About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

08 Aug 1998: Hofmeyr, Willie

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POM     I spent an hour and a half the other day with George Fivaz and have been talking over the years to Sydney Mufamadi and Dullah Omar and Joe Matthews. An issue I've been concentrating on on this visit is the whole criminal justice system and the relationship between policing and the criminal justice system and how whether they facilitate each other's operations or they get in the way of each other's operations. Now you were part of the negotiating team at Kempton Park on the whole justice system and you sit on the Portfolio Committee in parliament on issues of justice.

     One, what would you point to as the major problems with the criminal justice system in particular? In what ways do you think it makes it easier for criminals to 'get away', 'get out', whatever, the whole story? And how does the Department of Justice and the Department of Public Safety work together to try to develop a common approach to dealing with questions of criminal justice? Has the Minister for Justice, Dullah Omar, softened what one might call his human rights philosophy towards justice in the last couple of years in the light of some fairly horrendous instances of violence, particularly violence here in the Western Cape where he was even chased from his own house. I think I saw in the Pretoria News the headline of saying Omar furious at bail being granted to someone who had been accused of rape whereas the same Dullah Omar two years ago would have said everybody had a right to bail. Are there different perceptions in the way criminal justice and policing must relate to each other and reinforce each other's activities, are different perceptions developing as to how this should be done? That was all one question.

WH     As long as you give me time to reply.

POM     The good news is that I've forgotten half the question.

WH     Let me just say that I was only involved fairly on the periphery of the Kempton Park negotiations. I was very involved in the negotiations around the final constitution and dealt particularly with the justice chapter in the constitution as well as the bill of rights. Let me say that I think in the initial rounds of negotiations at Kempton Park I think that people under-estimated or were a bit naïve about the impact that the rights culture would have on the criminal justice system. I think the major concerns and emphasis from everybody at that stage was how does one deal with a police force, how does one change the culture in the police force which has been a very repressive and anti-rights one into one that you can live with in a democracy. I think that was really the predominant concern and I don't think a lot of thought was given at that time about how policing is going to be effected in a rights culture and the difficulties that your criminal justice system would have. So I think when we came into government, I think within the first year we came up fairly hard against some of those realities.

POM     How would you enumerate those realities?

WH     Well I think the fundamental difficulty for me is that in the old system the entire justice system relied extensively on extracting confessions, something like 90%, it's difficult to give an accurate figure, but something like 90% of convictions were probably based on guilty pleas and confessions which made it fairly easy for the police to do their job as well as fairly easy for prosecutors to do their job in court and the courts very seldom threw out any confessions as having been obtained by undue pressure or whatever. So I think the fundamental change post-1994 is that now you have to have police doing their work properly, having to do proper detective work to be able to put people in jail and prosecutors faced with proper trials. I think that created a number of problems. Firstly people simply lacked the skills. We have very few trained detectives in our country. I think at that stage less than 15% of detectives had had any formal training, and the detectives as a proportion of the police force was very low by international standards. So even that sort of restructuring needed to be changed. And similarly with prosecutors - well let me finish with the police. On the one hand there wasn't the skills. Secondly there just wasn't the quality. We came from a dispensation where police were very badly paid by and large and you just had a few people of the necessary quality to be good detectives.

     I think in regard to the court system the problems were even more because the prosecutors, again, had been traditionally relatively badly paid, were relatively inexperienced, there had always been a high turnover of prosecutors but they were faced with many more complicated issues and trials including constitutional challenges and so on. They were faced with a lot more defended trials where accused had legal assistance. A number of the presumptions in our law which had made their job easier in legal terms in the past were knocked out by the Constitutional Court which in other terms just complicated their trials and so the complexity of trials increased as did the number of contested trials so the workload also increased fairly substantially.

