About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

25 Oct 1995: Fismer, Chris

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Minister, let me begin with a question, well there are two sets of questions involved, that I have received varying responses to and in some cases I think people are being honest and in some cases I think they are just padding the answers. The first one, and probably the easier one, is that the ANC seem to have mounted in the last month or so a concerted campaign against F W de Klerk. You had the incident of Mac Maharaj calling him more or less a traitor, demanding his resignation from the Security Committee in parliament. You had the incident of his supposedly leaking rumours that he was about to resign from the government of national unity bringing about a disturbance in the financial markets. You had attacks on him by Tokyo Sexwale. Do you think this is all part of a concerted campaign on the part of the ANC, or whether it is individuals operating in isolation, and if it is part of a concerted campaign what is the purpose of the campaign?

CF     I think it is taking on the character of a concerted campaign and I think there are multiple reasons why we have this tendency. Maybe it's not that the campaign has been designed and advised up and carefully structured within some committee, but at least there are a number of people who are getting on the bandwagon and they behave in more or less the same way against Mr de Klerk. Some of the reasons are the following: first of all we have an election on 1st November and to some extent the country is in election mode which means that from both sides there is more political rhetoric in the speeches, criticism against one another, each party claiming its own identity, stating its differences with the other parties. That gives rise to raising of tension amongst the participants in the government of national unity to some extent. That goes together with an election.

     But secondly, I think there was in the ANC an expectation that the National Party should at all times behave as a junior partner in the government of national unity, being happy with the fact that you've been given the opportunity to be a participant but never raise your voice against the master and that you will cease to have an independent identity and that as Deputy President Mr de Klerk must be the obedient servant and a deputy in the real sense of the word, in a party sense of the word, to Mr Mandela. The fact that the National Party made the choice to retain its own identity and to remain an individual role player in the government of national unity and to see our role not as an alliance with the ANC but two parties who have to work together for the sake of the country, that has caused some tension because we had a somewhat different understanding of the role which the National Party should play in the government of national unity. I think that's what emanates from this criticism. Our view up to now is that we are not a junior alliance partner of the ANC, we have been voted into government by four million people to have a number of people there and to play a specific role there and we play it because the constitution gives us that right. But that has caused tension with the ANC.

     A third reason that I think played a role in it is that in the first 12 months of the new government the ANC had a real honeymoon. Most of the people were very excited about the fact that they are there, the media gave them a very easy go, they were very popular in all circles, foreign countries and so on, and after about 12 months or so of that honeymoon here and there the wheels start to come off. Maybe that's putting it a bit too dramatically but mistakes and inefficiencies and wrong decisions of ANC ministers start to come to the fore and that sort of opened them up for criticism, not only from the National Party but from the media, from ordinary people, from people who voted ANC, and also from our supporters. It was just natural that from such a situation where on many of those things the National Party has raised our criticism before but in the mood of honeymoon we weren't really listened to, later it seemed that people are now taking note of Mr de Klerk's criticism and that annoyed the ANC. They expected us to assist them with damage control and we didn't assist them with it, we in fact said, well we told you so, it's time that you listen more carefully to us. But that had a bit of a polarising effect unfortunately between the two parties.

POM     Some people in the ANC have said to me that some of the criticism of Mr de Klerk is justified in the sense that he is chairman of the Security Committee in parliament which draws up plans or devises the strategy to deal with crime and that that report went before Cabinet, was accepted by Cabinet without any dissenting voice on his behalf and for him thereafter to go out and to start criticising the ANC as being soft on crime is speaking with a forked tongue, if I can put it that way.

CF     I think that is a very one-sided and selective statement of the matter. First of all it's not a Cabinet Committee that devises plans, it's a particular minister and that minister brings his plan to the Cabinet Committee and presents it to the Cabinet Committee. Now the Minister for Safety & Security did present certain plans of how to combat crime to that committee. It was largely well received but there was quite an extensive debate on how that programme should be improved. The proposals on how it should be improved did not only come from the National Party, it in fact also came from ANC members who mentioned many aspects that should be done more effectively and should be included in the plan and the National Party also pointed to substantial criticism of the plan, but that it's a good plan and in the right direction. But Cabinet is in many instances a policy formulating body. Thereafter that particular policy will have to be carried out by a particular minister and a department and in many respects it may be that Cabinet has taken a good decision, a right decision, but a particular minister doesn't carry out that policy in an effective way. He doesn't bring in the results and one feels that he's ineffective in committing his job and that opens him up for criticism. It doesn't say that his policy is wrong but he doesn't produce the expected results.

