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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
23 Jan 1998: Phosa, Matthews
POM Let me first of all ask you a couple of political questions, and you tell me how much time I have so I can tailor them to fit.
MP One hour, too much for an academic.
POM After getting a degree from Boston University you're in no position to say that!
MP I know, one hour is good for you, Boston University.
POM You were nominated by the Youth League for the position of Deputy President and then they withdrew that nomination in favour of Joel and then they endorsed you for the position of National Chairman which you turned down and then you decided not even to stand as a candidate for the National Executive Committee. My question would be, (i) why do you think the Youth League withdrew its endorsement of you for the Deputy Presidency, and (ii) why did it then turn around and endorse you for National Chairman, (iii) why did you decide to turn down the one while you would have accepted the other, and (iv) why did you decide to pull yourself out as being a candidate for the NEC?
MP First let's start from the NEC, I am still a member of the NEC.
POM As Premier?
MP No, by virtue of being chairman of the province in terms of the ANC constitution.
POM Oh, so it's as chairman of the province -
MP That I am a member of the NEC. I didn't have to stand in that contest. So if you look at our conference in Bloemfontein in 1994 no chairperson of a province stood for the NEC, so I was just keeping to the tradition of the movement because then if you do stand, number one chairpersons are easily electable because they are well known, most of them are Premiers and therefore they take nine positions for new members of the NEC who would otherwise be elected if they didn't stand. You understand? They make the NEC even smaller because they go into the NEC with two caps, so it's a waste, so I thought I should maintain the tradition of the movement because I am a member of the NEC, I was there in the NEC this week for two days and that's the reason why. This is not new, we did it in Bloemfontein in 1994. And I am not the only chairperson who did not stand, Motshekga did not stand for Gauteng, the chairperson from Free State did not stand, so I am not the only one. That's the answer.
With regard to the nominations for Deputy President and chairperson and all that, those were subject matters for discussions in the organisation, all those positions. The discussions involve not only do you stand, but the mother body, the allies who consult very broadly. And in that discussion it is a give and take, considering this or that in the short term, medium term, long term. There is a lot of give and take in that. I am not ready to disclose the reason why I stepped down from the race of Deputy President, I am not ready, I have not done it to fifty journalists who have consulted me and I would not do it to you.
POM Even though I'm going to publish nothing until the year 2000?
MP I don't know, but at this stage I have maintained my discipline that I am not going to say what the reason is, but whatever reason it is it has got nothing to do with the Youth League, absolutely nothing. The Youth League had no control over that conference as you know, it was a delegate, the Youth League was not deciding anything at that conference, it was just a delegate and when its delegates made a move I think you saw what happened. I was nominated by five provinces as well other than the Youth League but then nothing turned around the Youth League thing as far as I am concerned and my withdrawal from the race has got nothing to do with Youth League. It has got something to do with I think it's very confidential and it has stayed confidential until today. President Mandela had the responsibility to manage his succession in the movement and the world was expecting that from him. It would be wrong to blame him for intervening in that question of succession when it was his responsibility to manage it. I think it is just his duty. Time will show that he was an ordinary human being who can do right and who can do wrong, it's not for me to make that judgement, but it was his duty to manage the succession. So my withdrawal had nothing to do with Youth League and more to do with the total interests of the movement and the internal agreements and concessions we make in the movement in the short term, the medium term and the long term. That's the reason, but the true reason cannot be disclosed and should not be disclosed. I don't know if it may be right to disclose it but now, no, I am sorry.
POM It's all right.
MP So you can go to the next question.
POM That was withdrawal from the Deputy Presidency.
MP From any one of the positions.
POM For any of the positions?
MP Yes, yes. I made my calculation with regard to the chairperson and I said to myself that the same reasons which apply to Deputy President apply in my own interpretation to the chairperson, as far as I am concerned. I may have been wrong, I may have been right, again in regard to that question time will tell whether I was right or whether I was wrong.
POM Well there all these references, and I'll come back to the media again, but references in the media of there being 'preferred candidates of the senior leadership or the hierarchy of the ANC', does any such thing exist?
MP You see the press in South Africa has tried to make that to be true by repeating it. The fact of the matter is in an article last week written by Friedman in Business Day, a feature article in the middle of the paper, he talks about the leadership of the ANC being defied and he's got a picture of Cyril there, Cyril got the highest votes, it shows that the leadership of the ANC is being defied.
POM Oh yes I read that.
