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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

15 Jul 1998: Cronin, Jeremy

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POM     Jeremy, every year we seem to start at the same place and that is about GEAR. By every objective standard one wishes to look at, GEAR is dead, it has been unable to achieve almost all of the objectives that it had set out. In fact some of the statistics I think are astonishing, it has set a goal this year of real private investment growth of 9.1% and the achievement was 3%, unemployment is increasing, there is no per capital income increase, in fact it's falling for the first time in four years. Now one would think that any government worth its salt would say something is not right here, we have to revisit this policy. You would think that the government would recognise this, admit it and say they are looking for an alternative strategy. Instead of that they seem to dig in their heels more firmly all the time and regard any criticism of GEAR as being almost heretical and a threat, attempt to destabilise the government or undemocratic. What's the problem?

JC     I think one's got to unpack a lot of things. I think that what you are most directly referring to would have been President Mandela's unwritten half of his speech to the SACP's congress a couple of weeks back where he went back on positions which we'd got to by the last quarter of last year which was basically to say that the discussion of GEAR, and therefore critical comments on GEAR, are not heretical, it's natural that policies should be questioned and debated, that no policy is written in stone. We got to those positions in September last year, notably at the Alliance Summit which we had right at the beginning of September and mid-September the COSATU Congress at which Mandela had also spoken and at which he had repeated the positions of the Alliance Summit but he had gone further to say that the process around developing GEAR had been seriously flawed, COSATU, the SACP, but even the ANC had not been effectively consulted, drawn into the process. He said, which was the honest thing, that it remained government policy and he repeated the phrase about no policy being written in stone and so on. So we had made quite a lot of progress in terms of just legitimising the debate within the alliance.

     I think if you listen or look carefully at what Mandela was saying at our congress, first of all he appeared to confuse GEAR and the RDP, so what he said at our congress was that GEAR had gone through seven different drafts and there had been a thorough consultation process, so he wasn't thinking carefully about what he was saying. He also said that the government had been prepared to deal on GEAR but since we had become intransigent as the party the offer was withdrawn, so to speak, which was also a curious thing to say. We had not made public mileage out of - if it wasn't Mandela we were dealing with there, if it was a middle ranking government bureaucrat, we would have climbed in and pointed out the inconsistencies and the confusions and the sort of toys out of cot type behaviour. What we all want is an effective macro-economic frame of policy along with other things and we can't allow mutual irritations to determine whether - and we also don't want to do deals on GEAR. If GEAR is the right policy then it must be the right policy. We're saying we're not sure that it is, so it's not as though we are saying, we're not saying we think GEAR is the right thing but we're prepared even if we thought we were right and that you were wrong we were prepared in the name of some kind of - that isn't how we want to deal with the macro-economic policy, we want to have a thoroughgoing debate, a thorough explanation of all possible models and then come up with the most effective that we can find. And that's our prime problem.

     We never thought that that process was undertaken in the beginning and then people have sort of clung to the dogma of GEAR hysterically, because most of us are not macro-economists, it's not as though we're floating some perfect alternative model. We're just saying it's the process, and increasingly, of course, we're saying what we began with, not only was the process not so but it's manifestly not working so you can't just say we hold on to GEAR because it's sliding through your fingers and therefore the options confronting us are moving from gear one into fifth gear and overdrive, which is what the DP is pushing, what business is pushing. They're saying it's working and in so far as it's not it's because there hasn't been enough of the bitter medicine, belts have to be tightened more and more. So one reading of why GEAR is not working is intensify GEAR they say. That's one spin that's given to me. It's kind of working and things would be a lot worse if we didn't have GEAR in place, but the problem is there's not rapid enough privatisation, budget deficit targets are not severe enough. Predictably there's that reading of it.

