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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

13 Aug 1998: Gerwel, Jakes

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POM     Professor, this is my last major round of interviews before I get down to the actual task of writing, so maybe I should ask you to give a quick snapshot of what the four years you have been the President's Chief of Staff have been like and what are the changes in the South Africa of today that have occurred since the day you first assumed your office?

JG     It's very difficult to capture the very eventful and historic years in a few phrases like that but what has taken place since the 11th May 1994, when I entered office, and today, of course is that we have a democratic government that has been in place and has been working. I think the remarkable thing still, if one gives answers from the top of your head like this, is that the country and its polity hold together in the way that it does. We often forget the miracle of our transition, the fact that a country so deeply divided managed to negotiate a settlement and establish a democratic order and establish a government of national unity and managed to establish national unity amongst the diverse, cultural, ethnic but particularly political groupings which we have in the country. So really one doesn't need to be very profound actually to make the statement that what has changed fundamentally in SA is that it has got a democratic government, SA has a government, has got a polity in which all of its people and all it's political tendencies hold together.

POM     In your view what has the government 'delivered' to the masses and what has it most conspicuously failed to deliver?

JG     Well it's managed to deliver democracy and people often tend not to think of that as a tangible. We've got a democratic order in which people have protection from violations by the state. That's an important difference from pre-1994 to what we have now. One always tends to think of these things in socio-economic terms when there's talk about delivery, but the protection that people have, the assurance that one has that politically you are safe, is an important change. It has delivered a system of human rights; it's delivered an institutionally ordered democracy. There was a survey I just heard over the radio yesterday morning done where people were asked whether their lives have changed, I haven't seen the survey I've just heard a report on that, people in the rural areas, poorer people for example, all feel that their lives have changed, that there have been changes, for example, particularly in health care. So the government has made a number of important deliveries to the poorer people in terms of clean and running water being brought to large numbers of people who previously didn't have that. Health care has been brought to people and to areas where it previously did not exist. Things like electricity connections have been made and that's made a difference to people. So what I would say is that there is the political, democratic, human rights order that we've brought to all South Africans and then there are these number of socio-economic infrastructural changes in the lives of people. Of course it's a process and nobody expected that in five years time the country's socio-economic circumstances would be totally transformed but in that process the poorer people are in fact feeling the tangibles of that delivery.

POM     Yet it was Deputy President Mbeki who made the point in his speech in parliament on July 4th that the gap between the haves and the have-nots had if anything increased rather than diminished, that this was still a two nation society, that whites continued to enjoy all the privileges they ever had. How does that relate to the uplifting of the lives of particularly the rural poor?

JG     Yes it is true that poverty still coincides by and large with black and that the richer part of the nation is white. But I imagine that what really structurally that comment refers to is the property relations in the country. It's not a question just of delivery. The delivery of social services to the poor has improved, this government delivers more social services to poor people than the previous government did but that does not mean that there has been a radical or dramatic change in the property relations. The economy, for example, participation in the formal economy is still more dominated on the higher levels by whites rather than blacks and those are some of the processes that need to be introduced to change that.

POM     When he talked in that speech about there being a collapse of moral values and he called for a Moral Summit, something that was echoed by the Federation of Churches I think about two weeks ago, and in a talk I had with Commissioner Fivaz he ascribed the major 'cause' of crime as being a collapse of values and norms. Putting, again, those three statements together, what moral values have collapsed? Had they collapsed pre-apartheid, has there been an acceleration in the decline in moral values in the post-apartheid era, why is there this need for a Moral Summit?

JG     Again, I would imagine that there are at least two things at stake here. In times of great changes there are always the dangers of what sociologist Durkheim called a 'period of anomie', a period of confusion and even erosion of norms. And SA has gone through quite a dramatic change even if it wasn't cataclysmic, it has been a change from an almost semi-feudal racial order towards a new democratic order and it's not surprising that there is an element of this anomie, of this confusion of norms or even 'normlessness'. That's one aspect of it. We're dealing with the liberalisation of a highly structured racial authoritarian system. The second thing is that apartheid, particularly in the last decade of apartheid where the institutions of that society, the institutions that normally would have been the holders, the guardians of norms and values, that those institutions had themselves been so perverted, had been used for perverse purposes. The law enforcement agencies for example had been used for what one can almost describe as a lawlessness, the suppression of parts of the majority of the population by the police for example. The courts of law themselves have become agencies for the upholding of a basically immoral system. That whole sanction-busting period, when one now looks at the things that you're privy to, become privy to, that you can see how the organs of the state, how it made a virtue of being accomplished sanction-busters. So a lot of illegal things were done, immoral things were done, amoral things were done by the institutions of that society. So there already you found the erosion of values. So I would say it's a combination of both that the not unsurprising confusion of norms and periods of great change and then the continuation of the erosion and the perversions of those social institutions which were supposedly the guardians of values in society.

POM     I want to go back to the part of the first question I asked you, that is you talked about the government's achievements. What has been it's greatest failure?

JG     What has it not yet done?

POM     When you leave here, or if you are leaving, I don't know, what has not yet been done that you would have liked to have seen done? What has not been accomplished that you had hoped would be accomplished?

JG     Well I wouldn't actually put it that negatively. One always knew that there was going to be a process and there would be ups and downs in this process. Rather say what are the issues that we face as problems that one would have hoped one could not be facing at this stage, and obviously the crime situation is probably the major area of concern, of social concern at least. So one would have wished that the combination of social factors and capacity for law enforcement was such that the crime situation was less critical than it is.  There are a number of social factors leading to that and I think the Deputy President referred to that, the collapse of norms and values, the extent of corruption, the poverty and joblessness, all of that combined to create a situation of high crime incidence or the potential for high crime incidence. But combined to that then is the fact that we have through our law enforcement agencies, through our criminal justice system, have not managed to combat the crime as we would have wished to. I think that would be one of the major areas that would come to mind.

     The other one is, and again it's not merely a matter of failure on the part of the government, it's again the almost conspiring of a variety of factors, the unemployment is another area that one would have wished the conjuncture of circumstances was such that it was better.

