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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
22 Mar 1996: Giliomee, Hermann
POM Perhaps a good starting point would be, Hermann, just what we had been discussing. I'd asked you whether Cape Town had been as quiet as Wits and you had made your comparisons between what was to be two incoming Vice Chancellors. First of all what do you think the Makgoba affair illustrated and what do you think it has shown?
HG I think what is interesting is the extent to which the new government, more particularly the ANC, has considered the white liberal universities as part of their area of patronage, that Mandela immediately targeted people and said, "I want you in that particular position", so the white universities were seen almost as an extension of the state apparatus and that Mandela was particularly keen to get Ramphele in at UCT as Vice Chancellor. Now in the case of Makgoba, in the course of the ructions Mandela I think withdrew his support. I have got it on fairly good information that he said he should be reinstated, he should no longer be suspended but he is no longer backing him as Vice Chancellor. It seems also as if the Afrikaans universities, the ANC may view them in a similar light. It has made demands that the Afrikaans universities must reflect the population composition, it must start a process of transformation and I have got no doubt that the ANC itself sees perhaps not immediately but over a couple of years these universities to be getting a brown or a black Vice Chancellor.
POM I think what struck me about the Makgoba affair, and maybe its just symptomatic of larger issues in the country, was that it immediately was argued through the prism of black and white.
HG Yes it immediately became racialised.
POM To an extraordinary extent. Passions were heightened, intelligent people took extreme positions. Yet if I were reading it as an outsider coming back and having followed it when I was here last year and then coming back this year and picking up the paper and seeing it on the inside page, not on the outside page, seeing a settlement has been reached and that he had admitted to certain statements in his CV that could lend themselves to misunderstanding, I read that as a lawyer's way of saying he admits he was lying and that in fact he had fabricated certain parts of his CV and that in fact the allegations made against him were substantially correct rather than people saying that it was couched in all this kind of racism.
HG What must have happened must have been a fairly abrupt withdrawal of ANC support. I think he must have gotten word that they are no longer going to back him and I also heard a month earlier, a month ago, that Mandela has said that he is no longer backing him for the Vice Chancellorship. So I think Makgoba had little option but to make his peace and so on. But still it seems to me there is not even a question now any more that both Wits and UCT must have a Vice Chancellor to be deemed legitimate, must have a black Vice Chancellor to be deemed legitimate, legitimately engaged in transformation. Rhodes appointed a white Vice Chancellor and he probably will be the last one. It is to me to some extent reflective of the kind of one-party dominant state, not a one-party state but a one-party democracy where the single party is so overwhelmingly powerful that the universities become part of their system of patronage. Makgoba, from what I have heard, has played that line right from the beginning where he said the Senate may have taken a certain decision but the Senate being all white cannot really take a legitimate decision. So he has played the racial card right from the beginning and as it happened then it was also I think twelve of the thirteen who opposed him then were also white and they greatly resented being depicted as white racists. In a certain sense then we have gone the route of some American universities where these issues immediately become racialised, there is no way in which you can de-racialise them.
POM With regard to that I think one of the things that struck me during the whole argument rather than debate, was that the insinuations from many quarters that even if he had embellished his CV a bit, so what? If you're a disadvantaged person in this country an embellishment here and there may be something that's not only necessary but is to be applauded if not admired.
HG I think that was the argument and I think it was also something which obviously was double standards that no white academic would have been allowed to get away with it.
POM So what does this say about emerging standards?
HG Certainly it says that there are two sets of standards and that whites are naïve if they think that they can apply exactly the same standards to blacks that they would be applying to their white colleagues. It also means that no white basically can be seen as sitting in judgement over a black. Then obviously at universities it will be rare that it is the case that it will be only whites sitting in judgement and the thirteen academics have been condemned for not seeking alliances with blacks before they laid their charge. I tend to disagree with it, I tend to think that if you feel that what this particular person has done has violated university ethics then even if you can't get any black allies you should make your point.
POM So this whole trend you find one of the disturbing trends emerging?
