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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
04 Aug 1997: Alexander, Benny (!Khoisan X)
POM Let me begin with the simple question. You leave politics. Why?
KX There are a number of reasons why I demobilised myself. The first reason which will be apparent from the term or date of my demobilisation is that I demobilised myself at the time that the new constitution was agreed upon. That signalled the end of the era of the political struggle, the struggle for political independence and marked the beginning of the struggle for economic empowerment. With the struggle for political independence I must say that I entered that struggle with an activist heart and not with a motivation of a professional politician and I think it is time for those of us who fought with an activist heart for social reasons to hand over the stick to those who have gone to school to train in the art of politics and who are prepared to sit there the whole day in parliamentary Standing Committees dotting the i's and crossing the t's and debating wherefores and therefores and that work which is very important which doesn't really flow from your heart, it's more intellectual. I think it's time for us to hand over to those people.
POM Looking back on your own tenure with the PAC from when you joined the struggle, your period as Secretary General, your period after all the organisations were unbanned, through parliament in Gauteng; what happened to the PAC? You began almost where Clarence Makwetu was President or I think Sobukwe had just died and you end with Clarence Makwetu being expelled from the organisation. It never gelled in the popular mind in terms of vote getting power. If you had to look back at it now and give a critical analysis, advice for your colleagues who are still there trying to rebuild the party, what would be your critical analysis and what would be your advice?
KX In order to answer this question intelligibly we need to go back to the previous question and use that as a base for answering this question. The political dispensation in South Africa is abnormal. It is abnormal for communists, liberals, nationalists, capitalists, etc., to be in the same party and to vote for the same candidate. Black people, irrespective of political ideology or orientation, vote for the same candidate, white people too. And the reason for that is because their vote is strategic rather than value driven. That situation will remain the de facto political dispensation for probably the next two elections. Thereafter all political parties will look very different from what they look now. The ANC will look very different from the way it looks now, the PAC will look very different. Already we see the rumblings and the birth pains of that new dispensation. The leaders of political parties today try to stop that new dispensation from coming about by being tough on dissenting voices within their party rather than letting them go and let the process normalise itself. Let all those who have the same leanings come out of the different parties and form a party along those leanings and so forth and then you will have a normal political dispensation. That is what is going to be very, very important.
Now what is going to be important is to understand a very important question that people always ask about us in the third world, and that is why don't we have political stability? Now before you can have political stability you must ask and answer the question, what is political stability? And the answer to that is that political stability is when the parties behave predictably. It's not when the society votes for one party the same every time. It's when they vote for different parties but those parties behave predictably. So we will have political stability in our country when, for example, the ANC has a clear ideology and the PAC and the DP and the NP and whoever out there and they stick to that. But when you have got different political tendencies, when you have got communists and anti-communists and nationalists and liberals in the same party, all of us, then you don't know how the party is going to behave, you've got to look at the man rather than the party and say, who's going to take over and which tendency is he in that party?
Therefore when the west ask what will happen in the ANC when Mandela goes, it's a justified question because the ANC is a multi-ideology party. If the ANC had a single party the question would be irrelevant; it doesn't matter who takes over, we know how the ANC behaves, it's predictable. But if they've got different tendencies your behaviour is not predictable therefore we've got to look at the man rather than the party. That is what is wrong, that is why even though Mandela is a good man and is able to keep us from putting our fingers round each others' necks, the political structure and milieu is unstable because it is not based on predictability of parties and the behaviour of parties. So, after Mandela goes we are at the end of an era. Some people will say that when they see the ANC tearing apart and the PAC tearing apart and the NP tearing apart and IFP tearing apart, they will say, oh that's instability. That's not instability, it's the birth pains of value driven organs where people come out and form parties around values and the west must not look at that as - yes it is an upheaval but it's not instability. It's the birth pains towards a stable and predictable political activity in our country.
