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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

13 Mar 1997: Sexwale, Tokyo

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POM     Premier, let me begin perhaps with one of our fundamental questions the last time and that was the suspension or re-deployment of Terror Lekota from the Free State and the expulsion of Bantu Holomisa from the party. You later had the NEC 'interfering' in the Northern Province not to encourage one member of the leadership to run against another for the provincial chairmanship, you had a similar situation in KwaZulu/Natal. This strikes a lot of people as being undemocratic, particularly the Free State situation which in a way in the Free State itself your membership has vindicated by refusing to nominate Dr  Matsepe-Casaburri for the provincial leadership. In the ANC what is the relationship between democracy and discipline to the party?

TS     Firstly I think we should understand that the ANC is going through a new phase altogether, the phase of democracy exercised inside our own country, the phase of parliamentary democracy, the phase of having to adjust itself, its structures and perhaps in certain situations its policies towards the new situation of governance. I would never belong to the ANC if the culture of democracy under any situation can be seen to be threatened or diminished,  but I don't think there's a need to panic. The ANC has set in motion something that it cannot reverse unless people want to go to war and the ANC is not in a position to do that because it is not doing that. It has set in motion democracy, a fundamental bill of rights, a judicial system that is very credible, separation of powers between the executive, the legislature as well as the judiciary, multiparty democracy, the elections that are periodic and then of course the ANC is now part of that global, the international community of nations that adhere to these principles so it has subjected itself to being monitored and to being evaluated by democratic countries around the world. The ANC has got a Constitutional Court whose final authority it is to interpret the constitution. We can pass laws but it is the prerogative and sole right of that court to interpret the full meaning of those laws. These are all structures that are in place. They are now there despite and in spite of the ANC, so there's no turning back.

     I don't think you should see the ANC as in any way becoming anything other than being democratic. We should not confuse a situation where the ANC is dealing with how to manage its new conditions with the diminishing of democracy. It's not the same. The ANC has got to manage the new tensions, the new dichotomies, the contradictions around itself, around its structures, around its membership, its policies, and of course the alliance which it has got with the Communist Party and COSATU as well as SANCO, which is the National Civic Organisation. No sooner than the ANC had returned to South Africa than it had to grapple with things like as a political party political individuals having to stand up on their own and making certain pronouncements and declarations whereas in the past the structures of the movement were such that only a few people spoke because we were underground, all of us had to hide. Suddenly you move from a situation where Johnny Makathini was the spokesman of the ANC and was one of the few and exposed people like President Tambo, or can I say Thabo Mbeki, like Oliver Tambo, were also one of the few exposed people. The rest of us were underground and you move into a situation where people have got to now speak, not just speak because they are in exile but they speak in line with the stipulations of the democracy that they have won and fought for all these years. So ANC structures issue press statements and also its a new culture. You must deal with that without in any way undermining internal democracy within the ANC.

     I don't think we should confuse also the situation of Bantu Holomisa with the problem of threat to internal democracy in the ANC, and I want to end up later with the point of internal democracy itself and my views in that regard. The situation of Holomisa speaks for itself because he really didn't have any fundamental clashes to the policies of the ANC, any fundamental contradictions or clashes with the policies of the ANC. Rather he couldn't adhere to a certain norm that was saying that before you raise things publicly, particularly about differences which you have with comrades inside, do so within the party structures before you hold press conferences or address the TRC for that matter, because the ANC was going to go to the TRC as a body, like we did with the presentation that was put by Thabo Mbeki which was an excellent presentation and which covered all our activities so we didn't want people to go on their own lest we start contradicting ourselves. And I don't think there was any political party which would like to be seen to be contradictory when we pronounce ourselves in public. That's what happened and from there really the internal party disciplinary machinery had to be turned in process. I really feel saddened by the fact that the situation had to develop to the ugly level of him having slanging or public slanging matches with the ANC or with individuals of the ANC, and I was one of those people, I am quite aggrieved by that. I thought I should say what Mandela said, the situation could have been handled differently. I think he also could have handled the situation differently because after all he is somebody who really did do his best for the country.

     The question of who stands against who inside the ANC, the membership have spoken. It's correct. We choose our leaders via the same system of democracy and I don't think we should do anything to try to preclude membership from contesting leadership positions. It's like that in our branches so there's nothing new. We've got hundreds of branches, it happens in all branches, it happens at provincial level. I have been elected, this is for the sixth time since I was released from prison, and I am contested and that's how it should happen and it's good. It's good because through that process we have all to make choices. Of course there's lobbying, internal lobbying, internal canvassing, positions taken, a particular name as opposed to the other. It should not mean that that process should be spiteful. It's correct for members of the ANC to say we would like so-and-so to stand in this position and we may not want so-and-so for particular reasons. However, it's correct for the leadership also to want to be part of the democracy, to want to lobby, but it must be lobbying, it must never be directives. And the way I have read the situation directives were nearly issued but corrections were made by the ANC leadership who said, no, no, we have not issued any directives, all we have said is that people must not oppose one another to such a level that it leads to the destruction of the organisation. I think everybody is quite mindful of that. Even the primaries for the presidential elections in the United States you end up with the destruction of either from within internal forces of either the Republican or the Democratic Party, then it becomes destructive. So the leadership of the ANC was trying to avert the situation where such lobbying, such canvassing, such position taking around names of people who have become accountable but even destructive to the life of the woman. Perhaps in trying to balance that they found themselves coming across as though they are giving directives so that is why I say 'near' directives, but on the whole the membership must always speak. I stand for that, everybody stands for that, the constitution of the ANC is very sound on that position.

POM     In that regard what's the relationship between the NEC, the cabinet and parliament? Is the cabinet there to carry out the policies that are laid down by the NEC? Is the NEC the primary body that has precedence over cabinet and government in terms of decision making process?

