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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
26 Jul 1998: Dommisse, Ebbe
POM We had begun our conversation by Mr Dommisse posing the question as to whether the crucial election is the one coming up in 1999 or the one coming up in the year 2004. I hate to use the word two thousand, it makes one feel suddenly old or irrelevant or whatever. Why do you think there might be a difference between the two?
ED If you judge by other African countries the first uhuru election normally makes the governing party stronger, it's happened all over, and they increase their share of the vote and then many times it moves on to either a one-party state or a one-party dominant state.
POM Well you already have reached the point of being a one-party dominant state.
ED So it might get worse.
POM It's the stated aim of the ANC that they want to get more than two thirds of the vote. At the same time everybody in the ANC swears to me that it has nothing to do with ever wanting to change the constitution. What do you feel?
ED Of course they will change the constitution.
POM How do you think they will change it?
EL Well there are many ways they can change it. I think one of the most obvious is to move to the system of a life president. The second one is to make parliament the supreme power instead of the constitution.
POM They would be moving to a British system?
EL Yes, and not have the Regsstaat which everyone was in favour of at one stage, the judicial state. That's a Dutch term, it comes from Roman Dutch law, Regsstaat, don't you know it? It was all over the constitutional negotiations, "We want a Regsstaat", the judicial state where the supreme power rests in the constitution, a constitutional state maybe. There are moves already that power should rest in parliament and if you have a two thirds majority of course then you can change the constitution. So I have come to be very suspicious about promises by politicians. They forget them once they have the power.
POM Well that's been forgotten in many ways. I remember talking with you years ago, you saying that unless there was power sharing written into the constitution that your newspaper would never support De Klerk's reforms, or whatever you want to call them, and I was interviewing him last Friday and he denies he ever promised anything like minority veto, that there ought to be -
ED He supported power sharing all right.
POM Which in a way is a minority - like they are working out in Northern Ireland, you've got to have consensus, in fact duality of consensus and its consociationalism.
ED Which is prominent in all deeply divided societies. In the end he settled for a Westminster type of government where the governing party has all the power.
POM He's just finished his book that's coming out in October, called The Last Trek, how do you think he will be remembered by history?
ED By history? That's difficult to judge. All I can say at this moment is that he is, what shall one call it, the admiration and respect that he had has mostly vanished. He is not highly regarded any more, not by his friends or his enemies.
ED Well he is seen by Mandela especially as not trustworthy and shifty, as somebody who had to play a bigger role in the new South Africa than he did, walked out of the government of national unity and all that. He is seen by Afrikaners as somebody who had sold them out and who in the end even betrayed his wife. That's it.
POM So what could he have gotten for Afrikaners that he didn't get?
ED Well I suppose there are quite a few things that you could look at. Number one, a proper federal system which we don't have, with devolved powers. Number two, the crucial language question which was bungled completely. Number three, I think what is causing the most damage is the Truth Commission in which he was so weak that it is beyond description.
POM When you say he was so weak, you mean in what sense?
ED Well should there have been a Truth Commission anyway, which many people now doubt. If you look at the surveys there's a very strong majority of opinion among all groups that the TRC is not improving race relations or reconciliation. That's a given now. Secondly, De Klerk had the chance of a general amnesty very early on in the negotiations and that was bungled in the most incomprehensible way by him and Kobie Coetsee. Now the people who protected the law abiding citizens, security forces and the armed forces, they are being hounded out by the TRC while De Klerk himself gave amnesty to something like 20,000 odd ANC cadres. That happened before the TRC. It's a sorry tale.
POM Has that been documented?
POM So he gave amnesty to 20,000 MK cadres and then negotiated - ?
ED Did not negotiate.
POM Or did not negotiate or agreed to a Truth Commission that would involve the processes that are now in place?
POM Just on that, let me ask you, do you follow the TRC now or do you not bother to?
ED We report fully on everything that happens.
POM Have you been horrified by some of the revelations of how elements of the security forces behaved?
ED Yes, confirmed my worst suspicions.
POM Does that not in itself mean something?
ED It does. As long as the atrocities of both sides come out in the open that's fine. There was a virtual civil war in KwaZulu/Natal between the ANC and Inkatha that is not being properly investigated, if at all. There were atrocities in the penal camps of the ANC that are not being investigated.
POM That's the Quatro camps?
ED Yes. The baffling granting of general amnesty to 37 top ANC people including Deputy President Mbeki, never explained what they had done, what did they get amnesty for.
POM That's now before the courts.
ED No, no, the court threw it out. The judgement was that it was illegal the way amnesty was granted to them. It was thrown back to the TRC.