POM Just to interject, one of the things the PAC has maintained over the years is that it's more of an Africanist party than the ANC and yet Mbeki has been touted as the Africanist. A couple of questions: when Mbeki touts himself as an Africanist what do you understand him to mean and how does his Africanism differ from or contrast with the Africanism of the PAC?
KX Mbeki's Africanism must be understood in relation to the way marketing in the world itself has changed, first of all in products and later on in politics. In products there was a time when everybody tried to have a motor vehicle, for example, that looks as different from the others so that people can choose either this one or that one. But the marketing agents advised these motor manufacturers that you should not try to cater for a particular taste because that restricts you in terms of market penetration so therefore try and take a bit of the taste of everybody and put it together in one vehicle so it becomes a compromise type of vehicle. As a result you find that all the new vehicles that come out now look alike because people don't want to be particular any more, people want to be inclusive and that helps you with market penetration.
The first person who used that in politics was Bill Clinton after he was walloped in the House of Representatives elections by his opposition and then his advisers told him that the same philosophy as has been used in marketing in consumable products must be used in politics too. And what they did they took then the seven-year balanced budget programme of the Republicans, incorporated it in your programme so you take an aspect of everybody so you can have massive market penetration. He used that with great effect and since it is the same people who advised Clinton, the Democrats, who are also the advisers of the ANC, they obviously advised Thabo Mbeki of the same strategy. Take the main parts that the NP stand for, take the main issues that makes the PAC attractive and combine that in yourself so that you liquidate their platform and you have maximum market penetration and that is all what it's about.
POM Let's talk for a minute about the PAC. When we talked initially years ago, 1990, 1991, and you talked about the potential of the PAC and how well the PAC would do electorally and we are now at 1997 and it's electoral appeal doesn't appear to have grown in any significant way. The party itself has gone through almost a massive shake up. It's unclear exactly policy-wise what it stands for, in the way that it's different from the ANC given the constraints of the global market place. What is one reason for voting for the PAC at this point rather than voting for the ANC?
KX The way that the ANC is dealing with the PAC is by determining the agenda of the elections. They know that if the agenda of the election is going to be delivery, social delivery, then the PAC will take massive chunks out of their support base because they have failed. They have not failed because of the size of the task. They have failed in terms of how they said they can tackle the task within a certain period. In terms of their own strategy they have failed, in promises. So the ANC will have to make sure that the PAC threat does not materialise by saying to the African people that the vote is not about social delivery, the vote is about continued liberation. This is a liberation vote, the ANC must say, and they must say it is to keep the white man out. They have already started their campaign and that is the premise on which they can start their campaign. They called De Klerk a bow-headed, bloodthirsty monster with blood dripping from his hands. They have continued to hit at white politics in this way and continued to show the masses the threat of whites coming back to rule them and say, therefore, the vote is strategic, it's a liberation vote. And by saying it's a liberation vote and not a social issue vote they will combat the threat from the left.
POM So is there is a contradiction of sorts between Mandela's goal of reconciliation and the ANC strategy for ensuring it's electoral success in the next election?
KX There is a contradiction but that contradiction is not one of principle but one of strategy. I think in principle the ANC will still be committed to racial harmony but for the strategy of electoral success it has to attack whites.
POM So what does the PAC do to - what is the PAC? What can the PAC say, what can it point to to say that it could do better if it's own record in the last several years has been one of internal dissension and disintegration?
