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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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

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POM     My first question would be that one hears and sees less about the SACP, that sometimes one would tend to think that it has disappeared from view altogether. What has happened to the SACP in the last 18 months since the death of Chris Hani, since you took over? How has it been restructuring itself and what role does it see itself playing in the future? I should say in two ways, what role does it see itself playing now and what role does it see itself playing in the future?

CN     Right. For starters let me indicate to you that our ninth congress happened this year in April and that congress formulated a programme of action for the party for the next few years and we made it abundantly clear that we are still in the period in our national democratic revolution where we must fight for the consolidation of the democratic programme under the African National Congress. If I can give you a little bit of a background, the party took a decision in 1962 which said that our revolution to socialism would come about in two stages. There would firstly be the stage of national democracy, in other words where all forces fighting against anti-democratic tendencies would pool their energies and resources in order for them to bring about a democratic dispensation in this country and we accepted that during that period the party would be fighting together with the ANC and also in alliance with the working place to bring about that kind of dispensation. The elections last year constituted the first phase of the completion of that programme of national democracy and the party, therefore, is still involved together with the ANC and COSATU representing the workers in this case to fulfil all the aspects of that programme for national democracy.

     The imperative, therefore, for the moment is the consolidation of that programme and this is what we are doing in the party. You will remember that in terms of those elections the party decided deliberately that certain members of its leadership core would also be deployed in parliament to ensure among others that we began to put in place some of the building blocks for socialism to ensure that the rights of the working class are not trampled upon, to ensure that the democracy that we were building would be moving in a direction where finally we would see thoroughgoing democracy in this country and the South African Communist Party is committed towards that ideal. But what has been happening is that a number of people believe that it is the South African Communist Party that will actually bring into being in this country a thoroughgoing democracy and quite a number of people have been joining the party in the past 18 months. There are others who have been making enquiries from quarters that in the past five years at least were completely against the Communist Party, but some of those people have been making enquiries to join the party. In terms of membership, therefore, the party has grown quite tremendously.

POM     Is that right?

CN     You will remember that at the beginning of 1991, for instance, which was a few months after our re-launch in July of the previous year, in 1990. Then we were barely 5000 members of the party but by the end of that year, we had a congress that year the Eighth Congress, and at the Eighth Congress we reported that our membership had risen to 25,000 in only that year, but by the end of 1992 our membership had doubled, we were on 50,000, but at the congress this year we reported a membership of 73,000. This indicates that the party is growing. As I say, there are many people who have joined even after this congress. The feeling is that, as I have indicated, the party is the people's last hope going into thoroughgoing democracy and people feel that the party, because it has a particular influence which among others will ensure that democracy does survive in this country, it will not just be an ordinary kind of democracy, it will be total democracy. People are saying the party therefore is going to be a very good vehicle moving into that situation.

POM     Why do you think people are moving towards the SACP in increasing numbers? Does that indicate a form of disillusionment with the ANC's U-turn towards free market economics, emphasising the pragmatic need to deal with The World Bank and the IMF and the international structures of trade that are all capitalistic oriented?

CN     Well some of it is related to that, but in the main our people understand the character of the ANC and almost all the time they refer to the ANC as a huge church and others even say it is an omnibus where all sorts of people get on board. And people are saying that in that kind of situation, and particularly during this transition period, there are so many influences that are being brought to bear on the ANC and the likelihood, therefore, is that the ANC is going to be soft on a number of very important policy positions like the questions that you have raised now. There are many of them. What is the relationship, for instance, between our democratic country now and the People's Republic of China? The ANC to a very large extent has been ambivalent on that question although the policy of the movement all along has been to recognise the People's Republic of China vis-à-vis the Republic of China, Taiwan. And it took quite a while, even before the issue of Cuba was raised very sharply by the ANC, it took some campaigns to bring the attention of the ANC back to the necessity to back Cuba in terms of the politics of the world.