POM     Going back to the crime situation, why has it been so difficult for the government to get a handle on this problem? Whereas the crime stats will show that in most categories there has been a levelling off, in most categories except two, I think rape and murder, yet most people today live, according to surveys, in more fear of their personal security than they did three or four years ago. They don't really think the situation is improving.

JG     I'm not sure about that 'most people' but let's not debate that because one could say that the people who express the greatest concern, or rising concern, may be people who previously felt themselves, or were in fact protected from some of the ravages of our society. But as you say the statistics in fact show that there is stabilisation in the incidence of most of the serious crimes, but the President always makes the point that quoting statistics is not much of a consolation to a person that himself has suffered at the hands of them. So what I am actually saying is that the facts are that the crime prevention agencies are in fact getting on top of the situation if one were to look at the statistics. But your question is why still is it that the crime incidence is as high as it is even if it is stabilised, even if it's not rising. I think, again, there are a variety of factors one of which is, and I think the relevant one for the purposes one speaks from the point of view of the government, is that we had to integrate, we had to reorganise our police services, that the police one finds more and more were not trained to deal with the processes and the procedures of a democratic society. Also, and one again doesn't want to tar our entire police service with this brush because it isn't true, but the level or the extent of corruption in the law enforcement agencies is another problem which the government is faced with. So with the appointment, for example, of Meyer Kahn to head up the management of the police service, that started or that gave further impetus to approach for the reorganisation of the management of our law enforcement agencies. What I am saying is that there was widespread corruption, there was disorganisation, there was ill-preparedness of our law enforcement agencies which is one contributing factor from the point of view of government's contribution to combating of crime.

POM     What about on what I would call 'the demand side'. The two categories of crime where SA still rates either number one in the world or number two is in the murder rate and the rape rate and rape has been increasing at quite a dramatic rate and crimes of rape from year to year and crimes against women. Did apartheid leave a culture of violence and does that culture still permeate society? I remember Joe Slovo once saying that to be a true revolutionary one had to have a contempt for human life. Is there a contempt for human life, where car-jackers take the car and rather than just take the car and let the person go they just shoot the person and take the car and it's just for a matter of shooting the person?

JG     I would again be wary about making too simple extrapolations that apartheid was violent, therefore we are violent, or revolutionary resistance to apartheid was violent and therefore we had violence. I think again it's a variety of factors. I don't recall the Slovo statement but it would probably have been within a particular context. But I don't think we can deny that apartheid had a brutalising effect on all people in this society, it's own disrespect for human life and for the dignity of human life must have affected the moral fibre of this society in that we are still having to battle that. But then these things also go in social waves, again I don't know why I remember Durkheim such a lot today, but he spoke about these social waves that you find in society. I would be hesitant to condemn South African human individuals and say there you have a collection of human beings walking around with a disrespect for human life. I think there are social patterns that happen, hijacking for example and violent responses to that. I think that these things are structural more than just what's in the heart of human beings, not respect for human life. We will have to deal with that structurally. The National Crime Prevention strategy, for example, is a comprehensive strategy to put processes in place including educational ones to combat this current wave of violent crime that we have. I think it's a combination of factors, the fact that we've had this change, we've had this liberalisation. Previously you could have dealt with these things in a more authoritarian way. We are not dealing with things in a authoritarian way. I'm a bit wary to make the generalisation that there is now with South Africans this disrespect for human life, I actually want to be much more factual about it, whether it's a high incidence of violent crime.

POM     What role do you think cultural factors play in there being such a high incidence of crime?

JG     What do you mean by cultural factors?

POM     Cultural factors would be the value systems that people have, their respect for authority, the fact that people were - many young people learned to disrespect authority because authority was seen as the authority of an illegitimate regime and that attitudes of this sort can't be turned around in the short run.

JG     I don't know, these things are so simple, when one is confronted with it it's almost become a sort of cliché kind of explanation of our society. Really I am increasingly at a loss to respond to it. We could have an authoritarian onslaught. Perhaps we should let our army loose on criminals and take them out and all of that. Really I'm probably not a very helpful interview any longer these days because I find some of these things so repetitively stereotyped explanations of our society that I'm at a loss as to how to respond to it. Yes I am sure that there are aspects of that, that youth had to take up so much of the role of resistance against apartheid, that they had to resist the illegitimate authority of apartheid, that remnants of that are still with us, the disrespect for authority. But I am sure you will find as many South African youth and children respecting their parents. All of these things are part explanations.

POM     They're part explanations?

JG     What I am saying is that I don't think it's as simple of that, that just because apartheid made them disrespect authority that we're now faced with this. If our economy had been better at this stage we would probably have more people employed and we would have less violent crime and crimes against - property related crimes for example, the hijackings and these things are property related crimes. Many of the crimes committed are done by non-South Africans, again because of the openness of our borders post-1994. So it's a combination of factors, that's what I'm saying.

POM     Just talking about the economy, everyone that I have talked to across the political spectrum including all previous ministers of finance, essentially say that GEAR is dead, that even as a framework it has failed to achieve its objectives, that it was based on a number of assumptions that have proved not to be valid, or at least not totally correct, that this year there may be economic growth of a little over 1% but taking into account the population growth per capita, income will actually go down, domestic savings are not increasing, that the idea of a 5% growth rate is a pipe dream, that the inflow of foreign investment has been more a trickle than a flow and that the time has come to re-examine GEAR and yet the government adamantly adheres to it and I think to the point of the President saying that GEAR is government policy and will remain government policy over his dead body. Why not a more open debate about GEAR itself? Why not say, yes the time may have come to re-examine a number of its assumptions?

JG     What would you say are the assumptions of GEAR?

POM     Well that if the country could show itself to be fiscally responsible, manage its budget, cut the deficit, that it would show that SA was an attractive place in which foreign investors could invest, that foreign investment was the key to economic growth.

JG     Which of that would you regard as having been proved invalid as assumptions or objectives?