     Furthermore, if you read Mr de Klerk's criticism, and I think in many instances the ANC members aren't interested in the contents of his criticism, they are merely angry because he had the audacity of criticising, but if you read his criticism it gives recognition for the good things that have been done but it states specific aspects in which the ANC fail to see to it that the government policy is effectively carried out, and then he mentioned examples which I think are beyond reason why we think that certain things are not done right. For instance, the whole situation on crime. We say, yes, the crime policy may be right but then why did they remove the death penalty from the statute book? We could have organised things in such a way that we could still have the death penalty. Why are the Department of Justice moving slowly to introduce stricter penalties which is something that we have called for some time ago? Why is there is an illegal strike when we discuss strikes and so on. Does the President go out and address the strikers and sort of march with them? It creates the impression that government supports that kind of thing. So although government and Cabinet may have a very responsible labour relations policy with which we agree, then something happens like the President joining a march of illegal strikers which we say is in conflict with the good policy that exists and we criticised him for that.

POM     How much of, when you say mistakes and inefficiencies began to emerge in various departments after the honeymoon period was over, how much of that would you attribute to the affirmative action programmes that the ANC in particular were pushing and the loss of qualified top bureaucrats and their replacement with people who were essentially not fully equipped to take their places?

CF     At least some of it. It's impossible to allocate a percentage to it. I don't have that basis for a scientific research on that aspect, but my political judgement tells me that at least some of the inefficiencies that occurred were because the ANC moved too fast and in an uncoordinated fashion with some of the affirmative action programmes that have been implemented. I have to state clearly, I have nothing against affirmative action. It is most definitely part of what we have to do and part of the restructuring of the country, but you get ministers who do it in a very responsible way and you get ministers who do it in a somewhat stupid way and that had the effect that some people were just not in a position to deliver.

POM     There was a paper, I don't know whether you know this person, his name is Professor Fanie Cloete, at the University of Stellenbosch who delivered a paper at the Institute of Futures Research at the university on the public service, and he said, "South Africa's public service was experiencing the gravest crisis in its existence and a compromise would have to be struck between demands for accelerated change and government's incapacity to effect those changes."

     That's one. Two, "That as many as 50% or more of approved posts in various departments, including key decision making positions, have been vacant for months with the prospect of recruiting experienced bureaucrats extremely thin. Highly skilled professional staff in particular are for various reasons thinking of leaving the proverbial sinking ship. These reasons include low morale, non-competitive service conditions and a belief that positions could be insecure as a result of affirmative action. The process of replacing lost expertise was mired in red tape with the preference for centralised control of government's transformation causing bottle necks. For example, many of the 11,000 posts advertised about a year ago were still vacant. The predominantly white, male Afrikaner character of the top and middle level structures of the public service would either have to be changed more incrementally or effective replacements would have to be appointed immediately. Constructive affirmative action policies would have to be implemented, for example officials should not be compelled to reapply for their jobs." How much of that do you think is accurate, on the mark?

CF     I think all of it is more or less on the mark and it's quite a good summary of the problems that exist in the civil service. I wouldn't say it's at the point where one has to say it's panic level but it's a good summary of the problems. Much of it is being addressed. In many places the realisation exists that they have gone too far or made unfounded changed in the wrong way. Again, it's very difficult and I think it would be wrong to generalise but some of those problems you will find in some of the departments.

POM     The ANC, again, insists that they have concrete proof that Sir Tim Bell was the source of spreading rumours about the impending resignation of FW and that this was done to produce instability in the financial markets and to show how important the National Party was to the government of national unity, that if it were to pull out, that in fact financial markets would react and foreign investment would flow out of the country rather than into the country. Two things I would like you to comment on. One is that do you believe there is any truth to those allegations at all or when they say they have concrete evidence they are either grossly mistaken or just simply wrong? And two, the fact that the markets reacted in the way they did, is that not evidence in itself of the importance of Mr de Klerk's presence in the government of national unity?