     I think for me that was to a large extent at the heart of the problems but I think the other fairly fundamental problem was, particularly in the police force, that you certainly had amongst white policemen before 1994 probably 60% of them supporting the ultra right wing rather than the National Party, so being quite hostile, actively hostile to a new democratic dispensation. I think that we've done remarkably well by and large in getting them to be loyal to a new democracy but I think there are in the police force a large number of particularly white policemen who are not particularly loyal. I think there is a small number now still who are actively disloyal, who would actively try and sabotage police work because it reflects badly on the government at the end of the day and I think there is a larger group which doesn't care too much - crime is bad and it reflects badly on democracy, they don't really mind too much frankly. I think if you combine that with historically very low levels of pay apart from the work ethic problems it's also created a significant corruption problem which, again, was there before. There was always a large amount of corruption in the police force and as with many police forces there tended to be a fairly much blind eye turned to it.

     Just to digress for moment, you may not have seen there was a very classic example in the newspapers a while ago that one of the ANC's great propaganda successes in the early eighties was when some of our soldiers launched a rocket attack on Voortrekkerhoogte which was the military headquarters and in the Truth Commission it emerged that these guys who went to launch the rocket attack were actually stopped by a policeman on the way, carrying these rocket launches, and they managed to convince him that it was just pipes stolen from the so-called white neighbourhood, so they paid him R100 bribe and went on. I think that was fairly typical of what happened, that because of the absolute power police had in relation to black people there was a huge amount of petty bribery and so on and it was by and large accepted as one of the perks of the job.

     I think those, for me, are the major problems and like in many other police forces I think management is a big problem, that there is this culture in the police force that you have to work your way up from the bottom. So what you do is that at the end of the day you have good policemen being promoted into managerial positions, so they stop doing what they're good at and start doing something for which they are given no training whatsoever.

POM     It's like the Peter Principle.

WH     Yes, which tends to be a problem throughout the civil service but is aggravated in the police force because there is this huge resistance to taking civilians in at a senior level, they just don't like lateral entry. Apart from that the liberation movements, whereas we had a fairly high number of skilled people in the military field, in the army, we had virtually nobody with significant police training so the entire reform process in the police force has essentially had to be internally driven with little possibility of bringing in liberation movement kind of people or even bringing in skilled private sector managers. Even the appointment of Meyer Kahn I think too about a year of fairly bloody infighting before it got agreed to at the end of the day.

     To return to the human rights issues and implications, I think that within a year of the elections people like Sydney and ourselves, who were having to deal with these very practical difficulties, started getting much more preoccupied with how you limit rights rather than how you extend them. I think similarly with Dullah, so I think already at the end of 1995 we brought an amendment to the bail legislation which made it significantly tougher than it had been up to that stage because of the kind of problems, bail particularly. The law hadn't actually changed. As you know a bill of rights doesn't change any law until the law is declared invalid but somehow all the magistrates quite - I mean everybody had thought the judiciary is reluctantly having to be dragged into a rights culture but quite the contrary, magistrates were absolutely terrified that they would be the first ones lambasted by the Constitutional Court for being too illiberal so they went completely overboard and just released everybody on bail.

     The bail legislation was in a sense a first attempt to say rights does not mean license and in a sense to give fairly clear guidelines to the courts about when we want bail and what the kind of factors are. It was around that issue that the first significant debates came up. But at the same time from early 1995 we were also starting to look at the final constitution and I think particularly by the end of 1995, when the first draft of the new bill of rights was produced which was another shining attempt to lead the world, a number of us started saying that we can't actually afford to lead the world on individual rights, that the crime situation in our country actually meant that we should be somewhere in the middle of the table of international democracy, not that we should have the strongest individual rights because almost all of them impact in one way or the other on how effective your justice system is or can be and particularly in a kind of transitional period where your justice system is still battling to come to terms with rights. That was just not the case.

     The irony of it actually was that opposition parties, the NP and the DP particularly, were still firmly fighting for the strongest bill of rights they could get because one of the key breakthroughs in the negotiations process in a sense had been when we had been able to persuade the NP that almost any of the group rights, minority rights that they had wanted protected, could be protected through a bill of rights, through protecting individual rights strongly. So you had this rather odd situation in the final days of the Constitutional Assembly of the ANC trying to cut away at some of the rights in the constitution and the NP fighting for strong individual rights. We managed by and large to get it. I think there were still things that we wanted to have stated a bit more, less than they are stated in the bill of rights now, but on a number of the criminal justice rights we did significantly weaken what had been in the interim constitution basically.