POM     The targets that it has set to achieve.

JG     You're talking about targets but GEAR is about doing certain things and trying through those things to reach certain targets. So you may say we haven't reached our budget deficit target but what does that say for the assumptions of GEAR?

POM     The major assumption that may be incorrect is that even if you do reach your budget target that this in fact has no impact whatsoever on the flow of foreign investment, particularly fixed long term foreign investment, that there is no inherent relationship between economic growth and the creation of jobs. In fact on the contrary in most countries, at least European countries, they are suffering from the phenomenon of jobless growth, the economy grows but unemployment increases and that a strategy -

JG     But you are not by that saying that one should not have economic growth then one will have job creation?

POM     No I'm not saying that.

JG     Because these are the kind of illogical arguments about GEAR. When people talk about GEAR I'm not sure that they know what they're talking about. You're saying that the assumption that economic growth will lead to job creation should now be changed. What does that mean?

POM     Not changed, that it should be re-examined, that the experience -

JG     Perhaps one should get away even from acronyms because then you think about this thing as a thing which is a dynamic policy framework. What it seeks to do is to have economic growth in a way that creates jobs as well because what lacked in part to the formulation of the strategy was the recognition that the economic growth that we've had since 1994 had not led to job creation. So what it put on the table was a range of strategies to stimulate economic growth in a way that was more labour intensive than it had been because our economic growth had not been  labour intensive. So again on that point I'm not sure what people are asking to be re-examined.

POM     I think last year 130,000 jobs in the formal sector were lost. It's that the trend worldwide in a global economy is for downsizing, making operations leaner and tougher.

JG     Where? In the public sector?

POM     No in the private sector.

JG     If you don't reach your targets it doesn't mean that you must therefore change the entire strategy because the targets, for example, are affected by a variety of other things than just the government performance. But what I wanted to say is that the public works programme, that the government has a strategy for certain capital projects which would be more labour intensive and which would therefore lead to job creation. That's part of the GEAR strategy. So if you're asking whether government recognises that some of its targets are not being met I would say yes, certainly, but that doesn't seem to me to be challenging the basics of GEAR which is fiscal discipline. I don't think anybody is asking, well I won't say anybody, I think many people are asking government to be spending more on social services, pushing up the budget deficit. There's that kind of argument that it's not important for us to look at our budget deficit but I don't know whether - who argues that responsibly.

POM     But to extrapolate that to the larger point, the fact is that the strategies designed to achieve economic growth are not proving to be particularly effective and even where there is economic growth it is accompanied by a loss of jobs not a creation of jobs, at least in the formal sector. So it would seem to me that one would say things aren't gelling here and why are they not gelling, why are we not capable of creating jobs? Is it because we are now part of a global economy where our own capacity to dictate our policies is limited by the constraints of the global economy and that in a way you are hostage to the vagaries of the global economy and insofar as you've achieved political sovereignty that economic sovereignty is no longer the preserve of an individual nation but lies out there in the global market place?

JG     I am sure the global economy and the liberalisation of the world economy has got those kinds of constraints. The planned Job Summit is exactly a call to the various relevant sectors of SA society, business, labour and the government to talk together about strategies for job creation.

POM     When somebody like Dr Motlana says the fact of the matter is there will be no increase in job opportunities in the formal sector, if anything unemployment there will continue to increase as new technologies are adopted, that one must look to the informal sector and develop strategies for the informal sector which would require a reorientation of conventional thinking as to how you go about job creation. Two, many people would say, particularly outside observers, that the wage level in the formal sector is out of sync with the level of development of the country. Three, that the labour legislation laws that have been passed are a barrier to job creation insofar as if an employer has a choice between installing a piece of machinery or hiring ten people it is much less aggravation to install the piece of machinery that doesn't complain and doesn't want discussions and consultations and go through procedure after procedure before a worker can be retrenched. I'll give you one example: an NGO that came here that made it part of its policy to employ local Africans, to send them to school, to train them in computer skills and management skills and the like, the idea being that when the NGO pulled out they would leave behind people with skills who could find opportunity in the job market. When it came to a reorganisation in this particular NGO the responsibilities of a number of personnel were changed. A number of the Africans immediately went to the Labour Court saying this was in violation of the Labour Relations Act. There are now lawyers flying back and forth, endless arbitration, to the point of where the organisation has said, "Listen, we are simply going to in future not employ local Africans, we are going to bring in one American who can do the job of three and just get rid of the problem."

JG     I don't know how to respond to the anecdotal things but you mention a number of things, that the labour market should be less rigid and there is a general discussion of that and a recognition of that. The fact that the conciliation and mediation processes are elaborate, that's a way to over a time create a more stable industrial relations situation. I think our industrial relations have been more stable after 1994 than it was immediately before 1994. I cannot argue with Dr Motlana, I don't pretend to be an economist, but the emphasis on small, medium and micro enterprises in the government's economic policy is exactly because that is seen as an area of economic growth and job creation.

POM     I don't know, something is missing here insofar as my perception and the perception of the vast majority of the people that I talk to, black and white, from every sector of society is that the country is on the verge of, if not in, an economic crisis and at the same time one gets no sense from government of getting that message across to people. For example, in South Korea when its currency collapsed and the economy tumbled you had sight of people going into banks and giving their bits of jewellery or their wedding rings or whatever and handing them in in order to 'help the state'. You don't get any sense of that kind of social cohesiveness here. You don't get any sense of crisis. Do you think the country is in an economic crisis or do you throw up your hands and say we're doing the best we can?

JG     I think perhaps you should put that question to the Minister of Finance. Is he part of your study? There's a reason why we didn't get together for the last year or so, I just find the pressures of this job, particularly when I'm thinking about things I need to do, that I'm not a good conversationalist any longer because I actually think that answer you'll get much better from the Minister of Finance. I don't know whether those economic ministers instead of me shallowly offering you views on that matter, I don't know whether you're talking to him?

POM     I am yes, but in your own view do you think the country is in economic crisis?