     I suppose what I'm trying to say is I think part of what Mandela was saying about GEAR was less about GEAR and more a hook on which to hang certain irritations that were felt with the party from the side of the President himself in the first place. That's also bedevilled the GEAR thing over the couple of years that it's been around but often the debates have been not about GEAR  but about all kinds of other things but GEAR has become the handle around which there are many things. It's something that's concerned us as well. We've consistently tried to say we're not going to shut up and we're going to keep raising problems and awkward questions about GEAR but we don't want that to be the only conversation that's going on, industrial policy, job creation strategies, all of those things are perhaps much more important and it's the neo-liberals that like us to be corralled up in this particular debate. For them the economy is just a set of macro-economic indicators which tells you whether it's safe or not safe to invest. For us it's becoming much more about the real economy, production of jobs and things like that.

     Then another factor is that increasingly GEAR is under fire from, hidden, not so out in the open, but inside of the ANC itself and inside Cabinet. As you, again, in your opening question you implied that surely government must be saying, well hang on, is it working and why isn't it working, and that's increasingly being said by a range of ministers beginning with the obvious kinds of ministers, those who have got responsibility for social transformation who are moving ahead and they take two steps forward and then they get yanked backwards by macro-economic targets. It's also very much coming from provincial level governments.

     Again, some of those incipient, they are not ideological critiques of GEAR, they have more to do with sectoral responsibilities of people in government. Some of them we sympathise with, we agree with, and we thought they were going to be predictable. Some of them are opportunist, people who are mismanaging their particular sector and, again, for their own reasons find GEAR a useful excuse for the failure to spend what they've got on budget effectively to manage things well.

     So there's a mixture of things but I think that the high level of emotion that one saw a couple of weeks ago at our congress needs also to be contextualised in that we were being hammered as the immediate and most visible target and we're a small party. So there were some, the tone of the COSATU Central Committee which was also a big 500 delegate meeting the week before ours, there had also been a pulling them into line kind of attempt from the ANC that had been a little bit quieter. When it came to the party they reckoned they're not dealing with too many workers but 80,000 party members. But they're talking beyond us, they were talking to us, it was a signal sent to others who might be tempted to raise questions in their own particular ways within the ANC, within Cabinet. And then, thirdly, it also coincided with the rand sliding and those pressures being felt.

     So I am not saying that there were not real irritations directed at the party. There were, but the agenda was broader than that and we need to understand it. I think other people need to understand it.

POM     I've had great fun reading this quotation from you, I didn't identify who it was, but I think it was to Derek Keys I said I'll give you three chances to identify the author of this quote. That's where you said : -  "You can already smell authoritarian tendencies in the air in South Africa. The ANC will win the next election by default because the opposition is so unfocused. There is a lot of jargon and not much thoughtfulness coming from the government. Mugabe epitomises where we could end up. We implement austerity but when we encounter resistance we give up for a few months. There are swings between demagoguery and managerialism. It holds terrible perils for democracy." Could you elaborate on that a little?

JC     Did Derek Keys guess right?

POM     Derek Keys said "No", he said, "Oh my God! Jeremy Cronin said that?" You went up in his estimation.

JC     You say I went down in his estimation?

POM     You went up in his estimation.

JC     Oh OK, because he thinks we should hold firm to the course of fiscal discipline?

POM     No, he says GEAR is dead. He said, "I say it all the time, I've been saying it for a couple of years. No-one listens to me any more."

JC     That's interesting. Yes, because I have been saying things a little bit more toned down in public than that quote, therefore I hope you won't quote me beyond Derek Keys and me saying quite that, but I believe it. I'm not saying that what characterises South Africa now is authoritarianism. That would be crazy. It's a pretty vibrant democratic situation, genuinely, I'm not just giving you a political spin now. But in the air are concerns and you can see across the Limpopo where we could end up, Algeria and Zimbabwe are examples of heroic liberation struggles which are under domestic pressures but also external pressures; genuine revolutionaries who want to transform their country resort more and more to authoritarian means to do so, I think with a genuine commitment to that and the key strength of these post-revolutionary or post-struggle situations is precisely the mass base, the mass support that the leading political organisation enjoys and that gets thrown away. That's the danger, under pressure of all kinds, under illusions of all kinds. You do see elements in our situation of that and we've tried to identify those elements as the longer term strategic danger for ourselves. We're not saying that that characterises the present situation.