TS     Let me balance, let me say something, it's one line but it's very critical to summarise what we have said on the question of internal democracy in the ANC. The ANC believes in the principle of democratic centralism, in other words there must be democracy and there must be a centre at which the democracy is reflected. Everybody does have that. Perhaps the concept of democratic centralism, because it was much more utilised in the eastern European countries, some people may have difficulties with it but simply explained there's a need for democracy, internal party democracy, but you balance that with the centre. There can't just be democracy of people talking, in the British Labour Party or Conservative Party, standing up to say anything they like. Debate, say what you like of course but then at the end of the day the ideas must be centralised somewhere, so we believe in democratic centralism.

     However, there is what you call democracy without a centre and there can also be the centre without democracy. What do I mean by that? Firstly, democracy without a centre is just anybody's, it's almost akin to anarchy. Everybody has got a democratic view, stand up, you articulate, say whatever you like, you put positions and there's no centre that is holding and your views are just ending up scuttled. So that is democracy, full blooded democracy but it's not centralised anywhere so those views at the end of the day, what's this whole discussion about? It's just to shout, to print in newspapers, to state positions and there's no end to this debate. There must be an end. Somewhere people must say, now we converge, there's consensus and compliance thereafter.

     But where you have a centre without democracy, and that happened in eastern European countries where they thought they were practising democratic centralism, Euro-centrist, there was a centre without democracy. All views were centralised, no democracy. They did not allow anybody to speak. Party congresses become a sham or just talk shops which are ignored and that is why it was the workers in those countries that turned against the leadership, so it really became the dictatorship of the workers, of the proletariat who decided to take - but when they did they broke with the leadership and then of course the little bit of the bridgehead of socialism fell in those countries because they didn't consult the people. It was the centre, party politburo taking decisions and there is no democracy.

     The struggle, or can I say the challenge of managing the tension or the balance between the centre and democracy is what the ANC is dealing with so that we don't appear to be centrist as leaders, I will never accept that, or just all our branches being democratic and there's no centre. So in other words Clinton and Al Gore are there as party leaders to make sure that the leadership gives direction but you also listen to the party caucus. So the struggle is to make sure that there is that balance, the management of that tension, on that scale one should not tilt in the disfavour of the other. That's my summary for the first question.

     My summary for the second question is a very simple one, that of who governs, who pushes policy between government, parliament, cabinet. It's the same analogy but this time it doesn't take the concept of democratic centralism but I want to talk about the rock face as well as the home base. What I am saying is that you are deploying people, you position people in certain centres of government, as lawmakers the legislatures, as executives in cabinets. When they go there they go there on the basis of your policy and it's the same policy that you present to the electorate so the party formulates a policy, the party presents that policy to the electorate and on the basis of that policy you get elected, or not elected. But in the situation where you are elected then you go and position certain people to fight for that position in the legislatures, in lawmaking, in the executive chambers of government. That's what you do. So it must be clearly understood that when you go there you go on the basis of the mandate of your party. It's correct, that's the starting point. Any other thing is simply getting elected on the party mandate and when you get there you do your own thing. You are going to be thrown out in any party. Let a Kissinger go and push a foreign policy that is not akin to what Nixon and the party fought for, he's out because he's going to recognise Syria and he recognised Israel, but that's not what the party's all about. So you follow the policy of the party and that policy was given to the electorate, it's on that basis that that party was elected so don't cheat the electorate. We can't change.

     However, I say that 'however' very strongly because this is what now follows, when you send people to implement your policies at the rock face and they come from the home base which cooks the policies, which presents them to the electorate, you send them to the legislature, cabinets, not the rock face, those are the miners, you now have got an obligation of listening to what they have to say about the type of tools they require. After all when you formulate policies you are not aware of certain objectives, reality on the ground. And what is there really on the ground, it's that they say it's difficult to implement your policy of 1955, of the Freedom Charter of nationalising all banks and taking the commanding heights of the economy by legislation. If we do that we will discourage investments, we will have property but people are going to run away from us and we will become a banana republic, the country will collapse, this is how the international economy works. So you open your ears and listen to the message that comes from the rock face. They report back to the party and they say we can't work with these tools, give us other tools for us to continue to mine the gold or the coal, whatever they are doing there. So it comes back to the party and the party says, well there are changed conditions so you can't just ram that policy down their throats and say let's go. You look at the objective conditions. Where your policy does not correspond to objective reality there's a need for you to adjust that policy, sometimes altogether.

POM     Would I be correct in saying though that decisions made by the NEC then become decisions that must be implemented by the cabinet and by the caucus in parliament?

TS     Yes, but not blindly. Your decisions must be a guide to actions, not a dogma. If they are a dogma you will end up sending people to that rock face on the basis of policies that are not workable on the ground. If they are not practical the party loses. So such policies from, say, the ANC National Executive Committee are seen as a guide to action and not a dogma, so we are not dogmatic. When people are confronted in the party in a situation they say look we need now a GEAR strategy, a growth strategy for the economy as far as redistribution. And they come back and then they say it's a question of holding the deficit down to 4.1%. It's a question of growing the economy to 6% at the turn of the century. It's a question of the management as well as the controlling of government expenditure. It's a question of financing the foreign debt. We must look at these things. They say for the economy to be healthy, for us to grow, there is a need for us to do these things. We must hold inflation to one digit or if it goes into two digits it must be not more than 15%, that type of thing. We must downsize public administration. They come with policies that you didn't expect and they say that will produce a healthy economy and they show you Malaysia,  Singapore, they show you some of the emerging markets and they say this is what happens and they show you your own policy, if you follow this, this is what is going to happen, you are going to end up like Malawi and so on, you think. But they dare not implement policies on the basis of their observations without telling the party because then it would mean that they are making policy. No matter how right they are, politically it would not be astute for them to implement such decisions. Therefore there is a need for them to come back and it's a cellular phone, a fax, e-mail, it's a meeting to say this is what we experience at the rock face, for us to run the economy this is what we must do. Or you send them to negotiate a constitution and they come back and say we know that this is our position but on the provinces we feel that provinces must have certain powers and you people said we must not compromise on a particular position but we feel we should because that's the only way we can get this party and the other party to be on board.

