About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

29 Jun 1998: Moosa, Mohammed Valli

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

POM     Let me begin with a question that arose at the launch of the UDM on Saturday.

MVM     Were you there?

POM     We went not for the whole show but for half of the show and it was quite an impressive turnout in terms of the enthusiasm of the delegates there and in terms of just the racial mixture. But one of the questions that arose, which you probably already have heard of, is that they feel that the provision in the constitution that allows only parties already in government to be eligible for government funding is both unfair and probably unconstitutional and they intend to make an issue of it to the point of taking it to the Constitutional Court if they don't receive satisfaction in some way from your ministry. One, would you agree that as a provision that confines financial help to parties already in parliament it does impede the expansion and development of democracy? And two, do you think they have a legitimate point?

MVM     From their point of view they may well be able to make a valid case of a degree of unfairness because the aim of that provision of the constitution is to on an ongoing basis level the playing field and allow parties more of an equal opportunity to engage in a political process whether or not such parties have the backing of powerful financial sources. However, when the constitution itself was drafted bear in mind that Roelf Meyer was very much party to crafting that provision in the constitution, not peripherally but very much party to it. It was difficult for the Constitutional Assembly to find a way of weeding out the proliferation of non-serious political parties that would register during an election period as we had in the 1994 elections. There was a generally held perception that many parties were formed, like the Soccer Party for example, only because there was funding for all parties that registered in the election, so persons who may be unemployed could create employment for themselves during the election period by registering and staking a claim to a party. Of course one would say that then this should not apply to non-serious parties but in the constitution itself it is very difficult to see how one would in the abstract be able to make that kind of judgement because who would you recognise as a serious party and who as a non-serious party? The Socialist Party of Azania, have you heard about it?

POM     Yes.

MVM     Is that a party that should deserve funding perhaps? AZAPO, the former AZAPO has splintered I think two or three ways now and I am sure that there would be a  number of other parties, but there probably would be additional white right wing parties that may participate. So I think that there is for a party that, speaking in the abstract not making any judgement about the UDM itself, but for a new party that is formed that has some significant measure of support, especially demonstrable support, I think that such a party would legitimately be able to say that the provision of the constitution is not completely sufficient but that falls within the general limitations of any kind of democratic order that has got to work within a set of rules. So provision that it is only parties in parliament is really to make it easier and more applicable and I think that in future there may well be room for reform.

POM     In particular in a new democracy where in the first couple of years there is kind of a general shaking out process where parties and people realign themselves and surely again the principle is that if you want to encourage multiparty democracy you must allow those who are presently outside this, and the constitution provides for that, that you must provide in some way for what you would call 'legitimate', i.e. those parties with demonstrable support which the UDM has, would qualify for funding, that for government to start laying down who has legitimate support or who doesn't have legitimate support is itself an undemocratic practice. It's for the people to decide who has democratic support or doesn't. Would you find yourself, I suppose the bottom line is, willing to sit down with the UDM and say I take it that you raise a legitimate point and it is a point that we should discuss and try to work out, rather than saying the constitution lays down in black and white who qualifies and who doesn't qualify?

MVM     No, your question was about the constitutional provision, isn't the constitution unfair.

POM     In this regard.

MVM     And my answer to that question would be that at different points in time, different provisions of the constitution may appear not to be completely fair. You would know that there is a generally held perception in society presently about the criminal justice system and the rights the constitution accords to accused persons. Many, many people in this society regard those as being just unfair because the victims themselves feel in a sense almost less empowered in many situations than the accused. So at different points in different periods I think that it is in the nature of a democratic order that has to function in terms of certain rules and, of course, we haven't found a way of running democracies without rules. The electoral system, for example, in the UK many people have always regarded it as being unfair because of the loss of votes in the first past the post system and surely some people could have made a legitimate case to say we got 20% of the vote, the entire vote, but not a single seat in the House of Commons. A valid case could be made that there is something unfair about the system. In that sense I think that a case could be made in this situation by parties that may emerge before the elections that have, from their point of view and perhaps from the point of view of political observers, measurable, demonstrable support, that they deserve funding just as any party that is in parliament especially knowing that there are parties in parliament that no longer have any demonstrable support but will be entitled to funding just because they are members of parliament. These are the limitations of rules. What I am saying is that in relation to the UDM the very people who are in the leadership of the UDM did not see this point at the time when they were crafting those positions. So I don't think one should say, you can't therefore conclude -

POM     But being human they didn't know they would be joining different parties.

MVM     Precisely, so you can't conclude that the constitution is unfair, etc., etc. There was no way in which anybody was able to predict this sort of thing. What people were able to predict, based on the last elections, is that you would have a lot of frivolity when the IEC calls on parties to register for the elections, you would have and that's probably part of democracy to have some frivolous parties thrown in. It may even be a good thing because then the voters can distinguish between serious parties and frivolous parties.

POM     And if the voters vote for frivolous parties it sends a message to the non-frivolous parties.

MVM     Yes.

