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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
24 Mar 1997: Holomisa, Bantu
POM General Holomisa, let me begin by referring you to something you said to me the last time we talked and that was that you had absolutely no intention of forming a new political party, that your only wish in life was to remain a member of the ANC. What happened to change your mind on that?
BH After I addressed South African people countrywide last year regarding my expulsion from the Cabinet, ANC and parliament many were of the view that I should form my own political party. Instead I proposed that there be a national consultative conference to discuss the desirability or otherwise of forming such a party and indeed the people responded to that call and we managed on 8th February to have a meeting of all the provinces. Each province sent 15 people and I put a question to them that I am no longer in the ANC, I am calling on you to look at the possibilities or to review some of your concerns that you say I must form a political party, and I asked them the question: why are you calling for the establishment of a new political party? We discussed it but people were furious and said you are delaying us, we don't want a consultation process here, we are asking you to lead us, it's good that this thing has happened to you so that you feel it that we have lost hope in the present government. But I said I am not convinced as yet, what are the reasons? So they put a long list of problems, complaints, the arrogance of power by the present government leadership, a lack of accountability, lack of transparency and the way they have handled themselves even within their own political party which has got an influence on the entire nation. They cited cases like mine, Terror Lekota, and so on, over and above that the lack of governance as we see it. You look at crime, you look at the influx of people from outside, no controls, lack of discipline, degradation of environment, everybody seems to be doing anything he or she likes.
So, therefore, I said to them OK now let us debate how do you see the way forward? So we decided then on 8th February that we need an identity and we decided that we will operate under the banner of the National Consultative Forum and that we should have this consultative conference in June and that provincial summits should precede the June conference so as to enable people at provincial level to consult. The key question was how are we going to come up with our own products, that is ideology and so on and policies. Yes, we agreed unanimously that we needed to consult on that, we needed to have a discussion document. Then a Steering Committee of about 19 people was appointed where I was appointed as National Co-ordinator, two from each province. It was agreed that we should have a team of technical people, back-up team, composed of various professionals in various fields so that when we collect the data from the ground we can give it to them and sift and see what are we looking at.
In doing so one has to look at the present parking bay, already the car belonging to Mr Mandela is already parked. On his immediate left is the PAC's car parked there. On his immediate right is the National Party's car parked there. So we are standing here but people are calling us to go and park ours. Where are we going to park our car? On the left of the ANC, in between them and PAC or in between the National Party and the ANC or on top of one of them? Where are you going to park your car? So those are the pertinent questions, therefore, which are being looked at now by the people.
We were mandated by the committee that we needed to have a discussion document which at least summarises a sort of a guide or a vision discussion document. We have printed that, we have circulated that document which is merely putting out options and asking questions like here are the political scales, socialism, capitalism, neo-liberalism and so on, all those political scales we have tabulated them. The key question is: would you like to be a social democrat or do you want to just merely be calling yourselves socialists and so on? So that answer is not going to come from me at this point in time. We want it to come from the various structures on the ground, various people on the ground, and we have tabled that document as from the 5th March when we had the first summit in the Western Cape which was attended by all the nationalities of South Africa in that region. Then another summit we had was last week, the first summit was on the 15th in the Western Cape, the second summit was in the Eastern Cape last week on the 22nd. The next summit will be on the 5th in KwaZulu/Natal and so on. That document is being discussed and I will give you a copy.
So we are also asking in the same document what is the present government doing? Are they social democrats, are they socialists, are they preaching what they have promised to do for the people? In order, therefore, to take a final decision where you want to park your car you have to know what each party is doing, those who are in front of you, including the ANC. We are also asking in the same document what is the composition of the opposition parties currently? Are they effective? Is National Party and Democratic Party effective? The document is asking questions, are the present opposition parties effective? Do they reflect the heterogeneous population of the country? Are they effective because we notice that when they are in parliament whenever they say something they are always reminded of their past? Now that the question of third force activities is coming up De Klerk is being haunted by that and I am sure their political opponents are going to make use of that.
The other question which we have discussed, we have tabled in that document, is the question of funding. How do you see this process being sustained? Can we do it without funding? Because right now we are using our own moneys and we are renting here and we have been billed for the end of this month so we will have to go and fund even telephones. They said the Post Office will give it to you, will give you a bill and so on. So the decision of course was taken by the Steering Committee and the committee at 8th February meeting that we should fundraise, but how? Where are you going to get your funding? How to source these funds? What control measures do we need to have to be there?
