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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

12 Mar 1996: Jones, Colin

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POM     Colin, since we last met and talked you have had quite a significant career shift one might say.

CJ     Yes I have resigned as Dean of St George's Cathedral where we first me and where you conducted all these interviews, to the biggest NGO in the country, the Independent Development Trust, which outside of government probably has access to the most financial resources in dealing with the needs of the poorest of the poor and I have accepted the position of Provincial Director in the Independent Development Trust and I have responsibility for the Western Cape Province. I am very new at it, I've just been here just over a month now and part of the task is to actually set up the provincial office. The IDT has operated up till now from a central national office. It has after five years decided to decentralise its functions by setting up these provincial offices. It has had involvement in the area of development in communities with projects and programmes such as school building, clinic building, job creation and so on.

POM     So you say it's frame of reference is dealing with the poorest of the poor and when one looks at the last five years can one realistically say that there has been any significant difference in the situation of the poorest of the poor or is it that a small dent has been made but it's no more than a small dent?

CJ     I think there are two problems, one is the sheer scale of the need. It's harder to measure, what I want to suggest is at a fairly early stage, I mean this country has only been a democracy for two years. I think sometimes the expectation is high not just from the most needy people but the expectation for South Africa to get its act together is quite high from the world community. We've been asked questions to show results after not just 40 years of destructive apartheid rule but 300 years of a lack of real commitment to building up the black population into a strong viable community. So I would just say that let's be realistic here, the demands are great, the legacy is tremendous and we are a very young democracy. I know that might sound like an excuse but I think those are the facts.

     The other problem though maybe can be less excused and is the more serious of the problems and that is that I don't think that it is for lack of resources that we're seeing not enough happen on the ground amongst the poorest of the poor. The problem is being more and more diagnosed, identified as being a log-jam between resources and delivery and the capacity of the communities which make up the poorest of the poor to actually access and use their resources which are there. We have had millions if not billions of rands pouring into this country in the area of development.

     The IDT itself was founded with the capital base of some two billion rands which the former government put at the disposal of this independent organisation during the very early part of this decade when it saw the writing on the wall and I think tried to position itself as a care-giver and to show a more compassionate side of its face and I think to position itself for its long-term political future. So there's no lack of resources. The problem is that that money very often doesn't get to where it's supposed to be because it gets side-tracked or it gets wasted or it gets misspent in some ways on inappropriate projects and in inappropriate ways. And the challenge to South Africa, to the government at national, local, provincial level, the challenge to NGOs which are working in the field of development is how to make sure, how to enable, how to build the capacity of the local communities to actually access those resources. And I'm not just talking about money here but there are other resources, skills, expertise, so that things begin to happen on the ground.

POM     Is corruption a factor in the misuse of resources or waste of resources?

CJ     It is a factor. I'm not sure how big a factor it is. I don't think anyone has measured the degree of corruption in cold, hard cash terms. As you may well be aware there is presently an investigation into the former Minister of Welfare's activities. He resigned, Abe Williams, yes. It's going to be interesting to see to what extent public funds have been, if any, have been drained off there. We have had some notable instances where corruption scandals have been uncovered or suggested and all of those, well there are quite a number of them which are under investigation or in the process. There is the Foundation for Peace & Justice issue, there have been a number of those. I think though that it says two things to me, one is that, yes, corruption is certainly part of the problem. I don't think though that we need at this point to get alarmist about it because corruption happens in all societies. That's no excuse. What I am glad about is the fact that we are identifying corruption this early in the process and I think when we do get alarmed we must get alarmed at the facts. Let's not be too alarmed just yet. I'm glad that we have a system that actually exposes corruption, that the system is transparent enough at this point to raise the alarm bells at an early stage in the game. But certainly corruption is there.

POM     I ask in the context of the IDASA poll about which there was some controversy which indicated that at least according to its sample people thought that the present government was more corrupt than the previous government and which elicited a very strong and angry response from the ANC. Leaving aside the question of methodology and sampling and all of that stuff that people raise against opinion polls, just taking its findings as they are, why do you think that that perception might exist out there among people?

CJ     I think it has to do with the fact that we don't really know how corrupt the former government was. We don't know that. I don't remember seeing any kind of details as to the nature of the extent of the corruption in the former government. To some extent I would hope that the Truth Commission might reveal more than just the truth about torture and third force violence and so on. We also need to know, and I don't think this is going to come out, I would be very surprised if it does come out, that people will confess to having milked or creamed off significant funds. So I think the IDASA poll needs to be seen against the background of the fact that it's dealing with a perception and a perception based on insufficient evidence at the moment and perceptions are legitimate, you can't argue with them. But when there are cold hard facts then it becomes a different matter, then I think it needs to be dealt with on that basis. So we don't know enough about the past. The other thing is that I think that there's a greater degree of transparency and accountability in this present government which, as I said earlier in response to your former question, enables corruption to be seen at quite an early stage. So I can understand when people say this government is more corrupt. What I think they are actually saying is, well we certainly can see the corruption but we don't know the extent of the corruption of the former government. That's the way I read that IDASA poll. I don't know what else one could say about it.

