This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
29 Jul 1998: Naidoo, Jay
POM Minister, let me first of all just ask you about a quotation or a report I came across in something called The Southern African Review, a newsletter that's edited by Raymond Louw, I don't know whether you've ever seen it or not seen it, it's a four or five pager, but they had a little note that says : -
"The takeover role of SABC to give the present government the same powers as the old NP government despite an ANC policy developed before the 1994 elections that there would be a policy of an independent broadcasting authority."
Is there any such legislation pending?
JN No, I think Raymond Louw has an exaggerated sense of his own importance, that he comes to a conclusion before he's actually seen documents. So that report, I recollect it was in the press as well, it was in response to a policy process that we started and let me give you an idea of what the policy process is. In order to deal with a very comprehensive review of policy in broadcasting that has some important changes in it we started a consultation and it's a broad based consultation in which we first issued a green paper, which identified a number of key issues that have to be addressed, for example how do we look at the market structure of broadcasting as a whole, how do we look at the different levels of broadcasting, whether that's private broadcasting, commercial broadcasting, public broadcasting, community broadcasting. How do we ensure that broadcasting as one of the most important mediums for informing, empowering and communicating with people either us as government with people or between people and people or between institutions and institutions, reflects the diversity of our culture, of our languages, of the views that exist in society? So how do we develop the idea of a broadcasting system that is contributing to building the national identity in the country? And an important element of that was a movement towards liberalisation, competition. And this point I've made consistently in the past, that a government like in the past that is committed to suppressing any broadcaster or communication medium would not respect human rights, would have a closed society, if a journalist wrote something that was critical of them they would probably end up in jail, would operate a monopoly and in that way control people's access to information. And here we have a policy process that is increasing the number of entrants in the broadcasting sector. So in the last three years we have licensed 100 community stations. We've licensed in the last year 14 private commercial radio stations. We have just licensed a third television network. In the policy process we talk about licensing in regional subscription services, satellite services, community television. So the idea of us being able to control the SABC when people have the right of choice, they just turn to another station so it's a contradiction in terms what he's saying.
POM Is this licensing process done through the Independent Broadcasting Authority?
JN Of course it's done through the IBA. Let me just reiterate another point. It's done through the IBA, the councils of that authority are still chosen through a parliamentary process which is open, which is through public scrutiny, which is through public hearing. And so that process of election of the council still remains the same. Secondly, the IBA is still responsible for controlling the frequency spectrum, managing the spectrum, so three elements of independence of that authority is its election, it is still elected through an independent process of me as minister, it's done through parliament and public scrutiny. What are the powers of them? They license and they control the frequency spectrum. Thirdly, they do it under public scrutiny. So when we license the new television entrant it will have nothing to do with us, there are public hearings and every potential licensee has the chance to cross-question the ones that were in the public hearings. What we're doing now is ensuring that given the convergence of technologies, that broadcasting and telecommunications is merging into one. We are merging the regulator in broadcasting with the regulator in telecommunications. That is happening throughout the world. It's part of an international trend.
POM What are the problems with the IBA? I just picked up this afternoon some paper and it says: -
"The office of the Auditor General yesterday qualified its report on the IBA which hit financial problems once again with an over-expenditure of more than R6.5 million in the year to March 1997."
And then there was another item about that: the hiring of consultants to uncover fraud or to investigate fraud of R300,000 and they ended up by costing three million rands.
JN Well they're an independent authority. That's precisely the point we're making, is the changes in law are ensuring stricter financial accountability. The IBA as it was originally conceptualised was independent of anything, it's said to have had a line of accountability financially to the parliament. The parliament is not in a position to execute any management function over financial matters. The new amendments in the policy in the new broadcasting law is to bring it in line with all other statutory organisations in terms of financial management. So that report is about financial issues, precisely the reason why we're saying we need a rationalisation of these regulators, we need stricter financial management and it's got nothing to do with the policy process of licensing. There's a separation between the two. What Raymond Louw does is confuse two issues and I think he undermines the intelligence of the people that are on those councils or the people that put the people on those councils. I think part of it is he's a bit upset because he's applied to become a councillor on a number of occasions and has never been approved by the parliament.
POM I see. That might account for a slight degree of bias.
JN Precisely, and besides the Public Protector now has in terms of the new proposed legislation a statutory charter protecting its independence. So the statutory charter would be very much like the BBC charter that will protect its independence and ensure that in the reporting to parliament that parliament where all your political parties are ensures that the report reflects its independence. I think if you go on to the web now and look on our web site and look at the policy document, the white paper on broadcasting, you will see all of that on there. It's a public process. We had a stakeholders' committee made up of industry, of local content producers, the major institutions involved in broadcasting in this country. It was a broad-based committee that drafted the policy document. As a minister I wasn't really centrally involved. The first time I meet the stakeholders' committee is this Friday. In the meantime their interaction has been mainly with my department. So we've had a consultative process like no other country and the degree of safeguards built into that policy and into the new law that strengthens the independence of the SABC as a public broadcaster is enormous. I think there are enough provisions in there that will satisfy anyone who understands this area.
