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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

20 Aug 1997: Dommisse, Ebbe

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

POM     Why do you think that the TRC is gunning, as it were, for FW de Klerk whereas they seem to have let PW Botha out of their range of fire altogether?

ED     Actually when I spoke to De Klerk last time round I asked him about the Truth Commission because I was all for a general amnesty right from the start and that was botched by Kobie Coetsee in a terrible way and that's a long story. But afterwards the composition of the Truth Commission was totally wrong as far as I am concerned. It wasn't a balanced commission like in Chile where there were four from the old regime and four from the new regime. I don't think there is one card carrying Nationalist Party member on the Truth Commission and if you look at the investigators there are about 300 of them. In Natal and the Eastern Cape and so on the leaders of the investigating teams are communists, for instance, so it's loaded against the NP to begin with and then, secondly, if you come back to the question of PW Botha, he refused flat out that he would appear before them. He refused that. He spoke to Tutu and he said he would not testify, he is making some statement or something, and I think Mandela is also personally more sympathetic to PW than to FW. There seems to be animosity between the last two. Furthermore, De Klerk when he appeared before the commission he seemed to fudge the issue. I wrote a Dawie column -

POM     He fudged the issue?

ED     Yes, to accept responsibility and not to come clean or whatever. I wrote a Dawie column which said that even if he did not know he was responsible for what happened, because he was chief of the armed forces, he was in charge of all the security apparatus, he did something at that time, the commissions and he fired a few people and so on, but it was very clear to me that if he wants to go there, I wouldn't have gone if I were him, I would say, we wouldn't have settled, if we had not settled we could have gone on for twenty, thirty, fifty years and having settled let's forget all this. Terrible things happened on all sides. He did not take that line. He constantly said, "But I had nothing to do with whatever happened with the BSB, with the third force, Vlakplaas, all of that", and he could not dodge that responsibility because he was head of state and head of government and chief of the armed forces. And by doing that I think that really got under the skin of the Truth Commission and I in fact wrote, and I know that the Truth Commission spent a great deal of attention on that, that he should accept responsibility, and then say, well go to hell. It was a war as far as I am concerned and dirty things happen in wars.

POM     Do you find it strange that Mandela and PW should have this kind of strange chemistry between them whereas from the point of view of the black population the worst oppression would have occurred during the years when he was either Minister of Defence or State President and that there's this kind of animosity between himself and FW, the man who actually freed him and in a sense transferred power to him?

ED     I don't think so. I think that PW is a 'realpolitik' kind of politician, Bismarck kind of politician who understands power, and I think somebody like Mandela who also understands power realises that. You know Mandela's, one would almost call it contempt for De Klerk, came way back from the CODESA meeting when he stood up and said that De Klerk had been less than frank. I don't know if you remember that? I think it came from there and I watched it on TV that night and I got an awful feeling in my stomach that now things are going to go wrong as they did later on with Boipatong. I think Mandela thinks, that's the essence of what he thinks about De Klerk, he has been less than frank. He thinks he's devious while PW Botha is not devious, he will tell you straight out in your face to go to hell and that will be it.

POM     When you said you got a sinking feeling in your stomach, of what?

ED     Oh I thought now De Klerk is starting to slide, sliding away. De Klerk said afterwards, I thought it was a terrible attack by Mandela, and then De Klerk stood up and said, "I am playing the ball not the man", that kind of thing. He should walk out after an attack like that, tell them to go to hell. You know the toughness that was needed in negotiations was lacking there and ever more afterwards. I think that's where Mandela took the measure of De Klerk and found him wanting. But if you ask me whether PW Botha would have been a tougher negotiator, I would say there's no doubt in my mind that he would have been much tougher.

POM     But would the end result have been any different?