HG It is a very disturbing trend, it's all very disturbing how the black journalists virtually without any exception have all followed the racial line, they have all followed the racial line and none of them have come out and said cautiously, "Now look there are some issues at stake." Some people like Ken Owen play it differently. He says it's inevitable that blacks will take over, let blacks take over, let them set their own rules. All I want to know is how are you going to maintain standards. He says all that blacks must tell him how are they going to maintain standards of excellence like in the case of Van Onselen, one of the thirteen who wrote this brilliant history which took twelve years to write. Now would you conceive, it will be the most outstanding history book in South Africa for the past ten, twenty years and can you conceive of a basically black run university allowing a white scholar to work on a black sharecropper and to do that for twelve years and get grants and aid and a research position, will that ever happen under a black controlled university? I think it's a good question but I disagree with Owen that you should necessarily say that a previously white university will not be legitimate unless it has a black chancellor. I think it is obviously all things being equal politically wiser to have a black Vice Chancellor but in general I think you should apply the same standards of judgement to a black applicant for a Vice Chancellorship as you apply to a white candidate.
POM Is there a clash of value systems emerging here, and I put this more in the context of what I've seen emerge in the last couple of years as this growing hostility between the ANC in particular and what has now become a pejorative, the white liberal?
HG It seems to be reflective of that. I think there is an assumption among some black opinion formers, not only ANC but also somebody called Aggrey Klaaste who is the Editor of The Sowetan. You know the review of the book that Joel Wentzel wrote, The Slide-Away Liberals, and actually it came down to what they resent about liberals is not implicitly taking the black side, that white liberals prevaricate and say there is also another part to the whole violence story and we cannot just assume the state was responsible for all the third force violence. What he was actually saying is that we resent liberals because they should instinctively know that justice is on our side, on the broader black side, and that you should take a position on core controversial issues which is favourable to the black viewpoint. There is no such thing as independently making up your mind and saying the issue is complex and therefore you can't rush to judgement. What Klaaste was saying is you must have a natural solidarity with us.
POM How do you see that reflecting itself in the Truth & Reconciliation Commission for example?
HG I tend to think that the TRC will perhaps make a greater effort than I previously thought to establish a certain degree of independence, a certain degree of co-equal status of the main contending partners, especially this insistence that the ANC leaders should no longer enjoy temporary indemnity. If the reports are correct Tutu has said to Mandela, "You know you can't operate on that basis that these people can still enjoy temporary indemnity and then not be obliged to go to the Truth Commission." I think there will be tremendous pressures on the Truth Commission to come out with a report that blacks find legitimate and in that sense the issue is to a very important extent pre-judged. I find it very difficult that the commission, given its composition, will now decide to become truly independent and to judge in an even-handed way the past 35 years. I find it very difficult. I think there was a greater chance in Chile where there was a deliberate effort to make, I think it was four from the regime side and four from the other side. Here you've got about 17, 18, you've got your obligatory ex-Nat, your obligatory right-winger, your obligatory IFP and for the rest I would imagine 85% of the rest would be pro-ANC, 85% or 90% of the rest will be pro-ANC. So I find it strange to believe that you will get an independent judgement out of that.
POM Can you apply the same yardstick of judgement to an individual in the MK belonging to an organisation which took up violence as a remedy of last resort, every other attempt to redress it's injustices having failed, with the crime of an individual who commits that crime to uphold the policies of an unjust and oppressive state?
HG I think you're casting it in the light most favourable to the ANC. First of all I wouldn't say that it was like the Jews in Nazi Germany. The situation in 1960, that violence was the only option, it was by no means a foregone conclusion. Mandela had people in the ANC differing from him about that. Even Albert Luthuli, the then President of the ANC, differed with him about that issue. Also whether you would say that this soldier who was acting against the ANC was as much seeing somebody who was in fact trying not to bring about the kind of democratic constitution that we have today, but was seeing someone who was trying to seize state power and may, if they had been successful ten years earlier, may well have tried to introduce a kind of a command type of economy. So to see it purely as apartheid versus democracy, or like the Cosby family against the Nazis, I really don't believe that that kind of polarity of dichotomy is valid. But even if that is so, the post-amble of the constitution really says that we must bury the conflicts of the past and there is no sense of one side having a superior moral claim in the struggle, it just says we must put the process now behind us and get on with our lives. It doesn't say that we must now try and establish some kind of hierarchy of morality or justice.
POM But you don't think it will work? Or it's going to have a lot of problems working?
