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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
21 Oct 1996: Mokaba, Peter
POM It's been some time since I last saw you and a lot of changes have taken place both in the country and in your own professional life since then. But I want to begin with a funny kind of a question and that is, when you look back over your life are there one or two experiences of apartheid that are indelibly etched on your soul that you will never forget that are a part of the person you are?
PM The first one would be the way in which the government here treated my family, that is my mother, my sisters, my father. They broke my family, literally, and caused it to disperse such that it was only when I was released in 1989 that we started coming back together as a family and we are still trying to exist as a family. That's the one thing.
POM When you say 'when you were released in 1989', you had been?
PM From 1980 I have been in exile, I have been on Robben Island, I have been in and out of prison. Since then I have never slept at my place, my home, up till today of course, I have never been able to sleep at home. Now what they did when I was released from Robben Island in 1985 they bombed my home and earlier on when I was still on Robben Island they actually persecuted them to the extent that I have had to ask my sister during the one episode, that is this time was after 1985 during the state of emergency when they had also arrested my mother for just being my mother, nothing else, and left my younger sister alone, there was nobody else at home, then I asked her to also skip the country because there was no home, to lock the houses and to go to the ANC in exile. I continued with my prison life and when I came out they still arrested me. When I refer to 1989 it's because in 1989 that was the last of my releases, major arrests, but I still got caught again in 1990 and spent some time - and when Mandela was released I was still in prison and he asked the authorities to release me because they arrested me after he had called me to go and see him in Victor Verster so that he could discuss with me the issues of negotiation and explain the new direction of the organisation.
So they actively, and they did so with the declared intentions that they expressed to me that they were going to destroy my family in order to break me and that's what they did. Every action that they were taking against my family they used to inform me and I did see my mother chained and being brought to prison and was locked up for many months, I think it was more than nine months or so in prison without charge. That's one thing that I would not forget. May be able to forgive people but I won't forget that because the scar is on. I am still rebuilding this family. I have no family of my own now and I have just received a call, my daughter as I was leaving home, my daughter is not able to deal with that past also. The teachers had called the parents, my mother, to school to explain her grave sense of pain that she doesn't think the world likes her because her mother is married somewhere, I am just with her but that was also because I was not around and people thought that I was not going to survive the war. Many people thought that I was going to be killed in this apartheid. That is why there was no way in which they could wait and not get married whilst I was in prison or underground or doing battle somewhere with the system. And additional to that would be the sort of campaigns that they carried out against me even when I came out of prison. As a civilian up until Chris Hani was killed I had survived more than eighteen assassination attempts.
PM Eighteen, one eight, yes. During that time when Chris Hani was actually murdered I was supposed to be assassinated along with him. Fortunately I was briefed and I got the tips before the mission started by the ANC and by some of the people within the system who did not approve of the project who asked the ANC to remove me and make sure that I am out of reach of these people. From then on I had to survive another additional six attempts on my life. And they waged also campaigns trying to get the ANC itself to turn its guns against me, trying to cast doubt on who I was and what I was doing to them because they wanted to create conditions for them to be able to kill me. Unlike in the case of Chris Hani they wanted to blame that on some misunderstanding that they wanted to create within the ANC, which was not there. Now that campaign of course has been exposed. It was headed by one of the policemen, a big intelligence guy in the CCB called Ferdi Barnard, and a lot of them have since come to see me and they explained what exactly they have been doing, how they have been carrying on and how they missed me and where they planned to kill me. Some of things I don't even know about them because I was not aware that in areas where I was I was targeted.
POM What was his name again?
PM Ferdi Barnard. He was a CCB and when the Goldstone Commission raided the Military Intelligence offices they got some of the documents that exposed the campaign against me and that campaign they had already started with it. It was two-pronged. They were going to either kill me directly or coldly or get some other decoy to do that. It was exposed and since it was exposed a number of people who were participating in it from the system came to speak to me about those attempts.
POM Was part of that campaign an attempt to vilify you as a radical and somebody who was against ANC policies and who was bucking the system and with whom the leadership in the party were unhappy because you were making waves? Was that all part of the same campaign?
PM That was part of it. They planted their own people within the organisation and they planted people within the press because they could not get hold of the youth, they could not control the youth as long as I was President of the Youth League and as long as I was a leader there and they wanted to either discredit my organisation or my leadership or to put that leadership outside the mainstream ANC policy. Unfortunately for them I was in direct contact with Comrade Oliver Tambo and the leadership of the ANC. A lot of the campaigns that I was taking in the country were reported even before I launched them so I reported directly to Oliver and I knew that what I was doing was within ANC policy, there is nothing that ever was outside the ANC policy. But as I am saying, they did infiltrate our organisation, they did put in their moles within the organisation in order to try and weaken the ANC from within.
POM How do you feel today? Do you feel safe? Do you trust the security people you have around you? Do you still think there are moles, elements of a third force still operating in some way to either weaken the government or hinder its performance?