JG     I wouldn't say economic crisis, I don't think we're in an economic crisis. We're going through more difficult times than we had anticipated, our economic growth is not what we hoped for, our currency has been under quite a bit of attack, the unemployment, as I've told you, is a particularly difficult challenge at the moment. We're going through economic hard times but I think by and large our economic fundamentals are better than many other countries around.

POM     So what would you say to people who say that there is no work ethic, that there is no discipline whether in the workplace or the classroom, that the culture of entitlement matched by a culture of unaccountability, a culture that is practically anti-learning and even more so anti-teaching?

JG     Again, I really must keep on saying I feel I'm wasting your time, I'm actually a bad interview. I've just reached the point - because these kind of generalisations, I think the President often speaks about the fact that we should still in our schools talk about a culture of learning. That's something that comes from before the end of apartheid when we started with this idea of getting out to the protest area and get the kids back to school and to learn again. The work ethic, I don't know, what does one base that on to generalise? A lot of South Africans are working very hard. People say there is no work ethic in the country, I don't know that that is the case.

POM     Well even as I move around the corridors, say, in offices in Plein Street or in Pretoria ministerial offices, by five o'clock in the evening the place is empty.

JG     Why do you find that unusual if by five o'clock if people end working?

POM     Because I would say that the people that I work with, I'm not using that as an example of anything in particular, routinely work on average 12 or 13 hours a day and work six or seven days a week, where there is no compartmentalisation that I work from nine to five and I leave at five and I go home and I get on with the rest of my life.

JG     I think you would find civil services around the world having hours in which they work, I don't think that's so unusual. My own department, for example, the Cabinet Secretariat, I don't think that they've got any hours that they work but you will find other sectors in the administration where people will - I don't know, we make easy generalisations. I don't know where you want me to - sorry if I'm a bit impatient but I've really got my mind on other things. I'm not sure where we're leading with the interviews, I find it a bit unstructured. I can make superficial comments to generalisations that you put to me.

POM     President Mandela some years back called for a new patriotism. I see no signs of that new patriotism.

JG     Where would you look for signs?

POM     Signs in a knowledge among the people that they must sacrifice together, that this generation may not be the full beneficiaries of freedom but that if there is sharing a sacrifice in this generation it will ensure that their children will have a far better future. I find that even just say the Teachers' Union, or take any union, has an attitude of, 'If I'm all right Jack the other fellow be damned, I want my wage increase. I don't care whether that contributes to a higher inflation, whether it makes us more uncompetitive or whether it results in job losses. I want more and I want it now.' I'm thinking of a public service union that has the government by the throat and frankly the government has not come up with a strategy for dealing with the problem of public service unions, that the retrenchments that were supposed to happen in the public service over the last three or four years have been minuscule. The President referred to it in his speech and the Deputy President did too, to a continuing culture of entitlement.

JG     Trade unions are there to perform a particular function. They negotiate and agitate for their members and I think in a democratic society we've got to accept that, that the trade unions are not just meekly giving up that job of agitating and bargaining for their people and we've got to bargain with them.

POM     That seems to me to be kind of a passive response. What I don't see, if I see SA in the last four years I see it as staggering through a series of enormous problems that are in many ways the legacy of apartheid, but that there isn't a spirit in the country that says there isn't a vision of where the country is going and how the country must get there and what it's place is in the harsh world of the global economy which doesn't give the country a break for five or ten years and say well we'll wait till you get on your feet before we start imposing the rigours of the market, and that there was some kind of assumption that SA was special and would be treated specially by the rest of the world.

JG     It's an interesting observation, particularly from an outsider, and probably with a lot of validity to it. The point is though that SA, and it's not unimportant that this country holds together, if you think back to 1990 or 1993 it was quite a different country. We have at least one democratic country and I'm not sure how one measures the patriotism. It's a country that holds together, it's not falling apart. It has a particular kind of economic difficulties but I don't think it's a country or a society falling apart.

POM     So, again, to those who would say that too much emphasis is put on blaming 'failures' or 'inadequacies' on the legacy of apartheid that it's time to put that aside and start saying we are accountable for ourselves and for our future, that we can't always point at apartheid as being the reason why things don't go right or the reasons why things are not getting better.

JG     I think most people in government will agree with you on that.

POM     And yet it's trotted out again and again by government officials, by ministers, you name it, and you will find that the phrase 'the legacy of apartheid' creeps into speeches at one point or another.

JG     It's not my impression actually, I don't know when last I've heard that being said by a minister but then you're more of an observer than I am. My own impression just in the cabinet, I can only talk from the very limited and enclosed space where I work these days, that's certainly not the approach or the tenor of the planning, that they would undo apartheid but I haven't heard a minister in cabinet once trying to pass off his or her responsibility to apartheid.

POM     The speech the President gave to the 50th Congress in Mafikeng was full of references to the legacy of apartheid. In fact I was struck by its anti-white harsh tone. Every form of opposition was dismissed, every organ of dissension was dismissed and there were innumerable references to the continuing operations of the third force and the whole tenor, not the tenor, the language explicitly said that most of the opposition parties, if not all of the constitutional opposition parties, were out to destroy the ANC.

JG     Are you sure that you're quoting exactly?

POM     I'll give you some quotes. The President said, and these are direct quotes from the President. He said that the white dominated media was a force opposed to the ANC.

JG     It was a five hour speech. I was just saying to a colleague, because it was a party speech so we as a government department had nothing to do so we were first acquainted with the speech was by the media report and that eventually going through whole five hour speech, you spoke of tenor - because it also sounded the way that it was presented that this was a kind of an autocratic speech but it was such a wide-ranging speech that I don't know whether we're not doing injustice to it again by picking up a line here or there. I can only speak from my own, as the President's Director General, and what he says as the President and his approach to the press is certainly not one of antagonism. In fact he's got probably the best relationship with the press and recognises the media, as he always emphasises, the mirror in which one sees oneself. The question of opposition parties I can only point you, and that's in Hansard, a response in parliament to the President's attitude towards opposition parties.

