the more there are controversial topics and subjects so people get to know about environment and now after 1st November the local councils which will be elected, now at least people feel that they are owning the country. I guess that after the elections there will be an inculcation of culture of ownership to say, right we have our own mayors, we have our own councillors, they say we must not throw things and dirty our country and there will be somebody at local level to make noises rather than waiting for someone at national level, national government departments, to make noises. So I foresee therefore that the Department of Environment, the forthcoming councils or councillors, the local government institutions, are going to work closely with the Department of Environment at national as well as at provincial level, and together with other departments which are bringing projects or development in their backyards. The question will be, is the project sustainable? Secondly, is the project built on sound environmental principles? And thirdly, are the resources utilised effectively for the benefit of all in that particular town or region?
POM So do RDP projects come by your department to get screened for their environmental implications?
BH The Department of RDP they do have an environmental section within RDP, both monitoring rural and urban, and the Department of Environment together with provinces and the forthcoming local government authorities will be working together to monitor those projects because if we don't do it now it's going to be costly in ten to fifteen years to come.
POM I want to go back to something that became the subject of some controversy last year and that was when President Mandela made some charges that the Transkei civil servants had stolen millions, perhaps even billions, by fixing the computers that controlled their salary disbursements, and at the time you responded and I quote, if it's accurate, "I don't attach too much importance to what he said. The allegations made by the President can never be regarded as the final word in this matter until an investigation has tabled its findings." Now a number of the media said you were being impudent or condescending towards the President. Did the two of you ever take the matter up on a personal basis?
BH No not at all. There was no need. I am sure even the President knows that and I know that there was no need for that.
POM Why do you think then your reactions were characterised that way by the media?
BH Well the media, they had their own opinion, but principles are principles. In fact, let me put it this way, hardly a week after that if you were still around the country, President Mandela addressed the National Assembly and he himself said people must stop issuing sweeping statements about corruption.
POM I remember that.
BH So, who was right? Bantu Holomisa? Because that's what I was saying. I said, no, it is good the President has said so but media don't take what the President has said out of context because what the President was saying cannot be regarded as the last word. The police and the Attorney General and the magistrate or judges are the ones who will say the last word. I was saying it from experience. When I say let's combat corruption, it was not lip service. My track record in Transkei will show I sent people to court, others were acquitted, others were charged, sentenced, including former heads of government and that was not a military court. It was civil court, independent court, manned by senior judges seconded from the South African government at the time. So when it comes to the combating of corruption once you issue sweeping statements from the highest office and you don't back it, you only back it when people are charged or through a commission of enquiry, so I was not saying to the President that is not true, but I said the last word you can go to the dictionary and go and ask a Senior Counsel for a legal opinion on that, what was Holomisa saying exactly? Fortunately the President, that's history now, the President came back in parliament and said, "Uh-uh, these sweeping statements must be stopped." Commissions of enquiries, I am still waiting for that commission today.
Last week the National Party and DP were involved in an electioneering campaign, saying no don't investigate Mangope only but investigate Transkei, military rule, Holomisa's rule must be investigated. I said last year September, if you have any fears or anything go and investigate. February this year when President Mandela said that, I said go and investigate this. Now I said to them, I said in February if you are going to investigate the homelands only you are wasting your time and leave the mother of all corruption behind, because these homelands were created by National Party. You have got to check the norms and standards which were used to transfer moneys from the central government to the homelands. Some of the departments were manned by the seconded officials from Pretoria in these homelands, but corruption still took place. Who is fooling who here? Go to DBSA (Development Bank of Southern Africa) who was bringing projects in areas like Transkei, they would just bring consultants, no tendering, nothing, but you will find that the consultancy work, some of their employees belonged to those businesses which have been given consultancy fees and so on. So start with South Africa. On Thursday Mandela came up and said we are going to investigate South Africa of old and if Bantustans it's good, holistic approach, must never divide your nation. I don't agree with that.
POM So you welcomed this enquiry?
BH Oh yes, I welcomed it openly and when you are a leader you must be like a father, embrace everybody unless there is a specific case to say all right Holomisa you took a million rand, invested it somewhere, then you can follow that one. But if a political party issues just a general statement that doesn't threaten Holomisa.
POM But officials in the Eastern Cape, in Mhlaba's administration, have said that the finances in the former Transkei are a mess. Now if they are, at whose door should the responsibility for that be laid?
BH Obviously it will be to the previous governments, Military Council, Matanzima's governments and so on, but you must come up first with the facts how, by whom and when. Don't just issue a sweeping statement because others now are pointing fingers at that.
POM They are pointing fingers at?
BH At Mhlaba and others, saying it is because of your inefficiency why there is no delivery. During Holomisa's time we used to get water, electricity, everything, we were living harmoniously. If our government was so mixed up, if our department was so mixed up, if the government of Transkei or Holomisa was not working for the people of Transkei they wouldn't be calling for me to come back to the province. Now I would be in the bottomless pit as being a person who messed up. People know the truth.
