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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
18 Aug 1998: Moodley, Strini
POM Strini, it's been two years since we last talked, which is the longest gap, I think, in the nine or ten years that we've known each other. Perhaps first you could just bring me up to date on what you've been doing. I know you were doing a lot of travelling in those two years. And then talk about, review as it were, the last ten years, where SA has come from, where SA is going, what are the formidable challenges that lie in the way of developing a true multiparty democracy, whether a true multiparty democracy will ever be possible in a state that appears at the moment to be so dominated by a single party and how does one make democratic institutions flourish when one party exercises so much power.
SM Padraig, firstly I've been over the past two years involved in work with civil society here in SA through Umtapo(?) Centre and also working occasionally as a representative of Umtapo Centre on the African Development Bank/NGO joint committee to look at ways and means by which the NGO community in Africa can make a contribution to constructive development on the continent and what role the African Development Bank can play in that. We've also been working closely with other organisations on the continent to assist in developing peace education programmes, an African peace education programme which we believe is becoming an urgent priority on the continent and not just here in SA. I have also as a member of the board of directors of Civicus, the world alliance for citizen participation, been continuing to interact with civil society organisations throughout the world and have in that context been involved in meetings with the United Nations Development Project. UNDP called a meeting of civil society organisations where we tried to sit down with governments and their representatives at the national and local levels and the UN and civil society to work out where we are going in the future and how we see the UN perhaps at some point in time fulfilling its own mandates partly to ensure that the UN doesn't just remain an organisation that only has governments participating but to be able to turn the General Assembly into a place where even civil society can have representatives.
POM Let me take you back to a point, you talked about the development of a peace plan for Africa, more urgent now than ever. For a period there it appeared, for use of a better phrase, that Africa was 'getting its act together'. There had been a series of democratic elections, dictatorships overthrown, a modicum of civil society developing in different countries. The continent was beginning to grow. I think two years ago, in fact, the growth of the whole continent was I think around 5% and then suddenly the whole thing seems to have imploded and you have this rash of conflicts almost across the entire continent, horrible and awful genocides and massacres and instability. What happened? What went wrong?
SM I'm not sure that there is any single answer to that question. I suspect that it might be a combination of reasons for why this is happening on the continent. I suspect in part it might be that with the emergence of a strong democratic movement across the continent it might be that such a movement is looked upon as a threat by elements in the international community. Particularly I suspect that the level of your multinational, trans-national organisations and institutions which would identify the emergence of a democratic civil society movement on the continent, putting paid first of all to things like the rash of arms sales and the sales of weapons of destruction that is so rife on the continent.
POM So you're really talking about trans-national or multinational corporations?
SM Your arms manufacturers, your arms dealers, both that exist on the continent and that work hand in glove with those that are outside the continent. That might be in part it. Probably also I think the continuing struggle for limited resources has the impact of creating the climate for internecine warfare as you've seen in Rwanda, Burundi, in the Congo, practically all over right up to Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, all of these places. It's several reasons. It's economic, it's political, it's all of these put together but overall I suspect it's a kind of problem that is hard for us to understand but every time Africa tries to get up on to its own two feet something seems to happen and my suspicion is, I think, that there are people and there are organisations in other parts of the world that are afraid that if Africa does get its act together it can change the nature of relationships between countries and the relationships and nature of relationships between people and people of colour amongst themselves and between themselves and other people across the world. And that might be looked upon as a threat.
POM Isn't it ironic in a way that SA is turning to its arms industry as one of the components to stimulate economic growth, as though it's the only efficient segment of the economy and the only one where it's competitive in a world market?
SM Absolutely. That is a part of the frightening aspect of what happens in a country in Africa that is in the stage of transition where it has a tremendous amount of natural resources that can be constructively harnessed towards economic development of the country itself and creating the foundation for the country to build a self-reliant society, has to turn to using weapons of mass destruction in order to make economic advance, which goes towards consolidating the point I'm trying to make that rather than allow a country to use its natural resources in a constructive way we are being driven in the direction of using the arms and ammunition development as a point of departure for our country's economic development and that can't hold good. It can't hold good.
