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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
28 Oct 1996: Harber, Anton
POM. Anton, to start with a fairly basic question, the constitution in its preamble provides that there will be a democratic multiparty system in South Africa. What's your understanding of what a democratic multiparty system is and are there are any features that you would consider indispensable to its operational working, to it being a reality rather than merely a theoretical construct?
AH. I think the difficulty you point to in your question is that we have theoretical multiparty democracy but in reality one-party democracy, or very nearly one-party democracy since I would have thought one key element, one key structural element of a multiparty democracy is having at least two parties with a strong enough support base to challenge each other and the likelihood that there will be a change of government at the next or the election after that with reasonable frequency. The situation in this country is that the likelihood is that we will have an ANC government for at least the next two elections which means that the other parties are so weak and have so small a power base, or so narrow a power base, without much likelihood, as I can see it, of that changing significantly, that you are in a position where you have one very clear dominant party.
. Other elements are there, you have to some extent a reasonably free media that allows for a reasonable amount of public debate and scrutiny. It's not as diverse a media as one would hope but there are signs that it is moving in those directions. I suppose the other element specific to South Africa is the state of the alliance between the ANC and the Communist Party and the trade unions that tends to keep opposition and criticism within the party rather than - it's intra-party rather than inter-party, and that clearly has its drawbacks in terms of a robust democracy.
POM. I'll get to that in a minute, and I must say I read your editorial this weekend calling for an election for President which was indicative of the kind of processes that I think you are talking about. I see they are decided within the party and then are communicated to the public and it's not a very open process. How important is it at this point in its development, how important is it that the state take steps to try to encourage the growth of a vibrant multiparty democracy, like on a scale of one to ten where one is relatively unimportant and ten is very important?
AH. I think it's up there at number nine because if the situation remained unchanged and ANC that chose its leadership through some kind of internal process rather than in public debate and did not face any substantial challenge at the next couple of elections would inevitably become like any party in a one-party state. The Zimbabwe experience is very clear, one party democracy, the party becomes corrupt and stale and fails to throw up new leadership and new energy and new dynamism and new ideas, so that would be a real danger I would have thought.
POM. Now there are, say, two routes to creating a more than one-party system. One would appear to be the NP model of where they hope to refashion themselves in some way, attract elements from other parties and also attract a significant number of African voters. Is that model a model of fantasy? Is it fantasy that in the foreseeable future, i.e. almost like in your lifetime, that the National Party, particularly in light of what is coming to light in recent weeks with the involvement of senior figures in all kinds of goings on, is this just ...?
AH. I see nothing in National Party behaviour or policy that indicates that they are able to take that leap, that leap forward that will allow them to shed their baggage of the past. They are going to be plagued by the Truth Commission for the next 18 months, but also their instinct remains, I think, a reactionary one, to one of protecting incumbent interests, protecting white interests as opposed to being able to undertake the kinds of issues and campaigns that may show that they've changed sufficiently to draw a new audience. I think it's not likely to come from the National Party. The only likelihood would be if there was a substantial realignment of which change in the National Party, including change of name and leadership, was part of a broader realignment. In other words if a grouping came from somewhere else, from another party or another location and managed to link up with the National Party but changed its name and its leadership sufficient to say, "Hey this is something new", then you would start to see the game changing but you don't see it at the moment and I don't see much prospect of it.
POM. Is there any potential role for the IFP in this or (a) has it become stuck in the public mind now as being a regional party without the resources to develop much beyond that, and (b) that it too will be significantly contaminated by the various prosecutions and by revelations at the TRC?
AH. I think as long as it has Buthelezi as its leader it's too regional, it's too ethnic and it's also too tainted by its past in the eyes of most other politicians for it to become a national force. Then you have to ask the question, where is the IFP after Buthelezi? And that's a very difficult question to ask because he doesn't seem to have a habit of building a strong leadership core around him of the sort that could then lead the party thereafter. So I would say if he's taken out of the scene it becomes quite unpredictable as to who will then lead the party and what direction they will take it and whether they are sufficiently able to project a new image. As long as he is there I think it remains and will remain a regional and ethnic party.