     Of course there have been differences in terms of emphasis also at the level of implementation of government policy. There was a time when our people had to fight against an approach they believed was erroneous with respect to public enterprises in our country, particularly because our people were convinced that the ANC wanted to encourage wholesale privatisation, hence people in some of the public sectors decided to demonstrate against that intention. All the time the SACP plays the role where we (advise) the ANC when they are going to be troubled, when there are problems with respect to some of the positions in the process of governance wittingly or unwittingly institute or illustrate movement away from those very important policy positions of the ANC. Therefore, the Communist Party, those people coming into the Communist Party are saying that they recognise that important role that the Communist Party is playing to ensure that the ANC in the first instance does not go astray in terms of the policies.

POM     So you're like a check.

CN     We are like some kind of check on the ANC. I must say in that respect we have done tremendously well and we are quite respected by the ANC even when we come together as the tripartite alliance. There are quite a number of positions which party people are quite clear on and make suggestions that ensure that the ANC itself gets strengthened as a result of the input that communists are making there. But people generally are therefore saying that the Communist Party needs to be strengthened so that it can continue to play that role in the ANC and in the body politic in this country.

POM     So you don't see that five years of participation by a number of your senior members in a government of national unity contributes to the party losing its identity, that it gets squashed between the ANC on the one hand and COSATU on the other?

CN     Not at all. In fact our people understand, let's take education for instance and the new education system that is in place now in the country. Most of what has happened in terms of that transformation is credited to Blade Nzimande who is a party person, he is the Deputy Chairperson of the party. He has played a tremendous role in terms of transformation of education. He has been involved in that sector for a number of years and people credit him for the advance that has been made in the area of education. You will remember when Joe Slovo was alive that people credited him with a lot of intelligent thinking around the question of housing and they saw that contribution as a contribution that essentially came from socialist thinking and there are a number of comrades who are occupying quite senior positions in the government of national unity who are communists. As I say, their role there is construed by our people as a very important role and, as I say, they have delivered in a number of areas. The Chairperson of the Constitutional Joint Committee is Pravin Gordhan and that person is a fantastic thinker. Many of the arrangements that relate to the present elections, for instance, were authored by him, he is quite incisive in his thinking. I could name a number of those people and he is also a Central Committee member. So no-one can accuse the party of having been involved in a dispensation that is not delivering. The party's role is clearly defined and people can see what communists have been able to do during this conjunction.

POM     Let me take the case of the nurses' strike and strikes in other parts of the public sector. Here was a situation where, at least it seemed to me sitting on the outside and following for the most part things in the media, that again the SACP was conspicuous by its silence, I didn't hear a statement whether you were with the nurses and other protesting or striking public sector employees or whether you were against them, that they go back to work. It was just like there was silence. What role were you in fact playing there?

CN     We were quite involved. Our approach from the beginning with respect to those matters has been that we deal with them as the alliance. We were involved in a number of meetings, we took certain positions which were important positions as the party, like, for instance, with respect to the nurses' strike. On the very day that we were going to discuss as the alliance, there were more than 100 people who came from Soweto who said to us that they wanted to go to that hospital and work as volunteers. Our position was that while we are trying to negotiate we cannot allow for a situation where people go there and work as volunteers. They will be seen in the first instance as scab labour and there would be very, very serious repercussions and we could not as the SACP agree to a position where people, even with the best intentions, could make a contribution that would be counter-productive. And with respect to the municipality workers, of course we condemned the way that the nurses were going about their strike. We are on record as having condemned it. With respect to the municipality workers we again drew the attention of our national liberation movement to an important issue that those workers were raising. Everybody accepted in the first instance that the workers were correct. It was a legal strike.

POM     It was a legal strike?

CN     It was a legal strike. There were problems and we accepted that there were those problems but we were of course totally opposed to workers trashing the cities and all sorts of other unbecoming activities on their part. But there is one aspect where those municipality workers were raising an issue that the national liberation movement ought to have been alert to, it is the party that alerted our alliance to that. They were raising a stipulation in the Interim Local Government Transitional Act which allowed payment, for instance, of their salaries to be done by the various municipalities as independent entities which was in the first instance in violation of the central bargaining process that government has agreed to, in other words against the Labour Act.

POM     The new Labour Act?