ED     I think in a way yes. In a way the concept of power sharing would have been implemented more strongly. He had the army at his disposal, he had the security apparatus, everything was there. It was possible to keep a tight rein on the country. Very clearly, for instance, my paper started saying that we had to negotiate, and also the military thinking was that the struggle is 80% political and 20% military. It's clear that the negotiations had to begin; it was the collapse of communism and so on, it was easier, but Botha would have been a much tougher negotiator I think. The end result would have been slightly different. I think there would have been, in spite of the majority of the ANC, there would have been insistence on minority participation in government somehow, the consociational idea, whereas now we have a simple majority government, that's all, which I think is not fit for a divided society like this.

POM     On what would you fault government? From their point of view they would say we inherited an entrenched bureaucracy, we had to set about learning to govern which takes some time, transforming, putting in place the instruments to transform the society to try to make it more equitable and the results of these endeavours or programmes or policies that are being put in place, there will not be transformation in three years or five years or even ten.

ED     Firstly if you look at the bureaucracy what did they do? They offered severance packages and who took it? The most experienced, the most able of the civil servants took it. They would have been foolish had they not taken it, they get a golden handshake, they can go into the private sector so now the civil service is in a state of collapse. The police force is quite incapable of doing their job. The best ones have left which is very foolish I think. So you can fault them, and they know they are not able to govern but the arrogance with which they took over and insisting that they knew everything, look at Transnet for instance with Saki Makazoma taking over and saying that the former chief of Transnet, Anton Moolman, couldn't teach him anything after three months. This is just mind-boggling arrogance which crashes in the end. And there's a lot of arrogance amongst the inner cabinet with very poorly capable people. The quality of the cabinet leaves a lot to be desired, it's poor material. Look at the minister who has to privatise, Stella Sigcau, she is quite incapable of doing that job. You can go further, education, which is crucial for the country, hopelessly incompetent minister, and so you can go on and Mandela doesn't want to change. He's not going to change his cabinet and the civil service have lost some of the most capable people. I think there is a real danger that if this present furore about the Auditor General, if that means that that man has to go and it will be an affirmative appointee there and the same with the Governor of the Reserve Bank, this constant hammering at him. That will be a huge blow for confidence in the country.

POM     Let's talk about that for a minute. Every year I interview Derek Keys, since the time he's been Minister of Finance he's my financial - he gives me my tutorial on what the financial state of the country is, and he said, and I haven't found anybody to contradict him, that GEAR for all intents and purposes is dead in its tracks, that the country is capable of probably a growth rate of 2½%, just the level of government spending, the over-consumption, the moderate level of foreign debt just mean that one can't generate a growth rate in excess of that and given the rate of growth of population you might have a 1% increase in income per year but that's about it. Prospects for job creation really don't exist. In fact many more jobs are being lost than are being created as the country becomes more globally integrated. The mass of the people will stay in the poverty that they're in. There will be improvements in terms of electrification and water and some aspects of the quality of their life, but in terms of raising their standard of living significantly it's not going to happen, that the gap between the haves, first sector and third sector, the third sector has probably stabilised about where it is.

ED     It has actually increased among blacks, rich blacks and poorer blacks, the gap has increased.

POM     Because of a newly empowered black middle class. But that's the picture and with a shrug of his shoulder he says, "So we're a poor country but it's not the worst country to be poor in."

ED     Blue skies and so on. But are we satisfied with that? Are we going to try to - ?

POM     What are you dissatisfied with?

ED     Am I dissatisfied? Well if that's the situation -

POM     I mean your standard of living hasn't changed?

ED     Oh me personally?

POM     Your quality of life.

ED     What I am scared about, all right, if that is the situation in the country should you talk about an African renaissance? I think it's pie in the sky, you shouldn't talk about things like that and you should rather start really concentrating on what's needed in this country. Dissatisfaction? What about crime? Crime is out of hand in this country. You live behind bars so to speak. I personally have had some very, very worrying experiences apart from threats which I've always received. Threats by phone, mostly right wing. You live in a fortress in your private home, that's how you live nowadays. You have to have private security. It's OK, South Africa has a wonderful climate, the Cape is a wonderful place to live, but you have to be very careful when you enter your house, you lock everything and so on, you have a panic button for the security and the private security people will be there about four hours before the police, you can bank on that. But it's not a nice way to live. Otherwise, obviously your standards of living if you're middle class or better in this country, you can't wish for better. It's like living in the Riviera or Florida or wherever, San Francisco.

