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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
02 Dec 1996: Mhlaba, Raymond
POM Premier, the Eastern Cape has been in the news a lot in recent months. First of all there have been reports regarding the Rev. Arnold Stofile coming in to assume the Chairmanship of the Provincial Congress, then there has been talk of a Task Force appointed by Minister Skweyiya to take a look at the whole administration of the Eastern Cape, particularly areas regarding the Transkei and the Ciskei; three, there have been rumours about you perhaps stepping down next year as Premier. Now again I will reiterate that everything we say here doesn't get published until the year 2000 so it's not going to appear in tomorrow's newspapers or the next day's newspapers or whatever. What is going on? Can you offer some clarity?
RM What is going on here is that we have been in power for 2½ years. Within that time one has to measure whether there is progress or not. That is why therefore I am now coming up with the point of Skweyiya sending a team here. The team was sent here solely to examine whether there is progress insofar as the administration is concerned. When we are examining our situation we take into account the political aspect and the administrative aspect of our situation. Now it is true that we have been having problems, these problems are not completely solved, problems of bringing together the three administrations and we have also been plagued with corruption, fraud and all sorts of things and the sole task then of the team was to get to examine those aspects of our administration. The report has been compiled and they feel that all is not well with our administration. They suggest that there should be measures taken with regard to administration for improvement. There must be certain measures taken with regards to safety measures, as to how to curb corruption and so on. The question also of the civil servants as to how rationalisation is being handled, when can we say that we have completed the rationalisation process. Now those are the things which have been highlighted, and also the report is to the effect that even administratively, even politically there should be some changes being effected. Our programme here actually is whether or not we have got a loyal civil service and whether we can rely on our civil servants, whether the Permanent Secretaries are doing their work, whether the civil servants are doing their work. We feel that there is more to be done by way of improving our situation there.
POM Now would a lot of these civil servants be inherited from past administrations of the Transkei and the Ciskei?
RM Yes, yes, I inherited them. We have inherited all these people from the previous administrations and some of them are not really as loyal to the present government as we would like them to be. Now we are faced with that situation and in the light of that we feel that we must take certain drastic measures to improve the situation and this is what we are busy doing now. We have gone a long way, by the way, by way of bringing together the police force here, the three police forces, that is the Transkei, Ciskei and Cape Provincial Administration.
POM They are now united under one?
RM One central command. We have the Provincial Commissioner of Police. We are not sure, I am using that expression, whether or not the police force as such is loyal to the government, particularly the senior officers, and we feel that we have to make sure about this. We have then taken a decision ...
POM Have many of these senior officers been senior police officials in the Transkei and the Ciskei and in the SAP beforehand?
RM Yes, before yes, and some of them of course have been promoted now to be Area police officers within the province. In pursuance then of the desire to rectify the question of the police force we have invited the minister to come and see us together with the National Commissioner of Police. They are going to be here on the 10th. We are going to discuss whether or not there shouldn't be some changes taking place. That's why we have invited them.
POM At the higher levels?
RM No, provincial. But they are from headquarters, Pretoria. The minister is the national minister, we would like him to come here together with the National Commissioner of Police to examine closely as to the loyalty of their officers.
POM Have you been able to identify particular officials whose loyalty is questionable?
RM No, let me tell you, with the happenings in areas like Qumbu and Tsolo in the Transkei, the killings and so on, the burning down of houses and all that, the people have lost confidence in the police force. They say the police are not doing their work. That is why we have invited these people. We are meeting them on the 10th here and we will discuss with them. Now other issues that you have raised, the question of whether I am going to step down ...
POM Let's just move back one second. I want to talk about the problem of corruption. I want you to distinguish between, if you can or if it's possible to, between corruption that might have been inherited from the old apartheid regimes whether outside of the independent states or within them, and new corruption, corruption that just is surfacing now and is within the administration, whether it's cash disappearing or whatever cases come to light.
