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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Let me ask you first a general question. After 18 months of the government of national unity are you generally pleased with the directions in which things are going or do you see mounting challenges that may put obstacles in the way of further democratisation.

PJ     In general I would say the government of national unity has performed well despite what has been said in the hustings by various political parties in the context of an election.

POM     You were generally pleased with the way the government of national ...

PJ     - unity is going despite what people are saying in the hustings in the context of these local government elections. Most of the lead programmes and projects in RDP are a success. In fact the Kaiser Family Foundation in the United States has just completed an evaluation of the lead projects and the report is very positive in terms of the results. The scheme for pregnant mothers, free medical aid for pregnant mothers, and free medical aid and nutritional programmes for children under six and the school nutritional programmes have succeeded I think beyond our expectations. In addition to that most of the other RDP projects when one evaluates them I think there is every reason to be optimistic. There are of course hurdles which have to be overcome. There are of course difficulties which we are encountering, it's not as if everything is hunky dory.

     One of the biggest problems which I think we still confront is that the civil service is not attuned to the fact that this is a reforming and transformative administration and it's working more or less at its old regular pace which, of course, means that given the volume of legislation between the transformation of South Africa which has been produced by this administration, they seem to be overwhelmed by it. For example, towards the end of this last session of parliament there was a bottleneck of legislation which had been in the pipeline of the civil service, some of it from February this year and the processing just took so long and when we asked for a report as the parliamentary session was reaching its end the civil service seemed to be overwhelmed by the volume rather than being able to cope. The consequence was that parliamentary sessions had to be extended, the sittings had to be extended, we had quite a number of night sittings, and most of the legislation was rushed through in the last two, three weeks of the parliamentary session because it had been so long in gestation in the hands of the civil service. That is not, of course, a very satisfactory procedure but I think it is indicative of some of the structural problems that this administration is facing. Of course, with respect to the transformation of the public service itself that has moved rather slowly. A lot of alarmist nonsense has been spoken about the public service being overtaxed, being threatened with collapse, etc., but a sober evaluation of that I think would indicate that that's just hyperbole most of it associated with plain politics with the public service.

POM     The NP for example, they blame the slowness to the affirmative action and deterioration in the quality of services.

PJ     That's twaddle. Utter rubbish. Any sober evaluation of the public service will indicate that it is still overwhelmingly, especially in the upper echelons, to have high incumbence from the previous regime. Where affirmative action has taken place it has been at the lower echelons of the civil service, it hasn't impacted a great deal at the middle and upper echelons. The upper and middle echelon of the civil service is still largely staffed by white Afrikaner males. I am not conversant with the exact figures but you could consult Hansard, the Minister of Public Service & Administration did answer a question about this in parliament, that would have been more likely August than July, when he gave actual figures about the transformation of the public service. And this is true about the public service at the national level, much less true of course at the provincial level since many of the provinces are relatively new. The other big problem, I think, which we are confronting is that of crime. Now crime statistics are always difficult to handle and public perceptions about crime are also sometimes difficult to handle. I think there is an objective increase in the level of crime which is in part a function of the transformation process itself. I think most societies in transition experience this sort of upsurge in lawlessness especially when you are making a transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one. For one thing the new culture of civil liberties is being taken advantage of by the criminal classes in a way that's quite startling. But perhaps that is the price one has to pay.

POM     What do you mean? Could you just elaborate on that?

PJ     For example, in the past it was fairly easy for any police official to stop a citizen on the street, search him and search his home without benefit of a warrant for a search, seize property, etc. Now you can't do that any more. Now if you are a drug smuggler, for example, the restrictions on the police's right of search and seizure, you can take advantage of them if you are a drug smuggler because they can't just come into your home. They have to show just cause and have a bench warrant at least to enter your home. Equally interception of mail items or interception of communications. If you're a criminal and you're using the telephone and the postal services to communicate with your cronies the police can't just intercept your communications without just cause. They have to get a bench warrant to be able to do that. It means, of course, if you're a criminal you can conduct your nefarious business in relative security against interference and interception by the police. That is what is happening in certain senses.

     Also with respect to rights to bail, bail was not a right in the past in South Africa. It was very much at the discretion of the police whether you received bail or not. The interim constitution says that bail is your right and unless the police or the prosecuting authorities can demonstrate some compelling reason why you should be denied bail the courts can't just arbitrarily deny you bail. Now, of course, in those circumstances if I am a criminal again it's to my advantage because I can commit a robbery, if I have the money to post the bail and the police cannot show why I should be denied bail, I am out on the streets in a day or two and of course I can continue with my criminal activities thereafter, etc., etc., etc.

