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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

10 Oct 1997: Moseneke, Dikgang

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

DM     There's always some urgent matter needs to be dealt with, also business announcements and things. It's the difference between this and all the other things I have done up to now.

POM     I understand. Thank you for redoing your schedule. I think you have heard about the trouble that I went through. I flew from London, went to London and I flew directly back to see you.

DM     I'm sorry about that. I heard about it.

POM     It's not your fault but I'm glad it came to your attention. I have been doing something different recently, that when I go to interview people of prominence or importance,  when I go around to ordinary people and ask them, I say I'm going to see so-and-so what kind of questions would you like to ask them if you had the opportunity, I'm going to see a premier or Lekota. I had Lekota at my house last week and I brought in six domestics and they grilled him and what was interesting about him was that they were talking two different languages. He was talking about budgets and empowerment and upliftment and they were words that meant nothing to the people involved. I would almost begin with that on the aeroplane, I said to a person who in fact is head of the Peace Corps out here, I said, "If you met Advocate Moseneke what kind of questions would you ask him?" And the first thing that came up was this whole thing about black empowerment, which we've talked about before. I saw Cyril yesterday in the paper said, "I don't want to call it black empowerment but the development of black business." There is not just a distinct, from my grassroots which may be wrong, distinct impression that black empowerment is about the empowerment of a black elite, that it doesn't trickle down in any meaningful way. That's question number one. How do you address that?

     Two, is that the question of the media continually comes up as the media being anti-government or always trying to point out the faults of the government and I now point out that it's either Johnnic or NAIL who owns the controlling interest in Time or the Sunday Times or whatever they are, that in fact there is considerable black ownership in the media and therefore to keep talking about the media as being white controlled is kind of falling back on a stereotype.

     So maybe let's just start with those two questions, the first one being very important. There is no sense, as far as I can gather, and I go to townships a lot, other than a cynicism that you guys are getting rich.

DM     That question is not worthy of answer, it's a product of stereotyping. You wouldn't go and ask the same question of Donny Gordon would you? You wouldn't even begin. You wouldn't ask that question of Harry Oppenheimer would you? You wouldn't go and ask Louis Luyt does your wealth go down to other people, or would you? But you would ask it to black industrialists and business people and entrepreneurs. It's nonsensical.

POM     No, in part I would reply to that very quickly by saying that when Cyril came to NAIL he said he was redeployed by the movement, that business was just another terrain of struggle and that unless -

DM     I agree with him, but the assumption is that the terrain of struggle means that black business people must not get rich in order to be able to reinvest, in order to be able to - the mechanics of how to add value, how an economy runs are plain. Unless the underlying suggestion is that we should take the assets owned by NAIL and distribute them in the streets, what should we do? We set up a company, it's doing a whole range of things and those who actually run that company distribute the profits to their shareholders and some of it they own themselves or they earn out of that. It's the normal pattern of a company all over the world. Now what do you want us to do? That's a hackneyed, tired question that says you guys are getting rich. We are, of course we're getting rich, and if we didn't get rich it would be silly, we would be a failure. And if black companies go under they say these guys can't run companies, they've gone under. What do you want us to do? If we prosper we're getting rich and it's not trickling down. I don't understand that. It's a stereotypical nonsense that puts a rift between black people who are making some progress and those who are not making progress.

POM     But then the people who are making the stereotypical differences are black people. It's black people who are saying to me that people who are -

DM     It doesn't matter who they are, we should correct them.

POM     Well how do you do that?

DM     You see I'm giving you just an answer to say that we must be careful not to be superficial in the way we evaluate. Look, how do we measure GDP in a country? Where does revenue of a country, where does the fiscus get its money from? From profitable enterprises and profitable enterprises are those which are managed well and out of resources generate a surplus which is termed profits and that's what's taxable after meeting expenses. And if you don't want black businesses to do that and it's all in all about 95% of the economy is run basically by entities which do exactly the same process. Donny Gordon's personal wealth moves by a greater margin than all black entrepreneurs net value of their business put together.

POM     But this message is not getting out to your constituency.

DM     But most people don't want to hear it. They formulate - black people don't want to share it, some white people don't want to share it for different reasons.

POM     Black people see you as getting rich.

DM     But what's wrong with that?

POM     But doing nothing for them.

DM     How are countries built? They are built by entrepreneurs who create wealth, create jobs. How do you think - ?

POM     No, no, I'm not disagreeing with you. What I want to get at is how do you address the problem where there is an increasing situation of alienation?

DM     Time will address that.

POM     Is it done through institutional structures? Is it done through civil society? Is it done through the political structures?

DM     I think time will do that. The reality will be - (break in recording)

DM     In South Africa, have you noticed, in the newspapers - other emerging companies and empowerment transactions, and that must be so. Anything else would be a tragedy, a total tragedy.

POM     I suppose what I'm getting at is -

DM     But why do we have a different obligation from any of the other entrepreneurs? Why must we be saying to ourselves every day that in fact you've got to take everybody along? Why must it be so?

POM     Let me begin backwards.

DM     Because I can be probably, in that question, I know what we must do but not what you suggest.