RM You see we have inherited some of these things from the previous government. Now who actually is involved in this corruption? Civil servants, the police, in some cases the traffic cops, and the question of, for instance, stealing our petrol through the government garages. And you will find that when we get down to delve into the matter, when we delve into the matter you find that some of these things have happened for the last five years. We have just only been in power for 2½ years which means that it has got a long history but we don't want to be talking about the past, we don't want to be condemning the previous government. Things are happening now and we are in power, what are we doing? We have taken measures, we have set up a team to see to it that certain things are done, the question of, for instance, clocking when you come into the building, the question of taking certain measures about how you use your computers, the question of how you use your strong room where you keep moneys, who handles the keys and all these things. We have taken all these steps for the sole aim of seeing to it that we stamp out completely. We are in this cleaning process for 2½ years, we are in the cleaning process in this province.
POM Do you feel when you see stories or reports in the media that constantly are knocking the Eastern Cape for the ineffectiveness of the administration or for the level of corruption, do you think you're getting a fair hearing or they don't understand the nature of the problems and it's cheap and easy sensationalism rather than critical, investigative journalism?
RM Well journalism here really has not been fair to us, that is my view. They started attacking us as we came in, as we took the seat of power. Now it is unfortunately, I am happy of course that I am not the only person who is saying this, throughout the country there is a strong view that the media is hostile to the government. When I say government I don't mean the provincial government, I mean the government as a whole, that is the South African government as a whole. Now I am happy that this doesn't come to a person like myself, it comes to people who are right up there at the centre of government. I have read articles reporting the utterances of the Deputy President, for instance on media. I have read articles reporting about the feelings and the interpretations of the President himself and a number of members of parliament in the central government that this media is a hostile media to the government. I think that for any journalist to give us a clear account of our situation in the province they need to have the historical background of this province. I am saying for anyone to compare this province like Gauteng, like Mpumalanga, like any other province, it's a wrong comparison and having had the background then you are able to say, let me give you this expression: is it true that this government if we were to compare it like a company, a business company, that is on the verge of liquidation, is collapsing? Now the question is when we started what was the state of the province? Was it on the verge of collapsing? If it was what is the position now? That should be the approach. Two and a half years, what have we done? Have we produced anything? I say yes we have produced something: integration of the police, integration for instance of the civil servants and all these things and also our delivery in the province, electrification of the province, even rural areas electrification, the question of water, bringing the water to the rural people and so on, all the things, roads and all the things, building of schools and hospitals and all the things we are doing. Now in the absence of that thorough investigation it will be unfair for a journalist just to have a superficial glance or a superficial examination of our situation. You need to delve into the situation and get down to mother earth and find out some of the defects.
POM So reports that one reads, and I think in some cases even the Skweyiya Report was presented in this way, that the Eastern Cape is on the verge of collapse are inherently incorrect, exaggerations and just wrong?
RM Let me be fair to the report. There are glaring absurdities, there are defects in our situation, but aren't they exaggerated? That is the question. There are defects and these defects we have reasons to say why there are these defects. You take, for instance, the question of how do you compile, where are the old files, where are the files? There are no files. How are you going to be able to know that there are so many civil servants in this province if the previous government kept no files, the files are lost? Where do we start as a new government? That is the question you have to ask yourself. Now in the absence of knowing all about these things for you to come here for a day or two and go back and compile a report, you are making a big mistake. This is my view. That is my view, yes.
POM How long did the commission spend here?
RM A week. As far as I recall a week, yes. They spent a week and we asked this commission to go and not only to sit here in Bisho, to go to Transkei and then come back and compile a report. They didn't go to the Transkei.
POM They just stayed here?
RM They were here in Bisho.
POM So in a way they made no attempt to go out to surrounding district offices and see the state of the offices, the state of the infrastructure, the state of the filing systems, the state of computerisation?
RM And to talk to people. We have had a lot of problems even about the computers which were misused, people paying out themselves in the Transkei. Now you must know all about these things. You must know as to whether - why is it that the police are also involved. There is another interesting feature in South Africa today which one has to know, that in the history of South Africa, when I'm talking of the history of South Africa I'm talking about a period of over 340 years, within that time it is only this government, this present South African government which has managed to arrest so many police, where we were able to unearth syndicates and police are involved. Now you can imagine if you a dealing with a thief like a policeman in uniform. A policeman puts on a uniform and goes to steal. Nobody is going to stop a policeman in uniform unless you know. He has got an easy go. He organises, if there is a road block he shows his card, he's in uniform, oh let him pass, and he has got a load at the back. Now to have police with that situation in this country unless you know those things you can never ever be in a position to produce a good report.