PM Well I do know that there are such elements. I've met with the members of the right wing who had broken away and who have confessed to that. Not right wing in the sense of Terre'Blanche, the right wing in the sense of those people who were within Mr de Klerk's fold who would still pursue campaigns of trying to weaken this government, of giving an image that this is no different from the rest of Africa, it's going to fail because no black person anywhere has been able to govern, which is the kind of message they are sending internationally, every single problem, every single thing, even those that are offered by them are projected as the problems of this government. They either want to project the ANC as a divided, authoritarian organisation despite the type of democratic constitution that we have bestowed to this country which no other country can match but they would still want to say that the ANC itself is undemocratic, the ANC itself is dominated by factions, the ANC after Mandela has got no life. Those type of things are part of the campaign to undermine the only government now in Africa, I think, which has accepted and embraced multi-party democracy and is doing the best and is trying to return the dignity of the black person in the whole world and that is why it has aroused a lot of contempt from that same world that is dominated by the old information order that is also very, very racist. I feel within the country that the forces of progress are in the ascendancy, that more and more of course we are isolating and are being able to expose those who do not like this transition but I cannot say that these people are not there, they are there. As I am saying we keep on meeting some of them who come and say, look I want to confess to this. The last time, for instance, was last month, Mr James Thorne who was a member of the CCB and a member of Koevoet came to me.
POM James ?
PM Thorne, he was killed recently in the Eastern Cape. He was a Captain in the Koevoet and the CCB, he had killed a lot of our people. He came and confessed and by the time he came to see me also he came to say that, look, there are people within the country who still think that they can reverse the course of events and they have got international backers. And these are people from the right wing within that very same mainstream of Mr de Klerk, Mr de Klerk's people. And as we were trying to organise a meeting between him and the Minister of Police to make sure that he can put this information before him, he went home to see his children and that's when he was killed. So I would say that democracy in our country is secure but it is not without it's own enemies like in any other country, but it is secure, it is going to deepen, it is deepening, it has been accepted by both whites and blacks. The constitution is something that the majority party, the ANC, believes in, it will never be repealed or even be tinkered with easily because we believe that it would secure the kind of salvation for mankind and for ourselves that we would like to see. We are not safe as individuals yet from these forces but the cause is very safe, very much safe.
POM Let me talk for a moment about somebody that I've known since 1989 and have been interviewing since 1989 and in fact I would say is a good friend more than just somebody I interview every other year, and that's Bantu Holomisa. In fact I just bumped into him last night at the Holiday Inn in Johannesburg, he was on his way back to Cape Town to mediate in the taxi strike and I know you were fairly close to him and I am going to see him this Friday to talk to him. I'm publishing nothing until the year 2000, so I'm not interviewing you for something to appear in the paper tomorrow morning. A lot of people I've talked to think that the whole thing could have been handled better.
PM Well, true, we could have handled it differently and I have said so myself, but I must say that both on the side of the organisation and on the side of the General himself there were mistakes. I did speak to the General about what I thought should be his manner of handling this case because we must all accept that no organisation can exist without rules. Those rules are geared towards defending its integrity and assuring that it is able to execute the task that it has put before itself. What I think is that General Holomisa did not totally grasp that kind of essential message of all organisations, and I don't blame it on him. Holomisa has just joined us, he is two years in the organisation and he joined us latterly, he did not come organically through the structures of the organisation so he would not be aware of the ANC culture and system as I would be. He did not have a branch that worked with him. He did not have the organisational systems that worked with him, that educated him about the ANC. He came in on the Patriotic Front ticket, an alliance that we formed in order to win an election, an alliance that is based on both differences and agreements, but agreements were the overriding base of this.
So at the start that was not understood by the General. In the first place to refer to the things, the matters that he dealt with, there was no question on the part of the ANC that people before they approach the Truth & Reconciliation Commission should vet their information with the organisation before they do that. I myself am going to be approaching the TRC for them to delve into some of things that my family suffered. I know that it will affect a number of people, those that have moved and are now with us, but it's my duty as a leader to warn them before I do that because the major project before us is one of deepening this democracy, it's not one of satisfying our individual needs.
So you have to balance both your own individual commitments to the commitment that you share with others. That is where I think the general lost the balance because the main question that the ANC asked at that time was, "Couldn't you have warned Miss Sigcau that you are going to do this? Couldn't you have warned government that you are going to do this? Couldn't you have also, when we have decided to do that, mentioned the whole case and say look I also set up the Alexander Commission and that Alexander Commission has cleared her and couldn't you put the whole information before the nation and the commission so that people could make judgements, because if you put it in a selective way that's an injustice to the other party and that party you are working with in government as a colleague?" So those were the questions.
Now the press, which is not very much in favour of the ANC tried to assist Holomisa in committing further mistakes in that regard. They harped on the issue that it was wrong that it was never raised, that the ANC is saying that he should never have approached the TRC before his information is vetted by the organisation. There is no such policy. I myself told Holomisa that there is no such policy in the ANC that requires members to vet what they are going to do or say in the TRC with the organisation before they go there. I said so. Now that is why - and the issues there are more subtle. That's why I say you would understand them if you have been with the movement and you know what the major task is.
