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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
22 Jan 1998: Cronin, Jeremy
POM Jeremy, GEAR isn't working, now this is the opinion of not only everybody that I have talked to across the board but the opinion of every former Finance Minister, it's not meeting any of its targets. Growth this year is going to be down, maybe just above 2%. No jobs are being created, in fact if anything, because of down-sizing due to globalisation, you're losing jobs rather than increasing jobs. It increasingly looks as though this economy is stuck unless some dramatic and urgent action is taken that it will rise a little but black upliftment is simply not going to happen on any significant level under present economic and social conditions.
JC You're asking me to reply to that. Well as someone who has a track record of criticising GEAR long before those who are now observing that it is failing, I paradoxically say has GEAR failed quite so blandly as it is put there? I think part of the answer would need to be to revisit the question of what is GEAR or what was GEAR? I think it was a confused reality with several different things awkwardly at once, but one way of looking at it, which I am personally in favour of, would be to see it as essentially having been a stabilisation programme in mid 1996 at a time when the financial markets locally were taking a lot of strain and there were some real dangers. I think pared down to that very limited version of what it was, I'm not saying that anyone is boldly saying that that's what it was, then I think that it hasn't been an unmitigated failure in the sense that the South African economy has hung in there and done not too badly through a very complicated three-month period now in which obviously particularly Asia, but developing markets, are looking very wobbly, are very vulnerable, and I think the South African economy has held its own OK, not too badly.
If I were Trevor Manuel I would be saying: see, that had to do with GEAR, we instilled a degree of confidence and are serious about managing our macro economy and the fact that we've improved our situation in terms of vulnerabilities, bank trend vulnerabilities, rand vulnerabilities, rand value vulnerabilities, inflation we've kept under control, but the fact that no-one wants to boast too easily and we all know that things are frail generally in much of the world economy, we're not doing too badly and if I were Trevor Manuel I would claim the success of GEAR. The reason why he's not doing it quite as well as I would do it if I were him is that he wants to see GEAR as something a bit more than just a stabilisation programme in mid 1996. He wants us to believe in, although I think he's shifting away from that now too, but wants it still to be a macro economic framework and as an overall macro economic framework and plan and projection of what was going to happen, well you're perfectly right to point out that its projections around growth, its projections around job creation are hopelessly out and are not going to be met. So if you extend its ambitions then obviously it's not working.
Moving a little bit away from GEAR, I don't know what you want to talk about? We can obviously talk more about GEAR as well, the state of the debate in their lives and what's happened at the ANC conference and so on, I think all of that's quite interesting. Essentially, I think given those real pressures, there was the kind of ideological critique of GEAR which some of us were developing but what you're pointing to is the critique of reality itself which is that it just hasn't produced what it envisaged. I think the combination of that has created a situation where from many different sides, but not least from within the alliance itself, there is an acceptance that any policy has to have a certain open-endedness about it, that no policy is written in stone, as Mandela has now said twice. No policy is written in stone, as Mandela has said specifically of GEAR twice over, and therefore the early dogmatism and rigidity about it is misplaced, but it's not all wrong and it's not a take it or leave it kind of thing. I think we need to steer the debate out of the narrow confines of macro economy into industrial policy, job creation policy, many other things, so that, yes, we have to have sustainability; yes, we have to have fiscal discipline. We can hardly be arguing for fiscal indiscipline but the exact measures of these things are subject to debate and to ongoing review in the light of reality. I think that's where we're at as an alliance and I think there is a degree of unanimity around that, as vague as it is, because it's much more open-ended than the rigidity of GEAR. That's a better position to be in for all of us.
Maybe part of the problem with the RDP was that it put some figures to what was otherwise a good policy, the figures, some of them on some issues, look hopelessly utopian and those who are critical of the real content, fundamental content, of the RDP can score cheap points against it by saying where are the houses, and reduce it simply to that. We're not wanting in reverse to do that with GEAR. The temptation is there quite sorely but we're not trying to. I mean the germ of rationality in GEAR is the need for discipline, the need for sustainability, the reality of a budget deficit that has to be managed if we are to be sustainable. We accept that but we want a proper thorough debate and ongoing reviews as to how best to do this.