POM Have the South African defence forces been deployed in the Transkei to try to help suppress some of the violence there or are they operating in an auxiliary way to the police?
RM Let me state that for us to bring in the armed forces, that's the defence force, we needed the permission of the police. I must see the Provincial Commissioner of Police and ask him, Do you think you are in control of the situation, your forces, the police force? If he says yes then there is no need for me to suggest the reinforcement from the army. Now I don't know whether it's a question of pride, each time I see the Commissioner he keeps on saying, No I've got enough force, I am in control of the situation. But there have been situations here like in Kingwilliamstown, taxi violence, where it was a war situation, fighting, using pistols and so on, shooting, where at times the taxi operators organise what they call blocking the road, nobody can pass, where the ordinary citizen whether it's a woman going to a maternity ward, Stop there, you can't pass. What I have done, one day I then called the Commissioner of Police, I said here is a situation, the road leading from Kingwilliamstown to Alice is closed by the taxi operators, I want those operators to be removed by force. I want your police force and the army to go into action, and that happened and then the road was cleared. You do have that situation. Today we have said, look the Qumbu, Tsolo situation, the killings, the burning down of huts and houses can no longer be tolerated, bring in the army. The army is there today.
POM Is the army more trusted than the police by the people?
RM Psychologically there is that, there is that, well there the army comes, there's hope you see. There is that, there is definitely that.
POM Turning to the other two aspects of the question I asked you, first of all regarding political changes in the province.
RM Yes, you see what is going to happen as from Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend, there is going to be a Provincial ANC conference and naturally then you expect that there are going to be elections, new officials will be elected. Now there is that fever in this province. Of course it's happening in other provinces too, Gauteng, KwaZulu, they have gone through that, we are going through that this weekend, and we have come to understand that the candidate for a provincial Chairperson, ANC Chairperson, the candidate who is being put up is Reverend Stofile who is the Chief Whip in the central government. Now something new which I cannot explain further than what you have read in the newspapers is that he is also going to be the candidate for the premiership.
POM He is also going to be?
RM A candidate in the premiership, the same candidate. Now let me advance and say that there is a view that to curb, to prevent a clash happening between the government and the outside political organisations it would be a wise thing to do if you have a Provincial Chairperson of the ANC at the same time being also the Premier. You will be preventing a number of things.
RM Factions, yes, developing as you see in the Free State and in other areas too. There is that view and that view seems to be catching up, seems to be gaining ground and it is suggested then that whilst we are thinking of Stofile being the Provincial Chairperson, Rev. Stofile, let him at the same time also be a Premier of the province.
POM Is that done with your full agreement?
RM No, no, not at all. But at the same time this has happened at a time when I myself have called a press conference on the 2nd of last month on the eve of my going to Bangkok, Thailand to attend the 57th World Congress of SKL, it's a collection of people interested in tourism who have created the brotherhood or sisterhood of coming together as friends, as people who believe that there must be peace and that we should encourage tourism throughout the world. In that congress I attended in Thailand on the 3rd - 8th November there were 85 countries, 2000 delegates. I am saying then on the eve of going to that Congress I organised a press conference in Port Elizabeth where I said that in the forthcoming Provincial Conference of the ANC I shall make a public announcement in that conference. That's all. What I am going to say nobody knows besides sheer guessing. Now I intend of course making that announcement. What is that announcement? Nobody knows about it, it's mere guess and so on but I have had a discussion now with the provincial ANC leadership and they are saying to me, don't make a public statement in the conference itself because delegates there will start to discuss that. Rather have an announcement before and say what you want to say so that people by the time they go to the conference this weekend they know what you have said. I have agreed to do that and I am going to do it on Wednesday at three o'clock. Now nobody knows besides just mere guessing what I am going to say.
POM Keep them guessing to the last minute.