Now the general public is also confused, they think that the ANC did not want him to approach the TRC which is not true because the ANC is the organisation that set up the TRC. We cannot be at the same time the organisation that says that TRC cannot and should not work and should be without certain information that will assist it in looking into the past of human rights violations. But I am saying the education, the understanding is what the organisation, when it came into the country, was unable to carry through with the new members like the General himself. You see when we joined the ANC outside you would not be given a gun until you have been taught and educated in the theory of struggle, everything that has to do with what it is to become a member of the ANC. That initiation is what the General never had and many other people today who constitute the MDM and so on never had such initiation you see. So you can't blame them. There is a portion of the blame that we will take as an organisation from this point of view and a portion of the blame that the General himself must take as a person who was thrust into a position of leadership and therefore has had to look into certain responsibilities.
Then came in from that initial mistake these exchanges in the press that then indeed put the ANC into disrepute and that is what then really the people finally said no, a member who is loyal and not only loyal but also a convinced member of the ANC would not do this. Firstly they pointed out, if you are a member of the organisation how do you say, as an NEC member, that a disciplinary structure that is set up to sustain the organisation, to look into matters of its integrity, is a kangaroo court. How do we then keep discipline within the organisation when leadership itself does not seem to be respecting those structures of the ANC? That was the first question. Secondly, how do you say the ANC is corrupt when there is no proof of such corruption because there was I think a mistaken inference or direct message that was put out to say that the ANC by receiving two million from Sol Kerzner has sold its soul and therefore the ANC would not want to see Sol Kerzner prosecuted and therefore the ANC accepted that money with corrupt intentions, with the intention of defeating the ends of justice and the General did not have the matters himself when he said, "Take yourself out of the top drawer of Sol Kerzner before you can even deal with me", and that he would not want to be dealt with through the structures of the ANC itself, that is the Disciplinary Committee, but he would want an independent tribunal, that the ANC should then get an independent audit, as if we don't get those audits, to look into our books.
It was a major offence to everybody else that anybody could suggest that a person of Mandela's stature should be so likely blamed of being corrupt. To make an allegation of corruption it's serious in itself. To make it against a person like Mandela it's even more serious and to make it without proof is worse. The question was, all right, it was Mandela who actually went to Holomisa to say this man has contributed some money towards our election, we have collected 20 million from the business community in South Africa, he is part of that, we have collected some 80 million from people outside the country to fight this election. And now he is saying to us that there is this case that you must expedite because it is harming his business. No suggestion to say stop it. Expedite it because he says it is harming his business and nothing else. That was the intention of the old man. Now everybody now says that we want to fight this corrupt ANC today and he has not gone out to say to these people that, "I never made the allegation that the ANC is corrupt", but in fact he listed certain leaders to say they were corrupted by receiving gifts and so on from Mr Kerzner. But you see if you are ask the question, what then did these leaders do to stop you from prosecuting, because then the ANC was not in power, he was in power together with De Klerk, what could the ANC have done to stop the prosecution? Nothing. And now it is established through the parliamentary portfolio committee's own investigations that in fact the people who refused to extradite Sol Kerzner were the National Party and De Klerk himself and not the ANC. But damage, the organisation has been rubbished, it is a corrupt organisation. We have to fight with that image.
President Mandela is a person who has won the admiration of the world. He has won the Nobel Peace Prize. He is holding the country together and indeed it is not true that he has acted corruptly in raising money from business in our country. That is the hurt that everybody suffered. It did not and does not advance the objectives of the ANC. That is why I said to Holomisa just after he has put up his case in appeal, I said to him what you should do now is to apologise, please apologise because this one is so serious that you can't hope to survive with it, unless you've got proof that Mandela is corrupt. Then he said he was not going to apologise and that's how the axe then fell. But it is not also true that the ANC wanted to destroy him. I know in the inner circles of the ANC that that was never and would never have been the intention, it is still not the intention and everybody regretted that the General did not see it fit for him to come forward and say, "I have erred and therefore forgive me". Up till this moment of course he has not said so and the press which is anti-ANC seemed to be pushing him in that direction of becoming an alternative to the ANC. Now that plays into the hands of those who kept on saying you will never mount an effective opposition from outside the ANC, you need to break it from within. Of course the General is not doing that and he is not aware of that but this is what now those who remain perceive him to be doing, but he is not doing that. I am convinced that he is not doing that. He simply wants to come back to the ANC but the manner in which he is conducting this plays in the hands of those who are saying that moment we have spoken about, that the ANC is a broad church that needs to be divided, that effective opposition should come from within the ANC, has come. Read the press from this week that's what they have been saying. It's something that De Klerk when he left the government of national unity also said. But I am saying it will be wrong to simply fit in or factor in Holomisa in there. I don't think he has got the best advisors. I don't think he himself would want to see the ANC destroyed.
POM Are there people within the upper echelons in the ANC who think this is what he wants to do or that he is being slowly nudged in that direction by the media or by others who are manipulating him?
PM Everybody thinks so, everybody thinks so.
POM So he continues to damage his own position rather than to help it by his activities.
