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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
01 Sep 1998: Molefe, Popo
PM I'm very tired, I've just come out of a conference.
POM Let me begin with the conference. As I was going through Johannesburg yesterday I saw, you must get it, one of these big posters that they put up with newspaper leading stories, this was from The Star for Saturday which said 'MOLEFE TO GET THE BOOT'. They did a story, I don't know whether you saw it?
PM I saw the story, yes.
POM Let me just read the relevant bits and then you comment and give me the background. It said, the heading was 'MOLEFE TO GET THE BOOT'. That was their poster. And then the inside in their paper was, 'HIGH NOON FOR POPO MOLEFE', and under that was, 'Most North West regions back his opponent.' The actual story begins: -
"North West Premier Popo Molefe's grip on the ANC's provincial leadership as Chairperson will be under attack today at the organisation's provincial conference which looks likely to unseat him. Seven of the twelve regions have nominated Molefe's fierce opponent, the Rev. Johan OJ Selepedi for the job. The move to oust Molefe has been fully endorsed by both the Provincial Women's League and the Youth League of the ANC. A former aide for Molefe said, 'It is high noon for him, this is definitely not a good time for Popo.' And if that were not enough most of the twenty-five member Provincial Executive Committee are known to harbour strong anti-Molefe views. This is the same PEC that earlier this year forced Molefe to choose whether he wanted to remain as Provincial Chair or as a member of the organisation's National Executive. They told him, 'You can't have both.' Molefe, after much thought, chose to step down from his seemingly less prominent role as an NEC member. Had he acted otherwise his comrades would have tried to force him to step down as Premier as well. The Mafikeng branch of the ANC has been in the forefront of the fight to depose Molefe. The only regions known to support Molefe are Vryburg, Rustenburg, Kuruman and Madikwe. A PEC member said, 'Most of us are unhappy with him and would not give him our support, believe me. This is not politically motivated, this is simply what most of us feel about the whole situation.' Madikwe is regarded as Molefe's stronghold yet he peaked ... by only two votes during the nomination process. Molefe first encountered the wrath of his comrades early this year after he was quoted in the media as saying, 'The majority of people in the North West do not have revolutionary backgrounds.' The expression was widely assumed by many in the province to mean that they were not steeped in the policies of the ANC. Molefe went on record as saying the remarks were not true, that he had not made them, but without much success. His opponents have also attacked him on the basis that he's outsider."
Now the Sunday Times had a blurb that said, 'MOLEFE FIGHTS FOR HIS POST'. And yet you trounced your opponent. He didn't even finish in the first five top positions. Were you ever consulted about this story? Did anyone ever ring your office? What's behind it? What is the state or is there a rivalry between you and the man they called 'OJ'? What does the rivalry date to? What is the state of the ANC in the province? Did the PEC - it was my understanding of the ANC structures that as provincial chair you were an ex-officio member of the NEC anyway and you were also an elected member, so you came in on two counts, how could the PEC force you to choose between being Premier and being on the MEC - or, sorry, chairperson of the ANC in the North West and a member of the MEC since all chairpeople of the provinces are in fact at least ex officio members of the NEC and most of them were not elected like you are? Is that a long first question?
PM Firstly I was not consulted by the journalist who wrote this article.
POM Her name is, Abby Markwe.
PM Abby Markwe - that's a man. He never consulted and the story was an absolute distortion of fact. In the first instance I did not have the support of the Executive Committee so the Women's League and the Youth League they made the public statement to say that they are supporting Selepedi. But at the time when Markwe wrote this story at least nine of the regions, nine out of twelve regions, were fully behind me. But, Padraig, this does not really worry me. I have gotten used to these kinds of stories, this kind of reportage. Every time when a conference comes there is this kind of a campaign. The media would aim their bullet at me which is really aiming the bullet at the ANC, not at me as an individual. But in each case that they have done so they have missed their target. It seems to be now a culture, a norm, that every time we go to a conference they concoct stories, very negative stories, but in the end the results of conference prove otherwise. This has been the case again now. But you see I think what the newspapers are doing needs to be understood in a wider context of the strategy of the opposition forces and the liberal media to weaken the ANC. They know that if they attack, they single out and attack a person who represents the ANC's views and vision and image and who enjoys the support of a cross-section of our society, who is regarded by the wider society as a unifying force, then they would begin to weaken the ANC. I have not had any historical rivalry with Selepedi.