CN     Yes, the new Labour Act. Then, secondly, it was also against the letter and spirit of the Reconstruction & Development Programme because we had agreed there that in order for us to be able to implement policies of government we needed a uniform process in the municipalities otherwise you would have those municipalities that were in the hands, for instance, of the right wing doing something contrary to the policies of the government. We were therefore saying on those matters there needed to be a uniform policy applying and the workers were raising that particular matter and in the party we said let's look at what they are saying. As a result there has been an amendment of that stipulation. So that even if the press is generally ignoring us in this country, which is not a problem of our own making, but there are many interventions that we have made, very important interventions not only with respect to local issues but international politics as well, very, very important.

POM     So do you tend more now to operate behind the scenes influencing the ANC and maybe COSATU, giving advice, putting up directions, finding options?

CN     Yes, yes, which incidentally is not a new role for the party. The party has always been playing that kind of role, giving advice, sitting and discussing options. That is why if it was against some of our members who during the negotiations phase made very, very important contributions, because we have been fortunate in that respect where the party has the time, the ANC will obviously not have the time, it is a very big organisation but the party is a small organisation and because we are not involved in major issues of governance and even with respect to the deployment of cadres, because we had a few cadres, those cadres were given the instruction to be focused in their work and even if a party person worked for any structure that person was asked by the party to bring some influence into whatever they were doing, report back to the party, have discussions, proper consultations with the party, and all the time wherever we had cadres we were improving those situations.

POM     Where you had cadres?

CN     Yes. And in this respect as well, that is what we are continuing to do, all the time alerting people to dangers with respect of positions that are being taken, making contributions with respect to consolidation and what have you. That is why the theme of our congress was advancing our position from the breakthrough last year, deepening that position and defending this new situation. That is what we said.

POM     How would you distinguish between the ANC, taking away COSATU and taking away the SACP, how would you define between its natural constituency and your natural constituency?

CN     Our natural constituency is clearly defined, it's the working class. Of course there are other people who are allies of the working class who tend to join the party. There are some intellectuals who have come into the party, there are some petty bourgeoisie even who have come into the party, people who are religiously inclined are now joining the party in bigger numbers than was the case in the past. But the core of our constituency is the working class. Now in the ANC every person who may be democratic in their approach, non-racial, have been able to join the ANC and those who joined the ANC include, for instance, management of big business and so on and so on, and we won't have big business in our ranks. Our constituencies are clearly defined.

POM     Let's come to the debate on economic policy which has been gathering momentum over the last year. Now on the one hand you have those who point to car sales increasing, doubling in the last year for the first time the rate of growth will go over 3% and the business confidence index is higher than it has been in eleven years, the rate of inflation is down to 7.5% and there is one school out there that is optimistic about the future, they say the economy is on the verge of take off. Countering that you have still very little foreign investment, you have had a number of studies done, international studies, not even done domestically, which would indicate that in terms of competitiveness that South Africa ranks either at the bottom or near the bottom in terms not just of the economy as a whole but in terms of most of its individual sectors. One recommendation that comes through again and again in these studies is that the rate of productivity is too low, that the rate of wage increases is higher than the rate of increase in productivity, that this is a high unit cost country compared to its natural competitors like Brazil or Poland or even Malaysia or other Asian countries all of which have lower wages for a comparable level of skills and higher levels of productivity and therefore can outsell South Africa in international markets.

     What do you make of this kind of demand for wage restraint, for wages shouldn't be increasing as quickly as they are, that the rate of increase of wages must be brought under control? How do you square that which might be in the interests of the country as a whole with the interests of your constituency, because you are a trade unionist, and getting them a higher standard of living is one of the things that's basic to what you do?

CN     Invariably what you are raising is raised as an argument primarily by business not to pay good salaries for our people because whenever productivity is raised it relates only to labour and yet productivity, yes, means labour but it also means capital productivity and it means raising the skills of the working people through programmes of education and training and, of course, research and development. Now what is happening, even in the countries you've referred to where wages are low but productivity is high, is that the bosses want to make profits all the time and they do not want to share those profits in order among others to ensure that they raise productivity via incentives, for instance, incentives which will relate to raised salaries. You can keep your salary, pay a basic living wage to all of the people but still be able to provide for incentives for those people who show a more energetic approach to their work, for those people who show initiative. It is not a new thing in the world. It was part of Lenin's new economic policy.