MP Which leadership? Because Cyril is part of that top leadership. Which one are they talking about as being defied? To me it's a big joke. Who has defied that leadership? Cyril is part of that leadership. Who are they talking about? Are they saying maybe Thabo preferred someone or Mandela preferred someone, therefore they say 'leadership', you understand? You can't say because Comrade Thabo prefers so-and-so and Mandela prefers so-and-so therefore that is the leadership. It's not. The NEC of the ANC has never said in one meeting to discuss candidates for the conference. Not once. Until the last NEC on the morning of the conference we never discussed leadership positions. So which leadership, to which positions, where, and then it was defied? You see what I mean? It's not the truth. You can't say because Thabo prefers so-and-so therefore the leadership prefers so-and-so, you see what I mean? There is a difference. You can say if you want to be right, I think Thabo prefers so-and-so. This is what the press should be saying, not to say the leadership which is wrong, it is factually wrong. A hundred out of a hundred wrong. It's not correct. They don't understand the inner workings of the ANC.
POM But yet the press beforehand were correct in saying who would get what position before nominations came from the floor.
MP They knew that we all supported Thabo, all of the press knew, we had talked about it. We never gave another candidate, we never talked about any other candidate.
POM But the names of all of them, that Motlanthe was going to be -
MP Well they knew that we had lobbied for Motlanthe, they knew there was no other name, that they knew but they couldn't predict chairperson, they couldn't predict deputy secretary, they couldn't, they didn't. They were surprised, they were certainly surprised, they could only speculate at best. So they knew nothing. Where they knew is where we told them because as we nominate our list it was deliberately indicated where there were no oppositions, they fed them, deliberately. There was nothing new about that.
POM Are you concerned at all about the process of what would be called internal democracy within the ANC?
MP Yes I am very satisfied with it. Whenever it is threatened it is the ANC itself which debates that question and says let's continue to reinforce internal democracy. I don't want to give you confidential things but we are always the first one to say it. I've been making speeches - if there was no internal democracy I would have been charged. I have made very serious points in the run-up to the conference. Peter Mokaba has made points which aren't even policy, which could not even be policy, in the conference on the alliance. His position was rejected but you can't charge him for a crime because he has a different view. Communists were making statements, some of them were outrageous sometimes.
MP Jeremy Cronin. But you can't charge him, it's the character of the debate. The press wanted to say, hah, there is no debate in the ANC. I don't know of any other organisation which is as democratic internally as the ANC. In the ANC we talk out, out of our lungs. I can't tell you what we're discussing in our NEC, it's open field. It's unbelievable, I would love to stay a member of that organisation where I can speak my mind. The only thing which the press wants us to do which we object to, they want us to hang our dirty linen in public and when we don't do it they say there's no democracy. They think they can determine the terrain of our debate but they don't do the same to the National Party. They allow the NP to debate their things internally in caucus, they don't say there's no democracy. But when we debate our things in caucus only they say there is no democracy. The standard is not the same. The NEC of the ANC inside is very open. You will have seen from our resolutions we say in the resolution we must encourage internal debate. Have you checked the resolutions? Yes, we say so in all the resolutions. Why did we say so? Because we began to say what is the press saying, let's send out a message assuring the public and our members that we want to intensify internal debate. That's what it is.
POM I will get to the media in a moment. The media do emphasise what they would say is internal dissension, or the state of the alliance or -
MP Oh they played every issue.
POM But in most countries that's the way the press plays politics.
MP I'm not complaining. All I'm saying is that they are wrong.
POM But when the President, and I want to go through some of the points of President Mandela's speech, when he says that the white controlled media are opposed to the ANC do you believe that? That they are actually out to undermine the ANC in some way and if they were what's in it for them? You are going to govern the country for years to come, there is no effective opposition in the other parties so they're only weakening the country if they were doing so.
MP Let me tell you, this comes to the world of the living political world, all the papers are owned by whites and I don't have a problem with someone's colour being white -
POM But in the company that Cyril -
MP No he doesn't own it, he's managing it. He is not controlling it, he's managing it, it's the difference. In the context of the history of where we came from, because this is not the same thing as London or the US or advanced democracies and we cannot overnight pretend that it is like that. It is not true. Most of these guys will tell you that they opposed apartheid but the reality is that they did not, they supported it, they thrived from it. It's the highest level of hypocrisy to expect us to say no, no, this is how the press is throughout the world, they have no intentions here. A lot of them are racist and admit it in corners and if you talk to black journalists they will tell you, talk to Mazwai, talk to the blacks who work in the newsrooms right now from Business Day and every one, talk to them and hear what they say. So you expect us - Mandela does say we know what's happening in the newsrooms, we do know. Some of the guys are our members and they brief us. There is a lot of racism in those newsrooms. Mandela was speaking on the basis of that knowledge and understanding that some of them are just out to say we will play an opposition role. There are countries where there are newspapers, not all of them who play an opposition role. Which paper would you say is not playing an opposition role at the moment in South Africa, which one?