POM Do you go back there frequently?
BH No, I'm very busy, I'm not a tribal leader like other former homelands who always go there at weekends and make noises, come back to the office on Mondays.
POM I wonder who you're talking about.
BH You can fit the cap wherever. So I am busy with national programmes and environment and I was campaigning in the Northern Cape this weekend. I won't be able to campaign in my province, other people have been deployed there, because Northern Cape they felt that we must concentrate on that province.
POM In the Eastern Cape, particularly areas that were again part of Transkei, there appears to be a total collapse in the preparations for the election.
BH Did they collapse during my reign?
POM But the preparations for these elections have gone awry.
BH I am even talking about infrastructure, did it collapse during my reign there? No. Hospitals were operating, sewerage systems were operating, municipalities were operating although the government was not giving us money to subsidise all the towns in Transkei unlike in South Africa where they were getting moneys in other homelands. The government buildings, all this, they were, but we were managing. The question is, what happened when we left? Were the moneys due to the area, region called Transkei, were they being given to them? I doubt very much. I have my suspicions. You can't just three, four, five months after we have left all of a sudden everything goes down. What if, I don't know I'm just asking, what if the people on that side maybe were not happy with it, now they are demanding a tenth province. What if it's a deliberate ploy by them just to sabotage the whole thing so that the public, the group, the people on the ground could be angered and revolt against? What if there are still sinister forces who have infiltrated those forces or those institutions to say no, pretend as if nothing is happening and they don't service the people? The people who are suffering there are the public and you have been going to Transkei, you know that 90% of our time was spent on helping the people.
POM Would you lay the responsibility for the collapse of services, the inner structure, on the provincial administration?
BH Both national and provincial. Who else? What you saw there you never saw it before when I was there. I would hear it better if you were saying as early as 1993 or 1990 the situation was bad, why did it happen around October last year, August, October? Bear in mind that the provinces, when these guys got into Transkei, I mean took over Transkei, they immediately laid down the DGs, served them with letters, Directors General, that you are no longer accounting officers. They appointed juniors, junior clerks to run the departments. They appointed what they call strategic managers and that created frustration, collapse, moaning and whinging. I think that is the main problem which caused that problem there, because immediately they came into power the Directors General were served with letters. That is the only province which chased them away. Those people are accounting officers, now they have served the Directors, Chief Directors, Deputy Directors General with letters to say they must take a package, the entire top structure of a department. When they appointed junior clerks to be in charge of departments what did they call them? I don't know what they called them. When they took those junior clerks to be in charge of the seniors, I am talking about grade twos and grade three, in the level of chief clerks to be in charge of the top structures, discipline started to collapse immediately.
POM What about these forces that are out to establish a tenth province?
BH Well, I guess that it is as a result of the frustrations. What I hear from the media they are saying we used to get service but now we are not getting any service so rather go back to have a tenth province rather than relying on that one. So apparently they are complaining about they are not being serviced. You saw it, you see it on a daily basis.
POM What about the nurses' strike?
BH I don't know about it. The nurses' strike, I think they are demanding money, that's all, and Mr Mhlaba I think he's taking them back now by saying they must work as volunteers. I think they might have reached a compromise.
POM Do you think just in general that the situation was handled the right way?
BH If the strike is illegal they have rules to apply and I don't know, so far it looks as though their strike didn't follow the right procedures. But was it a precedent which they have done in Transkei as nurses? The answer is obviously no. They didn't create a precedent because this is what is happening on a daily basis. This year the South African Police Union, SAPU, which is mainly whites, blocked parliament, we were there in Cape Town and the streets in parliament, and they said they want their money. Vice President Thabo Mbeki had to go out and address them from a radio car loud hailer to say we will address your problems, we know that you do have problems. The following week the Cabinet approved about R98 million to increase their salaries. Must you have a gun in order to address your problems, because that was an illegal strike?
POM But the nurses were treated differently.
BH Insofar as I can see of Transkei.
POM Even in Johannesburg.
BH Oh yes, even in Johannesburg.
POM They were fired and told to reapply for their jobs and when the government said that there was no money to pay any wage increases at all to the nurses, this was the very same week when a Select Committee in parliament came out saying that MPs ought to be paid more, ought to be paid more money.
BH Well on that one it has not yet been debated even in our caucus or even in our Cabinet so I don't attach much value to that statement.
POM But it was a particularly insensitive thing for them to have done at that time?
BH No I am not sure if there is accuracy in that report because I am one of the senior members of the party, I should be having a copy of it. Many of us in Cabinet don't have that including the caucus members of the ANC so whoever was introducing that, it is clear that there are still some forces which are mischievous. You may find that maybe that report was an old report which people have been debating but when there was the next strike they tried to take it so that it can coincide as if it is a fresh thing. Remember that some of these nurses started to say we will vote National Party and so on, forward with National Party, down with the ANC. We are still evaluating as to which animal was behind these actions.
POM Do you think the National Party is 'out to get you', that they have targeted you as specifically somebody they want to go after?