     Now what we are saying is that when you talk about economic growth you must also in the same breath mention development because you aren't going to have economic growth if you do not develop both your human resources as well as your conditions of living. We are arguing, therefore, that all workers must be paid a decent salary so that they can develop themselves as human beings. We argue that in South Africa in particular there are a lot of financial resources that are being wasted. Firstly your management in business is not creative enough and secondly the money that has been available in this country was misused by the previous administration.

     Let us look at business just for a little while. I will tell you what is happening in this country. There are more than 370,000 miners who are facing termination of their services in the next five to ten years simply because the mine bosses want to close mines they say are unproductive. And this is not true that these mines are unproductive. We have had a situation in recent times where there is a particular mine that was going to close down because the mine bosses were saying that mine is unproductive, they have been losing a lot of money in terms of running that mine, but a new company took over that mine and they have turned it into a money spinner and not only the bosses there are reaping the benefits of those profits but the workers as well. It's Durban Deep, Roodeport, Durban Deep. You can speak to people like Peter Fleck who is the leading guru in terms of this revolution.

POM     Where would I find him?

CN     Rand Gold, and ask to talk to Peter Fleck, he will tell you about this new approach by his company Rand Gold in terms of these new mines. Now that mine was going to close down. The present Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs, Pik Botha, was also saying the government cannot put in money there and save the mine because the mine is unproductive. But when they got in, as I say, they turned this mine around. The big problem on the mines is that there is what is referred to as manager's fees and manager's fees are a percentage which is determined on the basis of the turnover. It does not matter whether that mine is running at a loss but those managers get their percentage. In other words even before you have to pay the expenses relevant to mining you must give them their manager's fees. Now this new grouping is saying do away with the manager's fees because more often than not these managers are not even here, they are hundreds of miles away from where it's happening and are not participating in any way in terms of the development of the mine and they are not putting back into the coffers of the mine for development anything, no research, no development, not even funds for exploration.

     Now this particular grouping has started a project. Firstly they are raising the lives of our people, better wages for our people and they are starting an education programme for our people. That is intelligent thinking and yet they are making profits, the mine has become profitable you see. Now what I am saying is that that kind of approach has nothing to do with low wages. You can, if you become creative enough, create conditions for our economy to grow and where everybody benefits as a result of that growth. And that growth is not only related to labour productivity, it is also related to capital productivity where capital is used creatively and intelligently to improve on a number of other areas including development, as I say, research and development, so that no-one can argue. And this is in line with our reconstruction and development programme. No-one should argue that salaries here are too high and productivity is low because I can argue that there are many enterprises where productivity is high because there are incentives in those areas and there are many benefits that our workers are getting. You can't have a situation, for instance, where big business is not making a contribution to the building of houses here where there are workers, the employees in those enterprises stay in squatter camps and when they board public transport, the buses and the trains they are attacked. You can't get that person to be productive because all the time they think, in fact as they are working they are not sure whether they will make it back home safely.

POM     They worry about staying alive.

CN     Yes, and they don't know whether when they reach home there will be a home. That house may be razed by fire and the entire family may have been mowed down by a mad hit man. But if you as an employer can create conditions for that person to have a good house, for that person to go to work safely and what have you, that worker is going to raise his own contribution, his own productivity at that level. So economic growth is necessarily tied to all of these things and we are saying give workers a good wage in order for you to ensure that they raise productivity.

POM     What I would like to do is to read to you, to get your comments on - this was an article written by Geoffrey Sacks who is a Harvard Economist and one of the gurus, called a free trade guru, he went to Russia and was supposed to turn the Russian economy around and after he took his consultancies he went back to Harvard and said, I'm getting out of there, too much turning around to do. He mentioned four things. He says that : The most promising answer for receiving economic growth, indeed the only realistic answer is a great increase in manufacturing exports which would tap South Africa's growing labour force as well as it's managerial talents and capital stock. As a first step industry and agriculture must forego decades of protectionism by slashing tariffs and other hidden barriers to trade still in place. An internationally competitive export industry has to be able to import the inputs and machinery that it needs at world prices, not at the inflated prices of the now protected domestic market. Would you agree with that, that there has to be an end to protectionism?