POM     But in terms of competence, just going back to government, is the present government any less competent than the previous government of?

ED     The last one of FW?

POM     Well FW or even the government of PW?

ED     I thought FW's was worse than PW's in terms of cabinet appointees and so on. One of FW's major mistakes was the kind of people that he appointed. But I would say, yes, we're not blessed with competent governments in this country. The Nationalist government, for instance when the gold price was $800 an ounce they had money to burn, had they spent that on education we would have been in a different class today but they were short-sighted. Verwoerd, had he allowed white capital into the homelands, he was scared of little Hong Kongs around South Africa. I would say if we had little Hong Kongs around South Africa today we would have been the envy of the world. China doesn't mind having Hong Kong. It was just stupidity, immense stupidity, but it's easy to be wise after the event. So, all right, is this government competent? It's not. I think Thabo Mbeki has way over too much work to do. He is competent but he's also calculating. You can go down the list of ministers, I've told you about some. Nzo as Foreign Affairs is inept. You can go to Education, which I mentioned, Bengu, quite incapable of doing the job. Privatisation which is very important, Stella Sigcau can't do it. Minister of Police, ineffective in a mind-boggling way, one plan after the other and it's just words, words, words, and crime does not decrease.

POM     Now they in part say that there are still elements of the third force operating.

ED     All right. And then if you criticise them you're a racist. This is part of the apartheid past, yes, which we have to live with. We're three years gone now and they'd better start performing. You see what I find very troubling about things like that, they find a third force, they find mysterious spirits in the air affecting things and so on. What I think is, why not stop the excuses because for South Africa and for this whole continent to do better we actually need to run faster just to keep ahead of what is going on in the outside world, and the big resources of Africa are dwindling; it's dwindling resources, the minerals and so on. We have to be so much better than we are not to become totally irrelevant in the wide world outside. What we're doing here is not by a long shot enough.

POM     If you were president and you had to make, say, five major changes in either the implementation or the direction of policy or personnel, what would you do?

ED     Number one, Minister of Police, fired and replaced by a new one and a competent one. Get something going about crime. I'd pull in the army to fight crime. They're not doing anything at the moment. I would really crack down on crime and send a message, they say it wouldn't look democratic and all that, it's just nonsense. Americans call in the National Guard or whatever to crack down on crime. Like New York succeeding against crime, that sends a big message that you're safe in this country. On what do we depend? We depend on tourism, tourists are scared to come here. It's not picking up as it should, service industry and all that. Crime and then education. I'd fire the Minister of Education. I'd really get a competent successor. Bengu was Rector of Fort Hare, he plundered the reserve fund there of about R50 million. When he left it was empty. Fort Hare closed a few weeks ago. That's what he left in education. He's not capable. And the other thing that they do in education, we have a saying, ek kan nie die een doen en die ander nalaat nie, you can't do one thing and leave another one alone. If you want to pull up those that lag behind, your institutions of excellence should not be pulled down if you want to remain competitive in this world. That's what's happening. You see it also in the health service and in crime and education. I think in the Finance Ministry Manuel is doing OK.

POM     On education what do you think is not being done that should be done?

ED     Number one, he should leave alone those institutions that are excellent and that are succeeding and he should try pulling up the rest of the education, I mean those that lag behind. And obviously also the ploy of giving severance packages to teachers that was just stupid because the best and the most capable teachers left instead of trying to send them to where the needs are, but the best teachers left the profession. Now they're selling pancakes and whatnot, apple tarts on street corners and so on. This is what's happening in this country. I think two of the ministers that are really, I think, quite capable of doing their jobs are Finance and Trade & Industry. Erwin is the most capitalist minded communist that I've ever come across.