POM I couldn't pick one.
MP You can't. There is not one because of what I've said, there's not one. The only one which was playing something between supporting the liberation movement was New Nation and it closed, they wouldn't give it any ads, they starved it to death. The rest are all most like what Mandela was trying to raise the issues. And Mandela is justified. We are not going to be like children fooled to believe that that is normal practice. We know our history, we know where we come from. No, it's going to be difficult to convince us otherwise, very difficult. We believe in a free press and everything but what we see is not just a free press it's a pretence of a free press which is in fact motivated by racism in some quarters, not in all quarters, in some quarters. If you look at the approach of Rapport towards the TRC it's like a western Die Spiegel in Germany, it's a western Die Speigel / Rapport today, they are asking for the old days without even pretending. That is their approach. Others are a little bit more sophisticated, it depends on where you are, a little bit more polished, in the liberal camp, a little bit more sophisticated and sugar coating. But we are adult in this game, we know what's going on.
POM Do you think there is, this is kind of a side question, that there is a preoccupation, say, in the west not just among liberals here but in the west in trying to impose western standards of democracy or what they think is democracy on other countries?
MP No doubt.
POM That unless you do it their way -
MP No doubt. They, through the process of colonisation, colonised our languages, our cultures, our religion, our economies and everything and they are resisting as the liberation process internally begins to take a new position on those issues. They are resisting. It's an internal resistance. There are certainly, I went to a school where my child goes, it's a private school, I said to the principal, "Tell me do you want to produce an English person from my daughter?" He said, "Yes."
POM An English person?
MP He said, "Yes, the school is about that." He said so and I respect him because he was honest to me. He said, "Yes, I want your daughter to become a black English person." You think I was amused? I will give you an example, that's how they do it when they are in control of something, where a German guy will want to - I had a German Professor of Law Comparative Studies, and his approach was totally different from everyone. He wanted us to have a Germanic juristic philosophy because to him it's supreme. And the Afrikaner wants a Roman Dutch one strictly like Van der Linden and De Groote, those are his points of reference in law. An English one will want another one. It's an old story, mine is superior to yours, you learn it, abandon yours. But that is obvious.
POM What has to be done to redress that?
MP We should envision democracy. I think we have tried, we have refused foreign mediators. We said we want to find our own solutions in our own conditions. We said we don't want international mediation. We paid a very heavy price for doing so but there were not sufficient guarantees to monitor all of us on the ground so many people died but the primary thing was that we said we want to find our own solution to our political conflict. We know it, we are on the receiving end. They know what they are doing to us so when we tell them this is wrong because of A, B, C it does not need anyone to interpret it because we all know what we're talking about. We have agreed to a constitution. Of course we didn't invent the wheel, we learned from the old democracies in the world, but we are very certain it must adapt to our own conditions. It has not done so sufficiently. There are a lot of Eurocentric elements in it. I suppose you can't avoid the world in which you live globally. You will have to bring together the experience of the world in constitution making and everything else. Take traditional leaders, we have got a serious problem now with the white paper where there is serious opposition from a movement in the ANC that, no, we seem to want to destroy and undermine the traditional leaders. This is a traditional thing. Find a way of it to co-exist with the democratic products and that they recalled for indigenisation of democracy.
POM So they must be incorporated within government structures?
MP Yes, don't kill it, don't kill it because it's ours. The English are not killing their Queens. Why do you want to kill your traditional leaders?
POM They'd like to.
MP But they're not. Except when they misbehave in pubs. Sorry, mustn't discuss those things!
POM Just related to that, one of the key assumptions of western democratic philosophy is that you don't have a democracy unless you have a functioning multiparty democracy. Do you think that you can have a functioning effective developing democracy that involves the people where you have one party that is overwhelmingly dominant because people vote for it but that the opposition parties, because they don't receive the votes, are simply an insignificant opposition.