POM     There's a peculiar irony because you're saying in one sense the IDASA poll taken as a question of people's perceptions indicates a fairly high degree of disillusionment and cynicism about the performance of government and that in part is due to the fact that government has been more transparent and that transparency in a certain odd way is adding to perhaps the undermining of people's belief in democracy rather than contributing towards it.

CJ     I think that's the fault of democracy, that's the way it works. I think it works both ways, it cuts both ways. They are either going to say you're an honest politician but you're going to be transparent about your dishonesties, it cuts the other way. I think that that's part of both the problem of democracy as well as the strength of democracy and I prefer it this way quite frankly than having it the other way in which we didn't know and therefore we could live with a sense of self-delusion. What bothers me though is that I think timing is important. There has to be a certain amount of sensitivity to the process and again this is very delicate ground here. I think that organisations like IDASA who I respect greatly, I think that they play a very, very important role in helping to create a democratic society. They play the watchdogs in our society, we need those watchdogs, we need to have somebody tell us whether we are failing or whether we're succeeding. But there has to be a certain amount of sensitivity because I don't think that we have a very mature audience just yet. We have audiences who when you say something are going to hear it in the way which isn't able to unpack that and hear the basic truths. All they're going to do is to become alarmed. And I think that's true, if I may suggest so and this is very arrogant of me, both in the wider South African community as well as in government, that there are people in government who feel very nervous about having the very delicate democracy which they are trying to build up undermined by information which isn't going to be understood for what it's intended to be. I think that IDASA needs to be aware of that, or agencies like IDASA need to be aware that when it brings findings like this that it sets it within the context and the context is of a very young democracy where our own democratic processes are not fully formed yet and so that we are not able to maybe hear exactly what it is that they are saying. What I hear the IDASA poll saying is that we don't know enough about the past, we have a very transparent system now and that creates a perception in the minds of the general public that there's more corruption here and the government needs to be aware of that. So nail corruption as early as possible and set a tone in the country that anybody who is corrupt is going to be exposed quickly. I don't think that's a bad thing for the government to hear.

POM     But you're again into very sensitive areas here because there's the suggestion that information organisations, again like the media which has become a favourite ANC target of attack, or other organisations that are not perceived by the government to be playing their proper role in the 'development or nurturing' of democracy come under attack for undermining that democracy, yet you've got to balance that against the fact that for all intents and purposes certainly by 1999, unless there is some radical turnabout, you would be very close to having a one-party democracy where the alarm bells need to be even more sensitive and the watchdogs even more watchful. Do you think there's an attempt by the government now to bring these organisations into line, not in a bad sense of the term but in that they have their contribution to make and it must be towards furthering the democratisation of the country where democratisation is seen in a certain way, not seen in the way that you described it where this kind of transparency is a necessary ingredient?

CJ     I am very nervous of any suggestion, any hint of censorship in the media. I am not suggesting that. I am not suggesting that maybe this isn't the right time for them to be raising those issues. I think it is the right time but I do think that the media needs to be responsible, or any agency trying to encourage and strengthen the democratic process needs to be very careful as to how they do that. What is often lacking is sufficient information. So, for instance, the IDASA report gets headlined in some newspapers as "PRESENT GOVERNMENT MORE CORRUPT THAN PAST" and for people who are not used to dealing with information and reading the small print very often that's all that sticks in their mind. That undermines confidence in the democratic process. That undermines confidence in the government because what it fails to do is to say that given the poll thing, given the way polls work and given the fact that this poll is dealing with a perception, to spell out the implications of this, but if you don't have that commitment I think that we have a certain amount of government bashing and headlining things in such a way as to create a bit of a stir. I don't think that helps the process of democracy much either. I think it's incumbent upon the media to be responsible, to recognise the fragility of our democracy and to provide the proper kind of information which will help people to understand what the implications of that perception are across the board. It must challenge government but it must also build up an appreciation in the minds of its readers that we're dealing with a situation here in which the past was a hidden secret and the present is exposed by a much needed light and the press is part of shining that light.

POM     Do you think that there's an element of racism here? Again the ANC, Mandela himself I think last year on the occasion of his 500th day in office gave an interview in which he blamed some of the problems, not all of the problems, on continuing racist elements in white controlled media, that they are out to ...

CJ     I wouldn't begin to suspect IDASA, for instance, of that, of any kind of racism.

POM     No, the media in general, papers.