     Now that whole new culture of civil liberties can be taken advantage of by the criminal classes but it's the price I think one has to pay for democracy because I would not see my way clear to then somehow compromise that new culture of civil liberties in order to contain crime because we have to accept as a basic principle of the judicial system that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and due process of law as a prerequisite for putting anyone in jail or depriving anyone of their liberty. Now of course that does mean that people who are engaged in criminal activity have far more freedom than they had in the past but it also means that the innocent are protected and that's something I think which is much more valuable than the dubious benefits of being able to detain people who are actually engaged in criminal activity without due process. So there is that problem, but there's also I think a problem which arises from perceptions.

     There is renewed confidence or growing confidence in the police force, therefore the rate of reporting of crime has of course gone up because with the growing confidence that people have in the police force they more readily bring to the attention breaches of the law whereas in the past people just used to shrug their shoulders and say, well what's the point? So of course the incidence of reported crime has gone up which can sometimes give the impression that the incidence of crime has gone up whereas the incidence of crime might remain the same. There is that problem of public perception as well. Nonetheless one doesn't want to play down the issue of crime and criminal activity.

     But with respect to that also I would say that the performance of the government of national unity is very good. The crime prevention strategy that the government of national unity is elaborating will begin to show results in due course. There are already statistics which can be quoted which indicate that it is meeting with success, not dramatic successes but nonetheless success. There is also the whole issue of addressing the primary causes of crime. Of course the policing and crime prevention at the level of the Department of Safety & Security addresses more the symptomatic expression of social and economic discourse which of course is proper and necessary that they should do that. But addressing the basic causes of crime I think that's perhaps where we will see the greatest success in terms of what the government of national unity is trying to do.

POM     Let me pick you up on just a couple of points, one going back to the public service. There was a paper delivered at Stellenbosch University recently by a Prof. Fanie Cloete for the university's Institute of Futures Research. He said, I'll just quote and then you can comment, he said: -

     "In some cases as many as 50% or more of approved posts in various departments, including key decision making decisions, have been vacant for months with the prospects of recruiting experienced bureaucrats extremely thin. Highly skilled professional staff in particular offer various reasons for thinking of leaving the proverbial 'sinking ship'. These reasons include low morale, uncompetitive service conditions and the belief that positions could be insecure as a result of affirmative action. The process of replacing lost expertise was mired in red tape with a preference for centralised control of government's transformation causing bottlenecks. 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."

     In other words, he says there is this crisis in the public service.

PJ     I think Cloete is one of the examples of the hyperbole I am referring to because it was precisely in response to that sort of intervention by people like him that the Minister of Public Service was asked a question in parliament in interpolation with regard to these allegations and he gave us figures which indicate that far from this being the prevailing situation the opposite is true. One is not trying by any means to suggest that the changes that the government of national unity is trying to bring about are not causing upheaval here and there but there is I think also a concerted effort on the part of various categories and strata of people, especially those who have been advantaged by the apartheid regime, to create the impression that affirmative action is going to bring about chaos and breakdown of government, loss of skills etc., etc. It's the sort of thing that Cloete is saying there.

     In my view this is extreme short-sightedness actually because if you look at affirmative action programmes, and I use the analogy of a lifeboat, some people on the lifeboat and some, many others, in the water, it's not going to assist matters if those who are on the lifeboat say while there is room, '"No, no, no, there's no room here", and then use their oars to beat back those who are trying to get on board. Nor is it going to help matters if they all rush off into one end of the lifeboat because of the others who are trying to get on board. It's not going to help matters either if those who are in the water scramble on board in a disorderly fashion. All those things will cause the lifeboat to capsize. The only way you are going to make sure that those who are on board and those who are in the water all survive is an orderly transfer of those who are in the water into the lifeboat. Panic and the sort of thing that Cloete is saying there produces the effect of people rushing over to one edge of the lifeboat or using the oars to beat back the others which will, of course, cause those in the water to try and scramble on board. And all those responses will capsize the lifeboat. They are of no assistance to anyone whatsoever.