CN     You see there are problems with some of these approaches because there are some industries, and some of them are industries that are very sympathetic to our cause and to our workers, that have suffered.

POM     For example?

CN     Like the tyre industry in this country, motor car tyre industry. That industry if we open doors to everybody to do business in this country on tyres the local tyre industry would collapse. There was a situation where some people in this country were receiving tyres from Malaysia. The tyres were cheap, they came in cheaply and the people who were in charge of that programme were acting as agents. They simply went around South Africa to garages who needed cheap tyres and therefore organised orders for the Malaysian company. And when those tyres came into the country they went directly to the consumers, to those garages and to the consumers which means that does not improve employment for our people in the first instance because you needed only a few people to be in charge of that mail order kind of programme. But what it did, secondly, is that it brought pressure on the local tyre manufacturers which means necessarily they would have to lay off some of our people. Now that kind of industry, particularly if no new job opportunities are being created, needs to be protected otherwise our people would have lost jobs.

     What I am saying is that you can't do this thing willy nilly. There are those things particularly in the manufacturing sector, there are those things that we wouldn't be able to produce in this country that we must get elsewhere. That's OK to allow for such things to come in. We had a problem recently where NUMSA was under threat, that's the metal union, because there was an agreement which would have brought in already assembled cars into this country which would have meant that Volkswagen and the other motor assemblers in this country would have been under pressure and they would have to lay off a lot of their workers. And NUMSA said we cannot allow for this type of situation.

     What I am indicating to you is that we would have to be creative also in terms of creating the spaces that people talk about. We cannot liberalise our approach to a point where the local situation is undermined as a result of us allowing other people to come in and do business in this country particularly in instances where they do not even create new job opportunities.

POM     There has been some talk about South Africa following the Malaysian model of development, which again is a very low cost, low wages, low cost but high growth. Are you opposed to this model of development? To you would it look as though the Malaysian government is exploiting labour?

CN     We have had discussions in our national liberation movement and there is agreement that there are certain practices that we can copy but there are others that we simply must not copy because they are injurious to our own process of transformation. With respect to the Malaysian experience which some of our people have been talking about we have said we can't take it holus bolus, let us look at some aspects of that programme and see how we can adapt them for our own experience in this country. That is why no-one, of all the people who have gone to Malaysia to look at what's happening there, have come back to say, yes this is what we need, let's copy it as it is. No-one has said that.

POM     Is there any single country out there that in your eyes represents the best, when you adjust it for South African circumstances, but the best model for economic growth and development?

CN     We are learning from a number of countries and fortunately in the party we are going to have an economic conference in November where we are going to be looking at some of these examples and see what we need to do in the first instance as a party and what influences we can bring to bear on the ANC for instance. When the documentation is ready we will ensure that you get copies of those papers. Also within the ANC and together with the tripartite alliance someone has been commissioned to begin to sit down and given our 18 months experience of economic contact and discussions to try to produce a discussion document so that finally, at least next year, we want to come out with a blueprint relating to economic growth in this country.

POM     Sacks' second point was, a second part of the package, and he has four parts in the package: As a second part of the package, South Africa's trade unions should accept the urgencies of wage restraint, the small proportion of black unionised workers who have found a niche in the formal economy earn two or three times the wages of under-employed black workers struggling in the informal economy. A unionised, unskilled factory worker earns $400-00 (that would be R1500 about) a month, well above his global competitors in Poland, Malaysia and Brazil and vastly above his unemployed counterparts in the townships.

CN     If you look at that salary and look at the liabilities, financial liabilities of that particular worker you would be shocked. The tendency when people, for instance, talk about a living wage, they look at that living wage as the gross pay of a given worker but the fact of the matter is that in this country cost of living is very high and your R1500 is nothing when you take into consideration the commitments that that particular worker has vis-à-vis conditions of living in this country. We want to argue very strongly that you cannot reduce salaries of people who are working in this country because of those conditions. You can't contemplate a situation where they get meagre salaries when they have those commitments relevant to this high cost of living in this country. You can't. As I say, what is key is that our economy will grow and grow well if we are able to begin to do certain things that improve the conditions of life of a given worker.

POM     But is the point well taken that the unionised workers are a lot better off than un-unionised workers?