And then the same document is calling for people to concentrate. If for instance you were to say, all right I want to park on top of the ANC, I'm just merely making an example, I want to park on top of them but where I think I will differ with them is I will differ on the implementation of the policies. If you think that you can do so, how? Not political rhetoric but practically. Yes, ANC said it is going to improve the quality of life of the people. Are they doing that? You will have to do a stock-taking from what they have done so far to check if they are improving the quality of life of our people. When we were campaigning we moved around and said we are not going to build you homes again which look like boxes of matches, that is referring to the forums in the townships, but today they are building one-room with a toilet. You can't even fit a single bed. Is that the improvement of the quality of life of the people? Have they explained to the people why they can no longer build those better homes they have promised people? So I am talking here about implementation now.
Let's go to the question of division of wealth of the country. We campaigned and said we will divide the wealth, we will share the wealth of this country evenly amongst the people. You see it's in ANC's doctrines, but if you notice now you will find that it is easy that even the asset which we thought would be addressed firstly, the question of land, it's easy for foreigners to just come in, grab the land freely, as we have seen, where they were attempting to sell, Parks' Boards like Kruger National Park to a company called Dolphin, for peanuts. And you go to Waterfront in Durban and you will find that there are foreigners who are buying that Waterfront. Aren't we going to end up by 1999 and beyond as South Africans renting our country from the foreigners? So we do this exercise having not yet satisfied the disadvantaged communities. The question of land, I am just merely making an example. When we were campaigning we said we will not pay the same salaries as the other homeland leaders and De Klerk are doing, they are fat cats; but it was hardly a month when we were in power, the salaries of Mandela and others were doubled.
So all those issues, therefore, you preach this but you do something different when it comes to implementation. So this document, therefore, says discuss the question of implementation. Bear in mind that the current policies, we should own those policies as well, partly own them because when we removed apartheid the South Africans decided that in order to change those policies we must consult. We had white papers, green papers, brown, green papers, white papers which culminated into bills. You can go to health, you can go to environment, you can go to education, all South Africans do own those policies. So you will have to distinguish between a manifesto of a party and a policy of the government. ANC had its own manifesto and wishes but not all their policies were implemented as they would have loved it to become policies in this country. The policies which have been implemented have been debated amongst the South Africans. They say, all right we agree, we need this white paper, we need that, remove that clause, we don't agree with you, so we were part and parcel of drawing those policies. When we are talking about implementation you must know that at the back of your mind some of these policies, whether you came from National Party or DP, ANC, PAC, you did formulate them.
POM Let me ask you two things, the first goes back to when you were in the ANC and you were a member of the National Executive Council, the NEC. Now who was really in control? Was it the NEC, the cabinet, the government as such, or parliament, or did the NEC lay down the broad parameters of policy and then did the cabinet and the government and parliament execute the policies decided upon by the NEC?
BH Well the way the ANC operated was that if we are discussing a white paper, let's say on education, the ANC would have its position, the NEC would endorse that and then whoever is going to represent the ANC would go and present that policy, let's say in a portfolio committee. Almost all the portfolio committees are under the control of the ANC. But at times some positions which they would have loved to put there they would not agree with other parties and the public in general, then they would amend them. Other policies have been steam-rolled because the majority, we have a sizeable number, but at times when it comes to voting they had to agree with the NP in order to have the two thirds majority. I would say a number of policies there the ANC would look at them but we noticed also that you would adopt a position as the NEC but it may not be implemented as it is, but those who are negotiating, the Constitutional Committee and other different committees, would come up now and amend those without having approval from the NEC but working now with the National Working Committee, which is an animal which has become powerful within the ANC structures. The National Working Committee, this is where a certain clique is manipulating the government and policies.
POM So it's the National Working Committee which is the real government of the country? Are you saying that?
BH Yes, I think the National Working Committee is the government of the country because that's where the shadow cabinet outside the government is taking decisions and to expel people, to do whatever, or push certain strategy positions, feed to the cabinet ministers.
POM So cabinet ministers would be under orders, so to speak, to follow instructions from the National Working Committee?
BH There is no doubt about that. The National Executive Committee, it's not a powerful body. They would take decisions, the National Working Committee, long before the NEC sits and then we are asked to ratify them. Yet we were elected by the people to run the organisation. Almost nine out of ten times decisions are taken at NWC and then we are called upon to ratify them.
POM So the second question would be, what has been the response that you've received? When you've been going around the country what level of support do you think exists for a new party and who are the people who want it?