KX I think the PAC should first of all fight a mind battle to establish in the minds of the people that the election is about social delivery and the quality of life and to show the people that the ANC is incapable of social delivery and that a vote for the ANC means a continued vote of the state of affairs. Once they do that they have already got a good platform and you've got the people away from the ANC. Then your second strategy to that would be to show them why they should vote for you because you've now shown them only why they shouldn't vote for the ANC, you've not shown why they should vote for you. And in showing them why they should vote for you, you should be honest with them, you should tell them we've had our problems, we've sorted them out. There is no dissent in the PAC at the moment and the masses can see that. They say that Clarence Makwetu tried to create dissent, he's been dealt with, he's expelled from the organisation. There is nobody in the PAC at the moment, there is nobody with any dissent, any clique, any group, any dissent in the PAC. And to that extent the PAC is the only party in the country free of internal dissent. It aired it openly and honestly in front of the masses, in front of the media, and besides that the PAC is the only party at the moment with a moral leader whose standing is not as high as Mandela but whose standing is higher than that of his opponents, including Thabo Mbeki. So the image of APLA, of the armed struggle and revolutionary violence, all of that, I think it has been competently dealt with by the moral stature of the current leader.
POM In terms of economic policy, how would its economic policy differ from the economic policy of the ANC?
KX I think that's a problem of the PAC. Its economic policy doesn't differ too much from that of the ANC, unfortunately.
POM Well it can't because you both are not free to -
KX No, the PAC should come out clearly and put itself forward as a socialist party. That will lead to some internal dissent and some people will leave but the PAC should allow them to leave and have their socialist party. Once that happens the socialists in the ANC will come over to the PAC and so you lose some and you gain some. And allow the National Party to become a conservative party because the NP, I believe, in spite of its bad history, can become a decent conservative party like the one in the United States and the one in Britain, centre right, not far right. So once the NP becomes a near right party and the ANC a centre party and the PAC a left party, then you know you have predictability and stability. People will not run away from the PAC, they don't run away from the socialist party in France, they don't run away from the socialists in Britain, they don't run away from the socialists in Germany and the Scandinavian countries, they won't run away from the PAC, but there will be predictability. People will know, to give you an example, that if you say that we're going to have a tax break for the middle classes you know what the conservatives will say. The conservatives will say that we always thought this government was foolish and had no understanding but for the first time we see some sense in this government because you need a strong powerful middle class to broaden the tax base and to create more wealth and so on and so on. The socialist party on the left, which would be the PAC, will criticise that move and will say that the middle class, that's the wrong class to whom to give a concession because concession should have been given to the working class, they are the poor, they are the people who carry the burden. And the centre party, which will be the ANC, will say in response to that, a middle of the road type of response, which will say yes give the middle classes a break but not so big, make it smaller and give some of the break to the working class. So they try a middle road. That's predictability and that is stability and that is what should be acquired. The PAC should niche itself. What's happening now is that the political parties don't niche themselves and so it becomes a whole personality issue rather than a value driven, predictable, stable party, multi-party system. We have a personality, reactionary political dispensation at the moment which is not good for the country.
POM With two years to go before an election, which means that parties are already moving into electoral mode, or the smart parties are moving into electoral mode, the PAC lacks resources and parties without resources don't go anywhere. It's just the history of political parties throughout the world and there is no indication in opinion surveys that there would be any kind of quantum leap in support for the PAC from even say 5% to 10% or anything like that despite the change in the leadership. Why is it failing?
KX Yes the last surveys that were done at the end of the year showed that the PAC can expect 15% in electoral support should an election be held. Those were the last polls.
POM Who does those polls?
KX I'm not sure who did them but if you ask anybody, they were the last polls. There were no significant polls done this year.
POM This was last year?
KX End of last year, that's right, and that happened just before the PAC elected the new leadership. So the new leadership should bring a dividend that should increase that potential. The big problem in the PAC is that the organisation does not use professional services to structure its campaign. It still believes it can do it by itself and even the biggest parties in the west, who have a long history of multi-party democracy, use consultants to structure and structure their message and everything.
POM Is that going to change?
KX I don't think so. I think that the need is there but the PAC didn't see any reason why it should use consultants.
POM Why does it not see? That seems so out of tune with the perception of how a modern political party operates.
KX I have no answer for you on that. I just know this is the situation. The PAC is going to run its campaign by itself. I cannot see the PAC, knowing the organisation I can't see that it will see the sense. The PAC will fail to see the sense of using consultants. They will have a 'go it alone' approach. They will put up a machinery all by themselves and they will run it by themselves. They will use some external agencies to help them with their education but they will run the campaign themselves. That's generic education that everybody does, but particular strategic issues they will handle by themselves, which will be a pity.