     What I am saying therefore, in conclusion, is that the centre which is the NEC of the ANC must understand that. And that's how I see things, that our decisions are a guide. Policy doesn't mean commands. Once you see policy as prescriptive, as a command, it's a military instruction, get out of politics. It must be pliable and whatever changes that must come must come in accordance to the material conditions at the rock face where those policies are going to be implemented. Secondly, those at the rock face will find that, because they are the implementers of policy, you can't just sit there at Shell House like I may sit there with a few friends and have tea and have a meeting and say they must do it, but when they come back and say it cannot be done, when they see that there are certain problems, they come back and you discuss. Take our branches with you, take the alliance, because you shouldn't just come to an announcement in the newspapers because then the whole machinery is thrown out of gear. So we are saying, yes it is correct for them to implement party policy, not dogmatically. Where they see problems they don't change them on the ground as though they are people in a spaceship on the moon and there is no other chance, it's a scientific experiment that you can't call back somebody, you must just use that test tube right at that moment. We don't work like that, it's not natural science. You show some sense, come back let's hold a meeting and alter course on the basis of that meeting. That's how to relieve the tensions that may exist between a political party as well as its members who are at the rock face of the implementation of policy.

POM     So if I were, say, the Minister for Finance and I had gone abroad and I had visited Washington and Geneva and London or wherever and I came back and I said, listen the international community believes that in order for South Africa to become an attractive investment opportunity you have to do A, B, C and D, or should follow policies aimed at A, B, C and D, he would report to the NEC and say this is what I've learned on my tour. Would the NEC then debate what he brought back and reach a decision and the decision could be in favour of what he said or could be against what he said or be a modification of what he said?

TS     Correctly because he's a minister he would report back to the President in government. He may not be a member of the NEC himself, he may be a good specialist such as we had with Chris Liebenberg who was Minister of Finance and was not a member of the NEC. So you are actually talking about a situation where the person reporting back may not necessarily be a member of the NEC. So he reports to his structure.

POM     But would the policy that he recommends go before the NEC?

TS     Yes, he reports to his structure where he operates and the cabinet. First of all cabinet won't be left out, cabinet won't hear from the NEC. He's a cabinet minister, he comes back and he tells us. But also a number of us are members of the NEC and we feel that there is a policy change, in any case that's why you have the President who also must be, the President of the ANC, also must be the President of the country, then he feels, well ladies and gentlemen we've got a problem here, there are the proper things to do, provided of course everything is all subject to the numbers are right, you run checks through these things, you have actually touched base with countries that have implemented similar or near similar policies. Subject to all that of course, and then you tell the party that your policy has got to change.

POM     But it would go to the NEC?

TS     Yes, yes.

POM     The NEC would debate what came out of the discussions?

TS     Yes, he can accept that, he can amend that or he can simply say we are not changing policy. Of course you face the consequences of not changing a policy in a situation where you must change policy.

POM     But the NEC could say we're not going to change policy?

TS     Of course and it won't change and then the minister has got to implement that policy which he feels the political party has given him.

POM     Do you think that the list system encourages loyalty to the party rather than loyalty or accountability to the individual voter? Would you like to see some modification in the voting scheme?

TS     I don't think it's an either or because these systems work internationally and there are very good systems that work on a list system, they are very good countries, democratic ones, very successful ones, and there are countries that are working on a one man one vote basis insofar as party constituencies are concerned. South Africa is still a new country and we have decided to opt for this system of party lists. Yes, one must concede that because of that you are on the list of the party but it doesn't make you less accountable to the people because the party is chosen by the people and they choose it on the basis of policy. If you come in as a party and say our policies are to encourage the agricultural sector, our policies are to position ourselves for only internal consumption, no export of food, our policies are to use the army all the time against the criminals and our policies are to never have a navy, the electorate chooses you on the basis of that policy and they don't care which one of you is going to implement that policy. They are not worried about that, they just say right, here's a policy, go ahead with it. Whoever you put there is not an issue for the electorate so you are serving the electorate and the electorate at that time is not interested whether the service comes from Tom, Dick or Harry.

     The individual system where you have constituencies is because you reduce the electorate not just to a huge seemingly amorphous group of people throughout South Africa but it's people in a particular suburb and it's easy for them to have an interface with their representative in parliament where they can raise very simple things about their own neighbourhood, about crime there, it's somebody they know, he is a leader of their constituency, about squalor, they can raise issues about schools in the area, noise levels, water, electricity and those type of things. So it brings government closer to people and they hold you, not your party, you, whether you are in that party - if they like the party they will vote for you also but sometimes they may not like the party, they like you, they will vote for you. It happens. And sometimes they may even force you to move out of your party and become an Independent, so they really feel you can do it.

     It is that type of difference between the constituency based system as well as the one man one vote party list systems. However, I know there's a lot of thinking that is beginning to say can we improve this system and base it on the constituency basis. I wouldn't disagree with that. Anything for me democratically can go or must go and so far as it is an improvement of our current democratic situation, if it is an improvement it has got my vote. I don't disagree with it. It's not undermining democracy, it's not some system from Jupiter, it's operated somewhere on earth, so I would support it with the proviso that says if it's an improvement on our democratic system as it currently is, which is a good system, then I accept it. I know there is thinking around this question.

POM     Do you sometimes think that there is a tendency for the west to try to impose its norms of democracy not on South African in particular but on African countries in general and to judge the relative success or failure of democracy according to their norms and their cultural values rather than African norms and cultural values?