CJ     I think that there are some newspapers which are finding the change quite difficult to deal with quite frankly. They love Mandela and they hate the ANC and they have a real problem there because they don't know how to bash the ANC without Madiba who is a very party man in many ways, he really does identify himself with the party very strongly and yet manages to be a symbol of unity for the whole nation. It's quite extraordinary how he does that and that confuses the media to some extent. But, yes, I do still feel that there are elements in the media who have not been able to adapt to the changing circumstances of South African politics and who suddenly are braver at bashing government, and legitimately, than they were in the apartheid period. It's almost as if they don't quite know, and maybe it's not racism, as a kind of testing of their muscle in a society in which we have true press freedom because while they might be accused of racism and irresponsible reporting, they can report what they like now which is what they didn't do and couldn't do under the past regime, under the old regime. But I think because of that they need to realise that just as we can't go from total censorship to hard core pornography in one night, people can't handle that, so I don't think that we can go from what has been quite strict censorship in the media here to a kind of overboard bashing of all the institutions indiscriminately and without providing some kind of context in which that legitimate task of the press has to take place, it has to be critical but if it's going to be critical it has to do so against the background of information rather than just to be critical and banner headline things and say things and just leave everybody confused and with a negative taste in their mouth.

POM     Is this partly due to they don't know, lack of learning? It's like democracy is a learnt behaviour, tolerance is a learnt behaviour, news coverage is a learnt behaviour and if it's to be constructive you must learn what are the constructive bounds to do it within.

CJ     That's right. That's exactly what I mean. And we don't realise it. We're learning to be democratic. We think that democracy happened on 27th April 1994 but it didn't. It's going to be a continuing process and we all have a part to play in creating the variable patterns of democracy, including the media, including the press. It's a very delicate process and I know that there are some things which we hold very dear like press freedom and so on but there's a difference between freedom and license. I don't want to bash the press or the media but I think that maybe they have some learning to do because no-one as far as I know in the South African media have known what it is to operate in a press free society, they don't know how to do that. They have learnt some bad, in fact there was a certain degree of self-censorship which the press exercised under the previous regime in order to keep their newspapers open and going. They saw what happened to newspapers like The Rand Daily Mail and others which closed down because they didn't exercise that self-censorship, and that was a learnt behaviour.

POM     Dot you think there's a need to over-compensate?

CJ     I think so. It's an over-reaction, over-compensation I think.

POM     Do you think this, because I see it so often in ANC statements, it's the media, the media coverage, the media this, the media that, that there may develop on their part a tendency to view the SABC as their counter-mouthpiece and that a tendency may grow to turn it more into a state, government news organisation?

CJ     As under the former regime? Yes I think that could well happen. I hope to God not. It certainly doesn't look as if it's going to happen now, not the way the SABC is operating at the moment. I don't think it will be a mouthpiece for anything just yet. But I think we need to be careful that we don't do that, that that doesn't happen, the ANC isn't tempted to try and defend itself through the SABC. I don't think it's an unhealthy situation at the moment. I don't mind it too much. I think that there is a certain amount of testing of muscle also between government and the media which has to happen and I don't think we're going to stop this process. I just think that people need to understand, at least acknowledge, where they are coming from. The government has a tendency, will always have a tendency, to be defensive given the fact that - I think it's an unfair comparison to be compared with a government like the previous one and nobody wants to be compared with the apartheid government. All these newspapers which, for instance, have been less than critical of the previous regime and many of those editors and people who own those newspaper companies who operated and made a good profit under the old administration who now claim that they never ever supported apartheid, are now wanting to bash the present government for looking too much like the old one. So I think that there's a certain amount of lack of candour which operates in our society as a whole and we need to be a little more honest about where we're coming from, where everybody is coming from and where we potentially can end up. I think any government has the potential to be corrupt. The ANC is not made up of saints. The newspapers are not made up of objectives, people who come to the South African situation fresh and who don't have a history in the old South Africa. We all have a history in this country. We are all therefore liable to bring some of that legacy with us and I think we need a certain degree of honesty here and transparency about where we're coming from so that we at least understand.

POM     When you talk about there being a certain lack of candour which exists in the country as a whole, do you think that lack of candour is something unique to South Africa?