BH I think it would work for their strategy if they say yes, ANC, you can't talk about homelands and homeland leaders because you have a homeland leader there who is - it suits their propaganda. But at the same time the National Party I think they know that they have tried during the era I was in charge of Transkei to break my back and they failed dismally and they are going to fail again. Commissions of enquiry will be conducted in Transkei. I won't be in the same mess as Mangope I can promise you. I will be in the government of national unity even after those commissions of enquiry. No-one will attach to me and say Holomisa you have taken millions of rands or you have instructed the Tender Board to give business to your friend, to your family or to company X. You phone me if you get that information after the commission. So promise. But it suits them for their politics, but I don't have a problem with them. They came heavily on me and I returned their punch to them last week and I hit them below the belt because when President Mandela says, all right the commissions will be inclusive, do you see anything in newspapers now, even in editorial opinions typical of the South African media? Once De Klerk and his ilk are in problem, in trouble, they will retreat but let it be a black person and they will come jumping.
POM Do you still think the national media, the papers, are still pro-NP?
BH No, you can't divorce them unfortunately from the NP because you are talking about their daughters and sons who are printing these papers, who are writing, collecting news. Those are the sons and daughters of the F W de Klerks of this world today. The Mandela's daughters and sons of today are not journalists yet. They are very few and they are not in the boardroom to decide what's our lead news in our newspaper tomorrow, what will be our lead news in our paper tomorrow. You won't get that. We know that. The economists, business, who are controlling some of the media in this country are still there and they still decide which menu must come up to their audience. If, for instance, you will notice now, the black editors have noticed this, Thabo Mbeki, the Vice President, people like Tokyo Sexwale and many other senior ANC members are taking a stance to say, if you say we must reform we have done well politically but there is no change in your boardrooms, in the news rooms. It's putting them under pressure which is good politics. Democracy, you want transparency in public departments, let's see whether you do apply transparency and affirmative action in your newspapers.
POM So do you think there is still a strong element of racism?
BH Oh yes, there is no doubt about that. There are very few changes which have taken place since April last year in the news rooms.
POM If you had to point to the government of national unity and I were to ask you what in the last 18 months has been its concrete achievements what would you point to?
BH Firstly, to bring political stability in this country. That's point number one. Two is the question of reconciliation. I think the nation is staying harmoniously, the people of this country are living harmoniously with each other. The economy, at least economic indicators, they sound positive. There are a lot of companies coming back who left during the sanctions era. And internationally I think South Africa is a model. On the ground, on the question of delivery the delay of the introducing of local government on the ground tended to cost us, that we were not able to deliver, but it also proves that we are financially, let me put it this way, not strapped, the government is aware about fiscal controls because had we distributed that money to various towns without infrastructure on the ground to receive that money, we would have been haunted by the auditors and say we voted so much money sent to town X and then there were no structures, people were fighting, others demanding that your structure is illegitimate, but after 1st November we will see at least a lot of development.
But even then there are projects which are taking place throughout the country. If you go to areas like Transkei now electricity is coming to the rural areas in round thatched roofs so people are happy and there are water projects as well and the policy formulations, because this is another important thing, President Mandela took over a country which more or less has a first world infrastructure and its policies and if one wants to run a country you have got to review those policies and this period, the last 18 months, there were a number of bills which have been passed in parliament, therefore I am optimistic and positive and happy for what we have done. Otherwise we just pour moneys into local government structures where the National Party are still in charge. I don't think we would have achieved what we want to because National Party have been given an opportunity in the last decade using those moneys but they beef up the infrastructure of the white areas only, so we didn't want to repeat the same mistake. If people are going to say we failed to deliver in these last 18 months, yes one can say we will agree with you in part, not fully, because there were other structures which were not in place.
POM But must the government produce after the elections? Must the government produce after the elections? If I were to come back to you this time next year and still a real housing programme isn't off the ground and houses are not being built and if the educational system still is not restructured to the point of where schools are integrated and more resources going into black areas, if jobs are not being created, what then?
BH Perhaps one must understand that here it's not one party which is running this country. There are many parties which are running the country. Some have got hidden agendas, everybody looking at 1999. Sometimes a project, let me just cite an example, the white paper on social welfare, the National Party Minister Abe Williams, that paper was finished long ago but he didn't want to release it before the elections because if he releases before the elections he knew that the credit is going to go to the government of President Mandela. He was saying he will release it on 1st November. But we were saying, the paper is ready, what are you waiting for? If it was an ANC government completely which was in charge since April last year, obviously you would see different changes drastically too because it's one party, take a decision, there is no need to waste time and say, oh I must consult with Minister so-and-so, oh I want to fire so-and-so I must consult the Vice President, where is he? Oh he is on honeymoon, oh I must wait when we get his fax and telephone. You can't run a government like that. But we are improving where we feel that at least some ministers they still want to sabotage the process within the government. President Mandela, we have given him a morale boost within the ANC caucus, saying, be firm, feel that the thing is done in the interests of the people. When a minister hides something or if Buthelezi is going to misuse his differences with the ANC politically and then punish the rest of the population we must say to him, no, in no uncertain terms, no, you will publish that on such and such a date. If he doesn't meet it he must go, finish. That's government, how it operates.
