This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 May 1996: Mhlaba, Raymond
POM. Let me ask you first, Premier, what's your assessment of the new constitution? Do you think that it gives more powers to the provinces than the interim constitution or that the balance is essentially the same between the two, as in the old constitution?
RM. Well I haven't gone thoroughly into the constitution. As you know I've been away and I haven't gone through the final stages. At one stage I was told that the provinces were going to be given more powers and it does appear that the people do say, the opposition does say that the new constitution has actually diminished, has reduced the powers of the provinces.
POM. It has reduced the powers?
RM. Yes. Whether that is true or not, because what is actually dominating in the minds of the opposition is a federal structure. When they talk of powers of the provinces they actually think in terms of those powers in their federal structure, in a federal system, so I am now not sure exactly as to what they are talking about.
POM. But do you think that for you to execute your duties as Premier that you need more power?
RM. I don't need more power. We have got powers already in terms of the interim constitution. We have been running for two solid years without any problem but the opposition, the Democratic Party, the National Party, are saying that let the provinces be given more powers. Actually what they want is a federal structure.
POM. And you're not in favour of that?
RM. We are in favour of a unitary structure for South Africa.
POM. After two years on the job in probably one of the toughest, if not the toughest province in the country, what are the accomplishments that you're most proud of?
RM. The accomplishment, one is unification of the province, the bringing together of the Transkei, Ciskei and the Cape Provincial Administration as one administration. That is an achievement. Secondly, it is the integration of the police force into one central command, as well as the army.
POM. Now have you managed that? That has been accomplished?
RM. It is accomplished.
POM. It has been done?
RM. Accomplished, yes. In other words the process of transformation has gone a long way. We have accomplished certain things which are now in existence.
POM. Did you find that because of the way the interim constitution was structured that you were stuck with an awful lot of excess civil servants from the Transkei and the Ciskei?
RM. The question of a bloated administration has been there before we came into power. It is there, we have said from the beginning that we don't want it, we don't want a bloated administration. We want a lean administration. We are therefore in the process of rationalisation to streamline the administration to a smaller size. This is a problem which is difficult to do. What will they do with these people? Is it retrenchment? How do we do it and so on? We don't want to increase the unemployment which is big already there. We want, therefore, to introduce a system whereby we are able to handle this matter in such a way that the people are not suffering. This is the process we are working on at the present moment.
POM. That must be very difficult.
RM. Very difficult, very difficult to achieve that but it has to be done.
POM. Some of these civil services I think, particularly in the Transkei, had given themselves very large salary increases.
RM. That is true, that is why we have commissions investigating all these matters. The commissions are there, are doing so, even on the question of property we have got commissions getting to find out how much property has been actually taken away and given with cheap money to other people. Now those commissions are working and I am getting reports.
POM. Now what's your greatest disappointment after two years?
RM. The greatest disappointment after two years is that we have not yet delivered. That is the fundamental thing. We have promised that we are going to deliver. We have got a lot of problems. The roads are bad, the hospitals are old, the schools are old, everything in fact is old. The agricultural projects are owed a lot of money, so many millions they are owing. The management has been poor. We have to reorganise all these things to put it in a proper businesslike fashion. This is what we are trying to do. Can we do it on our own? That is the question. As a provincial government we cannot do it on our own. That is why we have gone to the central government to say that all the debts which are owed by the previous administration through the homeland system must be wiped off so we start from a clean plate.
POM. Those debts would be owed by the former homelands governments.
RM. Former homelands.
POM. To South Africa?
RM. To South Africa and to other industries, other organisations. It may be through the bank, for instance, for tractors, they are owing so much and so on and all those things. Now we want now to put the position better. What we intend doing, we said to central government see to it that all the debts are wiped off and then we start from a clean slate.
POM. Because that would be if that didn't happen that part of the allocation you get from central government would have to go to paying off debts.