CJ     No, I think it's the nature of things. I think the test is whether we acknowledge it or not. When I say candour I probably mean both truthfulness and realism. I think that the ANC mustn't ask of the South African public that we see government as being always well intended, made up of good honest politicians. Clearly we have exposed already the corruption that we have seen is there for all to see. I think though that what we need to remember is that we have a government of national unity, it might be predominantly ANC but it's interesting that as far as the corruption is concerned in the case of the former minister he's a Nationalist Party person. The interesting thing is that if you read the media you don't immediately understand that. What comes through is that you have a corrupt government here. It's an ANC government, therefore the ANC is corrupt. Now I think that's what makes the ANC mad because what they have gone out of their way to do is to create a government of national unity so that people who lost the election are actually part of the government of the day. I'm a simple person really but the way I see it is that you have a government in which the losers in the government are not just the legitimate opposition but actually part of the government of the day. That a member of that government from the party which lost and which actually was the government of yesterday, the corrupt government which was overthrown and which was the administrators and architects and masters of apartheid, that a member of that government is being put on trial for corruption, that's over-stating the case but he is being suspected of being corrupt. But that's not what comes out in public. When the IDASA opinion poll is made very often the people asked don't understand those, what I would consider, obvious nuances. All they see is Abie Williams, he's a member of the government, the government is Nelson Mandela's government, Nelson Mandela is ANC, therefore the ANC government is corrupt.

POM     He's also a non-white.

CJ     Yes he also happens to be a non-white.

POM     I want to go back to your ...

CJ     Therefore blacks can't govern.

POM     Yes, the underlying message is it's going the way of the rest of Africa.

CJ     That's right. And the South African newspapers don't unpack that and say, well let's just look at this, what is happening here? They don't help us, there's no in-depth analysis of just spelling out what I've just spelled out. All it takes is for somebody to say that somewhere but nobody says that in the newspapers. So it leaves a rather distorted picture. We're not at unpacking those distortions, we leave them because at one level the truth is that a member of the government of the day has been accused of being corrupt.

POM     It happens all the time.

CJ     But we're not a normal government yet, we're not a normal society yet and we must stop pretending that we've got a perfect age-old democracy. We don't, we don't even have it in terms of our government structures here.

POM     Do you think observers, critics, outsiders or whatever, are too quick to impose their standards of what democratic societies are or their institutional values on you when (a) you are culturally diverse, different from them, and (b) are in the very initial stages of democratisation and (c) that the concepts of democratisation are under examination everywhere. One could reasonably argue that.

CJ     Yes, I usually say I'm not asking for anything more than to be given credit where credit is due as well as to point a finger when it's important to do so. But very often we get credit for things which are maybe not as crucial to the democratic process. We get credit for playing wonderful sport which quite frankly I'm thrilled out of my mind that the South Africa cricket team did not win the World Cup. The last thing we need is another diversion from getting to grips with making the real difference on the ground. I accept, with the President, that it creates wonderful national spirit but, for goodness sake, we can't go on literally playing games. There are far more fundamental areas of our life which we need to be putting real energy and commitment to and focusing on, and I don't see the same kind of passion and the same kind of patriotism, and the President said this the other day, being geared towards those efforts. So I think that we can go on fooling ourselves that we're really wonderful and terrific and the whole nation draws credit and basks in the reflected glory of our sporting heroes. What we need are some heroes on the ground. We need some political heroes. We need some heroes in the business field who are going to take some risks. We need some heroes who are going to provide jobs, get down to make some decisions, not buck-passing. We need to get beyond over-consultation where people are afraid to make decisions. We need some heroic leadership at that level as well. And, yes, we've done some marvellous things in this country. We've also done less than marvellous things in this country.

     We are learning. I think, for me, the issue is not the question of standards of democracy, the question is timing, the question is accepting the fact that South Africa is but two years old and that there is a heck of a lot of work to be done in this country to build up democracy. Democrats are a lifetime in the making and we need to have a realistic sense of the fact that there is much yet, there are many building blocks which need to be put in place. For instance, let me just look at the 1999 elections where the fear of a one-party state is being raised. You raised it a moment ago. Now in any other democracy I don't think we would be talking about one-party states. You look at Britain, if Labour wins the next election, Labour wins. Now who is going to call it a one-party state? If the ANC wins in the next election we hopefully will have a system in which you will have an opposition. I don't know how truly democratic the present government is. I don't regard it as being a democratic government. It's a government of national unity. It's a wonderful concept and for the moment it's right, but it's not a democracy. The will of the people as to who should govern us isn't being demonstrated. We're represented by the Nationalist Party and the IFP and other parties, the DP and so on, all of those people are now determining the way in which this country is governed. I didn't vote for the NP to govern me. I didn't vote for the DP to govern me. I put my mark for my political party and I think that's true of the majority of the people in this country who voted ANC. We have accepted in good grace that it was wise and politically expedient that we have a government of national unity, but democracy as far as I understand it, and as far as it refers to elections, that process as far as it affects elections is that the party which wins the most votes gets to govern.

POM     But the corollary of that is that there is a reasonable possibility of there being a change in government.

CJ     Yes.

POM     Given the present set up one looks at just the ANC and the other parties, for the indefinite future the ANC should be definitely in power.

CJ     Quite.

POM     Which is not what ultimately a democracy is supposed to be about. It is to be a multi-party democracy which has an effective opposition and the opposition has a reasonable chance of one day becoming the government.