RM The last minute. But I am going to be friendly to make the announcement on Wednesday at three o'clock. I have asked the Information Officer here this morning on communications to organise the press, to inform the press in good time and I will make an announcement.
POM Let me ask you, and there has been a lot of - and this is an issue I hope we get a chance to discuss a little later - but a lot of confusion it would seem over two questions. One, who should be provincial leaders, whether the provincial leader should come from within the province itself rather than 'be imposed' from the outside? And, two, on the question of the relationship between the Premier as Premier and the leader of the provincial structures as the leader of the provincial structures. Now my understanding from the media reports was that Rev. Stofile said he would be a candidate for the leadership position in the Provincial Congress but that he had no intention of trying to lay claim to the premiership. One, were you consulted about his being a candidate for this position?
RM The premiership?
POM No, for the Provincial Chairperson.
RM No I was not consulted but I need not be consulted. You see the executive members of the province of the ANC are going to be elected in the conference. That is the role, that is the procedure. Now naturally when we are moving towards the conference time we are all lobbying, who is going to be our new executive? We start to say let it be so-and-so and so-and-so. Everybody is entitled to lobby. The lobbying has been going on and no-one is expected to come to me to consult me. I can be consulted as an ordinary ANC member, I belong to this province. Although I am a member of the National Executive I belong to this province. I have been consulted by the way by a number of people, whom do you think should be the provincial Chairperson? But apparently there is a certain group of people who have been to Stofile in Cape Town and who said to him they would like you to be a candidate.
POM That's from the province?
RM From here, yes, and he has agreed. Now Stofile, it must be known that as much as he is in Cape Town he belongs to this province. His home is here in Alice, he belongs here. So we can't say that Stofile then is an outsider, he comes from outside. No, no, no, he belongs to this province so he is entitled, if people think that he should be the provincial leader, that is by way of being the Chairperson, he has got all the qualifications for that by virtue of the fact that he belongs here to this province.
POM Do you not find a difference between the way that situation is dealt with, if that's the best word, and the way the situation of Peter Mokaba was handled?
RM In the Northern Province?
POM He was drafted by elements in the province and then the leadership said, listen he won't be available, his work load is too busy, a consideration that didn't arise when Dullah Omar was running for leadership in the Western Cape, and then it reversed itself in the light of the ANCYL, Youth League. There seems to be an inconsistency in the way the centre deals with this from province to province.
RM No there is no inconsistency. There is consistency. You see the National Executive is a national body, it is concerned with the entire South Africa, in other words the membership of the ANC in its entirety throughout the country. We belong to one family, it's a big family. We have to examine situations in provinces and definitely they are not the same. We have also to intervene in some cases to say that for purposes of progress and peace we think that so-and-so will be suitable. Mokaba belongs to that province by the way. People in that province as the son of the soil, as they would say, we want him to do A, B, C and D. The central government is entitled to say that if he were to do that it will be actually interfering with the work of this comrade. He has got a lot of work, here is his work, we would like him to concentrate on this work. That is perfectly in order. The situation in the Western Cape is slightly different. As much as Omar is the Minister of Justice, which is a very important portfolio, but if we think that we must burden him with the task of having these two loads on his shoulders for a very good political reason we must say so and must say that we are going to sit with that, you have to bear with us. By the way an official is not just an individual. I don't know whether you understand that language? An official is not just an individual, he is part of the collective. So if we say that we are putting too much load on this person we can lessen that load by collective effort, collective effort has got a great deal to do because I am in a position to say I delegate you with this power, do this for me. And as long as we plan together, which is very important, we must plan together, we must come to a decision collectively and to say let us work. There is no individual who works by himself. It's a label to say you are the president, you are the chairman, you are the secretary, but there is that collective effort, the coming together of the executive, the executive decides we must meet once a week to decide seven days programme and we decide on that and we go into action, all of us, but we still say you are a chairperson, you are the secretary, you are the treasurer, but there is that collective effort which is fundamental and working together. I, for instance, here for the last 2½ years I am working with ten persons belonging to different ministries, Agriculture, Education, Health, what have you. We meet once a week on Wednesday, we discuss, we exchange views. Of course they report to me time and again and so on progress and all that. But there is that collective effort working together which is fundamental.
