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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

17 Oct 1997: Maduna, Penuell

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POM     Let's start there, that's a good starting point, we're talking about an airline that is still the national airline that consistently is not performing up to standards that other airlines are now performing up to, like Sun Air, Comair, British Air, whatever you want to call it, which just in terms of reliability are far more reliable. And yet, for example, SAA mandates that you be there, they close the gates 20 minutes before the flight takes off, so there's a contradiction. You've got to be there 20 minutes before to check in, 20 minutes before the flight is due to go, and if you're not there they won't let you check in and even with that their flights don't leave on time anyway.

PM     I'm not certain what the problem is. I haven't paid attention to the situation at SAA. It's not under me but of course there are many complaints, there are many complaints indeed about how SAA works. I suppose it's something that warrants somebody's attention. It's surprising because basically management is still very much as white as it was in the past. There have been black incursions at certain levels of management but I don't think that those incursions are sufficient to have changed management. I suppose maybe it's got something to do with the anxieties people go through maybe as they go through processes of change. I'm not sure. But one hears even fellow ministers say all manner of things about how SAA works. I hope that SAA itself is going to do something about their set-up. Somebody has got to go into SAA and find out where the problems are.

POM     In a way they're simple. Your plane should take off on time. It's not as though the skies are so crowded with airplanes.

PM     Again, if they are not careful they are going to be losing the game of competition to their rivals.

POM     If you're a minister are you obliged to travel on SAA or can you pick whatever airline you like?

PM     No, no, I personally, for instance, fly SAA out of choice and out of patriotism, but I have a choice.

POM     Even if they deliver you late to wherever you want to be and that starts consistently happening?

PM     Well on some occasions I've had to change to other airlines in order to fly early when this kind of thing was threatening to happen.

POM     Well I didn't come to talk to you about airlines. Let me hit the heavy questions right away. Number one, your row with the Auditor General?

PM     Well that matter is now in the hands of the Public Protector and the less I say about it the better.

POM     I'm publishing nothing until the year 2000, so what's the nature of the problem?

PM     No, no, no. I do think that the Public Protector is going to work on the issue as speedily as possible. I raised certain questions about the way the financial affairs and books of the Strategic Fuel Fund Association were being handled by all concerned. If he finds that in fact my anxieties were unfounded well and good. I drew attention to them, there were problems as far as I could see things in this affair and I drew the attention of the country to those problems.

POM     But it would seem to me just following it that there is a larger issue and that here the Auditor General who is supposed to be above everything and absolutely -

PM     Above and beyond reproach, yes.

POM     The fact is that he is part of the old order.

PM     Well maybe that's one of the problems. That's one of the problems because indeed they had a special relationship with him which is reflected in the way things were being dealt with but as I say the less I say about it now the better because the issue is being dealt with elsewhere. I have submitted all the documents at my disposal, the documents which made me raise the alarm as I did.

POM     I suppose what I'm asking you in a more generic sense, is there a larger issue that transforming the civil service and the agencies of the state from the past take quite a bit of time and some of them who were considered to be 'honest and impartial' were honest and impartial in terms of certain standards that existed then?

PM     Look, the public service that we inherited is still by and large consisting of the people to whom blacks were seen as a problem and not as citizens of the Republic. Now to expect them to have changed so suddenly, to expect the pendulum to have swung in the opposite direction so fast within the past three and a half years or so would be expecting too much. We are dealing with human beings here who had worked and related to the majority of the citizens in a particular way. I must say to their credit that they are doing quite a bit in fact to relate to us better, certainly than they did in the past, and in many instances it's working. But then again not all the vestiges of their bad tendencies, the tendencies of the past, have been totally eradicated. You need processes to deal with that rather than just one or two events, dramatic events. They were not used to accounting to the whole country, they were used to accounting only to their ilk defined in racial terms. It's as simple as that. The rest of humanity in this country didn't count as far as they were concerned. This is it. This reflects itself in simple things. When you say to them, how many prospecting licences, for instance in mining, have you issued to black controlled entitles and what do the numbers reflect? Do you get the point? They are not used to those kinds of questions and some of them will say to you, no, no, no, we're no longer looking at colour, we're issuing them on the basis of non-racialism. This is a lot of nonsense as far as I'm concerned because let me tell you race will help us now to address the imbalances of our past in the distribution of resources, opportunities, wealth and income and in fact you would never be able to implement any programme of affirmative action unless you pay particular attention to race because race mattered in the past. Now you can't say it doesn't matter now everybody is equal when in fact conditions of inequality and the inequities of the past continue in many areas of our lives. You can't say, no, no, no, now it's wrong to look at people in terms of race and gender. In order in fact to lift people from the quagmire of the consequences of colonialism and apartheid in this country you would have to look at all of us in racial terms and of course racial and gender terms that is because women are also getting the raw end of the stick. You've got, of course, to find a fine balance between affirmative action programmes, empowerment programmes and sheer self-enrichment schemes because that's also another problem. People would want to do so much to prove they are earnest that they may also make mistakes. I am personally, for instance, unhappy about a tendency which I see now to heap resources upon few blacks who are suddenly  becoming -

POM     Rich.