HG I think it will not work in the sense that it will bring about reconciliation. I think it may in fact within the ANC, there may be a sense of "Look, perhaps we have gotten a bit of our own back." It could help the ANC's leadership echelon with its own kind of internal political problems, but it wouldn't bring about a reconciliation between white and black, not the way in which the commission has been put together, not with Mandela also using the kind of language like 'crimes against humanity' and that type of thing as if it was the collective judgement of the western world. In my speech at the Institute of Race Relations I pointed out that there were purely about twenty communist aligned countries. Just as I said in my speech, also Constand Viljoen saying that we fought against communism. I don't buy that either. They would have fought the ANC even if the ANC had no communist backing, no Soviet backing. It was a contest for a state, it was an ethnic state prior to 1990, it was an Afrikaner state and the ANC, legitimately, in my point of view, challenged that state in order to bring about a quite different type of state which will be much more sympathetic to African demands.
POM So in the two years since this government has been in power, really an ANC government, what are you disappointed in what it has done? What are you pleasantly surprised at?
HG Well I think the non-populist economic policy is one that's a pleasant surprise. No-one would have predicted that the economy would be so much in line with Reaganite type of macro-economic policies, there is a lack of populism, there is a financial discipline. I think that is remarkable given the kinds of pressures under which they are. Also attempts to cut government expenditure and so on, although it is by no means sufficient. I don't know whether you saw my article in The Cape Times yesterday but the whole thing on culture. That I think has been most disappointing. They simply haven't learned any single lesson about divided societies in the world. Now to start tampering with schools and undermining Afrikaans, both at the school level and at university level, I think is very stupid.
POM Let's back up for a minute to one of the questions you raised in your address to the Institute of Race Relations and that's regarding the essence of democracy itself. Do you think the ANC has any real understanding of the essence of what is democracy besides the crude equation of majoritarianism with democracy?
HG No I don't think so. They've balanced it a bit with human rights but basically for them democracy is for the majority to decide. The kind of consensus that developed in India for instance, that democracy is characterised by a balance of the views of the majority and the views of the minority, it doesn't have to be institutionalised it can be simply a sense that the majority must try and accommodate the minority in various ways. Now you can do it in various ways. You can do it in formal power sharing arrangements and perhaps that was always an illusion that that could work. In fact the National Party has paid the highest price for this power sharing arrangement. But at least you should go for some form of federalism. At least you should provide for minority rights especially in the form of mother tongue, the right of mother tongue education in state schools. Now in neither of those two cases are they actually prepared to concede much. I think if there is not firm leadership from the top of the ANC most of the ANC probably would like to squeeze out Afrikaans from education as they have done in the case of the TV, SATV where Afrikaans is left with 4% of prime time.
POM Many people say that this has been done in the belief that the threat from the right has for all intents and purposes disappeared and that when it came to put substance behind their bellowing back in 1993 and 1994 in the end they just kind of caved in and that therefore there is no threat from the right.
HG You can do what you want to do. Yes, we don't know, we simply don't know. It's possible that Afrikaners will say well basically we have been defeated, we must now take what we get, and this is a middle class they wouldn't engage in protest action. They may pay as little taxes as possible and evade and avoid taxes but that is the way in which middle classes through the world usually show their resentment but they wouldn't get together a guerrilla army or anything like that. One doesn't know. Yesterday there was a report in the English press there was a meeting of all the Afrikaans cultural organisations from the right wing, National Party and everyone, seeing Ramaphosa about educational issues.
HG Yes that was yesterday, that was reported in yesterday's Burger. It was in fact the first time that different ...
POM Was that in the Cape Times?
HG It wasn't in the Cape Times, it was on the front page of Die Burger. Cape Times, no, it's funny the English press just doesn't report on these kind of cultural issues. They have no interest in that. And it was the first show of solidarity again of right wing and National Party people and saying to him, look we will try and work with you but you must give us what is called educational institutions of our own culture, of our own authentic - if you do that we will do everything in our power to help you with your other educational problems but unless you concede that we can envisage very serious trouble. And this is what also the ex-Minister of Education, Piet Marais, has all along said, he's from Stellenbosch, that if this whole thing is just allowed to simmer there is going to be some kind of explosion somewhere and I just don't know. My own hunch is that the ANC may be making a mistake but one never knows. Perhaps the Afrikaners will just go and lie down.