POM     Let me relate that to the statement of the new Secretary General, Mr Motlanthe, that the aim of the ANC in this next election is to secure more than two thirds of the vote which would put it in a position, if it so wished, to unilaterally change certain sections of the constitution. Why should the ANC, being the dominant party and going to continue to be the dominant party, aim for that figure given its explosive implications when President Mandela himself in 1994 said after the results were announced that he was relieved that the ANC didn't receive 66%, that it wouldn't have been a healthy thing for democracy? Why would it now be a healthy thing for you to receive such a high proportion of the vote whereas in 1994 it wouldn't have been quite so healthy, and why if you aim to dominate the political market - ?

MVM     Are you asking a question or are you engaging in a polemic here?

POM     I'm doing both, we do that. Why if you dominated the market to such an extent you're narrowing the base for the development of multiparty democracy, not increasing the base?

MVM     You obviously didn't read what I said in parliament on this matter. I was asked questions by the opposition soon after the Secretary General was quoted as saying what you have just mentioned now, which provision of the constitution is it that the ANC needs to amend? I also dealt with this matter in my budget vote speech in parliament on 4th June and I would recommend that you look at what I said there. Newspaper reports about what the Secretary General of the ANC said on this matter should not be taken as the only source if you want to know what the ANC's position is. The Secretary General subsequently issued a written statement setting out more clearly his views on this matter. You would know that he was quoted, what the newspapers quoted was not a speech that he delivered somewhere or a written statement but a response to questions put to him by a journalist very soon after he assumed office as Secretary General. I think you must take all of that into account when you consider this matter and also statements of President Mandela subsequent to that. The ANC is of the view that the SA constitution represents and embodies the values of our struggle and therefore the ANC will always and must protect this constitution, uphold it, protect it and mobilise loyalty towards the constitution. The core values of the constitution are set out in the open lines of the constitution, section one of the constitution called 'Founding Principles', and those are values that should always be deeply respected.

POM     That doesn't mean that they must be.

MVM     Must be.

POM     But at some point in the future there may be different leadership.

MVM     Must be, those are values which talk about the pursuit of equality, non-racialism, non-sexism, multiparty democracy, etc., regular elections. If you tamper with those principles you are in fact overthrowing the constitution, that's what you're doing if you amend provisions in the constitution which provide for universal adult franchise, multiparty democracy, regular elections, you are in fact overthrowing the constitution. But these are the very values which the people of this country in the struggle has fought for, they are not alien imposed values. Of course this does not mean that provisions of the constitution will not need amendment from time to time for a variety of reasons. We are tabling a number of amendments right now in parliament, for example, which we found necessary. They are not very far reaching amendments but in future there may well be a need to reform the provincial system of government, to take a fresh look at the division of functions between national and provincial governments. So those are the sorts of matters that may have to be done over a period of time.

     When you find people in the ANC calling for a two thirds majority it is an expression of a sense of frustration that people in the ANC and more generally have with the pace of transformation. Some of these statements were made particularly during a period when more and more the judiciary was viewed as being not impartial.

POM     Not impartial in the way you referred to before?

MVM     I'll elaborate on that. You would find opposition parties saying that there should be a separation between the executive and the legislature and the judiciary and that there should be an independent judiciary. The independence of the judiciary is what both the judiciary itself and the opposition parties who generally have opposed fundamental transformation in parliament over the past four years would emphasise the independence but not emphasise the impartiality question. The constitution requires an independent and impartial judiciary. We have found many magistrates, many judges, being partial in their attitude to the present government, particularly the ANC government, and being partial when it comes to the attitude to the changes that have taken place. Then of course Judge de Villiers stands out in this regard. This is what I said in parliament too, Judge de Villiers was the very person when a certain Father Huskie(?) was detained without trial in the eighties, he was a State Prosecutor, Father Huskie's lawyers wanted the court to require of not the President of the time but the Warrant Officer that arrested Father Huskie, not to appear in court but simply to submit an affidavit to the court giving reasons for the detention of Father Huskie, and De Villiers argued that there was no need for that. But in 1998 he thought that there was reason for the President to be called before the court.

POM     This was in the Louis Luyt, SARFU, matter?

MVM     Yes. Even though in this matter nobody's civil rights, civil or political rights or fundamental human rights, were being detained. In that case it was a priest that was imprisoned without trial and there is no way that I or the majority of South Africans would regard his record as being impartial. Judges, because of the security of tenure that they have, and magistrates, certainly one would find they are not seeing themselves as actors within a process of the democratisation and transformation of this society. So when people in the ANC would say we need to change the constitution, here it's not constitutional lawyers and law professors and constitutional experts who are making this point, it's basically a political point that's being made. It's saying that right wing apartheid judges should be thrown off the bench, if not imprisoned, for the crimes that they have been part of. They should firstly be hauled before the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, they have been as much a part of apartheid as the policemen who were doing the dirty work, they should be kicked off the bench as would have been the case in post-war Germany. It would have been unthinkable for known nazis to have been judges or even in the post-cold war Germany where that society will not tolerate former accomplices of the STASI being High Court judges, which is what we have in this country and of course we have it because of a particular path that our transition has taken. I think it's a legitimate and right view that is being expressed by people, a right sentiment, a sentiment which many of us hold that an injustice is being done to this society by keeping apartheid judges on. So it's within that context, it's a political point that is really being made when this is being expressed. It's more also of as a political leadership saying to the public that perhaps some of the compromises that were made during the negotiations were not completely justifiable and maybe we need to take another look at them.

