This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
11 Sep 1998: Mboweni, Tito
TM. I had to resign all my political positions. It was a very sad day. You join an organisation as a youngster, you play your role and one day you become part of the leadership of that organisation and all of a sudden, boom, you must resign everything.
POM. Would you have preferred to have stayed on?
TM. You see you can't have your cake and eat it. The current position demands that I should not hold any political position.
POM. Sure, but when you were approached?
TM. No, I think it was clear as well that I wasn't going to stay in the Ministry of Labour or in the cabinet. I was looking for a role as well somewhere, I didn't know where. I think four years in the cabinet is quite a long time and doing one job, it's quite a long time. Maybe no wonder I began to wander off and reading about Angela's Ashes and other things. But I wasn't quite clear, it was either academia for me or something else. But four years as a minister in one portfolio is too long.
POM. So if you had stayed on and you were offered a position in the new cabinet after the 1999 elections would you have stayed on as an MP?
TM. The question is what would I have done in this interregnum.
POM. Could you have stood as a candidate for the ANC for parliament or would you have said - ?
TM. Maybe, maybe not. I was in a transition as well. Let me explain this to you, I don't like routine. I get bored very easily. It's something that I am sure you have picked up over the past four years. I get bored very easily. For how long have you been seeing me?
PAT. Eight years.
TM. My God! Oh my God!
POM. We should publish your biography. I hope you've got more to this job.
TM. Oh my God! We've been talking for seven years?
POM. Since 1990, it's eight years.
TM. Oh my God, I must tell Maxine this. Good gracious me, that's a long time.
POM. It is a long time.
TM. I must read through all of them. I remember some of them actually.
POM. We'll put all of those together. Well at the end when I'm finished I'll put them all together for everyone who has stuck with the process.
TM. When are you finishing?
POM. Well this is my last big round of interviews. Now I'm concentrating, when I come back I have to run off all the interviews, I've got about 12,000 hours, and find a way of filing them, cross referencing them, read them. They're all on tapes, put them on computer, find a way of cross referencing interviews and tapes and at the same write and develop a structure. Obviously I can't do a book and give the full recounting of over 120 people over a period of ten years. Each person would get one paragraph per year for ten years and that would be my 650 pages. So I have to find a context which I haven't yet quite developed a structure, but I will let the people themselves do the book and the book will consist of -
TM. It's your observations of the transition really isn't it?
POM. It will be my observations of the transition seen through the eyes of the people who were making the transition happen.
TM. How did you decide on who to include in this? That's what I'm now becoming interested in.
POM. You're becoming a John Robbie type of thing. After he's finished here he's going into talk show radio. Partly it became through - when we came here in 1989 there was no-one from the ANC here, we had gone through the SA Embassy for people and I had known Kobus Meiring who was once a Deputy Minister and I had struck up a relationship with him at a conference beforehand, a couple of years before that, so he kind of vouched for me, because I was trying to compensate for being here in 1985 when we brought over the girls from Dublin who were the Dunne's Store girls.
POM. Those girls, the two of us brought them over.
TM. Is that so? Where are they now? You know, why did we not - didn't we talk about this one day in the interviews? Because I had been wanting to invite one of them when I was Labour Minister to come to the country but I couldn't now I am no longer a minister now.
POM. That's a pity. Half of them emigrated. A few of them stayed, maybe three out of the ten stayed in Ireland.
TM. Ten young women and one young man.
POM. At that time, 1985, the economy was not doing what it's doing now which is growing at 13% per year. But they never made it into the country. They got as far as the airport. But Mandela when he went to Dublin -
TM. One of them - Mary Manning, wasn't it Mary Manning?
POM. Very good, very good. She was kind of the spokeswoman. What was nice about it was that they were all like 15 or 16 and just typical working class girls and they spoke like this. They would tell the press what they would do when they got to SA. They would tell the apartheid government what it could do with itself. Typical, what would be called a Dublin working class accent. What was interesting to observe was their development over a period of two years from naïve 15 or 16 year olds into politically sophisticated animals by the time they were 17, knowing how to handle the media, knowing what was the best the way to advance yourself. That was one result of it. Somebody you should communicate with, well I don't know whether you can now because he was Minister of Labour and is now head of the Labour Party in Ireland and who has been out here a number of times with Patricia's organisation doing training programmes, his name is Rory -
PAT. He's Minister of Finance?