     Thabo, who on the day after Mandela came into our congress, didn't speak much about GEAR at all other than to say that it's a cheap shot to imply that all problems in SA are related to GEAR. A point that I agree with, a point that we weren't making, but it's a point that he thought, for argument's sake, was attributed to us. But his irritations were directed much more at our attempt to flag this concern.

     Again, by picking in a selective way from some of the quotations of the discussion documents - I don't know if you've seen them? OK I'll let you see them because those elaborate on this concern. So Thabo, as I say, wasn't focused on GEAR, he was much more focused on who does the party think it is, was the theme of what he was saying. You're presenting yourself as some kind of moral centre, holier than thou, all wise and so on, it's very convenient. He was trying to say: you're not carrying the responsibility of government, you're chirping away, you're morally pure and yet you're way off beam, your discussion document is way off beam. And what had most irritated him were these kinds of issues that we were saying there are immediate dangers, we didn't talk about Richmond, but we were talking about that kind of thing, the third force that continues to have a presence in our society, elements that are bent on straight counter-revolutionary activities, violent undermining of the new democratic dispensation. We've got to deal with those quite effectively  and with determination and vigilance, clearly, but our concern is that that kind of phenomenon gets to be - you can see in the Stalin years, in the late twenties, there was a genuine imperialist destabilisation strategy for the Soviet Union but that can start to turn inwards, you start to build a fortress society in the face of real threats and you start to all become prisoners of the fortress.

     So speaking as communists we've got our own legacy to think about but you also see it in post-independence African countries as well where the society is fragmented, the nation building effort is complicated and then you've got the World Bank breathing down your back. In all of those situations authoritarianism can start to creep in. So what we're trying to say is there's an immediate danger of the Richmond kind of third force type activity and we must deal with it severely but we mustn't exaggerate the danger that emanates from there and it's key weaknesses, it doesn't have a mass base. There are some nasty people in our society with lots of nasty skills and equipment and so on but for the moment what April 1994 did was to marginalise them very much. We must keep them marginalised, we must keep unifying ourselves and so on but the key medium to longer term challenge is to make sure that we don't continue with mass unemployment, with the massive under-development of deep rural areas and so on because that in the longer term will be the seed bed for a third force finding some kind of ethnic, rural, whatever, unemployed base with which to subvert it.

     We're saying, therefore, we must press on fairly confidently with our social and economic transformation agendas, we must involve millions of ordinary people in the process of change. They must feel change and they must be actively involved, because we think it's by involving people actively in the change process that they develop a more realistic sense of what's possible, what the constraints are and so on. When you're just told by Trevor Manuel we have to do this and it's non-negotiable then people become more and more alienated from the process, less and less participant, they get promised delivery from on high and when it doesn't come or it comes partially and not as quickly as they had hoped for, increasingly there is a growing sense of alienation.

     We see it, the good example, a bad example but which exemplifies this, is Tsakhane which is a township on the East Rand, it's the township next to Brakpan on the East Rand. It's been in the news a little bit over the last three months, two months. Basically what you've got is an ANC council, and I am sure there are some SACP members in it, who have been elected, they want to implement, as they promised, transformation but don't have resources. Basically it's not a viable local authority, the local industrial base has collapsed in Brakpan so in the township there's a high level of unemployment, the commercial and industrial centre is in depression so there's not an effective taxable base. So you've got councillors who, as I say, genuinely want to implement change but their version of it is, we will deliver but to deliver we need resources and so they've gone on a rates retrieval campaign which they have directed against one of the poorest townships in the area, Tsakhane, and they've unleashed the police and the army and they're seizing people's possessions. Households that are defaulting on rates are having their television sets dispossessed, their lounge suites and so on. Then there is opportunistically operating in the area an Inkatha aligned civic movement and the UDM predictably is also fishing in those troubled waters. People are defaulting and no doubt some of the people that are defaulting could afford to pay and there is this culture of non-payment and so on, but I am sure that the large majority simply can't pay, they're unemployed, they can't. So instead of sitting down with the community and saying this is our problem, what's your problem, how collectively do we solve this thing?