POM Well Mbeki and the 37 have never gone before the TRC since and 'confessed' as to what sins they committed or plotted or whatever.
ED No, they all have wings, they are all angels who fought a just war. No question of there being unjust methods in the war. It was ordained by God that they should have this wonderful liberation struggle. I can't believe nonsense like that.
POM Just switching, what did you make of all the hoopla surrounding President Mandela's 80th birthday?
ED What did I make of it?
POM Not you but your community, your readers, your community.
ED Well I had an invitation to go there and I asked my secretary please check on who is paying the air fare and the accommodation up there and then turn down the accommodation, just to make sure that they expected me to pay for this party and I'm not going to waste money like that. Then it was a typical Afro-American jubilee, shall we call it that? And this is part of the style.
ED Yes, Stevie Wonder and that lot.
POM Michael Jackson.
ED Michael Jackson, that complete fraud, child molester, so I thought it was disgusting and I was very glad I wasn't there.
POM When Mandela assumed office he went out of his way, or seemed to go out of his way, not to appear as an icon or to become a cult figure.
ED When he took office?
POM Yes. And that now four years later there is a Mandela cult that's more subtly managed than probably any personality cult in the world.
ED I would go along with that. It is a personality cult and of course, as I told you before if I recollect, he's not actually governing the country, he's on a symbolic level and drifting around and going to kids and old people and whatnot and coming in every now and then on foreign affairs, mostly with devastating effect. He's not really clued up about what is in the interests of the country and, like they all do and which I told Thabo Mbeki, they make the primary mistake of all liberation movements, they do not distinguish between the party and the state. He didn't like that but it's true. Of course it's true. There's no distinction between the party and the state and it was actually acknowledged by one of the bigger ideologues, Dullah Omar who told Rapport in an interview, "I do not distinguish between the ANC and the government." Dangerous thinking that, especially if the money flows the wrong way.
POM So do you see, in fact there was a quote from, of all people, and I have it here, from Jeremy Cronin who said, this is a quite recent quote from him in a speech he gave in May, 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 might 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."
ED That's very interesting coming from him. He should be in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat, shouldn't he? It's very telling coming from him. I would agree with that.
POM But you find it surprising that somebody of his calibre and position would actually say something like that? Do think that what seems to be this creeping split in the alliance which will expose itself after, certainly not before, the election - ?
ED Well it's exposing itself but whether it would come to fruition is another story. I doubt it, whether it will get worse before the election. There are just too many seats on the gravy train to be filled. After the election I think, and as the economy worsens as it does now, it's very interesting where it would go. It was very telling that both Mbeki and Mandela gave the communists a telling off at their congress a few weeks ago. The split is there to see, you can see it now. Clearly COSATU and the communists do not go along with GEAR, the macro-economic policy. They are the most active opponents of the policy, sitting in government. They are the opposition of the government's economic policy. None of the opposition parties opposed GEAR that strongly, maybe PAC a bit but they're not that important in this argument.
POM Yet the fact of the matter is that GEAR is a failure on about every level; as a macro-economic policy that was supposed to achieve certain objectives or create the framework for achieving certain objectives. It's stated on all counts where this year for the first time you have per capita income going to decline, where the inflow of foreign investment in terms of long term foreign investment, wealth creating capital, has become a trickle not a flow.
ED And mostly money that came here went to the Stock Exchange and so on.
POM But that's just to the Stock Exchange, it's short term, in and out.
ED Yes, there's no job creation, there are job losses.
POM 130,000 jobs were lost last year in the formal sector. When I talk to people in government they say, well, everybody criticises what we are doing but nobody has an alternative. If you were asked just as an observer to advise on what kind of macro-economic framework there ought to be what would you suggest?
ED I can't fault the policy of GEAR. I think it's the correct one. The trouble sits within government and it's their alliance with labour and with the communists that is the fundamental San Andreas Fault in this system; that you have a government who is ostensibly sitting in Nedlac as a kind of an arbiter or independent body between labour and the business sector, but they have labour in their stomach as an alliance partner of government and actually also, as I told you before, as their organising arm. COSATU's shop stewards are the organisers for the election. That is the dichotomy that is not being overcome by this government because of the old loyalties and all that that they always have and that is why the economy is not getting forward. They are introducing labour laws which are stifling the already very tight and very unfeasible labour system. That's what's happening over and over again. I talk to businessmen and you try to find one who is not trying to decrease his work force and put in electronic stuff and so on. Why? Because they do not want the unions on them to put their impossible demands. That's why. So it is a situation that reflects very badly on the ANC but it is the root cause of the problem.
