About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

05 Nov 1996: Jones, Colin

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POM     Colin, when we walked into the room you almost burst out lyrically about your new job as Director of Information & Technology at IDT and how in a sense it has fundamentally altered many of the ways in which you look at things and that you are beginning to recognise the immense implications of technology for development and that as you said as you're trying to move South Africa into a manufacturing era the fact of the matter is the manufacturing era is over and we're in an information, science, technology era. Could you just explore some of the things that you have been experiencing and how you see them having an impact on development in South Africa or whether or not you think they will be taken into account in policy making or whether the nature of policy making itself is such that there is a lag between what's there on the ground in political parties and the way they arrive at decisions and the way they can either avail of, become knowledgeable of, or know how to use not just modern technology but of the way in which the world is changing and the impact of this on how South Africa can develop?

CJ     Well I'm afraid you mistook my hysterical reaction for lyrical. No, I am excited about what is happening in the bigger context and as I was saying to you it's been almost equivalent to a kind of conversion experience to have an insight into the great revolution which is going on on our planet, namely the information age, its dawning, and the incredible change that it's bringing to the way we live as human beings on this planet. What bothers me though is how much of that is passing us by in South Africa and there is this sense in which that's understandable. We're dealing with a major challenge here and that is of building a nation, dealing with the immense backlog created by apartheid and by our past history of the last many hundreds of years, not just the forty years of apartheid. And so it's very easy to become, as it were, myopic about life. The challenges facing us in this country are immense. What I find exciting is that the information age brings with it some incredibly powerful tools to address some of those issues and here at the IDT, where as you point out I have now been put in charge of information technology, my task is really to think through and develop strategies, ideas as to how to use these incredibly powerful tools of the information age in the service of the reconstruction of our country.

     Now you ask whether we can find some uses for information technology in this country at this time. I think yes, very desperately and necessarily so. One of the problems facing us in this country is that we don't really have sufficient information around a whole range of issues. We don't have the data upon which to make decisions. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly we come from a tradition in South Africa where information was shaped to suit those in power, where information was used largely to perpetuate, to propagate lies about people. So we have a lot of false information upon which we have based our country and the running of this country. Apartheid was a lie and it wasn't just a philosophical lie, it was a lie in the sense that people were told things about themselves, were educated in a way which diminished them as human beings. For instance, it's a well documented fact that certain political leaders of the Nationalist Party said that black people would have no need of mathematics and science. Now the heritage of that particular policy and that statement has created a massive dearth of black people who are educated in mathematics and science and as we know it's a very helpful tool to have, a necessary skill to have in order to facilitate our entry into the information age. But in addition to that government doesn't really know very often much about its own resources. Government doesn't know for instance, both at provincial level and at national level, who is on its civil service payroll. We have heard a lot of talk around the scandal of ghosts on the payroll. In KwaZulu/Natal I think the figure given there is 1.5 billion rands a year being spent on fictitious people, non-existent people. Now that's going into someone's pocket. Clearly if we had accurate date that would not be happening, or wouldn't be happening on that sort of scale. So the information age can help us, I think, clean up that kind of mess. But in addition to that what we sorely lack in this country are good information systems to help us manage the running of ministries. We have been in discussions with a number of government ministries around the creation of information management systems in order to help government get its act together and govern efficiently and effectively. So even at that very basic level of governance I see a very crucial role for information technology.

     But above all there are two other aspects here. One is that we have in our hands a very powerful means of communication. Information is one but communication is a very, very crucial part of what the information age brings to us and I would like to see us here in South Africa use the power of information technology to help spread democracy, to give people access to government and give government access to people. Now I think that that's eminently possible to do. What it needs though is a commitment on the part of government to make those communication lines work. It needs government to commit a fair amount of money to setting up those communication lines so that people in the remotest parts of our country can communicate with government or with anyone else for instance. I think that the benefits to the economy could be great if, for instance, people in remote parts of the Transkei or in the Northern Province or wherever could market their goods on the Internet. We have seen in other parts of the world how this has benefited even remote communities, and to bring that kind of facility to our country would, I think, help us to leapfrog the industrial age. We can't go pussyfooting around with making the poor less poor. That's not going to make us competitive as a nation and we're now in the big time, we're now having to face the fact that if we're going to grow as a nation, to grow economically and to grow in every other way we're going to have to get out there into the world markets and that means that each and everybody in this country is going to have to become economically competitive.