     Now it's quite understandable why there is so much resistance to transformation of the civil service on the part especially of white Afrikaner males, this has been cushioned employment for them for decades and once they perceive that change is coming, of course they are going to try and marshal either organised resistance to it or this sort of pseudo-intellectual resistance to it, the effect is the same. But at the end of the day these are not helpful responses, the civil service has to be transformed. That is just a fact of life which everyone has to live with. The issue is how do you do it, at what pace, do you do it in a disorderly fashion or in an orderly fashion? Now we are trying as far as possible to conduct it in a very orderly fashion. If you take just my department as an example, at the top from the Director General down, to all the senior managers in my department, I think there is just one black, that's after 18 months. I'm not proud of it but that's an example and you will find that in many other departments it's very much the same.

POM     What is the problem?

PJ     It's not because of resistance, it's because one is bringing about the transformation on the basis (a) of merit and skill and we don't want to cause the dis-equilibrium of people climbing on board the lifeboat, nor do we want to produce the response of people rushing over to one end of the lifeboat. Do it in an orderly fashion. But the fact that we are going to transform it, that was made clear from the very word go to everybody. Of course the pace at which we are doing it means that people are getting used to the idea in the first place but it's also not creating dis-equilibrium so that the department becomes dysfunctional. I would say every ministry is doing that. Cloete and people like himself, they have an axe to grind, good luck to them. It is actually nonsense. Despite all their dire predictions the fact of the matter is that government is ticking over day after day, people are reporting for work, services are being delivered. There has been no collapse of services. I don't know what the dickens he's talking about.

POM     The second thing is, which I'll skip and come back to, but it's on local elections, re local government, the RDP. Now it's generally conceded that a lot of the local governments that will come into being on 1st November will lack talents and skills and be inexperienced and not familiar with the ways of local government and not quite sure of their responsibilities and the manner in which they should be carried out. Yet local government has been charged by the RDP with being the primary vehicle for the implementation of RDP programmes and it seems a little bit incongruous that you would pick what is the national priority, i.e. the implementation of RDP and hand its day to day implementation over to what will be probably, at least for some time to come, the weakest branch of government.

PJ     Well there is no way to avoid it. The fact that people are inexperienced in local government matters is no fault of theirs, it's the function of past policies. I think the question that needs to be posed is, can we avoid to have illegitimate and non-democratic local government structures in the near future because that is going to pose even more serious problems and the expenses that that will incur, not necessarily monetary, but I am sure in the end even monetary, but the expense in social and other terms will be immense if you don't have legitimate local governments after 1st November. Yes, sure, people are not that familiar but they will learn as they go. We can't afford not to have legitimate governments at the local government level. We need that very urgently. So that's the route we're going to have to go.

POM     But it will slow the implementation of RDP?

PJ     I don't think so. I don't think so necessarily. Where you don't have the talent or the skills you can always buy them in. Where you don't have the people with the necessary experience you can always bring in consultants, what have you, to assist you. It will be a far bigger risk and danger not to have legitimate local government structures.

POM     Consultants have become ...

PJ     Expensive.

POM     Yes.

PJ     And expensive consultants ...

POM     It's a symbol of the gravy train.

PJ     And expensive consultants gobble up the money that's supposed to be for the RDP. I know. But if it's unavoidable, it's unavoidable. If, for example, you are charged as a local government with a massive housing programme or a massive garbage disposal problem, a massive water supply problem and there is no-one in the local government structures who knows anything about any of those subjects you are going to have to call in someone who knows and it might mean you have to pay for that skill and for that talent. But the point is you will at least be a local government that enjoys the support of the public, you will have legitimacy, you will be acting in their interests, you will be able to explain why you are doing this which is preferable to one that has no mandate from anyone, a local government composed, so to speak, of a group of wise men who are accountable to nobody and perhaps representing merely their own shirts(?) but who have expertise.

POM     On the question of crime it was Joe Matthews who said to me that the problem isn't really that there are too few policemen, it is that during the days of sanctions the police department did not get its hands on modern technology. He said it takes 27 days to get a set of finger prints cleared, that the entire SAPS has 20 helicopters at its disposal compared to, I think he said, 400 in Britain, and it is the lack of technical infrastructure that is more of a problem to the police than the number of police themselves.

PJ     It might be a factor. He is closer to the facts with respect to that than I am. But in addition to that a glaring problem with policing is also what can only be described as rather irrational deployment of the resources that the police have at their disposal. I was quite shocked recently when I had statistics about how police resources are deployed, for example, in Johannesburg. The deployment of police resources follows the apartheid pattern and does not necessarily follow where the need is greatest. It is very strongly biased in favour of historically white areas, white middle class areas.