POM When you go abroad and talk to people and talk about SA, among, say, potential investors, what is their perception of SA that precludes them from making long term investment here?
ED I think first of all the most important one is the perception of Africa, that reflects very badly. We are seen as an African country and when you say Africa it means Afro-pessimism. Will Africa ever get its act together? That's the first perception that you have. Secondly, people overseas simply can't believe that somebody like Mandela can be part of an alliance that includes communists and labour unions and somebody who goes to the congress of the Communist Party and dons a red shirt with a hammer and sickle and a red cap and all that. That's not part of the modern world, that's not modern thinking.
POM Then he berates them.
ED Yes, then he berates them. But what the people see on the TV screens is the red cap and the red shirt and that kind of image doesn't do him any good. People know about the beauty of the country, the wonderful climate, the minerals, nature, the wild life and all that, they know about that, but they are very sceptical whether this government will be able to do what is in the long term interests of this country. That's what I find. You find, of course you find the carpetbaggers who are out to make a quick buck, like the Russian Mafia I suppose and so on. There are lots of drugs and so on coming into this country. It's seen as an easy target, crack, mandrax, cocaine and so on. They are making money of course. In general the view of SA from abroad has become either very realistic or more pessimistic. I'm afraid that's what I find.
POM Realistic means what?
ED Realistic means that it's a country with structural problems, huge unemployment, worst of all the crime. Everybody talks about crime. How is the crime situation in your country? They know about the murders, they know about the rapes, the attacks, the robberies, the bank robberies and all that and they know about the government's incompetence to do anything about it.
POM I've been asking a lot of people about that this time round. Since the people in the government are not stupid people, most of them, at least ministers that I talk to are highly intelligent, and government departments produce great white papers, green papers and yellow papers and purple papers, and yet the criticism is that nothing from policy formulation translates into implementation on the ground. Do you agree with that?
ED Oh yes of course.
POM Why is that so?
ED I think arrogance has a lot to do with it. I think as a liberation movement they thought it's quite easy to govern a country, just putting your people in place and there you go. It was of course a completely false assumption. It's very difficult to govern a country like SA with such a diverse population and problems of poverty, unemployment and such an open economy as we have, not much value added either. Now they're learning the hard way and they've alienated the best qualified, I would say, there is still a brain drain going on among Afrikaners - well formerly it was English now it's Afrikaners as well who are leaving the country, the best qualified to build the country. There is no real sense of unity and of direction and of goals that must be reached. In countries like Korea and Japan and so on you found that they wanted to reach a growth rate of 6%, 8% per year and there would be a kind of unified approach, let's try to reach it and so on. The goals that were set here by GEAR are never really publicly discussed, they have just given up the ghost. There's another structural flaw; who is really in charge? Mandela? He's not in charge, he's floating around, very busily and all over the place, but he's an executive president. So he's handed it down to Mbeki who as far as I can ascertain is premier, he's Minister of Foreign Affairs and he's Secretary General of the ANC. Three tough jobs all in one person.
POM Does he juggle them well? Let me put it differently, how will a Mbeki presidency differ from a Mandela presidency?
ED He will not have the symbolic value and the prestige and charisma that Mandela has. That is for sure. He is a strategist and he's very good at getting his people in crucial positions but all the time there is the doubt of whether he's an Africanist or an African. He himself says he's an African, which is very important because the Africanist kind of philosophy which the PAC has is more of a disaster I think because of the globalisation and the internationalisation of SA.
POM So when he talks about an African renaissance, what do you understand?
ED Yes, I told him I don't like that term. I think that is just political bravura, isn't it? It's slogan politics. What he wants of course is, and whether the term of an African renaissance is justified is debatable because renaissance means rebirth doesn't it, OK, you can refer to Egypt and so on and maybe the Zimbabwe ruins, but whether there was a highly civilised occupation of Africa around here in the south before is rather debatable. So rebirth is not a proper term. If it means a taking off, a launching of a successful Africa with a new image that's probably what he means by it, that there should be successful economies, international prestige which is lacking now, but much more than that I don't think it's possible the way things are going now because such a renaissance should be led by SA and SA is falling over its own feet now, and the partners that we have, say look at Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Chiluba in Zambia, go further to the Congo and so on, African renaissance is not round the corner, so to speak. It's some way off.
POM So as to where you were when we began speaking nine years ago almost and your somewhat pessimism leading up to the election and then your jump in enthusiasm and excitement about this was going to be a new country and it has now degenerated back into -
ED Yes, I think the feeling after the election was very strong. OK, the Afrikaners, the first freedom fighters of Africa, they gave up power peacefully, we're now going to work together, we're going to build this country. I think that has vanished. I think severe mistakes were made.