POM What do you think the government would be doing differently if it were just an ANC government at this point?
BH Obviously the decisions would come quickly and the ANC would obviously easily send their ministers to an area. But now you see something is wrong. You will find that the minister in charge, there is a Nationalist Party minister and then he or she drags his or her feet. Look at another province, find that that province is only under the National Party and they are only interested in the affairs of a few. An ANC government minister is only for everybody. So they are still being haunted by the past unfortunately.
POM Is there any strategy behind it?
BH So in other words the concept of government of national unity while it is good, while it is working on paper, but it has got frustrations here and there because at time there are politically vested interests. Look at this demarcation in Western Cape. It's a good example. You have a Vice President who even came out openly and said, I support that minister of that province on defying President Mandela. Can you see how complicated this thing is? Either you are a Vice President and you work within the norms and standards of that office or you are an opposition leader. But it's not like that. It's good but it's frustrating at times and sometimes as a junior minister I sometimes feel that I need to take some of this, especially De Klerk and Buthelezi. Take for instance De Klerk as a Chairman of the Security Council Committee, Cabinet Committee on Security, a plan was discussed to combat crime.
POM At that meeting?
BH Yes, of that Cabinet Committee. The plan is approved, he approves as the chairman, he reports to the President, yes, briefs him today this is what was agreed upon. Mandela asks questions, what about this, what about that? No, no, no, he has catered for that. The following week he attacks the plan and attributes it to the ANC. So it's against the norms and standards, the ethics of good governance. So that's why at times I feel that no, no, no, at least some of these people continue to sabotage us especially around delivery.
POM Do you think when the Truth & Reconciliation Commission gets off the ground that a number of heads of fairly senior people in the National Party are going to fall? I'll give you an example. One of the people I've been interviewing since 1990 has been Colonel Louis Botha. We met in Durban first and then I followed him to Port Elizabeth and he always gave great interviews and he was the intermediary in Inkathagate, he was the person who delivered the money to the IFP, and when I was interviewing him after that he said, "Well I can't talk about that, it's off limits", which I understood. But he said, "I want to tell you something, I have never done anything in my professional life without the explicit approval and authority of my superiors."
BH I know that.
POM And now he's charged. And I rang him up and said can we talk? And he said, "Come down any time, I have nothing to hide, I am guilty of nothing." But he said, "I will name names."
BH Yes, well if he says he will name names one can read from that, you can either say Mr Botha was carrying instructions, right? He himself never planned this, so if he says he will name names obviously it's the names of the seniors who sent him to do that. Maybe he is commenting within that notion.
POM But do you not think that people like Magnus Malan and Vlok ...?
BH Obviously they will be the subject of scrutiny, there is no doubt about that, including De Klerk in his capacity as the chairman of the Security Council. He will have to tell us how come he made, for instance, a policeman overnight a millionaire. How come he made a policeman a millionaire overnight when he paid settlement for de Kock, possibly for the services rendered, thanking him. What did he do? That is De Klerk's era, he knows about that, he approved it personally.
BH Even that one it's a waste of time I think and a waste of money, where you are going to say, all right let's expose these things and then tomorrow you are pardoned. So it might hurt other people. Do you understand, other families? They won't understand the rationale behind it, it is too philosophical for them. My kids were killed by a raid, my kids were killed where they were in their sleep, then De Klerk says, "Yes I did it." Then tomorrow we issue an order to say we pardon you.
POM But would he not have to step down from public life at least?
BH Yes something like that, or charge him or something.
POM At least would he not resign?
BH But what's the point? I do have a problem at times. I support the party line, but personally I do have some problems. If it is not controlled this Truth Commission it might have some bad repercussions.
POM If I were, say, General Magnus Malan and I was put on the spot and an increasing amount of evidence began to appear against me and I would say, number one in 1992 during Inkathagate F W de Klerk threw me to the dogs.
BH I'm afraid I must go to Uitenhage. People want me there, go there, you are a President of COSATU. He says, no, the people say bring the general else we are not voting.
POM That's one way of putting it.
BH But I'm busy.
POM But just to go back, if I were Magnus Malan and De Klerk threw me to the dogs, said time for you to go, clear gone, and now I'm put on the spot, would there not be a great temptation on his part just to point the accusing finger and say, "You know what, I'll get even with de Klerk. I'll just say he knew everything too. I don't have to produce evidence, I've just got to make the allegation."
BH There is no need even for that, for Magnus Malan to do that. If the people are asked on one question, for instance, in 1985, around 1985, if a question would be asked to say who was present in the Security Council meeting which took place in Port Elizabeth for the first time because Security Council meetings were either in Cape Town when parliament is there or here in Pretoria, in which in that meeting a decision was taken to normalise the situation is Port Elizabeth which led to the killing of Goniwe and so on, he would just say who was in attendance at that meeting, and then he says, "All right, PW, Malan, Vlok, Pik, FW." There is not even a need for Magnus Malan to point a finger, there are many fingers which are pointing to De Klerk already.