POM     One thing I wanted to talk to you about because I've just got my shots to go there, and that's Angola. I'm going to go to Cuito Cuanavale because I think I will make that the starting point of my book, the air battle there.

ED     Who won? Who won Cuito Cuanavale, the battle?

POM     Who won the battle? Well wasn't it the Angolans or the East Germans or the Cubans, depending upon -

ED     Also depending on to whom you speak.

POM     Well tell me what does Cuito mean to you? How do you view it?

ED     Well at that time of course we were banned from writing much about it. You couldn't mention that South African forces were fighting outside the borders. I don't know if you remember that? No South African paper reported that because of the Defence Act, so we heard about the 'allied' forces fighting there. The Defence Act still has a clause prohibiting reporting about troop movements. Did you know that?

POM     The present Defence Act?

ED     The one that came from the former government, it still has that clause, you're not allowed to write about troop movements. There used to be a thing that you're not allowed to spread alarm and despondency.

POM     Alarm and despondency?

ED     Yes. Sure. That's the kind of laws under which we lived. And the reporting about Angola, up to this day I really don't know who won. People like Geldenhuys and Malan and so on say the South Africans won. Geldenhuys who was chief of the armed forces and Malan the former Minister of Defence. The Cubans and the Angolans say they won. What I do know is that about at that time the Russians sent more sophisticated MIG air fighters to Angola and that was more or less the end of the war in the air because they were so sophisticated that they would blow the Mirages out of the air.

POM     Well my starting point is on that in a sense in that the MIGs were far more superior, you couldn't get spare parts for the Mirages because of the arms embargo replacement parts, so once they had established air supremacy effectively you had lost the ground war and that the military itself came to the conclusion that this was a no-win situation.

ED     Well after the initial forages into Angola, where they went right up to Luanda, they were unable to take it because the American support wasn't there.

POM     The American support wasn't there?

ED     Yes, Kissinger at that time, because I think Congress was against intervention of the United States in Africa at that time. Remember there was a big vote in the OAU when it was split 22/22. The Zambian government was speaking about the tiger and its offspring dashing into Africa and there was a vote in the OAU about whether they should support the resistance and it was 22/22 I think at that time, it was equally divided. But afterwards I think the South Africans, the military decided that 100 bodies a day would be too much.

POM     Why was South Africa so obsessed with the so-called armed struggle when the armed struggle was mostly myth?

ED     Well later on, obviously with bombs exploding in Wimpy Bars and restaurants and at the Ellis Park ground and so on, the Ellis Park rugby grounds in Johannesburg, there was a huge explosion there, and the Church Street bombing in Pretoria and so on. It was quite scary to walk into a building at that time. People forget that the armed struggle meant urban terrorism. It also meant land mines, limpet mines. It was a bit like the Middle East.

POM     I think that the IRA have probably set off more bombs in London than the MK ever succeeded in setting off in Johannesburg.

ED     Possibly.

POM     When people say today that they had no idea of the kinds of things that were going on, well let me ask this in two phases. One, when people like De Klerk, it comes back to the TRC, when people like De Klerk and others say they had absolutely no idea of the kinds of atrocities that were going on and are as horrified as anybody else to find out, people in the ANC just find that unbelievable that you can be the head of state, you can have one of the most sophisticated intelligence apparatuses in the continent, maybe in the world, at your disposal, that you have your fingers on all the levers of power and you control all those instruments of power, in fact have centralised in a way through the National Security Management system, and say you didn't know that tortures were being carried out or that places like Vlakplaas existed just is mind boggling, it just is not believable.