POM     But isn't that contrary in itself to the spirit in which those compromises were made? The point is made to me again and again that this was a negotiated settlement, a settlement that tried to be a win-win situation rather than a win-lose one, and that part of why it was called a miracle was because you and the NP were able to reach those compromises in order to move forward. So isn't this trying to, after you gained the power, have the power, and they have never a chance of regaining it and know it, you're now saying well we'll shift the goal posts a little bit and take some of those compromises we now regard as being unjustifiable and remove them?

MVM     No it's not shifting the goal posts at all. Shifting the goal posts would be overthrowing the constitution, would be Siphiwe Nyanda marching into parliament, telling everybody you're on leave until further notice. That's what it would be. When people say that if the ANC has the two thirds majority it would consider changing certain aspects of the constitution -

POM     That is correct.

MVM     That is part of the rules that were agreed upon in the settlement, that yes you can change the constitution provided there is overwhelming support in society for it and a two thirds majority would mean overwhelming support and those are the rules which everybody agreed upon, so it would be within the context of those rules. If it was felt that we shouldn't amend the constitution, we shouldn't amend certain aspects of the constitution, then that's what would have been agreed upon. There's only one section of the constitution, the founding principles which I spoke about which require a 75% majority and that was at our instance, because of a proposal I and my comrades made at the CA, not even the other side. We wanted those, we even toyed with the idea of making them have what were referred to as 'un-amendable' provisions, un-amendable under any circumstances, in other words don't provide for an amendment procedure at all. Then we came up with this thing of - but that had nothing to do with what the other side wanted, they weren't interested in that because that had nothing to do with their pensions and those sorts of things. Their thoughts were on much smaller sorts of matters. So the constitution for good reason says that a two thirds majority of parliament may amend the constitution. That's not changing any goal posts.

POM     Even though this may narrow the space for the development of a viable multiparty system which is also one of the founding principles of the constitution? I mean just the act of you having such power in parliament narrows the space.

MVM     You know I don't understand that point. Quite clearly surely as the ANC we should be striving to obtain as many votes as we can, democratically, legitimately and within the rules. Surely we should want to do that? First let me tell you I don't believe for a moment that a two thirds majority is a possibility for the ANC. It's not going to happen, it's not a possibility and that's that. It's unrealistic, can't happen, it's out of the question. But suppose it was possible, which political party would say to the voters by four p.m. on voting day, put out a call on the radio and say please do not cast any more votes for us because we run the risk of having too many votes? It's never happened anywhere in history and why the hell should you do it? People have a democratic right to vote for whoever they want to provided it's level playing fields, provided you're not getting those votes by unfairly using the state machinery to prejudice other parties and such sorts of things. But if you do it in a fair way and there's an Independent Election Commission and people can lodge complaints if there is any unfairness on the part of the state, those sorts of things, what's wrong with that? Surely that's democracy, surely that's democracy.

POM     Let me relate something you said earlier which was a political reality. You talked about the frustration among many members in the ANC at the slow rate of transformation. Now I want you to relate that to the fact, or at least the belief among just about everybody, that GEAR is dead in its tracks, that it has not attained the goals it set out to attain, some of which was not part of its fault because certainly the control of the rand was not something that was domestically controllable, but that you are now entering into a period where for the first time since 1994 per capita income is going to decrease, not increase, making economic transformation certainly more difficult. If you are faced with a period of time where many of the factors which spur transformation are out of your control, i.e. that what happens to the yen may be more important than what happens domestically, how do you deal with, in a sense, a contracting pie where the premise was that redistribution would happen more with the emphasis on growth than with taking a static pie and redistributing it? So how do you distinguish between the transformation that people are dissatisfied with which they attach to constitutional issues, where something can be done through the constitution to accelerate that form of transformation and factors outside the constitution and indeed outside the capacity of the country to control? One of the sad maybe first lessons of becoming free is to find out that one's national fate doesn't depend upon what one nationally does, that concepts of sovereignty are undergoing such sustained and enormous change that the old ideas of the nation/state, what a nation/state can do to transform itself are old hat. That was a question.

MVM     There's an obvious difficulty in explaining what you have just said to ordinary people when you're knocking on their doors to ask for their vote, to say but wait a minute it doesn't really have anything to do with us and we can't promise that things will not get worse. Probably in most countries of the world I think that there would be a difficulty in explaining to people that the global financial markets really rule the roost and that to some extent Trevor Manuel was right when he said amorphous too, because it's not as though there is a group of people sitting around a table, a board of directors of the global financial markets who take decisions every morning. It doesn't really work in that sort of way so that you would know on whose door to knock and say, please guys give us a break, give us a reprieve for the next three years. There is nobody to appeal to, nobody to write to. The rand is falling. There is nobody to write to, nobody to call up and that powerlessness to capture that and explain to people I think is very important for us to educate ourselves and to educate the people of this country about it.