CJ     But it's incumbent on that opposition, in my understanding, to be able to sell to its potential voters something which people will buy and if they don't have something which the electorate will buy they can't expect - they have to prove themselves in effect a democracy. And that happens in Britain. The Conservative Party has been in power for how many years now?

POM     Sixteen.

CJ     Sixteen years. Does anyone accuse them of being a one-party state? It's taken labour 16 years to get its act together, to come in as an effective opposition.

POM     Well hopes!

CJ     Well all right, OK, but it's taken them that long. All I am saying is let us be judged by the same standards because otherwise we will have less than a democracy in South Africa.

POM     Well what you're saying would seem to me to be two things there. On the one hand you're saying we're just a young fledgling democracy whereas Britain would be regarded as an over-mature democracy if anything so that different standards apply in terms of how one makes judgements about stability, about the depth of how ingrained democracy is in the bones of the society and it's institutions.

CJ     I guess I am saying two things and yet I don't think there's that great a divide between the two things that I am saying. I don't think that they are diametrically opposed things. What I am saying is that let's be careful that we don't ask of South Africa at this point in our history to be producing results, it's in terms of the results, the processes need to be democratic but don't expect the results to be here today. We have to educate people. We have to gear the resources to build up our society and there's so much to be done in this country. There is so much repair work to be done, there is so much new building. It's reconstruction on the one hand which means that there was something to construct in the first place which isn't working for some reason or another, and there's development which is new stuff.

     So I am saying it's early days yet and give this country a fair chance. Don't expect of it results like yesterday. And let's give the present government a chance to produce and give our society an opportunity to get it's act together. Some of the questions which are being asked now maybe are being asked too soon on the one hand. On the other hand I'm saying that let's not put a less than adequate vehicle in place in order to achieve those results and my contention is that the present government of national unity is a creature of convenience and of expediency. I think everybody acknowledges that. It's part of the reason why we're not producing the results as quickly as we should be because given the way in which the system works the parties in government which didn't win the election can now, if they want to, undermine, kibosh, sabotage programmes of the government of the majority. Now that's not democratic either and I think we need to confront that problem. So the sooner we get down to a government which is representative of the electorate, which can be judged by its constituency, my understanding of democracy is that the government of the day is judged by the people who put it in power. It's government of the people by the people for the people. It's accountable to the people as well, and that if the ANC doesn't produce I think you are going to credit us with some level of just basic intelligence in this country, that if it doesn't produce we're going to look to a government which does produce and the party which can produce. That will ensure that democracy is there. I don't think a government of national unity which is a perpetuation of this is necessarily going to ensure that because we have got too many political agendas operating.

POM     Let me pose this in two ways, one, you have the National Party with its attempt to define this new vision for itself which I would say offhand that their chances of attracting black votes in the foreseeable future are about one in a million and if they go around believing that people's memories are that short they are stupid or they're living in fantasy land. So if you're talking about a realignment of politics, the real realignments we're talking about that would really take place, if the ANC doesn't produce, on the ANC side, are of the ANC fracturing some way into left of centre, right of centre or whatever, rather than the National Party with its Christian values and core values, whatever they are, attracting black voters and saying we can do it better. That's not a realistic situation.

CJ     That's not realistic at all. But if you follow up the implications of that the only way in which the Nationalist Party can position itself is being a centrist party which is what it seems to be wanting to do with holding up the core values and we're in the middle here, we're the centre party, the ANC is right of us or left of us. Everyone else is around us but we're the people in the middle. The only way it's going to have any chance of doing that is within the present schema I think and the only reason why they can be talking about having any kind of existence at all is because they have a place in the government of national unity. If you were to excise them from that they would have to go and do the work on the ground and they would have to be into the business of building themselves up as a real opposition. At the moment they don't have to do that. They can ride on the coattails of the ANC and be in power to a certain extent whereas if they weren't in power they would have to be spending some of their energies and resources in building up their reputation, building up these core values and occupying this middle ground.

     But what bothers me is that there seems to be, I detect, and maybe I'm oversensitive here, that when you look at South Africa and you say well we don't really have a real opposition here because on the one hand the Nationalist Party is out of its head, on the other hand the DP is too white a party and too middle class a party, Inkatha has just shot itself in the foot and is shooting everyone else as well in the foot and anywhere else they can shoot them, and the other parties are just too insignificant to be a real opposition, that we then have to be accused of or be warned about becoming a one-party state. You transport that scenario to any other western country, take it out of Africa if I may suggest, and then it's not a problem of a one-party state, it's a matter of a lack of real opposition and a party which doesn't have a vision and so on. You begin to apply a whole different set of criteria and use whole different language. I think that we have a real bogey which is an African bogey, a tokoloshe if you wish, about one single party being too strong and then it's a one-party state when it's in Africa. Everywhere else it's failure of adequate opposition and we can have a party as, again I'm going to use Britain, when you think of the United States for instance where conservatives were in power for such a long time with the Reagan and Bush years and so on, and you have a two-party state there in which one party can be in power for years and years and years and years, and yet it's held up to be the example of democracy. At least here you have the possibility of a multi-party state. I don't think anyone stands a chance in America of starting a third party for instance, let alone a fourth or fifty party.