POM Yet one continually hears complains from government ministers or senior ANC officials that the white controlled media are portraying an inaccurate image of what's happening in the country and are undermining the process of transformation.
POM Do you think that's - ?
JN Again, don't converge the issues that are separate. There's the issue that Raymond Louw raises, is government committed to -
POM Yes, that's OK, leave that aside.
JN That side is very clear.
POM We've done that.
JN As government committed to maintaining the independence and integrity of the public broadcaster, and any other broadcaster there's the issue, of course, it's an issue not just affecting the media sector but affecting every sector of our economy and society, it's the issue of transformation and how do we regard transformation or perceive transformation or participate in transformation. We are four years into a democracy after 300 years of apartheid/colonialism. It would be naïve to believe that there would not be tensions in relation to how we empower the disempowered, the disenfranchised majority in the past, of how we transform our economies, of how we effect this transformation at an economic level. If you look at it right now you go into parliament and you see it reflects the demographics of our society at national, provincial and local level. Today's debate in parliament is a criticism, an interpolation, where the NP, which still represents largely white people, is attacking us for appointing Tito Mboweni and the undertones of that debate is that he's not qualified because he hasn't been a Reserve Bank - he hasn't got banking experience. Well how many black people would have banking experience in this country given the fact that we never participated in these issues? Does that exclude me from being a minister because I was never a minister in the past? Does it make me a bad minister? And he's got one year to serve understudying the Governor of the Reserve Bank, but he's being attacked for that.
POM But in what ways, in what specific ways does the 'white controlled media' undermine the process of transformation? President Mandela when he was addressing your recent congress said that the white dominated media was a force opposed to the ANC. Do you think so? What papers do you look at, what national newspapers - the Star, the Independent, the Citizen or whatever, do you think they are actively out to 'get you'?
JN Let me analyse the problem in a different way. What we lack in SA is a gift of journalism, so you will find it is very unusual to have a journalist in SA that will do the research you do before you come into an interview. So often it is a perception, either this government is corrupt, this government is ineffective, does not know what it is doing. A lot of it is blind with the perception that really this is a black government.
POM A lot of these journalists are black journalists.
JN No, but who controls the editorial policy? Who promotes a particular attitude and approach by a newspaper? We know of journalists, black journalists who come to us and complain and say, listen, we can't cover your good news stories because they are not interested in it, it doesn't sell newspapers, it doesn't make sexy headlines. We were sitting yesterday, a personal example, in Namibia, an international conference on dialogue, all heads of state in Southern Africa, many of the heads of state. Thabo Mbeki makes, I think, one of the most important speeches on the African renaissance in the sub-continent in recent history because he says in spite of the fact that we can sit here as heads of state and commit ourselves to dialogue how does the world perceive us? And he used the example of the citizens of Dead Man's Creek in Mississippi USA who have nothing else to do at night because there are no bingo bars, there are no bars, there are no cinemas, so they are at home at nine o'clock and they watch the nine o'clock news and what do they see? They see us as Africans talking about an African renewal, of an African renaissance. And what are we doing? And he gives an example. In Togo you have the current president who stole the presidency from the people who had elected another president, because when they were counting the ballot papers he detains the counters and announces that he is the winner. Or you have - he gave a range of examples but very forthright. You can get a copy of his speech from his office. So the SABC says well we want an interview, five minutes, and then comes back and says sorry, we've decided not to.
POM Who came back?
JN From the SABC and said they didn't think it was warranted. Now you try to understand, this is a public broadcaster, this is one of the most important speeches because we've got a war breaking out in Angola, not because there's really a conflict between UNITA and the MPLA, it's more about corruption and who controls the diamond field concessions than about the actual feelings or politics in the country. In Zimbabwe you've got a national strike because the head of state and the trade unions are not talking to each other, and here you have an important political speech where for the first time in this region a head of state, or a deputy president, can stand up and say this is what's wrong. Now for me that is one of the most important political speeches of this year. Now what is the perception of the media in this country or is this just another speech and Thabo being philosophical? And that's what I feel is that within the editorial rooms the people that do the -
POM Decide what's going to be covered or not.
JN What gets rewritten, are still very much part, not in a conspiratorial sense part of the old guard, except that they are. For example, if you look at the Afrikaans press here there are those people. If you look at Finance Week and so forth they are there, they are conspiratorial, they've just got this image that we are wrong and we are just a bunch of bloodthirsty black tyrants that just want to obliterate everything. But there is beyond that, which is not the serious problem, I don't think that's a serious problem, I think it's a perception problem that if you go into those editorial rooms there is such a depth of feeling of where people come from and what is their socialisation, what have been their experiences and what have been their attitudes. So you find people that are not genuinely racist but in things that they would say have a particular image of black people and it carries through into your newspapers and I have had that on a hundred different occasions that I can give you personal examples of, of where things that we say get deliberately distorted because of the particular socialisation of the journalists or the editors or, more importantly, because they represent a particular ideological point of view or because they are threatened by transformation. We are a transformative government.