POM. Do you think that its ambition at one point to be a multiracial party has also imploded upon itself; that while some of the leadership like the Walter Felgates and the Koos van der Merwes and Mike Tarrs and whatever are white, that if this party has any future it has to start attracting African voters especially in the urban areas of KwaZulu/Natal?
AH. It has to expand beyond its traditional base in rural KwaZulu/Natal and we've seen it retreat from vote catching in the urban areas, the power centres of even its own base, KwaZulu/Natal. And its problem is that the whites that it attracts are not people who are attracted to a wider voter base, they seem to be of a particular quite maverick sort that do not have a popular base that I can see.
POM. Which brings us almost by osmosis to realignment, particularly realignments, (i) on the broad scale that you talked about and, (ii) more specifically people talk about the possibility, or some say the inevitability of a realignment within the ANC itself, that the coalition can't stand the strains that are being put upon it between the competing ideologies. What's your own view on, (i) whether the ANC will hold together over the medium term, the medium term means at least past the next election, maybe the next two elections, and (ii) if it were to realign itself what kind of scenario do you envisage as the basis of realignment?
AH. My guess is that it will hold together for a while but not beyond two elections. It may hold together for the next election but not much more than that, the alliance that is. And then I would envisage a core, don't forget COSATU leadership was decimated by the changes of 1994 and a lot of people went into government or elsewhere and COSATU has really had to build up a new leadership core and now I think it's in the process of doing that. We will see that emerge over time. You're also seeing shifts in the unions' organisational nature and base as reflected, for example, in the increasing importance of their investment arms which is going to give them a different kind of financial and political base over time and start to affect the nature of those organisations I think. But I do think that you will start to see a core of people within COSATU and the party looking to work with the left wing of the ANC to create a kind of organisational base to the left of the ANC. A lot depends, I think, on what happens with the leadership of the ANC itself, but it's quite striking that of the trade unionists who went into ANC government a few years ago the only real prominent power broker seems to be Jay Naidoo and he was moved sideways out of a key job to a much less important job in recent months. I think you're starting to see the indications that should separate a left wing of the ANC, including members of COSATU and the SACP, over time.
POM. But do you think this will necessarily lead to - it goes back to an earlier point you made that the debate that you see is intra-party, is within the ANC as to policy direction, not between the ANC and the other parties; do you think that's a sustainable route for the ANC for quite a while when the alternative is that it breaks up and perhaps the loss of power? Is having power itself a powerful cohesive that you can paper over a lot, you can have a lot of arguments and a lot of rows and a lot of disagreements but you still hang together because it's better than hanging separately?
AH. There is that danger as you've seen in places like Zimbabwe, that people stay within the party, within the ANC that is, because that's the route to power and in the end if you want to get office and reward you do it more efficiently by staying within the ANC. Clearly there is a danger there, it's a particular danger under Madiba's leadership because obviously his ability to hold it all together is formidable and that's why I say it depends on what happens with the ANC leadership itself because, for example, if Mbeki takes the leadership, as is expected, he has a fair number of people who oppose him and don't like him and who you can already see would be excluded from the kind of patronage that keeps people in power, keeps people in the party. It has surprised me when Mbeki became the heir apparent, one would have expected him to try and draw his enemies in around him, I mean his political enemies, political rivals is a better word, within the ANC. They're not his enemies, they're his rivals, because most of them it's a rivalry over position and access to power rather than an ideological one. But in fact he appears to be driving them away. If you look at his relationship with obvious candidates to be drawn into the next round of Cabinet appointments around the next election it would be the Premiers, Sexwale, Lekota, Molefe, and the signs are that Mbeki is driving them away.
. Now what choice does it give those kinds of people if they want a future in politics? Well their choice is either, (a) to bite the bullet, befriend Mbeki enough in order to get office, (b) try and oppose him within the party in the hopes that there can still be a real leadership contest for the next presidency or thereafter, or (c) get out of politics. And you do see an exodus of politicians to the private sector and to government departments rather than parliament, for example, and I think that's quite a striking phenomenon at the moment. But let me just also say that there is an ideological debate within the ANC between the left and the centre, the centre as represented by Mbeki and his macro-economic policy, and the left as represented by Shilowa, Cronin and the muted, at the moment, muted left-wing criticism of the macro-economic policy. So there is that debate but separately there is a debate over power and access to power and the patronage that goes with it and there you see the conflicts between Sexwale and Mbeki and Holomisa and others and Winnie Mandela and others, those are much more about power. Now where those coalesce with ideological differences you will start to see shifts I think.
