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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

23 Jul 1998: Lekota, Mosiuoa (Patrick)

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ML     What's gone wrong with your leg?

POM     I broke it.  Is that a safety belt?

ML     Without a safety belt. He smashed into a truck. He flew from the back seat to where he hit the windscreen with his head. He was very lucky, if the leg that broke didn't hold on to the seat he would have flown out I think.

POM     Oh my God!

ML     So also he lost some of his hair on the side of the head.

POM     But he's alive and will recover.

ML     He's alive, that's what matters. Not like one of our comrades who left the President's birthday with us on Sunday, about midnight Sunday, in the early hours, drove back to the Northern Province with his wife and daughter. He smashed into a harvester or a crater and his wife and daughter died immediately. He himself got very badly injured. He's been in intensive care, I think until yesterday he was still in intensive care but it looks like he might pull through. But it's a terrible disaster for him.

POM     Life is funny. You can spend so many years in jail or in exile or being tortured or being harassed by the police and what happens is you come out and you have an accident on the motorway.

ML     Most unexpected.

POM     First of all, how will the ANC, do you think, under your chairmanship differ from the ANC of the last four years? What are your plans for the organisation that will revitalise it?

ML     First of all I think that we have up until now stayed away from the interventionist approach that was on the upsurge until last year when we went to the 50th conference.

POM     That's the interventionist approach, was the national -

ML     For instance have the national into -

POM     Getting involved in the provincial -

ML     Tending to say to the provinces what to do and what not to do so stringently. I think we have relaxed that and certainly we haven't intervened in any provincial conference. We have offered opinions of our own but I have been underlining the fact that final decisions must always be taken by the leadership in the provinces because whatever else we may say they have a better understanding of the conditions in their own provinces. After all people are more enthusiastic with things if decisions that are being implemented have been taken by themselves, if they own them. So I think that's been a significant difference.  But also I think that with President Mandela somewhat out of the leadership of the ANC we are a different, a new generation of people, younger with a slightly different style of approach to things. The tensions between ourselves and the Alliance have continued to be there but I think we have a real possibility of sorting them out. So right now, for instance, we are preparing for the Alliance summit at which we intend to discuss these relations, some of the policy issues which have been promoted like the GEAR strategy, a structured process of interaction within the Alliance partners and most important I think the transformation of the state, government, those kinds of things. I think the atmosphere will tend to be a bit more relaxed.

POM     Do you think that in all fairness and with respect to the dignity and the stature of President Mandela that he was such an overpowering figure that on occasion he inhibited debate of questions that should have been more openly discussed? People would look to see what does President Mandela think before they would voice their own opinion?

ML     I would say that it was generally a bit more difficult for some of the people to engage the President in terms of debate, not because he was dictatorial, I think because people revered him so much.

POM     It's difficult to take on an icon.

ML     It's not easy. He himself was very tolerant of discussions and debate and so on but that's not the only thing. You need people with the willpower to discuss and so on, so those of us who were familiar with the President, had spent more time with him in prison and so on and knew his style, knew that he would entertain discussion on issues but the other people who were not familiar with that I think very generally were very insecure in terms of debating issues with him.

     But the second level of the problem, I think, was also the problem, I've said this before, some of the people who have come from the army. You see if you are in the army it's very easy, you give orders and people must carry them out. I think also at the second level some of the comrades in the leadership had gotten used to the style of doing things, quite unconsciously, I don't think they realised that they continued to treat ordinary members who had come from civil society to work with them as if they were working with army personnel and this is not the way.

POM     So, used to handing down orders and the orders being executed and not questioned.

ML     I think also the 50th conference in a sense did sober up that kind of approach. It has become quite clear that we could not go on in this way, that we would have to be more tolerant of opinions of membership and do things more out of persuasion than out of compulsion. So I think that the movement is moving in this way. I think there will be a rough period ahead though, it will be quite difficult. Not only is the country in transition, the ANC itself is in transition and all the political organisations in this country are in transition. Quite often we tend to look at the ANC as -

POM     A monolith.