BH So far the response is coming from almost all the sectors, others are still afraid to come out openly, others are encouraging us. But if one were to judge by the attendance of the people in my rallies, whether people are going there for the sake of curiosity that's another matter, but the average crowds I've been drawing they range between I would say 7000 - 8000, that's the average. Sometimes I draw 25,000, 18,000, 15,000, 12,000, 8000 and then many 6000, 5000, 4000. But mainly people who go to those rallies are Africans and in other areas coloureds. Now I'm receiving invitations to address people in different sections of the population, whites: like yesterday I was addressing Indians in Durban. I am due to address a group of whites in Cape Town. I have been doing that, moving around.
POM Would the Africans that come out be mainly the disadvantaged Africans, those who are living in squatter camps? Do you see a core constituency that you can identify and target with the message?
BH It's a very complicated exercise at this stage because even the councillors who were voted into power of the ANC they are turned against rallies, so those people are in the payroll of the government. For instance, the stronghold of the ANC, one of the strongholds in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, I would say from the poor up to the academics they are involved, they have been attending these rallies, they have been organising, poor teachers, lecturers, business people, taxi operators, you name them, all of them. In the Western Cape it has been the same and in the summits, for instance, you get now people of good quality who are debating the issues and who said definitely there is a need for an alternative. I would say in the black community it is across the board they are completely disillusioned, they want a new party.
POM If you had to target where your strength is, with limited resources when you go out to campaign you will have to choose the areas in which you campaign so normally you would campaign in the areas in which you think you have the most solid base of support in order to make it more solid, to make sure that that goes out and votes for you in 1999, what areas in the country would you identify as a result of your travels as being the most ready for a new party?
BH Well obviously the rural areas and the townships they are ready for the new party and squatters included. Secondly, when I go to a province now I always arrange that there be evening meetings where I address influential people in that particular area or in that particular community whether it's black, white, coloured or Indians, group them together. Then they ask intellectual questions and I explain to them and so then during the day I address people and at rallies I give them a chance to ask questions. It's not normal. Normally leaders just speak and just after that a convoy takes them away. At least I always give about an hour to 1½ hours time for people to ask questions and be brief on my presentation but effective. That exercise is working to show people that we are hiding nothing and that you are saying let us draw, let us form this party on our own because it's the first of its kind that when one is forming a party that he is consulting first. Normally you just choose certain intellectuals to sit down and draw your manifesto and draw your constitution but the job now would be much easier for our technical staff and professionals to draw those policies and manifestos. At least they have had a feel of the people, exactly what they want, rather than just take a copy constitution of another country, or you say you want socialism or social democracy and not knowing how you are going to implement that. So, yes, our support therefore will be coming from all the sectors and it's growing even amongst the white population. I have already addressed white communities around Gauteng, Chinese communities, coloureds, and so on, all over and they seem to be willing to help now. They say they can see it because this is not prescriptive. They were having fears at the beginning because I'm from the ANC thinking that I will be telling them what should be done or I will be influenced by the ANC policies, but they like the approach.
POM Many of your critics would say that your administration in the Transkei was both corrupt and ineffective and didn't deliver services and that most of the poorest people in the country live in the Transkei and that it was in a complete mess when you left. One, how would you answer them and, two, why do you think that a new party under your leadership would be able to be more effective in implementation given that the ANC with its vast resources has been unable to deliver?
BH Answering the latter part of your question, that question would be answered by the people themselves. The key question I've been asking them is: if you want to form a party do you want to participate in the 1999 elections? If so at what level? Local government, provincial or at national level? Ask yourself a question, do you want to adopt the old adage which says you can't walk before you crawl? In other words look at the cake and say all right, I will target say three or two provinces within my resources in 1999 and participate at local government elections and in doing so I will have to recruit people who have got experience, unlike ANC which is using sometimes as councillors and mayors criminals and young people who have got no experience, dishing out the elderly people, going against our customs. So those are the issues which the people themselves will have to take a decision as to in the next five, ten, fifteen, twenty years: where do you see your party? We would be naïve if we think that we will be ruling South Africa by 1999 or the year 2000. That's impossible. So I think I've answered your last part of the question.
The first part of your question is, one will have to be pragmatic when you actually look at the question of Transkei. We inherited a mess ourselves. We tried to perfect it but our endeavour to do so was stifled by Pretoria, squashed when it comes to funding. The funding which Pretoria gave us was only for paying salaries for the big bureaucrats which we have inherited. The capital expenditure they were personally monitoring it, they were approving those projects. They can be identified, the records are there. When it comes to corruption I think we have done far better than the ANC because anyone who was implicated in the corruption we would send police to investigate him, charge him and the court takes a decision. That's why people like Sol Kerzner had to run all over the show. That's why people like Chief George Matanzima and other hosts of politicians and senior government ministers, people, landed in jail.