POM     I think it was 80% in historically white areas.

PJ     Yes, and to the disadvantage of historically black areas. Now historically white areas might be slightly integrated now in that a few blacks who can afford it have bought homes there, but historically black areas are still black areas. No whites have gone and bought homes in Soweto, so those are black areas.

POM     That seems to be an obvious thing that should have been addressed quickly.

PJ     Yes it is something which could have been addressed quickly but you are dealing then with this huge, huge inherited structure of incumbents who I suppose government ministers feel are fractious and are potentially mutinous if you rub them the wrong way, so they are being nursed along and everyone is trying to persuade them to accept the changes, live with the transformation and not unduly become alarmed at the changes that are taking place. So, of course, I suppose ministers feel you can't go in there with a sharp knife and perform major surgery which will deliver a shock to the system and then maybe result in all these unforeseen circumstances like police mutinying, etc. As it is you have had unprecedented actions on the part of South African Police since you've had a democratic government. It was unheard of here, in fact unthinkable that police in South Africa could go on strike. They did last year, this year. And not the radical police union POPCRU, the conservative South African Police Union. It was unthinkable that police in South Africa could threaten to down tools and disobey orders. They did. Again, not your radical POPCRU but your conservative Police Union. So it's not as if the trepidations and apprehensions that ministers might feel about the fractiousness of the police are unfounded, there are indications that if they didn't feel comfortable with the changes it could result in untoward actions.

POM     But then you are running into a time constraint here too.

PJ     You are, you are, and you're running into a credibility problem as well because you see the level of crime in what are historically black areas is far, far higher than what you see in what are historically white areas and your wild car hijacking, etc., has a very, very high profile. Car hijackings have a very high profile and of course impacts on those people who own cars. The actual incidence of car hijacking compared let's say to rape, that's also a crime of violence, is far lower but rape doesn't have as high a profile because it's not happening in Sandton where Doug Band had his car hijacked. It happens in Soweto, it happens in Attridgeville, it happens in Mitchells Plain, it happens in Mannenberg, but it's there but not as high profile. And this is part of the problem also. The ability also I think of the articulate car owing classes to bring to the public attention and to the attention of the media, their problems with crime are far greater. If you hijack Doug Band car, I mean Doug Band is the Managing Editor of about three or four newspapers here in Johannesburg alone, all he has to do is call up the Editors, "You know what, my car has been hijacked", and he gets the front page. Some grandmother in Soweto whose daughter gets raped, who even knows her name?

POM     Someone told me that when they saw the figures for the doubling of car sales, they said, well the easiest explanation is that there are so many cars being stolen that if everybody who has a car stolen has to replace one that should be able to double the sale of cars over a very short period of time. So this may be good for the economy in a peculiar kind of a way. I want to go through some statements in this document which I found a fascinating document one year after the government of national unity, but one thing in there that is said is that:-

     "What needs serious examination is the fact that many of the criminals were during years of struggle recruited by security forces to work against the liberation movement. What has happened to this network and to what extent are some of them involved in the current wave of crime as part of a deliberate strategy of destabilisation?"

     That's posed as a question. To what extent is there a belief among your colleagues that this is in fact the way things are?

PJ     No I don't think it's a belief. I think what has been posed there is a question that there is a possibility that it is a deliberate strategy of destabilisation but then the other explanation is that having gone into cahoots with criminal elements the security forces find themselves unable now to contain them because as any Mafia don will tell you nothing is for nothing and you get very little for a nickel. There was a degree of impunity which criminals were permitted because of alliances they struck with the security forces and you know, well, of course, they continue with that same sort of impunity now and there will be elements in the police force or in the law enforcement agencies too compromised to be able to bring them to book. This is not unusual. If you take, for example, what happened with the French Secret Services as a result of the Algerian war, the French Secret Services forged an alliance with the Corsican criminal syndicates on the Marseilles waterfront during the Algerian war as a way of keeping an eye on arms shipments, etc., etc., and also again the Algerian population in France in it's anti-insurgency activities. They recruited quite a number of them, the Corsican syndicates, for their own purposes and then also in the war against the OAS they went into alliance with the Corsican criminal syndicates to suppress the OAS insurgency against de Gaulle. Well in return they had to give the Corsican criminal syndicate something, it doesn't work for nothing, and part of that deal was that the Corsican criminal syndicates were allowed to expand their operations right into Paris from Marseilles, whereas in the past they had been confined to Marseilles.