ML     As an invariable element, but it is itself variable. The new people coming into the ANC their orientation is different from the orientation of those of us who came into the ranks of the movement in an earlier period. The conditions under which the movement is now operating suddenly are conditions much easier than the conditions earlier on particularly that in the earlier period one came into the ranks of the movement without any expectation, without any salaries and things like that to talk about, the simple question of commitment and dedication to the cause. There were risks involved, people knew they could lose their families, everything they had ever worked for, that they could even lose their own lives. There were long prison spells, possibilities of exile, all kinds of difficulties. Today coming into the movement those dangers have moved out of the picture and some of the people who come into the ranks of the movement do so simply because of the opportunities of self-advancement that are available. So that is also a new situation, it's a new situation and it means the organisation has to find itself operating within that new context.

POM     Let me just switch, first of all I'd like to talk about GEAR but in the broad sense. We have the SACP and COSATU who got what amounted to a tongue-lashing from both President and Deputy President, either toe the line, this is the policy and President Mandela even said, "As long as I am President, over my dead body. GEAR is official policy." It seemed to me that this showed, for an organisation that was built on consultation, trying to develop consensus, that this was conspicuously (a) un-Mandela-like and (b) GEAR isn't working that well. Per capita income is going to drop this year, unemployment is going up, private investment from abroad is not coming in and one would think that one would say let's re-examine some of the assumptions and see do we need to adjust them in the light of a changing reality and in the light of the fact that we are competing in a global market? Yet it seems to me that the top leadership has kind of dug in and say we're not budging on this issue and we won't tolerate criticism of it, which seems very un-ANC-like.

ML     I think there has been a misunderstanding about that, there has been a misunderstanding of the position of the movement on this question. We have never adopted the attitude, certainly relative to our Alliance, that Congress may not be criticised by the Alliance because on any issue that comes up we have always accepted that there would be more views than just one. But there is a long established tradition or convention of how to deal with different points of view on the matter and that simple process has been that differences must be thrashed out within the structures of the movement and in consultations with the Alliance.

     The approach has always been that the alliance structures must work to strengthen the African National Congress as well as themselves within the Alliance. Why we have insisted all the time that where differences arise they must be dealt with within the ranks, within the structures of the movement, is because we have always felt that public criticism of one or the other by the ANC or by the Alliance criticising the ANC, public criticism of the nature such as what COSATU in particular has been up to undermines the strength of the ANC in the eyes of potential recruits to the movement and in the eyes of potential supporters. And yet for the first time now the current populist leadership of COSATU, or leadership of COSATU, has acted like just opportunist, determined to go and stand on the street corners and then attack and criticise the movement. There's nothing wrong with the content of the criticism as such, it's the style in which that criticism is handled and so the bone of contention has been around this issue, that there has not been respect for the public image of the ANC on the part of the allies. We haven't on the same day, we restrained ourselves, we didn't go to the public and go and attack them and criticise them for whatever mistakes they have done. We have respected that. But it was bound to happen that at some point as long as this kind of tendency was persisting that we would have to go and state quite clearly that this is what our position is.

     What I think we tried to do at the Congress of COSATU and that of the party was to say to the party and its delegations at that conference that we would not tolerate that, that we could not be treated by anyone of the Alliance as if we were a tool just to be pulled around and so on. There had to be consultation and there had to be agreement on the issues and therefore if in the view of the Alliance the differences have reached that point, or they were not willing to respect that, we would not ourselves respect the convention that had been established if they didn't respect it. And so I think we went to their conference to state this point quite clearly.

     We have taken a certain position on GEAR and GEAR is a tactic of how to deal with the current economic problems in the country and they are quite welcome to raise their own criticism of that but we had said to them, give us an acceptable alternative, what is your acceptable alternative, let's examine it. It's not enough just to criticise what is an initiative without presenting an alternative. You are part of the Alliance, if you think that this line that we are taking on this tactic is not the right one what is your alternative proposal? I think that was a natural consequence in the face of the behaviour that we had observed from COSATU and some of the leadership of the Communist Party. I think there is general acceptance even on the part of the SACP that we continue to need the Alliance so we will not rule out, we are not ruling out the question of consultations which is what we are preparing for the Alliance Summit in the near future. We are preparing that so as to compel discussions, more and further discussions on these questions.