POM     You touched on a number of themes there that I think go to the root of a number of problems and one was you mentioned earlier about here South Africa is engaged in the preliminary processes of nation building whereas increasingly in the world a concept of the nation/state is becoming irrelevant. Two, issues of sovereignty in an instantaneous technological age have changed in both concept and in practice and no country is any longer master of its own fate or can make policies that just reflect the realities within its own borders. Three, it seems to me that policy as being economic policy, the macro-economic policy for example, is predicated on the very same kinds of assumptions that are 'old world assumptions', you build a sector up this amount, you build that sector up that amount, you add value here, you do this, you do that, but they are basically a kind of a traditional analysis of the technological timeframe whereas you're talking about something very different. It's a leap, you move and you start doing things fundamentally different. Going through all of those the final question is, is there the will, the capacity, the creativity, the know-how to start moving in that direction?

CJ     Yes exactly, although I don't want to completely knock the macro-economic policy. I think there's a place for it if we can translate the macro-economic policy into creative doable, sustainable economic development which takes seriously on board the information age. For instance, here at the IDT we talk about sustainable integrated development. By that we mean translating the macro-economic policy to a level where not just individuals can buy into it at the micro level, which is pretty much what has happened in this country. We talk about small business, small enterprise, micro-enterprise rather, and that's where a lot of energy seems to be spent by developers and by big business and so on helping individuals to sustain themselves. Now that's fine up to a point. However, the need is far greater than that. We need to create sustainable communities which are able to have some kind of economic energy which keeps them going and which helps to pull together a whole range of - I'm trying to think of a backbone where the vertebrae make up the backbone.

     Now what are those vertebra? If you look at a community you're talking about health, you're talking about clinics, hospitals and so on, you're talking about education, so schools become a part of that, you're talking about some community centre, you're talking about roads, you're talking about the setting up of infrastructure which help to make a community viable and living and vibrant. What we've tended to do in South Africa I think is to go and stick up some houses in a community and think that we've given them something which is lasting. And we know what happens, people don't last in those communities. We stick a clinic up and the clinic gets run down, there's nothing to sustain it. So I'm now knocking the industrial age completely. I'm saying that we're sort on the cusp and if we're going to leapfrog you're going to have to jump from somewhere, you need some kind of platform from which to jump into the new age and we need to make sure that that platform is secure. At the moment I think that there is still a place for setting up some kind of basic community infrastructure otherwise it becomes a kind of pipe dream.

POM     Two issues on this. Many people have suggested to me in the last couple of weeks that the government is not simply biting the bullet on the macro-economic plan, that this began as non-negotiable. Everybody else I talk to the alliance says no, no, no, it's negotiable and we're negotiating this bit and that bit. Two, some of its goals are already unrealistic. There's not going to be a 6% growth rate this year, there's not even going to be a 3% growth rate. Three, it's predicated on that if we do all the politically and economically correct things then somehow all this private and foreign investment is going to come into the country. But the main criticism is that government won't make the tough decisions and it has the mandate to do so but it won't, or can't. That's one. The second part is just exactly what you're talking about, while there is a plan there's is not a concept of what a future South Africa might look like, i.e. that the emphasis is not putting up blocks of houses here or clinics there or schools there, it's creating something that the sum of the parts of the community are greater than the whole and give an energy and are becoming a catalyst for creating the energy that is needed to bring about true transformation.

CJ     Yes. My concern is that the macro-economic policy is either too big or when it's translated it's too small. What we don't have is what we call meso-translations of that policy. Individuals are not going to make the macro-economic policy work. Meso, M E S O, which is the middle translation or effect of that policy. This is where I think communities become vital here. Let me give you an example of what we mean by meso-economic development. The IDT is looking at communities, particularly communities in the rural areas, 20,000, 30,000 people, and in looking at those communities we see an opportunity for creating a sustainable economic development in those communities. We're saying, what can we hope to create in a community like this which would ensure that that community has the ability to sustain its own life?