     A similar thing happened with the United States and the Sicilian Mafia during the second world war. I think it's a matter of record that some deal was struck with Charles Lucky Luciano to assist, get the Mafia to assist the landing of the US forces in Sicily and because the only other arm of the resistance to the fascists were the communists, the United States preferred the gangsters to the communists, after all communists were godless. Mafia might be criminals but at least they believe in God. They made alliances with them. Charles Lucky got probation at the end of the war, was returned to Sicily and there are many who say that the big heroin problem in the United States owes a great deal to the deal struck then, not only with the Sicilian Mafia but also with the American Mafia. One of the big dons of the American Mafia, Vito Genovese operated together with the US forces in Sicily at the time, ahead of the invasion of Sicily, and later he became I think probably Capo de Capo operating out of New Jersey until he was put in jail sometime in the 1960s.

     So there are precedents for this sort of thing. I am not saying this is what has happened but it's not unlikely, it's not an unlikely explanation and it does not necessarily even involve a destabilisation strategy but just that having made deals with criminal gangs and syndicates it becomes impossible to contain them because you soil your hands with them, you compromise yourself with them, how are you going to bust a syndicate you've been operating with yesterday? Lots of things might come out in the wash so you have to allow them some license. It's possible, it's not impossible.

POM     In the last couple of weeks it seems that there has been a concerted, almost an orchestrated campaign on the part of the ANC to go after F W de Klerk. You had Tokyo Sexwale's remarks of his being treasonous, you had Mac Maharaj demanding his removal as chairman of the Security Committee, you had the whole imbroglio over whether or not his office had released information that he was going to resign from the government of national unity which had an effect on the bond markets, but they were personally toned in nature.

PJ     I would say it wasn't an ANC strategy. Minister Maharaj raised those things in parliament in the context of a debate. It might have been a function of the heat of argument, I don't know. It might have been a function of exasperation. The points are not illegitimate. The fact of the matter is that De Klerk has been playing politics with the issue of crime when he in fact presides over the very Cabinet Committee that defines and devises strategy for fighting crime. So it is actually cant on his part to say that the government is soft on crime. It's absolute cant.

POM     Since he is in charge of ...

PJ     Yes, he presides over the Cabinet Committee that devises strategy, the crime fighting strategy, and he has never, he has never, not once, first of all dissociated himself from its decisions let alone called into question those decisions. He's gone along with them in Cabinet. When he gets out in the hustings of course politics and political campaigning being as it is we understand that people do things like that. Now in pique Mac makes a telling point that seeing that you are dissociating yourself from the crime fighting strategy maybe you shouldn't preside over that Cabinet Committee. I think it's a fair point. The business about the leak that he had resigned, that, I think, we have solid proof, the MEC in the Western Cape did make those phone calls to various people saying that De Klerk has resigned and we have solid proof also that Tim Bell put that out in London. It is interesting, Tim Bell protested and said all sorts of things but didn't dare take the issue to court because he knows he will be shown up to be responsible for that. He did do it, we know that for a fact. It's indisputable. Whether he did it at De Klerk's behest or not is another question but he was very closely associated with De Klerk's leadership of the National Party the Chief Strategist during the elections last year, so it's not unlikely.

POM     That's the man with Saatchi & Saatchi?

PJ     Yes but he was Maggie Thatcher's principle strategist and De Klerk's election strategist. It's not an unlikely scenario that he was instructed to do it to produce that result, but he planted it, that we know beyond a shadow of doubt.

POM     Is there not an irony to the fact that the markets did in fact respond in that way proved the point of how important he was to the government of national unity?

PJ     I'm not quite certain. It could be orchestrated, even of itself could be orchestrated after all. Even the market response could be orchestrated.

POM     You are just suspicious?

PJ     All in all it is possible to create a set of circumstances which produce a particular public perception especially within a very small tightly knit group of people. The people who Tim Bell is linked with in London are the people who play the Stock Exchange, the ones who play the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, etc., etc. We don't have connections like that, we don't have networks like that. He could produce such a result if he wanted it, he could orchestrate it. I'm not saying that he did but he could. Mandela is not in a position to do that. We are not on a first name basis with your big finance houses in the City of London. Tim Bell and people like that are.