POM     He says, "Our experience over the last three years confirms that the NP has not abandoned its strategic objective of the total destruction of our organisation movement. The leopard has not changed its spots. The DP has no policy differences with the NP but has sought to position itself as an implacable enemy of the ANC." The Freedom Front is dismissed for, "It's narrow pursuit of so-called Afrikaner self-determination." The UDM is specifically referred to as "an organisation which brings together former bedfellows as functionaries of the apartheid system and its security forces, that it will attract some of the most backward elements of society."

JG     Well as a party political statement, party members could probably go with all of those statements and you must also put that in the context, it was said at the party conference, because I can refer you to the parliamentary debate, to the parliamentary opposition was asking, "Are we regarded as being disloyal?" And the President gave a response to that, he made the point that in this party political contest you must take it if we criticise you for our perception as a party that you are not partaking in the national objectives, but he said you've got a right to do that within our constitution and I'm not accusing you of being disloyal insurrectionists.

POM     How would you equate that with, again, continual references to the continued operation of a third force? Is there a belief in cabinet that there is such a thing as a third force? Is it something identifiable? Is it something amorphous? What is it?

JG     Again I've never heard cabinet use the term 'third force'. In fact the comment was once made that third force is a concept coming from a particular historical period when there was the liberation struggle with the government and the government used a third force. Again I say we're talking so generally that you say that there is talk about 'third force'. I'm not exactly sure who at one stage said what about a third force? Intelligence services must certainly have the responsibility of taking seriously that in the transition that SA went through that there may be forces antagonistic to the democratic process and the consolidation of the democracy. If you ask me I don't think that there is one consolidated conspiracy or third force trying to overthrow the democracy but then certainly we would be naïve to imagine that in a society that has gone through the changes that we've gone through that there would not be the possibility of forces that would be oppositional to the democracy. But I certainly am not a believer in a great conspiracy threatening our democracy.

POM     So if you look forward to this final year, or let me reverse that a bit: in his speech in parliament the Deputy President when he was talking about the two nations said that there has been no real progress towards reconciliation and that's an exact quote. How would you reconcile that statement with the fact that this President has devoted a lot of his time and energy to the pursuit of reconciliation? Has the pursuit of reconciliation been by and large a failure?

JG     No, reconciliation and national unity, the fact that the country is holding together, there is also recognition, there has always been recognition that reconciliation and transformation are two sides of the same coin, that as a South African you won't have the stability to transform the society unless you have national reconciliation. On the other hand you won't have lasting reconciliation and national unity unless you transform and change those property relations that we spoke about earlier.

POM     By property relations you mean?

JG     I mean that the economy, that the wealth of society is owned mostly by one sector of that society. So I don't think these things are in contradiction with one another but you can't have lasting reconciliation if you retain the poor/rich relationships in the same kind of structured way that it was previously. On the other hand there was a recognition that you need stability, therefore national unity in order to undertake that transformation.

POM     Do you believe that most whites take any responsibility for apartheid or that they are in a state of denial, that even when the most vile atrocities are revealed at the TRC that the attitude is, "Oh my God! If I knew those things were going on of course I would have objected", where there was abundant evidence throughout the last 40 years, whether it was the imposition of the pass laws or forced removals or detentions without trial or states of emergencies, that a lot of very ugly things were going on? Yet white people that I've talked to make no acknowledgement of that, they don't feel any guilt or any particular remorse about the past. It's more an attitude of the past is the past, it's their country now, let's get on with it. Do you get that feeling, when you deal with whites as individuals or as groups, do you get that feeling or do you get a feeling that there is an acknowledgement that some form of reparation must take place for 'the sins of apartheid' and that the only way reparation can be made is through a redistribution of resources from the privileged sector to the unprivileged sector?

JG     It varies again, you get different whites and different groups of whites. Again, in my own department there are many white people working here even among them it may differ. Antjie Krog, for example, is greatly torn by what she's heard at the TRC. PW Botha is totally untouched by it. Again, I think you will find a variety of responses amongst white people. I think many of them would wish that we could go ahead and leave the past behind us. Others learn for the first time what has happened, or the first time hearing it articulated in that way. Some respond through denial, others respond through strong reaction saying that this is a witch-hunt against whites or particularly Afrikaners. There have been suggestions from certain white sectors, I mean the President often says that the white and Afrikaner business that he interacts with are saying, "What can we do to help and be part of the transformation?" So, again, like in human affairs I think there are a variety of responses.

POM     Which is the dominant one?

JG     I don't know, I can't really generalise on that. I think there is a general sense that people want to go on -

POM     Is not the Deputy President going before parliament with his 'Two Nations' speech, talking about the very kinds of generalisations that you could say we're talking about here? You're saying we are two nations and the privileged won't give up their privilege, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is increasing not diminishing and the time has come to do something about it, that in a way the price that whites have had to pay for the end of apartheid has been a very cheap price. They believed that once they gave the vote to black people that that was it, they had done their part.

JG     Are you asking me?

POM     Would you agree? Is the white community as a whole fairly guiltless and lacks remorse for the evil that was apartheid? Most say that they don't even know what was going on.

JG     I must apologise to you, I find myself a very bad interview in these things because I find it difficult to so easily generalise about 'the whites' or 'the people', 'the country'. There are such a variety of responses to that. I think what the Deputy President is responding to is a broader structural thing that the redistribution of resources, the redistribution of wealth, if you want to use that term, has not taken place sufficiently in his view. But again that itself is a process. There are many white people who want to be part of the transformation of SA. There are many white people who are part of the transformation of SA. There are also many white people who just want to forget the past, sit back and let things go on, things change but as long as it doesn't affect them too much. Those are some of things that he is responding to.

POM     On black empowerment, is it working?