POM One can imagine in Northern Ireland if you said tomorrow morning majority schools would be the prevalent schools and therefore there will be Protestant state schools and that's it.
HG What will happen?
POM What would happen?
HG What do you think?
POM You'd truly have a revolution.
HG Do you think it will be a revolution?
POM Yes. Or the flying of flags or the naming of streets in Gaelic. There's more emphasis on Gaelic in Northern Ireland than there is in the Republic. You hear it spoken far more frequently.
HG I just don't know. I would have never thought that the ANC would ever dare to do that. What they are actually now saying is there's no more any Afrikaans schools, all schools could be forced to be double medium, and as long as double medium is a static number that you take in that's fine but if it becomes, that's if it has the potential of leading to what's always called swamping, that your 10% blacks could next year be 20%, could be 40% and then they say, well we now want this entire school to be English. And the same thing with Afrikaans universities. I would never have thought that that would have been a very wise policy and I would always have thought that perhaps that would have very dangerous consequences. But then, again, I would never have thought the National Party would cave in over the last year of the negotiations between 1993 and 1994 and leave Afrikaans culture so exposed.
POM Why do you think that happened?
HG I think they were given assurances. One hears constantly that they were given assurances and promises by the negotiators but obviously the people now making policy are not the same people who were the negotiators and the negotiators go along with that. You see I can well picture how certain things could come about that they would say no-one should be excluded from a school on the basis of race. OK, there will be agreement. Then the ANC will say, but also not on the basis of language and the National Party would put up some resistance, then the ANC said but if you don't put in language then racist communities will just simply use language to keep Africans out. But of course I think they will give the assurance, "We will never use that to simply forcibly try and integrate schools." I think the National Party just swallowed all these assurances. I think the same thing happened ...
POM This is the tough National Party?
HG Yes. I think De Klerk, I from the start and the first time I met him I thought he was a softie, that he would never be a person to be very rough and rude and brutal way reassert authority. I think in the last year I think two things happened and one I was very forcibly reminded of when I read Patty Waldmeir's manuscript, and this is that when the whites gave De Klerk an open-ended mandate they signed away their own power. I think that referendum was enormously important, much more important, and the ANC suddenly said, "Hah! We don't have much to worry about any more, only a few fringe groups. The whites have already accepted black majority rule." And then De Klerk simply had no more any card to play. The other one was I think De Klerk was genuinely worried about the economy, of the economy disappearing in a black hole, that in a modern, sophisticated industrial state things could chug along but it could be that at a certain point you can get the kind of panic reaction which sets off say a Wall Street 1929 and this is probably what his business friends were saying to him, "Look we are still getting along but the thing is getting more and more serious. There could be a panic which could lead to a collapse of the Stock Exchange, could lead to a massive outflow of capital which you can't turn around in a month or two."
And then, of course, the collapse of the National Party was always, it was always the fact that once the leadership of the National Party becomes very worried about whether there is time enough to settle and to work out a proper constitution then there are no forces within the Afrikaans community that can mount a resistance campaign. I always think of Sunningdale where you had the street actions. Because the leadership has so completely almost absorbed all the forces of resistance within the white community there was no independent source of resistance, and of course there is no culture of violence, assassinations or shooting within the white community itself.
POM You said I think, and this is a quote, that the ANC have no real understanding of what their excessive dominance in terms of parliamentary representation may mean for the future of democracy.
HG Who was that quote?
POM That's you.
HG What, a year ago?
POM No that's in your address to the ...
HG Is that the report in the Cape Times, the Star?
POM That's a direct quote I think from the paper.
HG I don't think I ever said that. I think that report was in fact, the speech, I should have a copy next week. I just simply have no copy. I think that was what the journalist made of my speech.
POM I see. But you have talked about the ANC do not appear to have any real understanding of the essence of democracy?