PM You must understand that the ANC is also aware that it is moving towards transforming itself into a party. Certainly certain people are going to fall out but they will fall out on the basis of interest, that their interests are no longer catered for by the ANC so they need a different movement to cater for their interest. That is as you deepen democracy, these party groupings will come as apartheid recedes and its legacy is resolved. You will have people beginning to unite on a different basis other than to fight apartheid. We are aware of that type of movement that is inevitable, that should be encouraged so that we go into a firm multi-party institutionalised democracy. But you see this what the General is doing is not part of that. If anything the General would remain with the ANC when the others would break on ideological grounds but now it's an unfortunate tragedy that because of, I think, also his own inability to say I apologise, to recognise the hurt that others would suffer as a result of his action, that he has had to suffer in this fashion. That is why I have got nothing personal, he is my friend and remains so, and I told him that. He remains my friend but you see I've got friends who may be or may not be members of the ANC and it remains that way.
POM Do you think part of it has to do with the fact that he was a dictator in the Transkei and head of state, head of government, head of whatever, the Army Council, and he got used to doing things his own way and used to being above structures, that he was the structure, so that the point you were making, to come down and become part of a living organism like the ANC which has its rules and its structures and something which someone evolves into rather than just becomes a member of?
PM Exactly. That is one of the problems I think that, as I am saying, the initiation, that would have taken into consideration where he came from, that would have introduced him to this ANC because it's got its own core, it's got its own inner systems and cultures that really you have to know if you want to survive within it like any other organisation. It can't survive without organisational culture and systems and rules and sometimes it is not even just rules, conventions. Of course his own past is not without an influence on what he has done and what he continues to do and he is not wrong. I am saying those are the things that the individual must recognise and the organisation must recognise and a programme of initiation must be worked around such things.
POM You mentioned the media a couple of times, do you think that the media is still a white controlled instrument which has as its purpose to show that the ANC isn't up to it, that blacks can't do it, that South Africa is inevitably going to go the way of the rest of Africa, as they put it?
PM That is so. I would just indicate this one example. When Johnnic was being sold, part of its stake is in the press, the media, one of the controversial issues that emerged was that the present owners did not want to change and they wanted people to sign an agreement saying that they would not change the editorial policy. Now if that does not prove our allegation, what else? Because if it is such a watchdog which is disembowelled of political views why should there be an agreement that says don't change the editorial policy? That is one that indicates the type of thing that we're talking about. It's a matter of public knowledge that no black person owns these things and they emerged during a racist era and never fought alongside us against apartheid, the press never did. They conformed each time in order to make money. They exist for money, it's business. Their main mission is not to inform but to make money using information. That's all. Look at the manner in which I am dealing with tourism. South Africa is today emerging in international tourism as a crime-ridden country, but that image is promoted by the press. You have been in the streets now, nobody has tried, I don't know, tried to mug you but I am sure that that would not happen to everybody who comes here. There are many other things that we are doing that are good but not promoted by the press. To them good news in Africa cannot be. We are pigeonholed, we remain an African country. Yes we are an African country, but we are different in the way in which we want to do things and we believe we don't have to be less African or more than African to do those things but the press is fixated into a picture that says unless you are white there is no way in which you can run a democracy or a country as sophisticated and complex as South Africa. And that's the picture they are trying to promote. They are whipping that picture every day. To them that is the only news about South Africa. You compare the type of crime that is taking place in a society like America and us. It's an unfair comparison. We are in transition, they are long established, they are 250 million, we are 41 million. Here we are trying to bring up the black person. There the white person is still dominant.
POM When you do workshops, like you were in Mauritius this weekend, when you do workshops or you go to international conferences or whatever on tourism, how big a factor is the crime factor in terms of the questions you are asked?
PM It is the main question that they ask. It is the main question that they ask because that's the main thing they know about South Africa. They don't know any other thing. They have heard about South Africa but it has always been in the context of crime and maybe Mandela, but they don't ask about Mandela, they ask about crime. It's a big factor and I am saying I don't want the press not to report crime, but I am saying there is an alternative, more sustaining view of South Africa, an imagine which is not coming out and I still believe that the press can still be critical but still be positive in a democracy like ours where we have offered them for the first time this unfettered freedom that they never enjoyed with the past regime. And we are not doing it as a favour, we are doing it as a need, as a sine qua non for democracy. We believe in it. But that is not even recorded by them. They don't inform the world about this, that their right to information is even constitutionalised. They don't, no. They are looking for the minor negative things and those are the things that they are promoting. I must tell you that if you had a different cadre of the journalists, people who know, who come from the struggle, who share the same vision of building one South Africa, a democratic South Africa, black and white, a non-racial one, they would not write like that. They would still write about crime and condemn it but they would be very conscious of the fact that they still have to ensure that this country is so attractive to both the investor and the tourist that that is what they should not damage because the more you damage those chances the more you deepen the socio-economic problems that would actually evolve into crime again.
POM How about in the black community, the reaction to the acquittal of Malan and the Generals?
PM That is of course condemned, even by the ANC, but it's a case of a criminal trying himself. That's the difficulty of the transition we've inherited. That McNally operated in apartheid to defend apartheid. He was not going to prosecute apartheid as a new prosecutor from the new system could have done and he hasn't done so and the case was never meant to be won by the democratic forces once it is run by the perpetrators themselves. And that is why the black community is justifiably angry, frustrated. McNally and those who actually dealt with this case, the judge is not to blame, are not aware that they are now asking the people to opt for different methods and lose confidence in the courts. That's what they are doing. They are not committed to the stability, they are not committed to reconciliation.