PM     Absolutely rich, very, very rich. And at the same time if you look at what we are doing, all of us public and private, to crack the big sediment of poverty afflicting the majority of the citizens in this country you find that very little has been done. It's easy of course for anyone just to say, oh I know so-and-so is interested in this and there is an opportunity opening up in my company, let me just call them and say we want to talk to you. We know you're interested in mining or in energy or in both, please come and talk to us, there is an opportunity, our company may be in a position to sell 20% for purposes of black economic empowerment and we want to talk to you about that. I talk to the same small coterie of people. So in other words very soon we will discover that we are trapped in the same set of conditions except that there is now a slightly different colouring of the same problem. Wealth is still very much concentrated in a few hands but those few hands are now wearing a mixture of colours, they are black and white. It doesn't solve our country's problems. I certainly would be happier if there were schemes which would when education opportunities become available ensure that we reach the largest possible number. If the largest possible number is that same coterie of people well and good but I am not persuaded that in fact we are doing well in terms of actual, physical redistribution of opportunity.

POM     Something I've been asking, particularly on this trip, everyone about is what is black empowerment? Is black empowerment - ?

PM     Equivalent to black enrichment?

POM     That's right, and are a few benefiting and the new elite benefiting, but in terms of there being a trickle down effect?

PM     I personally don't hold anything against the individuals concerned. I suppose if I were operating in their circles and opportunities were every now and then coming my way I would also be a happy person, no doubt about it. Nobody turns away opportunities that easily and says we have too much now. But I am saying that the unfortunate thing is the alienation of the majority will continue and the majority tend to look to the state for change. I have right now in front of me a letter which says they would want to talk to me about restructuring of state assets precisely because there are problems there. The beneficiaries are restricted to certain people, etc., etc. This meeting is the next one I'm going to be having in another ten minutes. Again, if the people coming to see me come from trade unions who are actually saying they are worried about what's happening, it's time you're talking - in fact they say here in a letter they want to discuss with me some of the difficulties labour is experiencing in restructuring processes already under way, and I am saying if you analyse it it's got to do with how you define the intended beneficiaries. It's easy to call a few of your friends to a party and say to them let's come and have a feast, but it's more difficult to think of the larger numbers of people out there who are looking for opportunities to participate in this economy. They have been denied these opportunities in the past, etc., and it can't continue now, but again, we don't dictate to anyone what they should do with the wealth they command. We can only warn, we can only caution, we can only plead with people, etc.

POM     Do you think that, say, in the next ten years or so that if the majority of the people don't see any appreciable change in their standard of living, but if on the other hand they are seeing what is called black empowerment becoming self-enrichment on the part of a number of people who may be doing it for the best of motives, that you will have a real problem?

PM     I am saying that precisely because we can see that there is something wrong, at least on the face of it, I'm sure people in Belgium would argue that there is nothing wrong with a few people benefiting to the exclusion of the majority. Maybe in their logic that's right but some of us begin to worry that indeed very little is being done to address the problems afflicting the majority. I always say if you take me as an example, I am part of the black elite, at the worst of times I could have survived and I did survive apartheid. That's that. And not only that, I think if you just look at me as an individual and look at a whole lot of other black people I think we are better off, we're even better by the way than whites themselves, that's the truth, so that therefore it would be broadly erroneous for anyone to think that it is right to heap resources upon us. Maybe I espouse a totally incorrect philosophy in the minds of certain people but who cares as long as I still think the way I see it. I would want us to transform the lives of the largest number of people in this country rather than just confine ourselves to a few. In other words I'm saying it's wrong for these extremes, the two extremes to continue, where you find extremely rich people, black and white now, and extremely poor people, predominantly black. There is something wrong with the way resources, opportunities, wealth and income are distributed in our country.