     Part of the solution should be surely to look northwards in the greater Johannesburg and to note that in Sandton big businesses are continuing to boycott their rates payments, their increased rates payments in defiance of the attempt to redistribute through - it's landing quite heavy rates increases on the most wealthy suburbs and so on. So instead of uniting the township and marching on Sandton and saying, hey buggers, we're turning inwards on ourselves, we're using state power to try and squeeze a few more cents out of very poor communities, there is an inversion of where energy should be going, so we're disuniting ourselves as those in government and those in the community instead of uniting ourselves in a common front against where the real power is wealth, where resources remain bottled still to a considerable extent. That in micro captures a danger and you can see it can easily happen and it happens not because the local council is in Springs, I think they're being a bit stupid, but they're not necessarily nasty people who have some awful agenda up their sleeves, they may or may not, but it can quickly happen, quite quickly. That's the kind of thing that's worrying us at present.

POM     In that sense do you think that there is a sufficient understanding in the government of the role of a vital civic sector in society as a watchdog particularly in a situation where you have a one party dominant state, that the civic institutions become in a sense the pillars of opposition and that is their duty to point out these things?

JC     I think we need a strong civic society for those kind of watchdog reasons and, as you're saying, not least because there is this two thirds political party which will probably have something like that again at the next elections. But also because it's not as though we're in political power in some uncomplicated way, we keep learning that lesson and keep forgetting it as well. Richmond would be a case in point. We might have the Minister of Safety & Security as an SACP member as well as being an ANC member but between him and what's happening on the ground is a whole machinery which is not necessarily our machinery. He might have the steering wheel but whether he's actually steering or not, he's not steering in Richmond because when you get into KwaZulu/Natal there's a police bureaucracy which remains massively untransformed and therefore it's not just a watchdog role  but actually to transform the state apparatus.

     You've got to push it from the top where we mostly are but also from the bottom and you've got to work together in that effort. So you need an effective state to transform SA but you need a robust civil society, progressive civil society to transform the apparatus that needs to carry out the transformation, so to use my Marxist jargon, it's a very thoroughly dialectical reality. And that applies to everything, pensions, obviously it applies to the hard things like policing, but it applies also to social security delivery as well, very progressive changes in pensions and so on, they've been de-racialised, there's also quite a lot of thoughtfulness about targeting the most vulnerable sectors of rural disabled, women, young people, by very thoughtful policies implemented into law. But again what happens on the ground is often something very different and you need community pressure and assistance so that you can transform the apparatus that's present on the ground, but also so that you add resources as well.

     So we can have debates about GEAR and whether we're putting enough resources into the right places but there are always going to be resource constraints and not everything can be done with budgetary resources and yet there are huge other resources. A huge asset in SA is a relatively politicised and relatively mobilised population and that's a resource, people have energy, historically have had energies to go out and run people's courts. Now maybe they went a little bit off in funny directions but those were civic energies where people recognised that the apartheid courts were hopeless but one needed to deal with crime and they put energy and time and initiative and imagination into those things.

     Sorry, a bit long-winded, but is there a sufficient realisation of the need for that? It's uneven, it comes and goes and it's an ongoing battle so there are a lot of pronouncements in the direction of understanding the importance of that but quickly if you're the particular minister dealing with a particular set you get irritated with the trade unions, it comes and goes.

POM     One thing that came across to me, and maybe because I was just reading press accounts, not being physically present, was an implied threat that if you don't stay on board the ship, get off the ship and see where you end up because frankly you think you're much more important than you are.

JC     It was said to COSATU as well, more politely than to us. Yes it was said, it wasn't implied, it was more or less said in those words. Our response has to be - we chose not to reply in kind in the congress itself although the opportunity was there and we have chosen also not to post-congress in press statements to reply in kind because we don't want to get in an arm wrestle. We're going to stick to our guns, we're going to hold our ground.

POM     This re-emphasises the point you were making about the smell of authoritarianism, it's like if you criticise us it's not allowable. You bash our policies in public and make fun of them, totally not allowable. And rather than the forces of democracy broaden ideally in fact they are in some ways narrowing as the country faces more difficult times.