POM Do you think it was a set up, that he said, "Well I have to prosecute a case, a lot of pressure is being put on me so I'll pick a case that I'm going to lose and then all the guys I indict they will be off the hook because it will be very difficult to prosecute them again after they have been found innocent on one set of charges, it's very difficult to either reopen the case or to start charging them with new charges?"
PM It was a set up, nothing else. This apartheid machinery in terms of the bureaucracy, their officials are still working and unfortunately these are people who don't share the democratic values that we would like to share with the world. We were never interested in hauling Malan before any court. We wanted him to go to the TRC so that we can have an opportunity to forgive once we know the truth. They were interested in blocking these things, hauled him before the courts, it was not us, so that they could close the case in as far as the apartheid chiefs are concerned.
POM What about the Truth Commission itself, do you think it's doing a good job? On a scale of one to ten where one is very poor and ten is excellent.
PM No, no, they are doing an excellent job in terms of their mission. The mission of the TRC is to address first and foremost the sense of grievance that is real and valid of the people who suffered under apartheid, to expose the human rights violations of that apartheid past so that none of us should wish to go back to that past, to enable the South Africans to deal with their own past, both victims and perpetrator, to forgive each other because the process before us, the project before us is to establish this democracy and defend it as a people and win because we have got responsibility both to ourselves and to the future of our own children and to the world. So the TRC in as far as that is concerned is doing its best. It's just that it's being frustrated by past bureaucracy.
POM You have spent three years nearly now where a major concern has been what is called 'alleviating the fears of whites', making sure that white fears are taken care of, that they don't feel threatened, that they know they are part of a new South Africa, that they are welcome here and on occasion Mandela, I think, has been accused of bending over backwards to pacify or appease whites. Yet nothing seems to satisfy them. It's three years and they complain about everything and everything is getting worse. Do you think, for example, they actually care about the Malan acquittals, whether they care about the revelations of the TRC or whether they say, "Well I had nothing to do with that, I never knew what was going on", and they just continue to wear these blinkers and complain about the way blacks are messing things up even though to my eye most of them appear to be better off. If you go out to Rosebank any night of the week and every restaurant is full and the streets full of BMWs and Mercedes and you don't say, gee these people are hurting.
PM You are right. The whites are wearing the blinkers. They don't want to live up and own up to that past that was so difficult for their own fellow citizens and it has been sold to them and you can't blame them sometimes because apartheid has taught them against the black person and there was no period of education to re-educate them, to get them to understand and to love their own environment, their own people. There has been no such thing. They still fear, they were taught 'swart gevaar', that is black peril and such things, which things are still there in their minds and in their own consciousness. This thing is going to come, I think, with the new generation of young whites who are now going to school with blacks and can live with these blacks. But from the old whites we can only expect at least these doubts which should not degenerate into despondency and attempts to fight against the system. The complaint is baseless that says that Mandela and the new government are just looking into white fears and nothing else and that is a major concern. It's without any justification because if you look at exactly where the RDP money is being spent, nothing in the white areas. What we are spending in the white areas is goodwill and trying to get them to understand why we must spend in the black areas so that we transform them and bring them to the level where they are.
Now why should we complain about spending goodwill? They are squandering it, the whites, but we think that's the only thing we can spend. We still need to bring water, sewerage, development in the areas where blacks used to stay and we still need to see whites also moving and going to live there because conditions have improved. What we are realising now is blacks moving from the black areas going into the white areas and these areas are being non-racialised. They are becoming very non-racial, a positive force that we want to promote. But I am saying those who make that complaint and that allegation against Mandela don't know what they are talking about and they have not looked at the facts. How many rallies of blacks does the old man address, in the black areas do we address? And how much do we follow up in terms of money and projects? And within what constraints, because we are left with a debt of 251 billion which we must service at 30 billion a year without foreign reserves. And we have inherited a bureaucracy that does not share the vision of this government and does not therefore expedite matters for us in terms of delivery. But of course we can't blame the people for relying on perceptions instead of reality. Not many people are given to calculations or looking beyond what is perceptible to you. Of course that also has to do with our own communication strategy. We are guilty there that we are not able to communicate, we are not going to the people. If you listen to people who go to Holomisa's rallies they are saying the ANC has abandoned us, there is no-one coming here to tell us things, which is a genuine, valid complaint. We must go to the people, we must work with them. That's what we are not doing.
POM Do you think that there is some validity to the criticism that the ANC leadership, whether it's too busy or it's become too used to the new ways, have distanced themselves from the masses of the people in the township?