POM Is it because they take what you say and rather than report what you say they interpret it in their own way?
JN Absolutely. And then you put that on a plateau of journalism that is not being investigative in this country, it has not been rigorously trained on how you report in a way that represents the facts of the matter and that you need to research, there's a juniorisation of the newsrooms because people are leaving because they are getting better jobs, they're not paid well enough so the good journalists are going into either government or the private sector. There's what we call microwave journalism that you see something in one newspaper and everyone else takes that and tries to create a different angle to it so that they can carry the sexy headline. So I think there is a genuine problem there.
OK, on the other hand, as government, we shoot ourselves in the foot because we don't communicate effectively enough. We've only now set up a centralised government communication information services. We've been too busy, we're too busy doing the work to be able to sit down and communicate like we should be communicating. And so I think that government itself is making mistakes, and I'm not saying that we don't make mistakes, we make some very serious mistakes and we don't know how to manage those mistakes, or we don't know how to manage the communication of that. So there's a problem in the IBA. My approach would be to say yes there is a problem, the Auditor General is right, that's why we are taking these steps, to strengthen financial management, that's why I'm having a merger so that we can bring increased accountability in the management of their finances. So I will go there and argue that point of view. I suppose into that milieu comes the reality that like all other parts of our economy the core strings are still held by people that are usually white, usually male, and have a particular attitude and view of life which we must accept. It will take us a generation, two generations to change that.
POM I want to switch almost completely and just throw a question at you and that is, how do you think history will remember and judge FW de Klerk?
JN I think very harshly because he made a fatal mistake in that he went half way and the harshest criticism of him would be to forget him, that he would be a footnote in the pages of history, because he has not been honest with the role that he has played. I think, again, his role has been largely exaggerated because in 1989 we had begun to make it impossible to govern this country in the old ways, so either they had to go increasingly towards repression and more assassinations and more murder of innocent people or they would have to reform and he chose the reform. I think while he did it out of an honest understanding of what they were doing was wrong he also, in the way he tried to manage that process, wanted to manage the outcome. But by 1989 already the valve had broken, irrespective of what he did that would have steamed. Now I think that in the way he managed it led to more bloodshed and the way he managed it caused difficulties for us. What's coming out in the Truth Commission now is going to reveal more and more of that, that he was not as innocent as he claimed to be. But history would recognise him as having made the contribution.
POM Two parts to what you say, most whites that I talk to, ordinary families or whatever, and it's almost impossible to find one now who was ever for apartheid, say that they had no knowledge whatsoever, that the security forces were behaving in this way, and had they known of course they would have cried out about the injustice of it all. To which I say, well how many times does a person have to slip on a bar of soap at John Vorster Square and slide out of the 10th floor window? Maybe after the tenth person you might enquire as to the brand of soap. Or if you were here in the sixties while the pass laws and influx control laws were in full operation, a black was arrested every three minutes, it was impossible not to see this physically happening in front of you. Yet even with the TRC there is a denial process, there is no sense - I get absolutely no sense of apology or shame or remorse on the part of most white people. It was a war or we were fighting communism and the ANC had been infiltrated by the SACP and was a communist front and all the usual excuses. Do you think it possible that the bulk of the people could have lived here, particularly in the sixties, seventies and eighties, and not known that torture, detentions, were going on? Do you think that they may have known it was going on but they facilitated their lives in such a way that they distanced themselves from it in a way that they could deny it? Or do you think that part of the design of apartheid where the townships exist outside of the main urban centres, and that a white person could literally live his life by never ever seeing how a black person lived, and that a lot or most of the violence went on in the townships so they simply didn't know about it because it was never reported and they never went to townships?
JN It's very hard to say that they didn't know about it. I mean you would have to be unbelievably blind not to have seen what was happening in this country despite the fact that we spoke about it and we met with them and we discussed with them. They didn't see what was happening through choice, not design, and so I am convinced - we accept it as being denial. I accept that you're not going to find anyone who accepts the fact that they participated or benefited from apartheid. I spoke at the TRC hearings on the role of business in apartheid, there was complete denial there as well that they gained from apartheid, so many of the employers came to the TRC and said in fact apartheid was bad for business. I even wrote a few articles about that. The fact of the matter is that they were direct beneficiaries of apartheid. In fact the real content of apartheid was the exploitation of black workers. The form it took was racial discrimination. So I am convinced that they are going to continue this denial and rather than focus on the current generation in fact begin to get an appreciation of the future generation to see what happened and the truth of what happened. And therefore my emphasis is on the education of the new generations that are coming. Our hope for this country is these new generations because I think you're going to find very few whites in this country who genuinely believe that they have made any mistakes or that they are complicit in any of the outrageous atrocities that were committed against the black majority.