So I think that when one says the economy is going nowhere and so on one has to step back a little bit, not too defensively, but nonetheless - I mean it was heading for a train smash in the early 1990s and it's not there now, so it's not performing brilliantly but it's not heading for a train smash, it's not melting down. There is growth but it's not enough. The industrial policy dimensions are starting to come on stream. Some of those very big projects, the key one being the Maputo Corridor, but there are others: Richards Bay Development, Saldanha Bay Development and right around a variety of development corridors. There is investment money coming in and it's public sector but also critically private sector, domestic as well as external. It's only starting to move now.
Now there are ongoing battles around where all that goes. There's one version of the Maputo Corridor that it's just a kind of castor oil digestive tube for an export oriented growth path, conclave economy version, the old neo-colonial version of Gauteng is the industrial heartland and we need a fast exit and entry digestive tube to get it to the nearest port which happens to be Maputo. That's one version of what's happening and obviously we're arguing and struggling for a more development notion, that it won't just be a freeway as we just watch our goods being exported out of the country, but that there is real development that goes along it. There will be class and other kinds of contests that go on around that but it's happening. I suppose one can't say it's happening is a guarantee of exactly the outcome that I would most wish to see because the content of the particular thing is itself a matter of dispute. But there is real development happening and I think that that will start to kick through into the economy in coming years so that the expectations of GEAR were unrealistic as we're now understanding in terms of growth.
Jobs, there's a lot of dispute around the standing statistics. One projection, the Central Statistics Service, CSS, is projecting an 8% job loss this year. The Department of Trade & Industry is projecting something very different. They said that last year they created 70,000 new jobs in the formal economy. They believe that there has been quite a lot of job creation in the informal economy which is not the ideal but it's better than no job. I was speaking to Alec Erwin at the beginning of the week and he says it's not just because he's dogmatic, he really doesn't believe that the instruments for measuring - there's an unemployment crisis, you can't deny that, we're not doing as well as we might wish, but he actually believes that there has been a net increase rather than decrease notwithstanding the huge job losses in the mining sector which will certainly continue this year by all projections. So there are problems, absolutely.
POM But looking at it in the two contexts, one is the difference between what I might call political sovereignty and economic sovereignty, that in a global economy there are things that you simply can't control like the price of gold.
JC Absolutely. And the lousy thing about the price of gold is that it's uniform so you can't even use the geographical and other advantages. It's one of those peculiar commodities where there is a single price across the globe on a given day which is a curious thing.
POM So you don't have autonomy in that regard. I'm trying to relate that to - I've spent most of the time since I've been here, because it's been rather a short trip, I've spent out in the townships and I think I've been to four or five talking to families that I've been talking to over the years, and they're all disillusioned and they're all disappointed.
JC Where are they? Just as a matter of interest?
POM From Alex, Soweto, Thokoza and in Khayelitsha and in Sebokeng.
JC The opinion polls are showing us the same thing, that people are supportive of the ANC and, if anything, virtually all the other political parties are dropping off drastically in support, but there is a general disillusionment of people.
POM One thing they complain about, uniformly, is that they have never seen a parliamentarian, they have never seen a minister and they rarely see a local councillor.
JC Has nothing happened around them?
POM Very little has happened around them. Sometimes the situation is where I go in and I see things have improved, I can say this wasn't here four years ago. Do you think that things are incremental that people absorb them and don't see the change around them?
JC I think that's what one needs to unpack, the thing that you are saying, I believe that there has been incremental change. Not everywhere, not uniformly, in some places maybe things have slipped back a little bit but by and large the townships that I go into things are happening, not fast enough, not enough from a basis of total crisis, but there are telephone lines going up, electricity going in and so on. But there are constraints and part of those are the ones you're talking about, the sort of global economy constraints, the gold price or whatever. But I think for me a core problem around which we can do something is the other area and that is that I think as a movement we've not done nearly as well as we should have in terms of connecting with our mass base. We've not taken them with us in the process nearly adequately enough. I think that's a left wing opinion within the ANC but it's shared, I think, increasingly across the spectrum within, let's say, the ANC.
It has to do with things I'm sure I've talked about many times in the past with you, but the huge dislocation and disruption to the party machinery on the ground and upwards of the whole transition. So the re-deployment of hundreds and hundreds of people out of township situations in parliaments and ministries and peace services and armies and so on, the sheer size of the ANC's victory has proved to be very destabilising. If you fancy it won 30% of the vote, that was the majority party, there would have been less disruption in terms of re-deployment. There is that, there is an ethos of self-entitlement that prevails throughout. You can understand maybe why an MP uprooted from Sebokeng and sent to Cape Town, and that's a whole other problem, the geographic dispersion of South Africa and this curious government of national unity settlement, not the 1994 settlement but the 1910 settlement which established these three capitals, all of that has been very disruptive of people's lives, so the shared physical and subjective presence of politicians, activists, leadership on the ground has gone missing a lot.