     Now the way in which we do this is, for instance, to suggest, recommend in consultation with the community, the development of some kind of economic initiative. It might be, for instance, tea growing, it might be, one of my pet themes is the fly fishing industry for instance. In the Transkei, I don't know how many people know this, but in the Transkei near Butterworth there is a small factory which produces some very exquisite flies for fly fisherman. Now if, for instance, one were to say, we recognise that the location of this initiative is ideal in that the Eastern Cape has some wonderful fly fishing waters, it's near Natal which has some of the finest fly fishing in this country, and if we were to, as it were, expand that industry to include rod building, for instance, and then if you began to use information technology to market that both in terms of the tourism aspect of it and the fact that you have a quality product here and you have a place to put it to use, can you begin to see the kind of development that can come out of that? Then you're bringing people into the Transkei, you're selling rods and flies to them, you can create a whole industry which is generated in that community in which the community all play a part, providing jobs and also providing them with the means of communication not just locally but throughout the world where they can by the Internet advertise Butterworth, bring people in, sell rods world-wide.

     Now it's that sort of initiative which I don't think we are looking at sufficiently in this country. I think it's at that level that the policy has to be translated to affect not just one or two people who then climb the ladder to success but to create opportunity for whole communities. The scale of the need is such that unless we address the problem at that level we're not going to meet the very legitimate needs of people. But what I'm saying is, use this as an opportunity of introducing people to the information age. Don't just look at traditional subsistence farming, for instance, in a community like that. Acknowledge that the world is the marketplace, acknowledge that the task is to make the rural village part of the global village and use technology to make that connection. That I think is the challenge to us in South Africa, to recognise that what we are tasked to do here is not just to deal with backlog, because that's not development, but real development in South Africa is about making South Africa part of the global village and making the remotest rural villages part of the global village. Until we address that issue I don't think we would have really begun to face the real challenge here.

POM     Two questions, one, is that sufficiently understood by policy makers?

CJ     The simple answer to that is no I don't think so.

POM     They are still thinking in terms of backlogs?

CJ     Yes I think very much backlogs.

POM     They are fixated on ideas inherited from the past.

CJ     And using traditional methods to deal with it.

POM     And they can't leapfrog. The second part of that is that even in the couple of months that I have been away, and I left here at the end of May and came back the middle of September, I sensed a change in mood in a number of regards. One, that things have gotten stuck, that things are simply not happening and the whole question of non-delivery has taken on a new dimension. Two, that the perception among certain elites here is that the outside world increasingly is tending to believe that South Africa doesn't have the political will to make the kind of changes it has to make to become increasingly a part of the global economy. Three, that there has been a deterioration in race relations. Whites are far more pessimistic about the future and what's happening, that there is an anger that wasn't there before that in part has to do with the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. I feel among the whites we talk to an absolute no sense of guilt about the past at all and don't know why they are being sledge-hammered over the head with accusations of crimes against humanity and that the counterforce to it is that among blacks is an increasing anger that we've treated you so generously and so well and want to invite you in and you won't take the smallest step. As the economic situation doesn't get any better all of these factors are beginning to mix in a more volatile way than they had two or three years ago.

CJ     I think your analysis is pretty accurate. I would like to just look at what I think are some of the reasons for that. Firstly, South Africans are pathetic in terms of selling our country. I don't know why that is so but we're very quick to say the worst things about ourselves and believe the worst about ourselves. You see it in a whole range of areas of South African life. As soon as we lose one rugby game the country goes into the depths of despair and we live in the extremes. We hate losing and we want to look good. The classic question which I find a total embarrassment but is asked of every foreigner who comes here is, "What do you think about us?" This deep need to know what other people think about us. It's quite pathetic. We need so much to be affirmed and told that we're OK and yet, it's a very strange contradiction, we are very quick to say how bad things are. Now I think that we are very bad at selling our own country. We're very quick to slip into pessimism and despair and hopelessness here and the negativity which is generated by South Africans is probably the worst enemy of South Africa. And here I want to say that probably the worst culprits are white people in South Africa.

POM     I was going to ask you that because Derek Keys made the interesting observation, he talked about many things are going really well, how smooth the political transition has been. It has been a miracle in that regard but yet there is this increasing scepticism among whites and he says, "It begins with people like my wife at their tea club who say things are falling apart", and they come home with horror stories which rub off on their husbands who are directors of companies and then they relate them to somebody else and suddenly ...