POM But do you think that Mandela would bail him out in some way?
BH No, they were clever those guys. If you get involved into an operation and you don't have a strategy sometimes a thing which you introduce tends to backfire to you. De Klerk already was clever to say to organise former ministers and PW to have a meeting with them as to how are they going to handle the Truth Commission. He was avoiding this thing appointing because now they seem to be working together, PW, FW, Malan, Vlok, everybody to say, "All right generals, how are we going to handle it?" But it will depend on the terms of reference and the level of people who are manning those commissions and what type of questions. They can still point fingers at each other on condition that you have aspects in putting questions across.
POM You just said when you were on the phone to the President of COSATU who wanted you out in Uitenhage campaigning for the local elections and that if you weren't out there that people weren't going to go out and vote. Is there a difference in your life in this sense, that one thing I remembered about you when you were in Umtata is that you lived in an ordinary house and your children put a tent up on the lawn to play under and your wife was going to school and studying, there was the absence of bodyguards, whether they were around or not they made sure they weren't seen and were doing a terrific job or they simply weren't there at all. Now you live in a big house, swimming pool, complex, servants, people to wait, at your attendance, every need met when you click your fingers, do you feel that the government are slowly becoming cut off from the masses because they live in such a different lifestyle?
BH No, a number of ministers are living outside the government institutions, especially a number of them in Johannesburg, around Pretoria they have got their own homes. President Mandela is hardly in an official residence. We are very few now who are staying in a government house. The reason for me is that the security for myself around this area, I am not sure about it so I have got to be careful and make sure. I am planning that one day I will buy a house and move out of there. Right now I'm paying a rent of about R3500-00 a month, paying rent in that government house. I had to bring my own linen, own crockery and so on. With R3000-00 you can get a nice bond house. It's not that there are no houses but my security around Pretoria and Johannesburg I am not sure, I would have to work very hard. I think that there are still forces which I didn't endear myself to when I was in Transkei and they are still begrudging me.
POM In the Transkei?
BH When I was still in Transkei. But there are forces here in South Africa who might still be harbouring some things. You will remember that there were a lot of assassination attempts when I was in Transkei on me. If you look at this then you ask the question, why is the Nationalist Party targeting you? Sometimes you get this bombardment from the media, being attacked, attacked, attacked and something happens to you, condition the masses. So one has got to be careful. So the reason why I am not out of that area prepared to pay R3500-00 per month for rental in a government house, the security is still better there. I don't know much about the environment in this area. I guess it will take me some other time. I don't have bodyguards now.
POM You don't have?
BH No I don't have bodyguards, I just have one driver only. When I came here I requested bodyguards, I requested to bring two guys from Transkei who I trusted so they said I must use the old security establishment. I said to them it is still too early for me to do that, I would rather programme myself, my movement myself rather than relying on the old security which we have inherited. I am talking about bodyguards, but if they man the gate which is used by everybody it's fine. So they are neighbours within that yard, so they will tell the tale at least.
POM So the reason you don't have a bodyguard is because that bodyguard would come from the old structures and you simply don't yet trust what is in that old structure?
BH It is still too early. Once you restructure the security system completely and fill that, yes, they are committed but otherwise not. Maybe after 18 months it will be fine. That is my personal security. I am not talking about police force, army who are doing an excellent job on a day to day basis guarding, apprehending criminals, no, I'm talking about my security.
POM Yet the ANC did have a discussion document that I read and it said quite clearly, we believe there are still elements in the police and in the army that are there to undermine us.
BH That's why I don't want to take chances. If I have a doubt I rather don't take a chance.
POM So do you vary your movements?
BH No, they are straightforward, my movements are straight, but I am not too much in the public. When I say public, like you used to see me in Umtata moving around the streets and so on, now I come to work, go back home, if I go to the conference I go and address the conference and I go early back home or come back to my office. But at least nobody knows where will I be and so on.
POM But you've been known as one of the populists in the ANC, do you get a chance to go out among the people?
BH No it's very rare. I don't know why they labelled me with that because one has got to define if you a popular ...
POM Populist, you are popular.
BH If you are a populist it is as if you are pretending, you are not the real person, you don't believe in what you are saying. But if you are popular with the people then that is different and I don't think people would be calling Holomisa all over the show if he was a populist because they would know that emanated from politics and sometimes they are rough and you must be able to handle them. In parliament the National Party was saying populist, I said to them, "Don't use a borrowed name, you don't know where that notion emanated from, don't get involved in a thing which you don't know", and there was a silence, stone silence in parliament, you could hear a pin falling. During the break my colleagues are saying, "What do you mean when you say National Party they don't know where does this thing come from?" I said, "I am an Intelligence man, Intelligence officer, that is not coming from the National Party this slogan of a populist."
POM It's not coming from the ANC?