So I agree with that critique, I think it's right. In some cases there are good reasons for it and in other cases it's just that an elite has got smug and has forgotten its roots and so on, so it's many different things at play. The local government level of governance is by and large very weak, very uneven. I think people do have a sense that they voted for people but they've disappeared and we see some small improvements at best but we don't know what's going on.
POM This family that I've been visiting in Thokoza the other night and I found the head of the family, the man, sorry, the co-head of the family, sitting outside in a chair in total darkness and the only light was coming from one of those huge lights that were installed in the old days and beamed all over the place, and trying to read his newspaper in the flickering light. His electricity had been cut off.
JC So he had got electricity but it's been cut off?
POM It was cut off on 8th December and he has to put down a R600 deposit to get it reconnected and he can't raise the R600, so there's no electricity. He spent Christmas, he spent New Year, his children can't study, they have to cook by paraffin oil which smells throughout the whole house, and he is just hurt. He is saying in the worst days of the apartheid government they never cut off our lights.
JC So he had lights before?
POM Yes, until 8th December. Now he owes, I had a look at his bill, he owes ESCOM R6500, or at least that's the figure they had told him, but he is hurt. What I'm getting at is that people are not losing their loyalty to the ANC, they're going nowhere else, but it's more like if there were an election tomorrow I would probably stay at home.
POM I want to just look after myself and my family and forget that I got up at two o'clock in the morning to stand in line to go and vote for the ANC. Now when he told me the story I didn't know what to say to him. What would you have said to him in those circumstances?
JC Well there's not a simple answer, and I don't know the specifics of the case because it varies, the electricity cut offs vary from place to place, but clearly part of the solution is for there to be organisation amongst those people so that their particular cases can be dealt with in an organised way.
POM He said they had marched on the Alberton City Hall.
JC Yes I remember that march actually. Led by SANCO I think.
POM That's right.
JC But clearly what one's got to try to do is connect the political organisation and those now in local authority, which means effectively the ANC, with the community and what you're getting in different places - in some cases the ANC has become little more than the local council facing budget cutting and pressure from above and their only recourse is just to cut, but they are kind of just a sandwich in the middle, those local councillors themselves, they're not connecting with the mass base and effectively leading that mass base in a process of transformation, they're just getting squeezed. So everyone is getting squeezed down. I believe what we haven't done enough of is turned the problems outward. There are huge problems, there were huge limitations, all of those things, but we haven't turned the problems outwards enough so we've turned them inwards and then down at the bottom there's someone left sitting outside his house trying to read in inadequate lighting whereas some of the major boycotting of rates and so on are coming from privileged white suburbs like Sandton.
POM Are they still at it?
JC Yes, yes. I think it's breaking down a little because they are also starting to get cut now and the solidarity amongst them is also less, but they can afford to pay so they do and slip out of it. But there has been a long persisting - in Alex where there are also similar complaints and problems, just across the road from them is Sandton and instead of allowing themselves to be squeezed, as it were, they should have led a political protest around redistribution because it's true that the Sandton rates were shot up dramatically but that's part of redistribution. I personally felt that the ANC, which is the only organisation capable of withstanding those things, didn't, as it were, harness the energies, aspirations and anger of ordinary township dwellers into something like that, a march on Sandton and say pay your rates, and put pressure even if it was just moral and political pressure on them.
Now that isn't particularly the solution for Thokoza so I haven't got some slick answer, but I think that you're getting - you get a SANCO which now just jumps on to the bandwagon of the issue which is of people being disgruntled, confronting an ANC which is just the local councillors so instead of unifying people around a common transformation project and using the resources of a council and the resources of popular grievance and harnessing them we've split those two things into antagonistic things, not quite as successfully as they are doing in Zimbabwe currently but we're heading in that direction if we're not careful. For me, and this is like scant solace to your co-head of the house in Thokoza at this moment, the key task is to rebuild the ANC as an effective political formation on the ground. I think that's being accepted by the ANC coming out of its conference and there's a new resoluteness about that, partly with the elections of 1999 in mind, as happens in the like of political parties, but I think hopefully with a bit more depth than simply that electoral concern.