POM Let me put all that into context, a much, much smaller context. I spent the weekend in Richmond and talked with Sifiso Nkabinde and the head of the ANC there and all the specialists on the military side that they have brought in. Indeed it appears to me that it's a military operation being supported by the police rather than a police operation being supported by the military. The military are all over the place and all kinds of patrols that if they were happening in the days of apartheid there would be an international outcry as it were. What's the root in your view, the root cause of the scale of intensity, brutality of the violence that's occurring there? Is it a microcosm of what happened all over different spots of SA or is it particular to the circumstances of Richmond itself?
SM If you look back at the history in this country what always you find is that KZN represent the microcosm of what is possible, what kind of things can happen in the whole country. Richmond is an example, and it's not a new example, Richmond has had this problem from the mid-eighties, even earlier. So that for us it can only be a continuing programme to maintain a state of destabilisation so that whoever is in control of resources in this country continues to be able to have control of those while the effort by any institution, organisation, including the government, to be able to reduce that and focus attention on those priorities that are more important were not allowed to do it. The government is not allowed to do it, the local communities are not allowed to do it.
POM It sounds like a vast diversionary tactic.
SM Exactly, exactly. In that is, I suspect, the seeds of what can be a much larger problem as we head towards the 1999 election which in my view is going to actually follow the same patterns as we saw prior to 1990 in the build-up to the release of prisoners and the creation of the opportunity for negotiation, a massive war by the various parties to gain control and Richmond is the beginning or the continuation of the effort to take control, political control and that political control is linked into which organisation is going to act as the policeman for those who own and control and the major resources of this country. Again, as I think I've been saying to you all these years, the problem lies in the fact that we have not been able to secure a settlement in this country where there is an agreement that there must be a redistribution of resources. What you're having now is the inclusion of a small proportion of the black community into the ranks of those who have traditionally been in control of those resources. So it's including a few individuals -
POM Another form of co-option.
SM Another form of co-option which is seen in the development of your NAILs and your other so-called black economic empowerment investment groups that simply bring a couple of individuals into it, black people, and that is seen to be redistribution. That is definitely nowhere near redistribution. Redistribution is a completely different thing from what we are seeing presently. At the end of it, once the eyes of the people have been opened to this massive charade that is being played out of a pretence at democracy and a pretence at providing the necessary basic resources for people in the country so that they can live normal lives, we are going to find ourselves in a position where all of these organisations that are rooted in some kind of militaristic approach to resolving problems are going to war it out with each other so that SA in the future, if it does not get its act together very quickly, will end up like a lot of other African countries where we are going to lurch from one dictatorship to the next.
POM How would you categorise the present government? On a scale of one to ten where zero is dictatorship, authoritarianism, repression, ten is perfect democracy, participatory democracy, where does it hover?
SM I think they're hovering at about three or four. Firstly because they made the assumption that they would be able to hoodwink the people, secondly that -
POM You're talking about the ANC?
SM Of course. That they would be able to elicit some kind of payback for sitting at the table on the basis, on the scenario, that was being painted not by themselves but by others. That means the format of the negotiations and the negotiating table was designed by someone else. The foundations upon which those negotiations took place put them in the position where they had to accept that there were certain things they were not going to be able to do. For example there would be no such thing, and I'm using their term here, they originally talked about nationalisation of the primary resources in this country. They changed from that completely now where they have turned full circle and are now talking -
POM Make Mrs Thatcher proud.
SM Absolutely, absolutely. They are actually - one doesn't know what their position is because on the one hand when they get into their political meetings they continue to use the rhetoric of socialism yet in fact when they execute their programme as government it's a programme that is capitalist in the extreme, in fact worse than, even in some circumstances, capitalism as you see it in other parts of the world including the USA. They are also saddled with the uncomfortable and absolutely untenable concept of reconciliation in a situation where they are always having to reconcile with somebody else. Whereas those who have traditionally been responsible for disaster in this country are able to get away almost with murder and continue a system - because if you look at the system today it is no different from what it was ten, fifteen years ago except for now you have black people, or people with black faces and black skins, who are doing exactly what your FW de Klerks and your PW Bothas were doing in the past.
POM Just to relate that to Thabo Mbeki's 'Two Nations' speech where he said that the divisions in the country were as great now as they were ten years ago, no progress towards reconciliation.