TS     It's inevitable that countries would try to influence one another. One only resents that if it comes to a situation of trying to control other countries or to go to war where you fail to reach such control. But mutual influences across the world, yes. You know the Americans, and I quote from my own discussions with American Vice President Mr Al Gore, I am very, very impressed and I am finding that our road to democracy, particularly to non-racialism, is very instructive for America. They are prepared to be influenced by that. I trust Mr Al Gore on this question and many other issues. I admired his articulation of some of the views around this, but he really won me over as a friend when he said that America finds it instructive from South Africa, there is no other country in the world where we have been able to resolve one of the most fundamental of contradictory situations, the questions of racism in South Africa.  The way we handled it, it's a lesson for the whole world, particularly, he said, the United States. So we do influence one another and I am sure a number of small countries in what they do whether it's on democracy, on research, on medicine, on politics, they do influence some of the giant countries. Look which are the growth markets of today influencing others in terms of productivity, but of course countries don't want to be too influenced on politics, but it's happening. We influence one another. So there is a tendency on the part of certain countries in the west to try to influence African countries. Certainly we also do feel that there's an attempt but we're not running away from influences, positive influences. But these negative influences, when you see them you obviously set them aside.

POM     Do you think these countries have the right to 'preach' to African countries about the way they should do things or conduct their affairs?

TS     I don't want to condemn them on everything but I think on their approach to democracy there is room for improvement amongst them as to how they view Africa. By the way, I also think it's a misnomer to talk about 'western' democracy, which one is it? American system or British system? They are not the same those two systems but they all call them 'western'. It's just a global approach that makes it easy perhaps for international analysis but if you have to be profound in your analytical approach the two systems are different, the democratic systems. The one is a monarchy and the other one doesn't have a monarch in the first place. In France they hang the monarch, in Britain they don't. It's a republic so the systems even though it's democracy that addresses the conditions of Britain with their King, must dress up and do all kinds of things like the international models. Some of them don't pay tax, that type of thing, or they didn't used to for many years in the past, there are changes.  But you go to France whether you're a Marquis or you're a Duke it's no longer an issue, the constitution is different. You go to Denmark they have kings and it's not the same. So this democracy has got different flavours in western countries. Similarly we have our own type of democracy. It's not anathema, but it's different from that of other countries. In South Africa it's not the same as in Zimbabwe and in Zimbabwe it's not the same as Nigeria. They are a federal system, they have all sorts of things. Here some had kings and chiefs, we have to take into account, simply put the conditions of our own country, the cultures, the customs, the religions and try to do something. All that we have to do at the end of the day is to be able to get people with divergent colours, divergent languages, divergent customs, divergent cultures to be able to articulate their positions through one medium and that is your constitution by democracy. You just have to balance those things. So you can't leave out some of the groups.

     Advisers that come from western countries, can I say some of those countries would want us to implant their type of democracy into our own countries, it  becomes a botched up case. You fail if you try to have a Bokassa in Africa becoming a Napoleon, if you try to get a Bokassa in the Central African Republic mimicking a Napoleon. That's what he tried. He had thrones and all sorts of things. It doesn't work. And he had guards. He thought it was a Roman system. It didn't work, it failed. So you must take into account the realities of the different countries, the nature of the economy, the cultures, the customs, the religion, territories, the tribal customs. You take those into account, balance all things and allow all these people who are Muslims, who are Jews, who are Hindus, who are Christians in South Africa, to be able to articulate themselves and feel they are all listened to. If you load one against the other you've got a problem. Some of the approaches therefore from some of the countries in Europe in particular were to try to get us to mimic some of their systems. They have not been agreed about those systems themselves in their own countries because their systems are different. Their approaches are all different to democracy, certainly the French and the British are different and the British and Americans are different. Others have Presidents, others have Prime Ministers and so on, others have kings, others if they see a king they will capture him.

POM     Do you have any worry that because of the predominance of the ANC that this will become, even though there will be multi parties, that there will be in essence a one-party, you will become a one-party democracy?

TS     No not at all. I don't have worries about that. I say that because I've heard in the past parties complain, and I understand their concern when they say what is the whole essence of a multiparty system in South Africa when the ANC is having such preponderant numbers. My answer to that comes back to members of the ANC. The ANC is the true custodian of the struggle and victory of non-racialism in South Africa, of non-sexism, of a democratic country, of a united country, and of course, we can add, of an economically prosperous South Africa where wealth is distributed in the fight against poverty towards all people. That's the ANC. The ANC - remember it came into the central stage of power because of these policies. It is the best custodian, best guarantor and custodian of these views. I believe currently if you remove the ANC there will be a temptation for other parties to try to go back to what they were in the past. We are the catalyst for change, we have to force them to accept this change and we have to force a situation democratically so that these achievements become second nature to South Africans, because they are correct, they must be part of the body politic and culture of the country.

     Having said that it's very clear therefore that the ANC as the custodian of these fundamental principles of social justice, of democracy, of a united South Africa, non-racialism, all sorts of protections of human rights and economic prosperity, the ANC itself must guard against the ANC being destroyed. We can't have the custodian at this stage getting destroyed so the ANC needs to protect something that is very valuable and close to my heart which is internal party democracy. The extent and level to which the ANC internal party democratic machinery functions goes a long way in protecting and safeguarding national democracy because if that diminishes inside the ANC there is a danger because other people may not be willing to fight for those same ideals to the level which the ANC fought. So you must safeguard South Africa by ensuring that there is internal party democracy in the ANC. Where other parties are too small in parliament to vote out certain views of the ANC, ANC people themselves must be strong enough to vote in certain things inside the ANC that parties outside may not be able to achieve.

     Let me make a simple example, let's talk about the question of corruption. Supposing the government is getting corrupt and people are doing all sorts of things, which is not what is happening right now, it is the ANC internal party democracy that must safeguard the country from that by axing, by chopping, by imprisoning, by streamlining discipline inside government. If the ANC doesn't take those people up and protects them, other parties have got no vote. What will they do? They can only shout in the press and that's all. So the life blood of a true clean democracy in South Africa rests upon those of you who have got more votes than the other, not to use your votes as the creation of a Chinese wall behind which you do all sorts of evil things but to open up so that you are sensitive to what the minority is saying, you are sensitive also because you are not the monopoly. The monopoly of votes doesn't make you the monopoly of ideas. It's as simple as that. So you must be willing and open to accept all types of views from outside.