POM And here they call it a 'fierce rivalry'. They don't even say 'a rivalry', they put the adjective 'fierce' in front of it.
PM He serves with me in the provincial cabinet. He was with me in the working committee in the PEC. I have done a lot of projects with him which related to his line function dealing with agricultural issues, interacting with the farmers. I have personally taken the initiative in many respects and invited him but he has also taken initiatives where he invited me. Certainly he was interested in becoming the chairperson of the ANC, but that's fine. The constitution of the ANC makes provision for members to be free to elect but to also be elected and I think he believed that it was time for him to try. In any event when I was elected he had been the chairperson the year before and when we faced very stiff opposition we discussed it and they persuaded me avail myself as chairperson of the organisation.
POM This was when you were first elected?
PM Yes, when I was first elected.
POM That was before the - ?
PM In 1994.
POM Before the elections?
PM No after the elections.
POM After the elections. So you had become Premier. So you were Premier before you became chairperson.
PM Right. So they persuaded me to stand. Well at that stage the reality is that the opposition was very strong and they thought that I had the necessary profile and history to take on that opposition and that's how I became the chairperson. I think if he does nothing untoward, he's a man who says - I now want to try again. So there is no rivalry. As far as I am concerned the ANC is solid. We will of course always have new people who come in, who obviously would still be learning about the organisation but I think members of the organisation who have been around for some time remain focused on the programmes of the organisation and committed to defending the revolution and defending the ANC. When you look, therefore, at this new Executive Committee you will see that it's a very powerful Executive.
POM This is the PEC?
PM Yes, the new one. It's a very powerful committee and I think that we have an opportunity to place the ANC on a plane where it can operate in a very professional way.
POM The allegation that the PEC forced you to choose between being provincial chairperson or being a member of the NEC, is there any substance to that?
PM Well the PEC did not force me but we had a very intense debate on this question because, you see, for two years my deputy and some people close to him had been working on a campaign to ensure that he becomes the chairperson. When, therefore, I was elected onto the NEC they thought that it would be an opportunity for them to put him in the place of the chairperson. There is a clause in the constitution -
POM Who is this? He's your right-hand person?
PM Some members you know. So when we debated therefore Clause 11.6 of the constitution which says that if a chairperson of a province is in his own right elected onto the NEC that chairperson should cease to be a chairperson of the province, provided that the province may make a request that that person should stay in his position because of the peculiar circumstances that exist in the province. So we debated that and we could not agree on whether there were special circumstances or there were no special circumstances. So the debate was going on and on and in the end the PEC said, well we think that we should ask the chairperson to resign his position from the NEC and focus on the province. It was a process and the decision was a product of intense debate that took place.
POM But are you not, as your position as provincial chair - ?
PM You are an ex-officio member on the NEC so it wouldn't really have made any difference.
POM You still attend NEC meetings?
PM I would still attend NEC meetings. I think for me what was important at that time was really to present myself before the membership and give them the opportunity to demonstrate if they could still elect me to the NEC. So in a sense that election was just an exercise to test if there was any national support. It was really not a material thing because I would still sit on the NEC.
POM So all this makes no difference. You're still on the NEC and you're on the PEC and you're provincial chair and you're Premier.
PM Yes. And now I'm chairperson again so I'm again still on this NEC until my term of office ends and when my term of office ends maybe I might avail myself again for re-election on the NEC.
POM There's no difference between the influence or the position of an ex-officio member of the NEC and - ?
PM No there is no difference.
POM A vote is a vote.
PM There is no difference. You still debate issues in the same way as all other members of the NEC.
POM Let me address a question that has come up recently. Well, first of all, this commission that has been set up, headed by Patrick Lekota, that is to look into in-fighting in the provinces within the ANC. I'll put that in the context of the decision of the ANC earlier this month to make a distinction between the chairperson of the party in the province and their decision that while that position would be an elected position the premiership would be appointed by the national NEC. One, are you in favour of Premiers being appointed by the NEC? Two, do you think it's not what many would call an indication of democratic centralism? Three, do you not think that if the two positions are separated, so to speak, that it creates two poles of power within a province, the premiership on the one hand and the provincial chairmanship on the other hand who may be two entirely different creatures. And four, why would the ANC set up a commission to look into political in-fighting in the provinces if in fact political in-fighting were not going on to the detriment of the organisation?