SM I perfectly - I identify with what he's saying but it's pointless to say that. You are the Deputy President and actually de facto the President of this country, you say that on the one hand and then on the other hand it's almost as if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. You do exactly those things which contribute to and perpetuate the existence of that kind of division. So I can't take him seriously. Until he gets down to the task of putting together a government, a true government of national unity, which will be made up of people who are committed to true transformation, which means starting with the important priorities. Don't make promises that you can't keep. If you make a promise keep that promise. I think there is a way by which it can be done. It's just that the ANC has tied its own hands down so that it cannot, even if it wanted to it cannot. It cannot because the constitution, which is supposedly this magnificent document, will actually prevent them.
POM Is the constitution too good?
SM The constitution is not made for a country. The constitution is made for a place like heaven. South Africa is not heaven. That constitution will work in a perfect society where you can rely on the bona fides, the integrity of the people with whom you are dealing in the society and that constitution can never work in this country. In fact what that constitution does is also tie the hands of government. It prevents government from doing anything whether it is wanting to sort out the problems relating to sport, so much so that a racist judge who has been there for I don't know how many years can come out and insult the President of the country. That is what the constitution has been created to do. It's been created to give that judge the right to insult the President of the country and get away with it. But the President of the country will not be able to do anything because the moment he tries to do something that will benefit the majority of the people someone is going to run to court and stop him on the basis of this very constitution that's supposed to be in the interests of democracy and in the interests of what is supposedly the majority of the people.
POM So does that apply, in a way, to the crime situation? Here you have a specific problem and from your own travels you must know the identification that's already in people's minds between SA and crime and maybe it's because they keep better statistics here. I'm sure there are other countries where crime is far worse, it's just never reported or doesn't receive the attention, maybe it's because the first world sector here that makes an issue of it all the time. But one would think that, knowing that, given the extent of crime, that people do not have a sense of personal safety certainly in cities like Johannesburg which are like fortified garrisons, where people don't go out at night, where you talk to people in the townships, even in Richmond at five o'clock in the evening there is no movement. People lock their doors and live in fear. You have syndicates that operate freely. You've corruption in the Police Service itself. You've this almost ludicrous stream of escapees who from their place of detention on their way to court somehow mysteriously disappear. You've a judiciary that hand down what in other countries would be called ridiculous sentences for crimes, for example the crime of rape, if you commit rape in the USA you go for life, life, no such thing as a six-year sentence and you might be out after three years. Why has the government been unable to get, knowing that unless there is order there will be this continuing instability in the country that precludes foreign investment, precludes development, precludes many other things, why have they not been able to get a handle on it?
SM Primarily because (i) the government - well in order to be able to answer your question: what must the government do? The government inherits a bureaucracy that is racist, that is filled with people who have developed a particular approach to dealing with human beings. This government inherits that kind of bureaucracy. That bureaucracy has also been for a long time corrupt. It's always been corrupt. It's just that this is beginning to emerge now. It's always been corrupt. The way by which a government in a country that is in transition can deal with it is to first of all get rid of that bureaucracy but in terms of the very constitution that we have it's impossible for the government to get rid of that bureaucracy because the moment you try to do that they are all running to the courts to prevent the government from doing so.
As I say, first of all the basis of the negotiations, the consequences of the negotiations, which is the constitution which was drawn up by foreign people, had nothing to do with South Africans being party to that constitution, you find that the government is sitting and not able to work whether it's in the Ministry of Justice, whether it's in education, whether it's in the prisons, in the police, in almost every sphere of government they cannot act.
So where does crime fit into this? The question, first of all, of crime in SA, it has always been there. Johannesburg has always been a fortified city. That's not anything new for those of us who know Johannesburg, who have been there from 1967, 68, 69 if you went to Jo'burg you had to be careful of the criminals, you had to be careful of crime, you had to be careful of all kinds of things. What is happening now is that, and I'm going to give you several reasons for it, first of all there is much more reporting about that crime. That means the media now is able to gleefully point to the inability of the government to control what is happening in the country. Secondly, there is most definitely, no-one can deny it, the development of a certain psychosis, a certain psychology amongst people in the country who in the euphoria of 1994 and subsequent elections thought that there were going to be all kinds of provisions made for them which would help them climb out of this cycle of poverty and it's not happening. A lot of them that are participating in these crimes come from within the police force, within the defence force itself, we know that, we see that. Plus other people like from your previous freedom fighting liberation armies who have come back into the country, they feel they've sacrificed for so long and now the government that they had been fighting on behalf of in order to liberate the country has simply sidelined them, has ignored them. So you find that these people are participating in all these kinds of crimes. They go into coalitions with policemen.