CJ     Exactly. But it's very interesting. On the whole crime issue, for instance, which is a big subject in this country, some research was done on people who talk about crime a lot and they were asked, I don't remember the figures exactly and probably will misquote the figures, but it was some ridiculous percentage of those who talk about crime who have actually personally experienced any kind of crime themselves. So it's all perception. A lot of it is in people's heads. The people who talk about it most are the people who have experienced it least. That's a very important fact about our nation.

     Secondly, I think that white people have suddenly woken up to the fact that change means change and that they themselves have to undergo some changes. The euphoria around the transition in South Africa in the early days was precisely because none of the real impact of transformation had trickled through our society. Now white people begin to realise that change means sharing and it means giving up privilege and they don't like it, they don't like it. So a lot of the grouchiness is coming out of the experience of having to share life in South Africa and the whole business of trying to bring about some kind of equity across the whole spectrum of South Africa has to do with whites having to make some adjustments now. Many of them don't like the adjustments and they up and leave to where they don't have to change too much. The biggest change they are prepared to make is to change country.

     So I have very little sympathy and very little faith actually in those who perpetually go about sounding the gloom and doom message in our country. The truth is that a lot of good things are happening. And here again I don't want to blow the IDT's trumpet, but just recently we pointed out that in the last four or five years, six years, the IDT has undertaken some 8000 community based projects throughout the country crossing a whole range of development activities. It's clinics, schools, housing, roads, clean water, electrification, rural electrification particularly, forestation, a whole range of things, having spent close on three billion rands on those projects. Now that's one organisation which has done that.

     Government itself has done some incredible things around the country. You look at health availability, primary health in our country, you look at the latest changes in education, the equalisation of education throughout our country. All of that in two years. Now I think that's something of a miracle. I would agree with Derek Keys. But why aren't we talking about that? Why aren't we holding that up? All we're talking about is the bad news stuff and I think here the media, and I respect their role and so on, but I do think that they could help this country tremendously, not by quietening down on the bad stuff but by giving the good stuff the kind of newsworthiness that it deserves. The trouble is we all know that good news does not sell and I am afraid that that element eventually determines the way the media operates in this country. But it perpetuates rather this terrible South African malaise of negativism and despair and self-hate and that, as I say, is the worst enemy.

     If anything is doing damage to the rand I would suggest it's the fact that we don't believe in ourselves, we don't acknowledge the good, we're not prepared to face the reality of change in this country. And I do think that white people tend by and large, and some of my best friends are white, but that by and large they expected a far too easy ride and having no pain.

     I still wonder at the incredible faith that black people have in this country and the amazing patience that black people still show. The Truth Commission for all that one would want to say about it, it's an amazing exhibition of the capacity of people who have suffered to forgive. It's incredible how people who have undergone so much horror can sit there and say we don't want revenge, we just want to know the truth. I don't think we're grateful enough for that, that's the miracle of South Africa. The miracle of South Africa is that people can still hope, the miracle is that people can forgive, the miracle is that people can still wait so patiently. And the opposite of that, the horror of South Africa is that people who have enjoyed privilege for so long when the squeeze begins to just impact on them just ever so little and they still enjoy tremendous privilege in comparison, when they add all this negativity. So I don't have a great deal of sympathy for that.

POM     Can we go back to the Truth Commission because what you say is on the one hand you have victims who are forgiving, show amazing forbearance and on the other hand you have not just the perpetrators who, I haven't seen any display of remorse. It's just like they say, well we killed ten people and this is how we did it and now do I fulfil the conditions for my amnesty applications? There was a war and that's the way it was. And the white community outside of that that has distanced itself from the acts, as though they did it, not us, we didn't know, we bear no responsibility. If there was thuggery well of course we were against it and would never have tolerated it. But there's no association that, again it goes back to a point you made earlier that it was the system itself that was an evil system and therefore one was part of an evil system and therefore one has to take responsibility for it or acknowledge one's part or acknowledge that the system was evil.

CJ     Well human beings have an endless capacity to delude themselves and to deny truth. Maybe we just can't handle, as somebody said, too much reality. But, yes, the problem in South Africa is that many people just will not now - you can't find anyone in fact who says that they supported apartheid and it's a classic situation, but it's such a joke that it's not funny any more, that no-one supported apartheid. But people will have to accept that those atrocities were done in the name of white South Africa and for the protection of white South Africa. In a sense what the TRC doesn't do is to have a kind of national acceptance of that truth. So in some ways I think we're going to have to live with this self-delusion for ever. It's going to be part of our national heritage. I don't know what we do about it.