POM But it doesn't have the expertise in how to target, it doesn't have the expertise to implement the strategy that you've outlined, that it must on the one hand make the issue social delivery rather than a continuation of the liberation politics. That takes targeting in a certain way to get a message across. Two, to show that the ANC has failed at social delivery, and, three, to show that the PAC is capable of delivering where the ANC failed to deliver. All of those are very targeted issues.
KX If you look at the first slogan the PAC has brought out now, it's a slogan that says, 'the giant is awake'. That slogan itself undermines the intelligence of the people. The PAC should be putting out slogans to say 'give us a chance'.
POM One way of reading 'the giant is awake' is to say that the ANC is awake.
KX So you should put forward very clear slogans that are honest and effective, that say give us a chance. How did Avis overtake Hertz, the car hiring service? They put forward a simple slogan that said, 'we try harder' and with that slogan they overtook Hertz in no time as the leading car rental company in the world. So PAC should do the same type of approach. We can learn from what's happening in the commercial world. Be honest but show them why they should come to you and not to the bigger guy. That's what Avis did. So these are some of the issues that confront the PAC.
POM Given where things stand now, how do you think the PAC will do in 1999?
KX I think that the President of the PAC, Bishop Stanley Magoba, has the moral standing to be able to get to big business and get support for the PAC. I think what big business will want to know from him is what is going to be his electoral platform and I think that if he puts forward even the same electoral platform that the PAC had before he will get substantial support from them. We just had in the past few days one of the leading members of the ANC responsible for fund raising in the United States walking over to the PAC.
POM I saw that.
KX And he is going to help PAC's fund raising in the USA. So I think that with the credibility of the Bishop they should be able to do very well. I think the PAC has even failed up to now to launch Bishop Stanley Magoba as a major political figure. They have failed to do that. If they just start with a little effort, they don't need major effort, a little effort to launch him as a major political leader they will be able to -
POM But that too takes expertise, professional expertise.
KX Professional expertise, that's right and that's what was lacking there.
POM I hear you saying two things. If it did A, B, C and D it would make significant leeway but all of these things depend upon the use of professional expertise which they're rejecting and if they don't use the expertise then they won't achieve A, B, C and D. So it's like a self-fulfilling cycle of getting stuck in the same spot. It's no good having good ideas, it's that you've got to implement them and implementation depends upon expertise. I was just going to say to you, and I've only been back a couple of days, but even as I glance through the newspapers for the last couple of weeks I see De Klerk, I see Mandela, I see Mbeki, I see Ramaphosa, I see Holomisa, I even see Mangope but I can't find the name Magoba. It just doesn't appear in the papers.
KX That's right. That's so because the PAC has not launched their campaign around him. The major issues, the PAC is quiet about its major issues.
POM But today every successful political party launches it's campaign around it's leader. You sell the leader and then you sell the party with the leader.
KX And the PAC has the best product to sell. Their leader is clearly the best. If you ask any campaign machinery to choose a leader to sell they would choose Bishop Stanley Magoba above Thabo Mbeki. He has all the right credentials for an excellent moral leader.
POM But it's not going to do it.
KX That's the problem.
POM Was there any frustration, was that any element in your deciding it was time to move on and try to help the country in a different direction?
KX No there was not that. There is a time for everything. There's a time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to make love and a time to hate: Solomon, his wisdom. And in the life of every leader you know there's a time when the masses are ready to receive a certain message and a time when they are not ready to receive the message. The masses are still intoxicated with the idea of political control. They are not yet ready to look objectively and critically at leaders with liberation credentials. They accept all of us as good guys. Therefore, to come up with a policy debate appears to be, at the initial phases, a bit of a waste of time because people just want to glorify all of us. Our heroes have come, all our heroes, AZAPO, PAC, ANC, they are all our heroes, we love you all, God bless you all, that is the mood of the masses and it will take a few years before the masses are really ready to make objective policy distinctions between some of them and accept some and reject some. So it's a question of timing, the time is not right. It's not a question of frustration, it's a question that the time is not right.