     I think there is something unfortunate about putting a label on your economic policy, like GEAR, putting a label on it. If one thinks in a different way about our political and constitutional strategy, we tried very hard not to put a label on it because we didn't want people to say this is what's wrong. Once you put a label GEAR is wrong, if you don't put a label people have to say something more. You can't just say GEAR, you've got to say something specific about it. If you listen to some of the specifics, and as you are well aware I am by no means an economist, but you would get criticisms like low inflation, there is no relation between low inflation and growth and that there is an unnecessary obsession with keeping the inflation rate down. So let the inflation rate rise provided you can allow interest rates then to come down rather than the other way around.

     The other thing is that there is nothing magical about a 3% or 4% budget deficit, that in fact the country could live with a much bigger budget deficit. Of course, frankly, there is nothing 100% scientific about either. Part of it is a judgement call that has to be made. But very much of what one does also has to take into account the reality of the international community and the world markets and what their own perception of an economy is. That's very important. So part of what influences GEAR is what needs to be done here, part of what influences it is also negotiations with international markets. GEAR is a kind of a negotiating platform with the international markets, and to say that we've got stable policies, a stable economy, we are predictable, etc., etc., we have a medium term expenditure framework, we're cutting down on government spending, we're cutting down on deficit, sort of favourable investment climate, etc.

     At the end of the day nobody has been able to really and truly come up with a different approach. Exchange control is the other thing, people say keep and strengthen exchange controls, don't liberalise them. The fact of the matter is that with the exchange controls there was a lot of leakage anyway, money was going anyway and you weren't getting the benefit of investment because of the exchange controls so that's the balancing that had to be worked out at the end of the day. Most people when they say there are problems with GEAR what they really mean is that government should borrow more money and spend more on jobs, on creating jobs, on houses and the health care system and hiring of more teachers, etc., of not having to right-size the public service, borrowing more money. Most of the critics of GEAR actually mean that.

     From my own point of view there is certainly nothing wrong with borrowing more money but it's for what you are borrowing more money, what you do with that. To borrow more money so that you don't have to retrench, I'm just using the term 'retrench' loosely, the large number of unoccupied public servants who as a result of the transition have no jobs any more, no posts, the work which they were doing before doesn't exist any more, so they sit at home, collect their pay cheques every month, it costs money to retrench those people of course but it costs more money to keep them. But to borrow money so that we can keep all of these people I think is a wrong reason to borrow money. Now a lot of people say when we talk about right-sizing the public service that it's GEAR and of course we've never said that we want a smaller state in the sense of the liberal right view of less government. Certainly this country doesn't need less government, if anything it needs more government. It's not a fully governed country as far as I am concerned. But that's where those arguments are really coming from.

     The other thing is the ability to actually spend on capital projects. If you take the municipal infrastructure programme which is an RDP led project which I now have responsibility for, or the housing project or others, in the first two years we had great difficulty in actually spending money, we had great difficulty. This government prior to 1994 was not spending any money on those sorts of things, basic RDP infrastructure. We just couldn't spend, it just wasn't easy to. You needed the machinery to be able to spend the money. We found we couldn't spend it and we had roll-overs and roll-overs. Now we're spending it full steam. If we have more money for that it doesn't mean we're going to be able to spend it. We may be able to bust the money, get rid of the money eventually because as you get used to government you find ways of getting rid of money, but whether you're actually spending it, whether you can follow every rand where it goes to, whether it hits the target, is a challenge which we have. We're setting ourselves really what is a very difficult task of reforming the budget, of following every rand, where does it go to, and it's a very, very difficult task but we're doing it. The first time you're in political leadership of government, very, very deeply involved in the minutiae of the budget, unless you do that you're not going to have proper detailed budget reform which I think we are getting around now.

POM     Let me jump and then come back. There have been a number of reports done in the last two years. There's been the report that was done on the government in the provinces that, to summarise, I think said that a lot of the provinces were in very bad administrative shape. Then there was the report of the Presidential Commission talking about the whole structure of government and how it might be good to think in terms of reducing both the number of provinces and reducing the number of ministries and transferring power to the President's Office rather than the parliament. Then you've had your own white paper on local government and a lot of the municipalities are in deep financial trouble. The first question is with regard to the provinces, some provinces are borrowing a lot of money from the banking system to in fact finance day to day operations. Who is responsible for the repayment of that money? Is the central government responsible or is it the provinces themselves? And since they have no revenue generating powers how would they go about paying that? Two, if the banks continue to loan at the level they are lending are you not in jeopardy of creating a situation of where when the banks call in their loans there is nothing to call in and you set up a banking crisis? They have just over-extended themselves and you get the same kind of situation, I'm not making the direct parallel, but the same Indonesian kind of paradigm where banks made bad loans which when they had to call in couldn't be called in and the system began to implode upon itself. Is anyone looking at this? First, who is responsible? Why are the provinces allowed to borrow if they can't have the generating powers to repay? Does it make the central government responsible by default?