POM So just personally are you in favour of within a province the Premier and the leader of the provincial structures being one and the same person?
RM Personally now I am in favour of that because experience is a great teacher. Experience has taught us that it is wiser for us to do that, to adopt that. I am in favour of that.
POM And are you going to be a candidate for provincial leader again or will I have to wait till Wednesday to find out?
RM Well as they say I have not been a provincial leader in that sense, being a provincial leader of the ANC in that sense. I have been a Premier in a provincial government, a political leader therefore in the government. What I'm going to say on Wednesday is the question you see which I am going to state my position and also a political directive for future purposes. I am going to make that statement on Wednesday at three o'clock.
POM What did you think of Jacob Zuma's statement in Durban about two weeks ago, and again it was all connected to the Free State affair, when he said that anyone in the ANC who thought that the constitution was more important than the ANC was in trouble?
RM What did that mean? That is the question you see. I think that at times it's a question of expression because you can interpret that in different ways. But he himself he has to tell us what he was trying to convey.
POM What do you think he was trying to convey?
RM I think that what he's trying to portray is that it is the ANC which matters. But the trouble is the ANC has got a constitution. Now what is he trying to say; that you have to be loyal to the ANC? Is that what he was trying to convey? You cannot be above the ANC, you are a member of the ANC, you must be bound by the decisions and procedures of the ANC but within that the ANC has got a constitution. Now why should you try to single it out? To separate that may cause a lot of trouble.
POM When he was saying any person in the ANC who thought he was above the constitution, he wasn't talking about the constitution of the ANC, he was talking about the constitution of the country?
RM Are you sure? I don't agree with you there. I don't think so. You can't mix those two things. He is talking about the constitution of the ANC, he is not talking about the constitution of the country. I haven't got that interpretation. Why should he talk about the constitution of the country unless he's conveying that there are people who want to take the ANC to court? It may be so. By taking the ANC to court you are also using your constitutional right as a citizen but the truth of the matter is that if you are an ANC you are subject to the discipline of the ANC.
POM Do you think that at the root of some of the recent problems that there have been in the ANC, whether it's been the Bantu Holomisa affair, whether it's been the Free State affair, or other instances of personalities emerging that would seem to place themselves above the party, that they have failed to understand the nature of the ANC itself and this is the way it's functioned since 1912?
RM You see those people have failed to understand the ABC, what you call the ABC in politics because once you join an ANC you are not an individual, you are part of the whole, that is the whole membership of the ANC. You are subject to the discipline of the ANC. You must belong to a branch, branch takes decisions and branch can even discipline you, even myself a national member of the National Executive. The branch can discipline me and a decision taken by the National Executive, the NEC has got powers in between conferences, the powers of the national conference. Now it has got that constitutional authority. Now for anyone to pooh-pooh or to make silly remarks about the structures of the ANC in a disparaging manner, that person is subject to discipline and must be disciplined. You can discuss all problems within the ANC, you can criticise the ANC within the ANC. That's what you call self-criticism. Say, look brother you are wrong here and there and whether it's the President, I am doing it myself, we discuss with the President, we exchange views and so on, I am entitled to say, I think Madiba you are wrong here. If I am correct he will say you have got a point. That is what we call self-criticism in the ANC.
POM But you don't take that outside?
RM Once you take it outside then you have got the tendency of Calvin, of throwing stones at the church, like Martin Luther, you must reform within, inside. That is the proper way of doing things.
POM Now how do you square that with what some people would have and it would be this question of transparency and the emphasis the ANC has put on there being transparent government, that it's open, that there's accountability, that the people see what's going on, but at the same time you have a party that dominates the government which makes many of the most important decisions behind closed doors following its procedures and its constitution but to which the public have no idea as to the nature of the debate that goes on or what the various points of view being expressed are. All they know is that (i) nobody within those structures is supposed to talk about what went on, which is in a way a lack of transparency, and (ii) they just learn about the decisions made, not the debate and the intensity of the debate very often that went on around those issues.