POM     Is it accepted that - the constitution provides for a multi-party democracy, parties like the National Party, the Democratic Party, they're not really opposition parties in a parliamentary sense, they're more sometimes of an obstruction to things getting done than constructive opponents, that you are your own opposition, that if opposition comes to some of your policies it must come from within the Alliance and the Alliance partners must hammer things out but they are the ones who keep the spirit of democracy which is debate, consultation and reaching consensus?

ML     Yes.

POM     Jeremy Cronin had a quote, and I will give it to you, some weeks ago he said:-

     "You can actually smell authoritarian tendencies in the air in SA. 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. There are swings between demagoguery and managerialism that holds terrible perils for democracy."

     Do you find some truth in that?

ML     I think what Jeremy is articulating in that sense goes to the heart of what I was saying that the movement itself - we keep talking about transformation but what we don't say is, we don't seem to realise that the politics of this country, in fact the politics of southern Africa is itself undergoing transformation. It is in transition because once you change the power balance between the old regime and the liberation, or what was up until that time the liberation movement, and I mean a movement in a broad sense, once we changed power that way and you adopted a new constitution and you moved the liberation organisations to government and so on a lot of adjustment has to be done, new priorities emerge. So the situation we are faced with could go in any direction and I think that's what he's articulating there. It could go the route that Zimbabwe went, it could go the route that a number of other countries have seen before when they came to power. Depending on how we manage the differences that are brought up, the new contributions that are brought out by this change of the balance of power within and amongst political formations, that situation is real that things could go this way and the other.

     I think one of the things that the party is particularly concerned about, and Jeremy as I know him, is that there has tended to be, whilst we grapple with the problems of government, how do you deploy these resources, what do you prioritise in government expenditure and so on? You must manage, the principles of management of course must come in. He is concerned that we must not concentrate so much on management as to abandon the political principle, that the objectives must be pursued. So to keep a balance, to keep the balance between these things is not a very easy thing, what he calls managerialism, and yet you cannot run government without management of sorts, you must do so. You need that as well because resources are limited and the interests of the people of course are so wide.

     So in the tension that is there, I think there will be argument where some will feel, look we must stick to doctrine and where there is a clash between doctrine and managerial principles and so on maybe you must prioritise that. The civil service that we have inherited is a civil service cultivated in different conditions, cultivated to pursue different problems, not necessarily motivated by the principles, by the objectives, by the political orientation of the liberation movement as has come up, has been oriented on. So, yes, it's a very difficult situation and anything can happen. It can happen providing that the leadership is unable, if it is unable to manage it properly to stick to principle but at the same time to bring on board, select carefully what is necessary and which must be retained in running government and managing the resources of the nation. I think at some point we do get to irritate each other, where others feel that those who are in government are over-emphasising management over political theory. Political theory tends to be very much idealistic and so on.

POM     You can't run a country on political theory. You can't eat political theory.

ML     Yes, that's another problem. So that tension is there and it's a tension between ideal and reality. The two don't always mix.

POM     I want to talk for a moment about Deputy President Mbeki's speech, his 'Two Nations' speech, where he said that there had been a collapse of moral values in the country, where there was need for a Moral Summit. Do you believe there has been a collapse of moral values in the country?

ML     Well look, we do think that the impact of many years of apartheid rule certainly smashed the humanity of large sections of the population.

POM     That's black and white.

ML     Indeed yes. If you look at the revelations at the Truth & Reconciliation Commission you can see that whilst in the main blacks were victims of the system in the sense of being underdogs, but that the impact of what was going on chewed up also the morality of white South Africa. When human beings abuse other human beings I think they lose their own sense of -

POM     Humanity.