JC     Yes, the danger is there but we're certainly determined not to allow it to happen. We might produce self-fulfilling consequences if we replied in kind and then said what you are saying. It's through many of our minds, you criticise us for saying the dangers of authoritarianism in a very authoritarian way so you could quickly make that point, particularly with Mandela who - Thabo made, I'll talk about Thabo in a moment, but Mandela, he raved basically in ways which were quite clumsy. He raved, it was a kind of angry outburst which is what's nice about him because he's a genuine person, what's in his heart and what's irritating him he spits it out. He's not your calculating, cold, cynical politician of the end of the 20th century. He's a strange persona and there's something admirable about it but in my view that particular intervention - it was the same Mandela that said to Clinton, in slightly more polite terms, piss off with your Africa Growth & Opportunity Bill, we're going to be friends with Cuba and Libya and so on and piss off, which is great, I appreciate it.

     So the content of it can vary but there's a personal quality which is important but can have a down side which is an authoritarian down side. But we're not going to be self-fulfilling about it by engaging and it will produce higher levels, we're going to plot away, we're going to stick to our guns on GEAR and other issues and in fact a lot of the stuff is under debate in the party itself, it's not as though there's some isolated thing in the SACP in which you can produce clear policy. Clearly the debates that are going on, waging between the social movements and government and so on, are highly focused in the Communist Party as well. Not all ministers are so happy that we are so robust in our criticisms of GEAR. It takes time to consolidate a mandated position but we've come out of the congress with a more clearly mandated position on something like GEAR, for instance, rather than less mandated. It's actually firmer, it's clearer.

POM     Do the leadership changes that were made indicate movement to the left, that get tougher?

JC     No, less right political spectrum but more dynamic preparedness to be a little bit more robust. It's more about that, very linked to the union movement. The party gets accused of manipulating ANC elections and so on but our electoral process is also highly contested by political elements in the ANC and certainly COSATU and I would say that the election results, which were minor changes in a sense, reflected a strong COSATU hand at work and COSATU said it in September.

     Also part of it, by the way, the heightened temperature within the alliance, a little bit is growing the strength of the party and COSATU. COSATU, when did I see you last? The September congress was very interesting, the COSATU congress. There was a long historical debate within the trade union movement about whether they should go into the alliance or launch an independent Workers' Party and the outcome of the debate as of now, because it will go on for sure, from the September congress last year of COSATU was, no, no we will remain in the alliance, as for a Workers' Party there is one, it's the Communist Party. It's not necessarily perfect, it isn't, but we must put resources, time, energy and focus on it to build it into the kind of Workers' Party that we want. So we have had a series of bilaterals and we're doing quite a lot of things together as the party and COSATU, political education and so on. They pay for it and we do some of the work. And GEAR has brought us together, our positions are identical more or less on GEAR and so on. So elements in the ANC are starting to feel that there is an imbalance coming into the tripartite alliance at this time. That's another factor at play.

POM     You've talked about what has been referred to as the 30% solution which is related to black empowerment. Is black empowerment, even though it's only been off the ground for a couple of years, is it working in terms of there being a trickle down effect or is it working to the benefit of a few who are doing very well out of it but it's not really having any impact on the masses of the people?

JC     You see I would say black economic empowerment is two things, not one thing. The one thing is what you are referring to, namely the appointment of black faces into boards and an increasing share holding by a handful of black people in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and so on. That's one version of black economic empowerment and by and large it's having minimal impact. There might be a trickle here and there, I'm not particularly aware of it. In obvious areas one sees very little change. Where Ramaphosa is controlling a major media empire I don't see any change in the content of - minimal change perhaps in the content of the newspapers and magazines.

POM     Just on that for a moment, Mandela in particular always refers to the 'white controlled media' and the fact is a large part of the media is now -

JC     Black controlled.

POM     Black controlled.