POM     Let me put that as directly as I can. I've talked over the last year to innumerable people about GEAR. Everybody, to a person, across the board, no matter what race, ideology, persuasion or whatever, says GEAR isn't working. We're not going to get a 5% growth rate per year by the year 2000, you're not going to create 250,000 jobs a year. The best the economy can do, most people that I've talked to, and it's wide spectrum, say between 2.2% and maybe 2.5% per year, take into account the rate of growth of population and you're talking about a minuscule margin for redistribution in terms of upliftment. And there are no jobs, rather than being created because of the rationalisation of industries the entry of South Africa into the global economy with down-sizing and all its attendant consequences is that perhaps more jobs have been lost in the last three or four years rather than created and the loss of jobs would be typical of any industrialising economy. You don't have a lot of control over, in one sense, your economic state.

PM     No certainly not.

POM     Why isn't it acknowledged in some way that we need to redefine GEAR. It's not going to achieve this by the year 2000, the goals are OK but we're not going to get there. It's going to take longer.

PM     Maybe it might have been rather too ambitious to think that it would work effectively by the year 2000. You are talking about a longer term horizon, as it were. It can't be that everything is working properly now and therefore by the year 2000 we would have achieved a whole lot of things. You see at the core, as I say, of our problems, this is how I see it, is the continuance of that which we inherited from the past. And you know the unfortunate thing of course, your biggest casualty by and large is going to be your unskilled labour. As things change we are entering this highly competitive global market, completely ill-prepared for it in terms of our human resources development. The mines, for instance, are losing quite a lot of people. I have seen machines which mine better than the little person at the coal face and therefore if a mine wants to compete in global terms that mine would have to cut down its own costs and maximise its profitability and in the process of doing that labour will be a major casualty. And it's happening in our mines, they are actually jettisoning a lot of jobs and unfortunately the people who are affected are your least skilled persons. In other words we are entering that realm, the international realm, completely unprepared or ill-prepared, whichever way you want to look at it.

     At the same time of course let's also acknowledge that whereas before the 1994 elections the growth rate was below zero, there is growth in this country now above zero, 2.5% - 3%. Our main worry about that is not so much that there is limited growth but that that growth is not unfortunately enabling us to impact upon poverty, create jobs, etc., etc. We are hoping that it could be done, but then again I think it has to be acknowledged that the people who are in control of wealth, who have got wealth in their hands, are not waking up in the morning purely for the sake of altruism, to create jobs, etc., etc. At least we acknowledge that they are actually looking at their operations from the point of view of making even more profit. That's how a normal business person approaches life. The more money I make the better. Of course there is a level of social consciousness amongst them which one must also acknowledge. But primarily nobody wakes up in the morning to say I want to create jobs for other people for the sake of doing so. They would say, this is what I want to do, I see a gap here, I want to start something here and these are the inputs I require to make and these are the costs of the inputs, etc., etc. One person may require two hands, another one may require four, another one may require a thousand but they look at everything in terms of their needs rather than the needs of the person out there and you are not going to get anybody who says I will just want to employ and keep people for the sake of doing it. They will say if it's cheaper to replace them why not replace them? It's happening all over. They call it rationalisation, they call it all sorts of names but the fact of it all is that you then see all sorts of retrenchments, etc., happening.

POM     Let's take that in relationship to, which is a perennial thing now, the trade union movement. Now I come from Ireland, as you know, where by legislation the minimum work week is 45 hours, where people get ten days holidays a year, two weeks, where there is no paid maternity leave. In the United States there is no paid maternity leave, also in the United States you get ten days which they legally have to give you. There is no restriction on the minimum number of hours that can be worked at all. So many people would say that as a developing economy trade unions are looking for things that even some of the most developed economies don't have. Now you can get them but it's going to be at a price and the price is that in a global economy everything trades off upon itself.

PM     I've had this argument and on the face of it the argument is flawless, it can't be faulted. But you see the difficulty is the whole thing is misplaced, the whole debate is misplaced. If you ask workers the same question they cannot but agree with you, but the debate is not about what it ought to be about. In the final instance workers will tell you that they are looking for a better condition, a better deal than they had in the past and it all boils down to a necessary debate about the distribution of resources, opportunities, wealth and income in this country. The whole thing is about the yawning gap between the rich and the poor which is not being bridged.

POM     It's increasing rather than decreasing.