POM     Was there still at that time an under-appreciation of the extent of the crime problem in SA?

WH     Not in government. I think by mid-1995, within a year of the elections, those people who were having to deal with the problem viewed it as a serious problem. But I think we did still have to do a significant amount of work amongst other people in the ANC and so on who were not having to deal with the practical problems on the ground. I think a large part of it was also that - in many ways I don't think crime has increased that hugely - in fact all the indications are that crime has not really increased significantly since 1994 but what has happened since 1994 is that it has, in a sense, democratised along with the rest of the country so that a lot of the violent crime that had been very prevalent in black townships and had been contained in the black townships before were now affecting middle class areas and affecting more prominent people and therefore becoming a lot more visible. It was not just eight people killed in Khayelitsha in the last weekend without even seeing their names as you sometimes still see in the newspapers here, but it was not people who were known and whose friends were newspapers editors, so I think a large part of what happened since 1994 is that crime became significantly more visible. I think it also became significantly more organised in some way, I think that certainly organised crime has become a much larger problem than it was before. I think very early on there was a real appreciation from government side that our police and prosecutors were battling to cope with crime. The big increase in crime had really been in the years from 1987 to 1994 when your number of murders more or less doubled and your armed robberies nearly doubled and so on but we were sitting with historically very high levels of crime.

POM     To what degree is crime a by-product of the struggle itself, i.e. that youths were told to make the townships ungovernable, the police were despised, in many cases communities took the law into their own hands, that there was an inherent disrespect for law and order which was associated with the apartheid regime, that there was a pervasive culture of violence? I think it was Joe Slovo at one time said that to be a real revolutionary you have to have a contempt for human life and that in certain ways it was, perhaps still is, a contempt for human life in many parts of the community. To what extent do you think ingrained attitudes of past learned behaviours that would have been a by-product of the struggle affect the level of crime, affect the mentality that gives rise to crime? Is this a big issue, a small issue?

WH     I think it's a significant issue, I would say somewhere between a bit and a small one. I don't think it's quite as simple as your question implies. I think certainly apartheid and the resistance to apartheid inculcated a disrespect for the law and in some ways when we had the defiance campaign in 1994 you actively encouraged people to go out and break the law but many of us were in situations where we were breaking the law every day. I think there was that and I think certainly that the process of struggle against apartheid created a group of fairly brutalised people, people who had been heavily involved in violence against the state and by the state on them and I think there is a group amongst the youth who are fairly traumatised and brutalised by that and certainly that has been a factor both in the levels of crime and in the brutality that goes with crime very often. But it's not as simple as that. At the time when the UDF in 1985 was reaching its peak, one of the major thrusts of the liberation in the middle of all this ungovernability, one of the major thrusts of the liberation movement was also to stamp out crime and through the street committees and people's courts and so on where they worked well they were very effective actually in some communities that had been dominated by gangsters in virtually making them crime free for some period.

POM     I'll use an analogy here and I don't mean it to be a direct analogy, rather to be an example. In West Belfast, which is the IRA's stronghold, there is virtually no crime, or was virtually no crime because the police had no presence there and the IRA took it upon themselves to enforce their laws and members of the community would come to them and complain about an attack or a rape or an abuse or whatever and they would probably knee-cap the perpetrator and this had a fairly significant impact on reducing all levels of crime, particularly in the areas of drug dealers, they would just shoot them. Now since their cease-fire has been in effect levels of what we would call ordinary crime have increased dramatically because again you have a police force that was trained to hunt down terrorists and can't do their normal police work associated with dealing with normal crime. So were the methods used by street committees conducive to instilling sufficient fear in the community that the consequences of committing crime would be severe rather than - ?