ED     I would agree with that. I'd say that maybe the mind says we don't want to know, we don't want to know about things like these. In the end I think the point simply is you should have known as head of government because, as I said before, De Klerk was chief of the armed forces, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt that he did not know or it was other line functions and so on and it was another minister and he didn't pay too much attention to it, whatever. But in the end the doctrine of collective responsibility in cabinet was established and he had to accept responsibility for what happened and I think had he done that he would have been in a much better position than he is now because De Klerk to my mind is finished, he's had it as a politician. But he should have accepted responsibility.

POM     But do you personally find it, you've kind of answered it, that you personally find it difficult to believe that all of these people with all the immense power that they wielded simply didn't know what was going on around them?

ED     Of course, I find it impossible to believe. Going back to when, I was still in Cape Town before I left for Johannesburg, Beeld started in 1974 and I think it was in the seventies that this Imam, this Muslim Imam died in jail and there was a guy called  Spyker van Wyk who was in charge of it, a policeman, and the story was that the Imam fell down the steps, and often they slipped on a bar of soap. I mean you simply told yourself that's not true, this man was killed. And Timol who jumped from John Vorster Square, from the 9th floor and fell to his death -

POM     Who is this?

ED     Timol, an Indian, I think from Durban. As a journalist and as a member of the public I thought he was pushed. He didn't jump, or else they tortured him that he ran to escape the torture, something like that. No, there was no doubt in my mind and I guess most journalists thought that of course the police tortured these people.

POM     So there is no way that a minister wouldn't know, would ask the question you asked, "What do you mean he jumped out of the 9th floor?" But he seemed to have a succession of people jumping out of the 9th floor.

ED     Sure, sure. It was never proved, it was never proved, that one must say. I think that's the terrible thing about what was really a low level, undeclared war, that terrible things happened, for instance, bombings and so on, children being killed. One of the witnesses before the TRC said he drove on a farm road and the car before him, in which his whole family was, simply blew up into the air and they were all dead. It's horrifying. And I personally, I detest terrorism. They call it the war of the flea, there's a whole book about that, the kind of methods that Castro and Ché Guevara used. You strike at the state and you strike at all its soft spots and so on and in the end they say, well a few bodies but for the cause and so on, what's a few bodies? I've grown to like war less and less as I grow older. I'm not much in favour of war or of the arms trade for that matter. And you come from the biggest arms trader of them all.

POM     I'm what they call a permanent alien. They have these categories, I think, I often think that you're called a permanent alien because your function is that if extra-terrestrial forces ever descend we are sent forth to greet the aliens and say, "I'm a permanent alien myself, welcome", or whatever. A couple of things in Patti Waldmeir's book that I would like just to hear your reaction to. One is that, again this is FW De Klerk: -

     "The people who structured apartheid and put it on the books were not evil people. Apartheid was in its idealistic form a plan to make all the people of South Africa free. The Afrikaner fought the first anti-colonial war in modern history in Africa against Great Britain so Afrikaners have a deep understanding of the need of a people to be free."

     "We would lead the rural homelands to independence just as the colonial powers to the north had done. The goal was to bring justice to all by transforming South Africa into something like Europe, national states working together in respect of common interests."

     Would you agree with that statement?

ED     That's what is normally called 'the grand scheme', which I personally don't think in principle there's anything wrong with it if you have a state like Lesotho within the borders of South Africa, sure. The only thing is it didn't work, it collapsed because of the inability of these Bantustans to support themselves and it collapsed because of economic reasons. If you look to the future one might also pose the question whether the nation/state is at all viable, whether the nation/state will remain with the world becoming more and more integrated, Internet removing the boundaries and so on. So I guess it was a philosophy based on what happened in the past but whether it would work in the future that was very debatable and of course it did not. Just coming back, this paper's view was that it was in favour of the grand scheme, of homelands. The trouble of course was that it was to be ethnically based homelands and that was impossible right from the outset. But in spite of being in favour of the grand idea this newspaper was against petty apartheid from the late fifties onwards and thought it could never work and I think this paper did a great deal to soften the harsh edges of race classification and we're going back to race classification it seems now because we must have race classification to impose affirmative action otherwise we're just all South Africans. Have you thought about that one?