POM. Well he was Minister of Labour before that, then Minister of Finance, and now he's in opposition, he's head of the Labour Party. His name is Rory Quinn. But we arranged after they got back to Ireland, it was typical, we took all the interviews we had done and we used to slip them out of the country every night, it was really a kind of - I had rung somebody in London, a friend, and said you're going to get a parcel from me in my Gaelic name sent to you in your Gaelic name, and every day after I did my interviews, because we kept our programme and went all around the country meeting people and they all sent messages of solidarity and were sorry they wouldn't be there and what was happening. So every evening we would go to DHL and use cash to send the tapes, send them out of the country overnight, the idea being that when we got to go out of the country and when we were searched we would have nothing because we were under observation all the time. But on one occasion I was forced to use my American Express card which had my name on it, I had no cash, it had my passport name and that bunch of tapes when it arrived in London, I picked them on the way back through London, had gone through some desensitising machine. They were all dead. But, this is typically Irish, so we took the tapes and we got right back to Dublin. Two things were typical, the day before, on the Sunday which was the first day of the emergency, no-one would take us into Soweto and we had a supposed meeting with Bishop Tutu. So we said, "Why not? Just let's go in there." So we drove in having no idea in the world where West Orlando was.
PAT. Or what a state of emergency meant!
POM. "Excuse me, West Orlando?" We eventually found the place after four hours. Tutu gave us a great welcome, we had lunch with him afterwards and he gave me three messages, taped messages, one for the girls, one for the Irish people and one for America. So we tied these tapes around Patricia's body, like two of us were Irish and she was American so we figured it was the Irish they were after not the Americans at that point. So we got those tapes out. We got to Dublin the following morning so I rang the Irish Radio and Television and said I had an exclusive tape with Archbishop Tutu with a message for the Irish people on the first day of the emergency. "Oh yes?" "Well aren't you going to do something with it?" "Well what do you want to do with it?" "You could broadcast it." "Oh, OK, come out." But we put all the tapes, for the girls, compressed them all on to one tape and each one with all the interviews done and we had a little party for them where they were all to come and get the tapes and everything and I think three out of the ten turned up. They had had a fight among themselves. Just one of those not big fights, small fights, but that's the way they acted. We arranged a meeting for them with Rory Quinn who was then in government as Minister for Labour and he listened to them and he said he would bring it up, the whole question, with the Prime Minister, Garret Fitzgerald, and he did and we were the first country that passed legislation banning the import of produce from SA. In a way it was directly a result of the actions of those girls. So something good - even though they didn't get into the country, in the end something good came out of it. From that point on we were hooked on South Africa.
PAT. We met a lot of people then and they came back into Padraig's work in 1990. We met Terror and Popo then and just people that would lead you to other people so we had a whole network when we came in 1989 and 1990. Neil Morrison is the person who took us to Stephen Gelb who took us to you.
POM. Neil Morrison.
TM. Well because he's from the same university. He was at Boston, wasn't he?
POM. We had nobody of course in the ANC as such so we flew to Zambia.
PAT. That was in 1985, no 1989, that's right.
POM. We went through to Zambia and went to a hotel and, I think it was the Hilton, and asked the guy behind the desk, "Do you know where the ANC headquarters is here?" He said, "No problem I'll take you there myself."
TM. He probably said, "Give me some dollars."
POM. Anyway before you suddenly say your time is up. This goes back, as I was saying, when we met you first in 1990 at the University of Durban at Westville you were a student.
TM. Not really. I actually don't know.
POM. You were dressed in a green sweater I remember and you were carrying a notebook under your arm and you were taking notes.
TM. I still carry notebooks.
POM. You were listening to a lecture that Alec Erwin was giving.
PAT. It was meant to mean not literally but figuratively you were a student. You had just come back from Lesotho.
TM. From Lusaka.
TM. I was just wondering if there was no conference of some sort?
POM. No, not that.
TM. What was Alec doing?
POM. He was getting the students, exhorting the students, to embrace socialism. However, this is eight years later. If anyone had told you at the time that you returned to the country that eight years later you would be Governor-designee of the Reserve Bank what would you have said?
TM. I would have said they are out of their minds. I would never be interested in such a thing. No, more seriously, one of the things that I always cherish in life, and this sounds like a typical male chauvinist thing, my Dad said you have to be consistent in life. If you're working as a gardener try to be the best gardener. If you're working as a municipal worker cleaning the streets, just do it to the best of your ability and stick to it and have certainty in your life. It may look like it's boring but just do it. He worked, my Dad worked as a chef for a hotel in Johannesburg, corner of Wolmarans and Banket Streets in Hillbrow, the name of the hotel is still at the door of this place. He worked there for as long as I could remember, when I was growing up. He only left that hotel when the hotel went broke, the management was bad. That's when he left because he was retrenched and went to work for the Holiday Inn in Mill Park next to the SABC and that's the last time I saw him when I left the country. Besides that, you are in a job, you do it to the best of your ability. The only thing that he didn't know was that I get bored easily but I try and stay.