RM Well we have to separate a government and the ANC. In government we discuss in public, in the legislature. Everybody is entitled, there is a Hansard and so on. I am accountable to the people outside about what I am doing in the government but we must draw a clear distinction between membership of an organisation, membership. There is no point therefore of being a member of an organisation if it means that everybody must know about the happenings of the organisation. You don't gain anything by membership in that sense. Membership means that you are a member of this organisation, there are internal matters, we must draw a distinction between internal matters of the organisation and public matters. The transparency that we are talking about is the transparency you are having in your government. Government must account to the public. The ANC is an ANC you see, that must be clear. The government is serving the ratepayers, serving the citizens of the country. It is accountable to the public. That is why the legislature is open. You can come and listen to us what we are discussing and we are reporting back to our constituencies. The public is entitled to criticise us. We are entitled to examine criticism from the public and if we are wrong we must say we are wrong, if we are right we will say we are right. That is the government. The ANC is an independent political organisation. It has got its membership, it serves its membership.
POM Just on that there is a provision in the constitution that provides that there should be some government funding or some form of government funding of political parties and I think there is going to be legislation introduced. Isn't that right?
RM You mean what they call the veterans?
POM No, this is that there is a provision that would provide some form of public assistance to political parties whether it's to help them start up or to help them in their day-to-day operations or to help them at election time or whatever, but it specifically says in the constitution that government assistance shall be provided, it doesn't say a large amount will be, but that some government assistance will be provided to political parties. My question would be, and that is in the constitution because we've been working on it in a different project, then does that not make the political party, because public tax money is involved, does that not make the political party a public institution of sorts with the right of the public who are helping to fund the political party to know what's going on within the political party? Do you see what I mean? It's not strictly a private institution any longer.
RM Well I don't see how you can regulate that privacy by way of legislation. The internal matters of any political organisation are internal matters of that political organisation.
POM But if tax money is being given to the organisation?
RM If tax money is given there must be a specific purpose why it is given. What is it going to do? There must be what we call a clarity, there must be a definition as to why are we giving this money, for what purpose? If that money is conditional to the effect that you are therefore to report to me because I am giving you the money, you must report to me, then you have to undertake that condition. You must honour that condition because the offering of the money is conditional, that I am giving you this money and I am therefore expecting you to do A, B, C and D, to report to me.
POM So that if you take the money you should have to live up to the conditions attached to the money and you should have the choice of saying we don't want the money?
RM You should have the choice to say, 'To hell with the money, I don't want your money, I am independent', that's a different story.
POM Do you think that's a good idea, giving some public funding to all political parties?
RM I am not in favour of that by the way, not at all. The political parties should be independent. It has been like that all these years. This is something new which I am not clear about but I must confess this point you are raising I am not clear about it. If at all you are correct then you are in fact straitjacketing the political party to be your slave, to be your servant in a sense of reporting to you.
POM Reporting to me, the public?
RM Reporting to the giver of the money.
POM In this case it would be the taxpayer.
RM The taxpayer yes, the taxpayer.
POM I want to ask you, you've been 2½ years in your administration here, what are you most proud of having achieved in those first 2½ years and what has been your biggest disappointment?
RM Well my achievement is the bringing together of the three administrations, the bringing together of the three police divisions, services, and also seeing to it that the MPLs are working together with the MECs and the appeals that we have made to the central government to pay special attention to this province and seeing to its peculiarities.
POM And you think that's now been accepted by the government?
RM Precisely, it has been accepted. That's right. And we are now in the process of delivering. We have managed to persuade foreign investors to come and invest in this province and we have also further appealed to the local, internal business people to expand their businesses so that we can create jobs for the unemployed people. All these things are happening very well so far. There are promises, for instance, about the Chinese who are going to open up the Berlin Industrial Park.
POM This is the People's Republic of China?