     So again you see I think that that's part of the problem I have about how we are judged in South Africa. It's too soon, and yes maybe there is a sense in which we have this bogey, this bogey of one-party state which is the fear that the west has about Africa and totalitarian regimes and so on. I don't have that concern. As a South African I don't have the concern of this country being run by one party or, maybe to put it even more bluntly, I don't have a concern of this country being run by the ANC for the next ten, fifteen, twenty years. I think we have enough of a commitment to democracy as a whole in this country. We have had an experience of living as black people. We have experienced living in an undemocratic society for too long to want to go back to that under any government. Never again, never again. We've got enough democrats, people of a democratic spirit in this country to make sure that we are never going to live under a totalitarian regime ever again.

POM     Why do you think the National Party withdrew its proposal to continue the government of national unity after 1999? Simply because it knew it would never prevail on the issue or because it decided that the more it remained a small voice in a government of national unity it could never become an effective opposition and it had to make a choice between one or the other?

CJ     I hope it's the latter, I really do. I would hope that the thinking and influence of people like Roelf Meyer in the party is beginning to be the voice which is being heard there. There is a core of some forward thinking progressive people there. Maybe one day the National Party will shed its past. Maybe one day it will be able to occupy that position. That's way down the road and I think that the sooner they get on the road to do that the better. I don't think we can go on for ever holding a grudge against the Nationalist Party. In fifty years time I would hope that the Nationalist Party would have changed its position so much that it can with real honesty and integrity say we are no longer the party of the past. At the moment, again, I think it's a damn cheek for it to be wanting to claim that when it hasn't even repented of the past yet and it's an arrogance which is just beyond comment. It is a fantasy but it's typical of Nationalist thinking. They have lived in fantasy land for so long that once they stop fantasising about this then I begin to believe it's a different party but fantasy has been too much of the old legacy. I would hope that one day they will be a legitimate opposition in this country but at the moment we have a government and potentially a party which has enough of a political agenda to hold this country together until such time as another party can come up with something better and deliver the goods more effectively, this is the party which is going to have that responsibility. That's democracy.

POM     Let's go back to delivery and the IDT for a moment. You're dealing with the poorest of the poor and one of the factors you mentioned of being of great importance was the pure scale of the problem which begs the question, is the problem growing at a greater rate than the ability or the resources to use, or the ability to use the resources that are there or the resources themselves are to address them?

CJ     I think it's difficult for me to - I don't have statistics on hand to know whether unemployment at this point has increased, whether homelessness has increased or not. What I do know is that we have a commitment, at least there's a commitment to addressing those problems. There's no longer the turning of a blind eye to those problems. There's an identification of those problems. We now know something of the scale of the nature of poverty in this country and we have a policy, if nothing else, and I want to say, I don't say that in any kind of negative way, but there's a policy, there's the RDP which is a commitment to addressing those issues of poverty and the needs of the poorest of the poor which is a damn sight better than what we've had before.

     So anything is better than before. We also have a number of visible signs of redressing the issues, particularly in the area of land, the return of land to communities which have been dislocated. That's beginning to happen. We have seen some housing happening, we have seen a commitment to providing primary health care in the community. We weren't having those things under the last regime. We have seen the commitment to changing the education system and improving the state of schools and so on, so things are happening. It's a massive problem though and my contention is, and this is why I am where I am, my contention is that we cannot address a problem of this scale in a fragmented way. We can't leave it just to government, we can't leave it to just a number of NGOs. The more we network the greater the potential to begin to meaningfully impact on the problem. It's like getting the best medical minds around a patient to look at how we can, to look at getting some kind of common diagnosis, to look at how we can bring our various expertise in to deal with the problem.