POM So in terms of, again, social and economic transformation, this is something that's not going to happen within five or ten years, this is something that's going to take a long time?
JC Well it's happening right now, but the process of overcoming the legacy of apartheid, not to mention centuries of colonialism, is a long, long-haul process, absolutely. I hope you haven't got me on tape saying anything different from that.
POM No I don't think so.
JC Again the party was rather critical of the ANC in 1994 saying 'Free at last', and sending that message of well, uhuru has arrived, we're in the new Jerusalem. We thought that sobriety was the order of the day. We were pleased that we had a black President and a new democratic dispensation but we felt that a kind of sober message of aluta continua, there's a long haul ahead of us, was the more appropriate message because people needed to remain mobilised and vigilant.
POM But this is one of the things that has emerged from my conversations with people, that there doesn't seem to be a willingness on the part of people to understand that they must all sacrifice together, that if there is to be a future some of the present may have to be sacrificed to build that future but that means everybody becoming part of what I think President Mandela said in his second address to parliament, a new patriotism and that new patriotism is conspicuously missing. It's almost like I'm all right Jack, my electricity is on and I can pay for it, if the poor guy next door has none, too bad. That there's no national cohesiveness in terms of understanding and accepting that huge tasks lie ahead that will require sacrifice by all people and they've got to do it together, that there's this fragmentation.
JC Yes I agree and I visit again on this sort of dislocation of the ANC because that's the thing that's capable of meshing it and of leading it, because it has to be more than just a sentimental appeal to new patriotism. You have to organise that. I think where we've pushed transformation reasonably well has been where there are pretty effectively mobilised forces like the trade union movement with its own weaknesses and complexities but in the face of stiff resistance there has been a barrage now of successful and very progressive legislation coming through, with government and the union working basically together, having debates and end games between them, but pushing through in the face of opposition, whereas there is less cohesiveness - the education front would be a good example of that, you get this loss of vision and fragmentation.
So we had a problem with the matric results, the end of the year results. It's not unexpected, these are students that have come through dreadful education in a situation of transition and turmoil. They are tragic results. So I think there was a tendency to claim too much too soon and raise expectations beyond what was realistic. But the worst in my opinion now was when the results came out the minister blamed the teachers and the provinces. The provinces blamed GEAR, the teachers blamed GEAR and the minister. Instead of providing at the grade one level, at the entry level into school, we're introducing a very progressive new syllabus but that's got lost in the debate around matric results and teachers and who's to blame and who's not to blame and so on, and the minister, who is perhaps the key person there, should have assumed responsibility for the difficulties, promised to deal effectively with recalcitrant teachers, the minister of Education, but instead started a sort of internecine war of blaming, shifting culpability and so on, and you're never going to get it right if you go like that.
I completely agree with your point that it's not easy, there are thousands of black students who want to go to tertiary level education, it's going to be very hard to find places. We've got too many universities in South Africa given the size of our population. We've got a huge proliferation of university campuses which has to do with an apartheid past and so on. So hard choices, as you are saying, sacrifices might have to be made in the interest of a common transformation effort. But when everyone just gets factionalised and centralised, the students are fighting their corner and the minister is fighting his corner and the provinces are fighting their corner against the national government, you fragment and you lose this thrust of transformation.
POM And the health workers are fighting for their rights.
JC And those who don't want to change things are happy with that spectacle and again that's where we need the ANC to come in to harness your resources in government and your mass forces, to allow debate and legitimate contest between those forces but basically to provide a common vision behind which people are prepared to make sacrifices. The minister blames teachers, I will stick on this example, that's true, all of us know teachers in townships who are running taxi fleets or spending more time in shebeens than at school and so on, but they're the exception actually and they must be dealt with that's clear. But when you blame teachers for the matric results, when in the newspapers for the last six months if you're a teacher and you open up and it says, "40000 temporary teachers to be sacked" and so on, you can imagine the level or morale and so on. So again, another sector of people who feel just out on a limb, abandoned. They are by and large pro-ANC but they're not being made to feel part of something, they're being made to feel like naughty children or dispensable parts and so on, so we failed there, not absolutely but to a considerable extent, we failed to achieve what we succeeded so well in doing during the liberation struggle. People made huge sacrifices because they felt as though they were a small part of something very big and honourable and noble and so on and what we are trying to do is very honourable and noble. We're not succeeding in maintaining the coherence. I think we're more aware as an alliance of that reality.
