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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

28 Nov 1996: Lekota, Patrick

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POM     Premier, leaving aside the things we will talk about later in the week, I would like you to give your overall assessment of where you think the country stands 2½ years into President Mandela's first and last term? What do you see as the positive things that have been achieved and what are the negative things that must be addressed?

PL     We are just over half of the term of office of the democratic government and there is still some ground to cover in this term of government and I think that we need to continue to intensify in terms of delivery on the RDP programme. I think that we have begun to develop some level of experience which is in good stead for us in the remaining second half of government. That experience must be tapped increasingly. Then there is the ongoing process which, of course, will go on for a very long time of finalising and refining the constitution of the country. That process is particularly critical firstly because it is the constitution that provides the foundation on which we will be able to guide the country towards a full and mature democracy. Now the big challenge for us is not just of course to draft clauses of the constitution and develop institutions or structures. Even more important is to make sure that the interpretation of those constitutional clauses and so on are adhered to faithfully and that their interpretation is indeed in keeping with the letter and spirit of democratic tenets.

     In this period I have begun to understand among other things a dynamic that I would not have, I think, understood from a distance. Most African countries graduating to democracy wrote fantastic documents, constitutions, so that it was often difficult to question the documents that they had written. What was always a problem was to understand how it came about that countries with excellent documents like those in practice did something completely different. On reflection now that we ourselves have graduated to democracy I realise that for democracy to rise one need more than just those documents, more than just the constitution. Most important one needs commitment, dogged commitment to the content of the constitution and the discipline to pursue it and pursue it's provisions even against one's personal wishes.

POM     Just in that connection, the constitution provides for a multi-party system of governance, do you think that South Africa has a viable multi-party system of governance and are there any features of a viable multi-party system of government that you consider indispensable to its operation?

PL     First of all I hold the view now that there can be no ideal constitutional dispensation somewhere in space, that what is ideal for a country is what provides it with efficient and effective government. In this country I think that we have established now multi-party democracy because we have all these parties. Of course one has to take into account that we are only in the formative stages of developing our democracy and in fact in terms of implementation of our constitution we have not even reached the final constitution. The interim arrangements that we are working with at the moment with proportional representation and all of that are not necessarily ideal nor do we regard them as final. We understand that we needed some arrangement to go through the transition period and that although that arrangement was not perfect it nevertheless provided us a framework within which we could at least begin the process of going towards what we might regard as final.

POM     If the constitution is certified by the Constitutional Court would that not make it the final constitution of the country?

POM     I want you to go back a little bit to talk about the need for there being more accountability in the system, about the proportional representational system and about what kinds of developments you see happening that would facilitate, one won't say the breaking up of, but the emergence of more parties allowing for a stronger multi-party democracy.

PL     Well first of all as I was saying it is important that we should increase the level of direct accountability between public representatives and the voters. The problem with proportional representation is that it creates a gap between the voters and the representatives where the tendency is for representatives to be accountable to the party as opposed to voters and being accountable to the party which essentially means a political elite of sorts. It's not like accounting directly to the voters. The second thing would be the fact that as we move deeper into this process and people become more familiar with the process of representation and so on we will probably find that they tend to be guided by their sectoral interests as opposed to the broader issues which up until now have characterised the approach of the liberation movement, simply the question of getting rid of apartheid, simply the question of giving political rights to everybody, simply the questions of gender equality and so on. Those are broad issues which do not necessarily span, are not necessarily peculiar to a particular political party. But as we move deeper we will tend to find that sectorally people would want to see a government that responds to their specific interests. Parties will tend to emerge as protagonists of particular interests and while that process begins it will tend to increase the numbers of political parties on the South African political stage and if one takes into account that even some of the parties which have come from the old order are already adjusting themselves to the current situation, trying to win support from social formations, social groups, racial groups which traditionally they did not seek to win into their ranks, one can accept that a few of the present parties will survive into the future and may themselves become very influential players on our political stage.

POM     You talked a little bit earlier of there being signs of schisms, political schisms all over the place. Would that be true of the ANC as the so-called broad church that it is?

PL     I think there's no doubt about the fact that there is some measure of tension, I prefer to call it tension at this time, between some sectors, indeed even between labour, COSATU for instance, and the ANC so much so that a few days ago the Secretary General of COSATU was talking about the ANC and COSATU revisiting their alliance, negotiating it on a fresh basis. So one can see that it will not be always that the alliance can stay in place as such. Some of the tensions will most definitely reach levels which will compel a review of the current alliance arrangement. There is no doubt about that. I think that somewhere in the future lies a moment when that kind of revision will take place, a moment when that kind of revision of our situation will occur.

POM     You were saying that here in the Free State you notice that on some issues such as abortion and the death penalty that large segments of even your own constituency ...

PL     Are not at one with us. Issues like those indeed, some of the issues like those will also impact on our capacity to continue as one and I think issues like those will suddenly contribute to realignment of forces in our plural society and including moving to the extent where we may find ourselves losing the support of some of the traditional supporters of our movement.

POM     In that regard just looking at the National Party, as I said before, and it's vision of itself being able to break into the black community and attract large numbers of black votes, is that not delusional given their past?

PL     Well for the foreseeable future the history of the NP would make it impossible for them, I think, to make any meaningful inroads into our ranks. But there's something else, there's a different process they have begun, a process of attracting African leadership into their ranks such as in Mpumalanga where they already have a provincial leader who is an African. He may still be an African with some bit of professional background himself but they already have an African leader there, provincial leader, that they have won over. He's a relatively young person and although not experienced in the tactics of organisation such as what we have been familiar with, given a good machinery and given time particularly that he can attract others into the ranks of the party in that region and coupled with the fact that we have the potential ourselves of making mistakes, we can suddenly find sometimes that our mistakes coupled with their creativity can bring them a lot of support.

POM     Do you think that the NP can really become an alternative to the ANC unless its leadership becomes African or reflects what the population is?

PL     No, no, I think what I'm trying to say is that if the NP veers away from being peculiarly sectoral, racially sectoral in the drive of interests, if it opens up as it appears to be opening up now and if it has sufficient creativity to identify those issues which are central to the wishes of various sectors and if we as ANC make mistakes which play into their hands, they could become a significant party. I'm not suggesting for a moment that they could become a party as big as to overtake the ANC, I think that's out. What I am saying is that there lies a moment in the future when there will be more political parties in this country than just the number we have, I mean more parties with bigger impact than what the opposition parties at the moment have got.

POM     Now part of what the constitution provides for is that there will be some form of public funding of political parties. Would you be in favour of providing public funding to the NP or the DP as long as they remain representatives of more the privileged, that they are sectional, trying to protect sections of the community rather than appeal to the whole community?

PL     I think as long as the constitution of the country provides for equality of status and secondly as long as political parties pursue even what you call sectoral interests, as long as they pursue them in such a way that they don't violate the constitution there is simply no way that we can prevent those parties from benefiting from any mechanisms that are provided for, for any given party . The ANC could never find itself in a position in which it could have enjoyed certain rights which other parties do not have. I think it would be a means of our commitment to democracy. So as long as any party is not valid in the provisions of the constitution and it was decided that there should be certain funding available to political parties and those parties would continue to be so even if they represented sectors of society that we think are very well to do and so on, but that's not the measurement, the measurement is ...

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.