RM Yes. And also the big projects in the Eastern Cape where they are going to open a big harbour there and the involvement of the Chinese, I hope of course that they are going to stick to their promises. We are developing the roads. You can see if you travel down to Bisho, the roads, there is a big difference. We want to make one continuous complex, Kingwilliamstown and Bisho, just one thing. And we are in my view on course, in other words delivering. And also the corruption, what we have done in the cleaning up process we are arresting a number of people who are committing crime here. Then of course we are still lagging behind in a number of things which we want to patch up and I must say that I have not actually come across a disappointment as such. On the contrary by the way, the attitude particularly of the people in the Transkei is changing in our favour. Today I am friendly to the people like the Transkei Chamber of Commerce, we discuss, they invite me, we plan and so on. The question of let us work together, it is there. A number of people in the various parts of the province do meet, they form a project, they invite the government, we work together and so on, like the water project in Somerset East last week, and Cofimvaba, and we are busy with economic plans, the corridor which we want to open from East London right up to the Wild Coast bordering KwaZulu/Natal and also side by side with this corridor we are also setting up the infrastructure, hotels and what have you, small farms and all that.
POM So if I were to ask you whether black people in general are better off than they were 2½ years ago when you took over, you would say?
RM I would say they are not better off but a process has been set in motion and for the black people to be better off it means radical change if you take into account their economic position, right down at the lowest rung of the ladder. You need, what we intend doing is that when you are building a school, when you are building a hospital, a clinic, it must be job creating. Every little bit of project, plans that we do it must be job creating so that we are also tackling the unemployment big army to reduce it to small.
POM Have you been able to reduce the level of unemployment?
RM I can't give you figures but definitely jobs are being created.
POM What about white people? Are they any better off, any worse off or is their position just about the same as it always was?
RM Well white people in any event in this country have been better off than blacks but one has to examine whether the white people as a group are homogenous. They are not homogenous. You have among the white people three categories, three classes, the upper class, the middle class and the lower class and right down in the lower class you will find people could be described as being poor. Whites, yes.
POM So in general would you say that middle class and upper class whites are as well off or better off than they were?
RM What we have to do as a government, leave aside the question of the colour of the skin, first of all we must have a progressive constitution, everybody must feel that he is a citizen of the country. Next thing, create jobs, let people work and the unskilled let them be skilled, train them to be skilled and in that way you are advancing the cause. When we say a better life for all, better life for everybody, in fact we are aiming at that but it's going to be a process.
POM So the biggest problem you face in the next 2½ years will be?
RM Will be to see to it that all our goals, our vision of bringing about political change, economic change in the country is fulfilled, or at least is visible because it's going to be a long process but it must be visible like when I move I see the work of ESCOM.
POM You were talking about seeing ...
RM Yes, I was saying that there must be certain things which are visible in our delivery, maintenance of roads, building of hospitals, schools and clinics and all that and electrification of the entire province, bringing water to the people where they reside, all these things must be visible. This is our task.
POM In talking to people, and I have probably asked you this, but one of the questions that I keep track on from a year to year to basis, some have said that a break in the ANC alliance is inevitable at some point, not before the 1999 elections but maybe afterwards, that the tensions between - it's a broad cathedral with many interests and that at some point the interests will begin to diverge. Do you think that in the medium run, and that's all we can talk about, at best the next 10 - 15 years, that the alliance will hang together or that it's merely the hope of its opponents that it will somehow split up into different factions?
RM In the realm of possibilities that is possible. In the first place there must be something which keeps the alliance together. What is that thing? In the past it was white rule. White rule has disappeared. What is going to happen in this country today, we are going to see classes, the employing class in black and white belonging to one group. What we are going to see in this country, a class known as the workers, the employed class, that class coming together black and white forming one trade union rather than having separate trade unions on the grounds of colour of the skin. Now that is going to happen and also political parties, they are going to emerge now, black and white, they will belong to one political party. That is going to happen, and as we go on then I do see that that substance which has always bound together the alliance gradually disappearing.
POM Just on that note, do you find the new National Party's vision that somehow it's going to get out there into the townships and whatever and start attracting large numbers of black voters, just large numbers, do you find this feasible or do you find it the most kind of fanciful wishful thinking?
RM To me it is an idea which they are entertaining presently but it doesn't appear to me that the majority of the blacks have forgotten the history of the National Party. They still have it. It is going to take some time. They have to prove themselves. They must prove themselves on the political field.