BH I was saying it's not coming from the Nationalist Party, it's coming from somewhere but not the Nationalist Party or the DP and so they started to get worried. You see sometimes I am like a prophet. Hardly two days after that we heard a spokesperson for the ANC saying I am going to appear in a disciplinary committee and so on, and then I challenged him. I said, "On what grounds?" And then he was called to comment and clarify this by the people and he withdrew, he said he made a mistake. I said, "No, who sent you to say so within the ANC?" So he ran away and I said, "No, I told the members of parliament two days ago that this thing emanates from within somewhere in the ANC but it's not going to work and if you have been sent by somebody go to him whoever he is, whoever his social standing is, tell him that Holomisa says you can go and jump in the lake, you won't discipline Holomisa. For what?" And I called upon the ANC to discipline him. He was immediately withdrawn as a spokesperson for the ANC. He is a Senator that person in parliament. You know that story?
POM Why do you think there would be elements within the ANC who would be out to damage you in some way?
BH No I really don't know but it was curious that an ANC spokesman would go public and say I am going to appear in a disciplinary committee. Apparently what happened, they were clapping Holomisa, Winnie Mandela, Peter Mokaba, Allan Boesak as if these are rotten apples within the ANC, the media started that campaign. Now this man was now including my name to say I would be disciplined and President Mandela also said, for what? I asked him, "Do you know any charge which is pending against Holomisa because I have never even been with your guys, I have never even used one cent from the ANC. I am new." Yes I would hear if one was saying, a government spokesperson say Holomisa will be charged, let's say, for mismanagement in Transkei. Yes it's understandable. But from the ANC, no, I don't know that. But it died down, died down. So the National Party when I said, "Don't just follow anything that moves because you don't know what you are talking about", started to lean back in their seats, the ANC guys looked - these guys are rough in politics, but if you are always going to say amen to them after every speech they say, thank you, amen, thank you, they will get you.
POM Just a couple of last things. There's always this criticism that's been running around for the last 12 months of everybody being part of a gravy train. Where did that come from and why hasn't the government been successful in countering it?
BH No it came from the media because when they look at the salaries when they were published they said, pouf, De Klerk was earning R400,000 and something a month, President Mandela criticised him and now the salary of the President will be R700,000. Then people didn't reconcile the media, they started that campaign and I think we didn't come up strong to defend ourselves and President Mandela, of course, our salaries were reduced after that. But still it looks as though we were acting haphazardly under pressure and crisis management. People will carry on. I think each government is always having a tag to it. You can go to the Republicans, Democrats, National Party, so it looks as though we have a tag of a gravy train, we will live with it.
POM But is it discussed within the NEC, do you say it is something that we must address and counter this perception or is it simply let go?
BH No. When President Mandela said cut salaries Cabinet, the ANC followers understood that, but the other small parties will still use it.
POM What role, you said the media in some way are out to, if not quite to undermine the government, really meaning the ANC, they are at least out to discredit you in some way, what role do you think the media should be playing in a democracy?
BH I think our mistakes must be put public because you are building accountability, we are just from the past which was so secretive. But at the same time the developments and the achievements must be highlighted in a balanced fashion. I think that's what the ANC asks, not as I say every now and again, the ANC they are still using the old approach which ANC was using to remove the apartheid and bring democracy. ANC has delivered democracy. The way things are done, policy formulations and everything, answering to enquiries, the government is doing that. But there seems not to be more emphasis to say, yes, we used to be like this and compare. They just shove, put them in the back seat. When Mandela announced the commission of enquiry to be instituted last week I thought yes, very good, headlines, all the papers, what a good thing, yes holistic approach. Now because it included their fathers, the old Nats, how they are running away, but if it was a black institution, yes, go at him. So that's the media we have unfortunately. I was reading Sunday Times this weekend, I thought they would be featuring stories and so on and the survey and what's the reaction to Mandela's statement, what is the reaction to Mandela's statement about corruption, what is the survey, snap debate. Don't get it anywhere. So who is fooling who?
POM What role should they play?
BH It's such a positive statement which would have removed all these allegations and counter accusations and so on, but now the editorial opinion, you will find that they are questioning indirectly whether such a commission would work by going back and investigating the National Party government. But only yesterday they were saying investigate Transkei. So you can easily read between the lines that we still have a rotten media. After all, Erasmus who divulged about the dirty tricks campaigns recently said the media in this country, they had each and every boardroom their people who were shaping the opinions of various newspapers. We have not yet cleansed those newspapers. We need a system but unfortunately they are independent, they have got their own territory, but the revolt coming from the black editors and black journalists, I support it fully. Let's just say you are talking about covering a new South Africa, how many blacks are employed by Die Burger for instance? Die Beeld? How many? Nothing. If they are there I am sure they are selling papers in the morning in the streets.
POM Just to finish up on a couple of things, and that is the local elections which you put a lot of hope into. Now, again, if one is to go by reports the preparations in many areas for these elections seem to be in a shambles. Can you get free and fair elections? Can you get legitimate local councils where the results would be accepted even in areas where ANC members or candidates have been disqualified from running?