POM     In terms of reconciliation if you have on the one hand one section of the community who has pulled back from the notion of taking responsibility for acts committed in its name, on the other hand you have the exposure of acts of atrocity, policies ordered by perhaps some of the highest people in the state unwilling to take responsibility or rationalising it on the grounds of the great total onslaught or whatever, how do you get reconciliation out of it? Will you expose bits of the truth but fail on the reconciliation end?

CJ     I don't think you can have any kind of reconciliation without restitution. I am not asking and I don't think black people generally are asking white people to fall on their knees and beg forgiveness. That's not going to happen. Clearly it's not going to happen. But what has to happen is that white people are going to have to realise that there's going to have to be some readjustment of the way in which we live our lives in this country and that readjustment is going to impact on their privilege. And I think that the way in which white people can show some kind of repentance in this country is to graciously acknowledge that fact, generously accede to it and stop grousing because I think that what it does is to weaken the moral fibre of this nation. If we're into nation building at all, and I'm not talking about nation building in the sense of boundaries and so on, I'm talking about creating a community here of people with a distinct history and a distinct contribution to make to the world community, then I want to say to the white community, for God's sake stop moaning and stop whining and take an example from black people who have had to put up with a hell of a lot more discomfort far more graciously and who even to this day show an incredible generosity of spirit and just try and emulate something of that generosity of spirit and then I think we will have some moral backbone to this country.

POM     Let me ask you one thing, one is a personal experience we had on the weekend and I would like just to hear your observations on it, and the other is one reads of the manner in which activists were killed over the years where sometimes it seems to me the horror of the way they were killed obscures the greater horror, that this was ordered by people at the highest level in the state. I took one young man that I have been interviewing who had been very active in the townships as a comrade and he went through with me how their structures, or loose structures operated, how if somebody committed a crime or was suspected of committing a crime how they just went looking for him and there was in fact a kangaroo court and everybody joined in and the crowd grew if they knew somebody was being looked for and the chanting went on and the person was found, the necklace was gotten, the tyre was filled with petrol or, he said, they had moved on to the stage of making people drink four or five litres of petrol and then asking them to smoke a cigarette and everybody sat around and watched. What's the difference? The level of barbarity in both cases is the same, and he said the difference is that we were fighting for our freedom and the others were oppressors. Do you find that morally an adequate explanation? I know we've talked before about moral equivalence and the lack of moral equivalence but where is there a line? Is there a point when the National Party or whatever says, well such things as necklacing and what went on in black townships should also be looked into because people were terrorised, there was no rule of law and acts were carried out in the name of the liberation movement that had nothing to do with liberation at all, it had more to do with hooliganism or criminality than the ideals of one man one vote and democracy for the people?

CJ     I don't think there is a line. I think that the kind of rationalising that we do about dehumanised, barbaric acts is as bad as the kind of denial that we see on the other side. People say we had nothing to do with that. Again I think that we must face the fact that all of us in this country have to some extent become dehumanised and unless we face that we're never going to actually address the business of becoming human again. I would like to find a South African who isn't racist. Anyone born in this country who hasn't had feelings of some kind of apprehension about people of other colours, who hasn't made a racist statement in their lives, I think we would be very, very hard-pressed to find those people, and yet so many of us claim to be non-racist in this country. Unless we face the truth about that I think we will continue to perpetuate racism and similarly unless we face the truth about the atrocities which we committed during the apartheid years we will be self-deluding and we will never really build a nation with any kind of real moral fibre. I don't accept for one minute the explanation that this was being done in the name of the liberation struggle. It was barbaric, it was cruel, people could have been ostracised in the community. There are ways of dealing with that which are far less barbaric and I am afraid that we gave in to our worst selves there in moments like that. There is no excuse for it.

POM     I suppose my point, Colin, is that is the Truth Commission adequately reflecting that reality too or is it in the sense that Pandora's Box was opened and all these generals and senior politicians have popped out and things are going on a course, that no-one is any longer really managing the process, it's developed a life of its own where the members of the commission are chasing the process rather than guiding it?