RM. We will just be swallowed. We couldn't move. We can't administer, we can't run the government. In actual fact it means that. We are in a better position because the central government is fully clear about our situation. They have come in to say they are prepared to help. We are busy now trying to deliver now, bringing water to the rural areas because our province has got a big rural area where we need water, the question of maintenance of roads and so on. We are now busy with that. Organisationally we are at an advanced stage. We are now starting to deliver. Electrification of the rural areas is going very well. In rural areas where there was no electricity it is being introduced now.
POM. So when you look at, say, the next three years left in what used to be called the government of national unity ...?
RM. Yes it's no longer there, by the 30th June it's a new government. Perhaps it is a good thing.
POM. What are the greatest challenges, what do you see as the main things you want to do in the next three years?
RM. In the next three years the major thing we must do is to change the situation as far as possible to bring about a better life for our people. What have we to do? We must see that there is water, maintenance of roads. We must see that there is work. Unemployment is very high. People will keep on stealing, will keep on committing crime. We must reduce that as far as possible. We must create jobs. We must invest as far as possible, we must build factories so that people work. Once we do that we shall have changed the whole complex, economic complex of this.
POM. This has been the singular most difficult problem the central government has had in the last two years, that even though you have had economic growth you have no change at all in the unemployment situation. The number of people unemployed is still the same, in fact it might even be getting worse.
RM. You know the unemployment figures are very high in South Africa.
POM. Yes, over 40%.
RM. Very high yes, which means about seven million or so unemployed people.
POM. For example, one industry in the Eastern Cape would be the textile industry which is going to lose jobs.
RM. Motor industry, textile industry, yes. The motor industry, textile manufacturing industry and so on.
POM. With trade liberalisation they are going to lose jobs not gain jobs. The textile industry is already complaining.
RM. You mean moaning about it, imports and so on, yes. There is that situation too which complicates the situation.
POM. So what do you do about that?
RM. What can we do about that? We cannot say of course that we are closing. The old National Party at the beginning of the 1980s and so on that we must impose restrictions, regulations so that people do not bring goods into the country because the people will hit us back and we ourselves we won't export. You see it's difficult to make such laws. Now what do we do actually, what do we have to do in the main really is to step up employment, create jobs for the people so that people have jobs.
POM. Where do you get them? Where do you create them? Everybody says create jobs.
RM. I have been abroad, for instance.
POM. Vancouver, New Jersey.
RM. Yes, we are saying to those people, Come and invest in the Eastern Cape and they are of course planning to do so. A number of business people are going visiting, only this month a new plant is going to be opened in Port Elizabeth on 29th. I will open it myself there. The Engelhard Company, it is opening there, but it is on a small scale. It's about 300 people, small scale. We want more people to come in to the country.
POM. Now you have the power under the interim constitution which is in effect until 1999 anyway, do you have the power to make bilateral agreements with foreign governments?
RM. No, no, not bilateral agreements. We haven't got such powers. We will be actually now trespassing. The Foreign Affairs Department is there in central government. All we do is to invite people to come in to enter into contracts. That we can do as a provincial government to enter into contracts.
POM. That's on a company basis?
RM. No, no, all we do is invite them to come. When they come here of course they will come in the normal way of getting permission from the Immigration Office and all that.
POM. So what do you see as your greatest disappointment for the country as a whole, not for just the Eastern Cape?
RM. You mean the country as a whole? I have no disappointments. We set up what we thought was a proper political solution, the government of national unity, to bring about all the racial groups together so that they partake in the running of the country. Now they are withdrawing because they are objecting to certain clauses in the constitution. That we can't help, we can't solve that.
POM. Do you think that's a healthy thing for the country that now at least they can be in opposition?
RM. Well after all the whole western world is opposition. The parliamentary democracy, the parliamentary system throughout the western world has opposition. That is the parliamentary democracy. That parliamentary democracy has been there in South Africa. The opposition in South Africa has been there, there's nothing new about it, but we thought in starting this new change, political change in the country, that we must have the minority groups working together with us so that the reactionary forces do not have a chance of organising a counter-revolution.
POM. Do you still see those reactionary forces there or do you think they are by and large under control?