     But you can actually see the nature of the ANC, the practice of our President is such that the government of national unity had to be brought by us, not by other parties. We went out to say to the losers of the elections, come in on board and  build with us. We could have gone for the Nuremberg option. We have decided to go for the church option, truth and reconciliation, just confession without imprisoning people, but we may not even have allowed Mr Buthelezi to be minister in the national cabinet. Maybe people feel that he should have been sent to prison, that is the same man only a few weeks ago that Mandela gave him the presidency of the country, to say to him, and I hope he got that message, you are a South African, there could have been differences in the past  but here's an opportunity for you, even if you have two days of the presidency, there is an opportunity. I think Mr Tony Leon in his over-excitedness missed a golden opportunity. I will put it like this. When he turned down the offer by Nelson Mandela to come into the government of national unity without compromising his opposition role he missed a golden opportunity. It doesn't happen in history to be offered a position for reconciliation, for you to come on board and put across the things that you are saying outside, it doesn't normally happen in history for a Nelson Mandela to offer a nonentity politically-wise and insofar as votes as votes are concerned because he hardly has 1%, he doesn't even qualify for government of national unity, but to bend backwards by a Mandela to do that I am sure Tony Leon when he writes his memoirs one day will agree it was a mistake, it was a fundamental mistake.

POM     Just turning to a sensitive question that has arisen in the last couple of weeks and this is the question of there possibly being police informants in key cabinet positions within the government or in high profile positions in the government. Now everyone in the ANC from the President down has called for the exposure of whoever was spying. Do you think that there might be an element of, that this could be part of, again, an effort to discredit the ANC, to create divisions within the ANC, to create suspicions that it is one more thrust of the third force or elements of the third force to divide and rule again? Or are you satisfied that the allegations made, or are the ANC satisfied that the allegations made, are substantially without any merit?

TS     I think you have summarised it all by saying there will be still efforts to try to undermine a body such as the ANC. I am sure it's easy for us to realise that we only have three years since the elections so really I don't think there has been a change of heart over three years, after 300 years of divisions in this country an easy change of heart just like that.

POM     There hasn't been?

TS     I don't think there's been a change of heart on the part of everybody. There will be other people who still feel that they want to fight the last rearguard battles. However, I think we must be very cautious, cautious first in saying we must be careful of a witch-hunt within the ANC because it's self-destructive, self-defeating, because you will chase shadows. Once you enter the world of espionage you are entering the world of shadows, you are never dealing with - there is no substance that you can hold, it's like wet soap in a hand or to make it worse it's a shadow in the night. We must be cautious because we may end up being let loose on our comrades by the forces that you referred to. Secondly, there is a need for caution because no enemy is going to reveal its own intelligence agents within the machinery of any other grouping. No-one, no-one at all. For a fact the KGB is not going to tell who its agents are in the CIA. Do you think because now the cold war has gone that the CIA was going to say our men in Russia are the following? There's no such thing. So it's a whole hullabaloo where the real people may not be known because nobody reveals their agents. So simply put nobody is going to reveal their own agents anywhere and you'll be set loose to chase shadows. But there are three types of revelations that may come, handled properly. One, it is people who never were agents of anybody, so I think there will be a disinformation campaign, a disinformation campaign will commence. It will be people who have never served anybody as intelligence people so they will finger the wrong people, not their own people. Number two the enemy may finger those people who where they may have worked for them are no longer answering phone calls. Thirdly, disgruntled members of the enemy may finger the real spice of the enemy within our ranks. But I think we must also lastly put this thing to rest by saying these are not ANC spies, they are not our spies. They are the spies of, where they exist, they are agents of the apartheid regime inside the ANC, they are not ANC people. Our spies, the other side, have not been revealed.

POM     But if they occupy cabinet positions - do you find that rather preposterous to believe that there are senior members of the government who may have been police informants or whatever?

TS     In the world of espionage nothing is impossible. It's a world of shadows and it doesn't start here.  Britain has had its share where the head of MI5 at one stage, sorry Philby, and there are still questions about who controlled Philby for the Soviet Union, who warned Philby? That question has still not been answered. I think it's one of the biggest debated questions in the whole international community of intelligence services. Who cautioned Philby because the circle was closing in on him and Philby in his book said he would rather leave that question as an international debate. But some people point to people in the cabinet. I don't know who. In the United States, during the inquisitions in the McCarthy era many people were fingered who could have been or could not have been agents. It is that type of thing. The whole world or era in the world of the cold war is about these types of things. I think we should get out of these things as South Africans, we shouldn't waste our time because though it's something serious it may end up being a storm in a teacup. If people had anything they would stand up and say here it is but the ANC has got to be very careful, very, very cautious with what it is doing because, like I said, we may end up chasing shadows or where we are chasing real people it may not be the people we are looking for and that could really seriously undermine our confidence in one another.

POM     Under the constitution, Gauteng being the richest, the heartland of the country, do you feel that the present constitution gives you sufficient powers to carry out your functions as Premier to your fullest ability or do you think that at some point there must be a further devolution of powers to the provinces particularly in areas like crime, public safety? Do you feel constrained in what you can do?

TS     Yes and no. Yes we need more powers in certain areas and not in certain areas. I don't want anything to do with defence or foreign affairs but insofar as powers to do with the consolidation of the schedule six or schedule five powers where we have concurrent powers of the national level of government there is a need for us to consolidate that concurrency. But additionally in the area of safety and security, our crime fighting, I strongly believe in the devolution of power to provinces and eventually I would like to say even provinces should end up without that power, that's a metropolitan function really, so that each town must keep its own locality safe. You have got the Los Angeles Police Department, the Governors in America are not dealing with that. I am not trying to transplant the American system to here but what I am saying is that there is no need for me even as a Governor to have those powers. I think I would rather send them to local areas. In any case in South Africa, in Durban already, the only city in South Africa with such powers, there is a fair measure of success because those police are quite confident about Durban, they believe in Durban, they want to clean it up, they police it, the know it, there's no turnover of the police, one day they are in Durban and another day they're in Timbuktu, somewhere, in another part of South Africa, they are here, they get used to it. The Bobby on the beat is a Bobby on the beat, he stays there. You see it in London and other cities. But so I believe that should be a metropolitan power. I believe also that under the current situation, because they are not just metropolitan, we should have provinces having those powers and I am happy to say that after much debate, after much discussion we have reached a level now where national government has agreed to devolve those powers via legislation and it is happening at a meeting tomorrow, the 14th. So that's what they will be doing. It's good. It should have been done much earlier the way I see it but the cautious approach was perhaps prudent to a certain extent but perhaps it was careless to a certain extent as well because it could have given certain criminals sufficient time to run, so we have a bit more of mop-up work to do.