POM     But does the census still take classification by race?

ED     It's voluntary. You may say whether you want to be classified. You can say to what group you belong.

POM     But there's no requirement that you must do it?

ED     No. And anyway we lost five million people during the last census.

POM     That was a help in pushing up per capita income.

ED     Oh it was tremendous, yes, it's marvellous. I thought we're re-inventing the wheel the way we're going now.

POM     The second thing, this is from Waldmeir: -

     "Afrikaners, pragmatists as they are, made the peace with the new South Africa with extraordinary rapidity. Theirs is a political culture based on an obedience that borders on obsequiousness so they easily made the transition from obeying the NP to obeying the ANC. Even the Afrikaner dominated civil service and security forces, groups that the ANC had feared would undermine black rule, fell swiftly into line."

ED     Well that's a generalisation as bad as you can get. I think that does not take into account the history of what Van Wyk Louw called lojale verset, loyal resistance. Loyal resistance is a very, very strong feature of at least the intellectuals among Afrikanerdom. We are not a very obedient group. I think there is a lot of individualism among Afrikaners. If I was to sub-edit that book I would say, well that's complete nonsense what you're saying now because there is a strong tendency to obey the law and to obey the government of the day, even in the past when - yes, you should obey the law and you should obey the government of the day irrespective of what it is, but you can be very strongly against it and try to change it by organising and whatever. At the moment the Afrikaners are very much like in the beginning of the century after having lost the Boer War, devastated. I think most Afrikaners think De Klerk was out-smarted in the negotiations and he gave away too much. Van Zyl Slabbert puts it very harshly. He says the National Party negotiators were simply on another planet.

POM     I have the quote from him, I was going to ask you about it. He says: -

     "When the chips were down Afrikaners meekly handed over power without even seriously attempting to bargain any special group privileges. They even agreed to simple majority rule."

     That's one thing he says. Two: -

     "Affluent Afrikaners sold out the poorer Afrikaners because they felt more confident in their ability to either survive in or leave the new South Africa."

     And then most damning of all would be the phrase that: -

     "De Klerk's negotiators were really a part of Mandela's team in facilitating the transition to majority rule. It was a pushover."

     Would you agree with those?

ED     It's very harsh but if it was no pushover one couldn't detect a hell of a lot of resistance, that's for sure. One thing that De Klerk said to me when I said to him, "What about this clause about not being allowed to cross the floor in parliament, it's totally anti-democratic? How did that happen?" And he said, "Well that was something that fell off the table in the last stages of the negotiations."

POM     It just fell off the table?

ED     Fell off the table, yes. I think I told you about when I went to him shortly after he took over in 1990 when I suggested to him that he should govern and the NP should negotiate and he turned that down flatly.

POM     That he should?

ED     He should govern and the NP should negotiate, and how he was against that. That was his downfall because had he done that, had the party negotiated and had he got in extras like, look who the ANC got. They got barristers like Chaskalson, Bizos, the very top legal brains of this country. That's where Waldmeir is right in her book, he was arrogant about it and in a position of power. De Klerk was arrogant about that and he was also vain, he thought he could do it himself.

POM     She makes a point in the book, first of all that it appeared that he wanted an early election believing that he could put together an anti-ANC alliance and the sooner the election came the better because the more disorganised the ANC was, it simply didn't have its act together in the early days. She described then that come the collapse of CODESA 2 that she and some of her colleagues visited him in his office and he's in a buoyant mood believing that ANC will make concessions and that time is on his side, which is completely contradictory. Van Zyl Slabbert quotes one of his colleagues here as saying that : -

     "Part of his strategy, one of his colleagues told us in confidence told us that they thought (that's the NP) they could keep the ANC negotiating for at least five years while the NP governed the ANC support base away from it."