JG     Black economic empowerment. Blacks to a larger extent are a part of the economy than they were pre-1994 and in that respect we must say yes, it is working, more people are participating in different ways in the economic sector. You could ask other questions, whether that in fact is trickling down, is going through to broader sectors of the black community? And many would say no it isn't and you've got to find different ways of doing it, and there are different responses to it. There are companies in Cape Town which I was speaking to recently, black companies who are saying that they are doing things in a different way, that they want to involve communities, involve trade unions in that. So if you're asking, it depends what you mean by 'working', if it's working, yes there is a greater participation of blacks, a growing participation by blacks in the economy in different ways than previously. On the other hand there is the view that it does not trickle through sufficiently to all layers of black society. So it is working and it is not working as broadly as it could.

POM     In the same vein, is the TRC working?

JG     It's working, it has brought to the fore, which was part of its brief, knowledge of what had transpired in the apartheid period, what we as South Africans had done to one another. There would be another view that it has alienated sectors of the white society and is not bringing about reconciliation but that's too early to judge. My own view would be that in its limitations it's done a job to give us a view of our history. The point I think that Tutu often makes is that that job of the TRC is not to accomplish reconciliation, it's to facilitate reconciliation and that reconciliation itself is a process. So, yes, I think it's working in terms of what it was mandated by its founding law to do.

POM     You say that even in view of the fact that most surveys indicate that at the moment at least that members of all communities believe that it has led to a polarisation of relations between the races rather than bringing them closer together?

JG     I don't know how you judge those survey results, but it's too early to say anything about the TRC. It must make its report, it must make recommendations about how we prevent a recurrence of this and how we do reparation to people.

POM     Just some fairly, I hope, more tangible questions. Do you think that the government has to find a way of getting control of public service unions, that to a certain extent they have you by the throat?

JG     To a certain extent unions always have their employer by the throat, that's been the whole nature of trade unionism that they sell their labour and they can withhold their labour. That's what trade unions are about. And how do you take control of a trade union? The government is currently in negotiations with trade unions and again what was established in SA, and I think we're progressing towards establishing that, is for labour and employers, whether it's the state or the private sector employers, to develop a social compact and less of an adversarial relationship and that goes for the public sector unions as much as for private sector unions.

POM     But with the public sector unions that appears to be conspicuously absent, that there is far more of an adversarial relationship when strikes are prepared to be called over what many people might regard as very, very small issues.

JG     Well public sector union strikes have not been all that much. There was a threatening teachers' strike is one that you get, but the public sector, the civil service hasn't had those many or that disruptive strike occurrence. So if you say the government must take control of them -

POM     Not take control of them, find a better way of dealing with them since they have the capacity to bring government to a halt.

JG     Which they have not done.

POM     But they have the capacity to do it.

JG     Well the trade unions should have that capacity. All over the world the trade unions have the capacity to bring all industries in which they operate to a halt. That's exactly what makes them. If they didn't have that capacity you needn't negotiate with them or take them seriously. It is exactly because what workers or members of trade unions have is the selling of their labour to their employers and the capacity to withhold that labour. It's not a strikingly unique feature that they have the capacity to bring government to a halt.

POM     Yet in most developed countries, 'first world' countries, it's against the law for civil servants to go on strike.

JG     Airline employees, Air France recently brought France to a halt. There were strikes in, I'm not sure whether you're right that it's illegal in France for civil servants to strike, if I'm not mistaken there was a strike last year. But that's not happened in SA so I am not exactly sure what you're saying.

POM     I suppose some people have said to me that what's part of the problem is that you have too perfect a constitution.

JG     I'm sure you won't take that seriously.

POM     No. In fact many people in the security area said that the constitution was drawn up with a rights culture and there is a belief among many who were part of that process that they may have gone too far overboard in protecting, for example, the rights of the accused or the criminals than in protecting the rights of victims.

JG     Well given the crime situation it's not surprising that one from time to time, and in pockets here that has been articulated, but I don't think anybody is seriously suggesting that we should make our constitution less human rights oriented.

POM     It's not that it's human rights oriented, it's that it is spelt out in such detail that the detail itself makes every action by the state or by institutions challengeable in one way or another.

JG     I think what's happened in that regard, I think you're referring to something specific now around the whole bail issue, for example, and the constitution compels the state to grant bail. That was a long debate whether that should be circumscribed. I think another matter is the death penalty. In the constitution we arrived at a position that the death penalty is abolished. There are calls that that should be reintroduced. You hear the joke often made, a kind of a bitter joke, when people say we've got this constitution that was made in heaven and that we've got to administer in hell. But I don't think, again, you can say that there is a serious body of thought that is saying that we should fundamentally alter our constitution.

POM     Corruption. Once upon a time corruption - the standard response to allegations of corruption was that the corruption of the apartheid era was far greater than any corruption being committed by the new dispensation. Yet again even President Mandela has talked about how some of the former comrades are putting their hands in the cash till and there is hardly a province where there are not serious allegations of corruption or cases of corruption under investigation. Is post-apartheid corruption becoming a problem?

JG     Post-apartheid corruption is a problem. Any corruption since 1994, no matter what it's historical roots were, is post-apartheid corruption and that is a problem. I think both the President and the Deputy President have expressed themselves quite strongly about that and there are a number of measures, again institutional measures, in place to address that. In my office, for example, the Heath Commission actually goes around just investigating  cases of corruption. The Public Protector is the prime institution for addressing corruption and the Public Service Act is such that it institutes within departments whistle-blowing measures. Yes corruption is a problem.

POM     And is it a growing problem?

JG     I don't know. What would one base that on? I would say it's a problem that is being addressed with growing urgency.

POM     How about the provinces? There have been, I think, at least two reports in the last year which have said that the administration in most of the provinces is very poor, that there is a lot of malfeasance and wastage and inefficiency and that some provinces are on the verge of administrative collapse. Then I think there was the Presidential Review which suggested more powers be concentrated in the President's Office and taken out of the purview of the provinces. Is provincial administration and then lower down is local government administration becoming a problem to the point of where it seriously impedes and affects on the capacity of the central government to deliver?

JG     I think one should distinguish between corruption and inadequacies and inefficiencies. As you say there is a lot of waste, there is a lot of inefficient service delivery particularly in the provinces which is something not necessarily the same as corruption.