POM. Is he still alive?
TM. No he died. He died in 1983 and I was outside the country. But the good news is I am busy thinking now of putting up a tombstone for him which I think he deserves. Now the second person, and you may say this is political expediency but it's a reality, is Oliver Tambo, Oliver Tambo's influence on many of us, and you will see a distinction between people who have worked with Oliver Tambo or under him and those who haven't, there's a very interesting distinction. The distinction is those people who worked under Oliver Tambo don't go out and say - I'm going to mobilise as many people as possible to come and vote for me for this position or that. All you do, you do your job. That's all you do. Do your job to the best of your ability. If it happens to be a good job it will be recognised as such, but you don't do a job for recognition. You do a job because there's a task to be done at hand here and that's what you do to the best of your ability. Also you stick to your organisation, you don't change organisations like you're changing pairs of socks. You stick to your organisation, you are loyal to your organisation, and you show some humility. People like me may have a lot of arrogance inside, we see the struggle of humility and arrogance.
POM. It doesn't come across to the press. If you've read some of the articles in things like the Financial Mail about your appointment they talk about, they wonder whether you could keep your natural egotistical instincts under control.
TM. Oh, those are harsh words! So I joined the ANC in 1980 and I had two basic things to do, one to fight against apartheid and two to stay with the organisation and be part of this larger number of people who had the same vision and commitment as myself because it was very clear to us that on your own you can't defeat the apartheid system. On your own there's just nothing you can do. You need a collective, you need an organisation. And my own instinctive feelings about SA and so on found a political expression in the ANC. So I commit myself to the organisation because it provides a home, a political home and, secondly, the fight against apartheid and get rid of apartheid. So the two goals and after that it's fine. I never thought about what is going to - interestingly, and precisely because I've always been uncomfortable with uncertainty, I've always stayed in the organisation.
. I came back to the country, a couple of other colleagues decided that they were not going to work full time for the organisation, they were going to go their own way, I just stayed with the organisation and did my work and that's what I did. Interestingly then, 1994 came, actually 1993 people were doing this list system for parliament, I was just doing my work in the office, I never went to talk to one person to say won't you please nominate me for parliament. Never, because Oliver Tambo's basic principle is you don't do that. It also accords with my own feeling and thinking. If you have the potential to do something let those in authority or let those who feel you should do that say so rather than you going and advertising yourself. So I found that I was being nominated to go to parliament.
. Interestingly, the first ANC branch to nominate me was from the Western Cape, a hard area. That was very interesting. It occurred, later on I thought about it, I had been to that branch one day, they invited me to come and talk about economic policy. A meeting that was supposed to have been an hour's meeting ended up being about three hours meeting and I was discussing economic policy with them. I had been in ANC structures to talk about economic policy before. It never occurred to me that they will think about nominating me. So I had to sign an acceptance form having been nominated by that particular branch in the Western Cape. Interesting. As it turned out, of course, I had been nominated to go to parliament by all the provinces and I had also been nominated to sit in the Northern Province Provincial Legislature, I think I was number 14 on their list. I had been nominated to sit on the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. So I thought that's very interesting, hm, interesting. Anyway, but I chose to go. Then my role in the elections was very minimal in 1994 as a technical to feed in the economic information, economic policy things. I stayed in the office, I never went to one rally actually. I never got the masses into action.
POM. You were never toyi-toying.