POM So is that what the Deputy President is talking about - I think in his speech on June 4th before parliament, his Two Nations speech when he talked about, "There has been no progress towards reconciliation"?
JN Because reconciliation does involve an address of the inequalities in wealth and so if you speak to many whites in country, there are many whites who are very committed to this country and are making a genuine contribution but there are many who complain about transformation, whether it's about crime, whether it's about affirmative action, whether it is about the services that are being delivered, and all of this has to be seen in a particular context. We can't continue an economy which is still dominated by whites so it has to become representative so we have to introduce certain frameworks where there's policy legislative or regulatory that begins to do that if it is not being done voluntarily. I think what that causes is resistance and insecurity and what we've argued is that the impact of democracy for it to be stable we have to create stability by allowing participation of the whole society and if we try to maintain the control of this economy or resources in this country just in the hands of the same minority which may be now diluted by a sprinkling of black faces that's not contributing to stability. If we maintain two nations largely based on racial lines then in fact it is causing instability, it is the root cause of the crime that we have in this country.
POM Just talking about crime, abroad, if you talk to people about SA what pops into their heads, their immediate image is - oh my God there is so much crime over there! So to some extent it must act as an inhibitor of foreign investment. That's an assumption, maybe that's not true. But certainly it's one of the biggest, maybe after unemployment, problems that the country faces. One, has there been any thorough analysis done as to the cause of crime and the different forms of crime and the shifting patterns of crime and two, why is the SAPS seemingly out of its depth in dealing with the whole question?
JN Any country that has gone through the type of transformation and democratisation that we have gone through is going to experience heightened levels of conflict in that society, heightened levels of crime. The crime in this country doesn't even begin to compare with what you find in Russia, the levels at which those countries have been infiltrated by major syndicates in the Mafia, many South American countries or even increasingly some of the Asian countries.
POM Why is SA picked on?
JN Why is SA picked on? Precisely because of the perception and image being conveyed and that image is being conveyed largely by people in the media who have a particular attitude to crime. And crime, remember, the white part of SA has been very insulated from crime because they had an iron cordon around them. The crime we're seeing we all lived with in the townships, of gangsters, of people that mug, people that hijack and in fact that the police used gangsters is coming up in the TRC in many instances, protected them and used them to harass us. They were the first line of defence of apartheid. The police themselves were an instrument of repression so the whole culture of the police was based on coercion, on extortion of the truth through coercive means. So if you convict someone you're going to beat the daylights out of them, make them sign a confession. Very little investigative capacity, and because they were frontline of the police of the apartheid regime they were very corrupted by that. So what comes out is the police were used to set up front companies, to run gangsters, to assassinate people. They all worked for the police force and for the military intelligence. The police intelligence was identified at keeping a complete surveillance on all activists. It was the police who bombed Cosatu House and Khotso House. Eugene de Kock was a police officer. So, yes, to transform that instrument which had lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the population into something that's representative, something that understands investigative policing, something that has a relationship with the community and a credibility with the community, to remove the corrupt elements within there, is a major challenge that faces us. So, yes, that challenge is not going to be sorted out in four years irrespective of what top-notch management you bring in.
POM Why in terms of budget priorities, why isn't more - ?
JN Because it is not throwing money at a problem that is going to solve the problem. The police budget is one of the largest slices of the national budget. But let's take the issue: the police say they need more cars because they can't manage with the number of cars they have. We did an analysis. How many cars are there in the police force? Between 30,000 and 40,000 cars that exist in the police force of this country. How many police officers? About 100,000. How many shifts are there? Three shifts, so at any one point in time there are 30,000 police officers on duty. Why do you need 60,000 cars? So it's management of resources that is important, that we've got to institute in there, better management and that's why we've been bringing some people from business into there. A lot of these cars are not used for people to patrol and investigate but are sitting with senior management and they drive home and come to work in their cars. The question then is, putting a policeman in each corner is not going to solve crime and we don't have the resources for it anyway. What we've got to have is better management of existing resources, better training, more effective linkages between the police and the community and that's why we've set up these community policing forums which brings them together with the community because the community is the first line of defence against crime. Then we've got to target the big syndicates but because of the democracy that's opened up we've had more syndicates coming into the country. And how do we investigate the syndicates and act against them? Then lastly, it's how do we create a regional security structure, what we call the regional organ, because a lot of the arms coming into this country don't come from inside the country, they come from Angola, they come from the fact that the conflict has now ended in Mozambique. So it's not just a South African situation, it's a regional situation.
POM Is there any part of it that could be attributed to a culture that is inherently anti law and order, that during the apartheid years the youth were told to make the townships ungovernable and they did so and that's a learnt behaviour?