CN     No, un-unionised workers benefit from the activities of the unions. For instance, when unions negotiate for higher salaries, even people who are not unionised will be given higher salaries despite the fact that they are not part of those negotiations for better wages. All the time when the unions negotiate for higher salaries other workers who are not part of those unions also automatically get these raises in their salaries. It does not benefit only unionised workers. The point which we discussed is how we can distribute resources in such a way that we address unemployment in this country. Unemployment is not going to be addressed by reducing salaries of workers. There are a number of other things that we must do including - you know our programme of transformation creates spaces for us to begin to do certain things. When we talk about a new education system it means that we must build more classes and those are opportunities, job opportunities for people who are unemployed. When we talk about a better health service we talk about the establishment of clinics in urban areas, townships in particular, as well as the rural countryside. And again we are talking about jobs for people who will build those facilities, and so on and so on. That is how, among others, we will ensure that we address this problem of unemployment and with respect to enterprises that are already active within the economic activities of this country. When productivity is raised, where everybody is benefiting there will be an amount of money that can be used to create even more jobs. We are talking about beneficiation in this country which will also create more jobs for our people. Beneficiation where for instance on the mines what is happening here is that our people go under ground, get the metal and it is shipped overseas, where it comes back as the finished items from abroad. But if we beneficiate at that level it means that we will not only haul this ore from the bowels of the earth, we will be able at the end of the day to make gold watches and so on in South Africa itself. We will process the metal and manufacture golden commodities out of the metal. That's the creation of more job opportunities again. And platinum you can beneficiate even. There are other things, that in other words you have some ...

POM     You add value. You create jobs by adding value.

CN     By adding value, that's it.

POM     Most people would say that there is a relationship between wages and job creation that when wages go up the tendency on the part of employers is to substitute capital for labour, to lay off labour and to bring in capital to replace it if it thinks that labour is becoming too expensive. Do you subscribe to that?

CN     This is what I am talking about. The insistence is that labour must be productive but capital need not be productive. When you do that you are rendering capital unproductive. The best way of creating more jobs is to ensure that productivity rises and it rises because there is incentivisation where you are developing your human resources via education and training, you do development, all of those things, necessarily productivity is going to rise and you are bound to make profits and some of that money will go to the creation of more jobs even in that given industry. But as I say, many of these industries, you can add value all the time to some of the things that people do.

POM     Yes, but in the last 18 months one of the sad features of the economy is that there has been no alleviation in the rate of unemployment, in fact it is becoming increasingly clear as in Europe and other industrialised countries, that there is no correlation between economic growth and job creation. In fact if you can't have the economy growing at 3%, 4% a year you can't have the rate of employment going up. So people keep putting the emphasis here on, oh the economy is growing, but that doesn't necessarily mean that jobs are going to be created and that's the number one problem facing the country. How do you create jobs? And it seems to me nobody has yet come up with a strategy.

CN     That is where we are insisting on creativity, that is where we are insisting on creativity because if industrialists can be creative enough - you know Comrade Mandela made a point the other day which is a valid point, he says the problem we have in South Africa is that even local investors are investing abroad and not investing here. That is part of the problem that we have, that we are not - South Africa can be a giant, particularly in terms of the continent of Africa if we were creative enough because we can establish a very strong economic greed that would permeate the rest of the continent, only if we are creative enough. And this is what we want to insist on, that business people - I was at a business lunch the other day and I said to business people there that people think that transformation can come about only if government does certain things. We are now saying to ourselves that all of us have an interest in this new democracy, have an interest therefore in a stable society in our country and with respect, therefore, to every one of us where there is crime even the ordinary citizen must ensure that they stop that crime. Now if we want to turn this in the oasis that we have been saying all along that after independence South Africa would be, then it means everybody, the business person will derive benefits from a situation that is stable and they need to put money in order for us to begin to develop South Africa properly. Now if they don't do that we aren't going to have economic growth in this country and even if that economic growth is not geared towards the development of our human resources it isn't going to work, not at all.

POM     And you can hardly expect foreign investors to put their money into South Africa if local investors are investing their money outside of South Africa.