ED Well, economically, the hold that the COSATU people and communists had on government proved stronger than we thought it would be. Secondly, the TRC was a huge mistake. It's embittered people, it increased polarisation in the country and also affirmative action, the way they are applying it is just another outburst of social engineering that caused great harm. Then lastly the inability of the government to control crime which might be the number one reason for the general Afro-pessimism that is directed towards SA.
POM Let's go back to that. Why, since the government again is not stupid and they know that internationally and nationally that crime and the fear which is probably even a bigger problem, the fear of crime rather than crime itself, why, number one, in the budget are not more resources developed to the Safety and Security ministry? Why is there no retraining of policemen going on? Why is there no bringing in of 'foreign consultants' who are experts in different forms of the collection of evidence? When I hear one story saying it takes 28 days to be able to identify a set of fingerprints, why aren't the government saying this image we must rid ourselves of, on this we must be seen to be taking decisive action, why can't they take decisive action?
ED You know viewing the World Cup in France I looked at the police there and I rather facetiously remarked to somebody, it seems to be all civilised countries have a barbarian police force, except us. It's the human rights culture that's so strong among our more liberal types here which basically come down to the criminal has more human rights than the victim. That's the syndrome that's prevalent in this country. Secondly, the Minister of Law & Order or whatever it is now, Police Services -
POM Sydney Mufamadi.
ED Mufamadi, yes, completely hopeless, incompetent, should be fired. He doesn't mean business. The poor old Commissioner of Police, old Fivaz, out of his depth. Policing this country is a tough job and you should be a tough guy to do it. You should not be scared to put people in jail, you should not be scared to instil respect for the law. Somehow this government is very weak on that. I don't understand it. Look at what happened with Mandela's birthday, it's remission for 9000 criminals, they can go. So what do they do? They go and murder people in the Karoo, terrible report which The Argus took over this afternoon from us about an old couple who were murdered on their farm. The whole community is in uproar, they may go and shoot these criminals at the courts as far as I can see. The government is actually - I don't think they apply their minds. We criticised them when Mandela let these 9000 go. We said, "You are feeding the perception that you are more friendly to the criminals than to the victims of crime." They don't seem to realise it. And, of course, it not only reflects on SA, on the society that we have here, it reflects outside, the general view of SA is one of the most violent and criminal countries in the world. So why don't they realise that? I don't know. It baffles me.
POM But you must talk to people about it all the time?
ED Well I don't have much contact with government. I told it to Mbeki, I spoke to him.
POM What was his explanation?
ED I was with him, I talked to him for 1½ hours about his concern about the marginalisation of Afrikaners and so on and I said to him that of course crime is a major concern but that does not only affect Afrikaners, that affects everyone. He had no more to say about that.
POM He didn't offer - if I asked you the question about, say, the release of the 9000 prisoners, do you think that has had a far greater impact in the Afrikaner and white community than it has had in the black community which suffers a far greater degree of crime but would shrug their shoulders and not create any uproar about it? The uproar has come from whites not from blacks.
ED Who will suffer worse.
ED You see most of those who were let out were of course black, a few coloureds. So I don't know. Do blacks think, well after all it's my own people, they might be a criminal and so on but good for Madiba, because as they came out I saw some TV pictures, they all said, "Thank you very much Mandela, Madiba, thank you, thank you." All I can say is if they let out thugs like, say, Terre'Blanche or Strydom or whatever, my reaction would be why don't they let them fry in hell? I wouldn't be glad if they were let out. I think they should be behind bars.
POM It's the Terre'Blanches and - ?
ED The big mouth, the politician. He belongs behind bars, so does Strydom, the White Wolf. These are not types that you want walking on the street. Lifelong sentence is the best they deserve, they deserve the gallows really. So are blacks glad when these people come out? I would doubt that. The people who I pity the most in this country are the black women who bear the brunt of the violence and the crime and are trying to bring up their children and so on. We live in a lawless society, stateless state.
POM The letters you get here to your newspaper, over the years has there been a change in tone of the kind of letter you receive?