BH The elections I think they will be free from intimidation. I think there is a lot of tolerance which has been displayed during these campaigns by various parties as compared to last year when people were blocked from using halls or stadiums. There is a little bit of maturity, it's a good sign for our baby democracy. But in terms of readiness the answer is obviously no, there will be problems, there are problems, there have been problems around registrations, people confused, because you don't know what amount of education ANC applied during the last year's election. A lot of money was used to educate people, campaigns and so on. Now people, for instance in Transkei, they were saying no, no, no, you guys you are not honest. We like Mandela, we voted for him, he's the President, now you want us to vote him out, what are these elections for? Don't waste our time here. Mandela said the next elections will be in 1999, don't touch Mandela. You get that from somebody who is staying in a rural area and he sees that you are trying to remove the ANC government in power yet you are trying to help him or her. So the ANC, the Nationalist Party, I think everybody, especially the ANC is stressed to the limit because we are busy in parliament, in provincial parliaments, coming up with new legislation and also the capacity building now is needed to beef up the structures which have replaced us in various places where we were in before and it's not going to be done within 18 months. Perhaps if we had these elections immediately after, let's say in the same month in April, have the elections for national then provincial and then a month after that you have for the local government while the spirit is high, the logistics are there, even this question of delivery now we are talking about would have been looking better, but the delay has cost the government and the political structures. People are not interested, they say, no, man, what are we voting for? Just run the government now. Forgetting that we have got to have this local government.
POM Have you been doing much campaigning?
BH In the Northern Cape, in rural areas of Northern Cape, I think Thabo is going there Sunday. He is going to take Kimberley the capital, he is campaigning there. So Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I think I have addressed about twelve, thirteen different meetings in the halls, stadiums and so on in Northern Cape. So at least I think they will do well but we still have problems of people who feel that we didn't register, we didn't know the cut off date, because the illiteracy rate in South Africa is also high.
POM So do you get a lot of confused feedback from people?
BH The voter education, unfortunately, was not catered for in this election, unlike the previous one. During that period you did very well, everybody was funded, government, NGOs. The government didn't provide more money now for voter education. We were gambling on the fact that at least our people know a little bit about elections.
POM Just to finish up, what do you see as your role in the ANC as one of their national leaders?
BH What I emphasise to them all the time is unity and I say this from experience; in Transkei I was living with almost all these political parties except National Party. PAC, ANC you know that we had action in South Africa, in Transkei we didn't have that problem. So I still maintain that my role within the ANC is to work behind the scenes, tapping one or two things from my experience, late experience, running a government. I think they are utilising it. Strategically it's all right, behind the scenes, not in the forefront, but unfortunately in Bloemfontein they put me in the forefront. I still like to learn more about the ANC. I am new in the ANC. Learn how things are done and just intervene there. But when you intervene make sure that your intervention has got an impact if you are called upon to intervene publicly like last week. That's the role I would like to play but not in the forefront, I am still new, I am still learning. The organisation is big and democracy also is a very complicated field.
POM Do you see the ANC changing in any way in a post Mandela era?
BH No, I don't think so, I don't think so. In a post Mandela era there will be one government party with opposition parties like in any democratic societies. The decisions will be taken quickly, ministers will be from one party, they will implement them quickly which might now, when you compare with in the government of national unity, might put the era of President Mandela in a difficult position because one would compare structures which are not comparable. I hope you understand what I am trying to put across. Here President Mandela is trying to bring forces together. By 1999 they will be matured, they can still tolerate each other, you are in opposition, I am the ruling party. But the majority are implementing these decisions, it's democracy. And then the administrators would have at the time perhaps been - you have good Directors General, good attitudes, everybody is working to support the government. President Mandela inherited disjointed, disintegrated structures so he will be credited as the unifying father. But the leader of the ANC should make sure that he is not emulating the style of Mandela because there will never be another Mandela, but try and make sure that the party which is in power is effective, finish. Take a decision, ministers implement and departments. No minister is going to drag his feet as you see it now because he thinks this thing is not going to be in the interests of the National Party or the IFP or that the ... Trust for land, I must block it within the Cabinet using my influence because I have got a vested interest. You won't get that beyond 1999.
It's going to be different, a different way of doing things. We will do it the way the US is doing, Britain is doing, Germany is doing, you name it. But one would say if you don't win outright, with an outright majority and talk coalition, that's a voluntary coalition which will form not a forced coalition like it is now. So a voluntary coalition you can still have, say, the National Party, you will still have some good experienced people there if ANC agrees to form a coalition or if the IFP and the National Party form a coalition and win the elections in 1999. But still the process of taking decisions will be quicker as compared to now. We do take decisions now, it's good, Cabinet take decisions, but you will find that a minister will still take time, like I cited Minister Williams responsible for Social Welfare and Pensions, but because this process was going to be in, if he had published a white paper it would have been to the advantage of the ANC, but he withheld it and said, "No I will publish it on 1st November." We won't have that after 1999.