ML     They too are brutalised. The torturer is as brutalised as the tortured and if you see how the people were burning corpses of other human beings and doing that you can't come out of there unscathed and you see from those things. So you see now in the streets of the townships, of the cities, the hijackings, the disregard for human life, anybody can shoot you dead just now for your own car, for no reason, they can just kill you and this has been happening. If you look you will see that a lot of these people they may have been nine, ten years old in 1976, little school children going to protest against Afrikaans and suddenly a schoolmate was shot dead, another one was shot and so on. At a very early age they saw human life dispensed of as if it was worth nothing. So their sense of value of human life was eroded too early and some of those are in the streets of this nation, traumatised in that way. When they get angry and all of that, all that they know is that anything that gets you angry, because that's what our society taught them, take the life. They know no better, they don't know any better.

     So in this sense indeed you can take the thing to higher levels where white SA was accumulating wealth, literally decorating itself with wealth in the sea of poverty and no concern for the black sections of the population. So if you look at this thing in this way it is like that. So now when we say, and I think that's what the Deputy President was trying to talk about, when we say to people let us make a commitment, let us redistribute the wealth to the nation and so on, those who have accumulated wealth over the years, who have no conscience, who have lost their concern for the black sections of the population, they can't understand why they should suddenly today, having been brought up in an atmosphere that said what is right is that they must alone have some wealth and everybody else to hell with them, suddenly when you say to them let us redistribute the wealth, let us bring the black sections into the mainstream of the economy of the country, they don't see this as the new morality that they should adopt that would help build a new nation, reconcile people together. They see this as a threat to themselves. They refuse to co-operate. They can't look at any piece of legislation you are making today as a positive scheme to correct what has gone wrong before. In fact as far as they are concerned what has gone on before was right and what you are now trying to do is to destroy what in their perception and in their learning and in their orientation, the only thing they've ever learnt to know is the right thing to do.

     It is in this sense I think that he's talking about - part of the dimension was to do this kind of thing, to orient people, to tease them not to see their counterparts, even if they may be black, as human beings that deserve as much as what they themselves deserve. So you see you need to create a new foundation, reorient people in such a way that we may begin to cultivate human beings, a morality that says I am concerned about my counterpart, I am concerned about my neighbour, I want to live together with everybody not just exclude them. I think that is what he's trying to say about it.

POM     He also said there was no real progress towards reconciliation.

ML     I am not so sure that I could - if one was to look among the positions, maybe political leadership, what the political leaders may be saying and doing but I think when you look at the broader SA society I think we are making progress there. There are men and women in the business sectors and so on who are really acting. If the more prominent - I think he is talking really about the leadership, what I just said, the top echelons of business, in politics and so on, the voices that really matter in the nation in the sense of the power accumulated over the years, but among ordinary South Africans I think we are making progress.

POM     The problem is with the elite, the white elite who still are hanging on to the old morality and the old values. I must say that when I talk to people, ordinary people, about the TRC, and I think I mentioned this to you before, I get absolutely no sense of apology or acknowledgement on the part of whites about what went on in the past even when the most ghastly events unfolded they will say, "Oh my God, if I knew that was going on of course I would have objected to it, it was horrible, but it had nothing to do with me", denial, denial at the most basic level. "I was not part of it, I was just an ordinary person, in fact I wasn't even for apartheid." It's hard to find somebody who was. Does the distancing of people from their own history, particularly whites, their own history of the past, no acceptance of their responsibility for being part of that history - it's impossible for a white person not to know what was going on if a black person was being arrested every three minutes for a violation of the pass laws, or ten people fell out the window of John Vorster Building on the 10th floor  because they slipped on a  bar of soap, you would think somebody would say, "I wonder what kind of soap they're using."

ML     That's the point about this, the moral fibre of society was destroyed by apartheid. Africans may well have fallen out of the 10th floor of John Vorster Square but that was just as good as a dog getting knocked by a car for white South Africans who were taught throughout the last forty years or so that black life was worth nothing. Even when they heard about that it was just one of those things, it was as good as reporting that a car had knocked a dog dead. So what? The orientation was not that these are human beings and to a very large extent I think that in the value scales of white South Africans, this generation of white South Africans that we are living in, for many of them it will take them a long, long time to come - in fact some of them will go to their grave, they will never come to see blacks as human beings. You still find today, for instance, in some of their communities, it's very common for children to come from school and say, "Well you know some of the children said that their father said Mandela may be a President but he still remains a kaffir." He may be President but he's still a kaffir, so what? So the damage has been so extensive that you will not bring people like that around to see that Mandela is a human being and by extension Africans are human beings. They may be free but they are still kaffirs. I think we must also come to terms with that.