MP What is democracy? From the time of Democrates himself which was not even democracy because you had the upper class and the Spartans and their slaves, it was not even democracy then. It was a one-party thing by the rich. That is where true democracy started. It was never multiparty. It became multiparty later, historically speaking, much later and we believe as Africans in multiparty democracy, that there should be any parties allowed to come on the political scene and contest for the votes and be part of the government if it qualifies in terms of the laws of the country. I am saying our constitutionalisation of democracy is much more advanced than the even the original democracy in classical history. But that was really something else. You had some people who didn't even have the right of citizenship who were slaves. We think we are more advanced than even America in certain states where they still believe at some point that some people have no rights, citizens of America. We, being a new democracy, young with less than ten years, are more advanced than those democracies on that question of multipartyism, multipartyism which gives every citizen, not only party, citizen the right to participate in what's going on in their lives. Now we believe in multiparty. If one party becomes strong it's the business of that party. If the other one is weak it's not our fault, it means they are not able in the market place of politics to see their goods. That's what it is and democracy is about majority rule. We still did not even apply that principle, we hemmed ourselves with the two thirds in order to bring more parties in to make an input into decision making and we acted out of good faith and we don't regret it. We don't regret it, we think historically it's a correct decision to take. But there are so many fears, so many uncertainties and we needed to give certain guarantees in the constitution to assure our people that they all have a future, they all have a stake, they all participate, they all will contribute towards decision making one way or another. And therefore you cannot have a one-party state and call it democracy. You need a multiparty state. The size of the party is irrelevant because that is determined by what you sell in the market. It's like if I'm selling Coke, you're selling Pepsi and you say but there's no free enterprise system because I'm taking 95% of the market, you've got 5%, how can you blame me? It's the same. You can't blame me and say there's monopoly here, unless there is monopoly legalised, then it's something else. But if it's not and I've got 95% of the market share and you've got 5% you can't blame me. Why must you blame me?
POM Bill Gates would like to hear that about Microsoft. He has about 95% of the market tied up.
MP Do you blame him?
POM The US government are taking him to court. They say, you control too much of the market therefore you can impose, whatever little opposition is left you have the power to crush it.
MP Anyhow I've given an example.
POM Let's turn for a minute, before I get back to the conference, to something which was a big issue last year and you were playing a central role in and that was with the TRC and this whole question of moral equivalence.
MP Oh that controversy.
POM And you making the point very, very strongly - just to give you my own view on it - is that I have always felt that the ANC were perfectly justified in using violence because every other alternative had been denied to them and therefore it was just a remedy of last resort, if you like to put it that way. Whereas I have never felt that way about the IRA. The IRA are not a mass liberation organisation, they don't represent the masses of the people. Most of the people don't even vote for Sinn Fein in the north never mind in the Republic and they always have had the right to stand for politics and have representation in Westminster.
MP They had?
POM They have.
MP But it's not the same with us.
POM That's right, so I couldn't justify the use of violence when there were other avenues to advance whatever cause one wanted to advance. So I just take those as two extremes.
MP They're not the same.
POM No, no, but then the TRC was trying to say we must forget the whole question of moral equivalence and just deal with gross violation of human rights. But you can't do that can you?
MP You see the Act is structured in a way in which you have to do that unfortunately. I think whoever drafted the Act gave in a little bit too much and compromised the position of the liberation movement. I am sorry, my party was involved, but that is what the Act is saying. It doesn't change the argument. In their findings, their report, they will have to make those judgements themselves. They can't avoid making those judgements. There's no way they're going to say that the perpetrators are the same as their victims. They can't. They are wise men and women, they can't say that. We wanted to facilitate the thing and make it easy but we first wanted to state our position very clearly and I think we did that. We did that, because the NEC endorsed 100% my position, 100%, I was never censored or blamed or reprimanded. I was supported on that position.
POM Well theologians would too in terms of the concept of a just war. You had the high moral ground in every respect.
MP So I am not worried about that, with the Act, the way it is structured. It is badly structured. It forces people to take that position and I understand that but I have no sympathy with the perpetrators who want to equate themselves with those lying in the graves, those crippled, those maimed, those orphaned and widowed. I have no sympathy for them because they are not the same.
POM I want to talk about President Mandela's speech at the congress, his opening remarks. I found it very 'un-Mandelaish'.
MP 'Un-Mandelaish'! Because he didn't exchange glasses of wine with the opposition parties, he hammered them?
POM He hammered everybody.
MP He hammered even ... so what's wrong with that?
POM Well the only people he didn't hammer was the IFP which was kind of ironic.
MP Well the IFP is in an alliance with us, coalition, government of national unity at national level and the same thing is happening in KwaZulu/Natal. They support government programmes. We have got a common constituency with them which is the disadvantaged African, predominantly African although we go far beyond that, but still the primary constituency is the same. But they really play a positive role at national level in terms of what's going on and also in KwaZulu/Natal they are playing a positive role and I think they need to be encouraged to continue to play that positive role. I think so.