MVM     The provinces are only allowed to borrow for bridging finance. There are limitations on provinces' ability to borrow. They would need the permission of the Ministry of Finance in order to do so. But provinces like any institution would have cash flow problems and cash flow needs and for those purposes provinces may run in bank overdrafts, it's more like running an overdraft on your account because of the need for bridging finance. Last year we found that there was a kind of assumption on the part of banks that national government would guarantee whatever borrowings provinces have and loans which they made to provinces but I think that was made very clear to the banks that there is no way in which national government can take responsibility for them. It's a matter between the bank and the province and that's it. So we certainly are, and this is something which mainly the Department of Finance would be interested in, is keeping a limit on provincial borrowing and make it clear to the banks that their arrangement is with the province and they should not expect national government to step in at all. So the loans that you talk about are really - it's more overdrafts, I don't think it's large scale loans or anything of that sort.

POM     There were a couple of reports of the amount, in particular, that ABSA had lent to a number of provinces that seemed just rather excessive, to put it as simply as possible. Is there a danger that it could become a problem to the banking system that even though it's an overdraft, if I can't repay, it doesn't matter whether I borrow or I have an overdraft, if I can't repay you I can't repay you?

MVM     I don't think that the banks are getting themselves into that situation because the banks are not making the assumption that they don't have to check credit worthiness when they make loans and I think they are doing that. That's one of the reasons why we had a crisis last year, if you remember that there was this whole talk about bailing out the provinces, some of the provinces were going to be unable to pay their salary bill and steps had to be taken because the banks wouldn't give them money to do it either, because the banks would call up Trevor Manuel and say the province wants money should we give it to them? Trevor would say, well that's between you and the province, what's it got to do with me, don't expect me to tell you what to do.

POM     You were saying, Minister, that the Department of Finance is now more prone to step in and say to a bank, listen if you want to lend to a province it's entirely between you and the province and you ought to make sure that you're going to get repaid.

MVM     Or if you don't want to that's also fine, it's your money.

POM     Yes but it being your money doesn't prevent the collapse of bank systems.

MVM     No but I mean I don't think the banks are going to do anything stupid. The collapse of a banking system comes in where there are wrong assumptions that the bank makes.

POM     The Presidential Commission, a number of people I've talked to have said it's terrific on paper but that the possibilities of it being implemented are so politically loaded that it's simply not going to happen.

MVM     Well it's received - you heard what the Premier of the Eastern Cape had to say about it, he was very scathing indeed about the Presidential Review Commission Report, and it's been criticised by a number of people. The report itself I think is a good report, it's a detailed study and lays probably what is a good basis to take a look at how to structure government. Of course it's a commissioned report and if it serves the purpose of informing a process of restructuring government I think that it will have served a useful purpose, then it probably would serve that purpose because quite clearly in 1994 when we were ordered to structure government most of us who were involved in that process we weren't doing it from a position of real knowledge and information about statehood and the business of governance. We should take another look at it, we need to take another look at it. I don't think that anybody wants to rush into implementing mechanically what the commission has reported. The mechanical approach would probably be the wrong approach too.

POM     It more provides the framework for looking at -

MVM     Here's a framework, this is what the commission says, let's look at it critically, and I think that it would inform. It's a process which probably would take one or two years. I don't think suddenly you're going to say we are accepting the commission's report or rejecting it, I think it would be wrong to do it in that sort of way. But it raises important questions: it says, should you have such-and-such state department at all? And I think we should look at that. It may well be that we come to the conclusion that the commission doesn't really have all of the knowledge, etc., etc., or has not taken into account political imperatives which of course are also important, political imperatives.

     I'll just give you an example, the Deputy President and I met with Contralesa the other day, the traditional leaders, we had a long meeting lasting for four or five hours. At the end of the meeting they said, look Minister Moosa is very good to us but he's got a helluva lot of responsibilities, he's doing this, he's doing that, he's doing that, so he doesn't have the time to devote to traditional affairs that a government minister should devote and we would really recommend that a special ministry be created, Minister for Traditional Affairs, a dedicated minister. So you would always have those sorts of things coming up. Most people, most NGOs, interest groups, lobby groups, whichever area that they are involved in, would call for a dedicated minister for that, one would find. If you speak to SANCO it has always been of the view that there should be a dedicated minister for local government, not a person who's got other things to do also, a dedicated local government minister. SANCO is involved mainly in local government matters, civic associations and such things.

     What the PRC would not take into account is the political imperatives. It's what the constituency and people want, lobby groups. I'm giving these two as examples because neither would probably happen but there are constantly those sorts of things coming up. The PRC has said there shouldn't be a minister responsible for public enterprises and I think that a very cogent case can be made why there shouldn't be, but an equally cogent case can be made in this period when we want to restructure in a very big way the public enterprises, why there should be a dedicated minister especially during this period. You want to deal with ESCOM and all of these other bodies, restructure the electricity distribution industry, the airways, the railways, all of these huge businesses that the state is involved in. Maybe you should have a minister to drive that process in a coherent sort of way. Such a case can be made.

     I can assure you that if we didn't have a minister for Public Enterprises by now the business lobby would have said but this is so important, you should have a minister in charge of this, you're dealing with big restructuring of Telkom, billions and billions of rands. It's not a Mickey Mouse type of thing. So I think in that sense to mechanically say the PRC report is good, you should implement it, I don't think government wants to do that but certainly it must act as a basis. It's an intelligent good analysis and I think it can lay a basis, especially when the report itself has been compiled by people who are not that close to the coal-face, who are not that close to electoral politics and party politics, it helps a great deal because when you're at the coal-face, especially if you're a minister, it's not that easy to look at these things in a very objective sort of way because perhaps your own post may be at stake.