     We must come to see that a new generation of South Africans born in these conditions, learning as early as now as it interfaces with other black children from early age, will come to understand differently. To really think that this generation that we have come across with will simply turn around and change like that I think we may be expecting more than By our freedom we have begun to create conditions in the country which will create a new consciousness, children will interface with each other, they will play rugby together, they will sing songs to Mandela together and so on. Their whole life's conditions will send a message that says we are all human beings and those will be different. I have said before that a whole lot of us are in certain ways, the majority of us, our generation, the generation that inherited this, the opportunities for us to learn to know each other and to come to accept that we are all human beings passed us by. It's a sad thing. Those opportunities have passed us by. Now we have, of course, fortunately created these conditions in which we will bring others up in those conditions that they can understand things that we never were privileged to understand.

POM     A couple of other things I would like to ask you, I know how pressed you are for time, as always, always pressed, always pressed. One is about Richmond and what's going on there and I was struck, you gave this magnificent speech to the Haitian delegation when they were here that was very, very touching and very moving. In fact what I would like to do, if you don't mind, is that I'd like to edit it and publish it. Is that OK?

ML     OK, that will be fine. You will send me a copy?

POM     Yes, I will send it to you. One of the things you said there was that peace was the most important thing of all and that people had to get together and talk peace, there was no other way about it. Yet you have a situation in Richmond where the leadership of the ANC, including the President, has said that under no circumstances are we going to talk to the UDM. Now it would seem to me two things, number one, the UDM and the ANC are both part of the problem. That's one. Two, the UDM is a credible political party insofar as it's already got 5% or 6% in the polls, and three, that not to talk to it on the basis that it would only enhance its political stature is a strange statement from a party that is at the same time trying to create a viable multi-party democracy.

ML     Let me say this with regard to that, there is no question about it, there is no question about the fact that peace and only peace can be the foundation of real development for the future not only for this nation but for all nations. I think the Richmond situation must be understood for what it is. In 1961 the ANC in the face of government banning, opposition formations, the ANC in 1961 adopted the armed struggle and declared itself as at war with the old regime and went ahead in keeping with that decision to train people and to infiltrate them into the country. So there was a declared state of war between the regime at that time, because there was no democracy, and the liberation forces. In 1990 ultimately, thirty years after, the regime then said OK, let us rather than go on fighting, and we took up arms in order to use that as pressure on the regime to negotiate. So in the context of that up until 1990 and perhaps even beyond that we engaged in armed activity against the regime and its allies of course arrayed with it, therefore there was a dividing line between ourselves as a liberation formation and the regime and its allies. There was a state of war. When the regime called for peace talks it made sense because there was a declared state of war between the two. Out of those discussions agreement was reached to establish an open democracy so that every party could contest elections, win elections and get to power, rule on the mandate of the population.

     So in 1994 we have the elections and any party and every party could therefore go into that election and prove its support, win or lose. What peace talks continued beyond that, originally for instance between ourselves and Inkatha, was not violence that had started after. It was like a hang-over of the period that had come over, flowed into this way. But after 1994, after the elections in 1994 essentially, no-one, no political formation black or white or anything could possibly have a reason to say it will use armed actions to advance its cause. The UDM was not of course in existence. We went to the elections, Sifiso and his supporters also participated in that election. They lost in a free and fair process. They lost in Richmond. What then followed was the killing of those people who had won the elections, a free and fair election, killed by Nkabinde and his - well let me not say Nkabinde but at least the perception has always been that it was Nkabinde's cohorts or whoever that were involved in this process. We have said that there is no basis, what is it that we have to discuss? The problem there that you are faced with is a problem of people who have illegal weapons using them to kill innocent people, people who are failing through established and open democratic processes to prove their support to win the elections now going out to kill innocent people.