     I was saying to somebody this morning that one of the major problems that we have, we've got resources, we've got a heart which is pumping out the resources, we can gain, we can access those resources, we've got a foot which is cut off from the circulation and we need to identify where the thromboses are and we need to go in there and dislodge those thromboses. Now the problem is that we've got people all making different diagnoses, all attempting to deal with the patient which is South Africa and we do it in disparate fragmented ways rather than pooling our resources, rather than networking which I believe to be the way forward here. Part of my task in this province as Provincial Director of the IDT is to be talking to local government, national government, provincial government, talk to business, to talk to community organisations and say, let's identify the problem together, let's look at how best each of us can bring our skills to bear. Let's work out a strategy and deal with the problem in that way rather than have people undermining each other, trying to build empires, protecting turf, wanting to come out with some kind of feather in their cap, either for political gain or whatever, which is what we are in danger of seeing happen in South Africa. We've got too many players. We've got too many people creaming off money which should be going to development and paying consultants hundreds and thousands of rands if not millions of rands. We're getting too much of the money which should be going into the community being spent on over-duplication, on multiplication of administration. So that's where I think we need to be looking at addressing the issues of the poorest of the poor. There are just too many players in the field, too many agendas, too much turf protection and we can't afford it given the scale of the problem. It's a big problem, it needs a big response, not little responses all over the place.

POM     I'm always a pessimist, I'm one of the people who have been saying for 18 months that the Irish ceasefire would break down, I just didn't see it working when I looked at it. What I don't see here is the country getting out of the poverty trap in the sense that it's entering into a global market place, its wage level in its industrial sector is out of tune with the level of productivity. Already you have textile firms that have moved to low cost countries to do their production and are importing with the reduction of tariffs, that trend is going to continue. You have economic growth which has now become a feature of ...

     Does not the terms of reference of the commission itself in a way militate against that happening in the sense that it says that actions for amnesty will be judged in the context of the political policy of the party that was involved, that the political policy of the party that was involved was to maintain apartheid, well then a crime committed on behalf of that political objective is regarded as being no different than a crime committed on behalf of the liberation from apartheid so that liberation from apartheid and apartheid are almost treated as being morally neutral. Do you know what I mean?

CJ     I know exactly what you mean. I have a problem, I think we really do bend over backwards in this country to avoid - I think there are some truths which are being avoided here which we are too afraid to confront because the consequences of facing those truths are just, to use that over-used South African phrase, 'too ghastly to contemplate', and so we do everything to avoid it.

POM     So those truths are?

CJ     I think the fact is that we can't, it's like saying to Hitler or to Goering, given the policy of your party during Nazi Germany you were perfectly within your rights, that what you did is morally neutral.

POM     That's right. So that your policy was to eliminate Jews and therefore any action you took ...

CJ     No-one is going to buy that and I think we often in this country are asked to buy morally indefensible positions and maybe voices like mine will go down shouting, but it needs to be heard otherwise I think we're going to get into a situation down the road where people are going to say, well I can do what I want to do, I can go out and mow down a bus queue of people and given the political context that will be OK. OK, I don't think that's occurred quite frankly.

POM     The first applications that will be heard are the applications from 1200 prisoners who range from murderers to house burglars all saying that their actions were committed with a political end.

CJ     That's right, I was just re-allocating resources, that's why I broke into his house and fleeced his television set.

POM     It was my way of smashing apartheid.

CJ     That's right. Undermining the SABC's propaganda machine by stealing these television sets and selling them to the poor. One doesn't want to be facetious but that is the kind of ridiculous situation in which we could find ourselves and I think it's part of the real danger of the Truth Commission. That's why there are those who have real problems with it. However, having said that, I really think that Desmond will bring to it a nuance which only he can bring to it quite frankly. I think the decision to appoint him to chair that commission is a master stroke because he does bring, it's his great strength. He's not a politician but he is a reconciler and I think that reconciliation as a concept is probably one of the worst and most difficult things to try and understand because you're talking about reconciling the irreconcilable, but that's precisely where I think Desmond's strength and the strength of the tradition from which he comes in which he can say the alternative is indeed too ghastly to contemplate. Unless we do this what are the options? No Truth & Reconciliation Commission? Do we just obliterate the past, forget about it? That's not going to be possible. Do we go out and try and punish everybody for their crimes? That's not possible. Somehow we're going to have to find not necessarily a middle way but a different way in which we expose the crime, expose it, and that there be some reparation.

     I think that what's missing in the Truth & Reconciliation thing is the reparation decree, elements rather. There needs to be some form of reparation, some form of atonement if one's going to use religious language here, in which you're going to have to put right what was done wrong. Certainly you can't bring back a Steve Biko, you can't bring back an Imam Haroun, but you're going to have to look at compensating the loved ones of those people. Unless we look at reparation and compensation for the hurts caused, whether it be as non-economic as a public statement asking for forgiveness, to say I'm sorry I did this, I can't bring back this person I killed, I can't undo the torture I inflicted upon you, all I can ask of you is not just amnesty from prosecution but real forgiveness, and some kind of commitment to serving the community in a way which not undoes the past but ensures that the past doesn't recur. I think that's what justice demands.