POM     How about taxation? Do you believe that particularly you as one of the richer provinces in a way get penalised in terms of redistribution, you get a smaller allocation of the national budget? Should you be allowed to supplement your allocation with certain taxation powers?

TS     I agree that the whole essence of governance is about the budget. The budget is a key instrument of governing and as a result you must have something in that  budget, but I wouldn't agree with that situation where central government is completely denuded of taxation powers, not in a country like South Africa because there are many wrongs of the past that have got to be righted. So central government must have powers, not just legislative powers but financial powers as well because their legislation would mean nothing.

POM     Essentially they give you a lump sum of money and say - this is it, Tokyo?

TS     I understand that, yes.

POM     And that constrains what you can do?

TS     Of course. But I'm saying first I protect, I believe in the protection of a strong central government to the extent that it has got taxation powers but I believe there are a number of taxes that should not be in the hands of central government and we have discussed these issues with them but there are certain customs, certain excise, certain small taxes that should be coming to provinces up and above or to augment the budget, the lump sum budgets given. So we have discussed with central government about levying petrol, certain things on cars and so on. I think in the future we should be able to improve because the constitution is not final. Constitutional law is evolutionary. It's constantly changing and I think, of course, our constitution also is open to being amended in all sorts of ways. That's the essence of the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, so there is that ministry because we believe that there can be vibrancy, dynamism insofar as that limitation or the re-negotiation of some aspects of the constitution is concerned. But for now I think it's still OK but in the future when the country is a bit more stable there should be a situation where there will be a need to re-examine some of the taxation aspects of the country. But I want to stress, never anything to the denuding of central taxation or budgetary powers.

POM     If you had to compare the performance of your government in Gauteng since 1994 and the national over the same period where do you think you have done better than the national government and where do you think the national government has done better than you have?

TS     Well the national government has got more resources than we do have and the national government decides a lot on where the resources go. But I am part of the national government insofar as I sit on the ANC National Executive Committee and we take decisions there, so it's a difficult thing to say we have done better than them here. It's not an either/or situation. The national government doesn't have a place called 'national government'. National government is us, so it's not like there are two areas of operation. It's us. National government implements its policies at the provincial level so we are a measure of their success.

POM     On a scale of one out of ten where one would be miserable and ten would be terrific, where would you place the performance of the government after three years?

TS     I think we are fairly at five point five or six. I think for a country that has been able to control inflation, for a popular government which could have followed economic policies which would have been based on populism we have done well by controlling government expenditure. We could have followed policies of wanting to expand the economy, what you call expansion of the economy by neglecting inflation. We were very prudent, we didn't do that. Inflation is under control. We could have followed policies which could have seen us increasing the foreign debt. We were very careful with that. We inherited a country that was zero percent and negative in fact in terms of growth but we are able to have the country growing at 3% and what makes us particularly happy, all of us, is that that 3% is not even government driven but is private sector driven meaning that the private sector does have confidence in our policies. Business people do believe that we are able to handle our macro-economic discipline correctly. We could have had a situation where fiscal discipline could have got out of control, fiscal indiscipline, but we were able to handle government finances very well. As you can see the budget which was announced has got increased expenditure but it also has increased income because there is a bit of better efficiency in terms of the collection of taxes. But the interesting thing is that we reduced the deficit, the deficit is lower. For a country that had a very high deficit we are headed very well to achieving a target of 4.1%. For a country that inherited a zero or a negative economic growth we are on target for achieving our 6% growth rate. We are attracting foreign investments, not to the extent that we could have done so particularly in terms of plant and machinery for the country to expand the economic base.

POM     To what do you attribute the degree to which there has been a lack of substantial foreign investment in plant and machinery, factories rather than in the stock market?

TS     Earlier, before, understanding what the whole essence of economic development and investment climates and assessments and making sure that you run the figures in the computers and the numbers are all right, check the country for political stability, before then I thought that this is Mandela's country, come and see the miracle that we did in politics and do the same in economics. But we are calling upon people to invest billions and boardrooms of companies don't take decisions because Mandela is wearing a nice shirt, he's the nicest statesman in the world and they put two billion rands in his company. So people have been very cautionary. Investors, Meryl Lynch, banks from Japan, have been very, very cautious. They came in to study, people come into your country with notebooks first. First they send tourists and then business people on holiday, consultants, then they come with their notebooks, they hold meetings, they discuss with you, they size us up, they look at what we are doing, they look at the Reserve Bank, they look at the books, your macro-economic fundamentals and they know the symptoms and on that basis they are very, very cautionary. I think it was very clear that we had over-expectations which were based on the fact that South Africa has done a miracle, please, we're begging the world to fall in love with us, we're going out there soliciting people to recognise our miracle, come we're a rainbow nation, this is Mandela territory, we've got democracy, we've changed apartheid and we thought that people would reciprocate as speedily as political changes are possible. Political change is about revolutions, social revolutions, it happens, it's a democratic constitution. You drop that constitution and that's it. You put parliament in place, you put the judiciary, you do all sorts of things, but the economic investment is different. It's boardrooms of companies. It's people who must play golf with one another somewhere to take decisions. I think whilst we thought things would happen that fast it was very clear we had to wait for boardrooms of international corporations to take their own decisions and the decisions are before they bring their cheque book it will be the notebook first.

POM     Many say, and this particularly relates to Gauteng I suppose and Johannesburg area in particular, that the level of crime, that the battle against crime rather than  being won is slowly being lost and that there is a pervasive fear which I must say I feel more and more as I come back year after year, rather than it diminishing that it's increasing among people.