POM I suppose what surprised me was the harshness of his language. The white dominated media was ... NGOs were agents of foreign governments.
MP Certain NGOs, not all of them.
POM And are working to corrode the influence of the movement. There are counter-revolutionary networks that were engaged in everything from the commission of crime to make the country ungovernable to building alternative structures. The NP were racist, the DP were racist, the UDM were a gang of thugs and thieves and gangsters were present at the opening of their conference and Roelf Meyer and -
MP But you saw them, they were there, well known thugs were there. Well known thugs with criminal records as long as my arm, they were there at the launch of UDM. It's not something fabricated, it's true. But on the whole Mandela's intervention on those questions is based on sound and very brilliant intelligence. He didn't speak out of emotion and time will prove that he was right.
POM But what was the message he was intending to send?
MP The message he was intending to send was: listen delegates of the ANC, as you leave here you go home, be vigilant that there are those who want to reverse the clock and you must resist them and some of them are clothed in sheepskins (if you can call the MPs outfits a sheepskin) but that is what he was giving to his delegates. And you must remember he was not speaking to the country, he was speaking to members of the ANC so he was very good Mandela, not 'un-Mandelaish'. Yes he was speaking as commander as well in that sense, these are my soldiers and this is the line of march, don't be vague about where we need to go, be vigilant about those who could disturb the transformation process. And of course the NP has no track record of supporting the transformation since 1994 until today. They don't have. They have no intention of wanting to support transformation. They attack affirmative action, they attack everything which the government is trying to do. I'm not saying an opposition party must be pally-pally with government, I'm not saying so. But I am saying give me one example of where they supported transformation, on health legislation, there's not one. They always see things through the colour of white and black and that is wrong and they are prisoners of old interests. They don't want to create space for the new interests which develop in the mainstream of the economy and in many other fields. Things must remain as they are. Change is going to be uncomfortable to both black and white. It's uncomfortable. The type of resistance we get from people who are black, who don't even realise they are resisting change, we have come across that many times as Premiers. So it's not a question only of the whites, there is no colour. So to say be careful of this type of thing. Right now we've been trying to amalgamate colleges to save costs, black colleges. In one area they are resisting it, opposing it with their soul and blood. It's resisting transformation, it's blacks. That be careful of all these tendencies. Mandela spoke on the basis of intelligence.
POM So when he refers to elements in the third force, or the third force is still existing, what do you understand or what do you define the third force to mean?
MP At the time when we talked about third force it was a euphemism for the government in power at the time, the NP. The instruments of cutting the necks of people has now moved to security firms.
POM Has moved to security firms?
MP Yes, they have more arms than the police force of this country. And they are committing crimes. In every big robbery so far, in the past six months, at least two policemen were involved. It didn't matter how many other criminals, but two from the policemen who served are involved. That's counter-revolutionary sabotage. Yes, he's referring to that.
POM But were they always white policemen or were they black?
MP Black and white. I told you, counter-revolutionism has no colour.
POM But Mandela in his speech kind of used the word 'white' over and over again. That's what surprised me, that it was the continuous use of the word 'white'.
MP Because they form the predominance, the core and predominant force of potential counter-revolution, the ones he is referring to. Not all whites, he was not referring to all whites, no. What about those in the ANC? What about those not in the ANC who support the government and support change? He was not referring to them. The guilty are afraid you see.
POM So the third force, is it an organised thing or a disparate thing that just expresses itself in different ways whether it's armed heists on the one hand or an attempt to sabotage government policy on the other one?
MP It's very organised I'm sorry to say, very organised. It decides which things need to be done to show lack of confidence in the government, to show up that this government is not able to govern, at the propaganda level what to say. No it's very organised, they are organised. Don't under-estimate them.
POM What is their intention, and I preface it this way, that given that there is no way there can be a return to the old order, just no way, given that just the sheer predominance of numbers will ensure that for some time to come the ANC is going to be the dominant and the ruling party, what's in it for them to weaken the government, to weaken the economy, to weaken the country? What do they get out of it since they're not going to get power back anyway?
MP I will tell you what, I think you must not feel offended because you are merely asking a question. It is very simplistic to think that they don't want to reverse the clock, it's very simplistic and dangerous as well. They will be comfortable with the status quo as it was before 1994.
POM But the world community wouldn't tolerate it.
MP Yes but still they feel that once they are there they can use brute force to maintain it. They are used to that. It's their idea of governance to suppress the majority and govern. They are used to it.