PM Let me start with your last question. It is correct that the ANC should look into the problems affecting it, so they have the commission to look into it. The ANC is under attack. It has been under attack for many years. The campaign against the ANC has intensified.
POM By whom?
PM By the opposition forces.
POM But who are these? The NP is nothing.
PM No that campaign is continuing. The opposition has made no secret of the fact that the ANC cannot be destroyed from outside. If you want to destroy it you must destroy it from inside and therefore they would encourage tensions inside the organisation. That's one aspect. The second aspect is that we are in a period of transition and transition by its very nature is characterised by strains and stresses, tensions which sometimes play themselves out manifestly in a manner of power struggles. And it is also so because in a plural transition, the ANC being this broad church that accommodates everybody, has also been funnelling in very new people with no tradition of struggle and various tendencies in a national liberation movement would then manifest themselves, people being impatient, wanting to occupy very senior positions soon. Some of them would do so even though they really don't have the kind of experience necessary for those positions or even the ability or skills. Now it becomes important for the ANC then to protect itself.
POM Against a kind of populism?
PM Against a kind of populism and against a kind of influence that may or may not come from inside the organisation. It may be coming from outside the organisation. Let me give you an example. In SA today there are many business people who know that the ANC is very powerful organisation, who want contracts in government, and they say in order for us to get those contracts we must have influence inside the ANC itself because if we have influence in the ANC we will then determine who are people who will be elected into the tender boards, into various boards of state companies. Now in the process, therefore, they begin to move closer to some of our members and engage in activities which corrupt our own members and in the end members of our own party find themselves fighting the wars of these business people against their own comrades. So in the defence, in pursuit of the strategic goal of defending the revolution, it is necessary that the ANC must first be able to control its own cadres.
It is for that reason, therefore, that it is necessary to look into all these problems and the question of separation of chairpersons and premiers must also be understood in the context of the ANC seeking to maintain stability in its own ranks. When we started there had not been any premiers so we had to start afresh and in provinces people had to say who do they think is going to be a premier. Five years down the line we have now seen how the process works. We have now premiers in place, ministers were appointed, premiers are treated as being at the same level as the ministers. It is our view that if the President appoints ministers then the President of the ANC should be able to appoint premiers. When you do it that way it will make it difficult for a businessman to come to me and say, we are going to make you a premier, we will support you, we will give you money to get lobbyists, we will do work for you and when you get the highest vote you will become premier. Now they know that they can't decide that issue, it has to be decided by the ANC so it takes out the sting from those who would have been fighting the wars, battles of other people, it takes it out and it therefore makes for more stability within the ANC and more focus on good governance. We are separating it from the position of chairperson of the province because the position of chairperson of the province is the result of an election process. He who mobilises more than the others, who canvasses more than the others, gets it, but it does not necessarily mean the person who gets the position of chairperson of the ANC has the qualities of a person who must be the premier.
POM Have executive qualities.
PM He has executive qualities. He may not have those executive qualities. He might command support in the ANC because he can toyi-toyi better than others but the wider public is not interested in toyi-toying, government is not about toyi-toying, it's about skill, it's about understanding issues, it's about policy development, it's about implementation of that policy and co-ordination. It's about focusing on delivering to the basic needs of our people, transforming society and improving the quality of life of the people. That is what it is about. It must be a person, therefore, appointed to that position, he must be one who would be able to impact positively on all sectors of our society, be a real leader. So you say to me -
POM But he's not premier of the ANC, he's premier of a province.
PM He's a premier of a province.
POM Of which the ANC is a part but not -
PM Not necessarily a premier of the ANC, he's not leading the ANC, he's leading the province, leading the ANC and the wider society of which the ANC is a small part. So it is that kind of understanding therefore that has informed the decision of the NEC that the position of premier should be an appointed position. For us it's a good decision. It was opposed by the NP and the DP.
POM Once it's opposed by them you know it must be a good decision.
PM Must be a good decision. They never agree with us on anything unless it's a wrong decision.
POM That's the litmus test. Should a premier have the right to appoint his own cabinet?
PM Certainly. But before I deal with that question let me return to say although the President of the ANC will appoint the premier, the President will be advised by the NEC but the President will also consult with the provincial leadership of the organisation. He will not just appoint and he would take into account the wishes of the people in the province also, whether a person appointed is the kind of a person who would enhance the stature of the ANC, the kind of a person who will command respect across the board. He would take those sorts of things into account. Of course in addition look at the track record of the person and the skills that the person commands.