POM You're inviting Winnie to things?
BH Oh no, no, she was asking if I have anything - I think people asked Winnie whether she would be willing to join the Holomisa party or something so she said, no, she is an ANC, she will remain with the ANC. So she wants my comment on that you see. That's her own opinion so there's nothing one can say, hence I didn't invite her, but I was just telling her that one can just note that there's nothing which needs comment on that as far as I'm concerned, especially that I did not invite her. Next question.
POM So you would see the party maybe in 1999 beginning to contest elections in one or two targeted provinces where you have established a base, begin at local government level, then move from local government level up to provincial level and then move from provincial level on to the national scene?
BH The problem there is that politics, they need a lot of resources and research so one has to be careful. So in each rally where I go I put across that question, say consider that you are dealing with big giants, you don't have money, so consider when you are looking at forming this party how much do you think you can afford? But I think it's going to be interesting as to what is their answer at the June conference.
POM How do you see the party being funded since no political party gets off the ground without being able to raise a significant amount of money? One has to only look at even existing parties like AZAPO or the PAC.
BH I am ready to answer you on that. That's precisely why we have decided to embark on this consultation business because people are saying let's name the party, let's form this party. I said wait, consider the following and I am giving you between February and June to have come up with answers, how do you think we will sustain ourselves on this matter? Come up with the strategies of fund raising and identify business people who can assist us. So this process really by June we would be in a position to say, yes there are so much big companies who are willing to assist and they are just waiting for an answer perhaps to say all right we are forming the party and they come in big numbers and so on. And what trial period can you give yourself to measure that indeed you succeed? So it's the best strategy as far as I am concerned which we are adopting because one has to be careful, you don't destroy your career unnecessarily. By saying let's review it first, let's do a study, this is a sort of a feasibility study if you like what we are embarking upon. At a certain stage we will have to take a decision after we have made the appreciation and weigh our options and say, all right option one, option two, if we go this route by 1999 we will be there. If we go that route or we suspend the operations of forming a new party that decision still has to be taken. I think I've covered that question.
POM Have you identified, in order to give the credibility factor in the same way that the NP is trying to attract credible black leaders to it, do you feel that if you do announce the formation of a new party in June that you will be able to announce that among the core members, the founding members, are a number of African leaders who are respected in their communities and which give you credibility?
BH I don't have a problem on that one. This notion of the so-called household names it has to be reviewed in the context of South African politics. If the so-called household names were effective we wouldn't be in this quagmire today where the people are running away and screaming and saying this is not what we thought we were fighting for, we are getting poorer day by day, we are being maimed and killed, our jobs are being taken by foreigners and so on, we are being undermined. It's the people who have got big names who are in power. This time we want people with quality, credibility in their respective areas, not people who are going to run the country because they were famous collectively under a name of a political party. We have started to identify that and I think we will have good people by the time we fill our structures.
In June, once we get an answer to say yes, we have to ask the people to give us a way forward. The way forward could include the following: the structure which will be permanent to run this political party. Are we going to have the conventional top five, National Working Committee, National Executive Committee like other organisations, or what conventional way are we going to adopt? What are the political party structures all over the world looking like? And having said that we might have to, because this process has started on 8th February, and then our immediate target is June and then we also have December. We foresee that between February and June we are consulting about the name, the need to have a party, but after this we will have to form various committees, experts who will discuss a manifesto, constitution, getting input from the people, then you discuss structures, obviously funding. Then we will now be issuing membership cards and having recruitment drives between June and December if the answer is yes.
Then if we are going to participate in the 1999 elections you will have to have a small team to look into that so that by December, at least by September, October you get a final print document and at least an input which can now you say you have a first draft of the manifesto, first draft of the constitution, first draft covering the structures and so on. Then we might have to have a national conference in December, a conference to adopt a constitution, a conference to adopt a manifesto, a conference to elect new leadership to run the organisation because so far we have been building, identifying people as we go along. We are also looking as to what will our manifesto look like. We issued the political tables early so that people, when they debate, they can position themselves, ask those questions. But at least by December if we think that we would be participating in 1999 we should have a team ready and a manifesto at least ready. A manifesto can be improved as time goes on but by 1998 we anticipate that the political parties which are in existence would already be in full swing campaigning for 1999.
POM There won't be local elections in 1999, right?