RM. There are a small percentage of them. Whether or not they have the power of conducting a counter revolution is the question. We ourselves, we have been building ourselves for the last two years, integration in the army, in the police force and so on. Whether that process is complete and strong enough for us to resist a counter revolution is something which will be proved by time.
POM. Do you trust the loyalty of the defence forces?
RM. Well it has to be tested you see. Insofar as we are concerned it is responding very well to the government.
POM. But you would still be suspicious?
RM. I can't say suspicious because as a Premier, for instance, I am working well with the police force, the top to the bottom. I have no problem. I have no problem with the army. Whenever I call the army and the police for a certain thing, say for instance the blockage of the roads by taxis, they are there.
POM. Are you surprised?
RM. I am surprised by it.
POM. Are you surprised that in fact you've gotten on so well with them?
RM. I'm not surprised because perhaps it may say that we have done well, you can say so. We have done well because taking into account our history, our past history, you can say we have done well because these things were never in fact - not a single soul has dreamt about that, that such a situation can happen. We have co-operated peacefully for two years now. There has been no slightest sign of a counter revolution. I can't say, therefore, I am judging things as we are moving, so up to now we have done well. So far so good in other words.
POM. If the country can't create jobs, and this is a big 'if', what happens?
RM. In any country if you cannot create jobs, if the unemployment is high then you must expect trouble, definitely. You must expect anywhere in the country, you must expect trouble. As a matter of fact my visits which I've done in these three countries recently I have found that automation is at its highest in the factories. I have been to Volkswagen plant, I have been to other plants in Germany, I have seen automation, the use of robots and so on, it's at it's highest. There are few workers in the factory, it's only people who are using computers and so on to run the whole big factory.
POM. So how do you then create jobs that make the country competitive? As you said, abroad every other country is using the highest technology, robotisation.
RM. You see in South Africa we haven't gone so far to make use of automation and so on as in Europe. I am talking about Europe now. We are still making use of human labour but of course certain factories are introducing automation and robots but not at the highest stage as it is in Europe. We are still depending on human labour here. But all I am saying is that if in any country there is a lot of accumulation of unemployment then you must know that that government is in trouble, definitely, no doubt about that. People are going to demand food, people are going to steal, people may in fact in the long run even start to resist physically.
POM. So if you had to look at the biggest problem you face in the Eastern Cape, is it crime?
RM. In the Eastern Cape we are faced with crime. In the Eastern Cape we are faced with unemployment.
POM. Crime and unemployment, they are linked together?
RM. Yes they are linked together. What we have to do then in fighting crime really we must create jobs. We will be fighting crime of course by arresting the criminals but what is fundamental is to create jobs so that people at least have jobs, they have food to eat, have a house to stay in.
POM. Again, I know that you haven't been following the ins and outs of the constitution because you've been out of the country but in the end there were the four big issues. On the lockout the ANC won hands down on that, would you think? The ANC got its way?
RM. The lockout is in the constitution now.
POM. No lockout is not in the constitution.
RM. In the draft. Its in the draft, the new draft. It is not omitted. What they intend doing now, they want to challenge, to go to the Constitutional Court to challenge that in the Constitutional Court. The lockout clause is in the new constitution, it's not out. It's in the new constitution. Now what the opposition is going to do now is going to take us, that's the government, to court on that to say that it must be - no, wait a bit, no, no. I am sorry I'm making a mistake. It's not in the constitution. Now they are going to challenge that that it must be in the constitution. I am sorry.
POM. Yes. So far the ANC won on that issue.
RM. The ANC has taken it out.
POM. On property rights, would you say the ANC got the better of that argument? Yes? The ANC got the better of that argument with the National Party on property?
RM. Yes that's right.
POM. The third one is single medium education. The ANC won on that too.
POM. What I'm asking you is that in the end did the ANC simply out-negotiate the National Party? When it came eyeball to eyeball did the National Party blink?
RM. The National Party agreed, they voted with the ANC.
POM. But they weren't very happy.
RM. I suppose after that they decided that they made a mistake, that's why they have changed their minds.