POM Now with regard to the appointment of cabinet ministers, should that be the sole prerogative of the premier to hire and fire his cabinet as he wishes as is the case in most countries? And I ask that in the context of Jacob Zuma going to the Northern Province where the former MEC for Education who had been fired by the Premier, at Zuma's insistence was taken back into the cabinet and I think became MEC for Transport, but again many people saw it as the interference of the centre or of the national level in something that was the prerogative of the Premier himself.
PM Well the ANC is not a federal organisation, it's a unitary organisation indeed which believes in democratic centralism, certainly.
POM It does believe in it.
PM Certainly, and therefore the constitution of the ANC also is very clear on that question and where there are problems in a province the leadership at the highest level has a right and responsibility also to intervene in that situation in the manner that they consider to be best in the circumstances. I am sure in the process we would sometimes make mistakes but we definitely have the right to intervene. It's not something that we consider to be an interference, it's not an interference. I am sure the NP would do the same, all these parties. They sit in their own meetings, the Federal Council of the NP, which is an equivalent of the NEC of the ANC because it also has provincial leaders, it makes decisions on who should lead what province. That's what they have been doing.
POM Yes. Now you're Premier of the North West and you choose your cabinet and if the NEC comes along and says we don't like it, or you say after a year, I don't like such-and-such -
PM No, no, there would be very specific rules.
POM I want to reshuffle the cabinet and -
PM No, there would be specific rules, ground rules we agree on, specific ground rules we agree on on how we deal with these matters and certainly if we reshuffled the cabinet, for instance, if we reshuffle the cabinet certainly I would obviously pick up the phone and say to the President of the country and the President of the ANC, listen, I am planning to reshuffle my cabinet and this is how I want to do it. I have done it before. I would phone Madiba and say - you know this is the situation in my cabinet and this is what I want to do. I have done it before. When I removed Metsing I spoke to them, of course not everybody agreed with me, some agreed with me, others not, and then in the end I used my discretion because I have certain powers given to me by the constitution. Of course I would not abuse the powers I have to victimise my own comrades in the organisation. I would try at all times to act in a manner that reflects fairness and justice.
POM But if, say, the President said - I don't think that's a wise move, ultimately - ?
PM We would debate it. I am sure the President would listen carefully, take seriously what I say, what a premier tells him. He would not imagine that, unless it's a premier who has caused unnecessary problems in the past, but if it is a premier who has run his government well, who is known in this organisation to be a person who has got no other interests but serving the country and the movement, the President would not question his intention. Of course if the President thinks that there are pitfalls he will warn, he will say this is a dangerous thing to do because these are the likely consequences. And of course a premier might them sit back and say, well, let me reflect again on this matter and then he might say, well Mr President, you are right, or he might say that I think you did not consider other factors.
POM Under the constitution - ?
PM In terms of the constitution ultimately.
POM If it came to push versus shove and you said, no Mr President, I want him to go. Under the constitution who has the authority?
PM In terms of the constitution clearly the premier has the ultimate authority but I think the premier would want to operate in a manner that reflects an understanding that he is part of the organisation, that you don't take a decision that would be unpopular with the leadership of the organisation because it might make it difficult for you to implement it.
POM How about the new Secretary General, Mr Motlanthe's pronouncement that the ANC were going to do everything that they could to get more than two thirds of the vote in the 1999 elections? Do you think the ANC having more than two thirds of the vote, which would put it in a position of being unilaterally able to change the constitution, would be a good thing for the country?
PM To have that majority?
POM Yes, to have more than two thirds where it would have the power to change the constitution?