TS     Yes I accept there is an increase in the fear. Yes, I accept the press has played a very key fundamental role in assuring that it sells on that fear. There is no story in South Africa for the press, frankly nothing. There is no story in South Africa. South Africa is now a lousy country for the press. There is no war, except yesterday there was a march of the IFP, CNN was there, but otherwise it's just puff, one smoke and it's gone. We don't have a story for the press any more so the biggest story of course is the one that is developing currently and it is that of crime. So one had expected that in certain sections of South Africa fear has gone high. Fear has not gone up in the townships, in the communities. We always were visited by crime, first the state crime where police were not even protecting us. I mean we were completely naked, you must understand, nothing. Soldiers, police were against us, there was nothing. Our grandmothers and ourselves were protected by the frocks and jackets and shirts that we were wearing. First, therefore, the crime was out of control in those areas because the state didn't care. All that has happened is that in certain situations the criminals did move in so it's like we're sharing this thing and that's why there is fear on the part of our people.

     So the correct yardstick is not white people in South Africa who now have started experiencing this form of criminality. The yardstick is that this thing is being dealt with in South Africa. First we had to get the police to agree to be part of the people. They were not. In the past they would have been stoned, grenades would have been thrown at them. We had to change all that culture. It's a very fundamental, difficult thing to do, but that was the first thing to do. You can't fight crime when you are different, when there is a dichotomy, an hostility between the people and the police. First we had to get those two together. Secondly, was to get the people also not just to embrace the police but to confide in them about acts of criminality and so on. So we had to create Police Community Forums and there are hundreds of these that have been established in many parts of the country, certainly in Gauteng we have done so. Thirdly, was the question now of making sure that the law enforcement agencies know what crime is about. They didn't even have crime intelligence. Intelligence, as I said to you in the past, was us. They are very strong on what Mandela is, who he is, what political party he comes from and everything that Mandela is doing, his soldiers, his army abroad, Oliver Tambo. That they knew very well but they didn't know we're still in the ... in the townships where they knew they were collaborating with these people as the truth is coming out in the Reconciliation Commission that some of them were involved in terrible crimes, spreading Mandrax tablets, they were drugging our people, causing  train violence. They were doing all sorts of things. So we had expected the law enforcement agencies to stand up for the people they were breaking down, they were becoming criminals themselves.

     So one of the key things we are confronted with in our endeavour to solve and to address this question criminality was to clean up the law enforcement agencies themselves, so you have to clean up the police and instead of the police going out to catch criminals they must go out to catch other police. You can't fight crime with a corrupt police force. Let me tell you it won't work anywhere in the world, it won't work. You get my own experience and I have a real experience of modern times, you'll never fight crime with a corrupt police force. So one of the things that we had to do was to put in place a special organ to investigate, to clean up criminality within the police. We are working together with Bruton, the former Commissioner Bruton from New York. He came here and he looked at that situation and we are trying to utilise some of the systems we learnt in New York, how to use information technology, how to hold police accountable by making sure that you give them a zone where they work or a district where they work and hold them accountable to the plans that they themselves hatch about how they address rape, crime, murder, other types of serious offences in their own areas and where they don't perform put them aside. We worked with them, we worked with the British police, Scotland Yard. We are now part of the Interpol, that kind of thing, because crime we realise it's also we are attracting a number of these international syndicates into South Africa. But eventually crime in South Africa was socio-economic so we had to come with strategies for job creation, all sorts of things. We are not different from any other country in any other part of the world where you complete a social revolution and then thereafter are confronted with social problems. So the removal of a bad state doesn't chase away the criminals.

     The second war that we are fighting, we are winning it, the National Crime Prevention strategy is in place which recognises all sorts of things that have got to be done, the judiciary has got to be strong, the law enforcement agencies have got to be cleaned up, the penal system, which is the prisons, has got to be all right. There must be popular will on the part of the people who stand behind political will, I've said in the past political will on the part of government and so on. We must get people to support government, support the police. So these things have got to be in place. It's a jigsaw puzzle, you have to get the weapons. Here the trigger mechanism, the trigger guard was not working, the bullets, get that to work and then you can fire. So get the people together, they support government, like we have done in the budget increase, the budget of the police, better working conditions, the courts must be able to function, serious offenders mustn't get  bond or bail in certain situations. That's what you're talking about, you galvanise society, but the weapon must be right. This tool that you're going to use must be right but it was disjointed in South Africa and we were called upon to solve crime whereas our system was not right. So the people wanted us to plunge, and we did, we were just plunging in the fight against crime but you were using pieces, different pieces of a tool that needed to be put together in order for us to be effective. I must say now that the economy is taking off people are finding jobs, that type of thing. There is a marked difference but of course the level of fear we will have to deal with long after crime has left, people will still be having some fears. In certain situations there have been exaggerations because one hijacking attempt or a successful hijacking is national news, it's international news, and what can you do? And it frightens people. I get frightened also.

POM     What about Sandton and the rebellion? OK, I'll ask you two last questions. One is about Sandton and one is on a just and unjust war, the war of liberation.

TS     Let's deal with Sandton. Is it not surprising that right at the end of the war for liberation when we had called all sorts of people to join us in fighting apartheid business people in South Africa, particularly big business people such as you find in Sandton, not only did they not respond to the call for the fundamental transformation of the country, the removal of apartheid, but they sat back and watched us. So today when we are trying to reconstruct people stand up and now want to boycott. We are saying the days of boycotts are over. We understand the problems they may have because they have not been paying the proper level of rates so we merely have done for Sandton what is done in the CBD. So some of the companies, indeed most of them, have got headquarters as well in the CBD of Johannesburg. They pay the same rates there. So we are saying that's the rate they have got to pay there. We know why they went to Sandton, it's because the rate was lower. They were making money on the basis of poor people, on the basis of government, on the basis of our budget. It's now time, sirs and madams, that you pay the rate that is supposed to be paid. They are very angry with us for saying that and they have started a boycott which I think is rather unfortunate because it's sending the wrong signal to ordinary poor people that if big business can get away with it so can we.