I suspect also if we scratch the surface we might find that a lot of those people were involved in the liberation armies were themselves originally working for security forces. There is sufficient evidence that indicates that. And all of them have just gotten together and decided that they would make the most of trying to take whatever they want. If it's not going to be provided they are going to take it and they are going to steal it, they are going to rob, they are going to go into the banks, they are going to do all kinds of things.
Why are so many white farmers dying? White farmers have been dying for a long time. This thing of the attacks on the farms has been going on for a long time. It's becoming a major issue now but I suspect it's a combination of, again, political and economic reasons. Political because white farmers are traditionally racist, they are traditionally people who have whipped and beaten farm workers, who have treated them in sub-human ways. Black people now are not going to take any kind of that lying down. But again they find themselves helpless because if they go to the police and report about a particular policeman or a particular farmer he will get away with a R500 fine or R1000 fine so what do you do? You form a gang of your people, go to the guy's house who has been beating up the women or beating up the workers or ill treating people and do away with him. That is the level of it.
We have lost our morality in this country and the morality has been lost precisely because the government itself demonstrates that it has no morality. It has no morality because it has not fulfilled the promises for which it has been fighting and which it claimed to be fighting for. That is the redistribution of resources, the elimination of capitalism and the creation of a socialist country. That is what they were arguing for from as far back, all of their speeches, all of their Freedom Radio reports, everything they've been talking about.
POM Could one not argue that all of those statements and objectives and ideals were relevant in a segmented and fragmented world economy but now that you are part of the often used, over-used 'global economy' that one of the impacts of globalisation is that you lose a considerable amount of your internal sovereignty, that you have to obey global rules and that if you follow your own course or your own path you simply get marginalised by the world economy, that you don't have the power to do the things you want to do because of your global - whoever these global forces are, whether it's the World Bank or whatever, says simply no more loans, no more this, no more that, and you're uncompetitive in a world that's increasingly competitive and you can't attract the kind of foreign investment that people say must be attracted if there is to be a serious jump start to the economy? How does one balance these contradictions? Yes we want to have a socialist state. Two, we've got to follow market forces. The two are contradictory.
SM That's precisely the point I'm making, is that when you came into the negotiations you knew all this. The ANC knew all of what you're saying. It knew that. It knew about the globalisation of the economy. It knew that it was never going to be able to turn the country into a socialist state because of that very fact. Yet, what was it saying at the time of the elections? What was it saying? It's message - houses, jobs, peace. Now all those three are in other words interpreted by people on the ground as what? It's commitment to socialism. So the ANC right at the beginning had to say to the people: we are not going to be able to do this because the negotiated settlement that we have achieved ties us into the global economy and because we're tied into the global economy we are not going to be able to do these things but make us your government and we will see what we can try to deliver. That is the message it should have given. Or even before it went to negotiations it should have gone to the people and said to the people: we have to make a contract, there are one of two contracts we can make. The first contract is a contract in which we tie ourselves to the global economy which means things like jobs, things like houses, things like the redistribution of resources, all of these things are not going to happen. Or we can cut ourselves off from the international community, close our borders both financial, physical and everything else, batten down the hatches and the contract will be between us so that we try as a closed off community from the rest of the world to first of all build ourselves up, because we have sufficient natural resources in this country, so that we can be able to develop the way we want to develop and direct our economic development. It could have said that to the people at the beginning but it didn't. It didn't say any of those things. It made a whole lot of promises which it knew it can't keep. In the meantime you don't tell the people that I'm making false promises. You continue to pretend to the people.