JC     Partly there are the usual problems that OK, at the highest level, but at the news editor type level it's your old ex-Rhodesian white who is still in there or something, so there are those kinds of problems. But you're right. There's been a different kind of black economic empowerment which are the things we've talked about before I'm sure, two million households electrified, one million people getting safe drinking water, health care being free if not always very good when you can get to it, housing which is slowly starting to move a little bit. What we're trying to say is that's black economic empowerment. Often the privatisation, like there's a proposal to privatise ESCOM, now the very thing that has electrified the two million households that we're so proud about is being presented as black economic empowerment so we will privatise it, the usual sort of trans-nationals and so on will come in and buy some of it but 10% will be for black, the same twenty blacks. And in the party we characterise them, if that were to happen, we were saying that would not be black economic empowerment, it would be black economic disempowerment because it would move it on to a market oriented vocation away from its current social vocation. So, in short, the direct answer to what you meant by your question is I don't think it's helping at all and it's part of this 30%, maybe we should call it 10%/90% solution because it's increasingly looking more like that than 30%. 90% of people remaining where they are and 10% doing very well thank you.

POM     Do you think that, to talk about globalisation, that as SA becomes increasingly part of the global economy, that its ability to affect its own fate is severely reduced by external factors whether it's speculators on the rand, whether it's internationalisation of trade and that traditional concepts of sovereignty are becoming less relevant and traditional ways of making policy are less relevant in the sense that sometimes the tools that effect the implementation of these policies are in the hands of others outside the country altogether and there's not much you can do about it? How do you deal with that? It's one thing to have a policy, it's another thing to have the ability to say we will carry it out when the outside world says we're moving in a different direction and there goes your policy.

JC     That obviously captures a strong current in the current reality. I think it needs to be qualified in a whole series of ways but not written off or denied entirely because clearly there are objective realities in the kind of current global situation of the kind that you're describing. In our discussion documents which have come now through congress we have said the first thing about globalisation is we need to unpick the objective processes that are happening from the prescriptive use of the word 'globalisation'. The two things are not the same, they're related but they're not the same thing and there are often important disjunctures between the two. So clearly, yes, there's increasing globalisation of all kinds of things for all the usual reasons that are talked about, communications and information technology, the massive integration of financial markets, etc., etc. One can't run away from those realities and you've got to engage with them. The alternative is to try to become North Korea and that doesn't look like a very good model to follow does it?

     Then the prescriptions, which don't actually match the reality. The prescriptions are you've got to deregulate, privatise, liberalise, da-da-da-da, get competitive and so on. If you look at the behaviour of the big trans-nationals or you look at the behaviour of the big G7, or G8 if you want to put Nelson into the basket, for instance a huge proportion of global traders actually are not on some free international market at all, it's within the same trans-national corporation or between trans-national corporations. It's protected trade. There are big clubs like the G7 that set strategies of all kinds for the world economy, there are exclusive clubs, the Club of Paris, the IMFs and so on. The US is the prime example of a country that doesn't follow the prescriptions of globalisation. They tell us in SA to get competitive so we become competitive in some narrow areas like steel production, we have energy surplus, we've got access to good ore and so we export to the US competitively and we're told no, no, that's dumping and we get a yellow card or a red card. We're told that it's a free market out there and therefore, presumably it's a free market for sellers but also for buyers, and we look around for where we can get pharmaceuticals cheapest and we find we can get US manufactured pharmaceuticals cheaper on the Danish market than we can directly from the US market so we buy them there and we get another yellow card. We're told that we're not allowed to do that, you have to buy from source. Clearly we're not dealing with a free market, we're dealing with a very pre-arranged market in which there are powerful forces.

     Now that's not necessarily good news and that maybe reinforces your point, but the sovereignty of national governments, particularly of developing medium sized economies, the choices and options are not that great because you're dealing not even with a free market in which you're a small player but a very distorted market and you're at the bottom of the deep end. But that's something we need to understand because the danger in our situation is that we think that all we have to do is run faster and faster and faster according to the prescriptions and we'll do better. In fact you end up running backwards. So you've got to try and set as much of an agenda as you can for yourself. It's always going to be a battle but going with the flow of things is the worst option you can take. It's not a better option, it's the worst option. You've got to understand the realities and you've got to engage them as best you can so that means marshalling resources which are not just your own. You've got to struggle with a range of other international players who find themselves not necessarily on all things in agreement with you but on certain things in agreement with you.