WH     Not really. I think it was different. I think the one case in which terror was used was against informers. I think in some way this necklacing which had started to be used against informers was very effective in stopping informers or making people just too scared to do it. But the problem with that, as with most forms of terror is that it gets abused very quickly when you have personal scores to settle or informers want to get those who may know about them. In some ways the ANC had to intervene to stop that, something which had arisen fairly spontaneously inside the country. But I think in the situations where street committees were working well there was not a kind of brutal justice, it was drawing much more on African traditions of dispute settlement and restorative justice by and large so it was in most cases compensation of one form or the other. It very seldom involved any form of assault of whatever nature. I think what people did fear in those situations in a sense was social censure, and I'm talking now about where things went well. It also did not work well in many cases and particularly as repression increased and formal organisation dissolved, the leadership got taken out of the townships and in many cases these people's courts got captured often by gangsters themselves. There one did have cases of brutal assaults and so on. But the other model worked particularly in some of the Eastern Cape townships and here I know in some parts of Cape Town where the community was well organised methods of social censure were able to deal with crime. I think the point I'm really trying to make is that it's not true to say, it's over-simplistic to say that because people in the anti-apartheid struggle were fighting the police and having to break the law in doing so that they didn't care about crime, that you created an environment in which crime was tolerated or seen as OK or maybe just redistribution from white to black or whatever. I don't think that was the case.

POM     If I rephrase that to say that did it give rise to an inherent disrespect for authority per se, for the instruments of authority, not being pro-crime or tolerating crime but being anti, just predisposed towards being anti authority?

WH     Definitely.

POM     Just to give you an example would be in my own country, in Ireland, the biggest crime you could have committed was to be an informer so that when it became a free country for decades when police came to investigate crimes and would go into communities nobody would talk because to talk would be to inform. The social fabric of the society was if you were an informer even against somebody who might have been a known perpetrator it was in some way against the culture. It wasn't that the people were for the crime but they were still anti anything that - informing and co-operating were not seen as being very different.

WH     That was very true here and I think that in a sense was the kind of initial, our major preoccupation was to bridge the gap between the community and the police. What I am trying to say, the additional point I would just make beyond what I've said, is that it is over-simplifying to try and ascribe it to the struggle against apartheid. I think the disrespect that there was for the police came a long time before there was any active struggle against the police. It came from the role that the police had to fulfil in enforcing some incredibly bad laws, walking into people's houses at three o'clock in the morning to see whether they've got a pass and the level of brutality with which they dealt with ordinary people. The struggle as it took off from the mid-seventies increased hostility to the police so I think that really was a factor plus the fact that the police didn't really care very much about crime in the black areas.

     In Khayelitsha even by the late eighties when I had a number of clients, I was working as an Attorney at that stage, if you had a murder and you called the police you would be lucky if they came on the same day. If you had, as some of my clients had, serious assault and somebody burning down your house you would be lucky if they came at all. They just didn't care. So I think what apartheid also did was to create an atmosphere where criminals and gangs were able to operate with a fair level of impunity except to the extent that the community was organised enough to try and do something about it, apart from the fact that organised or criminal gangs were used very often against the liberation movement as informers and so on against the liberation movement.

     So I think all those were factors that were the kind of predominant factors weighing on people's minds in 1993/94 during the negotiations. How do you reform the police? How do you get the police closer to the community? And I think the whole notion of community policing which came in very early, the first thrust of what we did post-1994 was to try and build the legitimacy of the police, of the justice system, of getting people to work with the police rather than against them. But I think that went remarkably well, well to the extent that the Gauteng government, we used to call informers here 'impimpis' (from the word pimp I think), but to the extent that the Gauteng government can have a public campaign calling on people to become impimpis, which was like a swear word in the past, it was the worst possible thing to do. Partly they did do it for the shock value, and I won't say that there is sufficient information coming from the community to the police now, but I think by 1995/96 we really felt that in a large way we've succeeded in the rebuilding of the trust between the communities and the police, not that a lot more didn't have to be done but we'd leapt across 80% of the gap and there was maybe 20% left. I think it was in that scenario that people started saying that it's good, it's helped but it's not actually enough, we have to grapple with the very real issues of how do you get the police themselves, the justice system, to operate effectively in a rights environment.