     Then she talks about : -

     "By September of 1992 De Klerk was desperate for a deal at any cost, almost regardless of the content."

     Why was he desperate for a deal by September of 1992?

ED     Well that baffled me, that baffled me. Then came the Record of Understanding and I wrote a Dawie column severely criticising him and he spent the whole opening address at the Cape National Party Congress replying to the Dawie and trying to say that everything was, as they put it, in place and he's got everything under control and so on. Of course he had not and by that time it was clear that he was sliding.

POM     De Klerk was sliding?

ED     Yes he was sliding.

POM     So what happened?

ED     I think probably the state of the economy was getting very worrying for him and he had actually put all his faith into a settlement and by that time, as I told you he's not like a Bismarck kind of politician, he's a lawyer, he has a very legalistic approach to politics to my mind, not strategic, legalistic, and he was probably influenced by people like his brother mainly. He didn't have strong advisers around him and he caved in, that's what happened.

POM     Some suggest that he craved the international attention.

ED     Yes he did. I think he still does but he won't be getting it now. His idea, I think, was to become a kind of an African Jimmy Carter, travelling around, solving the problems in other countries which those countries can't solve themselves, or Kissinger, something like that.

POM     Why does he stay on in a role that can only diminish himself and his contribution over time?

ED     It has already diminished him. It's too late. His reputation - Yale University turned him down, he couldn't go there. You remember earlier this year after he was invited? They withdrew the invitation. This is because of the Truth Commission. He also underestimated the Truth Commission in a terrible way, terrible. If you look at what's happening now before the TRC you would think that there were never true adversaries in this conflict, there was only an oppressor, not two conflicting sides. He should have gone maybe after he received the Nobel Peace Prize or after the election of 1994 and he would have gone on a high, but he thinks that he is the cement holding the different wings of the NP together and that's why he's not going. Another thing is I think he wanted to leave when Mandela left. He thought they had done the deal and they should usher in the new South Africa. In the end he also made a big mistake by leaving the government of national unity. I thought at that time that he probably did the right thing but on later reflection I thought it was wrong and the reason why he left it was clear, that the NP was making no headway, it couldn't get its message over like the ANC did. The ANC, like most of these kind of movements, are very strong on propaganda, agitation and so on and the NP couldn't keep up. But had he stayed in government he wouldn't have lost as much face as he had because after leaving government the NP was still not able to project itself to the public as they thought they would, becoming a real live-wire opposition like maybe the Democratic Party. They could not succeed in that.

POM     Why?

ED     Well incompetence, old style politicians, too much dead wood in the party. The most capable and able people have left the party.

POM     What about the Roelf and Bantu Show?

ED     Tom and Jerry.

POM     Kind of an improbable couple to say the least. Do you think they have a chance to launch a new party that will do any better than gaining 2% or 3% or 4% of the votes?

ED     I don't think so. I think that's about where they will land up. I doubt whether they will even beat the Democratic Party. They will get a few disenchanted Nationalists, Holomisa might get some black support in the Eastern Cape but I really don't think they will get far.

POM     What you seem to be painting is a picture of a National Party in a state of decline, any attempt to form an alternative party really stillborn, which means the ANC doesn't really have much to worry about, it's opposition comes from within itself. The only thing it has to fear is itself more than any external opposition.

ED     Yes, and what they have to fear could be very dangerous. The present clash between the ANC and COSATU about this Labour Act, there's a real danger of a left wing workers' party being formed I think, communist in structure.  Also I think the alliance cannot hold on for ever. COSATU, I think principally it's not good for democracy that a trade union is within a political party. I think there should be separation of things like that. And also the alliance between the Communist Party and the ANC, why doesn't the Communist Party go on its own like in most other countries? They like acting from inside. Their numbers are growing, I don't know if you know? They are bragging now that after having had 50 members of parliament they now have 80 card carrying Communist Party members. That's what Cronin said the other day. Did you know that?