POM. Given the Holomisa affair, the talk that Lekota may be hauled on at least the provincial mat if not the national mat, the trouble Molefe has been having up in the North West, the ANC emphasis on discipline in the party and the reiteration of what has become almost like a mantra, that no individual is more important than the organisation; in its internal operations is the ANC today behaving in any way that's very different from the NP of yesterday?
AH. I don't know about the ANC structurally, if you look at its constitution technically it's a more democratic structure and operation but in reality you're starting to see the rivalry between provincial centres of power and the national centre of power. That's a very difficult question, that's a very difficult question. Let me put it this way, where you have an ANC that is one party that is so dominant as the National Party was before 1994 or before 1990 and the ANC is now, you have to look to see the level of debate and democracy and exchange within the party to see if you can hope that from within there is sufficient rivalry and debate and vigour to keep the party, to stop it from just becoming a source of patronage and access to power. The National Party was a complex operation. I don't have an easy answer to your question. I'm grappling with it. The ANC, my fear is that there is a real sense within the ANC that if you want to climb the ranks and get access to the power that promises, you do it by toeing the line. You don't do it by challenging authority or leadership and that's obviously a worrying situation. It would be less worrying if you had two parties that were really competing for power, but where you have one party if you're discouraging debate and making debate difficult and drawing very strict parameters on the exchanges within the party, my fear would be that you're headed for a Zimbabwe situation.
POM. If I were to ask you who rules the country, is it the NEC of the ANC, the government or parliament and parliamentary portfolio committees, who does?
AH. It's interesting. A year ago I would have said that the committees in parliament were building themselves up as a real source of power. I wouldn't say that now. I would say ...
AH. Because I think they've had one or two tests in which they've been unable to really assert their power. I mean there are some signs, like in the way the Education Bill was changed, that there is some power being wielded in those committees. But you think of the Sarafina affair and the Health Committee, parameters were drawn to the debate and the ANC members of the committee were pulled back into line. My sense is a lot of the best MPs who don't see themselves getting into the Cabinet quickly are getting out, they're going to the private sector or into government departments where real governance is being debated and dealt with. So where is it happening? I would say it's happening either in the Cabinet or within the tops of government departments.
POM. Well just looking at the Free State where the Provincial NEC had ordered Lekota to cease and desist on his radio programme, which would insinuate that in their view they are an authority above him as Premier.
POM. That power lies not with the Premier and his Cabinet but with the Provincial Executive of the NEC.
POM. Is there a similar perception at the national level?
AH. Well the relationship between a Premier and his party or between a President and his party is a complex one where the Premier you would expect to lead and have his party with him and his party may be a check or a guide to him. It would normally be quite a complex relationship; it has clearly broken down in the Free State, so they are rivals for power in an odd kind of situation. Occasionally you've seen some notion of tension between Madiba on the national level who is won't to have his own very strong views and sometimes do it on his own. Now you would expect that often of a political leader, that they would be out there ahead of their party. He is strong and powerful enough to bring the party with him always but if that broke down then the party would become a much greater source of rivalry for that kind of power. My sense of party power at a national level as embodied by Cyril Ramaphosa, Cheryl Carolus and the policy making within the party, that that's not where it's happening, it's not. Policy is debated within Cabinet and within ministries in the tops of government departments who are undertaking the business of governance and transformation.
POM. So in the light of what you've said, and given the government's obligation under the constitution to encourage and support the development of multiparty democracy and the fact that in the short run you're not going to have a viable multiparty system in the sense that we have discussed, what should government be doing to make democracy take greater hold, to develop democratic institutions, if it were to create opposition to itself?