     So I think the debate shifted from that kind of illegitimacy of the police and the hostility between police and community quite quickly. I think despite all the problems that there still are with community police forums and so on in most areas you will have ANC comrades now working very closely with the police. They may not be able to deliver the community to that co-operation to the extent that one may want ideally but within our own ranks we've delivered our activist base to that co-operation.

     What one started realising is that, just to get back to your first question, that in many democratic countries crime is a real and a big problem and democracies have had to find ways, and fairly drastic ways very often, to deal with crime and they've tried to do it in a way that fits in with a rights culture. What we started realising is we have none of that. We had the bad old laws but because things were relatively easy for the police no attempt had been made to keep up with more sophisticated powers that you can give your police and prosecutors that are consonant with a rights culture. I think that's the sort of thing that we've been looking at with the change of the bail legislation, with these prescribed minimum sentences we've brought in, which is very much based on the notion of sentencing guidelines that has emerged in many democratic countries now, the reform of our parole system, this new legislation around organised crime that we're bringing in.

POM     Is this the seizure of assets?

WH     It's the civil forfeiture of criminal assets as well as stuff based on the reco legislation in the States, the racketeering legislation. So I think we've also seen that there are quite a lot of powers that you can give to your criminal justice system in a rights culture and that a rights culture doesn't just mean tossing out all the laws that there were in the past or saying all the powers of police in the past were illegitimate. It's also saying that you can look at new kinds of powers that you can give the police to make the job easier for them basically, but powers that are compatible with a rights culture.

POM     Now George Fivaz said that in most areas of crime, categories of crime, that SA more or less meets international norms except in two areas, that's in murder and rape. Why do you think rape, particularly child rape, I think SA is number one in the world in that category, and murder, i.e. crimes of severe violence, are so high here compared to other countries?

WH     I would agree with that. Our crime statistics overall are not actually that bad. It's bad when it comes to crimes of severe violence and I think a large part of that is derived from apartheid and the resistance to apartheid. In regard to rape I would say there are a few factors. I think that the kind of migrant system that was developed here where men were in town and they had to leave their wives behind and the fairly brutal, hostel type institutions in which people had to stay is a factor. The conditions in our prisons are a major factor. Our prisons, black prisons particularly, have been dominated by prison gangs. Sodomy and so on, forced rapes, are part of initiation ceremonies and so on there and very little was done to deal with those things. Apart from that I think it feeds also on traditional attitudes to women which I think are generally part of broader African culture but I think also what was the culture in most traditional societies that the consent of women was not always a vital factor in sexual relations. So I think all of those things fed on each other in relation to that. I think that's been combined particularly in the last ten years or so with a fairly active and strong women's movement and I think in the last five years a lot of measures aimed at encouraging women to report rapes. So although it's still unclear what our reporting rates are like, but if you look at these urban surveys that were done they're showing 35% - 50% reporting rates of rape which I think is, as far as I know, quite high by international standards where very often rape is a radically under-reported offence.

     Murder I think is a combination of the factors that I have talked about. I think a large part of the murders in our country are inter-gang murders. It is gangsters murdering each other and I think the estimates in Cape Town where the murder rate is very often the highest in the country is something between 60% and 70% of murders are gangsters murdering each other, where in African or in black communities in general there was no real effort to deal with the gangs and very often the state in fact co-operated with them in the fight against apartheid and because it was not affecting the white community it just wasn't seen - I mean Cape Town has been the murder capital of the world for many years, throughout the eighties, and it was never really seen as a big problem because it was not spilling over into the white areas. Homicide rates in the white areas were very low and they still are in Cape Town anyway.