POM     No I didn't, no.

ED     Very interesting. You see I think the alliance cannot hold together in the long run simply because of the international pressure for South Africa to become a kind of a free market, modern society and with COSATU and the communists, they don't have an ideology at the moment it seems, but COSATU does have an ideology and  it's dangerous because what they are doing is they are helping the lack of job creation in this country by insisting on minimum wage, a shorter work week and all that kind of thing.

POM     How would you rate Tito Mboweni as a minister?

ED     I think from the ANC's point of view he's one of the more capable ones but he's also an ex-trade union man. Mbeki once told me about Cyril Ramaphosa, "He has a trade union mentality", which I thought an interesting remark.

POM     He's lost that.

ED     Yes he's lost that. But Mboweni, the way they are trading between, if you say  GEAR is dead then obviously they have to hammer the trade unions to get some life into the damn thing again otherwise the problems are going to get bigger and bigger and bigger.

POM     Do you think GEAR is dead? Growth for the first quarter has been negative. It could be negative for the second quarter. There is no job creation but there doesn't appear to be even a proper data base to find out whether jobs are being created or not.

ED     Well you see you come back to the data base. This census, I speak to an internationally recognised demographer like Sadie, Jan Sadie at Stellenbosch, he simply doesn't believe the census, he says it's absolute nonsense, it can't be true. Now what happened? How on earth did they get that figure?

POM     What's the name of the demographer at Stellenbosch?

ED     Jan Sadie, Professor Jan Sadie. He worked for some years at the United Nations in New York on demography. So suddenly we have less people so it's easier to plan, but unemployment is increasing and you can see it and that makes one wary about where we're going I should think. And, yes, I agree the GEAR targets are not being met. We want 6% in three years time, we want 6% growth which if you look at the tiger economies is very modest really, it's not spectacular like say Korea or even China. And GEAR set specific targets for job creation but we are losing jobs so it seems we have a big problem. Somebody said to me many years ago, a visiting professor from America, he said he doesn't understand the National Party's approach because they want political liberation but what about economic advancement with this huge unemployment.

POM     Does he understand the ANC's approach?

ED     No, National Party. They are going to settle politically but what about the economic problems. Now the ANC has them. As we sit here today there's a strike on, a COSATU strike in the Western Cape. The day before yesterday it was in the Eastern Cape, fairly successful, about 80% turnout for the strike, and they lost something like R120 million worth of production.

POM     Is there a work ethic in this country?

ED     It's very limited.

POM     Is that across the board?

ED     It's not across the board. If you look at the banking and financial section of this country it's as sophisticated and as vigorous as anything you will find anywhere. It's far and away the most vigorous in Africa. So there's a work ethic and there's competence and the modernisation of these sectors is really astounding for a country like this, but it doesn't soak into the ground very far.

POM     Well on that high, optimistic note -  you get me on Northern Ireland, I've been writing pessimistically about it for 25 years.

ED     Well you see I looked the other day, Mandela was sitting over there and locked in his office with Mufamadi the Minister of Police, he was sitting there and we were discussing crime and I looked at the minister and I thought to myself, he doesn't mean business. If you want to fight crime in this country you need a tough and determined minister, that's what you need, not Mufamadi. There is too much of that in government. On the other hand the private sector is really moving in this country but it's not enough.

POM     You say the private sector is really moving?

ED     Yes, the private sector is making lots of money.

POM     It's making money but it's not creating jobs.

ED     No it's not creating jobs. Why? Because you invest in companies, you do not invest in people in this country, you invest in robots and electronic equipment and in in-house training of those that you have and so on. Very effective, it's the world-wide trend but it does not create jobs, not half of what we need. I hear that about one third of mankind is unemployed. Is that the figure that you hear?

POM     Yes.

ED     About one third, and it's permanent.

POM     Yes. God, I hope I have my job when I get home! I worry sometimes I stay away so often, they say, "What are you doing"

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.