POM Very last question, and thanks for all the time you've give over the years. I think you have given more hours - I think you were the first person who is in this government that I ever interviewed. That was in 1989 when we travelled over to your house arriving one morning after some awful drive through the night for five hours from Durban, my man got lost. And that is about Contralesa, you hear it was Contralesa that over the years was fully supportive of the ANC and yet when it came to the development of local government structures got kind of cut out by the ANC. What's your reading on that, leaving aside your personal relationships?
BH I think Contralesa, they do have a case but I think the style of presenting it is different or lacking because the youth are still harbouring some fears about what some of the traditional leaders did to them during the apartheid era. It has been Mandela who has painfully stood for the Chiefs within the ANC to say you can't experience in Angola, in this, in Zambia, other countries if you neglect traditional leaders you might have problems with the traditions. So the ANC, if you look at the ANC leadership, it's mainly an urbanite crowd at the top and even those people who went into exile most of them have in one way or another, even if they were from rural areas, are now urban thinking and then there is this question of democracy. We borrowed that from the west, right? It's not an African democratic way of doing things in Africa. They were involving a traditional leader in the past. But now this culture which we are borrowing is clashing now with the traditions. That is the problem. How can we come up with a solution around that? There might be clashes maybe between personnel on a personality basis but we have not yet addressed that solution. Even this document of the ANC which was published still recognises that the issue of traditional leadership is still a critical area which we must revisit. So it's good that they are openly recognising that.
But I think also on the side of Contralesa I think their style, tactics and strategy, how to show people rather than be emotional. Take ANC, you've got to know that you are strong and motivate your attack so that each rank and file will not be reminded of the old habits or that what you are saying is also scratching the old wounds. It's a sensitive area because some of the Chiefs were used by the National Party to harass the people. Then there is the element of SANCO in it's civic organisation, which is having some other views also which may not necessarily be shared by both the ANC and traditional leaders. In other words the traditional leaders now have got two fronts, SANCO and ANC, so they have got to present their case to that crowd. Contralesa can still go and talk to the ANC leadership and say all right we agree, but SANCO would still say no. Can you see the battle then?
POM Would it be your own belief that a way must be found to bring traditional leaders into the governing process or else you're losing part of your culture and your heritage?
BH That's why I survived in Transkei. Had I worked without them I would have been finished. I had to accommodate them. They were part of the system. If I had worked against them I would have been out, completely out. It would be interesting how they turn out in Transkei and KwaZulu. Well KwaZulu you can say it's violent but in Transkei you can use it as a measure to check who's who.
POM What kind of turnout do you expect there?
BH In Transkei?
BH That crowd they are very disgruntled now. I'm talking about ANC followers. That region is ANC.
POM Yes but the ANC followers are very disgruntled.
BH That region is ANC. Anyone who talks he or she is ANC. In the elections the PAC didn't win anything there, the National Party didn't win anything. It was predominantly ANC. The people who are not happy were making noises, it's ANC. I'm not talking about leadership which sits in an office issuing press statements but the people who are disgruntled are the ANC followers and stalwarts which I know have been working there. But the office of Transkei there also of the ANC you don't hear them issuing statements either condemning or for. They sort of take a back seat.
POM So what kind of turnout do you expect there? Give me a projection. You said you are a prophet sometimes.
BH No, it won't be the same, or nearer to - maybe in some rural areas, maybe it would be, because the ANC supporters are loyal to the rural areas but in some urban areas maybe they will ...
POM Now what's going to happen if hundreds of voters descend on a polling station and they are not registered and they say, "But we never knew we had to get registered, nobody ever told us that. We didn't register in the last election"?
BH No, they will be told to go home, rules are rules. They must go and drink beer and have a nice weekend. I told one person who was asking that yesterday, "My name didn't appear in this, was this computer?" I said, "Computer?". "Yes, yes, I didn't get a document and I want to vote." I said, "No you are late my friend, don't come near the polling station and cause havoc. Enjoy your beer on that day."
PAT I just want to ask a question about Mrs Mandela's role, she plays a central role in the ANC, a major role in Contralesa, a major role at grassroots, is it constructive for the process, these kind of conflicts that are going on there?
BH I wouldn't know really. Mrs Mandela I think now is concentrating on her divorce case and I don't hear her much publicly. But Mrs Mandela is a kingmaker, she will remain a kingmaker. She has been a kingmaker. That's what I can say to you. You can go and analyse that statement. She has got that power which no-one can take from her, not one in this country. But what I like is that she respects her husband when it comes to differing with him publicly in a way. She never attacks the ANC, she always says a government of national unity because everybody knows that in the government of national unity there are many forces. But to say Winnie would attack her husband politically, no. She respects President Mandela and she campaigned for him. She will campaign for any other person who is going to be a President. She is a kingmaker, that's what I was saying. But the dynamics of Contralesa, her involvement being a common denominator as part of politics that would endorse what I am saying, that she is a kingmaker.