POM The example I would give you of how increasingly difficult it may be to do that is that the Economic Union and the IMF stepping in in Zimbabwe and saying if Mugabe continues to grab land from 'the farmers' or if he continues to crack down on his own citizens who are protesting then they are going to suspend all aid packages. No more money.
MP Yes, but they are not calculating like that. If you take the history of this country, these guys have fought lonely wars against the British when they knew they were not going to win. They knew they weren't going to win the Anglo/Boer war, they knew that but they continued to wage warfare. And if you hear what some of them are saying they are saying the IRA has got a few people, handful of people, but they are able to disturb life and we have got 25,000 still armed men why don't we do a big thing? That's what they are saying in the corners. Yes. I don't want to talk about sensitive things. I won't do it. But I am saying Mandela's speech was based on sound intelligence.
POM Sound intelligence, yes.
MP He's not idle, no.
POM OK. On GEAR, everyone I've talked to, ANC or non-ANC, whatever, say GEAR is not working, that the rate of growth of the economy this year may be a little over 2%, the rate of growth last year was about 2½%, certainly no jobs are being created, in fact GEAR is down-sizing.
MP There is more retrenchment.
POM There is more retrenchment. OK. And that how in those circumstances, and there are factors affecting this since this is a global economy and you don't have control over such things as the price of gold which is one of the staples of the economy, at least at the moment, you just don't have control over it and you don't have control over the flow of international capital or the movement of industries to lower cost producing countries, how do you achieve or how do you generate the resources that will lead to black upliftment at a level where it is not marginally incremental but where the bulk of the people can say our lives have changed or are changing dramatically?
MP But right now there are millions of people, South Africans, who are saying that their lives are changing dramatically every day if you take into account where they came from. I mean we can drive through the rural areas here, they were dark in 1994. If you are a stranger and you drive at night you think you are driving through cities. There are more than one million people who have now got water who didn't have it. More people are getting houses in a determined way than before. Housing for blacks had stopped altogether for all intents and purposes and you have peace in this country and we treasure that peace because peace is a great environment for investment and stability. We didn't have it, everything was going up in flames. These are many credits and you can list them like that, but you need to create an environment for more foreign investment in this country. There is no money. We must make the country attractive to investors. That's my view. We have to. And COSATU says we need to have an industrial strategy on GEAR. I am saying whoever -
POM I'm sorry, COSATU is saying they have to add -?
MP Industrial strategy. They say GEAR is weak because it does not have an industrial strategy. I am saying, and I said it even for the conference, if you have anything to add to GEAR by way of improving it ideologically and practically do so but don't throw away the little you have because you've got no alternative. If we were to abandon GEAR now the world is going to look at us. We have to take the pain and pace of change. The masses are there to put us under pressure, they will still continue to put us under pressure and say these things are not working or it's working, but that's OK, it's healthy debate. We should not throw our arms up in desperation and say, ah it's not working. No, we should keep trying and it's too early in the day, let's give it a chance but then the central thing to me is to create more stability, fight crime and then find corruption, have good governance and create a climate for more investment. That way I think we might get somewhere, increase our export capacity and all these things.
POM Everyone I talk to, say ordinary people black or white, coloured or Indian, they all talk about crime, that they feel more vulnerable. Now I'm really talking about I suppose Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, since they are the three main areas.
MP I share that view. I think we need to do a lot to fight crime. It doesn't matter what we think where it comes from, let's trace it to its sources not just be alarmed and deal with the crime. We must deal with the crime. To me it has become a condition because of which there could be no stability in the country. It's causing instability in its own way. It's buggering up the image of the country, the prospect of investors coming in in all their forms, whether they want to invest money or just simple tourists. So we need to address that matter of crime as a matter of urgency. It's very serious.
POM Is there a moratorium still on the hiring of police?
MP That's a temporary thing, they will change that. They will hire more police, I have no doubt about it.
POM Would you see that as the number one given scarce resources and how budget allocations must be made?
MP No. I think what we need to invest in when we talk about the police is to attain a higher level of skills and expertise as well as the intelligence and counter-intelligence and all this. It's very low level the capacity It may well be that we have got more police than we need but with a low level of capacity. That's my view. I think it's more in their capacity than their numbers because you can have a million policemen and if they can't do fuck all they will do fuck all, but if there are few who are more organised and effective we will do better.