     So I think it was partly that tolerance of crime in the black community and I think it was partly to do with increasing brutalisation of the struggle. As street fighting against the state heated up I think it did get more and more brutal throughout the eighties and I think that's a real factor. But it's not a particular factor in the coloured community in the Western Cape which has always led the murder rate. As I said, Cape Town was mainly the place where your murder rate was the highest and we never really had any significant uprising of coloured youth in the Western Cape getting involved in the struggle against apartheid. So while that's attacked and I think, again, that it would be an over-simplification to say that it was the brutality of the struggle against apartheid that led to that kind of violence, I think the kind of social conditions under which black people were forced to live has a lot more to do with brutality of that culture.

POM     So you would say social conditions, such as?

WH     Well I think what happened in Cape Town, for example, with the Group Areas removals and so on is that communities where there had been some gangster activity, but relatively benign, got demolished and scattered and resettled in other areas where there was no social fabric and where the gangs established themselves as a predominant force because they were the only coherent social network at the time and because in many cases the gangs had been cut off from the community that they were in before - like in District Six in Cape Town there were always gangs but there was not much violence against the community in which they were because it was a close community and people knew each other and so on. Once those gangs got displaced into new areas where there was not that same sense of community the level of violence and brutality just increased because they were dealing with strangers and not people who had come through school with them, that they had grown up with over the years. The situation in many of the Cape coloured working class areas is that those gangs probably enjoy a majority support in the communities that they come from. At this stage they really became the predominant form of social organisation. As I said there was just never much of an attempt to deal with them because it was never a priority.

POM     Just to go back to rape for a moment, is there a 'benign' tolerance, and I use that word very carefully and in quotes and with qualifications, of crimes against women and of all forms of abuse against women? For example in the States if you were convicted of rape you are looking at 40 years to life, whereas if one goes through the newspapers here and sees sentences for rape it's like six to ten years, rather than being considered as one of the ultimate, major crimes, it's down there. If one just judges by international sentencing rates, the sentences for rape here would be far lower than in the States where one rape and you could be in for life, you're facing 30 - 40 years without any possibility of parole.

WH     I think that's quite true and I think it's partly because it just was never seen - I think women's issues were not taken seriously, I think crimes against women were not taken seriously. I think the kind of colonial tradition of white men being more or less able to rape slave women or their descendants went on here for a long time after that. The only rapes that were really taken seriously here were with black men raping white women, which was a capital crime for which people were very often sentenced to death in the past. I think that's one of the things where we will have prescribed minimum sentences eventually.

     I would give you one example. There was this Chapman case where this guy had been convicted of raping five women and the Cape High Court had imposed a 14-year sentence which he appealed saying that it was excessive and far too much and so on. The Appeal Court upheld the sentence and the new Chief Justice gave a very stirring judgement saying how tough they're going to be on crimes against women, this was last year I think, and all that. But 14 years is still a ridiculous sentence for five rapes. So the law we passed last year essentially prescribes a ten year sentence for all rapes and a life imprisonment for multiple rapes and rapes of young children and gang rapes, for a category of aggravated rape if you could call it that, which was very difficult to try and define. I think many of the other things in that law will not change sentencing very much but I think that in regard to sexual offences there definitely was an intention to quite drastically change the kind of sentences that our courts are imposing because even when they say how seriously they are taking it they just aren't.

POM     But the same thing would apply in a sense to sentences for murder? Again in the States even a second degree murder, manslaughter, can get you 25 years, second or first degree murder gets you a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole in many cases. Whereas here it's like ten years, or for your average murder it's like you spend ten years in prison.

WH     That's again something that our minimum sentence legislation did address and again we've prescribed a life imprisonment for all more or less what would be your first degree murders and with no parole, although we do leave a door open that you can apply to court after 25 years for the possibility of parole. So I agree with you that particularly on those two offences that the treatment of those offenders by a court - the fact that people are charged with first degree murder and can get bail, for instance, on a regular basis, it's just I think sending the completely wrong kind of message. So I think both in terms of bail, minimum sentences and parole, after trying to influence the judiciary without much success I think we just decided to go the legislative route although there was a lot of unhappiness here that we're interfering with the discretion of the courts and so on, independence of the courts.