AH. I think the key is to look for those institutions which subject the government to scrutiny and which keep alive debates around policy and government conduct. That would seem to me to be the crucial thing. Number one, the media, clearly, ensuring you have a vibrant and diverse and sufficiently independent media, and we can talk about the extent to which that has or hasn't been achieved. I think there is, for example, a lack of a government policy on diversity in the print media. I think you see government policy on diversity in broadcasting. You are seeing that being played out through the IBA where they've issued and sold off licences. They've had a policy of diversity and they have created new media owners in handing out, in selling off state owned stations. So there's been a policy there. In the print media you don't see that so I don't see a government policy that says "How do we assist new voices to emerge, how do we ensure that there is sufficient competition and diversity in the market for the printed media to play its role". That's one aspect. Then I would look at those institutions, non-government organisations, who are crucial to an open and vibrant public policy debate to make sure that the debate over the Education Bill doesn't just happen within the government department and the ministry but is thrown open into a debate between independent public institutions and NGOs and the government body. A lot of what's happened in recent years is that the education NGOs have been sucked into government in a way, in the people involved in writing and working for government, and they have lost a lot of their key people to the Education Department. That had to happen but you do want to know, if you look at education, that there are one or two strong NGOs out there who are making sure that those bills are being scrutinised, that the issues are public, that there is debate and that the conduct of the Education Department is being subjected to debate and scrutiny.
POM. Is that happening now on a sufficient scale across the board or is the government taking steps to ensure that these kinds of institutions are either getting the resources or being nourished in some way so as to ensure that it will happen?
AH. I don't think sufficient. I think there are two sides to that coin. I think the government attempted too much to centralise funding and support for those organisations. I think inevitably a lot of the key individuals got sucked into government and government departments. That was an inevitability as well but I think a lot of the NGOs have been slow to change and find their feet in a changed atmosphere and work out how they are going to fund and support themselves over a long period of time.
POM. Two questions before I move off this section. One is related, and that is what if the requirements of democracy and the imperatives of development conflict with each other? Maybe I should preface that by saying one argument I was given why it might not be a good idea for there to be a strong multiparty system at the present time is that a strong multiparty system would encourage electoral politics, everyone playing to the next election and how you grab the edge and that transformational politics, which you need at the moment, would take a second place so that with one strong party you can pursue your transformational politics and in that sense the development of a viable multiparty system is second to the process rather than primary to it.
AH. Well clearly electoral politics has its advantages and disadvantages and when it means people play only to the next election then you have a problem. But we do have five years between elections and we do have the fact that the ANC is almost certain to win the next election which gives, I would have thought, sufficient space for them to be quite bold in doing what they have to do and not having to worry about losing the next election. But if the next election and the one after could really be about - I mean won't it be about transformational issues? Won't it be about delivery, about whether governance is transformed sufficiently and the economy has grown sufficiently to ensure that improvements in housing and education are starting to show themselves and pay off? And one would hope that at the election of 2004 that will be the key kind of issue. The ANC is a shoo-in for the next election, they don't have to be looking over their shoulders and concerned about that I would have thought. They can take a view that they have to show sufficient transformation and progress on delivery in a ten year scale to be able to win the 2004 election.
POM. Is there any justification for saying development comes first and that sometimes some of the niceties of democracy have to be sacrificed in order to push the development process because democracy is sloppy and slow and inefficient and just hithering and thithering and toing and froing and what we need is fast concrete action, decision making, strength?
AH. No I think it's a myth that says that. Of course democracy does slow things down and often make them more difficult, but it's a myth, I think it's been proven again and again that if you get rid of democracy, yes, you can move faster and sometimes more efficiently but that's a short term process because corruption and mismanagement quickly ensue when you don't have the kind of scrutiny and uncertainties of democracy. What one can hope for is that you have the democratic scrutiny of elections and open government and a vibrant media with strong leadership. The ANC is in a very fortunate position that they should be able to give a strong leadership because they are such a strong party. That's the strange thing about, for example, the Free State. The ANC has 90% support in the Free State. They should be able to act firmly and decisively and clearly and if they lose, they could lose a lot of votes before their power is threatened. I think it was very healthy that in the first election we had one very strong party that's then able to move with a fair amount of authority. I was very happy when the government of national unity started to end with the National Party leaving because I thought that freed the ANC up a bit more and I, for one, will be a happy man when it ends and the ANC is then able to act more decisively, more clearly, more firmly. But if that party remains dominant beyond two elections then I would have thought that the negative aspects are going to creep in.
POM. So in the long run the vibrancy of democracy here will depend on the emergence of a vibrant multiparty, or effective multiparty system and in the absence of that you're going to have a one-party democracy.