JN I don't think that is the major factor, not that it isn't a factor, it is a factor. It's not because kids were made ungovernable but there was a whole generation of kids, millions of kids, that were brutalised by apartheid. They had policemen in the schools beating the daylights out of them. They saw policemen breaking down the doors. They saw policemen taking away their mothers and fathers, raping their sisters. Sure that will brutalise you. It would brutalise me. So the psychological damage of apartheid is incalculable and it has never been quantified and that is one of the more horrific legacies of apartheid, the psychological damage of apartheid and it's not because the ANC said make the country ungovernable. It was ungovernable. Certainly we organised massed actions and some of those elements from our ranks did get involved in crime and when the political situation stabilised have got involved in criminal gangs, something we are trying to address. But the brutalisation wasn't because we called for the country to be ungovernable, the brutalisation was there before that because people lived under apartheid.
POM Has that brutalisation resulted in there being among sections of the community a contempt for human life?
JN In some sections of course, and especially when you had a police force that was seen as an instrument of apartheid repression and where even today is still dealing in many of these areas with police that are corrupt. So, sure, they see that.
POM Would this not mean that in many areas or among many people they would still be anti-police because the police were seen as an instrument of repression?
JN Not as an institution any more. I was anti-police. I'm not anti-police any more and I don't think people are anti the police as an institution. Now if they have problems with the police they are anti a police station because the Station Commander they believe is in cahoots with the criminal gangs, or certain police officers can be bribed, but not as an institution.
POM Let's go over one or two other things that the Deputy President said. One was that there has been a collapse in moral values. Now was he referring to a collapse in moral values that preceded or a collapse in moral values that is ongoing?
JN I think there were no moral values in apartheid. It was a system without any moral values so it's a reflection of that. But what he is saying is that in our movement there is a very strong moral ethic that we had, that we maintained discipline, we had respect for each other as comrades, we had values where we served the poor, values in which we sacrificed. He's talking about a moral decay where in a sense there isn't cement in our society that could build what we call a patriotism, a new patriotism. What he's referring to is if someone goes and buys a Mercedes Benz that is new and buys it at half the price then he knows that he is committing a crime. Why do we do that? If a businessman bribes a tax revenue officer or a traffic policeman, that is about moral values, about corruption and what he is arguing for is a moral campaign to regenerate the morality of our struggle and what we fought for and how we use that to challenge corruption in our society and understand that apartheid as a system was pervasively corrupt, and how we begin to address that corruption. Secondly, he's arguing that moral values have to be examined to look at what contribution we make to build in this country rather than a consistent demand that exists in our society, entitlement, that I am entitled to this as a trade unionist or as a civic leader or a business leader or a politician, the sense of this entitlement at the top where we need a moral campaign to prevent this decay. I think that the morality he's talking about is that.
POM That's a very interesting juxtaposition in the sense that your struggle against apartheid was a moral struggle where you had the mass mobilisation of people for the most part peacefully protesting or using non-violent means to gain their freedom. Yet on the other hand while the country is entering probably it's most difficult phase there seems to be this lack of cement, lack of social cohesiveness, one gets no sense of a vision being conveyed that we're all in it together, we all have to sacrifice in the short run and what we're doing now is for the next generation, we're the generation that got the freedom, so to speak, but the benefits of it will be the next generation. There's a unity of purpose. Lucy uses the example of after the South Korean economy collapsed you had these pictures of South Koreans queuing up and going to a bank and handing in their jewellery and their family possessions to help restore the country. One doesn't get any sense here of anyone - there's more a sense of I'm all right Jack, if I get what I want I don't really care what happens to the next guy. How did you move from that moral commitment that was so strong to almost individualism, as long as I'm all right, I'll take care of myself and what happens to my next door neighbour is his problem?
JN Well that's precisely the issue we're trying to address. It never was going to come naturally anyway. No country develops patriotism because they are suddenly a country. It's a series of relationships that you build. We, I think, exist in a country, in a global environment that is increasingly ruthless so we don't have the space to develop this and begin to address some of these issues more systematically. In six weeks our currency can drop 25%. It's not easy to go out and explain that and understand it. South Korea, after particularly a few decades of having built a particular culture and built a particular education system, you're going to have people that understand that. Here one of our biggest difficulties is the lack of patriotism or the absence of it amongst the most influential layer of society which is the middle classes. The middle class in this country is 99% white. So it comes back to the same question, in order for us to build the kind of entrepreneurs that have confidence in this country, that will go out to put money into building factories and creating jobs rather than speculating on the stock exchange, we don't have that type of entrepreneurial class and that's what we have to build. You have to build a middle class that is an anchor in our society. At the same time we have to address the policy measures and interventions at an economic level that create a viable way of people earning income and having disposable income. So those are the challenges we face. We came into a government from a liberation movement into a very complex country, in a very complex world, which doesn't allow you time to go and learn all the lessons and say well we'll give you a bit of a break while you go and learn this, and that's the challenge of the world environment.