POM     Talking about sending messages, what kind of message do you think was sent when President Mandela announced the six month remission of sentences for all prisoners on the occasion of his 80th birthday. I think about 9000 prisoners were released and within 48 hours a number had been re-arrested for committing even more violent crimes than for which they had originally been sentenced.

WH     I think it was a public relations disaster. If I'd had anything to do with it it wouldn't have happened. I think the fact of the matter is in all democratic countries there is some form of remission given on special state occasions and in fact since 1994 the ANC government has been much less generous about those remissions than the NP was before. They in fact had these sort of things much more regularly than we've had it.

POM     George Fivaz' attitude was, well it doesn't really make that much difference, in fact what it did was that it freed up some space in the jails, jail capacity is built for 90,000 prisoners and you have something like 160,000 prisoners already in there, the police are getting better at arresting people, the prosecutors are getting better at prosecuting, judges are getting tougher, more people are being sent to jail and there is simply no room for them and that you have to make space.

WH     They are building quite a lot of extra jails as well but prisons' budget is the one going up the fastest rate in government at the moment. No, I agree, all those people would have been on the streets, the only people who were released were those who would have been released within six months anyway. Personally I would not go for a six-month remission where it means that somebody who was supposed to serve a six-month sentence now serves nothing. I do think that when you've been sentenced, however unserious the crime, there should be some consequence.

POM     I liked the caveats that it didn't apply if you hadn't been caught or if you had escaped.

WH     I think the fact of the matter is that there is a parole system, that all prisoners, 90% of prisoners, get released before serving their full sentence anyway. If it was up to me in the current climate I think one should have gone for a more selective process. You could have released 9000 prisoners but released them in a better way; rewarding people for good behaviour and whatever and certain categories don't qualify or whatever. In general, as I said, we've made the parole system a lot tougher than it was before so people are tending to serve a longer portion of the sentence now than they were before so a lot of those people probably would have been out anyway in the previous dispensation. It was fairly predictable that the press would be desperately looking for some of them to be committing crimes and I don't think it was really fair to spoil Mandela's birthday by adding that very predictable burden to it.

POM     Just a couple more things, and thank you for taking a lot of your Saturday morning to work. One is the Deputy President's June 4th speech, his Two Nations speech where he talked about the collapse of moral values and called for a moral 'summit'. You had that followed up in the last couple of days with the major Christian churches at least calling for a conference on the question of spiritual renewal and moral values. You had, or at least I had, George Fivaz saying that as far as he's concerned the major problem in the whole justice, policing area has been the collapse of values and norms. Could you tie those together and put them in some kind of context? Is the collapse in moral values that the Deputy President is talking about part of an attenuation of the collapse of values during the apartheid era? Is it something that's accelerating? Is it just a general malaise in society and how does this contribute to, again, disrespect for law?

WH     I think it has largely to do with apartheid and I think to some extent the collapse of apartheid contributed to it.

POM     Could you explain that?

WH     I will. I think for many black people, or for almost all blacks there was just a complete lack of morality that they were exposed to during the apartheid years and it became conventional for people to hear the state saying one thing and for them to know that it's lies or immoral or whatever. So certainly for the black population I think the apartheid years, and having to continually try to evade the law in one way or the other as well as the very brutal social conditions under which people often had to live, I think did lead to a collapse of morality in some ways. I think for white people it did as well in two ways. I think there were a fairly small number of white people - I think the majority of the white population believed that apartheid was right and moral in some way. I don't think they saw any contradictions in professing to be Christians and so on along the way. For those people the collapse of apartheid and the learning of what, the TRC and learning what apartheid was really about, has in some way led to a collapse of their own morality. Everything that they've been taught to believe was good and moral has been shown to be rotten and evil and there is not really an alternative system of social values for many of those people. But I think there was also a significant group in the white population who was actively involved in the implementation of apartheid and I think as the TRC and other things have shown is that absolute power corrupts absolutely where you have your elite police units involved in running brothels and smuggling drugs and killing people that they were buying illicit diamonds for and from. Just the kind of general level of - for black people to move in the old apartheid, whether to get a license, a permit to live in a house or a permit to be in an urban area or to get a job, every step of the way somebody had to be bribed for those things.