PM     Which is not being bridged, this is it. I have seen all sorts of papers where people say black participation in the economy has expanded, this, that and the other. You know if you look at the general global things you may be right. There is NAIL today. There was no NAIL before 1994. There is RAIL also, there is World Wide, there are things, exciting things that are happening in the economy. But then again if you were to analyse the reality underlying even the emergence of those you would actually find that the picture is different. I don't know how people would want to measure progress. I would want to measure progress by the lowest denominator in our society, the poorest. Can the poorest say there is a difference now in their lives, that there have been these changes in the past three and a half years? If the answer is yes then that's a great thing. Then again I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that in any event South Africa as a democracy is new, squeaky new. Imagine that you got a car in 1993, it wouldn't be old three and a half years later, it would still be a semi-new car. A baby born in 1994 isn't an adult today. So we shouldn't lose sight of that. In other words we are still very much at the beginning of a fundamental transformation of our society and we are saying it's very, very critical that from the very word go the foundations that we lay for this future society, which is encapsulated in our vision of a non-racial, non-sexist society based particularly on the values of liberty and equality, the foundations must be correct. This is it, this is what some of us are saying because, again, if the foundations are wrong we will pay in the future.

POM     What I picked up from my conversations over the years, I've been here now nearly nine years, is that what I don't see is that there is a shared vision among the people that says that perhaps in the short run, perhaps in this generation we will have to sacrifice to help create jobs, we will have to do things for freedom, we will have to do these things in order that the next generation can take the benefit.

PM     You see the difficulty is if I, for instance, were to go out and say to a person who is starving, sacrifice, they would say you can afford to say this because you are not starving. That's where the difficulty is. In the minds of many people who are in trade unions and who are workers, ordinary workers, those of us who are part of the elite have been absorbed into somebody else's scheme of things. Now that's the tragedy of that situation because then whites can't go and say to them - please sacrifice for the good of the country, when whites are not sacrificing anything. Now the elite as well can't go and say so to them.

POM     The elite can't go and say?

PM     Can't go and say so because they will say, no, no, no, you are part of the millions that, for instance, Cyril Ramaphosa is reputed to be making. Can you afford to say to me, a starving person, no, no, no, sacrifice for the next ten years. That's the bind in which we find ourselves where you can't say honestly to a starving person, starve for another ten years. If on the other hand there was a serious effort on the part of everybody, not just the black elite, but on the part of everybody, this whole economy, this whole government, this whole society, if in other words we were saying to ourselves this country needs to be rebuilt so what is it that I am going to do as an individual to contribute towards our own Marshall Plan? Now this is not emerging. Dog eats dog.

POM     Why isn't it emerging?

PM     I am never too sure but, and I hate to say this, the perception out there is that those who had the capacity to lead are attracted to and by the riches of those who have always had in the past. Somebody looks at him or herself and says, hey look I belong there rather than here, packs his or her bags, goes and joins those who are making it in life. I can tell you that temptation is there amongst all of us. You look at yourself and you say I started working in 1994, no pension, nothing. I am in professional terms this, can't I go out there, look for opportunities which are passing me by, etc., etc? That is there, you wrestle with it all the time, it's there. Anyone in my situation who denies this would be dishonest. It's there. So you wrestle with it all the time. The job you are doing is a thankless one, there is criticism every day, there is nothing good you are doing, you are not achieving anything, etc., etc. You say I am in my forties, mid forties towards my late forties, and you say very soon I will have to reach retirement, what would I be having? That debate we engage in ourselves, with ourselves and with our families. This happens to each person but you wrestle with it, you try to say to yourself there is a larger problem afflicting this whole society which can't be resolved by all of us abandoning the sheep as it were and then going to work in the private sector where opportunities are galore.

     I can tell you that in fact if ever there was a moment when we could exploit and benefit from our blackness it's now, especially if you have the right qualifications, etc., etc., and some of us do have them. I am right now in fact the holder of a doctorate in law. See it, hold it, got it. So with a whole range of qualifications in law which I could use outside there. The temptation to go over there to look for greener pastures is there and I am only hoping that there will always be no disincentive in the kind of work that we are doing because, again, there is a paucity of skill amongst the people with the right orientation. Apartheid was very successful in terms of disempowering a whole range of people so you've got a small pool of skills among blacks and an even smaller pool of skills amongst those whose determination and dedication and tenacity have been tested by time itself, an even smaller pool amongst those, so you are always saying that let's hope there will never come a moment where even that kind of small pool of people will be affected by this tendency. The riches are shining, glittering, attractive.

POM     The President has this extraordinary capacity to nation build but he doesn't address himself, I have not heard him address himself to the question of that the next ten years are going to be tough, not easy, tough.

PM     But he has. I am sure you are not reading his speeches. He has been saying, for instance, the culture of entitlement is wrong. He has been saying we all have to pull up our socks and sleeves and work. He has been saying this.

POM     But it doesn't get across in a way where the average person in the street or in the township says I understand.