PM I am surprised why you are asking this question. I have never heard in any democracy where any political party or any constitution says to political parties - you can go to an election but don't aim to win 100%, aim to win less. It's nothing like that. You go into an election, you want a landslide victory. If you get 100% you go for 100%. Back in Lesotho if you get 80%, you get 80%, 90%, 90%. You aim high in any election. Certainly we don't intend to change the constitution of SA. There may be minor things that we want to change. Let me give you an example, this constitution requires everybody, every public representative to take an oath of allegiance, judges, ministers, premiers, members of parliament, members of the NCOP, but it does not do the same with traditional leaders. Traditional leaders have their House of Traditional Leaders established in terms of the constitution but there is nothing in the constitution that says you owe your allegiance to this constitution. So they can therefore use an institution created by the constitution to undermine that constitution. So you would therefore want to create a provision in the constitution that makes everybody equal in terms of the obligation to respect the constitution and the ANC might want therefore to add some kind of an amendment in that regard. It's not a fundamental amendment that affects the human rights, the fundamental rights of people, the rights of political parties that took part. So I don't see anything wrong in the ANC getting an overwhelming majority that may even be above two thirds, and remember it was the ANC that put on the table most of the compromises in the constitution. We were the ones who came with the government of national unity concept, we came with the sunset clauses requiring us to keep civil servants of the old order in government for a minimum of five years. We have been very much concerned about the unity of the people of SA, about stabilising the country, about winning the confidence of the majority of the people in the world but also sending positive signals to South Africans who were very fearful of the ANC. So we had to do so and we will not behave like buffoons, start behaving like buffoons and suddenly want to change the constitution all round. We won't do so because anything we do without carefully considering it can undo many positive things that we achieved.
POM The provision that guarantees the jobs of civil servants for five years, after those five years, which will be after the next election, is the government then free to retrench civil servants at will or must it still retrench them with severance packages?
PM We would still have to do it with severance packages. We have the labour relations law which protects them so you may not change the conditions of service of a civil servant unless you have negotiated it with that civil servant and agreed. So in many ways the laws that we have made ourselves are again tying our hands and protecting them further. But there is a new element, especially with regard to senior management. We are now going to be making them sign contracts, contracts of service with the executing authorities. Executing authorities would be ministers, premiers, provincial ministers.
POM This would be for director generals, deputy director generals?
PM Up to director level.
POM So they will get a contract for four to five years or whatever?
PM Yes, and a person must deliver in accordance with the contract, must make an undertaking, make a commitment that these are the services and goods that I will deliver to you then you will pay me and you will respect my line function, my work, you will not interfere with what I have to do. We are discussing a protocol for politicians and civil servants.
POM Then at the end of the five years the contract would be up and it would be your prerogative to renew it or not to renew it, so the question of severance pay wouldn't enter into it?
PM It would not arise at that stage. But of course if you want to change their conditions of service now you would have to deal with the issue of severance pay but beyond 1999 once you start with this contract system, especially for senior management, the issue of severance packages may not arise.
POM I found it interesting, and I was talking to Zola the other day, and he said on the one hand I am charged with reducing the size of the public service and on the other hand the Labour Relations Act ties my hands in trying to do so because I have to negotiate every individual case of retrenchment. How is retrenchment working, or is it in the North West?
PM Fortunately we don't have a major problem because although we have what may be seen as a big civil service but it is not as bad as in many provinces and a number of them, because of their experience and so on, have been taken by national departments so they are saving us the trouble by taking some of them. Others have resigned on their own, severance package. That has been going well. We don't see the need to hurry on that thing because I think the situation is under control.
POM At the national level you still hear people talking about a 'white dominated' civil service. In your province the civil service would be black dominated.
PM Well there are some departments where there are whites in senior positions dominated, but ours is really black dominated you may say, but it is correct because whites in our province constitute just about 8% of the population so it's not really an issue.
POM It's not really a racial problem.
PM It's not a racial problem.
POM But would it be that the civil service, that most of the employees in it would have come from the Mangope era?
PM Yes certainly, most of them come from that era.
POM Does that pose a problem?
PM It poses a problem in terms of loyalty and in terms of commitment, dedication and service delivery so they are still dragging their feet, undermining government, but we have embarked upon rigorous programmes of training and reorienting them and I think we are making a lot of progress. We are making a lot of progress, we have introduced a concept of batubele(?), which is 'the people first', so in a sense it's a programme that says we are here to serve, we are here to serve the people not our own interests. So it's a new way really of galvanising the public service into real action of transforming society and reconstructing it and really improving the quality of life of the people. This thing has been embraced by all, this principle of the people first.
POM Do you think Mangope's trial and his conviction on so many charges of fraud and corruption have undermined the support that he might have had in the 'old' civil service who still are part of the new civil service?
PM Certainly, yes, I think it has. It has undermined that support because I am sure many of them were not aware that he was stealing so much of public funds. Of course among the rural people he is trying to say that, "I am being victimised. I have used your money but it is not theft because you know I am your traditional leader and therefore it's fine if I use your money the way I wish." So he is making that excuse.
POM Also the tribe went before the court, as I recall, and said that the Chief cannot steal from the tribe.