POM     I haven't suggested anything, I'm just putting the question: GEAR is a failure, can't meet its goals as set down, can't generate the jobs it said it would generate, best prospects are by most economists from all sides that the economy may grow by 2.1%, 2.2% up to maybe 2.5% between now and the end of the century. There is probably job loss rather than job creation as one gets into globalisation and down-sizing. The gap between the rich and the poor is the same if not greater than it was in 1992/93 up to today and the mass of the impoverished remain as impoverished as they were, leaving aside electricity, some clean water, some other kind of important amenities, but most people that I talk to in townships say they are worse off or no better off than they were four or five years ago. Now they forget about the things that have changed, as they change they absorb them. So my question is that you are a private company which is obligated, I hope, to make money and make a lot of money and on the other hand you are part of an overall government strategy and the message isn't coming out as to where you fit, as to what you're doing, as to what is the theory behind black empowerment or whatever you want to call it. There is no message down there among the people as to what that means. Why isn't this addressed?

DM     So, I'm sure there are those inequalities. The answer must surely be yes. Take our group, let me tell you for a moment, within the powers of a private company, this ... whatever we're seven/ten, we're on a very lean, lean arrangement.  Seven million investment is today worth about half a billion.

POM     I must invest, I need to subsidise my studies from now on. It's going to be floated, it's called the - this is not inside information is it?

DM     The African Merchant Bank, no, no, there will be an announcement in the papers over the weekend or so. We're going to list African Merchant Bank. It will be properly announced, public offering and it is probably going to double or triple  ...   and to make it work and to make money.

POM     I understand that but I want to play devil's advocate.

DM     Sure, fair enough.

POM     And my devil's advocate position is that there is no sense of vision in the country. There is no sense of we're all in it together and we must all work together and that means we must all sacrifice on behalf of each other. Motlanthe said people should work 48 hours a week and not 40, we must sacrifice. (Break in recording)

DM     Then you begin to see these high growth levels now. It took them 40 years. Only now are they - (break in recording)- out of resources is something -

POM     Which you can't distribute.

DM     Yes, it is something that is more difficult than it looks when one is at a distance. And I am quite convinced that we as a company will grow and we would create a number of opportunities for young people. As a country, I have no doubt, we need a leadership that must keep on focusing on a vision and Thabo Mbeki is trying to do that. He is saying that this is the time for renaissance for the African people and out of poverty into other levels of luck. I have no doubt that it must be a multi-pronged attack. You must have small businesses and they must grow. You must make ordinary people grow, you must expand your agriculture, you must expand your industrialists, you must expand everything. NAIL to an Anglo-American, NAIL to a hawker, and you should find strategists to be able to get them upgraded as it were. I don't think that's been easy. Look at the problems around political organisation in the country. Midway, well more towards the elections, what's happening? You're having a lot of problems in the political ship of state which are basically going to be addressed more and more. (Break in recording)

POM     It's going to win hands down in the next election with increasing fragmentation of the opposition, that it doesn't need to pay attention to delivering basic messages because the people have no alternatives.

DM     I agree. I think they have been poor in delivering messages down. I agree with you. I think the government has been hopeless in telling people what they are trying to do and what they want to deliver. They have still relied on the excitement and    about GEAR, more people know about GEAR than those who don't know about it and therefore he believes that the message is well on the way within the ANC.

POM     ... analyses it, why does he rather than being able to state it as something that I agree with, what's his conclusion?

DM     It's a complex question. It's anything from just the helplessness that comes out of loss of power and control, at least at a political level. It's rather close to a subliminal fear that everything will go wrong some time in the future, if not now. I think there is some unspoken unease on the part of many white South Africans that things are on a slippery slope. That is excessive and I think it's unwarranted. Of course it is fuelled by certain levels of inefficiencies that emerge from time to time, certain levels of corruption that we have seen, not always dealt with as effectively as it should be dealt with, less than efficient delivery mechanisms that we have seen in the country. But I say that it's an over-reaction. I think it's an over-reaction. When I went to Telkom four years ago I got a sense that people thought that everything would come to a standstill and I think it's a much better company now than it ever was at any time with all of its shortcomings. I don't think we should be too ready to accept that things will get worse. The cabinet as it functions now, I've heard former cabinet ministers saying they believe it is at least three, four times more efficient than the previous cabinet.

POM     But is that a false comparison? In other words that your comparison level must not be where we were but where we are capable of going and we are either going to make our people better off or we're not?

DM     I agree with you. I'm just worried about - I'm dealing with white pessimism.

POM     If you could proceed with that a bit more because a very prominent white connected person said to me, who is absolutely pro-ANC, has always been anti-apartheid and whatever, in fact since it won't be published, this was Willem de Klerk who said he has never gone around so many business gatherings where he's seen white businessmen so pessimistic about the future as right now. When I ask him to put his finger on it he can't quite, it's just a general feeling that things are deteriorating. Now is that part of their own ingrained stereotypical subconsciousness working or is it something that should be of legitimate concern? The government is not being run well.

DM     I think it's a bit of both, it's both. This stereotypical anticipation that things will go wrong which turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And of course in certain instances government has not done well, particularly when you look at specific issues. There are areas where government has done very well and one can run them off very quickly, there are many. There are areas where government has not done well. And there are areas which are inherently difficult to manage because of transition, transition in society, and it takes time.  (Break in recording)

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.