BH I think so yes. So if you look at this, we are in the period of implementation, February started the process, by June we must at least have a name, we operate or endorse the interim constitution which we will be using, which we are using to cover this period until such time as we have a proper constitution because if we're going to collect moneys and have structures you have to have an interim constitution to control the process and with discipline. So I foresee that at least by December we should have identified leaders, and even those who are sitting on the fence whether they are still within the ANC or PAC would have taken a decision by then because you cannot say you will only come in 1999, people will say we don't know you. So the period between, I would say, June up to December 1997 is very critical for some who have not yet made a decision. But in terms of recruiting people, the talent in South Africa, the depth of leadership is very long in this country. We've got a depth of leadership. We can get leaders outside the people we have seen, we have mentioned, we have seen on TV and so on.
POM What if in December you find - the party gets off the ground in June, it goes on a membership drive, you find that attendance at your rallies remains good but that when it comes to actually signing up not that many people sign up and then you find that even among those who sign up, even if a smaller percentage pay the membership fee, what do you do then?
BH You don't measure the popularity and the following of your party by people who have paid subscriptions. The people of South Africa have not yet entered into that culture of party card-carrying membership like you have in your countries and other countries. What was your question?
POM The question of what if people are attending your rallies but people aren't joining in large numbers?
BH Yes I've got it. As I was saying the people of South Africa have not yet adopted the culture of being party card-carrying members. They will still go and vote for a party which they like even though they don't have cards so you can't use that as a criteria to measure support. For instance, the ANC out of 45 million population I think the people who paid for membership cards were close to two million, but almost 63% of the population voted for them. So in South Africa you can't use that as a criteria. If, therefore, we were to get to that stage even if we didn't do much in dishing out cards but people still come and fill the stadiums you will go and proceed because the people also, it depends what control measures you are going to adopt. People won't just come and pour money easily. They want to see that at least the subscriptions were paid, at least we can get return back, we get material, print material, we are fed, we are reading everything. But if you collect moneys from the people and then you don't feed them back with information then people will be reluctant to support you, finance apart they will still go and vote for you.
POM So how do you fill that gap between not being funded and getting to the point where you can have an office, you can hire a staff, you can have phones?
BH No, no, I'm talking about the money coming from the subscriptions, from members. You fill that gap by having now fund raising strategies, concepts, go to the private sector, you sell T-shirts, you sell all sorts of logos. You don't rely when you are a party only to sell membership cards. But what I am trying to say is if people see that at least we are kept informed, we've got material, and then you write at the end that pay your subscription in order to keep you informed about everything. There must be an incentive. You can't just collect money and then you don't keep them informed. For instance, I was thinking about a computer system where we can send letters directly to all the addressees to keep the people informed what you are doing. It's a strategy which I'm still designing which the ANC - I don't think there is any other party which has done that. It could be costly but if you start on a small scale maybe it will pay at the end of the day.
POM Do you see initially more support coming from the rural areas than from urban areas?
BH To me, my friend, it's a combination, fifty/fifty. I get popular support anywhere I go, rural or urban.
POM Do you feel any pressure from the ANC to quit the game?
BH What game?
POM Just to stop messing around trying to grab some of their votes?
BH Quit what game? I was expelled from the ANC.
POM Do you get a feeling that they're upset that you're out there trying to establish a new party that will in large measure take away some of their support?
BH Yes, last week in their caucus I am told that the caucus resolved that the case of Holomisa must be reviewed because apparently it looks as though, if this rate will continue, by 1999 no people will still be following them, people would have gone to parties like those of Holomisa's and the other small parties. They were nearly saying that the people are disillusioned and I think you can get also that report from the Helen Suzman Foundation that irrespective of black and white there is this disgruntlement. So in trying, therefore, to rectify that they have identified that at least we must start with this case of Holomisa, bring back this man, but I have already reacted to them over the weekend, I said it's a non-starter.
POM So if tomorrow morning they said we are willing to readmit you?
BH No it's out, I'm not interested. They have done the same thing to Winnie, remember, when they expelled her from the cabinet and when they found that they have made a mistake there was an outcry that it was not legal, they had to re-hire her. In 48 hours they corrected the mistakes and then they chased her away. They can bring me back for the purposes of getting back to power in 1999 and after that ditch me again like they have done so I am not interested. I am busy with the people now who said that we must look at the possibilities of establishing a new party and I am busy with that operation. I don't want to be interfered with.
POM OK, I'll leave it there and I'll see you in June. Maybe you'll invite me to the Consultative Council?