POM     One or two more questions. The role of the media, when this report came out, Discussion document, one year of national unity, and there are paragraphs in there which say that there are elements within the security forces, both the SAPS and the SANDF that are still potentially mutinous and you must develop strategies to counteract that and that they are acting in cohorts with the National Party and that the National Party still wants to destabilise the government. Do you believe that the National Party wants to destabilise the government?

PJ     Look it is not unlikely. I think you know my view about the whole strategy of a government of national unity. From the very beginning I have had serious doubts about it precisely because I have always seen the National Party as a potential fifth column within a government of national unity.

POM     In your view is it behaving that way?

PJ     You see the point is you take crucial transformative issues, an area which is very volatile, education. The Minister of Education goes through an entire process involving Cabinet Committees, etc., etc., culminating in a debate in parliament. The National Party expresses reservations here and there, does not oppose. When it gets to parliament they try a filibuster, that is defeated, then they want to take the issue to the Constitutional Court, a sort of constitutional filibuster if you like, to block the legislation passing through. Now, OK, one is not saying that everyone has to agree with the ANC but that is very much an effort to defeat one of the objectives of the government of national unity. You take again this mess with the Western Cape, etc., National Party as a party would like to hang on to the Western Cape as one secure base that it has. One of the objectives of the government of national unity which the National Party claims to share is to deracialise the society. The National Party in the Western Cape deliberately uses blatant racism as a pretext for gerrymandering your local government elections there, which causes then a constitutional crisis. We are not having elections in the Cape Town metro area because of the National Party and that group there in the National Party did not enjoy the support of the National Party in Cabinet until it came to the crunch, then De Klerk threw his support behind them. Now it's the National Party position that we are going to use racism as a pretext for gerrymandering. Now, of course, that is being very subversive of the objectives of the government which is to deracialise the society, for party political purposes. So you judge for yourself how they are behaving.

POM     Last question. Relationships between President Mandela and Deputy President de Klerk have not just soured but seem at some point of almost irreversibility in terms of their personal relationship, meanwhile the relationship between President Mandela and General Viljoen seems to be flowering.

PJ     I'm not certain whether that is a correct perception. I think (a) personalities have an importance in politics and a good personal relationship can be a great facilitator of certain things in politics, but politics has never been determined by personalities in my view. Politics is very much determined by material interests whether one is conscious of those material interests or not, but it is some expression of material interest. Whatever the relationship was between De Klerk and Mandela at a certain point in time I don't think that was the determinant of the course of South African history any more than what every relationship people might speculate exists between Constand Viljoen and Mandela at this time. Mandela and Viljoen represent polar opposites of the political spectrum in this country. I suppose we are fortunate that General Viljoen, although his politics are ultra right, is not of the lunatic fringe of the ultra right. Perhaps it's a function of the fact that he's a soldier and he knows what war is about and what the costs of war are, unlike some of his more lunatic fringe like ET who plays at being a soldier but doesn't know what being a soldier actual entails. He plays at going to war but doesn't know what war actually entails. So Constand Viljoen in that respect has acted responsibly. I think President Mandela does appreciate that because that has meant that instead of the country being plunged into civil war we have avoided that terrible eventuality and maybe as a result of that he has responded positively to certain initiatives on the part of General Viljoen. I don't think that it's a matter of personalities.

POM     An extension of the indemnity date would certainly be a big plus for Viljoen.

PJ     It would be a big plus for Viljoen but I think it would be a high wire act on Mandela's part. Very risky. Very, very, very risky.

POM     Last one.

PJ     I can see you've got a whole range of questions. Why don't you call Asmal and tell him you'll be a few minutes late. Ask Asmal's secretary there to call him. This poor man here is itching to ask me twenty four questions.

POM     When the media saw the reportage of this, not only the media, the ANC's response to the way some of the contents in this document were reported was to accuse them of distortion and taking things out of context and many people would say, going back to Thabo Mbeki's statement months ago when he talked about the role of the press and statements about the press, that the press and Mandela himself said in an interview he gave on the occasion of his 500th day in office that the press was still largely in the hands of whites and there was still a large element of racism there. What in your view is the role of the media in a democracy, particularly a democracy that is undergoing the kind of massive transformation that South Africa is going through?