POM     I'm not saying there isn't a distinction between the two.

JG     There were a number of reports, there was the so-called Tcholo Report, the Public Service Administration investigation into the provinces and it pointed out the serious lack of capacity, administrative capacity and therefore service delivery capacity in the provinces, the lack of adequate human resource development programmes. And it is, I mean if the government were to do a balance sheet and refer to crime, refer to the slow economic growth, and then the administrative capacity in the provinces, I think there are other serious deficiencies which you could point at.

POM     How can that be addressed?

JG     It is being addressed, it's being addressed by human resource development programmes in the first place. It's being addressed by increased stepped up accounting procedures, because a lot of this is administration of finance and the finance department, the Auditor General, are stepping up their liaison with the provinces in order to improve that.

POM     Do you think the development of a strong multi-party parliamentary polity is a necessary ingredient for the development of a vibrant democracy or can a strong vibrant democracy flourish in the absence of a strong multi-party parliamentary system?

JG     You need a strong multi-party system to have a strong multi-party democracy and our constitution starts off by committing itself to multi-party democracy. I'm not quite sure that I exactly understand your question.

POM     Well the question would be that you have, at least here, a one party dominant democracy and is that healthy? Or can democracy flourish, take root and develop in a situation where one party is for the foreseeable future the dominant party or do you need the development of a more flexible multi-party system where you have competing coalitions as it were and not so much power concentrated in the hands of one party?

JG     You're asking a number of questions and different things. The multi-party democracy system that we have -

POM     Because there's more than one party.

JG     That's a constitutional arrangement and that's guaranteed. What happens in the political process is that constitutional order that's - would you want the majority party to shed some of its voters? I'm not sure that I understand the sense of the question. So what is it that we would wish would happen? That there's a stronger other party? I think most people would say yes they would prefer to see strong competing parties.

POM     Which you don't have at the moment.

JG     Yes, which we don't have, but that's the fault of the electorate if you were to want to apportion fault in this.

POM     Well I suppose going back to the provision in the constitution that commits itself to a strong multi-party democracy the question might be -

JG     It commits itself to a multi-party democracy.

POM     Might not it be better say for the alliance to split into its natural elements and for more political competition to emerge? Might that not be better for the inculcation of democracy?

JG     Well that's a different question actually, but what is democracy? You could argue, and it is being argued, that within that alliance you find very strong argument, debate and difference.

POM     Yes it's called the broad church.

JG     If you say for the inculcation of democracy, what is that democracy that you're talking about? The culture, the habit of argument, debate, difference, and there is that in the alliance. Many people argue that the most energetic debates, but again if debate is a thing that we're looking for, debated differences as the definition of democracy, take place within the ANC, take place within the tripartite alliance, I think that's a different question if you want to reflect upon the likelihood and the effects of a split or not a split in the alliance. But to link the multi-party system to the substantive outcomes of that process, link it to different kind of things. The multi-party system is constitutionally guaranteed and nobody is fighting that. What we may say is that the opposition parties seemingly are not making much headway in gathering support within that system.

POM     I put it the wrong way, but should the government be doing more to facilitate that kind of support emerging? For example, the United Democratic Movement might be a very good example. Here is a new party, a party that appears to have established some small base of support, may even now be around 4% or 5%, and yet the constitution provides that financial aid to parties will only be given to existing political parties that are already within parliament, not to parties that are outside, so it doesn't provide for helping new parties that are emerging. There are some things that can be done that would make it easier to open the space.

JG     The first one, the funding for emerging parties, I personally think that there should be some mechanisms for the encouragement, the support, also financial support, to emerging parties with demonstrable support. Obviously they would work that out that you don't give support to every fledgling idea with a person to articulate it so that's got to be worked out. I think the UDM is becoming a demonstrable political force in this society and I agree that's one way that should be found to encourage that. The other one, I've never understood that argument that you should allow crossing of the floors in a proportional representation system. People vote for parties on a broad basis in our current system. If there were the constituency based ones I would say yes, in that case then it should be allowed and that particular person will then have to deal in a democratic way with his or her identifiable constituency. In the current system I actually don't see the logic of that being allowed. If I were to be elected by you, demonstrably by you, and I then cross the floor well I have to work that out with you, but on a proportional list there is not that same kind of relationship. You are there purely by virtue of the list that you're on. But that's another matter. So if those were the measures that you're thinking about for encouraging or facilitating the emergence of new parties, yes I'd agree with you that the funding of parties, there should be a mechanism for financially supporting emerging parties with a demonstrable support base.

POM     Even with regard to the funding of parties, as I understand the formula at the moment it is a proportionate one, that parties would get support from the government in proportion to the percentage of the vote they got in the last election.

JG     That's right, as far as I understand it, as far as I remember it yes.

POM     Which means that weak parties will remain weak and strong parties will remain strong. Shouldn't the formula be skewed in a certain way so that more resources are made available to weaker parties because weaker parties have a more difficult time, sometimes an impossible task of raising outside resources since everybody likes to give money to a winner and not to a party that has not a chance in hell of gaining significant power in parliament?

JG     Yes it's a moot point. On the other hand public resources must have something to do also with the proportion of the expression of the public will and that's what comes out in the parliamentary representation. It's a bit of skewing if you say the weakest party will get the most but I think that, I haven't pondered exactly how you work that out, but certainly there must be equitable or there must be justifiable ways of supporting emerging parties which have fair representation. You can't really be throwing public money at every idea that has an articulator of it. But yes in general, without pretending to have thought through exactly how you will structure it, but your principle, yes, I think the state should find ways to make it possible for the popular will to be expressed in different ways through parliamentary parties.

POM     Just a couple of final things. Over the last couple of years there has been what one could call a sustained attack on new-liberal values, or to be classified as a liberal or espouse liberal values is a pejorative that's tossed around. First, how would you define liberal values? Why do you think they come under such scathing attack from the African intelligentsia? How are the liberal values inimical to the development of democracy in SA? And in what sense do they differ from what might be described as traditional African values?