CF     The claims of the ANC that that was deliberately spread, I think it's absolutely ridiculous. I know Mr de Klerk very well, I have been with him on that day which they claim that rumour has been spread. It was after we were involved in a difficult Cabinet Committee on that day but I have seen his reaction, I have talked to him afterwards on other issues, I cannot at all think that he would have been involved with that in any way. From what I know he hadn't even had contact that day or before that with Sir Tim Bell. In fact what he tells me is that he hadn't talked with Tim Bell for six months before that supposed rumour has been spread. I think it's absolutely laughable. I know Mr de Klerk's attitude to government and our participation and his resignation is not even close to any of the strategies that we have ever discussed with one another or have mentioned in our strategic discussions. When I heard it, it was absolutely laughable. The ANC's reaction is, for me, nothing but a naïve way of counter-propaganda or whatever you may call it and if they have proof why don't they provide it? It's as easy as that. If they know it's so, come up with the evidence that Sir Tim Bell spread it and Mr de Klerk deliberately planned it or so on. But they've mentioned that rumour; for me it was a joke. If they think it's more serious than that or there's anything substantial in it they have all the means up to now that they could have come up with any form of proof that they have. Why do they have to keep that proof secret or anything? It means nothing.

POM     Most people tell me that the government of national unity functions very well together, that people get on, there are disagreements but for the most part people get on and that it has a lot of accomplishments to its credit over the last year and that ministers from all parties appreciate the mutual difficulties and there is a good spirit of camaraderie and working together for the good of the country in the Cabinet. Would you characterise that as being the way you see it or do you see the ANC increasingly pushing its agenda on the Cabinet and saying we will do it our way?

CF     I think your positive description is close to the truth although I have to say it fluctuates a little bit from time to time. Basically what you say I will agree with but in the last two or three months there was some more tension in the relationship due to factors that we have discussed before, the relationship between Mr de Klerk and the government there, uneasiness with criticism from the National Party against the ANC, their own sensitivity about it. They become jittery sometimes about criticism. That has caused some element of tension in the relationship that wasn't really there before but basically we are functioning very well, everybody participates very well, everybody has a good influence and plays a constructive role in the functioning of government.

POM     Yet the ANC seem to have an extraordinarily high suspicion about the motives of the National Party, and I quote from - I don't know whether you saw their ANC discussion document One Year of Government of National Unity? Have you read it?

CF     Yes.

POM     Then you know what it says about the National Party, that the National Party still has the illusion that it can return to power as the majority party, that it is still a party that wants to destabilise the transformation process, that it is in cahoots with elements of the security forces, it's loyalty to the state is still in doubt. It's a list of accusations that paint your party as not one that went into negotiations with clear and good intentions but with still a hidden agenda and that hidden agenda involves discrediting the ANC and destabilising the government. Now where do you think they get that impression from or is it an impression that is the natural result of their being banned for the period of time they were banned and the memories of apartheid are still burnt into their souls and they don't forget so easily, they don't trust you?

CF     First of all, the fact that we see ourselves as a political party that wants to grow and that we even have a vision of one day in future where the values and the policies that we believe in may again be part of a majority party in this country, yes that's true, but I don't think that's a sin and I don't think there's anything undemocratic about that. But it's purely within the framework of democratic politics, of having to fight future elections and having to grow as a political party or with what we join up with on the road ahead to become a majority again some time in the future. But the mere fact that we have that vision irritates the ANC tremendously. Again, I would say that they had the expectation that we must be now the obedient servant, to say that we take matters as they are as far as the distribution of political support and that we are not going to do anything about it and that we stop electioneering, have our own identity and attract votes and so on. Some of them have a responsible interpretation of it and say, well that's just part of politics, that's how things go and we should expect them to do it and we fight them democratically, but others have this conspiracy theory about it, that because we want to grow as a political party at the expense of the ANC they think there is more involved in it and then they come up with this ridiculous statement sometimes and I must say some of them, especially in their lower ranks of leadership, sometimes come up with statements that are so propagandistic and unfounded and ridiculous that you find it difficult how to defend yourself or how to explain it. Things like, for instance, our involvement with the security forces or elements in the security forces to destabilise government and so on. That's absolutely contrary to everything that we worked for in the last couple of years and it's absolutely contrary to what we stand for. It's ridiculous. I don't think it needs more of an answer than that.

POM     Let me put it maybe in a couple of different ways. Do you think there is an appreciation within the ANC of the immense risks that the De Klerk government had to take, the very fine tuning that had to occur to bring the party and the security apparatus and the white community along with them, that in effect he is probably the first leader in the recorded history who negotiated himself out of power and yet brought his constituency with him? Do you think they have any appreciation of the immense challenges, contradictions that were involved in that?