I was in the USA recently and I said to people, you know you may feel very secure here in North America, not even North America, in the United States and in Europe, believe that you have fortress economies, that you are immune from the vagaries of the international financial markets and that the chaos in South East Asia or the under-development in Africa or the chaos that you will find in Eastern Europe, you're unaffected by it, but sooner or later those chickens are going to come home to roost because when the rest of the world collapses so will you. And so if we don't understand that this is a global issue, stability in Angola is about a global issue, so is Japan or Malaysia or China or India or Russia, that we are all inter-connected and so if we don't find some way of regulating the international financial markets in a way that does look long term instead of just a short term vested interest that speculators want to make billions of dollars and they can put an entire world at risk. If you don't understand that, listen and think that you will survive and as long as you're happy well to hell with you. That's the same attitude we're saying at a micro level here as an individual we're trying to develop but as an individual talk about how you participate in this national reconstruction and development programme. The same one can say about the States and it's a challenge at a micro level and a challenge at a macro level.
POM Do you think that globalisation, that in a sense your independence came at a time when the world was becoming increasingly global and that this has narrowed your breathing space, that there are constraints, external constraints on what you can do and what you can't do and in that sense no matter what kind of policies you might enforce that you are subject to the vagaries of external pressures and external constraints over which you have no control?
JN Well there is never the right time. Part of the reason why things came to a head in SA also had its roots in the international global situation, the collapse of Eastern Europe removed the potential threat that the apartheid regime has used here as its anchor in terms of getting the support of the west. So that was important. At the same time by removing the divide between developed countries in the east and west you remove the countervailing force that created, I would say, veered things in the global environment towards one view. Then we began to see at some level some of the brutal excesses of that one thing. So without the balance being maintained the question is what is the balance now? I think the challenge of world development, economic development, and of globalisation is defining the agenda of this globalisation. At the moment it seems to be driven more by a section of the world society that is determined to run things in a way in which doesn't see the challenge of development and the way in which your financial markets are controlled recognises just one god. If you don't succeed it's your fault. It's got nothing to do with me even though you've never had opportunity or access to education or capital, the fact that you're poor you deserve it. Now if that's your view of the world then surely it is going to be a very unstable world.
So I think that what's happening at the moment is one of humanity's greatest challenges of how does one get within a unipolar world a commitment to things that may not always serve the interests of Mammon. So how do you balance the imperatives of economic growth that we've got to recognise in developing countries for people that come out of a particular history or may be more based on egalitarian principles, how do we balance economic growth which is dependent on market economy, on understanding the fluidity of the international global financial markets with the imperatives of human development, of sustainable human development? So how does one balance that is the key challenge? How does that reflect itself in our society is a degree of adversarialism we have because we're grappling with this challenge. So when we have a debate about GEAR which reflects at one level the global reality, this is the world we live in, government does not have enough money, we can't just say that we will go into overdraft because if we just borrow money we go into a debt trap, so reducing a budget deficit is not counter-revolutionary, it's part of the natural restructuring that we have to go through because if we don't do it and we go into that debt trap then the IMF is telling us to do it. So how do we take control of our own history, understanding that we have to bring down government consumption, we have to reduce the size of the bureaucracy. We have a huge bureaucracy, we get very little value out of it.
POM You have powerful public service unions.
JN They are but the civil service is powerful in itself as a bureaucracy, it doesn't even need unions. It's just a powerful instrument. So how do we reduce the size? We have 60,000 people who are paid today that don't do anything, they're redundant, we haven't retrenched them. So when you pay them salaries for doing nothing we could take the money and fund public works programmes. When education asks for more money we give them R40 billion, it's more than the total budgets of many countries in Africa but we have a lower level of literacy than many of these countries. So what is the output, not what is the input? How do we address that challenge? When we say we have to privatise certain things, yes we have to privatise. Why should we run a holiday resort as a government? When we privatised Telkom South Africa partially, when I sell 30%, I'm not selling because I want the money because a billion dollars out of that money we put back into a network and that network is now going to reach every village, every school, every clinic, every police station. It's going to allow us to run tele-medicine, distance education, it's revolutionary what we are doing and how we will use that information backbone to deliver, to basically leapfrog our society into the 21st century.
One of the key instruments of the restructuring and partial privatisation I did in Telkom is we're setting up tele-centres in rural areas where we're giving people access to telephones, computers, the Internet and putting computers into schools. I was discussing today with the Minister of Health tele-medicine projects and because we're expanding the network, we're putting in three million new lines. We're putting in more new lines in the next five years than the past government did in 50 years. Now if I said the government should do that I would not have one cent to do it. Now I'm not paying one cent for this. How do we understand that global reality and say, listen, there are certain positions that we were grounded in in terms of our understanding and development that will have to be integrated with what exists out there in the world, but how do we balance the fact that this world is really driven by individual self interest whether that is institutional enterprise or purely individual? Would the fact that we come out of a particular history which looks at the development of grassroots communities, at the development of society, the elimination of poverty - so that's the reality and it's a huge challenge not just here in SA, the whole world. We're not unusual or unique in any way.