     So on trade with Cuba we find ourselves in the useful position where there's one economic power that disagrees with the rest of the world. Unfortunately it's the most powerful economic power but at least you can defy them as much as possible on the Helms/Burton(?)bill and the ... Act and so on because Canada, France, Italy agree with you on that. I think that's part of how you build national sovereignty. Part of what you do is you establish multi-lateral connections which enable you to do certain things that on your own maybe you couldn't do but which you feel from your national sovereign position you should do. The same with the US attempts to manipulate trade between us, like around the steel exports and so on. We find that we can strike good deals - we don't necessarily need US investment, we can do good deals with Danish pharmaceutical companies or with the European Union in one way or another. So to play off those big forces you can get your fingers badly burnt.

POM     Something that struck me, in South Korea when the economy collapsed or the currency collapsed you had these scenes of people coming and handing in their rings and saying we will help bring the country back and there was a cohesiveness to their approach, patriotism, which you don't see in SA. You don't see any sense of 'we are all in this together, it's a struggle, it's going to be a difficult struggle and a tough one and it's going to take time'. Everybody is out there almost adopting the old labour attitude in Britain of 'I'm all right Jack'. Why is there that lack, particularly with a charismatic leader like Mandela?

JC     One ... tradition of mass mobilisation in the face of tremendous odds. Globalisation is bad news but the apartheid regime was a globally supported reality in the sixties and seventies and yet people manifested massive courage, resourcefulness, ability to work together and so on. Maybe that's the key question and I think we've tended to throw it away out of bureaucratic illusions, thanks for the struggle, we are now in power, we will deliver. But we're not in power, there's globalisation, there's the Anglo American, there are all kinds of things, as I said right at the beginning, political state power is an important responsibility, an asset, and unless it's massively reinforced by this mobilisation, patriotic mobilisation, developmental mobilisation of millions of people it hasn't got a hope in heaven of making much progress. We've got to correct that very quickly otherwise what we had in our hands will be thrown away. So GEAR might be the right policy if Trevor Manuel had said, "Comrades, RDP is what we've got to implement but how do we do it? It's going to require tremendous sacrifice. This is what we're proposing and we know it's going to be tough and so on." If it had been couched in those ways it would have been a participatory process, people haven't particularly got rings to toss into the kitty. Instead there was a technocratic, high-handed process which was put onto the table and declared non-negotiable and it was so against the grain of everything that we know, it's so foreign to our ANC movement politics. We're trying to get back there, say with the Job Summit. I think we won't do it all at once in one big summit, but to say there's a crisis, the crisis is not the rand, it's unemployment if you want to find a core reason.

POM     In the townships the average person isn't affected by movements in the rand.

JC     Exactly, what the hell, precisely. It's been good for jobs on the mines the rand going down so in some rural communities the next 20,000 retrenchments that were about to happen have been staved off for the moment thanks to the rand going down.

     We're desperately trying to find themes that will unite people. COSATU has come up with an imaginative proposal of one day's free work. Workers will work one day either extra on a weekend or one day's wage or whatever, they're calling it the Usobonvu(?) Campaign and that will go into job creation. Brilliant. It's not rings but it's what workers can produce and they're saying business must match it with a tax levy on high earners or on companies and government must match it and so on. So you can see there's an attempt to reach for that kind of patriotic unifying thing. Unemployment might look like the problem of the unemployed but it's the problem of the employed, it's the problem of bosses, it's a South African problem and some of us might be more remote from it but unless we solve it we're all in the shit. Your question is exactly the right question and in terms of that question the last four years have been embarrassing. Yes, it's an embarrassment to say we haven't understood this properly.

POM     How will a Mbeki government differ from a Mandela government?