PM Yes but it's not going to help him at all. It's not going to help.
POM But his tribe believes that.
PM No. But you see those could have been relatives, grandsons, sons, cousins who were filling out that role and then it is to be expected that they would want to support him, but it is not reflective of the wider society thinking. I think the vast majority of our people would think differently and I travel around that province, I know the mood of the people. He is going to appear again next month.
POM On a new set of charges?
PM Yes. We are charging him again and it's another one he's not going to win. It's another case of more than R10 million so by the time the election comes he will be finished.
POM How strong is traditional leadership in the North West? What element does it play in political life at the local level?
PM They are very influential there. The institutions of traditional leaders are very influential in communities. People still believe in the traditional and customary way of doing things but we have changed them a bit. In the past they were used as lobbyists for Mangope's party but now they have come to accept that they have to work with us. I particularly am satisfied that we have won a great deal of their confidence. They are willing to serve with me. I received several calls from them yesterday wishing me well as chairperson of the ANC, congratulating me and so on.
POM Paying their respects. So that's great.
PM And I have solved many of their problems, many problems that for years Lucas Mangope was not able to solve. He, for example, was giving them a stipend of anything between R200 - R400 per month. We have increased that to R5000 per month in the provinces. We are now placing a law before the national parliament which is going to oblige us to give them R6000 every month which translates -
POM You are as the North West or - ?
PM We started as the North West but now it's becoming ... (break in recording)
POM ... clash at the local election between the elected municipal council and traditional Chiefs, especially in rural areas. Do you think that the ANC may have under-estimated the importance of finding a way to bring traditional leadership into local government structures, that rather than go the pure western way, you're elected to a local council and that validates your position, that here African democracy must take into account the historical role of Chieftains and find a way, whatever it is, of integrating them with elected officials so that they operate more or less on a co-equal basis?
PM The ANC has always understood the importance of traditional institutions and that understanding derives from the very history of the ANC itself. When the ANC was formed, when it was founded there was a great deal of participation by traditional leaders like Skukune, Sandibe, Mntsiwa, many of them -
PM Luthuli was a traditional leader himself, there were many of them. So we have never been under any illusion. In designing the local government structure we made it possible at two levels for traditional leaders to participate. At one level we said if you want to present yourself as a candidate you can be a candidate and be elected onto the local council. It should be very easy for a traditional leader because he's got all his subjects who respect him. They should find it easy to vote for him. But we have also made provision for them to become ex-officio members, they automatically become members of the council without having been elected.
POM Did they have voting rights equal to elected members?
POM They do?
PM Yes they vote.
POM So why does the IFP continue to hanker about this issue of the role of traditional leaders if in fact sufficient mechanisms have been created by the ANC which would also apply to KZN to bring the Chiefs into the political arena?
PM Well there could be two reasons. One reason could be that the IFP is worried that if you establish local councils where traditional leaders are going to take part you will not have any single council where the traditional leaders would be in a majority. They may well be in a majority when you're dealing with a district council. The second possibility is that they may be worried that if you put traditional leaders with experienced politicians these traditional leaders will soon learn things that they did not know and they will learn to admire, begin to admire, the politicians that they are working with because these politicians will be teaching them something that they did not know and that the traditional leaders might begin to work very much for unity that we are working towards and the agenda therefore of the other parties may be undermined by such success of the ANC programmes.
POM Corruption. A bigger problem.
PM Yes corruption is a big problem. Padraig, we inherited a society that is endemic with corruption, in which corruption is endemic. If you listen to what Mangope says, if Mangope says, "You can't say I'm stealing if I take public funds and use it", it says to you for the Bantustan parties, for Mangope, for the apartheid government, corruption was part of their life, it was semi-legal, it had become a culture to them. So it's a society where people live by craft, theft, fraud.
POM Has that corruption spilt over into the new order?
PM It has certainly spilt over into the new order because as we go into the new order we have taken the elements of the old order with us, we have taken the vast majority of civil servants of the old order with us, the new ones also have their own problems. Some of them have suddenly found themselves in situations where they control amounts of money that they have never controlled before, exercising the kind of authority that they have never experienced because under apartheid all of us were struggling. We didn't know what power means, the power we knew was the power of the masses, the power of destroying the system. Now suddenly you have people who are running these big offices and big budgets, they have to decide who a contract is awarded to and so on. Now all those things in the end result in our people not being able to manage this new-found authority and power. They don't know how to manage it and they become overwhelmed, the temptations become too great for them and they suddenly find themselves sliding deep into this corruption.