POM Let me talk for a minute about President Mandela's speech to the conference which I read in minute detail, I think I made 50 pages of notes on it. I'm supposed to have an interview with him and submit the questions beforehand. I don't think he's going to like the questions. But I found the tone of it to be very un-Mandela-ish for a man who has spent the better part of the last three years emphasising the need for reconciliation and suddenly there was a racial element in the speech of white parties being singled out, whether it was the NP, the DP or the UDM, or even AZAPO, it's 1%, they were all out to undermine and destroy the ANC and there were people within the movement who either by criticising the ANC's actions were themselves unwitting agents or elements of the third force which still pervaded society.
JC I agree with all of what you're saying. I can see where you're going. I think that the first thing to understand is that the speech was written by Thabo Mbeki.
POM Anthony Samson.
JC It was, I know that, more or less single-handedly as well, so the other drafters of Mandela's speeches were not part of the process, it was Thabo. I think Thabo went into that conference ill-advised by people around him and by his own instincts, expecting some huge blood-letting and complexities and contradictions.
POM Blood-letting at the conference?
JC Yes, you know stirred up by COSATU elements, SACP elements and others, dissidents from the base, the stuff that the press has mentioned. Every time Thabo has tried to flight a candidate into a provincial election over the last year that candidate has been rejected and replaced with an alternative. So he read all of those signs that he was about to assume the mantle of the ANC but besieged by a political bloody minded grassroots and a left that in it's own opportunistic way was jumping on people's disgruntlements and so on. I think that was partly so, the speech was not directed, and again some of the press commentators have made this point, it was not directed at the Democratic Party, it was kind of - we are besieged and therefore we must unite and anyone who rocks the boat inside is actually playing wittingly or otherwise into the hands of the CIA, God forbid, IDASA or the white press or whatever. That was what animated this speech.
POM Wasn't that a dangerous message to send in a country that's going through a very tough process of reconciliation?
JC It was a totally wrong message, absolutely. First of all it was a misjudgement as was shown by what was a very unified conference, high participative, real debate. It wasn't a bureaucratically unified conference. There was tough debate, there was hard lobbying for candidates in elections and so on, but it wasn't about shredding the ANC to pieces or hiving off in one direction or another. It was a very mature and thoroughly democratic conference which I think has resulted in a much more unified ANC. So it was a misreading of the ANC and a panic I think. It was a misreading, as you're saying, where the country's at, it was a misreading of what Mandela should be saying at the end of his term of presidency. And maybe the flip side of all of what we've just been talking about as well, kind of a loss of a sense of - you know the ANC is at its best and remains so, you must understand that, it's the hegemonic political party. Its great strength is its vision, its moral rootedness, its depth of tradition. It mustn't become another political party in some narrow sense. It's got this huge, something that Mandela at his best has always understood is this huge nation building challenge and we're at our best when we rise to that hegemonically, confidently. So you get minor figures like myself in the ANC to score points against AZAPO or chase after Holomisa or whatever, but the senior leadership of the ANC should look confident and project an image of unity and so forth to the ANC itself, to the alliance and to South Africa. So it was a blunder in all kinds of ways. I agree.
POM Do you believe that there is still 'an active third force' or are you reaching the stage of where you say we govern the country and at some point even though we inherited the problems they are now our problems and we can't keep pointing to mysterious third forces. I had somebody who blamed everything from the increase in serial killers to the increase in road deaths over Christmas to elements in the third force. It's like saying an underlying general excuse if things don't happen it's because there's some secret kind of sabotage going on.
JC It worries me deeply that that happens. You just have to go to the late 1920s in the Soviet Union to see where it can end up, that sense of besieging and so on. It then starts to justify all kinds of bureaucratic repression within one's own organisation as well and within the country, closing down. So I am certainly one of those within the ANC and ANC alliance that is a lot more sceptical about these things. One of the things that actually comes into the ANC via the State Intelligence Services that we've got about this conspiracy, this group of 34, etc., for the usual reasons that intelligence services love conspiracies because it justifies higher budgets. But I think it's also because there's a naiveté and an under-development at that level and also sometimes to get a little bit third force-ish myself, one of the areas where some of the old forces are still quite strong are precisely in those intelligence services so they justify staying on and earning salaries and so on at taxpayers' expense because they have contacts to the right and so on and then they come back with these exaggerated versions of what they could do. But I think there are dangers of counter-revolution which we need to not exaggerate, but not imagine that they have been entirely dissipated either. I think that is true.