JC     I think we've currently got an Mbeki government. We've got a real President, I'm not suggesting that he has no authority, he's not a lame duck, but his role has been symbolic, he's an active symbol but a symbol. The actual governmental management has been very much Mbeki and what concerns me as all of the things that we've been talking about is that his natural instincts are of a managerialist kind. You need a good manager, there's no doubt about that, but the manager must be broader than just being managerialist and the danger is that the patterns that we've seen in the last four years of that kind will be reinforced. They are already there, I would say, partly because of his important influence on government. So it's not like he's, again, evil incarnate. I know he's a very competent and very bright guy but I think there are imbalances in his style, imbalances in inclinations. The COSATUs and the little SACPs of the world and the broader ANC have got to fight to correct that, to get the balance right and we'll tread on toes, we'll create irritations but we've got to keep going and I think we will. I'm sure we will.

POM     What would the SACP in government do differently than what the current government is doing?

JC     Well we are in government so it's not as though we can sit and say it's them, the ANC, but if we were blessed with the curse of being the ruling party, well we've said there have been four core strategic shortcomings in this last four year period and we assumed collective responsibility for that and I suppose we've touched on all of them, but just to summarise them: the first would be confusion about our location in the world, this mythology about returning to the family of nations and all you have to do is follow the prescriptions, there are no other rules but if you follow them you will be justly rewarded and Marshall Aid will come pouring into your country. On that one I'm less concerned, I think there is growing robustness from the mainstream ANC and from within government. Clinton's visit was an important benchmark, I think, in that and I think someone like Mbeki has a much better robust understanding of the location than was in evidence in the first couple of years. But that's something you need obviously to watch in an ongoing way.

     The second area is macro-economic policy. We feel it's the wrong macro-economic policy. I'm not about to pull out of my pocket the right one but it was wrong in its process. It's got a series of targets but some are the real targets and others are just rhetorical targets and we think the real targets should be economic growth, job creation and fiscal discipline needs to be aligned with that rather than the other way round. We said that GEAR is failing. The thing that it's coming close not to failing on is the fiscal discipline. We think there's a lot of room for manoeuvre, which we haven't talked about, the public pension fund. In 1991 the government moved from what is the normal practice in the public pension fund of a pay-as-you-go system where current employees in the civil service contribute to pensions and those contributions for that year are by and large what you fund your pension payments out of. They switched to a pre-funded arrangement. In other words it was 75%, 75% of its total requirements for the next twenty years were put into an investment fund and in order to do that government had to borrow massively billions of rand, borrowed them and created this investment vehicle so that it wasn't paying pensions out of current contributions but out of a fund that gets invested into government bonds and things like that. Some 40% of our government debt is government paying itself to meet the cost of this thing which was put into this pre-funded arrangement, very cynically three or four years before the elections by the apartheid regime, partly I think because they were worried  that white civil servants' pensions would be manipulated by an ANC government, would be cancelled or abolished or whatever, so they shifted from pension contributions to this pre-funded arrangement.

     Now we keep raising this and government keeps saying it's nonsense and you don't understand it and so on but they're not giving us a very clear answer. They say it's the global trend. We've done little bits of work and our impression, and you might know better than I do, it's not particularly the global trend, by and large civil service pensions are pay-as-you-go arrangements. There is an important debate in western Europe in particular about moving from pay-as-you-go to pre-funded primarily because they're dealing with ageing populations and the concern is that the pension bill is getting bigger and bigger and bigger and also with privatisation the employed civil servants base is diminishing, whereas our demographic problem is the reverse. We've got this incredibly young population and so we're tying up resources in pension funds whereas in fact those are resources perhaps which would be better going into youth, job creation and things like that. So macro-economic policy.

     Thirdly, the dangers of bureaucratisation, we will deliver, top-down and so on, the kind of state that we're developing is concerning us. And the fourth one, and the things are linked, is the demobilisation of the mass base. Those are the four things that we are saying 'we' have done wrong, we're not saying the ANC has done wrong, we're saying we've got it wrong, that need to be corrected. So if I was, God forbid, the president of the country I would try to put lots of attention into those four areas.

POM     OK, Jeremy, thanks ever so much.

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.