PM No it's true, that there is a measure of relaxation in that regard is true but to say it's part of a decision by the ANC leadership to distance themselves is not true. The fact of the matter is that we are here at the head of the very same spear that is supposed to crack an open way for these communities and this is where fire is concentrated really, where we still have to win democratic power, judicial power, economic power for them, for these black people. It's a new battle terrain. But of course they are right to say that you are not coming back to us to explain like you would do during elections. That is what we need to correct. The distance is there, it is true, but how it comes about is what is not being explained. Having to deal with governance and government can, if we are not careful, drive you away from your own people. It is more so that administrative decisions are not always congruent with political decisions. The one expresses what is optimal and the other what is maximum and the contradiction between what you can promise the people and what we can do because of personnel and finance and systems, if it's not explained then it gives out an impression that you have actually reneged on some of the things that we've promised. It's the problem of the ANC as an organisation, not of those who are in government. ANC as the organisation should be able to keep the linkages with the people, explain, educate our own branch members to understand what is happening and also to assist, to define a role for them in this new setting. We have not done that and I think that is a big mistake on our part.
POM This plays into that in a way, but in the media this weekend the whole issue of salaries and Transnet and what the top executives are earning vis-à-vis what Africans with 20 years service in Transnet are earning was a big story. Is this a white story or would this be an issue in your own community?
PM It's not a white story. Just before I came here I was sitting with somebody who was complaining bitterly to say that we are not in charge of transformation. The whites are simply shocked because blacks are now earning that amount. It is moneys that the other whites who were there before these ones were earning. But I don't think we should end there. We should ask ourselves what are the requirements of this transformation. For instance, why should a person in Transnet earn more than a minister? That's wrong. Or a DG earn more than a minister. It's wrong. Those are the things that people need to discuss. But you cannot say that salary must be cut because then you can use that money directly to build someone else a house. That's vulgar because things don't work that way. All what we are saying is that of course we need to bring our salary levels, rationalise it. People who are working in the parastatals should not suddenly become their own bosses in the manner in which they declare salaries for themselves and so on and that of course, I'm saying to just say it's a white problem is not to deal with the problem. The whites, yes, are complaining and they are shocked because, yes, now blacks are there and they are getting these moneys. They never complained before when the whites who were there were getting these moneys but I am saying from our own sense of what should happen in transforming this country and transforming the systems and the institutions, I think we need to look into that type of thing and ensure that the salaries are rationalised and are reasonable and you should emphasise the political institutions over and above the bureaucratic institutions and if you want to do that the incentives also must be in that way. In our own public service reform that's what should happen. So that debate would have been more meaningful if it was addressing public service reform and matters of governance and not just the colour of a person who has come in. That is the issue that we should be discussing.
POM Have whites retreated more back into the laager, said we have our little world and we're going to live in our little world and try to protect it?
PM No I don't have that sense. I don't think there is any laager, for instance. In every area where they are staying blacks are there. I am issuing a statement in fact today to say that South Africans need to be assisted to deal with their own transition. They are too negative about themselves and that is because there is no communication. The government communication structures must be corrected and that is also because people don't see, there is no role defined for them to play. It's not just the blacks, also the whites, but the blacks also feel that way and these are matters of transition. The old structures are coming down very quickly and the new ones are rising very slowly and that is why you have this sense of uncertainty, of not knowing exactly what is happening even though you have the parameters. So I don't think in terms of whites really I perceive a - if you look at the latest elections they didn't increase the NP margins, they decreased the NP margins. Now I don't know what laager people would be talking about if they say the whites are driving them. It's an easy accusation to make but you can't be a serious transformer, a person who wants to transform the society and still believe in things that you can't prove in terms of fact. I am saying that, yes, there is resistance on their part. They feel the pain of changing, they don't like this change, but to say that they are organising against it it's not true.
POM I don't mean that, I mean that whites will still vote for the NP and the DP, they won't vote for the ANC and they're just going to do that.
PM That's what it's going to be for a long time. That's the unfortunate part of our politics and that has to do more not just with the colour of their skin but fear of the unknown. We don't know these blacks. And the way the ANC operates it still needs to educate whites how democratic politics operate. You see in the white community and the system of politics they are used to leaders just emerging and they are imposed. Mr so-and-so will be the representative in this constituency of our party. In the ANC it is them who must come together and say you in the ANC become our representative. Different methods of working.
POM Just on the negativity, and just a couple more questions I know you're pressed for time and other people are waiting, always waiting, always a queue. To what extent do you think the media are subtly encouraging this negativity?
PM The media I think they are simply encouraging it overtly for that matter, expressedly so because as I am saying they go and look for the negative all the time and they do no research, no investigation. Anything you can say against someone in government, I am saying because it's negative it's news to them and that's why they report. That's how the media in the country has been trained and now it is easier for them to even practice this gutter journalism because the government in power is a black government. They are themselves not free of racism even though they will deny it. I perceive in everything that they do in newspapers everywhere, that the message they are managing as journalists, and unfortunately the black journalists have joined them because they work for these papers, they used to say you must expect these problems from a black government. None of them is doing any analysis, any investigation of the things they are reporting about. They lament like the white political parties that the ANC is too big, it needs opposition. They don't ask themselves if you oppose the ANC what is it that you are opposing? Are you opposing the RDP? They don't say so. And how do you expect them to support the RDP and the Masakhane, the programmes of transformation, when they want to oppose the organisation that actually is at the head of such things. And you see that is where I think, it can't be said they are doing these subtly. They are doing it in a more campaign-like way.