CF     I think amongst most of them there is that appreciation and amongst the responsible leadership core there is that appreciation, but there are elements in the ANC of the more radical element or side of the ANC who don't have an appreciation for that. But even amongst those who have appreciation for that fact the role that they expected of the National Party is that after this transition, after the election, they would have liked or appreciated if the National Party now have disappeared off the political map and because they now see that we don't intend doing it and that we are not having only played a part in transforming the country but now also transform ourselves to become effectively a non-racial party and then to compete on a non-racial basis against the ANC, that's a source of irritation for them and I must say some of them expose a nature which is not compatible with a democratic nature because they don't like it. They would have appreciated us as a disappearing force of the past that assisted in transition or played a role in transition but they don't like the fact that we are really working very hard and successfully to establish a multi-party democracy in this country.

POM     Roelf Meyer made a statement last week which the party has made before that the future of the party lies in attracting black voters if it is to expand its electoral base. One contrasts that with a more hard-line attitude by Hernus Kriel that would suggest that the party should revert more to its old ways, that it's been too comfortable and easy with the ANC. In fact he went on record as saying, just I think a week ago, The Citizen quoted him as saying, "That from now on the National Party would change its role in the government of national unity and adopt a more hard-line opposition role although the party would remain in the government of national unity it would stop assisting the ANC in governing crises, yet it is in governing crises that the essence of a government of national unity should be most conspicuously to the forefront." I've heard from a number of people that there are tensions within the party, the case of the famous shouting match between Mr Meyer and Mr Kriel over the whole issue of demarcation in the Western Cape where Mr Meyer was on one side and Mr Kriel very solidly on another side, bringing difficulties and tensions within the party to the fore. Is the party still in search of a new identity and does it express itself in these disagreements between various elements of the party representing what I would call 'before the class of 1981', you were the class I recall as saying 'of 1981', the new Nats who came in and said things must change.

CF     It's only in 1987 that I came in.

POM     1987? The class of 1987.

CF     Well, yes, the National Party had to define its role in new circumstances and, yes, that involved a lot of debate and discussions and soul searching to come to the point where one has defined your role. But I think we have come to a very clear understanding on how we see our role and that role is one where we are in competition with another party, where we co-operate where it's in the interests of the country, where we co-operate on aspects that we agree with one another, but that we keep our separate identities and compete for support in the democratic political market, but that there's also an element apart from co-operation and competition where if we don't have a meeting of the minds where we are then in opposition and where we will fully state contradictory positions not only in government but also in the public arena. And I think it's a strategic balance that one has to draw on specific issues, on specific matters, depending on circumstances, where do you play your role of co-operation, where do you play your role of assistance, of helping, of contributing to decision making, where do you play your role as competition and where do you play your role as opposition? Different issues determine what role you play, what mode you're in and I find it quite easy to determine that and to play it along those lines. It may be that certain individuals would more like to promote the idea of opposition, maybe that others promote more the idea of co-operation, but in essence of the basic mix of strategies that were used there is agreement on it.

     I just have to point out that the situation of Roelf Meyer and Hernus Kriel I think is sometimes over-emphasised. I do not know about this shouting match between them. I know that there have been different sides of the same issue but you get that in any federal type of government where somebody in central government who has a role to play, where it is in conflict with what people in a particular province want and that they may be of the very same party. I am sure that I can give you many examples where Democratic members in American states are in opposition to what Democratic politicians in Washington are doing.

POM     About all of them.

CF     And that's a natural part of a federal type of government and I think South Africa has not come of age to appreciate that that's part of the type of government that we have at the moment.

POM     Do you think in that regard that South Africa is being held to a different standard?

CF     No, but we are new in a particular constitutional framework and some of the aspects are therefore a bit unfamiliar for us and for the public to really appreciate. We now have for the first time cases before the Constitutional Court and there is sometimes a tremendous interest in it. It may be that if you have a tradition of something like that extending over a period of 50 or 100 years that you will have a clearer understanding of it and what it's all about. Now we think if a National Party member in central government and a National Party member in a province differ on the issue of the powers of the provinces we think it's a crisis within that party. I don't see it as a crisis within that party. What I understand from federal type of governments it's quite a common thing that will happen if you have a government structure as this.