ED Yes I think so. We still get the starry-eyed, the people who try to convince everyone that actually it could have been much worse, obviously. But the conscious decision before 1994 was, OK let's get rid of all this racist stuff, let's start building the country, as I said before, and we have to work together. Now that has more or less vanished. The people writing to the paper are much more critical of government, are saying that what do they have to privatise? They have to privatise their own security, it's no use asking the police to help. They have to privatise their education and they have to privatise their health care. All these are supposedly run by the state, security, education and health care, all three are in a mess. The government says it's the fault of the previous regime, it is the legacy of apartheid. One excuse after the other, while not actually doing something very visible about it. Even the clinics that they are boasting about, they're building clinics which are not being manned. There are no personnel to serve the people in many of these clinics. Hospital care is deteriorating, public health, and the worst of all is that the ministers and the other high bucks whenever they have an ingrown toenail they go to private practices, to private clinics and hospitals and so on. People see that of course. Education, very important for the future, is deteriorating except for some of the private schools. Education is in a mess. You know what the per capita spending on text books for SA is? It's fourteen rands.
POM And yet that accounts for the biggest -
ED 22% I think of the budget.
POM As I would understand it on the one hand you have this policy of retrenching teachers and on the other hand you have that the best teachers have left the system and that there is such a mal-distribution of teachers still in townships, you can have 80 or 90 children in a classroom without text books, without desks, without the basics, with a teacher who might walk in at 11 o'clock in the morning and be drunk and leave at two o'clock in the afternoon.
ED Yes, so obviously you have to move to equity in education. The juggling act was to preserve what is good in education and to try to pull up the other part. What's happening now is that everything is being dragged down and that is very dangerous for a developing country like SA which has to be competitive.
POM And you would say the same thing applies to health?
ED Health less so because the private practitioners are doing very well. Zuma might want to nationalise health care. That's another problem.
POM But there are clinics being built in places where there was never a clinic?
ED Yes that's true.
POM I go out to Alexandra now and they can point me to two or three clinics that are manned by doctors or nurses.
ED Did you go there? Did you go and look at what was happening there? What's happening is another thing. You find hawkers getting medicine free there and selling it outside and you get people, in the Eastern Free State for instance you get people from Lesotho coming for free health care, free treatment in these clinics. They're not citizens of this country. That's happening. And you will find clinics that are not being manned, there are no personnel to treat the ill people. That's also happening.
POM So given the fact that the people who are governing the country came in without any prior experience of government and that they're on a learning curve, are they moving up the learning curve? Are they slowly going to deal with, come to grips with these problems?
ED I find myself coming back all the time to a kind of instinctive feeling I had. When we met with Mbeki and Jacob Zuma and Aziz Pahad way back in 1989 these were not official talks, it was just contacts and so on trying to get things moving and at that meeting, it was in Britain, the south of Britain at that time, it was still illegal to speak to them.
POM In Bath was it?
ED Bath or somewhere, yes. We talked about a transition period of about ten years of joint government and I think it was the best, that was the best plan. For deeply divided societies a form of power sharing is really the best. I keep thinking that. I was in favour of De Klerk leaving government at the time because I thought the opposition was being eroded by being in government and the way they performed and the way they said they could not communicate their success in government outside, which I thought was a ridiculous argument anyway. But I thought the NP is going to pieces, that means the opposition is going to pieces and it's better that they should be out of government than in and then they did worse. So I changed my mind later on. I thought it would have been better if you stayed in, if you're this hopeless outside government it might have been better for you to stay in. But I still think if the ANC had given in to some form of power sharing when they negotiated the second constitution I think it would have been better for the country. The way they're going about now is by co-opting people, like they're trying to co-opt Buthelezi which might work or might not work. But if there were provisions in the constitution for, say, a Council of State outside the Cabinet where they could be joint decision making about really crucial things like defence or budget or foreign affairs and so on and you draw in the opposition into that and it would seem as if we can be unified about a minimum of really crucial decisions for a very deeply divided society, that would be best.
POM Just referring to a divided society, Mbeki made this speech on, I think, 4th June where he talked about the 'two nations' and he made points of (i) that the inequities that had existed before were greater now than they were when they took over.
ED That was a fast one.
POM True or false?
ED It's false. The inequities that got worse were between the poor blacks and the rich blacks, the gap widened because the elite of the ANC are in top posh jobs nowadays. They had grown richer while -
POM Yes, but you're talking about 40 million people, 40 million blacks and the elite of the ANC are -
ED And in commerce. You must watch these top jobs in black business and how they skirt around from one job to the other. This gap has widened within the upper class blacks and the underclass, the gap has widened. The people who are worst hit by the new SA are the Cape coloureds, they fell back most of all groups. So in that sense the gap has probably widened. The coloureds are in the worst position of all.
POM But between blacks and whites?
ED I think white incomes have come down and come down for a number of years. I do not agree with him that whites are better off compared to blacks. The main problem is -
POM You don't agree that whites are better off compared to - ?