POM They would say too that South Africa doesn't have a strong multi-party system, that it's because the ANC commands such a large proportion of the vote that what you have in fact is a de facto one-party 'democratic' state. You have regular elections and you have a constitution but there is one party in power and it's going to stay in power for years to come and that the only way you can develop an effective multi-party system is for the ANC to somehow break up and for COSATU and it's allies to go in one direction and people who are supposed to be the pragmatists or dissenters to go in a different direction.
PM That's the type of social engineering they are used to from the old days. People form organisations because they share interests. If a lot of people share the type of interest that the ANC is pursuing why shouldn't they come together and be large? But if, of course, they no longer feel their interests would be catered for within the ANC they have got the right to form an organisation to oppose the ANC on the basis of that interest. To just say artificially that people must break up in order to give a semblance ...
POM Well they are saying that the interests, say COSATU's reaction to GEAR ...
PM Economic strategy.
POM Even this weekend the difference in the way in which Sam Shilowa treated the Director General, or talked about the IMF and the way Mandela and the government talked about the IMF were different and their emphasis on privatisation is something with which COSATU are still not comfortable, that the fact that the macro-economic programme was put out there and they said this is not negotiable, this is it, this is what we're doing. It's like what happened to partnership here.
PM No, no, COSATU through Sam Shilowa is bound to say those things to keep its constituency but fundamentally differs in no way with the ANC. The ANC's macro-economic policy represents the policy of the ANC, the government's macro policy. When Mandela said privatisation is the policy of the ANC he was right, it is there in the Freedom Charter, and we have said a long time ago that we will privatise on the balance of information that we have got, the balance of advantage that we will get if you privatise or nationalise or keep things within the state. We're not going to do it on a ideological basis. The COSATU people are saying we need to follow and it is not COSATU it is the Communist Party in fact who say the government must adopt a public sector led development path. We are saying we are in a global economy where the private sector is forcefully coming forward and we can only work towards a partnership between the private sector and the public sector. The problems that France is experiencing now, the problems that many of the social democratic countries are experiencing now, the collapse of the Soviet Union itself, are an education to us also. We don't want monopoly capital, we don't want concentration of wealth in fewer hands but we are saying you cannot interfere with the markets to a point where these markets are no longer operational and if you want development you have to harness the markets, you don't kill the markets, harness the markets. That's what we are doing. The macro-economic strategy is a reflection of the national and the international balance of forces and also people must remember we in the ANC are not a socialist party. We don't have a socialist programme. We are a national movement, a nationalistic movement and one of the things that we are doing is to empower black people and to establish, to ensure that these classes that are here within our country are actually driven on a non-racial basis.
So there are those who expect a socialist programme from us and that you will find within the Communist Party which is a mistake, we are not a socialist organisation. We don't intend to become a socialist organisation. The market forces have not been exhausted and they still need to be directed. We are for government involvement in the economy. We are also not neo-classical in our approach. We don't think the market on its own will resolve the problems of the poor. We know that it does not get any signals from the poor. We are not also thoroughly Keynesian in the way in which we approach our economy. We are saying at all times this thing is a process that needs to be managed. The East Asian tigers have managed to do it. They do have government in their economy, they do have the private sector in the economy and they do change the way in which they operate as the economy develops and as more and more socio-economic development is achieved.
That's what we would like to follow, that's what we would like to do. And therefore we are not going to be driven by any ideology. We are going to be driven by the question whether or not we are achieving the kind of objectives that we have set before us. We want to create 400,000 jobs. Why should that be opposed by the workers? The unemployed who are not part of COSATU want those jobs and we are responsible also to them. We want to break down both government monopoly and private monopoly. We want anti-trust legislation. We are going to introduce those things in order to ensure that black economic empowerment is facilitated. That is our problem. It's not a problem of COSATU or of existing business, but those who want to go into business who are outside the mainstream economy will need it and they are also our stake-holders. We were voted into this government by 22 million people.
POM So do you think commentators and political analysts and other politicians who say that a split in the alliance is inevitable because of competing and different interests just either don't know the nature of the organisation, don't know how it works or are engaging in wishful thinking?
PM True. One is not saying that the Communist Party is not going to break away and that it will not be a healthy thing if it does break away as the Communist Party. It is an unhealthy situation to have a political organisation within a political organisation. As the ANC moves towards becoming a political organisation the Communist Party will have to break away and pursue its own mandate but as long as the legacy of apartheid exists we are called upon by that legacy to address the basics, the fundamentals of it so that people can begin to pursue their own lines of action. But COSATU is not a political party. Both the ANC and the Communist Party and other parties will operate within COSATU. It's a labour movement. You see it seeks to improve the conditions of work of the workers. The ANC will keep its alliance with COSATU. We will seek to go in there and take our education in there and ensure that they understand the issues like we do. At the moment they don't. We are not on the same wavelength but that is not fundamental, it is not going to break the alliance at all between the ANC and COSATU. It may break the alliance between ourselves and the Communist Party because the Communist Party is more ideological and we are not ideological in this case. We are practical, we are pragmatic because we need to create jobs. There are unemployed people who, if they rise, will rise against all of us and we don't want that.