POM Let's just talk, I know your time is running out, about GEAR and the debate or the lack of debate that's going on about GEAR. I think what upset me about both President Mandela's remarks to the SACP Congress and the Deputy President's remarks were that they were saying GEAR is government policy, it's not on the table for debate, toe the line and get behind this. Whereas looking at GEAR even as a broad macro-economic framework the fact is that most of the targets that it set out for itself over the five year period, the year 2000, have not been met in any great regard at all. This year per capita income will probably decline. You have not because of internal pressures but because of external pressures the virtual semi-collapse of the rand. The country is seen abroad as being investor unfriendly despite the fact that fiscal constraints and fiscal management is tight, is tighter than in many countries in the west for example. Germans have more problem with getting their budget deficit down to 4% to qualify for even part of the Euro currency than this country did in pulling it down in two years. Is it not at least time to say we must re-examine some of the assumptions we made when GEAR was put together because external realities have changed and internal realities have changed and adjustments might be necessary especially in light of the fact when you have both - I think last week there were two documents, one the report on poverty and the second one the National Coalition of the NGOs which said that GEAR was contributing towards creating poverty rather than alleviating it. Is there not open room for debate and that this debate should be in the public arena and that there shouldn't be like Mandela's statement that GEAR is government policy and GEAR will be GEAR and will not be changed or be anything else other than government policy, over my dead body?
JN I think all of that is exaggerated really, to be honest with you.
POM All of which?
JN This whole hullabaloo about some policies what are causing our problems. I think the GEAR issue had more to do with process than what the content is. It's like the problem with SA, it has to do more with perception and how we're portrayed. You must accept that there are hundreds of thousands of South Africans that have left this country who have to justify their existence overseas as to why they left. They either left because of crime or because of affirmative action or because we're hopelessly corrupt or some other thing or we're incompetent. You have to make that judgement, not me. You can judge whether I am a competent minister or an incompetent one. I can't say that. We think we're doing a job that's OK. So perception is a very important thing and perception about a process or about budget deficit. Perhaps you characterise the problem rightly, we've gone into camps on an issue that we should have come around. This country is in a crisis because we're very far away as a continent from any destination for foreign direct investment, we're very far away. It's a reality. We're not living in Europe here so to compare ourselves to Europe - even in South East Asia like Malaysia there is a greater capacity to withstand the volatility of its currency than we have. We've got to understand that reality so I can't compare myself to Germany. It's two completely different planets almost. Yes, there needs to be more debate on GEAR. Yes, there is a process that is in place in which there are talks taking place on those issues. But then identify that one policy, and we've had a policy that's inflexible or written in stone, it's not a bible it's a policy, that we were not prepared to talk about. But to say that one policy is the root cause of all our problems is wrong as well.
POM I'm not saying that.
JN I think what we've got to come to - and it's got to be something that the unions and the party and the ANC and every stakeholder must fight for, is a new vision, a new consensus, a new strategy which has to be real. For me to come and tell you here that don't worry there are no problems in SA, I'll be lying. There are problems in the management of our resources and how we deploy those resources whether they're financial or human. There are problems with how we manage relationships and how do we take our egos and put them on the table, put it aside and just concentrate on what we have to do to build this country. We have to build a new consensus in this country around a new strategy and part of that is defining what this new patriotism is about, which is not uncomplaining, which is not uncritical. Then we've got to understand that part of that debate in society is also part of the democracy and if we're all agreed on anything we wouldn't have democracy. So to have the challenges that are thrown around like that, having Mandela going into the SACP congress and hammering people, it is not an indication we're collapsing but, yes, there has to be a fundamental freedom, which there is.
POM But do you put your finger now - to end up on two things. You said the country is in crisis, there is no, at least while I am here going around, and I get no sense from ordinary people that the country is in crisis. Either the people who are poor expect to remain poor and those who have complain and mutter about how things have gone to hell but they don't see it as on the verge of crisis. Two, you talk about the need for vision. Now why has there been that inability to create that vision when you have the one person probably in the whole world who has the moral stature and capacity to convey the essence of that vision? Why has there been the absence of that?