POM     Are there any tensions within the party that too much attention is being paid to trying to attract black votes and that this will cost the party white votes?

CF     No, there's no tension about that. As I've said the debate and the soul searching was more on the basis of how far should you go with your co-operation in government of national unity and where do you start your role more of competition and opposition because especially due to certain mistakes that are being made in government that question came to the fore much more urgently. One does sense sometimes that some of our supporters feel that we should more exclusively look at the interests of a particular population group but there is no real tension in the party about that. We want to serve the interests of all South Africans.

POM     Maybe you can help me with this, what seems to be a kind of paradox. On the one hand you have relationships between Mr de Klerk and President Mandela that have deteriorated, or over a period have deteriorated very seriously over the last couple of years, and on the other hand you seem to have a warmer relationship developing between President Mandela and General Viljoen even to the point of where he is considering extending the indemnity date clearly to the benefit of General Viljoen. Why would he be leaning in the direction of, be supportive of General Viljoen and negative towards the person who was his partner in the transformation towards democracy in the first place?

CF     I think the situation that you describe and the President's relationship with General Viljoen are purely of an opportunistic political nature the reason being simple. General Viljoen defines his political market basically as white Afrikaners, that means that the ceiling of his political support in this country is about 4%, 5% and with such a ceiling you can never be a threat to the power base of the ANC. On the other hand the National Party defines its political market as the non-racial electorate of South Africa which means it is more or less the same political market for which the ANC compete. We, therefore, in a political sense are in direct competition with one another and at least on the basis of that theoretical definition of market the National Party is a threat to the ANC, or can develop into a threat for the ANC while General Viljoen and his Freedom Front by definition can never become a threat for the ANC. However, the Freedom Front can assist in deteriorating the support and trickle off some of the support of the National Party. General Viljoen doesn't want anybody who supported the ANC now to suddenly vote for the Freedom Front. He has no intention of that. I don't think he regards it as realistic that anybody voted who voted for the ANC would vote for him. But General Viljoen seeks his market to survive in politics by getting white Afrikaner National Party supporters to rather vote for him and in that if he succeeds he will decrease the size of the National Party. That Mr Mandela likes because it fits in with his strategy or with the potential that the National Party can hold a threat for the ANC and therefore the National Party should be fought. If he, therefore, can create the impression that he wants to let General Viljoen look very good or wants to let him look very influential and in that assist him that his party can grow at the expense of the National Party, he would also serve the interests of the ANC. That's clearly what's happening between the two of them.

POM     Several people have said to me that General Viljoen has with his influence with the military, with his high regard among both former military chiefs and current senior military personnel, that he is probably the only person in the country who could play in the face of continuing rising crime, municipal strikes, a breakdown in social cohesion, that he could play the role of a Pinochet, that he could call the army in to restore order and stability and they would follow.

CF     No, I think General Viljoen's role as you have mentioned is grossly exaggerated. He was a good army general at the time, well respected by his troops. Since then the army has changed tremendously. I don't think there's any real doubt of the present defence force allegiance to the constitution and to this dispensation. General Viljoen did treat the idea of resistance before the election amongst ex-defence force members and I think one can have an appreciation for him that he realised the unworkability of that scenario and that for some reason or another shortly before the election he decided rather to join the democratic process and for that one has appreciation. But I think one should also realise that the election process really destroyed the influence of the radical right elements who planned for resistance and there is no need at the moment to give preferential treatment for somebody who played a role in diffusing that situation.

POM     But he is getting preferential treatment.

CF     He is getting preferential treatment from President Mandela and the ANC at the moment but for purely political reasons, to use him as an instrument that can effect harm to the National Party.

POM     I remember when I first interviewed you in 1989 you were one of the first people who said things are going to change drastically in the next couple of years, there's going to be a movement towards enfranchisement of black people and that's going to lead ultimately to the majority ruling the country at some time. Has the ANC, as you came into contact with it in 1990 and the early 1990s and the ANC today, are they two different organisations or is it the same organisation basically?

CF     Let me first of all say this to you, if we discuss a lot of the issues that we have discussed up to now and problems and tensions, if I look at the perspective of what's happening now and the perspective of the last three or four months I may be making a lot of critical remarks, but overall if I look at the last five, six years and the present situation, on that longer term scenario I am very optimistic, very happy with what has happened in our country. It's all in the right direction and I am really enthusiastic about it. I am happy it has gone that way and I would like it to develop along this way in future as well. But if one diverts oneself from that long term scenario and you become a practical politician, at the moment that doesn't mean that you say everything that's happening is perfect and that every issue is wonderful and without mistake. So it's in that perspective that I give criticism.