HG I would have thought that you would have saved yourself a lot of problems if you had allowed for a greater degree of federalism. If you use the Western Cape simply as a kind of a safety valve and give considerable power to a National Party rule province, there is no chance this province ever would want to secede or whatever but they seem to be frantically trying to build up centralised control where they have the final hand on virtually every lever. So in that sense that you must give away some power in order to remain powerful, they haven't got anything of that. They are the typical Leninist vanguard party where you keep everything under control. I would also say that in terms of the constitution it was so imperative to get in KwaZulu/Natal that they could have easily played this mediation thing along. They could have called in mediators, mediators who in any case would have been so sympathetic to the ANC and even if they had given something which the ANC didn't like you could have immediately said we think this is unreasonable and we wouldn't to go along, but it would have called Gatsha Buthelezi's bluff. But it seems to me that because you are this kind of commandist, Leninist type of party you cannot play the democratic game. You must show yourself to be tough and that you will kick the other guy underneath the table and tell him to behave. This whole thing then also, I think in the cultural issue ...
POM Let's stop on the mediation thing for a moment because that fascinates me. Here was an agreement reached, signed, did bring Buthelezi into the electoral process and yet Mandela reneges. Now Mandela is associated with honour, integrity, all of these almost super-human qualities yet on this one issue that is such a simple issue that he reneges when all he has to do is call in a mediator and they sit around the table for twenty minutes, says there's nothing to mediate and I have a six o'clock flight back to London, and Mandela could say we have kept our word.
HG I agree with you. They can't ...
POM Why can't they see it, that it can actually lead, that it's consequences are proving, not that they may but are proving to be so?
HG I just don't know. I think it must be, what I always heard is that they can't deal with Buthelezi in a rational way. It's impossible for them to deal with him in a rational way and they test him so much. That's what Hernus Kriel, the previous Minister of Police, always said that. Mandela could talk still, in 1993, 1994 could talk with sympathy about Constand Viljoen but the moment that Buthelezi's name came up he just turned completely irrational. And then certainly, I think another way in which you could have played it is simply introduce some cultural councils and tell the Afrikaners, look you've got a problem in the small schools, there are over-crowded black schools and under-utilised white schools, put in place some kind of cultural council for Afrikaans culture and tell them to sort it out and tell them that unless they actually produce the goods then you will abolish the cultural council. But they are so intent, I think, in demonstrating that they have the power and you can come to them as a supplicant and say, look, please understand I have got a problem here, and to some extent they're the same as the National Party was in the seventies acting towards blacks and maybe each regime creates its counterpart in its own image. I tend to think the ANC may run into some trouble but I can't predict at the moment what they will do.
POM When you do come to culture and identity, the trend in the United States for example almost over-emphasises the importance of culture and identity whereas if you have two people who speak the same language there you can have their schools, their signs, their street signs, their everything. Do you think that the importance of culture as a component of identity has only been more recently recognised?
HG It's always because it was so assumed, it's taken for granted, but now the ANC wants to say to Afrikaners if you want to have your own kind of cultural education you must create private schools. But private schools you can't establish overnight. You need a tradition of private schools and a long history of private schools, and as I pointed out in my article I think the Afrikaans community, brown and white speaking Afrikaans, probably would be 75%, 80% working class. That is not a basis for private schools. But I think suddenly it has now, and the poll they have taken in Pretoria by the Volkstaat Council showing that the majority of Afrikaners now want some kind of self-determination for that Pretoria area is quite significant. It's very high the support, even the majority of English speakers start demanding that and there is apparently also another survey, in depth interviews with a hundred people, showing that the degree of alienation is very, very high and 70% are really talking about confrontation with the government.
POM This is with 100 Afrikaners?
HG 100 Afrikaners in the Pretoria area. But there was also a larger poll of about 600 I think of which I think about 75% now want something which you can say self-determination for that Pretoria area. They depict it as almost a tenth province but there is the idea where you have control over your own schools, have some kind of control over the government, but what is interesting, as I said, is the 100 personal interviews with Afrikaners showing a very high degree of alienation and willingness to talk about confrontation.
POM Now that poll, among one other poll that I want to mention, was severely criticised as I recall for its methodology.
HG Schlemmer is the person with the longest history, academic with the longest experience with polls and he was asked to assess it and he said he could find nothing wrong with it. I think it was 500 telephone interviews or something like that. Telephone interviews are recognised as legitimate, I don't think Schlemmer would have given his stamp of approval if there had been methodologically something wrong with it.