POM Do you find their attitude towards blacks - I mean I find it, I must say, almost an insult to the intelligence of black people to believe that you can oppress them so thoroughly and so brutally for so many years and then turn around and think that in the space of five to ten years you can somehow win their support.
RM It's wishful thinking I think, but there is no harm in the National Party trying. In any event, you see, look at them, we talk about a government of national unity, it is the same people who have broken away. Now that is not going to entice the blacks because what you need in this country is the closer coming together of racial groups because it's difficult to make any judgement to a person at a distance but when you are working together you get to know one another. That is where they made a mistake. We say, all right, let us start because we have been scattered on the grounds of colour, let us work together under a government of national unity. It brings us together. I have been working with Delport here for over two years, there he runs away, he wants to be in the opposition. What do you think about it? What do you think is going to be the reaction of the black people? They will say look at him, he doesn't change his colours.
POM Finally just a question of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. I may be entirely incorrect, because it's an observation, so I would like to hear your comments on the observation, but my feeling is that, as I've watched it take place and talked to people, that (i) white people resent it and they see it as some kind of witch-hunt against them or their people, (ii) that even when things like Eugene de Kock or whatever come to light, or one of these horrible incidents, they will express shock but they don't feel any guilt and they don't feel any remorse and they don't feel any responsibility and they don't feel any need to really apologise from their hearts for what was done in their name and that they are resentful. On the other hand you have black people who are looking at white people and are saying we're not asking a lot from you, we're only asking that you acknowledge that these things went on in the past and say you are ashamed of them and that you admit to them and that we will work together to ensure that they will never happen again, and because whites won't do that there is a resentfulness of blacks towards the attitudes of whites, or whites lack. It's far more important to whites to talk about what happened to Francois Pienaar and he's been axed from the Springboks than to sit around the dinner table or at a cocktail party and say, oh my God, look at the things that are coming to light about what we did in the past. They simply don't talk about it. How do you find attitudes?
RM Well unfortunately the attitudes of some of the whites they are not remorse attitudes, an attitude of one feeling that I have done something wrong, I am sorry, I humbly say I apologise, I apologise and so on. They seem to have that arrogance. Now that arrogance is not going to pay them but it's quite clear to them that there is what is known as hard criminals, when you classify criminals you have the hard criminal who it is difficult to change. Now another thing of course they are also living in fear that if they were to be open and so on we would say all right we are going to charge you in spite of our assurances that we are not going to do so. There is also that fear that if I tell everything then these people will turn round and say you are being charged for murder, you murdered so many people and so on and you go to jail for so many years. There is also that aspect, but there are assurances that we are not going to penalise you, there is no revenge and so on, all we want is to know the record, to have the record that these things did happen so that the people are at rest.
POM But their attitude seems to be, listen let's forget about the past, the past is the past and we want to get on with the future. But you can't get on with the future unless you understand.
RM That's true. You see you do find that type of element who are not prepared to change.
POM Does that disturb you?
RM It disturbs one, particularly to a person who wants change, remorse, a person who says no, I have done wrong and so on. What can you do? We are covering a long history of 300 and so many years and people don't want to change. They fear the blacks, the blacks are in the majority, the blacks may say let us charge these people and so on.
POM Do you still see the National Party as an obstacle to transformation, to the kind of radical transformation that's needed in the country, that they are just slow, they are still trying to protect the vestiges of their own interest and they are sectional, they're factional, that they're not really contributing towards the national debate?
RM If the National Party, let me be frank, was honest, if the National Party was honest, they should have stuck to the government of national unity, definitely, if they were honest with themselves. The fact that they have in fact withdrawn is an indictment against them and I think one day they will regret that decision. And a number of people among themselves couldn't stomach that decision. They said to hell with you, we resign from the National Party.
POM I was just talking to Pik Botha the other day and he said, I'm out of here.
RM And you talk about Pik Botha, he is one of the oldest fellows there, experienced, oldest fellow, the man who used to be the driving machine, recruitment to the National Party. If Pik Botha is out you must know that they are on the verge, they are on the precipice.
POM Thank you very much.