POM If I were to say to you that my initial perception on coming back is that the ANC is consolidating its grip on power, that there is more fragmentation among the opposition parties, that the NP is in disarray, that the Roelf and Bantu show is like the show of The Odd Couple, that the Conservative Party is dead in the water, and that it's really slowly consolidating it's grip on the instruments of government and on the instruments of the bureaucracy and that there's not much standing in its way of doing as well if not better in 1999 as it did in 1994. Would you say not so?
KX I would say half way so because where the difference will come in from your analysis, because you are handling the ANC as an homogeneous body in your analysis which is where the weakness lies in your argument. Mandela walked into the office of the South African Communist Party a few weeks ago and read them the riot act for having an independent party, party views on certain issues. The SACP decided to -
POM Was this common knowledge that he did this?
KX Yes. The SACP decided that they will grind their teeth and bear it and wait him out. SANCO issued a press statement a week ago criticising the government, saying we're going to stand up to this government. The government is calling them from time to time and reading them the riot act for this. They grit their teeth and bear it. COSATU grit their teeth and bear it. Every second or third month they come up against government policy. Even this very week in which you are doing this interview with me COSATU is showing it's muscle. They are afraid of Mandela. They point their finger straight at the government so they point their finger indirectly at the government. They say it's the persons that influence the government, so they are saying businesses must stop influencing the government instead of saying the government should stop being influenced by business. But when Mandela goes, which is two years from now, everything will hit the fan in the ANC itself. The SACP is going to go independent, there are going to be a lot of our people there. Secondly, to take political control over the state machinery itself is something that the west should strongly condemn because it creates instability in society. When somebody else takes over it's going to fire all of them and put it's own party stooges in, into the judiciary, into the civil service, everywhere, and when that party goes another party will do the same. So you won't have a professional civil service and that is very dangerous for democracy not to have a professional civil service. So what the ANC is doing is fundamentally wrong, not because they are the ANC but because a stable democracy doesn't work that way.
POM So is this main opposition to the ANC going to come from within the ANC?
KX The main opposition is going to come from within the ANC, the main opposition will come from the ANC. I think they will come together for the next election but I think after that that will be the last, that will be the end. I think Thabo Mbeki is going to have a very, very rough ride. The ANC is likely to win the next election but it's going to be a very rough ride.
POM Is it likely to win the next election or certain to win it? Realistically?
KX Realistically I think the ANC is going to win the next election but I think after that it's going to be a very rough ride. You see the one thing that saves us in this country from going the normal way of African politics where the guy who wins first wins forever because he takes a strong grip on everything and does that and the west allow that. The one thing that helps us is because we have a significant white population and the west will not allow the ANC to crush the white population and because of that all of us get a break. So we are really dependent on the sympathy of the west towards the whites to give us all a break and to allow us to organise freely and openly.
POM How do you think a Thabo Mbeki South Africa will differ from a Nelson Mandela South Africa?
KX Well it has to differ. Anybody who comes to Mandela's shoes would destroy the country because Mandela is a Moses. He is known for what he stops from happening. He stops us from becoming a Rwanda. He stops us from putting our hands on the neck of each other and he makes us to be brothers and sisters. That itself is a negative because it is what he stops from happening, not from what he does positively in terms of economic reconstruction, in terms of delivery. In terms of that he has done nothing. But like Moses in the Bible, who did nothing for the Children of Israel, he just stopped them from being oppressed but he never delivered anything to them, Moses was one of the prophets ever because to stop people from going to the dogs, a nation going to the dogs, is itself a negative a major achievement. Major achievements are not only positive they are also negative and Mandela is that guy who has a negative major achievement which nobody should try to minimise because he stopped us from going to the dogs.