CN     That does not inspire confidence. How do I invest in a situation where the local people are running away? It must be sending signals and industries have an element of intelligence. If you are involved in industry and you don't have intelligence then you are going to make very, very big mistakes in your industry. And intelligence keeps flowing back to them to indicate what is happening in given countries and they are going to pick up that South African investors are not investing in that country which means there are problems. And they will not hurriedly get into South Africa to invest and yet there are so many opportunities here, as I say, if people become creative. Our own people, we are saying for instance that it will be wrong politically to say for instance that every activist should remain at the level where they have been activists all along and not say that any activist who is developing and is moving up shouldn't accept that opportunity. We would be wrong to say that. Insofar as government is concerned, for instance, everybody should be aspiring to be on top. Even in terms of our lives we ought to be aspiring to all of those positions because we cannot say that this is where we belong and we must remain there and not move up because we are activists. We can't prescribe that kind of formula. At the end of the day we all want to improve our lives, everybody, we want better lives.

     But our people are not moving into the avenues that are now being opened up. There are a number of small businesses in South Africa but even those small businesses are not occupying some of the spaces that have been created in terms of the new situation, like for instance, if you look at the catering business and look at schools. In the past schools, particularly white schools in this country, were being serviced by a given catering firm which had connections to the government and some of these firms were not even delivering proper goods to those schools, but because they had these government connections their tenders all the time were accepted in those schools. But if our people were to begin to look at some of those openings, because the schools have become larger with the influx of black students into some of the schools, where enrolments have been over many years 200 - 300, those enrolments have now become 600 which means there is a need for more caterers to come in. And people are not looking at those avenues because if people got in again we create jobs in that way.

POM     One thing I hear you saying is that competition for the sake of competition is not a good thing.

CN     It's not a good thing.

POM     Do you know who said the exact same thing in a speech he gave recently was the Chairman of Sanlam. He said exactly the same thing. Do you not find it a little bit ironic that you and the Chairman of Sanlam are saying the exact same thing, one of the biggest conglomerates in the country?

CN     Let me tell you something about socialism, that there are so many people who have copied, for instance, from Lenin's new economic policy whose main thrust was to build and consolidate small and medium businesses because that is where employment really happens. Many people in the capitalist world are doing that and not crediting it to Lenin. There are many things, even those people, Sanlam, we were talking about this the other day, do you realise that Sanlam is a cooperative? It is a cooperative, there are people who ought to be shareholders because they insure with Sanlam. Now it means here is a big insurance company that is surviving on the basis of contributions that are made by people who are insurers, but people who in truth and in fact ought to be shareholders and people, therefore, who ought to be deciding the policies of Sanlam. But what happens and what has been happening over the years is that when that money comes in it turns to benefit people other than those who are members of that large co-operative, so that even Sanlam is being run as a cooperative on the basis, or rather let me put it this way, when it was established it was established as a cooperative on the basis of the tenets of socialism. What I am saying is that there are many of these pronouncements that will come from even those quarters not because we seem to be moving in the same direction but because there are certain imperatives that they have to admit.

POM     The third thing that Sacks suggested was, he said: Wage restraint should be expected of the unions only as part of a larger social and political strategy in which black households can look forward to a future in which they are increasing owners in the new South Africa. Various financial arrangements, such as voucher privatisation, pension fund reform, profit sharing plans, employee stock ownership plans and other techniques can be deployed to promote a gradual long term increase of the share of black ownership in the economy.

CN     Right. That is correct. This is what I was talking about, that even as workers we cannot say that our only involvement is as sellers of our labour. We cannot. We must reap benefits because we make a contribution, but we can't start from the point that says firstly you reduce the salaries and at some future point you have all of these other arrangements in place. You can't. We have to improve the lot of our people because when they realise that their involvement is accepted on an equal footing with everybody who is at a particular work place then these others fall into place automatically. In the mining industry, again, if I have to quote that, we have a situation now where the Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers has now been appointed on the board of Gencor, and this is deliberate.

POM     What is his name?

CN     Gwede Mandtashe. He is also a Central Committee as well Politburo member of our party. But all of those things are designed to change people's attitudes to a vibrant economy in this country.

POM     So you would agree with Sacks, this liberal, free market economist on one thing out of three at least.

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.