POM     It can concentrate the mind very quickly.  Just a couple more questions. One is, the public service unions are seen in some way to be the cart that is driving the horse. There is, I think, widespread acceptance, Zola has laid down that he wants to cut the public service by X number of people over the next two or three years. To every attempt to retrench, the public service unions react with either the threat of strike or actual strikes and that they have the power to paralyse or bring government to a stop and that government hasn't found a way of adequately developing a strategy to deal with that. Do you think that's a major problem that at some point has to be addressed?

MVM     It is a big problem, it's the price we are paying for inheriting a hostile public service, especially the upper echelons of the public service, and to ensure that this hostile public service plays the game, is not too disruptive, allows us to consolidate democracy, that's the price really. We're paying a high price for having a set of lousy agreements in the public service frankly.

POM     Take SADTU for example, it would seem to me, and this is just my reading of it, that in a way Minister Bengu rolled over, threw in the towel, has upset the budgetary process, where is the money going to come from not to retrench any more teachers, where is the money going to come from not to hire those who are temporarily being hired and that he committed provinces to spending money that the provinces have not received in their budget allocations, yet he did it as a national minister so in a way has committed the national government to finding the resources to do so. But if with regard to every other issue it's dealt with in the same way your whole budgetary process that you talked about of fine-tuning every rand goes out the window.

MVM     I think the amount that is spent on the public service, the difficulty of organising the public service in a logical manner or reducing where we need to reduce, is certainly one of the biggest challenges which we face as a government, no question about it.

POM     Let me again jump to really two speeches, one is the Deputy President's speech, the controversial 'Two Nations' speech. One of the interesting things he said in it, as I read it, was that there had been practically no progress towards reconciliation in the last three years, and as I talk to different groups of whites or whatever, I would agree with him. I don't find any apology for the past, they still rumble about what's going wrong and what a mess the government is making of things. On the other hand President Mandela devoted his entire administration, himself, to the process of reconciliation. Is there not a kind of a contradiction between the two? Has the President succeeded in making that breakthrough and achieving reconciliation or is it what the Deputy President says, that little progress has been made, whites still have all their privileges, they still want to hold on to their privileges and we are indeed two nations where inequity is growing and not decreasing?

MVM     Certainly I think what the Deputy President has said in his 'Two Nations' speech is simply a matter of fact of what the reality is in SA presently. That is the reality. It's also, I think, an expression of disappointment with the white community for the manner in which they are responding to change, their refusal in general, in general they are refusing to become part of the change project, to stand in its way, and the slow pace of social and economic justice. I don't know, I never thought about it as a contradiction with the steps which have been taken by President Mandela towards reconciliation.

POM     He has taken steps but have the steps broken through? Was there the kind of response you're looking for? Does he do all the right things but the response he's getting back is inadequate to the gestures that he's making?

MVM     I think it is sad that in spite of everything this is what you have, in spite of all of this, in spite of all the measures that we've taken. The question is, is it better to pretend as though we're a rainbow nation and everything is fine or to admit the reality that there are something like two nations in this country and I think the Deputy President is probably right in saying that, let's talk about what really does exist, what the reality is.

POM     The one hundred million, I was going to say rand, question, but by the time I finish speaking it will only be worth fifty, is what must be done to in a way to let whites know the good days are over, in fact you've had it easy, in fact your standard of living has been marginally affected in the last three years. If one goes to places like Rosebank and Sandton or wherever and you say, my God, where is all this money coming from? What kind of steps do you take? Do you say we have treated you with carrots and now we've got to apply a bit of the stick?

MVM     I don't know, I can't say any specific steps but part of the reason why you would find, particularly from the white community, opposition to the measures we want to take in local government, for example, is so as to prevent any kind of redistribution, equity development taking place across local government areas and a deracialisation process, but of course we've said that those steps have to be taken. At the end of the day the measures are not any single measure but I think that there are a whole range of measures which need to be taken in education, the schools, university entrance, local government measures, affirmative action, commerce and industry, public service, so it's a whole range of measures as such and part of what I think we want to say to the white community is that they are in a sense becoming their own worst enemies because on the one hand while they continue to enjoy their inherited privileges at the same time they spend a lot of their time and energy undermining confidence in the country simply by moaning and groaning all the time, incessantly. As the departing Australian Ambassador said, I don't know if you read it, he wrote a very big piece in The Star and in other papers, a full page article on his reflections on South Africa, most of it was dedicated to speaking to white South Africans.

POM     When was this?

MVM     This would have been a few months ago. I'm sure if you get hold of the Australian Embassy it probably would be the quickest way to get it. And he gives a wonderful analysis of the psyche of the white community here and makes a very powerful case as to why white South Africans are actually making things worse by going all over the world, because they are the ones who can travel, they are the ones who have networks around the world. What they do is they tell everybody how bad it is here, what a terrible country it is, how things are bad, government is corrupt and inefficient and authoritarian and crime is out of hand and everything's bad for business and it's horrible to live in Johannesburg and the place is a bloody nightmare. So they go around telling everybody. He says, of course, that's not what he sees in his experience here. And then they complain that this is the perception everybody has of us. It's a kind of a sick indulgent cycle which they are caught in.