POM     But the UDM would have a different perspective. They would say that it's the ANC who are trying to kill members of the UDM to prevent it from becoming a force. I am talking in the context of what you say, you say in the end all antagonists must get together and must talk not in the interests of themselves but in the interests of saving the lives of people.

ML     We are not at war with the UDM, we have never declared ourselves at war against anybody. If there are members of the ANC who are killing people there they must be arrested. It's criminal elements. Even if they are in the ranks of the ANC we have not given any of our members reason to believe that they may collect weapons, can go and kill other people. They too must be locked up. So the issue really here is that the safety and security forces of this country must arrest those people who want to pursue their political objectives by violence when there's open democracy before us. In any event why should we want to kill people of UDM when we have actually defeated them in an open local government election there? Why do we need to kill them?

POM     Do you think that Bantu Holomisa wants to pursue his political objectives through violence?

ML     I think, actually we think that the violence that is going on in Richmond is a localised thing. It is going to end there and that violence is there precisely for the reason that Sifiso and that group that had been busy with this violence even before they went into the UDM, it is that group that is there that is doing that and all that is required is for the police in that locality of Richmond to find the people with the weapons, arrest and lock them up. We had Sifiso and these people, the killings were going on when they were outside, once Sifiso was arrested with a number of his people that violence stopped. When Sifiso again was released from jail and came back the violence started again. In any case when he was released they actually walked around in daylight armed with illegal weapons of the calibre of AK47s, weapons which you cannot even use for security, aggressive, offensive weapons. So the issue of Richmond doesn't require peace talks, it requires security forces, services action. Security services must arrest the criminals I say whether it is members of the ANC or whoever, no-one today has reason to use force or violence to achieve their goals.

     We have not given any of our members reason to go and take up weapons and kill other people and if therefore there are some of them who are doing that they have got to be locked up, all of them, the whole lot, and we are not going to negotiate with criminals. Really we can't because what is it we discuss with criminals? If Sifiso Nkabinde was saying that UDM had declared armed action against the ANC for this reason, that reason and so on we would then go to the talks and say, look what is it that you would like us to do? But everybody is witness, we have given the country a constitution. When the elections were run there after Sifiso was expelled and so on they were allowed to campaign. They campaigned and they lost. The people of Richmond went to vote and they voted. Now they have killed their mayors, they have killed their councillors, they have killed all the people that were elected there. What is it that we've got to discuss with them? We're not talking anything with them. We must lock them up. That's all because it's not as if to say we think the constitution must be amended here and the constitution must be amended there. And even if they wanted to raise that they didn't have to kill people. If they wanted to raise that they could raise that and say we think the constitution should be amended. The elections are coming next year, they must stand for the elections and win or lose. But we will not talk with criminals. We cannot hold peace talks with any criminal that's killing people.

POM     Just talking about the constitution. It's now the stated aim of the ANC that it will strive to get more than two thirds of the vote which will allow it to amend the constitution.

ML     This is not correct. It is correct that we have said that we would be happy to get an overwhelming majority, even if it's beyond two thirds. We would like to have that. But we have said quite clearly - not in order to amend the constitution. There is no way the ANC is going to move away from the principles. (Tape switched off)

ML     I was saying that we have said quite clearly we don't need the majority to change the constitution. We aren't going to move away from this constitution. There is no way that it's going to happen. But we do need to speed up the transformation. We need to be able to deal with the question of the transformation of the security forces. We need to do something about changing these institutions, restructuring these institutions like the Reserve Bank, the security forces, the public service. That is what we need to deal with and at the moment we don't think we have sufficient - a majority like that would enable us to change some of these things. We are paying huge amounts of money right now by way of pensions from apartheid and so on to these old criminals and so on. We are paying the legal fees of people who are refusing to tell the nation the truth. We are paying PW Botha, right now we pay him for his legal fees, money that we need for the education of the children.

POM     Is part of Thabo's message in that speech which we call the 'Two Nations' speech,  that listen you whites, for the last four years we've treated you with kid gloves, you enjoy all the privileges you enjoyed before. You are not participating in transformation in any meaningful way. You are not mindful of the injustice and disrespect which you heaped upon black people and I want to tell you that under my presidency things are going to change, you're not going to have it so easy so get used to the notion that things are going to change?