ED Comparatively than blacks, of course they are, but I don't think the gap has widened. I think he made a mistake there. Coming back to the alliance that they have, what COSATU is producing all the time for the union members are better salaries, better working conditions and so on but they do not care a hoot about the unemployed, the jobless.
POM But then COSATU is in fact part of the black elite, so if you're a union member and you belong to a union it's very different than if you're a black worker who doesn't belong to a union.
ED Sure, the labour aristocracy, that's what they've become.
POM Let me just go through what he has said and see whether you agree or disagree with his statement. He said there has been no progress towards reconciliation.
ED I think there has been some but not enough. You see perception-wise the worst racists in this country thought that blacks couldn't govern. I think in that sense they do realise that a person like, there's huge respect for Mandela and there's respect for the intellect of people like Mbeki, less so for Kader Asmal who is very pompous, and even Trevor Manuel because he keeps his mouth shut, and that has improved. You won't find people easily saying blacks are incapable of governing. That has improved. Reconciliation, as I pointed out, has not been served by the TRC, the very opposite happened. I regard the TRC as just another blunder. Very sad. What else did he say?
POM He says that there are two nations as divided now as they ever were.
ED Yes. It's more than two nations. There's a coloured nation, there's an Indian nation which is getting very petrified, they remember East Africa, a white nation. Do you talk about a white nation? The difference between English and Afrikaners is still remarkable. Many nations in this country, not only two.
POM Three, that he said there was the emergence of a black elite using their positions, "the abuse of freedom in the name of entitlement".
ED Very true, frightfully true.
POM Who would you point to in that regard? Is Cyril Ramaphosa at the vanguard of black empowerment or is he at the vanguard of being a millionaire?
ED As far as I can tell Ramaphosa didn't actually steal but you find, you know the corruption scandals in Mpumalanga and in the Transkei and so on, there are many people that you could point to, that huckster called Nyati who stole money from Mpumalanga, that's the only word you can use. There are people like that for sure.
POM He was the consultant?
POM Who owed a huge sum of money which he has never paid back.
ED Well, and he claimed, he got just an incredible - about R20,000 a day for his consultancy.
POM Not bad!
ED Not bad, sure.
POM I could do with that.
ED It's theft.
POM OK, let me just go through it. He said there was a complete collapse of moral values and a need for what he calls a moral summit. Has there been a collapse of moral values?
ED In a way yes. It is also enhanced by the lack of law application, the collapse of the legal system and so on that I would add. There is no fear of the judicial system in this country any more.
POM When you say there's no fear, you mean?
ED People don't fear the law. They take the law into their own hands because the police are collapsing, the legal system itself is under severe pressure. There are not enough prosecutors. I think also by these outbursts against white judges they are undermining the legal system because there simply are not enough black attorneys and barristers to take over as judges. That's just the way it is. You can't put it right in a day.
POM So you would agree that moral values have deteriorated. He says, "We are a damaged people."
ED Who? The whole country? Well I suppose in a way we're all damaged some time or other but so was Germany and so was Japan. They were rather worse than we are at this stage. We had a lot going for us. The whole world wanted us to succeed, so that's no use saying we're a damaged people. It doesn't mean much. We're also blessed with many riches. This country has the best infrastructure in Africa, it has the human talent.
POM Why is Africa as a whole growing now at about 5% a year and SA supposedly the engine of Africa is growing at 1% a year?
ED Because we can't get our act together, that's why.
POM But of all people you're the most, in a way, not prepared, but the most - had the best chance of getting your act together quickly. It's taken other countries 20, 30 years to get their act together. Again I come back to is this just a learning curve or are there endemic structural problems that will take generations perhaps to overcome?
ED It's both. It is a learning curve, there is huge inexperience in government but there are structural problems as well. You know if you look at the unemployment which is feeding the crime situation, you have to have a very loosely structured liberal labour, what's the word, surrounding or place of operation or so on. I personally think there should be no minimum wage, you should allow small companies to pay people as much or as little as they like but get people to work, get the economy moving. Because of the inability of the government to cope with crime they will cope better if you have a fast moving economy because then there will be more people who are employed and once there are more people employed the economy grows, the income of the state is higher and they will be more able to afford a proper police force.
POM Statistics that came out which Mbeki quoted and which were, he was using the Report on Poverty, was that the income disparity between black and white is 11:1, Africans are at twenty times more risk of being murdered than whites, 95% of rape cases are against African women, 87% of management is white.
ED I wonder for what years those figures were. The real question of course is, is management effective or not whatever the colour? That's the real question. If the whites are better trained and so on at the moment, well why don't you use them, or should they leave their jobs?