PM     No, no, let me tell you something, if the message was not reaching them, if ever there is a need for a message, the people grapple with reality, if ever the message was not reaching them I think we would be seeing chaos in this country such as we saw in Malaysia, for instance, when the Bhumiphutra rose in rebellion. Again, maybe the leadership was also behind the rebellion, etc., etc., But you see, let me tell you, I don't think it would be proper for anyone to say the old man is being dishonest to people, he's not telling them, the reality.

POM     No, I don't mean that.

PM     He is and in fact all of us at the leadership level are saying so to people, we are saying there is this reality that we're confronting, you can't actually unleash anarchy and hope that the anarchy is going to resolve the problem we are facing. And I am saying to you at the essence of things is the continuing mal-distribution of resources, opportunities, wealth and income in this country. That's the problem and you can't approach it otherwise. You've got to be systematic in the way you deal with it and you can't walk in and say you're going to nationalise this or do that, etc., etc., it won't work, certainly not in today's world, it won't work and we acknowledge that. So it takes leadership to be able to say to people that things have got to move in a particular direction and all of us have got to participate in ensuring that things indeed do move in that direction. But what I am saying is that on the part of the haves you are not experiencing this, you are experiencing a whole lot of opportunism instead where people say, no, no, no, you call so-and-so, cobble something together with them and then you say, no we're empowering blacks. They are not in fact focusing on how they alleviate poverty amongst their own workers, saying to workers, workers we will create opportunities for you to own this company or own shares in this company as workers so that then when we declare the dividend you also get part of it and you decide what you are going to do with your money. The opportunities, in other words, are going to the elite. I wouldn't be happy to work for a company where I am told you know in fact this is going to happen, 20% of the shareholding will be available for black economic empowerment and we are already talking to X, Y, Z out there to say to them please raise money and if they can't we will raise loans for them, etc., so that they come here and pretend that they represent you. I would not be happy. I certainly wouldn't be happy personally. I would want to be told that there are changes in this company and we have been making all sorts of riches out of your sweat all along, can we discuss these changes. That's why they write me a letter and say some of the difficulties you know by experience.  They are here now, that's why I'm going to chase you out now. They are here to discuss these and I don't think the answers are easy for me.

POM     Some of these things labour is experiencing is trying to explain to its members - ?

PM     No! The benefits are bypassing the ordinary person. Now you can't say to them, go and tell them that it won't happen in another ten years. Let me tell you, no rich person would excite a poor person, a starving person. You can't say as a person with no food in your stomach I am happy that so-and-so has a full tummy and can even feed his dogs and pigs while I am starving. It doesn't happen, no way in this world. People can ... as they fight to ward off starvation, etc. and if they are organised they even overcome regimes. I'm not saying that we are threatened with that in this country but I am saying let us construct this new society on sounder foundations and the sounder foundations cannot but impact on the way resources, opportunities, wealth and income are distributed in this country. Thank you very much.

POM     Thank you as always. I love talking to you.

PM     That's the essence of things.

POM     How do you move things to those sounder foundations? That is the responsibility of the leadership.

PM     Leadership in all spheres of life, not just in government. Government can only do so much. The best it can do is create the necessary conditions where there will be growth and then those who handle growth would have to make decisions about how to ensure that the benefit reaches a larger number of people than it has tended to all along. Now you need a reorientation, a paradigm shift on the part of all of us and it's not yet exhibiting itself. The Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, recently asked all of us, "Are you thinking that a new nation is emerging founded on the principles of non-racialism, non-sexism, equality, etc., etc.?" The answer is no it's not emerging. And we still work hard to ensure that that does happen.

POM     Before you leave I want to tell you a little story about a taxi driver. I was in Shell House yesterday, rushed out, grabbed a taxi, he happened to be there, and I got into it and the taxi driver obviously thought I was somebody of some import who had walked out of Shell House with a briefcase and whatever in my hand. I said, "How are you doing?" And he said, "Well I'm not doing that well. In fact I'm driving this old car because the car I had was hijacked three months ago and they took me away and they said where's your money and I gave them the R180 that I had. They said, no, no, no, you've got to have more than that, and I said take the car, take everything, just don't kill me." And they ended up putting him in the boot of the car, taking him to a quarry, a mine shaft, tied his hands behind his back, taped over his mouth, bound him by the feet, 68 years of age, and threw him down the mine shaft and only for the act of God of there being rock he would have fallen into the residual water and drowned. He said, "I cried for four hours before anybody came." He said, "What are you doing about it?" He probably thought I was government or whatever and I felt embarrassed. I couldn't, I said, "The government is going the best it can do."  What could I have said to him?

PM     Nothing.

POM     I said the government is doing the best it can do, it's putting more programmes in place. He said, "But that is not helping me."

PM     That's it. OK.

POM     As always, God bless and take care. See you in six months.

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.