     I think to some extent the anti-apartheid struggle tried very hard to build its own sense of alternative morality in the struggle and I think we succeeded at various times but I think particularly during most of the time of the anti-apartheid struggle the leadership of the struggle was forced underground or in jail or repressed in many ways so as soon as the organisation became strong enough it was ripped apart so that there was not always that kind of clear moral vision and alternative spirit and I think, although we tried, that was one of the difficulties and weaknesses that the states of emergency (that's now from my own personal experiences in the late eighties) but where the states of emergency really disrupted the ability of the effort to build an alternative morality.

     So I think you do have a culture today where people will go mad about crime but they will buy what seems to be patently stolen goods from somebody on the sidewalk and they won't think about going to report them to the police or whatever and there is just this kind of duality in a sense. I think one of our major efforts has to be to build a new sense of moral values but that's a slow process, it's not something you achieve overnight.

POM     Finally, just very briefly, do you think (i) that you have turned the corner in terms of getting a grip on crime, that you're beginning to win the war however slowly? And (ii) what do you think are the major outstanding problems that government faces both with regard to policing on the one side and the criminal justice system on the other?

WH     I think we have turned the corner in a sense. I think if you look at the crime statistics, which I think are fairly reliable, even if it's just to compare themselves to themselves, I think you had an incredibly fast increase in crime in the years up to 1994. 1994/95 there was a relatively small increase and I think since 1996 essentially even your absolute number of crimes is decreasing but your crime rate per population is certainly showing a significant decrease now, 2% a year or 3% a year and I think that is a long way from winning the war. I would say in a sense that we've turned the tide. I think we're starting to get on top of it now. I think it's going to be four or five years still would be my guess before we would be able to show significant decreases in crime.

     For me the major challenges are - let me talk about the justice part of the system first. I think to some extent we've starting winning the war in government, cabinet and finance has finally approved a significant increase in the number of prosecuting staff basically so this year we're getting about a 15% increase in the number of prosecutors and the same again next year. In the next two years in fact we will be having the same. So I think we're slowly starting to get the message across in a sense in government that to put people in jail in the right culture just takes more resources than in a repressive culture. I think that's one battle. I think in terms of the justice system it's really a question of improving the quality of the prosecutions. I think it is also the question of still looking at the kind of legal frameworks that other democracies use. In some ways I think this Organised Crime Bill is maybe the last major thing that we need to have in place in terms of a legal framework.

     With the police I think there still remain quite a lot more challenges. I think there, most of the problems I've spoken about earlier we're doing things about it and it's getting better but they're all still big problems. I think improving the quality and the quantity of the detective service is for me possibly the major priority. I think dealing with corruption in the police force is still a major priority. I think dealing with inadequacies of management in the police force is a major priority and there I think a number of the initiatives with Business Against Crime, I talked earlier about how difficult it is to get private sector skills into the police force, but to some extent with this Business Against Crime initiative we are managing to get the private sector to work with individual police stations almost on a consultant's basis so you're skirting around some of the problems about getting people into the police.

     I still think that we need to win a fairly major battle in government on resources for the police and to a lesser extent the justice system. I just think we need more money. I know a lot of money is being wasted in the police at the moment through bad management and you can deploy it more effectively but even that is a slow process and I think frankly that we need to look seriously at more money, however little money we have in our budget. I think in many ways for me crime is the most serious priority for this government at the moment. I think it's more serious than housing or education or health or job creation or anything else for that matter. I think we're going to have to bite the bullet on those things even harder than we have up to now.

POM     OK, on that note. Thank you ever so much for your time.

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