POM That would be his last point, that whites enjoy all of the privileges they ever had, that whites are a privileged segment of society and that drastic measures have to be taken to eliminate the inequities which, as you said, can be done by two ways, by bringing standards up but if you can't bring standards up you must distribute. What other way is there to create equity?
ED And is there the largesse, the capacity, to distribute?
POM Well there's nothing to distribute, that's the problem.
ED Unless you bake a bigger cake.
POM But the steps that they have taken to build that bigger cake in terms of following this austere monetary and fiscal policy haven't paid off at all. For years now, I asked you last year, I go to Derek Keys every year because he's my kind of financial guru so I see him at least once a year to talk about the economy, and he laughs about GEAR and he laughs about the possibility of creating employment. He says it's not going to happen and in fact in a global economy, in every developed country, unemployment is increasing not decreasing. You've jobless growth, it's the phenomenon, and here trying to create jobs in the traditional way is not going to work.
ED The most obvious possibility is tourism which can create quite a number of jobs.
POM But not millions.
ED Not millions, but it would have spin-off effects, but the pre-condition is surely a complete clamp down on crime because that is also keeping the tourists away. So it's like a circle all the time. Where do you begin? I think the government is really stumped. I listened to Manuel the other day talking about the rand, there wasn't a single new idea, just reaffirming GEAR, saying that we want to keep inflation down, making promises about the independence of the Reserve Bank after appointing a minister, which is precluded by law, not allowed to appoint a minister as Governor of the Reserve Bank, it says so in the law. I think it was an illegal appointment.
POM So why isn't it being challenged then by the NP?
ED They are challenging it through Baqwa, the Public Protector. I think it should be challenged in the Constitutional Court because the law on the Reserve Bank says no minister or deputy minister should be appointed as Governor of the Reserve Bank. Secondly, he should have tested banking experience. To say Tito Mboweni, I don't know if he knows how to operate a savings account. He has no experience. Their defence is that he's actually not been appointed. He will spend a year with Stals to learn to do the job. I am afraid it takes generations to be a proper central banker. You have to grow up with it really.
POM So would you in a way agree, perhaps for different reasons, but would you agree with COSATU and the SACP that GEAR is not working and must be re-thought and re-examined in terms of both its assumptions and what it's supposed to achieve because it has simply not achieved what it is supposed to have achieved? In fact if anything it's had the opposite effect.
ED I would say obviously it's not working. I know what COSATU and the communists want, that's more social spending, a bigger role for the state and all. That's the complete opposite of what I want. I would say firstly it was a major mistake to put such fixed targets for GEAR and they were simply too high these targets. Secondly, I would say that I will come back to my point about the dichotomy between what the ANC wants and what COSATU and the communists want. That whole relationship has to be redefined. As a matter of fact there are now more than 80 communists in parliament. Why are they not a party on their own? They have almost the status of official opposition. The Nats are 82, something like that. The communists are almost there, they could be the official opposition. You know when Mandela told us way back after he was out, 1992 or something, we asked him about the communists and he said you have to realise that we had to fight the common enemy just like Russia did during the second world war and after the war, after the enemy was defeated, there was a natural parting of the ways. Where is the natural parting of the ways here? There's no sign of it. The communists are riding on the ANC like a jockey. They boast about increasing their numbers in parliament. They have extremely influential positions. There are now five communists in the cabinet, the latest one is the Minister of Labour. I don't think it's very good for our image to have this hold of the communists on the ANC. I think there should be a complete break between the ANC and the communists. That would put the country in a different perspective I think. If that took place I think it would also enhance, shall we say, reconciliation because then we have a proper democracy with a definite cleavage between parties, a definite choice. If you vote for the ANC now who do you vote for? For Mbeki? Or do you vote for Mufamadi or Radebe or Fraser-Moleketi or whatever? Also they've decided that COSATU will not have, last time round they had twenty members on the list, this time they have to compete with the others. That's important.
POM They had how many?
ED They had twenty.
POM The last time?
ED Yes, they had twenty on the list, people like Philip Dexter and Jay Naidoo and so on.
POM And this time they will have?
ED None. They have to go on their own. There won't be a separate allocation for COSATU, that's what they promised.
POM That would make a difference.
ED Let's hope.
POM Lastly I'll ask you about - this morning I spent with General Viljoen and one of his theories about crime was that the population had been over-revolutionised in a way, that some crime was not overtly political but was seen by some who engage in it as one way of achieving redistribution. His larger point was that he remains convinced in the long run, he's talking about maybe thirty years, that there will be self-determination for the Afrikaners, the principle of self-determination is provided for in the constitution and that the Afrikaners are not going to give up.