JN What we are, I would say, when I talk about a crisis I'm talking about a crisis of either this existing and continuing in an incremental way, not doing a leapfrog in the society. So a crisis is not like tomorrow something's going to happen where SA becomes an Indonesia. I don't think we're anywhere near that. So a crisis really is a juxtaposition between do we just want to continue with the normal tread of the mill things that we do or do we want to make a fundamental improvement to people's lives? That for me is the crisis that we have. Increasingly that crisis will get dealt with in terms of the fact that we are resolving the leadership issues. Mandela was a particular type of leader that led our country, that allowed us to bridge the major divisions of the past, to build reconciliation, to capture the imagination of the people. Thabo Mbeki's government is going to be about the hard task and challenge of transformation, of making it work in a way that closes the gap between those two nations.
POM Does that entail letting whites know in no uncertain terms that they have, up to this point, been treated with kid gloves?
JN No, letting everyone in this country know that we are going to have to take the steps that allow us go forward and if that means talking to allies more strongly about positions then we should do it. But the only way we're going to resolve some of these fundamental issues is by being honest with each other and then put in place processes, which again has been very much in limbo in this transition, we've been too busy. We were learning our jobs, we were trying to deal with a bureaucracy that is hostile to us. We are appointing new people to make it representative. We are doing policies, we're now passing laws and implementing those laws plus doing political work, plus being dragged into the region and into the continent. It's just physically how much you can do. I think now that we've created the foundation for this transformation and we've created the legislative legal framework and some of the institutional mechanisms to implement the goals of our constitution, and we were also negotiating the constitution, now that we've created that we now look at the next stage which is consolidating that. That's the next five years.
POM I was talking before I came here to a prominent white politician and I was going through Mbeki's speech with him. I came to the bit where he said that whites enjoyed all the privileges that they previously enjoyed, and his response was, "What privileges do I enjoy? I have a house, I have a car, I have three children in college. What am I supposed to give up? Am I supposed to give up my house, hand over my car? What am I supposed to do? I don't see myself as being privileged. I see myself as working damn hard every day both in parliament and outside parliament to create a livelihood. I don't know what the Deputy President means when he says I still have all these privileges. I see myself getting up at like five or five thirty in the morning and getting to bed at eleven o'clock at night and doing that six days a week, maybe Sundays are off, but I don't see myself particularly that I'm overloaded with privilege and if I am what privileges am I supposed to give up?"
JN We're not asking people to give up privileges.
POM But that's how he was seeing it, that was his perception.
JN That's something we've got to do about how we communicate, it's one of the problems that we have. But how he wants to see it, he doesn't want to see it any differently. So when we talk about redress, for example, when we're saying we have X amount of money in health, we want to redress a way from huge investment, curative medicine, which is investment in tertiary institutions towards primary health care, it means yes we're a third world country. I'm not saying we want to lower our standards to third world standards but there will be less money going to those hospitals so that we can take that money and put in in the townships, in Khayelitsha, a primary health care centre. Now that's the redress we're talking about. We talk about adjustment of laws so that the Labour Relations Act now recognises workers, black workers in this country, and is also a collective bargaining regime. It is redress. That's the redress. When I take my sector and say we are licensing a hundred community radios, a large number of those radios will be rural, will be women, will be in the townships. That's redress. When I say we're licensing a third cellular operator and that a key element of that should be empowerment, so it should be a black consortium coming together that bids for those licences, that's redress. I'm not saying that I'm going to go and take this person's house or this person's car.
POM Just conclude, does it come back in a way to something we began with that whites by and large don't see that apartheid was not just wrong but evil and did enormous damage to thirty, forty million people and having excused themselves from any responsibility for it they don't feel the need to make any reparation?
JN I think it's more subtle than that. I think the one thing is we are living as two nations. The success of our transformation is what the next generation does and how it perceives life and relationships between people in society. We must not be naïve to think that there was not going to be this reaction from whites. Also we are dealing with a transformation here. This is a transformative government. If we had not been a transformative government we would have had a majority of whites sitting with us.
POM A majority of whites?
JN Backing us, believing in us. But we must create stability in this country and we wouldn't have implemented the goals that we fought for. So, yes, there is a sense of entitlement in this country that we have to address, among whites and among blacks and at every level of society. That we've got to address and challenge. But that's a political issue. The question is, can we find sufficient consensus about the major stakeholders, the political parties, the trade unions in this country, the media, the business community, the women? Can we find sufficient consensus to say we need a campaign for a new patriotism in our country? And that new patriotism is already reflected whether in the RDP or any of the policies of government and you analyse every single policy of this government, it is transformative, every single one, every single law. For anyone to complain, if I was a trade unionist I would claim major victories because 90% of what we fought for in the last 50 years we have achieved in law and in practice. The question is having achieved that, what we fought for, what is it we're going to contribute and put on the table? How do we avoid the type of engagement where we're adversaries? We don't need that. It's a new approach, it's a new culture we're trying to grow, a new tolerance we're trying to achieve, a new honesty. How can we do that without people becoming defensive whether in government or whether in the trade unions or in the community or business? I suppose that's the biggest challenge.
POM Thank you. Always a pleasure.