JG     I don't know whether the distinction is between traditional African values and neo-liberal values, but leaving that apart the public debate on this is often a vulgarisation of much more profound and much more refined debate I think rather than reducing it to debate between African values, whatever that may be, and neo-liberalism. I think the debate goes backwards and it's a European debate or a European inspired debate, it's almost an enlightenment inspired debate. It goes back to debate between socialism and liberalism that after the fall of the then actually existing socialism, as it was called, the debate took another form. It really goes back to that, the post-Marxist triumph of what's called the liberal project and that many people who never saw themselves as part of that liberal project now with the collapse of socialism as an articulated alternative are still asking that question, what's happening with the global economy, with the liberalisation of the world economy? Is that the triumph of liberalism? Is what we see now the neo-liberal project triumphing? I think it is often vulgarised by GEAR, for example, one of the left wing criticisms against it is that it is part of the neo-liberal project. COSATU often refers to GEAR as a neo-liberal project.

     As I say that's often vulgarised to categorise opponents who are not seen as being of a particular ilk to call them neo-liberals. It really is a vulgarisation, political vulgarisation of a much deeper debate because there is something like - I think the current world order if you looked at old left parties in the world today like the Labour Party and you can describe them as being neo-liberal rather than social democratic as they once were. I think it is that debate, it is that discussion that's often superimposed in quite simple ways to our situation because there is a way that you can say that GEAR in many respects represents core elements of the global economic organisation. I don't think that Trevor Manuel or Thabo Mbeki who are key proponents and architects of GEAR, or Alec Erwin who was a member of the Communist Party, Alec Erwin the Minister of Trade & Industry is a strong supporter of GEAR is also a member of the Communist Party, I don't think they would want themselves to be called neo-liberal but on the other hand there are elements of the GEAR policy which are so much part of the new global organisation of the economy that it could justifiably be seen as part of this apparent triumph of the project.

POM     One person described it to me in terms of liberal values being concerned with the individual, individual rights, the emphasis always being on the individual whereas more traditional African values would emphasise community.

JG     Yes, liberalism, it's epistemology is classically that of the individual consciousness, that's again no new discovery. There's the old debate again between collectivism and enlightenment thought taken up most cogently in socialist thought against the individual. But those again are deep epistemological questions, how does one have access to the world, socialist thought or collectivist thought, the idea that the individual is an abstraction, that the collective has got an aetiological priority. Again there's not much new in that debate.

POM     Finally, you say with relief, what is the one thing in government that you would have liked this administration to have achieved that it hasn't and what prevented it from attaining it?

JG     I think I previously said that if we could have had the organisation and administration of our law enforcement and our criminal justice system in such a way that we could have prevented the incidence of crime that we currently have, even if we may argue that we are managing now to stabilise it. That would have been the one thing that I personally would have liked because the prevention of crime is in some sense a generic to many of the other problems that we have, the lack of confidence of many people in this society. You referred to an absence of patriotism, I think the incidence of crime is probably the one factor that feeds this relative absence of participation of the national project.

POM     And finally, what are you most proud of this administration having achieved? What are you least proud of it having done? What have been its biggest mistakes and what have been its most inspired moves?

JG     That's a big question for a quick final question. What is one most proud of? There are many things that one's proud of. You've given a pretty depressing picture of what you hear people saying out there but that SA, the apartheid society, one of the most divided societies, one of the most conflict ridden societies, that it managed to hold together in the way that it did, that the government of national unity for the first year or two and then the limited government of national unity managed to hold the nation together, that in spite of all of the divides, differences and that, that we managed to express that within our constitutional framework that we have set out that we have consolidated the institutions guaranteeing our democracy. So whatever happens SA is a stable, consolidated, democratic society. The management of our economy in spite of all of the pessimistic notes too has been an achievement. The pressures on this government to overspend, to relinquish fiscal discipline has been enormous, the temptation to play to the constituency of the poor which is so overwhelming in this country has been enormous. Yet the economy is being managed in a way which I think the government can be very proud of in spite of the difficulties. Those difficulties make it even more - the temptation for it to take the route of some of the other countries on the continent and less of that prudence and sound management of the economy. Those are just two of the things that I can think of. Less proud of? That's difficult; as I said the things that I regret we haven't been able to do is particularly this thing of having our administration of the law enforcement and criminal justice system in such a way that we could have had a society with greater safety and security for its people.

POM     And it's biggest mistake?

JG     It has made mistakes I suppose. One that comes to mind is that the government of national unity couldn't hold together. I would have thought with the NP being the largest party representing that sector of our society which was one part of the protagonists that they couldn't stay or be kept in the government of national unity. I would always look back on that as one of the failures that they couldn't find a way to keep together. They can blame the NP for that, they walked out of it, but on the other hand it takes two to tango and that they couldn't find mutual ways of staying together.

POM     And finally, the most inspired move?

JG     A difficult one to say. An inspired move almost looks calculated. I can just look at it systemically and come back to the point that it managed to do things in a way that kept this nation together. The nation had the capacity for fractiousness and for falling apart.

POM     OK. Thank you ever so much for the time.

JG     You're welcome. Are you starting to conclude now? I got from your letter that you -

POM     Yes I've now got about 13,000 hours of transcribed material to wade through and to structure and organise in a way that a book emerges which is due from my publisher two years from now. So I will get down to writing now and I already wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety pains thinking of the volumes of transcripts that have to be gone through, cross-related, correlated and sense made out of them all so that a systematic view emerges out of the voices of the people. I'm going to base a lot of it on just the voices of the people that I've interviewed and the inter-mixture of voices and how people see the same issues in different ways and how that affected either development of policy or the development of the society itself.

JG     That will be intriguing but I don't envy you this part of it, it's always with books and theses the putting together. In any case, strength.

POM     And you will pass my letter on to the President?

JG     I will do that. I will just say that anecdote, like all anecdotes is actually not true.

POM     I'll go back and I'll tell him that.

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.