ML     But we can only do the kind of things we want to change, the key is democracy. We must be given the mandate by the people. So if we can get two thirds or more mandate to say please restructure things, deal with that, but if we can't then we can't do it. That's what we need to correct. This constitution, the principles set out in the constitution are the principles for which we have fought for decades set out in the Freedom Charter of the ANC, equality for everybody, the right to property ownership and all of that. We are not going to change from those things. We don't need to change from that but we do need to affect the public service and we do need some pieces of legislation that we should be able to pass which will enable us to correct some of these things. We want land redistribution, redistribution of the land. Our people have nothing because land was taken from Africans by the 1913 Land Act, the 1936 Land and Trust Acts and all of that. The impact of those laws has left Africans where they are, the majority of black South Africans today have nothing.

POM     Nothing much has changed up to now.

ML     It hasn't changed.

POM     Three years ago when President Mandela was opening parliament he talked about the need for a new patriotism and one thing struck me and that is when South Korea went under people queued up to hand in their personal jewellery and whatever little possessions they had to help the country get back on its feet. But here there isn't any sense of national cohesiveness, there's no sense of 'we're all in it together, for this generation we will have to make one more sacrifice so that our children will be the beneficiaries'. It's like 'I'm all right Jack, if I get my pay raise or if I've got to hit the streets or do whatever to get what I want I will do it, I don't care about what happens to the rest of my countrymen, I want my piece of the cake now.'  One, would you agree that there is this lack of social cohesiveness, of everybody feeling that there're in this thing together? Why is that message not being able to be conveyed?

ML     This is a point that I was trying to make when I was talking about this idea of a morality that's been destroyed, because you can see, the point I was trying to make, that all of us have been crippled by this, that we have never belonged together and to begin to develop that, to move things in that way it's going to take time. In the black communities we try to persuade them to accept that whatever atrocities were committed, forgive and forget that. But I am not so sure  - we haven't seen a reciprocal response from the other side. You see when we're talking about this lack of the new morality or this destroyed morality that the President was talking about, the impact, the destruction that apartheid brought of South Africa's morality, in the white community people were just concerned with what they have and can have for themselves. So on the one hand, as I was saying, others were concerned with just themselves, they had things for themselves and they must just stay like that. No reaching out. On the other hand the others out of the desperation of years and all of that, feeling that well now we should be entitled to have this and to grab and do that. So the net effect is to see what you see on the streets of some of the cities, the people taking other's cars, and the others clinging to them desperately for themselves.

POM     If you were so successful during the struggle, being able to mobilise masses of people to come out and take risks to make themselves free, why can't you now mobilise the same people behind the spirit of transformation? It is going to take time, it's not going to happen overnight, you must give us the mandate to do it, you must be behind us all the way rather than, which I find at least in many townships, I find people are disillusioned, not disillusioned in the sense that they are anti-ANC, it's just kind of they don't expect things to happen.

ML     Well one of the problems that has happened is not very many people realise that before we came to government we had all the time to address ourselves consistently to our constituents. Since freedom came our responsibilities have increased. Part of our time we must spend talking to our constituency. A large chunk of our time, especially in this term, we have had to spend grappling with the problems of government. It is not easy to deal with that situation, to make sure that you keep your constituents on course, abreast of what you are doing and talking to them and at the same time our responsibilities essentially increased when we came to government. But let us see what happens in this election campaign because part of this election campaign is going to be the test whether we are able to persuade our people to see that the route we are taking and the steps that we are taking are in their interests or not. I think part of what this election will prove is whether we are going to be able to persuade people to see the kind of things that we are talking about that I am saying we need to get people to understand that you are asking whether why can't we make them understand that. I think part of this election campaign is going to show whether we are able to do that or not and perhaps we need to give ourselves time to look at that between now and when the elections take place.