But the new leader that comes up, I must just say this, inherent in Mandela's approach, though necessary, is the idea of paralysis. If you're going to keep everybody happy, inherent in that notion is the notion of paralysis because if you move forward the sight of it makes somebody unhappy. So indecision equals, like I say, paralysis. So the government is known for its paralysis and the government put a spin on the paralysis by saying that there is reconciliation, to keep everybody happy but in effect it's paralysis. So the new leader of the ANC must come up and say that this is a multi-party democracy, I've got to put forward a decisive road forward for building a powerful nation and dealing with the social issues and if you don't agree with my strategies there are other parties. I am no longer acting in the interests of the nation, I am putting forth my party line and I believe my party line can save the nation. I am not putting my party in the background in favour of the nation. I am saying the nation will be saved through my party line. And that is the position that the new leader must take and opposition parties must put forward alternatives and then the marketplace of ideas is open for the masses to choose. That is fundamentally different from what Mandela is doing but it's in the interests of the ANC.
POM Do you think that the new party being touted by Meyer and Holomisa will go any place or whether it's so late and with inherent contradictions in terms of both personalities and ideology that it will attract a small piece of the vote?
KX No, no, I think that when you form a political party it must first of all be because of an ideological vacuum and therefore a vacuum of a niche which you think you can fill. There is no vacuum that they are trying to fill. They are not saying we want to go ultra-right because there is no ultra-right, there is a vacuum there. There is a vacuum at the ultra-right but they are not targeting that. They are not targeting a left vacuum because there is an ultra-left vacuum. They are not targeting those. There is a vacuum for a strong socialist party. They are not targeting that vacuum. They are targeting the position of the ANC, central, moderate, liberal, capitalist, both of them. There is no ideological difference between Holomisa and Roelf Meyer. There might be personality difference but there is no ideological difference. Their ideology is liberal capitalism, the same ideology of the ANC. Therefore, where they can differ from the ANC is only on the issue of prioritisation and tactics and try to win votes over in that way but ideologically there is no difference between them and the ANC and therefore because the ANC has a better machinery in the same ideology as these guys they are likely not to survive very long. I think the ANC is destined to become South Africa's major centrist party and remain that way for decades. The ANC will not fall into the hands of communists, not into the hands of conservatives. It will shed those things and remain a centrist party for decades to come, and will also remain the centrist party for decades to come and rightly so.
POM Do you think that Mandela's emphasis on reconciliation has paid off? Do you think race relations are better now between blacks and whites than they were, say, before the Truth Commission came into being or do you think that the revelations of the TRC have in a way exacerbated tensions between blacks and whites insofar as many blacks, when they hear what white security people did and what the regime did, see no justice in these people being able to walk and get amnesty?
KX For me, I joined the revolution not because of revenge. I was not motivated by revenge, I was motivated by social revolution. If you are motivated by revenge you want to do to your enemy what he did to you but if you are motivated by social revolution you want to liberate both yourself and your enemy because the enemy by dehumanising you also dehumanises himself. So the fundamental thing that is going to bring about justice in the country is going to be on the economic level. The reason for that is because capitalism in South Africa is fundamentally a racial capitalism and as long as you have racial capitalism the racial aspect will remain alive and it will remain a time bomb because when the poor want to rise up against the rich it will have to be blacks rising up against whites, generally speaking. So in order to eliminate the threat of a racial war or racial tensions in a racial capitalist society you have got to make sure that your emphasis is on economic justice. No amount of work or tears at the TRC will do away with the potential racial time bomb. The only thing that will do it, that will deal with the potential racial time bomb, is economic justice.
POM So you're going into business, moving into what you think is the next arena of struggle?
KX That's right, definitely. The next arena of struggle is in the economic arena.
POM Now how does that work? What's the strategy there?