POM And it's certainly sticking your neck out, more than your academic neck.
HG He went on public television and said there was nothing wrong with the poll. But you've got, I suppose, some ANC people who don't like it. But I think the ANC up to now, I spoke to one of their directors of research or director of elections and he was saying, "No there is no polarisation, there is no support for the right wing." But I think where the ANC makes a mistake is to think that you test support for the right wing by testing support for the right wing parties, but it could be that whites supporting the National Party may become much more alienated from government than they thought.
POM Just to dwell for a moment on the National Party, is it a party now in search of an identity?
HG It's a typical centre right party, a party like the Christian Democrats in Germany. It is a party representing whites and coloureds and Indians. The point is that I can see no way in which they can break through to the black community.
POM De Klerk talks about this. This is fantasy land.
HG I think so. On the other hand you had 20% of blacks supporting the National Party in 1992, 1993 in polls, but then I think what blacks were disappointed in was the wimpish image of the National Party, They were looking for strong leadership and things like that and the National Party caving in ironically in fact destroyed their chance of getting significant black support by virtually caving in to the ANC and then the ANC being seen as tough, so what else could the black man want? Here you have got a party of your own kind and you've also got strong and resolute leadership. So I think the National Party's attempt to break through to the black voters is bound to have very, very limited response.
POM But is it not again condescending in a certain kind of a way based as it is partly on the assumption that even though you may have been the oppressor of a people for 40 years and maybe in a more general way for a longer period, that it did horrible injuries on ordinary people through the whole pass book system, the Group Areas Act and all of that, that once that's been dismantled that those people are going to say, OK let's forget about it and turn around and say these are the chaps we want to vote into office?
HG I also find it difficult to believe. I have met one or two of the National Party blacks.
POM Do they show a misunderstanding of what went on for 40 years?
HG I think, sure, that's what I would have thought but now you are compelled to compete and especially the Zionists, these quietist, non-violent, they felt uncomfortable with the revolutionary image of the ANC but apparently the Zionists have given the assurances to the National Party that they would support them and that support didn't materialise. But here in the Western Cape I've met one or two of the blacks who are on to the NP's bandwagon. Now one of them, Malie Hawser(?), is in fact a genuine character. He has got some support of about 7,000 votes here in Crossroads. What they resent is the ANC's bully tactics, they feel that the ANC allows only one big party and that if anyone were not to accept the ANC's authority they will never get any crumbs, so that may over the longer run work in the favour of the National Party. But I agree with you, from the start I thought that unless you actually get National Party supporting blacks to go into the black communities and show their solidarity with blacks over an extended period of time you've got no hope of arriving at election time and asking for their vote. This is what De Klerk now wants to do. He wants to set up structures in the black community, permanent Advice Office structures. I still think it has very little chance of success.
POM Do you know of any country split along ethnic lines, or more severely along racial lines, where there is ever a significant voter crossover? It doesn't exist.
HG No it doesn't exist but very few people in South Africa know that, that's the amazing thing. If you read the commentary in the English language press it's as if the National Party must only start concentrating on economic issues which interest blacks and then they will get black votes, in the Sunday Times garble you get that. It seems South Africa is very, very insular in that respect. They think that we are going to be unique in being the first country in the world where ethnicity and race don't matter significantly in elections.
POM Yes. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. The IDASA poll, in fact there were two, the results of one perhaps not very surprising and that was on the performance of parliament where I think it showed the overall approval of parliament was about 53% but when you broke it down along racial lines it had 24% whites thought parliament was doing a good job after 18 months and something like 63% of blacks did and 62% of whites thought that parliament was doing a poor job. Again, how would you interpret that?
HG I was surprised by that finding, I think in the case of whites was the reports that you got in many newspapers of the great chamber being empty during debates and not realising that most of the work now takes place in committees. Then also the salaries of the parliamentarians. I thought that the poll was a bit unfair towards parliament. I think parliament is perhaps working better than the previous parliament.
POM Now the poll was unfair in terms of?
HG Unfair towards the ANC, I wouldn't say unfair, but I don't think the judgement of the people who participated in the poll was fair, I don't think at the moment there is evidence of corruption.
POM That's the judgement of whites?
HG That's the judgement of whites yes. But even a quarter of blacks saying that. I don't think there is that degree of corruption or whatever.