AH. One-party democracy, and if you have a one-party democracy it depends on it being a very open society and there being sufficient institutions outside of government, I would have thought, to act as counter-balances, a sufficiently civil society I suppose to act as a counter-balance to state power.
POM. Now where in all of this do you think the role of the public financing of political parties lies, and I'll talk about that maybe in just three contexts. There can be many but you could have, (i) no public support of political parties at all, it's like a free market, (ii) you could have the support or more support for political parties in their parliamentary activities in terms of constituency outreach and the like, (iii) you could have the help to political parties in day-to-day operations so that they help them develop, get their message out and become more effective as political organisations, (iv) you could have the help in some way of political parties in elections so that smaller parties have a chance to compete. I think the constitution has this peculiar phrase in it that public support should be 'proportionate and equitable' which sounds like a contradiction in terms.
AH. Yes, well the danger of it being strictly proportional, of course, is that you reinforce the dominance. That's what we've seen in Zimbabwe, the funding of political parties has just boosted and strengthened the dominant political party and given it huge resources as a source of patronage, so that is the danger. Where you really want support is not for the dominant party, it's for the small parties, it's for the creation of new voices to emerge and it takes a pretty broad democratic vision for a dominant party to say actually we see it in our own long term interests to stimulate smaller parties and create space. So I think in a cycle like this there has to be a role for public financing in encouraging new smaller voices to emerge and strengthen and I think it's important too to look for ways of, even within and without the political sphere, to look at ways of enriching the public policy debates through the institutions that can do that. An element we haven't talked about and which is crucial to what I've been saying is reform of the election system. Do you want to talk about that?
POM. That's PR, moving from party PR systems?
AH. Yes. I think what makes the dominance of one party more serious is the fact that you have a party list system, pure proportional representation and no constituency system. So if you had a constituency system then even if there was a dominant party I could at least call my Member of Parliament to order, I could threaten to withhold my vote if they weren't pushing those lines in the ANC that I support, and you don't have that. I think it just supports it, encourages the notion that getting ahead in the party, keeping your nose in the right posterior of party leadership.
POM. This was an argument made to me by somebody in the National Party who felt very passionately about it, about members not being to cross the floor and that this was a real inhibitor of the development of democracy and he said the funny thing about it, from his point of view, was that I guess he mentioned that in the Constitutional Court's judgment they cited India as an example where it had been prohibited, but he said in India it had been prohibited because all the members of the smaller parties would rush across the aisles to join the Congress Party which had all the privilege and power. He said here you have the odd situation that the party that opposes it is the strong party which normally would be the magnet for people crossing the floor and the parties that support it are the parties that would normally be losing people.
AH. It is an oddity. A lot of attention has focused on that clause. I don't think that's the issue. I think the issue is proportional representation because it would seem to me that if you had a mixture, as I would hope you do, of proportional representation and a constituency system, which is really I think highly desirable, I think you could legitimately say that if an MP crossed the floor, if a constituency MP crossed the floor you can legitimately say that within a certain time they have to go back to the electorate and force a by-election because they have to test whether they still have the support or whether they are just going after the goodies. An MP who is there in order to balance out the proportional representation, I would have thought you still want to keep your proportions intact at that level so while that has been the talking point I don't think that's the issue, crossing the floor. My belief is that a constituency MP should be allowed to cross the floor but should be obliged, and it would be great if it was by tradition precedent rather than law, but probably you have to do it in law, that they were obliged to resign to force a by-election.
POM. Since the object of some of this research is public financing, what category of party activity should be financed? Should parties receive a lump, say through an Electoral Commission, a lump sum and they can spend it as they wish but they account for the way in which they spend it? Should they receive only some support on some formula basis for elections?
AH. I don't think it can be just elections for the reasons I've given, that I think you need to stimulate policy debates and issues and really unless you're able to organise and develop positions between elections then just to get a dollop of money to fight elections, as we saw last time round, if you just spring up and suddenly have money to spend on an election you lose because winning an election is about long term organisation and development of structures and development of policy positions and profile over a period of time. So I would have thought you are looking more to a system that looks at an ongoing funding situation as well as election funding and I would have thought there are ways of using state owned media around elections, or all media around elections, to be your election tool as opposed to pure funding. In other words issues like equal access to public media.