     It's a fundamental threat for Masakhane and as you know one of the issues is that in Masakhane we are not doing that well because people are poor. How can I get to draw blood from a stone? Some people are poor. It doesn't matter how many calls and campaigns of Masakhane you conduct, they are simply poor, they are not going to pay. But we are saying in the case of Masakhane amongst the ordinary people, middle income people, workers who can afford, who are hiding behind the poor because the poor are not paying so they are not paying as well, that we are going to bond their houses if we have to, we are going to force them, to try to deduct some of these things directly from their wages and so on. When people hear us saying those things they think twice.

     But coming back to Sandton, we are saying to Sandton people you can't give this kind of a signal to ordinary people because it would defeat your own ends. Tomorrow COSATU will boycott the bond payments of some of these companies, tomorrow people are not going to pay for their insurance contributions and so on. It's anarchy. But I know in the end there is a court case and following that case we will see how far it goes between the City of Johannesburg or the Metropolitan structure together with business people and some ratepayers in Sandton. The matter is sub judice but I want to say although it's a matter in the hands of the courts one should indicate that it's bad politics for a country when people now begin to boycott services at a time when we need to build the country up.

POM     Do you think it's indicative of an unchanging white attitude that you got your vote, you got your government but why the hell should we start paying for services that other people don't pay for? That they don't understand the redistribution part of the revolution at all?

TS     It would be a folly because we've hardly started redistributing, revolutionary redistribution, we have avoided that by using market economy, GEAR strategy, RDP, elasto-plastic measures instead of fundamental surgery. I think it would be a profound lack of appreciation of what this government is about for people to think in the manner that they are thinking. However, I do believe that in some way it is a hiccup but it's also a democratic expression on the part of people. By the way they are paying, quite a number of them, it's just that there is a lot of noise about who is not paying and who is paying. We are collecting our services there because they don't want to accumulate services and we warned them that if you boycott and accumulate services then it will be so high that your house may go in the end, we may have to impound your whole house and other properties. They are very, very careful. There is a lot of noise but they do pay, but I'm glad that I hope after this court case this matter will be behind all of us.

POM     The question that has gone before the Truth Commission of the war of liberation being a just war against an unjust and oppressive regime and that the actions committed by members of the ANC, for example, can't be equated with actions committed by members of the security forces, that there's no moral equivalence.

TS     Yes, there's no moral equivalence. It's a very simple thing, we are the victims and there were those who were perpetrators of crimes against us. If somebody attacks you in a street, a thug, which is what happened to us where a thug is a thuggish system which decided to take away our birth right which is our country, and you defend yourself by taking out the eye of that thug, you can't end up in a Supreme Court of law and then they say you took somebody's eye out. He was a robber, so what did he expect? It is that type of situation. If we took anybody's eye in defence of our own lives that must be recognised. Secondly we were not the perpetrators insofar as we didn't go out to challenge anybody in their country. This is our country, we were fighting for our own birth right here. It was a just war in the sense that we were looking for human rights, social justice, for economic rights, for the right to vote and people were torturing us, they were murdering us, they were butchering us, they were massacring, there were so many massacres in Gauteng, Boipatong, Soweto, students killing, Sharpeville, name them, they are all there, most of the big ones. So our people were defending ourselves in dealing with enemy spies who are now saying to us, yes we confirm there are people amongst you and who led us astray in Angola. That's why I say we must be very careful. They led us astray and fingered wrong people. We are sorry for that, for being led astray and where wrong people were fingered in Angola and we had to end up locking people up in Quatro at the prison camp. I was in jail, I don't even know those areas, but it's us who came out. We were not forced, we were the first liberation movement to come back home to report fully to the people that this is what happened to us when we were outside and we did indicate that it's the enemy agents who were confusing us, pointing at the wrong people and we were forced to arrest wrong people and imprison them and this is what they are trying to do again.

     That's why I say we should be very, very, extremely cautious about this time again of this type of finger pointing. Our struggle is just, it is just because it was based on demands for democracy or the restoration of the rule of law in our own country, on nation building, on social justice, on protection of language, of customs, of religions, on the provision of a proper life for the people of the country. Now apartheid was immoral, it was condemned by the whole world. Certainly there was one of the greatest resolutions by the entire mankind at the level of the United Nations General Assembly and their Security Council that apartheid was immoral, that our struggle was just, not because we say so, the world said so and the non-aligned movement, the OAU said it, the Commonwealth and the United Nations, even the Security Council and the World Council of Reformed Churches including the special programme against racism of the World Council of Churches, so everybody supported that not only was our struggle just but it was just correct. You cannot today equate our actions therefore of throwing a bomb to the questions of a bomb thrown by agents of apartheid. So you can't go to France to members of the Resistance who threw a bomb at a Nazi car and say that they were same like the Nazis. It's preposterous that type of situation.

POM     Last, last question. There's the strange case of Dr Basson, how he came to be Dr. Basson the medical doctor who was in charge of the chemicals programme who was fired by De Klerk in 1992 and re-hired by the government.

TS     I really don't know anything, nothing about the Basson case. As you can realise since the time we set up the government of national unity I have been a provincial leader and the employment, whatever, around that man was happening on the basis of decisions taken in one ministry where we had, and still have, no access to democratic involvement in it, that is the Ministry of Defence. So I really do not know except what I read in the papers. Of course I can ask my own colleagues, I have not asked them exactly what happened. They will tell me what happened. But the way they answer the case is that for certain questions of national security he was re-employed and that this was done with the understanding of the various parties who were in the national government of unity. If that is the case and then some of the parties like the Nationalist Party comes out today to try to get political mileage out of that, I think it's completely immoral on their part to do so but of course the Basson case is a serious one. This man was a murderer, this man was dangerous to this country, this man was spreading Mandrax in our townships and we are running this drug problem right now. We have a duty to re-examine the whole situation.

POM     OK. Thank you ever so much for taking the time.

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.