POM That's the other poll I was going to ask you about.
HG I think I'm mixing up the two now.
POM The first poll was purely on the performance of parliament and the second poll was on the issue of corruption, and on performance it was 53% overall said parliament was doing a good job, but when you broke it down racially it was 63% of blacks thought it was doing a good job as against only 24% of whites with 62% of whites saying that parliament was doing a poor job.
HG I think that possibly, as I said, could have had to do with reports of many people absent from parliament, many MPs absent from parliament, many MPs not arriving in time for meetings and so on. That has been fairly well reported in the white press, in the white controlled press, so that may be the reason for that particular sentiment. The one that I said was unfair was the perception of corruption because I don't think there is really evidence of parliamentarians being very corrupt as yet, or of ministers being very corrupt. But as some people point out the ANC's handling of the Boesak affair didn't really inspire a lot of confidence.
POM That's 18 months ago.
HG But it was high profile. Again, as I said, I think the judgement is a bit unfair.
POM Do you think that among, there's a poll that I've seen that has been done on KwaZulu/Natal which shows that among the people as an issue corruption doesn't really factor in at all, it's like 2% to 3% of the people it's an issue.
HG Is that so? I wouldn't be surprised by the finding of such a poll in KwaZulu/Natal.
POM This is conducted by an international polling firm who went into rural areas and did interviews, personal interviews.
HG But is that the judgement of the local Provincial Assembly or of the National Assembly?
POM They all disapprove of the jobs done by the central government and even disapprove more of the job done by the Provincial Assembly. So the level of dissatisfaction with government is extremely high but when you look at issues that are of concern, corruption is not an issue that is of concern. So my question is, again it's kind of a cultural question, have blacks a different cultural attitude towards corruption than do whites?
HG I think it's too early to tell.
POM Looking at Africa as a whole.
HG I don't know whether they approve or disapprove it but if you look at the entire, what is left of the African cultural system, then you have obligations to an extended family and you have to give gifts and things like that. I would rather not pass judgement there. I don't know enough. It seems to me what's happening in the American political system in terms of graft and corruption and gifts and influence mongering, I don't know how different that is from the type of corruption that we get in some of the African states, whether you are just more openly bought.
POM The other interesting thing about this particular poll is that 4% of people in rural areas approved of the performance of traditional chiefs.
HG 4%? But I suppose support for traditional chiefs would be much higher than 4%. They will disapprove but then they ...
POM Saying they are doing a bad job.
HG A bad job but then they wouldn't want the institution, especially if they are rural people, to abolish that institution. I've sat in on many interesting arguments about it. This particular case it was in Durban between university people, university blacks, and the one saying, "You must get rid of", Oscar Dhlomo, "Get rid of the traditional chiefs." And then the other one saying, "Then the next Indian will come and he will buy up all the land and kick off all the widows and the orphans from the land and where are you then?" That type of argument that you would get. This was two ANC leaning black intellectuals taking just diametrically opposite views.
POM Well since the day of Mandela's inauguration when you, along with every other South African, not just South African, every other person in the world held such high hopes for the future and devolution of democracy in South Africa, have you more nagging doubts about the path in which it is developing than you did have two years ago?
HG Certainly on the cultural issue. I think they are playing with fire on the cultural issue. Unless they get the cultural issue right in the next constitution I think we may be in for a rather bumpy road.
POM What about just in the development of democratic processes itself?
HG Also, my second area of concern is that you would have highly centralised government dominated by one party with none of the traditional safety valves that people elsewhere in the world have developed, like federalism, like minority rights. I think we've neither got federalism nor minority rights, minority rights as far as it applies to languages and mother tongue education. So you are embarking on a one-party dominant system with no safety valves.
POM Do you think that mitigates against the development of real democratic institutions outside of parliament?
HG Well it all depends then on your leadership. If you've got a benign dictatorship, let's call it benign autocrats in the system, working that system, they may make the system work democratically, but replace them with hard-liners on the leadership level then they can make that same system become a very autocratic system. So it's not the institutions, everything is dependent on the upper levels of the ANC leadership.
POM How would you characterise it?
HG At the moment pro-democratic but with authoritarian leanings, and it could be tested if we suffer a severe recession.