POM     They create the perceptions which they then accuse other people of having. So, not to take a lot of time on this question -

MVM     You're now over your time as you're well aware.

POM     Well I know but you'll be generous because the last time you gave me 40 minutes not an hour. I counted up the number of pages in the transcript and said this doesn't work out to a full hour. Is this talked about in cabinet or is it just - ?

MVM     Probably in the party, yes, rather than in cabinet. We talk about it in the party I suppose, political circles.

POM     The last, last thing. I'm going to read you - Mandela's speech at the 50th Congress of the ANC stunned me. I thought it the most attacking, unreconciling, six hour speech where he lashed out at everybody.

MVM     You were there?

POM     I was there.

MVM     So you sat through it.

POM     Yes. And I put on my dark glasses at a certain point. I thought, wow! I personally could be the next target here the way he spread it around.

MVM     I was hoping that by now you would have a more sober interpretation of what he said.

POM     Well let's say your hope may be correct or may be incorrect but that what I'm interested in is in what you have to say about it and not what I think about it.

MVM     Tell me what was the unjustifiable attack? Who - ?

POM     For example, it said,

     "The latest political grouping to join the miserable platoon of opponents of our movement is the United Democratic Movement of Bantu Holomisa, former bedfellows and functionaries of the apartheid system and its security forces. Once more this grouping predicates its success not on any challenge for policies, it hopes and prays for significant dissatisfaction among our supporters occasioned by any failure on our part to implement these policies. More vigorously than the Democratic Party it also seeks to convince some supports of the National Party that the UDM offers a more credible non-racial political home than the NP. Inevitably it will draw into its ranks some of the most backward and corrupt elements in our society which have no interest whatsoever in promoting the interests of the people, thus the presence of leaders of criminal gangs at its founding conference was no accident."

     He goes on: -

     "We must expect that it will be infiltrated by the third force, we must also expect that some from this group will seek to promote its interests by resort to criminal violence against the people especially members in the quarters of the ANC and the rest of the democratic movement. At the same time efforts will be made to infiltrate agents of the UDM into the structures of our movement to destroy us from within and to gather information which will be used to discredit the movement. Furthermore elements of the third force will not hesitate to link up with members of the UDM to further a common revolution strategy. Ultimately the object of the United Democratic Movement and the NP and the DP and all groups that converge around them is the destruction of the ANC."

     That's powerful stuff. Does that not indicate a certain kind of paranoia?

MVM     What would you say if you were speaking to your conference, to your delegates?

POM     If I were Nelson Mandela?

MVM     What would you say if you were speaking? This is a party, he is also leader of a party.  You want to see Nelson Mandela, you want him to be what you want him to be. He is speaking to the party leadership there and as far as we are concerned that is quite true, all of this.

POM     That everyone is out to destroy the ANC?

MVM     Those political parties, the UDM, the NP?

POM     And then there's no failure to distinguish between legitimate political opposition, which means that you weaken your opponent and try to beat him in an election, and the destruction of the ANC?

MVM     Yes but that's not incompatible with what you are saying.

POM     That is not?

MVM     Speak to the UDM or listen to the UDM speak to their supporters and they will say the ANC is trying to destroy us. Listen to the NP speak at its congress and they will say the ANC is trying to destroy the NP. Anybody, you would find that. Go to a university and have a political science seminar and then you will say, oh well -

POM     There was not a word said on Saturday.

MVM     - this is now, that is the whole thing. The fact of the matter is that if you take the UDM and if you look at the people who are in the UDM, from our point of view, you have a former Minister of Defence, apartheid army.

POM     He was also your colleague.

MVM     My colleague certainly. He was involved in the National Security Management System, he was one of the key people behind the giant management committees responsible for some of the most horrific crimes of apartheid during the eighties.

POM     So you would hold Meyer responsible?

MVM     I'm not saying that, we're saying that's where he comes from. That's what you say to your party. What do you say? Do you say, oh well forget about all of that, think about the positive elements? This is a party rally and I think there is nothing illegitimate about that because those are matters of historical record. Similarly with others, talking about criminal gangs, the fact of the matter is that Siphiso Nkabinde was charged for murder.

POM     He also was acquitted.

MVM     The fact of the matter, he was acquitted. The fact of the matter is that on his acquittal a number of people have already been killed in Richmond since his acquittal. As far as we are concerned, knowing the area, I have been personally to the area. I don't know if you've been to the area? I would really suggest you go to Richmond and interview a few people. I would really recommend that you do that, it will give you a different sense of what is happening over there. People in Richmond have absolutely no doubt that this man is a dangerous warlord. They have absolutely no doubt in their minds about it, in fact people in the Midlands in general. I would really recommend that you go there because the impression is being created, oh well, unjustified criticism. We know him because he's been in our ranks. We expelled him. So none of those things as far as I'm concerned are not within the realm of legitimate political party activity.

POM     I suppose my, and again I don't want to drag the point out, say on Saturday the UDM, there was never a statement made that what it wanted to do was to destroy the ANC.