POM Two last quick questions. One is, how do you develop where there is one very strong political party, elected, freely elected and returned by the electorate in free and open fair elections, how do you develop a strong democratic multi-party system when the possibility of there being a change in government, effective parliamentary opposition in terms of the opposition being able to actually change legislation, when that doesn't exist?
PM At the moment no. You see we have just drafted our own political fundamentals, the constitution, now we can compete on how to implement that constitution. If you compete on how not to implement that constitution we will keep on being in the majority. Now what we are trying to do also is to establish the economic fundamentals. We will compete on how to implement those fundamentals. And as long as we complete from outside certainly you cannot blame us if we win all the elections because that is what is practical. Now that is where the opposition parties are missing out because you see in America, Britain and where there are multi-party democracies people are not challenging the fundamentals of society there, they are challenging how to actually improve people's lives given these fundamentals. They are all agreed about what should be in America economically and politically, democracy in a private sector driven. But you see there are no such differences there and that is where the opposition parties should - you know when we establish the constitution you can't stand against us, then you lose elections because what we are doing is to extend people's rights and if you are seen to stand against that those who feel threatened by your opposition will not support you.
We are going into the bills like abortion bills, they are opposed to that. On what basis we don't know. We are extending the right of black women to access these things. Abortion which was available to whites and not to blacks you see. Now they will lose an election on this issue because they don't grasp the essence of the thing. The task now is to deal with the legacy of exclusion of apartheid and therefore to extend people's rights. So you can only build a multi-party democracy in our situation if there is a party that can come up and say that on these same fundamentals we think we can deliver this quickly, more efficiently than the ANC and then you can have opposition. But if the party comes up and says we don't even agree with the constitution, the fundamentals of political democracy as established in the constitution, or the economic process and pathway and vision that has been set before us, really there is nothing we can do to establish a party that should balance the ANC if we need such a balance. It means the balance will always be within the ANC, the competition of ideas will always be within the ANC.
POM Two last quick questions. One, if you were a betting man, and I know it's early but I'm trying to establish, I'll ask you this question every six months probably, if you were a betting man right now and you were looking at the elections in 1999 will the ANC increase it's share of the vote, will it remain roughly the same or will it decrease? Will the National Party increase it's share of the vote or will Inkatha?
PM I think without just being partisan, the ANC will increase its majority. The other parties which are still negotiating their racial past and ethnic past are going to find it increasingly difficult to compete with the non-racial platform of the ANC unless they do something now and not on a token basis, but real change because they are not doing anything. For the two or three elections that are still going to come the ANC will still be in the majority and higher majority for that matter.
POM This is a personal question, is there a difference in the way white people treat you?
PM No, that's one thing that we regret. White people of this country have not changed their attitude towards blacks fundamentally. I think also in the world what people often call international racism is still there. They always think that an African minister must have a price like in the rest of Africa, they are all corrupt. They are pigeonholed. They look at the poverty from which they emerge and say, no, as long as that is the condition of life you can deal with them like you deal with others in the rest of Africa. I have always said that the respect that they bestow to Mandela is not yet bestowed to his colleagues and to the rest of the black people, the humanity of the black people has not yet been accepted by our white compatriots and the whites everywhere.
POM So when you are chairing a meeting and you look out and you see all these white faces and you're making points, setting out policy or whatever, what do you feel is in their hearts?
PM Fortunately with me I have always made it a point that I come there to any meeting with lots of research, heavily researched and with my own opinions that can be defended on any basis. Most of the time I did realise that they get shocked that some of these things can come from us, that we are so knowledgeable about the things that they thought we were outside that they get shocked. And they even mention it that we never thought that this matter could be the way you have just put it.
POM Do you feel they resent you?
POM That you're up there and they're ...?
PM No they don't. Initially they would come with this superior thing that they must be telling us how to do things and when they realise they get shocked. When they realise that in fact we know our job better than them and we can defend the principles that we are putting on the table they get shocked, pleasantly surprised. They sometimes give you a paternalistic pat on the back, that type of thing, which is spontaneous. You can't get angry with it but you can notice it. The kind of compliment you are getting is actually an expression of shock that you have said something unexpected of you. But that's the case and that is why I think that black economic empowerment, affirmative action, should not mean that those of darker colour should not then increase their knowledge because when we want to prove equality of humanity and so on you have to ensure that all of the things that people believe in whether they are black or white, you can master them. The colour of your skin has got nothing to do with your abilities. That's one thing that we must prove and we cannot shy away from that line of action. I know people who say, why do I have to prove myself to a white person? But the white person also says, why do I have to prove myself to a black person? Everyone else must prove himself. You have to win the confidence of others, of those who you are working with, their trust. Trust is the basis of authority. If you don't understand that you can't manage.
POM OK. Thank you ever so much. Next time I would like to talk more about your family, the past, your growing up and what actually happened, some of the things you just touched on today like what formed you, what made you the person that you are and things that have influenced your own development.
PM All right.
POM And thanks a million for the time. I really appreciate it.
PM Thanks. In fact I appreciate the fact that you waited for me.