POM     Two last questions, please, that's all. One is on corruption. Even in the last six months you have President Mandela talking for the first time about corruption among members of the ANC, that some of the people who were engaged in the struggle are now dipping their hands in the pot and if you look at most provinces you will see there are fairly significant corruption problems. They're being exposed but the corruption is there. Is corruption, apart from apartheid era corruption, becoming a problem among a portion of your own membership that must be addressed and rooted out or else you will be accused of going the way of the rest of Africa, everybody puts their hands in the till?

ML     I think that observation by the President reflects the extent of the seriousness of that problem and it has to do with the point that I was making earlier that among other things, first of all with us moving to government new problems have emerged and this is one of those new problems because now we are in power we have had to deal now with the resources of the country in our own hands and it's a testing thing. In some cases there has been simple inability to manage things, resources of government, but there has been a fair indication of the weakness of corruption where members or people placed in certain positions of trust have abused the resources of the country. On the one hand that has been so. On the other we inherited with this civil service very many people who knew nothing but just that from the old order. So there has been part of it coming from the civil service we inherited that has already been involved in these kinds of things. But there have also been our members drawn into that, becoming part of this. And then thirdly there has been, of course, the problem that we have had with the unbanning of the ANC, we have had the movement flooded with many people many of whom were not schooled in the theories, in the thinking in the Congress political thought, many of whom saw for themselves opportunities to enrich themselves, so that this problem is a serious problem. It is indeed a serious problem and depending on whether the movement will act decisively on it or not, if we don't act decisively on it and combat it on a regular basis I think we may be overwhelmed.

POM     Last question, as you approach the election next year what in your view is the single biggest problem facing the country?

ML     First of all I think we do need to talk to the voters. We do need critically to make sure that substantial numbers of voters understand what we have been doing since we came to government, that they see that we need continuation of that process and give us a mandate on that basis. This is the first point, I think we need to be able to get that done. Secondly, perhaps even more important, we have got to draw the voters in line with us to understand that although we won the basic victory in 1994, the SA that we are working for is still some time before we arrive at it, to accept that and to understand therefore that the need to sacrifice, to deny ourselves, did not end with 1994, that we continue to need dedication and commitment and sacrifices even as we move into the future.

     From the point of view of government we need to really create a new culture in government. The old order people lived to plunder state coffers. They just did this. Now I think SA's political leadership in government and so on needs to create for themselves, driven by the morality of the liberation movement, they need to create for themselves standards which will clearly show and serve the interests of the broader masses. We can't continue to hope that we can get for ourselves the same salaries and pension schemes of the size of what the people of the old order got for themselves and then think that we can at the same time prioritise the interests of the people of this country. I think SA's leadership needs this, really needs to look at that.

     Then of course there are many problems, unemployment. The levels of unemployment at the moment are just alarming and in some ways even if you are going to deal with this problem of the currency and so on, it's the unemployment problem. It is the unemployment problem that I think will either make or break us because when people are not employed they can't buy and if they are not employed they cannot buy because they don't earn salaries and so on and when people can't buy business must continue to close. Businesses will close down because they can't produce if there is no market to sell to. So these problems and the problem of unemployment could even mean recession for us, even really mean recession.

POM     This is where I come back to that even last week you had the National Coalition of NGOs issuing their report on poverty and stating quite clearly that GEAR was contributing towards the creation of unemployment rather than creating employment. Do you not think that is something that government must take seriously and debate and see whether that is true and if it's true what it must do about it, what assumptions it must re-examine?

ML     I have had this argument on GEAR against unemployment, frankly I don't think that is a proper foundation for that, I think it's just nonsensical. You must come to see evidently that the creation of employment is actually largely a function of the private sector. Government doesn't open businesses and things like that and I don't understand what is the basis for that. Government is there to provide services to communities. Government is not an employment agency and this theory like this - because GEAR is about what do you prioritise, GEAR is about where are you spending state resources. Clearly and admittedly our thinking has been that GEAR as a strategy should contribute to job creation, not that it is a function of job creation that should be carried out by the government but we can encourage the trend. But I don't accept that, really I don't.

POM     We're done. Thank you as always.

ML     My privilege.

POM     Take care of yourself, OK.

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.