     But coming to your specific question on the character of the ANC, the ANC has a very changing character. Five, ten years ago they were a very strongly socialist orientated organisation involved in the revolutionary overthrow of the government. They made a change and committed themselves to negotiations in the same way as we did commit ourselves to negotiations but along that route in many respects they changed. For one, the most important common denominator in the ANC in the past has been their opposition to apartheid. Now that common denominator has disappeared and that resulted that in many regards it's difficult to have a clear identity of the ANC today because you cannot merely on an issue say this is what the ANC says or does because there are different schools of thought, different elements, different leadership influences in the ANC. At the moment their most important common denominator is in the person of President Mandela and in years to come when that common denominator also disappears I think one will more to the forefront see that there are many different ideas and directions in the ANC. Basically I think they are adapting in the direction away from a strong socialist movement into a more social democratic type of political party.

POM     Do you see, say, in a post Mandela era the alliance between COSATU, the ANC and the SACP being able to continue in its current form or are the ideological interests of all three just becoming increasingly more apparent as time goes on?

CF     That's only to mention three of the potential directions in the ANC. I think in the future we will see on a much larger scale a realignment of political thinking and schools of thought in South Africa.

POM     Does that apply to the National Party too?

CF     Yes I think to the broader extent of the whole country but it will mostly be triggered by a realignment within the ANC.

POM     Just switching very quickly to the economy, in the last couple of weeks there have been all these statistics about the coming boom, over 3% growth rate, business confidence at its highest level in eleven years, inflation rate down to 7.5%, car sales doubling and there seems to be a mood of optimism and confidence in the economy, yet one looks at studies that have been done whether by the IMF or other international agencies or by very respected universities from abroad and they say that the economy of South Africa is in almost terminal decline, that it is among the most uncompetitive in the world both overall and in terms of sectoral performance, that for its level of development the unit wage costs just make it uncompetitive, there must be wage restraint if it is to compete with its natural competition such as countries in Malaysia, countries like Brazil, Poland, whatever and that you have the labour movement and the SACP saying there is no way we are going to go for a low wage economy like Malaysia as a way of securing our economic future, that a lack of productivity is as much to blame on management as it is on the worker and by cutting wages you are not going to solve the problem. What would be your opinion?

CF     I think to paint an over-optimistic picture of the economy would be just as wrong as to paint an over-negative picture of what's going on here. If you look at, if I may use the term, baskets of indicators I would say that the balance is in the direction of a more positive outlook on circumstances, but that does not detract from the very important negative indications that you have mentioned. As far as government formulation of policy is concerned I am confident that even amongst the ANC part of government there is an understanding of those issues and a realistic formulation of practical policies to take us away from the negative effect that those indicators may have. But the test in time will not be whether you have formulated the right policy but whether you had the guts to execute that policy and in that sense I still have some doubt on some ANC leaders of whether they have those guts. So far, I think, on the economic side government has done a rather good job in formulation of policies and in the way that has been executed up to now. The test will come of whether we can pursue in that direction.

POM     But the one thing it has been unable to do is create jobs and I think you had just a couple of days ago Sanlam's Chief Economist saying that more people would lose their jobs this year than there would be jobs created and it is now increasingly recognised that you can have a rate of growth of 3%, 4%, 5% without creating jobs which is one of the problems the Big Seven, or whatever they are called, have had to deal with over the last decade, growth with increasing unemployment. How do you deal with that? How would your policies differ from how the ANC would deal with it?

CF     On a party political basis I find joy in the fact that the ANC couldn't deliver on a promise of job creation but on a realistic level as a member of government I must say two things. First of all the economic policies that are formulated in government at the moment are the one basis where we have a very high level of consensus and ANC people might say that the policies are very close to ANC policy, I will tell you they are very close also to National Party policy. So there is a high level of agreement on the formulation of fiscal and monetary policy that's being applied here as well as the economic developmental type of policies. In the pursuance of those policies one has to realise that solving many of the structural problems that we have in our economy wouldn't be resolved completely in 18 months time. It's something that you will have to do over a period of three, four, five years to really see results and it may be a bit unfair to make final conclusions of whether this government is up to it or not after only 18 months.