CJ     Yes I think that it is probably true that not enough of the other side is coming out but in a way I don't think it's appropriate that the NP should be saying that and I think it doesn't help actually for people like De Klerk or Kriel or Botha to be saying, what about the atrocities of the ANC? Somebody has got to be big enough to face up to their own stuff here. The Nationalists didn't really face up to their own stuff. They said, yes, sorry, but, and then went on rationalising. I think if we're going to keep the moral high ground in this country, if the liberation struggle and those who fought it is going to maintain the moral high ground, then we need to get out there and say the kind of things that I've been saying, that there was no excuse. But we should say that. We should not be forced into saying that. It's a kind of chicken and egg thing in a way, but I think that the ANC is missing an opportunity to retain the moral high ground by not insisting that those sorts of things also be exposed. I think we are being slightly red-herringed here.

     But while one says all of that we must not forget that what we're dealing with is the horror of a political system which created that kind of climate in which all of those things were possible. It's debatable, I suppose, to argue that if apartheid hadn't existed we would not have had necklacing. We don't know that, but I don't think it's a useful argument to argue. The fact is that these things happened, that we need to expose the horrors of apartheid. I don't think that any of us are coming out with too much glory except the victims, the victims seem to me to be the only people coming out with any kind of credit but the perpetrators on both sides seem to be saying, well we were justified in doing this, we were doing it under orders or we didn't order it or the situation was such that we did these things and we were responding to a worse situation. I don't think that any of that kind of justification redounds to our credit or glory.

POM     The other thing which took place last weekend, we went to a soccer match, the Chiefs and the Pirates, and we went with a number of friends and it was five white people and we went to the stadium, it was a terrific game, much calmer and much more low key than English soccer. There was no singing and waving of banners.

CJ     If you're a Kaiser Chiefs supporter you'd be a little low key yourself.

POM     Yes.

CJ     I was in a deep depression I can tell you.

POM     Anyway, on the way out - well one of the group went off at half time to get something, Coca-Cola or something and when he came back his wallet and his keys were missing and it just pissed him off but he sat down. On the way out Patricia and I were caught in a crowd and I had hands in my pockets and hands on my watch and I fought it off but Patricia's bag was pulled from her and taken and we got out of it. Now there were a couple of things we were trying to reflect on afterwards and one is that it wasn't a matter of colour, it was that we were so obviously different that we had possessions so there would be some people in the crowd who are just after possessions, other people's possessions. Two, you could say to us, well don't go to football matches like that because you're putting yourself in a situation of potential danger. Three, if you give in to that kind of reasoning aren't you perpetuating the problem? And four, how do you balance the factors of on the one hand what are factors of personal safety and on the other hand as saying, as Franklin Roosevelt said, the only thing to fear is fear. You've got to say, well part of transformation is that you've got to take these chances.

CJ     You remind me of a story which Desmond Tutu likes to tell about a couple who are going through a bad time and a good friend of theirs decided that he would try and help them by taking them to a Rabbi for counselling. They went to this very wise Rabbi, the friend introduced them and said, "Would you listen to their accounts of what's going on in this marriage?" And the wife began and the Rabbi listened very sagely and said, "Yes you're right, yes you're right"' And the husband then gave his version of the story to which the Rabbi replied, "Yes you're right, yes you're right." And the friend said, "Hang on a minute Rabbi, they can't both be right." To which the Rabbi replied, "Yes you're right, yes you're right." Now I think my response to all of your four propositions is, "Yes you're right." I think yes to all of the above in a way.

     But I think if you went to South America, India, went to a soccer match in Britain and that same thing happened to you you'd have the same set of questions you'd have to ask. I think in South Africa though very often the situation takes on, if you'll pardon the expression, a different view. The whole question about how much of this has to do with the fact that I'm white and they're black, and I think it is an element. It is an element in that white people are seen to have privileges and possessions which black people don't have. There's the sense in which white victims are legitimate targets. All that stuff we need to work at in our society. What you do personally about that is very much your choice. I don't think one can generalise it and make a national truth out of it. I think what you determine is going to be your response to that, is something which you have to do and I don't know whether one can take national learnings from that exercise other than to say that the one thing that I would do if I was a football lover, which I am, and as I say a Kaiser Chiefs supporter and I'm getting over my humiliation after Saturday's match, I watched the game on television, but if I were to go again I would know not to take my watch, I would leave my bag behind, I would go just like everyone else goes to a soccer match, empty pockets, which is probably what a lot of people do there. Anybody with anything from a Lanco to a Rolex is going to find their time flies and I think it shows something of the ...