KX What's happening is that in black empowerment in the country there is a lot of chicanery going on and that chicanery works in the following way. A few blacks would come together and form a company which they would boast in the media as 'a wholly owned black company'. It will be a holding company, not an operational company so it has no companies, it is just an investment vehicle, a shell. They would then form another company under that, also a shell in which whites would take 50% and they would take 50%. That company too would be a shell, it would have no operations. Then they would form a third company under that in which perhaps they would have 25% and whites have 75% and it is the bottom company that invests, that is listed on the Stock Exchange and it is that company that develops into an operational company. But the company that makes the press statements is the top company which is 100% black owned. So it becomes a whole pyramid which is a scam really because in that black company you will find that there is not a black company. 99% of black companies in South Africa are not black companies at all.
If you take one of the big listed black companies that's doing very well, Real Africa Investment Limited, RAIL, you will see on top there, there is a company called Rand Investments and below that there is another company and below that there is Real Africa Investment Holdings and below that there is Real Africa Investment Limited. So there are four companies before you come to the reinvestment vehicle. Now blacks on top in the company called Rand Investments, it is 100% black, but the company that invests, Real Africa Investment Limited, is about 20% black so when Real Africa Investment Limited says they are buying 51% of African Life Insurance then you must know that the company owns 51% of that and of the 51%, not of the 100% but of the 51%, blacks own 20%. How much do they own of the 100%? About 11%. So because Real Africa Investment Ltd owns 51% of African Life we say African Life is black owned but in reality blacks own about 11%. So 89% of the shares are in hands other than black.
So what I am trying to do is to empower black companies themselves. First of all I joined Warwick International Business Services where we train people how to run their businesses efficiently and give them skills training and all of that and turn their companies around. We make this service available to all South Africans but also particularly we try to make it available to blacks and to the government itself so that you have got productivity and increasing productivity in the country generally. So at Warwick International we're not even debating the question about economic justice, who should own this company or not, we say whichever companies you sort it out amongst yourselves, we just want to make it efficient and competitive and make it survive and make it grow. Our fundamental premise here is that in a first world country you can shrink a major corporation into efficiency but we're saying it is fundamentally unjust in the third world to shrink a company. In the third world you must grow a company into efficiencies. So that's where we differ, that's our competitive edge and our unique feature. And then I try my best to grow different industries, play an activist type of role and help people like in the movie industry and other industries and see how they can combine social and other issues in that regard.
POM How would you see Cyril Ramaphosa's role in this? On the one hand you've suggested to me, and tell me if I'm wrong, that a lot of what appears to be black economic empowerment or what would appear to be black owned companies are usually a kind of a shell game where a small number of individuals are enriching themselves and calling it black empowerment.
KX Cyril fits into that category.
POM He does?
KX Yes. He fits into that category. You see what's happening on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange at the moment is that we're having a seller's market and not a buyer's market as a result of which shares are overpriced on the JSE. A lot of black groups are buying shares on the JSE or buying into companies on the JSE way above the value of that company because - for us, some of us, it's just socio-political reasons and prestige, it looks good to have a company's name next to mine. We have a black group for example that bought into the French company, Alcatel South Africa, paid R120 million about four weeks ago for a percentage of shares there and will only realise profits twenty years from now against 120 million rand investment. Now no person in his sane mind would do that type of investment but it looks good: I own one of the world's leading companies, Alcatel, a significant percentage of it. It makes you look good but it's not sound investment whatsoever and you're operating in a seller's market. As you know stock prices are driven by perceptions and not by reality but we've got to go beyond perceptions and make sure that the market is real. Besides that we've got first of all to look at the entire business situation in the country. We know that the rand is going to fall over the next 4½ years to ten rand to the dollar, all the economists agree to that. There is no left and right wing, all agree to that. So you can imagine the implications of that on your investments. So there are a lot of decisions, carefully considered decisions that must be made by black investment groups but the one good thing I must say is that it's a good thing, in spite of all that, for black people not to wait for government policy but to go in and try, in spite of government policy, to play a significant role in the South African economy, although they make mistakes in so doing, but it is better to make a mistake than to sit still and do nothing at all.