ED Well he has a few problems with that. I don't really believe in that. I think what does he mean by self-determination? Does it mean a separate state?
POM They gave proposals in to the government that involved the Northern Cape, relatively uninhabited, where Afrikaners would build and they wouldn't rely upon state support, there would be equal freedoms for anybody who wanted to go there but they would have a degree of autonomy but preceding that you would have cultural autonomy in terms of schools, language, that must be done in stages and in a non-violent and consensual way but he remains convinced that it will happen. Is this a pipe dream?
ED You see I think he's taking a wrong reading of history. He wants to be maybe like the Pennsylvania Dutch people with the hats.
POM The Amish.
ED The Amish, he's got something in mind like that I should think. He would never acknowledge it but that's his dream and he has the theory that it will be to the advantage of Afrikaners elsewhere that there would be a kind of Israel for them in the Northern Cape. I really think the world is moving in a different direction. I think that the nation/state itself is in danger of disappearing because of the electronic communications and so on and the way money can be moved and borders are being erased. What's happening lower down is, I think, stronger ethnic feelings and stronger bonds between ethnic groups and so on, like the Basques or the Catalans in Spain and so on.
POM So you've got two magnets and two opposite poles, you've globalisation and you've fragmentation at the same time and they are both tugging at each other.
ED Yes but they need not exclude each other and with modern communications - I see on our Internet we get maybe 1800 to 2000 hits a day from Afrikaners all over the world because we're in Afrikaans in the Internet. So that kind of bond will get stronger I think, language especially, and ethnic. But that does not preclude from being a citizen of the world. I regard myself as a citizen of the world although I am Afrikaans in the first instance and Viljoen has very little feeling for what is actually happening I think. He has this dream of the old Israelis, but look at the trouble they made for themselves. And then secondly, suppose a very militant black government says to Afrikaners elsewhere, like we did with the blacks, your place is not in SA, your place is in your homeland, go back there. It might cause a lot of difficulty. I think he's very naïve about this volkstaat and then of course what is also happening in SA is the divisions between coloureds and whites have virtually disappeared. One survey after the other finds that coloureds and whites, especially Afrikaans speaking coloureds and Afrikaners, have virtually the same world view, etc. Where they differed 15 years ago substantially, now their views are the same. And whatever Viljoen says he doesn't want coloureds in his state, he wants whites there and it's not going to work.
POM So looking to the future, are you optimistic?
ED No I'm not. In the longer term I think that people should become more rational, should really find out what the modern world is all about. But in the short term, well social engineering won't work, we all know it won't work but they have to try it it seems. For a generation or so this country is going to struggle to keep its head above water. After that we may have more benign and more worldly leaders who understand what must be done and do it. Not in the short term.
POM And the long run - was it John Maynard Keynes who said we're all dead? That takes care of that.
ED That's right.
POM Once again thanks ever so much for your time and your insights.
ED Well, for what it's worth.
POM I will probably visit you maybe one more time but I am going to start writing on 20th August this year, that's my set target of when I must put pen to paper.
ED That's a journalist's nightmare, when you have too much material.
POM Only 12,000 hours.
ED That's a lot.
POM It's frightening. I wake up in the middle of the night.
ED If you work on the computer where you can store stuff and pull it up and push it in wherever you like, that's a major difference between that and the typewriter, it's very handy.
... I said to him "You're not going to give General Viljoen his volkstaat are you?" and he just laughed. Of course he's not going to give him his volkstaat.
POM I suppose General Viljoen believes that in the end the spirit of the Afrikaner will reassert itself.
ED It might, on the other hand it might not. It depends on how things are handled. Mbeki is quite - he's quite smooth about the language question when I talk to him. I said to him, why don't you have four languages in parliament? Have English, Afrikaans, an Nguni language (that's a tricky one because it's either Zulu or Xhosa), and Sotho. The Nguni languages and Sotho are understood by 98% of the blacks, 98% will understand one of these languages. I said then you will have proper ... And they are moving towards that in parliament and if they do that, that would be a major bone of contention removed as far as Afrikaners concerns are concerned.
POM Language is really the issue.
ED It's very crucial, it's not the only one but it's crucial. You know this paper is growing all the time, we're putting up a bigger circulation growth of the whole bloody lot in this country. We're outstripping the English language papers year after year.
POM You have a higher circulation than The Star?
ED Not as high as The Star but about double that of The Cape Times and about 10,000 ahead of The Argus now.
POM Is that right?
ED Yes, it's not only because of that, I think we're a better newspaper.
POM Of course!