POM To preface this question, again the government, the ANC many times have made references to the legacy of apartheid and sometimes seem to use it as a catch-all to explain why there is poor delivery or why things don't happen. Does a time come when you've got to say yes there is a legacy from apartheid but we are now governing the country and we have to deal with it and there's no point in pointing the finger backwards at it?
MP You didn't read my speech which I delivered when Thabo was going to speak on January 8th, on education? It was there in the press. I said, chaps, we are to blame as politicians, parents, students and stakeholders. The time has gone. We accept there has been this legacy but we can no longer continue to blame apartheid for the bad results. And Professor Makgoba wrote an article too last week in The Star or somewhere, he said the same thing. We are beginning to say so. I said it in my Saturday speech publicly in a rally of more than 40,000 people I said so. In the press I said it is so. And Thabo even said in a private meeting, "How do you explain a child coming from Orange Farm or Tamboville getting distinctions from the squatter camp and someone coming from a mansion in Soweto or in Houghton getting nothing? Can you still blame apartheid?" So we are moving there.
POM How about the issue of corruption, and again I want to frame it in that there is a perception even among blacks that there is more corruption now than there was in 'the old days'. So let me put the question in this context because I put it to a family last night -
MP Yes, yes, I know that. I think what is happening now -
POM They lived in a closed society where there was corruption, it wasn't reported, the press was infiltrated by agents of the state and many of them make the excuse when they hear about the atrocities before the TRC, they say well we never knew what went on.
MP They were soldiers creating those things, some of those press people. They were soldiers going to Angola. Why did they say they did not know? Anyway let's talk about corruption, frontally. When the President of this country, or Prime Minister, PW Botha and others, took money to spend on a war in Angola I think there was corruption on a big scale but they said it's war. That was corruption. You take public money and you spend it on a war when the majority of the population did not support that war. It's corruption. The press could not have written about corruption at the time except a few scandals because the government was not accountable, it was not open, there was no democracy, the environment was stifling, the press was always going to jail for telling the truth, so there was no room or possibility for the press to write about what was going on. We found the culture of corruption in this system, we found it there, it's there. And when you talk about transforming, the civil service part of it is introducing new ethics in the environment but it's not only government, it's the whole society, the moral values of our society. There's a culture of violence. It's there and you've got to uproot that. That's why Mandela in his speech talked about the moral awakening, if you must go back to the speech. That's exactly why he makes that call, that is not just a small little thing. Our society has been so brutalised and degraded, black and white, that it's like two boxers who both keep boxing because if they get into the ring they must box but they are hating one another. That's what happened to us. It became normal to box and not to stand out of the ring and go on with your life. We are all traumatised in our own different ways. So corruption has been there. I am not making excuses for the new corruption by new people. Corruption is corruption and if they become corrupt they are corrupt, they need to be dealt with as corrupt people.
POM You used the phrase 'a culture of violence', is there a 'culture of corruption'?
MP There is a culture of corruption in the system.
POM That goes from parking tickets all the way up?
MP In the society. Yes. Yes. Exactly, I would say so, there is a culture of corruption. It's there in the police force, in the civil service, in justice, it's there. It comes out from every pore of our society and we need to deal with that.
POM How do you?
MP Well Mandela is beginning to say let's do this. I mean churches are saying in South Africa today we have got a central role to play in engendering new values in our society. They need to go beyond that. The whole society must look at itself and say we need to take a new course. But I am saying these things are rooted somehow in our own history and we are introducing a new agenda of saying let's not proclaim good governance, let's have good governance, set the process in motion for good governance, set the process in motion which gives new values for society. That's what we're saying.
POM Now in this regard there was Cachalia's report which said the state of administration in the provinces was -
MP He gave us good marks, by the way, there.
POM You got the better marks.
MP I can't comment.
POM I know, but you got good marks. You matriculated, you got exemptions. I've heard a lot of complaints from various Premiers saying the way the whole thing was conducted, it was a badly conducted study. Generally is it a problem?
MP You know what, we have accepted the report irrespective of those voices, we have accepted it. There are certain issues like financial management. Again, the level of capacity in the civil service is low and it needs to be heightened. The focus should be with coming up with a plan of heightening the level of capacity and reducing the number of the personnel because they consume a high percentage of the current costs and reduce the possibility for capital projects. Why are you keeping such big numbers? It's because your capacity is low. But still those numbers don't address the efficiency and effectiveness, they don't, so we may do with less numbers with a high level of efficiency.
POM But is there a real political problem here on cutting large numbers, 100,000 civil servants?