POM So, Cyril would say that he had been deployed by the ANC to become the architect of black economic empowerment?
KX No, Cyril has not been deployed, that was just a damage control exercise to say he has been deployed. The ANC knew nothing about it. The ANC issued press statements expressing shock, ANC Cabinet ministers and members of the working committee expressed their absolute shock at Cyril's decision. It was only Mandela who tried to make that statement to do some damage control.
POM Why do you think he left?
KX I think that he made a strategic decision. He wants to go outside of the ANC, set himself up as Mr Success and when Thabo first handles the socio-economic issues Thabo becomes Mr Failure and then you've got two big names in the country, Mr Failure and Mr Success, and then he makes a come-back to politics and he will have a tremendous moral advantage and strategic image advantage over Thabo at that stage, rather than to stay behind and become part of the failure of Thabo.
POM Just as a matter of interest which do you think would make the better President?
POM Why so?
KX Thabo is a seasoned politician. Thabo understands more about economic issues. Thabo is more wise and he is a more strategic thinker. He is a manipulator, and all politicians have to be manipulators in some sort of way or another to keep people happy and he knows how to manipulate things to keep the nation together. Cyril would just be a type of a Ronald Reagan, totally dependent on advisers.
POM Totally dependent on his advisers?
KX He would be totally dependent on his advisers. He would not be able to run the country on his own.
POM That seems at odds with the kind of role he played both in the Mineworkers' Union and in the negotiations.
KX Well by the time Cyril left the Mineworkers' Union it was in a serious state of decay.
POM The union was a serious state of decay?
KX A very serious state of decay. They had already been overtaken by two other unions, bigger unions. Massive retrenchments had taken place. And because of his tame responses to those actions he was given a Peace Award, that he's a peaceful man. The real result was that Sigcau had overtaken National Union of Mineworkers and the Metalworkers' Union had overtaken them as bigger unions already, not because of rapid growth on the part of those unions but because of the decline on the part of the National Mineworkers' Union.
POM Those retrenchments happening because of just the mining industry being in a state of decline anyway and that means the number of employed every year are decreasing not just rapidly but almost exponentially under his successors. There are fewer members every year.
KX Yes, yes, but I'm saying that if you are a leader and you see a massive threat coming you're expected to sound a massive alarm and pose a massive action against that which he didn't do. He never sounded a massive alarm and that is why white people regard him as a very moderate man, that in the face of massive threats to workers he remained a moderate. That is his appeal to whites.
POM Are you working with others in what you're doing or are you working individually?
KX On each particular project that I'm working on we have different partners, I look for different partners.
POM Are you working on your own or are you part of - ?
KX No I'm working on my own here at Warwick but in other ventures I'm working with different people. For example, we've developed - this is a plant where I am working with scientists to create a particular technology to produce a particular PTFE(?) in a way that will make the United Nations happy. There was a decision in Montreal, called the Montreal Protocol, in which the governments of the world decided to ban PTFE in 1999 and only allow a particular form of it called R22 to be produced and that is because of the CFC and other side products. I am working with scientists now to produce a world class factory in South Africa to produce it in a safe way. It will be the first in the world. Here is another project that I'm working on. It is to create, also with scientists, to create a chemical product to protect your skin and combat dermatitis at the workplace. 16% of all people in the workplace suffer from dermatitis growing out of their skin and this is a very easy, open your hand, a solution that gives you 13 hours of protection on your hand against different forms of chemicals and diseases and so on at the workplace, creates a film over your hand to protect you for 13 hours.
POM And you've got the movie, the TV show?
KX What I'm doing here is I've got a trade union, the Chemical Workers' Union, involved as a partner because I think their members need this protection and I've got a food body involved in this also because I think people who work in the food industry need this protection too.