What the amazing thing is that one of the primary slogans of the ANC's electioneering in 1994 was 'Jobs for All'. Not very long ago President Mandela for the first time admitted that the ANC is not an employment agency, which is a total contradiction. In the space of three years he has now come around to telling the people that we are not an employment agency. So people sit around, they sit around in the pubs, they sit around in the shebeens, they sit around and they say, look at this man, he told us jobs for all and now he's telling us he's not an employment agency. He goes and tells COSATU, you guys, you must make sure you don't ask for wage increases, you must recognise that there are going to be retrenchments, you must stop making impossible demands, etc., etc. He tells them off. He tells the workers off. The workers are controlled at the top by an elite leadership. When they go out and they're sitting in a shebeen and a guy says something to them they think, yes, what the hell. He has got to still go home and feed his family. He doesn't have the money to do that. He hears that another friend of his robbed a bank up the road and is sitting pretty, has actually been able to move his family out of that area and is now living a comfortable life. Nobody has arrested him. He has gotten away with it. So what does that mean? It spreads. It must spread. Everybody is going to think, well if that is how we are going to survive in this new SA, well why can't I join it? And so corrupt policemen, corrupt prisoners, corrupt warders, corrupt teachers, corrupt - you go right through the system and you will find corruption all over the show. Now who do you blame for that? You don't blame the people.
POM Where would that leave the ANC in the run-up to the 1999 elections? How do you see them shaping up?
SM Everybody is working on the premise that the ANC is going to have another - it will take the majority of the votes. OK. I accept that. I accept that primarily because now the people have come to understand, so this is a corrupt government where corruption is allowed so let's keep this corrupt government. People have lost hope. There are a lot of other people who come to me and say to me, "I'm not going to even bother to vote. Why must I bother to vote because the ANC is going to come in and the ANC is going to continue to do the thing it's doing? So where does that leave us?"
POM Is there any alternative opposition?
SM At the present time no, no there isn't.
POM The NP is just disintegrating at an accelerating rate day by day. The DP is a little white elite. The PAC has never managed to expand its base or doesn't have the resources and, again, the managerial talent to run a national election. The IFP is -
SM In any event if you take all of those parties from the ANC, the NP, the DP, the IFP, the UDM, all of them have a common economic policy and that is capitalism, the perpetuation of capitalism, the participation in the global economy and market economy approach. All of them, that's the only approach they have. So therefore I don't see any difference between any of them. The differences are only insofar as the racial characterisation and historical situation of all these parties are concerned. Those are the only differences I find between them. Then of course you've got your Conservative Party and your Freedom Front which is simply an opportunity for racist white SA to have remnants of its voice still heard. And then you have the PAC and the PAC, primarily because it has never been able to articulate an alternative that was different, continues to be a part of the same gang because while it speaks about being socialist and Africanist it actually is participating in a system and does not have a clear message that it can give to the people. As a consequence it's not going to make much progress. So that what do you find in the end? You're going to find that what we have created in this country is a series of parties all of whom are very similar in their approaches. Their programme, their agenda for what they're going to do in this country differs very little from each other and people are going to say, OK let's give it to the ANC. Some will say let's give it to the UDM. Some will say the IFP and some will say the DP. So you're going to have what is going to amount to probably a coalition of all these various forces with the ANC holding about 59% to 62%/63%. If the ANC continues along the path it is continuing on now, that percentage can drop. But what I would like very much for political observers to watch very closely is the percentage of the voters who turn out and I think that is going to be the most telling thing.
POM One thing that has struck me, particularly in the last couple of years where there has been an economic downturn again, where it's obvious GEAR isn't working and yet the government refuses to have a debate on why it's not working. Mandela I think has gone so far as to say, "GEAR is government policy, it will be government policy over my dead body", end of discussion, that's it. No-one is saying what assumptions was it built on, were they the correct assumption, did we make incorrect assumptions, how could we adjust? It's just like, this is it. And unemployment is increasing, at least in the formal sector. People point to the informal sector and say great things are happening but then nobody can quantify what's exactly happening so you can always point to saying we're having a great success at something you can't measure. What I don't get is like, say, in South Korea when the economy collapsed or whatever, you had all these TV pictures of people going into banks and giving their gold and saying we want to contribute to rebuilding the nation. You have no sense here of a national cohesiveness where the message is we're all in it together and unless we sacrifice on behalf of each other there will not be a future for our children and it is not us in this generation who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of liberation. Liberation is something that we can give our children, give them a better future and we will have to sacrifice perhaps during that period but once we all do it together and share the burden we're building something together. You get no sense of a vision, a clear vision and message being given that people rally. Yet during and against apartheid one of the things was that the country was so successful at mobilising people against something and now they can't be mobilised for something.