POM     One element of it that we were reflecting on was that it was clear that if a knife had been pulled and one of us stabbed or whatever that people would have just stood back, that there would have been no interference.

CJ     That's a very South African thing that. If a knife is pulled in the city people stand back. I think it's this lack of ownership of other people's - that we have a responsibility for other people too, and that's part of the culture we're inherited here. You mind your own business and you don't get involved. Where that comes from I don't know but it's part of our nation building that we're going to have to learn to care for each other. The breakdown of community which apartheid caused is deep. We don't accept responsibility for each other and when people's burglar alarms go off next door we don't go and check out and call the police and say my neighbour's alarm has gone off, we don't do that and whether we will ever be that kind of nation I don't know. I wouldn't take it personally if I were you. I think that's the thing not to do. I think it would be foolish not to recognise the fact that you were standing out like a sore thumb, but that's the nature of our country at the moment. You go to a big soccer game and the number of white people you will see at a game ...

POM     It was just us.

CJ     You will stand out like a sort thumb.

POM     We did.

CJ     But that's the nature of the game, that white people just don't go to soccer games. There was a time when only white people went to soccer games, when the NFO in the sixties and seventies was operating and white teams played, white people went in droves to soccer matches. I remember going on occasion to soccer matches at Hartleyvale and feeling that I was standing out like a sore thumb because every player on the field was white. Now that the players are black white people stay away and soccer has become a black sport in a big, big way, but that wasn't always true of organised soccer in this country.

POM     I know you have to go. I suppose it saddens us that since we've been coming here in 1989 we've always gone into the townships and that over the years rather than it becoming easier, I don't think we ever see a white person if we go in anywhere and we used to in 1989, 1990, 1991, there would be people in there even at the markets. There would be a scattering of people.

CJ     The difference is that in the bad old days of apartheid white people didn't go into townships and they suffered a bad conscience. Now they don't have to go into townships and they have a good conscience about it. Maybe that's very cynical but we live in a free country, now you don't have to go into townships, we're a free country, you don't have to worry about what's going on there. It's precisely this that I think a lot of people in our country are quite satisfied with things as they are and want it to stay the way that they are and don't want to make the effort to build the nation, to make sacrifices, to take responsibility, to share life.

POM     One of the questions I've been asking whites after they go through their litany of doom and gloom or whatever, is are you better off than you were three years ago? Are you personally better off? And the answer is invariably after a couple of seconds, "Yes, but it's been through my hard work", but there's been no fall in their standard of living, there's been an improvement for most in their standard of living.

CJ     I think also that the kind of perceptions about crime, and a lot of it is perception too, is that that perception is carried on and carried through because it gives one an excuse to be able to say, well I don't go into the townships because of the high crime there. So I think it's a useful tool for people to latch on to these days and helps perpetuate that sense of angst, to legitimise not having to change.

     Just in conclusion, I think that some of our leaders and some of our most outstanding leaders need to accept some responsibility for the current state of affairs in terms of the lack of change on the parts of whites because our leadership in this country, the ANC leadership, has gone out of its way to make transition as painless as possible for those who have enjoyed privilege and I don't think that that was a very sensible thing to do. I think we've spent so much time trying to allay people's fears and trying to tell them that it's OK, we're not going to rub you off the face of the country, we didn't tell people about the reality that change is going to cost us all something. We talk about the expectation of privilege, what's the term we use? That people expect entitlement. Entitlement isn't just a black problem. Entitlement is a national problem here, that white people expect to hold on to privilege and position and power and status and to enjoy the security that they have always enjoyed and the patronage of those who rule.

     And I'm afraid that the ANC has by and large bought into that and what would help our country is a great big dollop of reality and some truth, real truth about what to expect in this country, that we all have to make sacrifices, that we're all going to have to make some changes and that there have been people who have waited too long for even the basic rights of existence in this country and who continue to wait patiently while other people hold on to privilege in this country. I think some of that truth needs to come out if we're going to have any reconciliation in this country.

POM     OK. Thank you.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.