POM     But my point would be that you can grow and point to the success of growth without being able to see that growth translated into jobs.

CF     Well basically our view is that the fundamental vehicle to create jobs is through economic growth but then economic growth to such an extent first of all that it's higher than the rate of growth of the population and higher than the rate of growth of people entering the labour market which at 3% it's not the case. It may be the case at a growth of 5%, so that's at least the direction in which the economy should be channelled. But then again what you need to really make that kind of growth rate successful is an economic pact, an agreement between business, labour and government. If that growth rate is only the result of certain government policies but because business and labour are not involved as part of the pact and labour wants to use that higher growth rate to increase their salaries without increasing productivity and business reacts by making their businesses more capital intensive and replacing labour with machines all along the way because they are not part of an agreement with one another on how to enhance productivity and job creation, then even if government achieve in bringing about that kind of growth rate through its policies we won't succeed in the economic goals that we have. So the aim is not only economic growth but also to commit business, labour and government together in the same vision of the direction that we have to develop and in that sense government has not yet succeeded to involve especially labour in that kind of commitment and we will have to see whether we can succeed in changing their mind set to what is necessary to do.

POM     Now the National Party would have been one of the standard bearers of free market economies and global competition which means bringing down tariffs and barriers, which means opening the country to a flood of goods from cheaper producing countries, which means in the short run at least a loss of jobs here because of the reasons we have discussed, which brings us back to the costs of production. Is the National Party in favour of an overall elimination of protective barriers, of protectionism, or does it think it should only be done in selective cases and that certain industries should be protected in order to preserve jobs?

CF     I would rather describe the National Party's economic policy as one of a market orientated policy which is somewhat of a different emphasis than a free market policy. I don't think all the circumstances exist in our country to have a fully fledged free market in every respect. I don't even think that circumstances really exist in the United States of America and there in certain respects there is a need for an exception where there's a case to be made out for some form of government involvement be it only maybe to create necessary regulatory framework for the free market to operate in. In South Africa our history of sanctions against us contributed to a very isolated market being created here and contributed to many businesses being very uncompetitive. But with the GATT agreements that we have now and agreements to move towards a more open economy, yes that's right but one has to do it in a realistic way, phased in a realistic timetable and one has to look at requirements of specific industries. For instance, it's unrealistic for South Africa to completely open up its agricultural industry, of food imports if that very same food is produced in countries where there exists a very high level of agricultural subsidies and it means that those countries can actually dump cheaper food in South Africa, destroy our own agricultural industry, then raise their prices and afterwards we don't have an industry which can provide for our own basic needs. So you have to find some compromises, for instance, in that field on how you phase out regulation and bring in a more open economy.

POM     Just a couple more things, and thank you for taking the extra time but it is an hour a year until the year 2000, that's the way I look at it. The gravy train, is this fiction of the imagination or is there any greater gravy train in existence now than existed during the years of old National Party rule?

CF     There is a lot of fiction around the concept of a gravy train and a lot of exaggeration. In that sense I think one has to be fair. Salaries, for instance, of members of parliament and ministers have not increased in any substantial way, in many aspects it's lower than what it was. But what you do find is that, especially in ANC ranks, there are a lot of people who very quickly find comfort in their new secure positions and relatively well paid positions and their electorate have the impression that those members have forgotten about them and that they now live happily in good offices and proper housing and a nice car and that they don't look after their people any more in the way that they have done when they were part of the struggle. Therefore I think there's a real perception existing especially amongst their electorate that their people have jumped on the gravy train and that they feel angry about it. And then there are also some other examples on where financial constraint has not really been applied in the way, especially for instance in provincial governments, how they have gone about, and that there are too many examples of corruption and people enjoying the benefits of being in power to the extent that enhanced this impression of a gravy train.

POM     Two last questions before the tape runs out, there may be only one. The media, do you think the media is anti-ANC?

CF     No, not at all. For about twelve months they were absolutely in the pocket of the ANC and part of the whole honeymoon syndrome. After a period of time they realised that the ANC are not angels, they are making mistakes and there are things still going wrong in the country or even going more wrongly than before and they started to play their role as a responsible independent press in most instances. The ANC experienced that as a tremendous irritation to them. They would have liked the honeymoon syndrome to continue and I find them a party extremely sensitive and uncomfortable with criticism whether it's coming from the National Party or ...

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.