PJ     I don't necessarily agree with the remarks of Thabo Mbeki or Mandela or anyone else on this matter. I think my views on the press are very well known. I am for the untrammelled freedom of the press. I don't question the right of the press to say what they say or to write what they write, to criticise government, to attack it, to be hostile to government, to do what they want. It's their democratic and constitutional right to do so.

     However, what I will say is that if we are to speak of the press as the watchdog of the public, the watchdog of the nation, in a nation where the demographics are that 75% of that population are Africans the remaining 10% are black people of Asian or of mixed racial origin, then 15% are white, but it is the 15% who are white who control the press, what meaning do we give to being a public watchdog? Which public is that press representing? That is the question which the press wants to evade at all costs and the fact of the matter is that the press in the main represents the sensibilities, the views, the values and the prejudices of the 15% of the population who are white. That's just the stone truth. Sure, they have the right to express it but then don't try to deceive the rest of us and say we are being watchdogs on behalf of the public. They are being watchdogs on behalf of the 15% who are white. Say so up front, no-one will argue with you. Admit it. Yes, sure, and you have the right to do that, but don't pretend you are representing the 85% who are not white because you are not, you're not.

     Especially in a situation, with the exception of one daily, maybe two now with Cape Times, but until recently one daily, all the editors were white, to a man quite literally because there are no women who are editors of dailies. All of them were white with the exception of The Sowetan. Now maybe with Mogsien Williams at The Cape Times you've got one editor who is black, one other editor who is black. The Cape Times, Mogsien Williams is the editor. He is Cape Malay and then you've got The Sowetan, Aggrey (Klaaste), but every other daily newspaper has a white editor. The editorial offices, the newsrooms, predominantly white, overwhelmingly so. Until recently they never even made an effort to recruit any black journalists so let's say they are a white press, they represent the sensibilities, the values of the white minority which they have the perfect democratic right to do and I don't call that into question for a minute, but don't let them pretend they represent the 85% majority who are black because they do not. They don't represent their values, they don't reflect their aspirations and they don't represent their sensibilities, not in the least and it is self deception of the worst order to pretend that they do.

POM     So when you hear, for example, the general tenor coming through the media in the last couple of weeks is that the local elections are going to be a shambles, is that part of ...?

PJ     They might well be, they might well be a shambles. But for instance when someone, like one of the managers, senior editors at SABC tries to bring about some transformation and he says, this radio programme which is for English speaking South Africans, in English, and he brings in accents other than - accents you never hear even in England, accents from Cape Town, from Durban, of Africans, of Coloureds, of Indian South Africans, of Afrikaans South Africans, South African English in other words is broadcast and every editor of English speaking newspapers freaks out and says, "Oh no, how could they do this?" And their objection is that they are not speaking BBC English, this muted English and raise a hue and cry about some fictitious standard English. Where the hell is this standard English? I mean English is probably spoken more widely than any other language on this planet now. An Australian at one end of the world speaks completely differently from someone in California, someone in Jamaica speaks completely differently from someone in Liverpool. Someone in Sierra Leone speaks completely differently from someone in Cape Town. Standard English is cant. And what they were actually saying was; how dare you put all these fucking darkies on the radio? That's what in fact they were saying. They didn't want to say so, it's embarrassing now to say things like that so you gloss it, you hide it behind this nonsense about standard English. There is no such thing as standard English. English is an international language and if they weren't so bloody parochial they would know that as well. Now, again, that is the editors of your daily papers representing the sensibilities of the white minority and then they say, "No we represent, we are watchdogs on behalf of the public." Which public? The public in Soweto? Don't give me that crap. But I am not going to call into question their right to represent those sensibilities but they should not pretend the speak on behalf of the people of Soweto. They are not. They are speaking on behalf of 15% of the population who are white, which is their right to do.

POM     Finally, on the local elections, do you think that they will be free, fair, pass off in an orderly way and be accepted as legitimate?

PJ     Unless something very untoward happens in the next few days I don't see any reason why they shouldn't. The expectation is that they will pass off relatively peacefully and I think the indications are that they will. There have been the usual problems that I think are associated with any election, high spirits here and there, a little bit of intimidation here and there, but I would be surprised if there are elections anywhere in the world that are not accompanied by something or other like that. No, they should pass off quite peacefully unless something really untoward happens in the next few days.

POM     OK, thank you very much once again. I will be back.

PJ     I know you didn't get all your questions.

POM     I didn't even get half of them.

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.