Obviously a party fighting a rearguard action in the face of TRC processes and things like that partly shading off into clear criminal activity, not out of some political agenda but because those were the skills they've got, so I think it's not necessarily part of some great conspiracy but former elements of security forces and MK elements are clearly very much involved here in crime syndicates and so on and the danger could be that if we allow the fragmentation that we spoke about at the beginning to deepen and continue then there will be space for political projects of a decidedly counter-revolutionary or destabilising kind. I think it's wildly exaggerated often and I think that what's not often enough done is the distinction made between opposition and counter-revolution and therefore to cast all opposition, even within your - what we've got to do is we've got to encourage Inkatha to normalise itself but as an opposition party, or a DP or a National Party, allow them to find space for themselves in a multi-party democracy so they are not tempted into counter-revolution. There's a habit in the ANC to think that either you've got to join us, this kind of merger mentality, or you're the counter-revolution, and the notion of a loyal democratic opposition which irritates the hell out of you but that's not the same thing as a third force. It's not a distinction that's made easily.
POM I was talking to one of my 'ordinary' folks, they were criticising the ANC quite openly for this, that and the other and then I asked them, do they agree with what Mandela's speech said that the media were anti? And he said yes. And I said, "Well now you've just spent the last half hour criticising the ANC for this, that and the other, what's the difference between your criticism and their criticism? If theirs would be called counter-revolutionary criticism, what do you call your own criticism?" Which raised the question, who has the 'right' to criticise?
JC I think the distinction that they're making, because the perception is not entirely wrong. Again, I think it was overboard that criticism. I think that the media generally, white or black controlled, but it's basically white controlled, is not really on top of the story in South Africa. I think something like The Mail & Guardian, which is potentially a good newspaper and in many respects is a good newspaper, but I think it's week after week after week of exposing another black scandal, a black person in a prominent position scandal. That's good, if there's corruption let's hear about it, let's deal with it, but that's the story that it's running with week after week after week and, frankly, it looks like racism to a lot of ordinary people. That wasn't how they ran their stories when it was a white government. They were a brave, critical voice.
POM I find it a very changed newspaper.
JC It is, and it's about the best newspaper around actually. The rest are useless. So I think an ordinary township dweller can't identify with that kind of thing and therefore will identify with Mandela's criticism. I think the SABC is starting to look a bit better and is making real efforts, but the print media is pretty useless frankly. So I can understand why their criticism, which is an existential felt 'I'm pissed off with the ANC' kind of thing, is not quite the same thing as the agenda, the confused agenda that, says, the Mail & Guardian is running and people feel alienated from that and therefore agree with Mandela. And they see it as Mandela hitting the whites - I think I'm speaking for them.
POM Is the Truth & Reconciliation Commission succeeding and what I mean by succeeding is that there certainly isn't justice because justice is being sacrificed in a way for the larger goal of reconciliation. But again what I detect, and I may have asked you this before, is that when I talk to African families in particular is a kind of resentment, they either hear or see white security or former white security force policemen or military men getting up there and in grim detail indicating how they smothered, roasted, braaied, tortured or whatever, people and they're looking at their watch and saying, "Well this is full disclosure and I did it on the orders of my political superiors so another ten minutes and I'm out of here and I've got amnesty." And they're feeling that that's not fair somehow. On the other hand I get from the white families I talk to that we as ordinary people never knew about these things. It could be total denial, a dogmatic insistence that if we had known that these things were going on and even now some of them will say, "I'll never again vote for the NP after what I've learned, I just couldn't do it", but they feel that there's a kind of a scapegoatism going on, that there's a constant emphasis on their sense of commission and omission and that whereas there may be individual cases of reconciliation, very moving cases of individual reconciliation, I sense an almost increasing polarisation, or if not polarisation certainly not reconciliation.
JC I always was more interested in the T in the TRC.
POM The truth.
JC Than the R and more believing of the possibilities, because clearly reconciliation again is a long-haul process and needs to be grounded in material realities of electricity, water, access to schooling, jobs. That for me is the only sound basis for reconciliation.
POM If people in Sandton are prepared to pay higher rates?