POM. There should be?
AH. Yes. Or equitable access, whatever that means. Clearly you can't give one leany from the Soccer Party the same access as the ANC but you have to work out some reasonable mechanism to allow emerging parties to have sufficient voice. Wouldn't it be great, for example, if the next time round we didn't just have debates between two party leaders as we had last time? Unfortunately the US has set a terrible example in this. But wouldn't it be great if some new faces popped up and you had four or five people arguing with each other? That would be a sign of health.
POM. But are you a believer in giving the major and sufficiently minor but important parties a block of public media time, say each party gets three hours and use that as you will? You can put a talking head on for three hours, you can put three talking heads on, you can devise little commercials and get a balance of off peak hours and peak hours.
AH. That's one way to do it and that's quite a crude way of doing it. Another way is to use your public media to stimulate debate around the issues and to cause policy and to make public policy debates that bring in all sorts of different voices to debate these issues. That in the long term is a more constructive way. I don't particularly want to hear an advert for the Soccer Party but I would be intrigued to hear a debate around sports policy where the minister had to face three or four other party spokespeople and argue out matters of policy.
POM. So if you had to quickly summarise arguments for public support of political parties, arguments against it, where on a scale of one to ten should it rank in terms of importance where one is relatively unimportant and ten is very important? Public support of political parties.
AH. Financial support?
AH. I would say that in this society it's reasonably high. On a scale of one to ten I would probably put it at about six.
POM. How about the issue of disclosure? Are you familiar with the current laws as to where parties can receive funds from, whether they have to disclose the funds?
AH. I think there should be much greater disclosure. I think there absolutely needs to be - the one thing that parliament has done is impose rules on individuals, partial rules on individuals. You need to see rules about where parties get money, what they get it for and under what conditions they get it. Sol Kerzner should not be allowed to slip a two million rand cheque to Nelson Mandela without it being a matter of public record. And, in particular, the Indonesian government should not be able to give money to political parties without it being public.
POM. Should foreign governments be allowed to give money to any political party or is it OK as long as it's disclosed so it can become a matter of public debate as to why they are doing so? And should there be limits on what parties can receive from individuals, from corporations, from multi-nationals?
AH. I think parties should be forced to account for where they have received money from and I think corporate law should force public companies to say where they've given money in the political sphere. I think that is important. On foreign governments I would have thought it would be preferable, openness is the very minimum, but more desirable is to break down this notion that you can buy foreign policy friends by donating to political parties. It would be preferable for foreign governments not to give money to political parties.
POM. Why did Sol Kerzner giving two million to Mandela never become a public issue of any great import?
AH. Well you see there were very particular circumstances. The ANC came back from exile. They had to build a political party from nothing at a point where they were losing their foreign funding quite naturally. Governments that had supported the ANC in exile didn't want to support them for purposes of an election, so I think there were extraordinary circumstances where you were creating a democracy and you would want a party like the ANC to fight that election properly financed and not in financial difficulty. So I think one can argue that that was an exceptional period in the lead-up to the first election, but you would hate to see those patterns reproduced indefinitely.
POM. Just a couple more rather quick questions. One is, in the absence of there being public funding of some description for political parties, is there a possibility that the country could slip into becoming a de facto one-party state? And is there also a similar danger if the wrong formula is applied in helping political parties?
AH. Sorry, you will have to repeat that question.
POM. In the absence of any form of public support for the development of public financing of political parties is there a chance that the country will become a de facto one party state?
AH. One-party democracy. There is a danger, yes, there is a danger that all resources and all key people who want a future in politics will be drawn to what is a very strong single dominant party, creating an effective Zimbabwe-like one-party democracy.
POM. The second part of that is that if there were public financing of political parties would the public see it as one more instance of an enlarged gravy train, of the politicians all taking care of themselves?
AH. It is possible and I think you do need to stipulate what that money can be used for.
POM. So strict accountability is also ...?
AH. Yes, and it can encourage the ANC turning into a source of patronage in terms of jobs and access to the gravy train via the party, not just via government. There is a real danger there, yes. I would have thought you're looking to ensure there are enough funds to make those parties viable instruments of policy debate and government scrutiny but not to be a gravy train.