MP Yes, yes, because you've got to deal with the unions. There are agreements, laws, and what you need to do is negotiate with the unions for them to understand, and number two you need to have programmes of dealing with the guys you are decommissioning, removing. What programmes do you put in place to absorb them? I think we need a multi-prong approach to the problem and not just chop. Chopping is not a way of thinking correctly and dealing with the problem in my view. You need a much more multi-pronged approach but it must be dealt with, it's a problem, to release the resources of the state.
POM But there's an irony here in the sense that even though the number of unemployed for one reason or another may have increased over the years, that the only kind of growing sector of the economy is still the public service sector.
MP You think it's part of the economy? I don't regard it as part of the economy. It should decrease. That's a challenge facing the new government. Let's see how it proceeds.
POM But that will take drastic, tough action.
MP Yes, that will have to be tested. Decisive action. You see there is no province which will act on its own because all agreements are national. If here I wanted to stabilise and fire all the teachers I don't need it will destabilise the whole country because the others will sympathise with them, it will cause destabilisation. So that's why you need central direction to deal with the issue.
POM Now does NCOP help in providing a framework where the provinces can act more not just in concert with each other but with the central government too? Is it proving effective or ineffective?
MP It's a new body, it's too early to judge it, but the fact is you will have your party members in line, you see that's a limitation in a way too. It's like that. Parties with their members in a line. You won't have one province under the ANC doing something different from the others. Not yet, maybe later. Later it will happen but not now.
POM How about this whole question of the powers of the provinces? Do you feel as Premier that you have sufficient powers to do what you want to do in this province or are you constrained from your own vision and your own ability to transform society around you because of the limitations of the budget allocation that you get?
MP We are constrained by many things, first by the constitution and observance of the sunset clauses in the constitution. That's the first thing. They have constrained the bringing in of transformation, political transformation. We are constrained by the balance of forces in the country because we must handle transition in a very delicate manner.
POM When you say 'the balance of forces' you mean?
MP Balance of forces is they forced us to agree to sunset clauses in the constitution. That was foisted on us. Nobody had to shout about it but we knew we had to make certain concessions. We are happy to have made them but they are bringing a limitation on transformation first before you even talk about the budget. The budget comes much later. The constitutional constraints and political powers, obviously provinces will not be satisfied with the powers they have but we don't want power without money. Functions must be followed by money. Provinces are beginning to be very careful, OK they can give me that power, but what if they don't give me the money? So we are beginning to see things in that light. But never, not even in the United States or Australia, do provinces have this fight. Provinces will always have the natural tensions of states, it's always like that in the power arrangement. In Australia in 1946 during the difficult period they took fiscal powers from the states, they still do even today. That's an old democracy. There is no way, our constitution is not unique. We have done a comparative study of the different federal arrangements. There is always a tension between the centre and the province.
POM There's always a tension between the two?
MP It's a natural protection and I think it's correct, it's fine, it's nice.
POM But you can borrow?
POM You can go to the banks and borrow money.
MP As from May this year, yes.
POM Now who ultimately is the guarantor of those loans?
MP Well I think we are going to agree exactly on those issues, we have not yet agreed. It's coming in May.
POM I was going to ask, would it not make more sense to give the provinces - rather than saying you can go out and borrow - ?
MP It's a premature question now. We are discussing that.
POM - rather than giving you some revenue raising powers and limiting your borrowing powers?
MP I think we are coming to that. Those debates will come. It's coming around May. We don't want to destabilise the national fiscus with heavy borrowing.
POM On a scale of one to ten, where ten would be very satisfactory and one very unsatisfactory, over the last 3½ years how would you rate the rate of transformation?
MP I'm impatient. I think it should move faster.
POM But would it be a two, a three, a five, if you had to put a number between the two extremes?
MP Out of ten?
POM Yes. Where one is very unsatisfactory, we're not moving at all, and ten is where we're moving like a steam engine.
MP I think it's around four, three or four. We haven't started, we have just started. We must move, transform.
POM Was that part of Mandela's message too?
POM Particularly to whites.
MP Yes, that we must get going now. We have been drinking wine and tea too much. We must now get down to the real issues. That is the message of transformation because really if you look at the economic relations in this country, they are usually distorted. It will take years but we need to get into the real issues otherwise we will face a rebellion ourselves. Mugabe is facing this type of thing after twenty years. We can face worse things and our population is more politicised than Zimbabwe's population. There can be trouble in this country.
POM Very quickly, on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, is it working?
MP Yes it's working. Every effort is being made to sabotage it every day by the forces Mandela is talking about, but it is working. I think so.
POM And lastly, will a Mbeki government differ from a Mandela government?