JC Yes, for a start. So there isn't a deep and legitimate sense of resentment in the lives that black people feel about the lives they are living now, never mind in some distant apartheid past. I would be more gentle on the TRC and even what you're describing as interesting is probably about right. I think it's empowered black people or they've been given a voice, they have said this is what happened. They knew here or there or this family knew that this had happened to this family member and so on. But I think just the sheer ability to say it, state it, to have it validated, so I think that's maybe not the most important necessarily but very important. I think that's more obvious in small rural towns with the whole town, those hearings in Graaff-Reinet and Cradock and places like that where it was small enough for both sides to come together in the same venue and tell their stories and for certain stories to be validated and others, even if they got amnesty, for the crowd to shout and say, "Swing you bastard", and so on. All of that I think was important. It's not the end of the process but it establishes a new platform on which to go forward in a Graaff-Reinet or a Cradock.
The fact that whites are disowning that they knew anything about something but are now saying that at least they won't vote for the NP is the beginning of something and even that they feel scapegoated, that they are being made to pay and that's unfair and so on, all of that is a sign of some kind of emotional pressure rather than smugness. If you read the Afrikaans press you can see that they are absolutely absorbed in the Truth Commission. It's quite interesting. They are hurting, they are not liking it, there is a sense of the ANC is not saying what it should do and it's a bit of a witch-hunt, but there's an absolute absorption in it which has got to be good. They are not ignoring the story, far from it. The best coverage of the TRC, not necessarily the slant, but just the sheer news coverage of it is in the Afrikaans media, certainly up here in Johannesburg. Beeld is much more thorough, much more in depth.
They give it their own spin from time to time but I think that's important, I think something collective is happening not across ethnic boundaries but collective processes are happening within communities and I think, therefore, shifting them potentially in the long haul closer to each other. I don't think the Afrikaans community, except for right wing lunatics, will ever be able to talk about the past in quite the same way. They will still perhaps say what De Klerk tried to say which is that apartheid was a (well-intentioned) attempt which failed, but they won't be able to leave it like that. They will have to say there were terrible people, I wasn't one of them, but it produced a Eugene de Kock and Vlakplaas. That I think is now part of the collective memory and understanding, that it wasn't just a technical experiment that went a little bit off the rails. It might have been an experiment but it went terribly off the rails, there were terrible crimes. I think few white people now would deny that, that terrible things happened to black people which I think is translated into the precipitous decline of the NP for instance and Inkatha because I think Inkatha's decline has to do with, above all, loss of the control of patronage networks and the Bantustan machinery. That was critical. But also the exposures of Inkatha which haven't been -
POM Why the attempt to merge or the suggestion of merging?
JC Well that's a debate going on in the ANC and I think it's coming mainly from KwaZulu/Natal and from certain leadership elements, the Zuma type. I think someone like Zuma who was in Mozambique from 1975 through to the Nkomati Accord and saw an heroic revolution full of promise go sour on the basis of a group that didn't really exist. I mean it was brought into existence by the Rhodesians, so it didn't have an organic, ethnic base - at least UNITA's got that. So it's not just Zuma who was there in Mozambique but the two things being close to each other, KwaZulu/Natal, that kind of Mozambican experience is deeply part of his awareness. I think there's a fear that it's better to strike deals and pay a price than to think that you can implement transformation only to discover that a counter-revolutionary project can take control quite rapidly, quite quickly.
I think they are exaggerating the dangers and so on but I think that's what's informing them plus electoral calculations, there are various things that are playing a role. There won't be a merger but there are quite good working relationships in certain areas, like even here in Gauteng between Inkatha and the ANC but that partly has to do with the constituency that Inkatha represents so that on things like education policy, health policy and so on, the MPLs of Inkatha here in Gauteng support progressive legislation. It's the DP that opposes it, protecting privileges. So Inkatha is a complicated reality itself and there are possibilities and necessities of working with it, clearly, as the ANC. I'm one of those who would be very rejecting of the notion of some kind of happy-clappy honeymoon marriage. A lot more time and thought needs to be given to that.
POM Two very last questions. One is how do you think a Mbeki government will differ from a Mandela government?