MVM     Oh I'm sure not, I'm sure not, and certainly you wouldn't find at the Mafikeng conference the ANC saying that it wants to destroy everybody.

POM     But it's saying everybody else wants to destroy it.

MVM     Which is what Holomisa has said over and over that the ANC wants to destroy the UDM. He has said that on many occasions when he's addressed UDM rallies and people say those sorts of things. Tony Leon says all the time that the ANC doesn't want us to exist, they're trying to destroy all the opposition parties, they're trying to wipe us out. They want to have a one-party state. He says that all the time when he stands up in parliament, especially during the live broadcast time. Where do you come from? I think it's legitimate, that's legitimate politics. It's a different matter if you say that the ANC is using some unfair means to destroy and wipe out political parties. It's a different matter. Remember also where we come from. We don't pretend as though we don't have a past. The party strategy, when it first thought about this concept of a negotiated settlement hand in hand with that was a strategy to destroy the ANC, hand in hand with that. Release Nelson Mandela, remove this myth of him being such a great leader. He would lose much of his appeal if he's out of prison. Take measures to split the left wing or not so left wing elements within the ANC, all of those sorts of things. They did not in their own minds think that they would be dealing with a united ANC throughout the whole transition period. That was at the core of the breakdown in their strategy. They probably wouldn't have embarked on it, or many of them who did support it would not have supported it, others would have, many of them may not have, those who thought that this is what would happen. One of the biggest fears, biggest fears, was that unban the ANC, start negotiations and the IFP merges with the ANC, how do we prevent that merger from ever taking place? Which is what they succeeded in preventing, let alone a merger but any kind of co-operation between the ANC and the IFP during the entire transition period which may not unfold to some extent. If you look at the Meiring Report, the setting up of McBride, however one may judge the wisdom of McBride's actions the fact of the matter is that he has been set up and therefore a fairly strong suggestion of a continued sort of low key, third force type opposition to government.

POM     You believe that exists?

MVM     Well how do you explain all of this? How can one explain it? I am not the greatest of conspiracy theorist persons.

POM     I know, you're far too much of a cynic to be a conspiracist.

MVM     But what I am saying is that can you not understand when the ANC says that there are people trying to destroy us? I think it's quite legitimate. There are a lot of people who genuinely believe that and I think for good reason.

POM     But at the same time you say McBride was set up, one could also say by the same token he's been abandoned.

MVM     Maybe, a lot of people are saying that in the press and a lot of people in the ANC are saying that. I don't think he's been abandoned but people are saying that. You may well say that. But that's not what we're talking about right now, it's a separate matter.

POM     You just brought his name up.

MVM     Yes, but it's a separate matter and I don't think he's being abandoned.

POM     Last, do you consider NCOP to have succeeded in achieving or is on its way to achieving the purposes for which it was designed or do you think, again, it is something that must be re-looked at in its entirety along with the Presidential Review or in the framework of the Presidential Review?

MVM     I don't the NCOP has got anything to do with the Presidential Review Commission but I would say that we need to review certain elements of the NCOP but not in a fundamental sort of way, not a major review. My own view is that it's working, there are some shortcomings and we would need to make a few changes in this because nobody could predict how it would pan out at the end of the day, but I'm quite happy with the NCOP system. I think it's a good system. I think it's drawing the provincial legislatures into the national legislative process. I think it's creating a unity in the law making process very nicely. Premiers and MECs are not just stuck out in some far flung provincial capital. They are actors in Cape Town, they are there all the time which is what one really wanted.

POM     So when you assumed power, when the ANC became the effective government of the country after the elections in 1994 and you had a scale in your mind of where you wanted the country to be coming into 1999, where if it had met all your expectations it would be a ten and where you think it actually is, where on the scale would you put it?

MVM     What's the value of such a question, really? I know you've asked me similar questions before.

POM     It's of value to me.

MVM     You asked me about the constitution, the outcome of the constitutional negotiations. What's the value of those things?

POM     Well you'll see in the year 2001. It's asking you to take stock of this is what I had expected and this is where we are.

MVM     It's difficult to relate to the question. I'm not trying to dodge it.

POM     But you can.

MVM     It's not the way one's mind works. It's popular magazine stuff.

POM     Well thank you. Maybe I'll sell a few extra copies because of that. But you know what I'm getting at? You say you have an expectation, I'm illusioned, I'm disillusioned.

MVM     No I'm not disillusioned at all, not disillusioned, very optimistic.

POM     You're very optimistic?

MVM     Very optimistic and I'm satisfied with our performance. I sleep peacefully at night. I am able to hold my head high in any audience, and I move around a hell of a lot, all over the country, I mix with all sorts of people. I'm quite satisfied with our performance and I really do, I still do enjoy addressing all sorts of audiences and fielding questions because I do feel that we have legitimate responses to many of the concerns that people have. And of course we haven't achieved everything, we may not even have achieved that much but I think we've got legitimate responses and I think that I am able to make a case that we have really done the best under the circumstances, under the circumstances a marvellous job I think. President Mandela and Thabo Mbeki are really a dream leadership that anybody could ask for in this period.

POM     That's a nice note to end on. Thanks ever so much for the time.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.