POM     How do you balance in this the need for stability against the need to know? For example, let's just say that a De Klerk was implicated or had knowledge of crimes that were committed and that that would create national instability, or maybe even a better case might be a Buthelezi in the Malan case is on the verge of being implicated already but was drawn more deeply in where he becomes like an indicted co-conspirator, do you go ahead and prosecute him or even if it resulted in a lot more violence in KwaZulu/Natal, a possible civil war between the ANC and the IFP who would see this as a final attempt to get Gatsha? Or do you hold off in the name of ...?

CJ     I think the Buthelezi instance is a very interesting one because if, for instance, he were to be implicated in the Magnus Malan trial it seems to me a number of scenarios could unfold for him. One is that he could come clean, he could seek amnesty with the Truth Commission and then I think unless some kind of, what I was saying, some kind of reparation, acknowledgement, confession takes place and some attempt to put right what he has done wrong, and I would suggest that one way in which he could make a contribution is to really dedicate Inkatha to a peace process there and to call off his dogs of war in KwaZulu/Natal. That would be a positive healing thing to do.

POM     Would he be required to step down as the leader of Inkatha, Home Affairs minister?

CJ     I think it's going to be a political decision isn't it? If his role as head of Inkatha is more beneficial for him, that it's more beneficial for him to retain that role and lead Inkatha into a peaceful relationship with the ANC and so on and bring them into the process more, then I think that political expediency might to some extent have to be taken into account there. I would suggest that if he, having owned up, still operated in the way in which he did, then he would have to face the consequences of saying you have to step down or you have to be unseated because what will happen is that the conflict in KwaZulu/Natal will continue anyway and maybe even be exacerbated, who knows. And, again, it's a political decision in which one has to weigh up whether any good is going to come out of it and if no good is going to come out of it I think we have to then bite the bullet. But Buthelezi can't be allowed indefinitely to go on maintaining a situation of, and perpetuating a situation of, unrest and violence in KwaZulu/Natal. I think those are some of the implications of him being implicated here. I just don't think that it can be business as before.

POM     What if they are all acquitted?

CJ     Acquitted? I think we then have to accept that as the judicial process in the legal system, in a democratic system as having run its course. If they are acquitted it would mean that hopefully they would have had a fair trial, that the decision to acquit them was based upon normal judicial practice, either there was insufficient evidence or they were proven to be innocent, and I think we have to accept that. I don't know how you argue with that. You wouldn't argue with it in another democracy so I don't see why we should argue with it here.

POM      As happened in California and O J Simpson.

CJ     But what do you do about that? Go and assassinate them, take them out? The alternative is anarchy or an undermining of the process.

POM     Would it put a stop to the prosecution of other senior security personnel or give them the signal that they are better off taking their chances not going before the commission?

CJ     It may work both ways. I'm not too concerned about the kind of message an acquittal will send out. You know it's a legitimate part of the process and if people are acquitted, they are acquitted. I'm afraid that at some point we have to decide to play by some rules and standards. The Truth Commission is not the only recourse people have is it, or that the people as represented by the state have to deal with the past? I don't see it as a conflicting means of dealing with those crimes. You can either go to the Truth Commission or to the courts and each has a role to play. If the courts acquit then so be it. The commission grants amnesty then so be it.

POM     What if at the commission I confess and I lay out my crimes and the commission says that they are too heinous for amnesty to be granted, can I then be prosecuted or have I already put myself in double jeopardy? I have already convicted myself.

CJ     I'm not sure what the legal standing of a confession to the Truth Commission in the courts will have. This is where I think you need the wisdom of Solomon and where Desmond - honestly I don't know what the entire frame of reference would be in which the Truth Commission is working regarding a crime which would be regarded as too heinous. Maybe there would be some preliminary hearing or something at which a decision could be made as to whether or not to come to that commission. My understanding is that the commission doesn't give you guarantees of amnesty and that's one of its, not necessarily short-comings, but those are part of the problems which are going to confront people who have an extremely heinous crime. But I think what you're saying bears out my concern about the Truth Commission, that it's going to be an extremely difficult process. I don't think there's any guarantee that it will necessarily always produce the desired result and that is of clearing the air. It's operating, I think, on the experience, and it's a limited experience, of some prominent people in this country who when having been confronted with their torturers, jailers, attempted murderers, have shown an incredible capacity to forgive. It's a risk. The Truth Commission is a risk that is being taken by a country which has taken some significant risks and won them. Maybe those risks, those acts of faith are exactly what are needed to make South Africa work. Maybe that's what makes it such a unique political phenomena. We have taken risks which other countries like Northern Ireland and Great Britain aren't prepared to take, which the Middle East aren't prepared to take. We've taken risks and they've paid off. Maybe one day we will come unstuck like the South African cricket team did but I think in the final analysis I would say it's better to have risked and taken a chance and experienced some honesty and truth than not to have risked at all.

POM     OK. I know you're anxious to get back. Thank you for all the time. It's always a pleasure.

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.