SM I think that's partly because, again, the ANC perpetuated the lie of many nations. The question of eleven official languages, the recognition of the different race groups, all of this contributes to the fact that you no longer can talk about nation building. You're actually perpetuating the old separate development and the ANC was not able to produce a nation building agenda that would, in times of crisis, rally people together. The ANC acted like a benevolent dictator: we will do it for you, you don't have to do anything. All you do is just give us your vote and we will give you everything. That was the attitude of the ANC. Now with that kind of approach people don't see a commitment, they don't see a commitment. There is no-one who is coming forward to do anything like what you saw in South Korea and that's simply because people have lost trust in the ANC.
POM What is Mandela's failure then? Or what is his success?
SM His success has been that he has been able to perpetuate the comfortable life of the haves, the traditional haves in this country. He has been able to maintain a window dressing of racial harmony. He has been able to put himself across as a world statesman who is committed to peace and who is without any vindictiveness or desire for revenge. Beyond that he has no other success. There is nothing else that I can see he has succeeded in doing.
His failures have been his inability, and the inability of his government, to be able to develop a proper economic vision for this country. His failure has been to fail to develop a proper nation building strategy. And he has failed to rid the country of the culture of entitlement. What he has done is actually expand that entitlement to include black people. This country has always been built on a culture of entitlement, an attitude, a belief that this is ours, it belongs to us and we are entitled to it. In the past it was simply restricted to white people who believed they had to live a comfortable life. They have to have everything provided for them, their big cars, their homes, their holiday homes, their holidays away from home, to have all of those benefits to them and do the least amount of work. That culture of entitlement has now spread itself into the rest of the community. The black community now feels, well this is the way it was done and this is the way we do it now. Mandela has set that particular example because he's allowed his entire cabinet, his entire government to live that kind of lifestyle. I must have a house in Cape Town, I must have a house in Pretoria, I must have a beach front, I must have a big Mercedes, I must have a big enough salary to be able to live this new lifestyle of mine. There was no such thing as there are hard times ahead, we've got to cut down on all these extraneous expenses, cut down on salaries, cut down on these unnecessary expenses, of running expensive cars, expensive houses, expensive travel, opening up expensive offices, doing all the kinds of things that actually are not productive, that do not contribute to accelerating or developing the economy of the country so that resources can be equitably shared.
POM So whither SA as it enters the millennium?
SM I am hopeful that there is going to come a time when people are going to recognise this major charade. They are going to realise that they have been lied to and there is going to emerge in the beginning of the millennium a major opposition force which will by 2004 be in a position to confront and take over. However, a note of caution. Because of the militaristic nature of the present government and the other parties that are there such a force that develops might find itself on the receiving end of military action which will include detentions, killings and those kinds of things. So that is the scenario.
POM So you could see the government resorting to detentions?
SM Absolutely, absolutely.
POM A positions of states of emergency?
POM Richmond is one step away, it's a de facto state of emergency. I was stopped by - the police were proud of this - by six different road blocks, which is fine, but they were operating on the premise, the new man in there, the new Commissioner appointed is operating on the premise there must be a visible police presence and the police must become user friendly and one way of doing this is to just stop people in their cars, ask for their driver's license and say thank you very much, where are you going? You have been around here long enough, and I have been around Northern Ireland long enough, that whenever you're stopped by a policeman no matter what his goodwill is, how much he smiles, you resent it.
SM Of course.
POM You don't say: aren't they just doing their job? You go away just feeling a little bit angrier. So that to me is a strategy that will have a completely counter-productive impact than the one intended. But the one is made on such a simple premise, well if people see us and see that we're doing our job they will like us and come to us and supply us with information. It never happens. Anyway thank you ever so much. I might come in on you one more time before I finish.