POM In the sense of? If there is a severe recession?
HG A severe recession could in fact, if you actually are talking about large numbers of people losing jobs, a budget deficit that is growing higher, and if they actually then decide to take some very unpopular measures, that they may become very intolerant of dissent. At the moment the ANC leadership with a modest amount of growth I think is democratic and I think they want to consolidate the democratic system. I don't think their democratic convictions are very deeply rooted. I think they could be replaced by people much less democratic, much less conciliatory and I don't think we have managed to develop institutions that could really handle intense conflict very well because you've got a one-party dominant system democracy. So it's like the Malaysian system with the Malays completely dominating or like Northern Ireland with the Catholics completely dominating government and not allowing for any kind of safety valves.
POM Nearly done. Your interpretation of the results of the local elections in November of last year, a couple of things struck me and I would like your comments. One was that after the elections the ANC claimed massive victory but Ramaphosa went after the media in rather a harsh way for their pre-election coverage and their talk about voter apathy and all that which was followed by Valli Moosa talking about the phenomenal success and high turnout and all that. They interpreted it as a massive endorsement of their policies by the people and the press said nothing. They reported a massive ANC victory and there was virtually no analysis of the results of the elections at all and then if you did just basic figures you saw that the turnout of eligible voters had dropped from 88% to 38%, that it was a drop-off of 7.7 million votes and there was massive disaffection and apathy no matter how you looked at the figures, particularly if you saw them in the light of it being the first occasion when blacks had the occasion actually to vote for black people as distinct from a black candidate. So to say we fell within the guidelines of western local elections was a totally wrong comparison and yet nobody ...
HG The press is just hopeless. I think Schlemmer came out with a report and then the Financial Mail had a page on his report.
POM The Financial Mail had?
HG The journal, the weekly Financial Journal, they had a full page to say at the end of it, why has no-one told us this before? He did it as a report for SACCOB, that business organisation, it's about a 50-page report where he makes exactly your points, but that came out about a month after the election or two weeks after the election. You should get it in the month after that. I've got the report but it's at home. I think he in fact assessed that the proportion of eligible voters is 30%. He points out that in Soweto it's 20%, in Soweto itself it was 20%.
POM In fact the figures I was looking at showed that the proportion of eligible voters among blacks had in fact gone down more significantly.
HG We have the same story here about the amount of money sitting here in the government departments and not being spent, housing money, and then the ANC would say obviously it's the old bureaucracy's fault, they are not equipped to deliver housing, they have never been able to deliver housing and then you could talk to some of the coloured members of the Provincial Council's Executive where they were talking that in the Cape Town area there were 120,000 houses in the eighties. But the press would take a statement like that and make no comment and say, wait a moment, this was the position under apartheid. Lack of confidence of our press, if you point out these issues that you would be seen as being supportive of apartheid.
POM Yet the ANC is relentless in their attacks on the press. On the one hand you are saying they are pussy cats and on the other hand you are saying the ANC sees them as being relentlessly critical.
HG I just don't know but I think the press has been bludgeoned into submission, the English language press. The Afrikaans press still makes these points and because I read both it comes across but you need then someone like Schlemmer to actually write a report and say to the journalist, look you've been wrong, the ANC has in fact deluded you. If you look at a newspaper like The Star, what it is now from what it was when you first had exposure to the country I think it probably deteriorated by 50%. Or what would you say? Has The Star in your time deteriorated as a newspaper?
POM Definitely, it's almost like American newspapers, I go through them in five minutes.
HG Like the New Haven Register, yes. The Argus you can read in three minutes. Somehow The Cape Times takes a bit longer, The Cape Times I think you can read in ten minutes.
POM It's always interesting, and it's more an observation than a question, but the editorial that ran in The City Press in response to the Mac Maharaj article on the press, they gave him a full page to really say that the press isn't concentrating on the things we're doing right and they reply with a stinging attack on the ANC for thinking that the media weren't doing their job and that the job of the media was in fact to point out what was wrong and not going on in government and their complaints about the gravy train and the like were reported because that's exactly what people talked about every day and if they weren't aware of that they were out of touch with people and they, City Press, were part of the 'mainstream press', not the white liberal press.
HG So they call themselves the main stream press?