POM. You raised the issue just this very week in The Mail & Guardian in a front page editorial which was hinting at a lot of issues but encapsulated under one, and I think this is the first time that I've seen really the issue take any kind of centre focus. Is it something that more people are becoming concerned about, something that's moving more centre stage, something that there needs to be a lot more debate about or, again, in terms of the country's priorities the delivery of services, the non-payment for services, the building of houses, the fall of the rand, whatever? Is it a secondary issue or is the public focus, the public policy focus not quite centred on the right things in terms of the long term development of democracy and where the country can go?
AH. No I think there is, and my sense of reaction to what we wrote last week is that there is a huge debate and concern around the issues we touched on, how we're choosing our leaders, the level of debate and openness and democracy within the ANC. I think there is an acute awareness that those things impact directly on issues of governance and delivery. I think there is. And I sense a great concern among MPs, for example, about the changes they see happening in the way the ANC works and saying to themselves, well how did Thabo become the heir apparent and will we actually get a chance to really debate and vote on this matter or are we going to find when it comes to the election there's one candidate and we just have to - the most we can do is abstain. I sense there is real debate and real concern about that. It's probably more on the left of the ANC than at the centre but I think it is there.
POM. If you look at the ANC since it was unbanned and came back, say particularly since it assumed a central role in government, would you think that it is becoming more autocratic in the manner in which it behaves, getting more used to exercising power and making no bones about using it?
AH. Yes. I think in the way appointments have been made, in the way dissent has been dealt with, one gets a sense that, yes, people are being rewarded for toeing the line, taking the right positions and people are being punished for dissenting views or critical views.
POM. One last question and it's off the subject in a way but is peculiarly related. It was said to me by a couple of people that the National Party came to negotiations with a lot of arrogance believing they were going to walk rings around the ANC and that they totally underestimated the capability, sophistication and strategic sense of the ANC and were really out-negotiated and gave away things that if they had been better prepared or if they had thought things through they would never have given away, as for example the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, as for example the question of amnesty; they could have taken care of this years ago with just their own arrogance and said, we can't control it. Now they've lost control. Are they losing control to an extent of where there is going to be a backlash, that there were understandings between Mandela and De Klerk but that Pandora's Box has been opened and it can't be closed and that more heads than one thought were going to roll?
AH. I think so to some extent. I think certainly I sense a growing middle-level feeling in the ANC that they've been very patient and very reconciliatory and this hasn't been reciprocated by whites or the National Party or Afrikaners, however somebody may characterise it, and that a tougher line is needed. I would have thought there are signs of that growing kind of sentiment that will lead to a more tense relationship and possibly a backlash.
POM. OK. Thanks a million. Good to see you, I enjoyed that.
AH. I talked about the importance of having institutions that debate and scrutinise public policy and obviously parliamentary lobbying is critical to that and there's a kind of historic imbalance in lobbying in this country because clearly there are certain institutions that are able to afford and have the skills and experience to lobby parliament and one would hope for a much wider range of lobby organisations to be around parliament in order to make sure certain things are on the agenda or put on the agenda or don't go away.
POM. Do you need public assistance for the development of effective lobbying?
AH. For training and resources and development of an understanding of the importance of that kind of operation, there needs to be a case.
POM. This is where NGOs could be useful in conducting workshops.
AH. I often wonder why NGOs don't have a lobbyist in parliament as their number one. In Washington that's where you would start, by working out how you lobby and organise around Congress, I would have thought, whereas here it's still a second thought. I thought about this as we formed an Editors' Forum, saying there's a whole lot of ideas and things we want on the agenda in parliament. Where is the Open Democracy Bill? Why are the out-dated old laws not being knocked off the statute book that affect press freedom? Ideally you would have a lobbyist who is there every day bashing away at that kind of issue.
POM. Are you satisfied with the way relations between the government and the media are developing or do you wake sometimes in the middle of the night with a little queasy feeling in your stomach?
AH. There is a queasiness that there is an over-sensitivity to criticism, that they're very quick to blame the media for all sorts of things. But keep it in perspective, we have a great deal of freedom and, yes, we're having quite tough exchanges between government and the media but my hope is that they get tougher. What's that famous Mencken quote? "Relations between the government and the press have never been worse and we have to hope and pray that they don't get any better".
POM. OK. Thanks Anton.