But what is good about this government and the ANC is that we are making it publicly known, we proclaim that corruption is unacceptable, corruption is not part of us, part of the vision of the society we want to build. So wherever we find it we will root it out, we deal with it firmly without any favour to anybody. We deal with it very hard, whether it's our own members or other people we find there it's just the same. We started with the appointment of the Skweyiya Commission which I spoke to you about in the previous interview. We have now begun forensic investigations. As I'm talking to you we have just received reports of two departments, the Department of Health, four people were taken to jail on Thursday last week, were arrested. Today we've got another report of the Agricultural Bank of the North West. I just got a call and I'm told that it's a damning report, so management is going to be in trouble, heads are going to roll. So we are dealing with it systematically and very firmly.
I must say I never imagined at any stage that corruption in SA could be so deep and so widespread. It's shocking. But it's not the corruption that starts with this government, it's the corruption that we are uncovering and people must realise that there is a distinct difference between us and the former government. Whereas in their time corruption was like a culture and when they saw it they would hide it from the public, with us the situation is different. We have outlawed corruption, we have made it illegal. It's illegal and we are fighting it, we are exposing it and that is where the difference lies. We are re-engineering the new moral values of society, re-engineering, restoring the moral fibre of our society. They were not doing that. They were destroying that moral fibre of society.
POM Now just on that, Thabo Mbeki said on June 4th I think, in one of his budget speeches, that there had been a collapse of moral values in the country, there was a need for a moral summit. The churches came out just two weeks ago saying that they were going to hold a conference next year. They said: -
"There was a perceived despair in the country and their decision to organise a conference next year was to provide a message of hope for the country. They said there was a despondency in the country among South Africans at the escalation of violence, crime, economic instability and poverty, 'concern at the breakdown of the country's moral fibre has been expressed by citizens across the board'."
Do you believe that?
PM Believe what?
POM What they said. The churches' statement, this is where they came together and issued a statement saying they were going to hold a conference next year to give the country a message of hope and they said that there is a perceived despair in the country and their decision to organise a conference next year was to provide a message of hope to the country. They said there was an air of despondency in the country among South Africans at the escalation of violence, crime, economic instability and poverty, 'concern at the breakdown of the country's moral fibre has been expressed by citizens across the board.' Do you believe they are accurate or, putting that along with Thabo Mbeki's statement, that there had been a collapse in moral values and the need for a moral summit?
PM Well I wouldn't in a very simplistic way say that there is a collapse of moral values. I think it would be a simplistic approach. I think what we need to say is that for the first time South Africans are free to see things that they were not allowed to see in the past. The media can report on things that they wouldn't report about under apartheid. Thirdly, that indeed when people who have been oppressed for many years, for decades and centuries, suddenly find themselves in a free society they would do things that also reflects the excitement, that reflects their inability to manage their own lives, ordinary people. But that is part of transition. Transitions everywhere in the world whether it was in France after the French Revolution or it was in Britain after the war, United States after the War of Independence, all these things were characteristic of society at that time. But what also I think the church is beginning to realise is the extent of damage the old system has caused this society because they have also turned virtually everybody, every black person into a criminal, every black person has had to go into jail in this country either for a pass ID document or for looking at a white woman and appearing to be coveting her. All those things made us criminals. In a sense, therefore, once you have this new order where we can now have a close look at these things they begin to shock us and we begin to say we've got to reverse this bad legacy of apartheid, reverse it and reconstruct the society fundamentally and on a new plane. That's what we are doing and I don't think it is correct to say that there are high levels of crime and that there is despair and despondency.
If you compare the violence that you saw in 1989, 1990 up to 1994, it turns the violence that we see now into a picnic for Sunday School kids. It has dramatically gone down now compared to what violence was like. At that time there were laws in the statutes which prevented people from talking freely about these things, from reporting about them. The television was strictly controlled to serve the interests and to project the policies of the government. The government was the big editor, the editor-in-chief of television and radio, they could say what stories should be published or not published. So I think, therefore, naturally because of the openness of our society the impression could well be created that there is a moral decay in society and indeed it would affect the perceptions of people. When people were not allowed to see things and they suddenly see them obviously those things will be shocking to them and they would regard this as the worst period in their history because they have got nothing to compare it with.