JC I think, obviously it's uncertain a bit, but I think really - we've just come out of an NEC this week at which there was no Mandela and presided over by Mbeki and it was more workmanlike, Mbeki gave the opening address which he had worked through with - it wasn't just an individual opinion but it was something that they had worked on together as a collective of six new elected officials and actually had a very good basis for a good discussion. So that's encouraging and we hope we can continue that; in other words deepening the unity of the ANC. There are debates going on between those, as the press is speculating, between those officials, they are drawn from slightly different ends and traditions of the ANC. But the more Mbeki can wield them into a unity, again not a bureaucratic unity, but one which debates and then says, right, as officials we think this is the line, there is a feeling that this could be the case, but there's another feeling that the NEC debates that and so on. He's capable of doing that. Mandela was much more idiosyncratic, individualistic, so he would come crashing into, a bit like the speech that he gave but didn't write, we've had those kind of whip-lashings and so on from Mandela coming out of bizarre places. So I think that, I'm not necessarily the greatest fan of Mbeki, I don't make a secret of that, but I think potentially there's more stability, there's more strategic depth, there's more management capacity in an Mbeki leadership than we've seen in Mandela's. The great thing of Mandela was that he is a politician of heart and passion.
POM He transcended politics in a way.
JC And it's for real, there's a kind of deep-seated nobility here, honourability and honesty, whereas Mbeki is a much more an end of the 20th century politician you find in social democratic parties around the world. For instance, I think he's very much in the mould of a Tony Blair, not the same thing but a Philippe Gonzales or a Jospard, that kind of professional politician, the debt. So the ideological directions will be to some extent of real politic and therefore as the SACP we're thinking seriously, not to undermine Mbeki but to establish a very strong SACP presence within the alliance so that we can't just be swotted out of the way but we're there to build a unity of the ANC and so forth but with a particular vision of our own, but that's going to win or lose or have some chance of success depending on our weight and capacity and not on some inherent friendliness or opposition towards us from Mbeki who is basically a professional politician with the positive things that that comes with that.
POM And the negative things?
JC The limitations compared to a Mandela? So it's not night and day, it's not even from summer to some dreadful deep winter. But we're not deeply worried or paranoid about it and we hope that he won't be paranoid. The paranoia, maybe that's the one thing that makes him different from - I don't know about Tony Blair, but there's that streak of paranoia which is slightly unsettling and which we've talked about.
POM And the very last is, did it surprise people, or was it a surprise that Cyril Ramaphosa ended up number one in the balloting for the NEC?
JC A little bit I think. We were very pleased about the officials, the outcome of the officials' election. The SACP is strongly represented now in the top six and we increased quite considerably our presence in the National Executive Committee as well, the NEC, with the usual qualifications. We're not there as the SACP etc., etc., but nonetheless I think the left is in it and I think the demigods, the populist right I think, as the press has correctly observed, having got a bit of a drubbing and what was pleasing for us was that they had tried to run an anti-communist campaign as part of their electoral effort.
POM This is the populist - ?
JC Yes, the Mokabas and so on. I mean he's there and he's part of the ANC and will be for decades to come no doubt, but the conference wasn't impressed with the kind of campaign that he was running partly because it was kind of Africanist so that pissed off some people, but many other people were not happy with his sniping at the SACP for instance. So we're pleased that he's in the NEC of the ANC because he needs to be there but that he didn't do very well either, comparing him and Winnie and others, compared to what they have done before, and the additional members that they were trying to push didn't float at all. But Cyril, I think that's interesting. I think the conference was - Mbeki was affirmed. I think many people were saying in their different ways what I've just said, that people want to affirm that the ANC belongs to many different currents and that Mandela was larger than life but from now on no-one must be allowed to be larger than life. We need leaders and we need to cultivate them, build them, project them but we need to surround them, make sure that they are part of a collective process and they must know it. So I think a lot of people were doing checking and balancing calculations and I think Cyril was an important checking and balancing calculation which is interesting.
POM You need not answer this question: why after Chris Hani's assassination was there this cover up as to what really happened? The official story propagated of him having gone out to the store?
JC You mean why not going to the hotel?
JC I didn't know the hotel story until last year and there were a couple of ANC leaders who were aware of it. I personally think, I agree with the question that what the implied criticism and the question I think is correct. Cover-ups don't work.
POM At some point they always unravel.
JC I think to everyone's credit, particularly those who are anti-communist and don't particularly like Chris, very much handled it delicately since it's been revealed. No-one's made a big fuss of it. It happened and it's been left at that.
POM No-one has tried to make capital of it.
JC I think a number of people maybe were tempted to but realised it would backfire, as it would. That's what should have been understood at the time. But I think it was out of concern for the widow and the memory, but I wasn't cut into the information, if I was I would have spoken before, for being truthful, not making a big deal of it but being truthful because I think that's what one should be.
POM OK. Thanks.