POM Sure. Just one or two more things, and thank you again for the time. Is there still a third force out there and if there is, is it an organised third force or something that's kind of amorphous and acts in little bits and pieces, or is there any real organised attempt to overthrow the state or to overthrow or undermine the ANC?
PM The elements of the third force are still there. The elements of the third force are still there. They are obviously no longer as strong as they were before the elections. The Truth Commission has seriously devastated and has hit at the base of their strength because many of their colleagues have confessed, others have left the country, some have completely retired to their farms, they don't want to be involved any more. But you still have some fringe groups within the third force who are still trying to pursue that agenda and this manifests itself in the systematic manner in which they steal records in the SA Police Service, they steal computers, computer disks, the manner in which they destroy dockets of cases of criminals which are supposed to come before the courts, the manner in which they plan to arrange with the prisoners to escape from prisons, the manner in which in the defence force, a defence force base where there should be more alertness and vigilance than anywhere else, you have these people just coming in and stealing weapons. It says to you it's an internal arrangement, it's organised internally. That is why when they came there were no people who stopped them, nobody was guarding. Now all those things point to the fact that there are elements of the third force at play who are hoping that through other means, for example the creation of Crisis Committees, the bombings like those in Cape Town, that by doing those things, that coupled with the poorly performing economy, high rate of unemployment, that they can push the country into a recession and when it moves into an economic recession then they can whip up the emotions of the people and therefore create a popular counter-revolution where you will have more and more ordinary people wanting to rise against the government and it is at that decisive moment that they would then be hoping to use the arsenals that they have been paid to stockpile.
POM Is this part of or is this a consideration in the NEC reaching its decision to separate the position of premier and chairperson at the provincial level? Because you're at a point where external forces, whether they roll through Asia and through Russia and they've now come to mean they're now washing ashore in every country and they've hit SA, with interest rates at 25%, job lay-offs, most economists predicting recession, you're coming into an election year, is there going to be a rise in populism, a call for radical kind of solutions that won't work in the long term because you are part of the global economy and you're stuck with being that anyway and you only have a limited degree of freedom over what you can do and what you can't do? No country is free to do what it wants any longer. It's subject to the external constraints of the global economy. Could this be a problem as the ANC goes into an election year if there is a recession, if there is increasing unemployment, if things in are in fact getting worse not better?
PM Well certainly the situation of our economy is worrisome but it's not the situation of our economy alone, it's the situation of the global economy. I heard over the news this morning that the value of the dollar itself has gone down by more than 4%, the rouble is in trouble, the rupee has been in trouble.
POM Every currency is taking a battering.
PM Sterling seems to be the one that is very strong. Now every currency is in trouble so it's obviously affecting employment, it's affecting the poor because high interest rates mean that poor people cannot manage and it also means that people would not invest in real capital projects, infrastructural development and so on. They would want to invest where it is easy to make a quick buck and then run away. They want to come in while the interest rates are high, put their money there in the banks and then quickly run away. That's the problem we have. But certainly unemployment is going to be worrisome. There is a danger of populism coming up. In the ANC we will definitely contain it but we can't contain the populism of the PAC. PAC can make all sorts of irresponsible statements, they have got nothing to lose. Holomisa can do the same. We're going to see this populism coming mainly from the opposition parties and it's going to be very dangerous in this period because SA needs stability, we need to unite our people behind common policy positions.
POM Would you like to see, say in the next government, like all black parties becoming part of the national government? Would you bring in the PAC, the IFP and you say we're all in it together?
PM In terms of our constitution the party that wins power must govern but nothing bars us from including other political parties in our government if it will be in the interests of the country. Certainly those parties that have support, we will give the strategic consideration required that we include them, we would include them.
POM Do you think it would be better to have - Lyndon Johnson used to use this famous phrase that it's better to have people inside the tent -
PM Pissing outside than having them outside pissing into the tent. I think it's better to have them inside. But at the same time we have a programme to implement, we have a mandate to carry out and that mandate is one of transforming our society fundamentally and sometimes to include too many political parties makes your programme of transformation difficult and they can undermine it.
POM Thank you ever so much.
PM I thought you were going to ask me difficult questions. What has happened to you, you have run out of questions?
POM No I haven't run out of questions, I'm pursuing different angles. When you see how they turn out then you'll know that they weren't quite as easy as you thought they were! I hope. Oh God! That's awful. No hard questions any more!