TM. I must have been a kind of a boring political activist. Then Trevor Manuel comes from a meeting of the NEC, no, of the National Working Committee, comes back and I'm busy working on my computer. So he says, "Congratulations to the Minister of Labour." I said, "Oh that's very good, congratulations." So he goes away. The staff members of the department come to me and say, "Chief, congratulations." What are they congratulating me for? They said, "No, but you're the Minister of Labour." I said, "No, no, no, you've got it wrong. It's Trevor Manuel who is the Minister of Labour, not me." They said, "No, you have got it wrong. He is the Minister of Trade & Industry, you are the Minister of Labour." I said, "No, no, no, he came from the Working Committee just now and he said to me, "Congratulations to the Minister of Labour, so I congratulated him." They said, "No, no, no, you've got it wrong." Anyway, that's how I became Minister of Labour. Nobody had talked to me before and that's how the news came about this Minister of Labour business. And I asked why now am I being Minister of Labour? Why should I become Minister of Labour? They read some article I wrote about the role of the trade union movement in the post-apartheid South Africa! If that is the basis for becoming a Minister, God help us! Really! Unbeknown to me, and this only comes out now when I leave the Ministry of Labour, unbeknown to me was that the President had been talking to a number of people in composing his cabinet. He had actually wanted to appoint, I won't mention his name, a former trade unionist as Minister of Labour. I learned about this only about six weeks ago. And the trade union movement said, "No, we are having no former trade unionist as a Minister of Labour." So they said, "No, no, why don't you switch Tito from wherever you were putting him, which I won't tell you, into the Ministry of Labour." And he said, "Why?" They said to him, "For two reasons: one as an economist he's going to be able to manage this thing very easily and he has written a couple of things on labour matters. Two, he is going to pursue a programme of social justice because we know him as a person of social justice." So that's the reason for that, I became Minister of Labour and Madiba accepted. Apparently he was very sceptical because he thought given my own technical capacity I should have been somewhere else but they had a discussion and they came to a conclusion. They tell me this now. You know COSATU held a farewell party for me at the office and they tell me this six weeks ago, after suffering for four years with the bloody bastards. They gave me a hard time. Actually, you should have been at some of those farewell functions. It was very interesting. The COSATU one was most interesting, things that they didn't tell me for four years and now they were telling me. Bloody hell!
. So I am saying I have never sought - I couldn't have told you when we met that this was what I am going to be doing. When we discussed this thing about the Reserve Bank, for example, the people who were responsible for this thing, the Deputy President, Alec Erwin, Trevor Manuel and myself, Dullah Omar and later Nkosasana Zuma and Zola Skweyiya and the President of course being consulted. But these were the people who were driving this thing. So they said to me, "No, no, this thing about the Reserve Bank, let's talk about it. Chris Stals is going to retire. What are we going to do?" So I said, "Indeed, what are we going to do about it? This is very serious." Then they asked me to begin to draft a strategy, a document of what we are going to do, how we're going to go about it. So I sit at my computer. Strategy is the easiest thing to draft, draft a strategy document. Little did I know that I will end up being stuck with the implementation of the strategy. But this is how it came about.
POM. And the strategy was for - ?
TM. How we approach - no, first the problem is, Chris Stals says, "Next year I am retiring." The key question is what then happens? So a strategy naturally arises and says our challenge really is a much larger one. One, we need to be able to send signals to South Africa, the country, the market and internationally about our readiness to govern. So it will be ill-advisable for us to say - it's like the ANC doesn't have the capacity to run the Reserve Bank therefore find another Afrikaner to run the bank, like we did with the Minister of Finance, which was a mistake. It's like the ANC did not have the capacity to run the Ministry of Finance, so what did we do? We went for Derek Keys, Chris Liebenberg. Why? And yet we could have put Trevor Manuel there much earlier, we could have put Alec Erwin, we could have put Gill Marcus, we could have put Tito Mboweni, we could have put Max Sisulu, a whole range of people. But also most importantly that there are people internationally who are saying this country, SA, is a country with a black President of a white country. You know why they are saying so? Because when they interact with the officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, who is it that they interact with? No darkies there, no blacks, mostly white. So the impression internationally given is that President Mandela is there but the country is white.
. Similarly, if the Governor of your bank and the staff are all Afrikaners, the impression created is as if this bank stands outside of this total South African society, and so on. I was, we were busy scheming. And then they said, "No, you're going to run this bank." "Hang on, hang on, no I am only contributing ideas here. What's going on here?" And the rest is history. But the point I'm trying to make, I did not go to the President and say, look I want to go to the Reserve Bank. I didn't go and talk to anybody and say please talk to the President and tell him that I - that kind of thing. In terms of the basic principles that Oliver Tambo taught us, you don't do that. And the other thing that he taught us, which I think has stood me in good stead, it's been painful from time to time, but it's a good principle, never say anything to anybody which you can't repeat in a properly constituted meeting where that person is present. A very good principle. It sort of clears your conscience, your chest. You don't go around worried, oh God, what is this person going to tell that one? Ooh! Never say anything to anybody that you can't repeat in a properly constituted meeting where that person is there. It's good, it's good for your health.
POM. You talked about recognition. Without taking away from either the stature or the contribution of Madiba, do you think that the contribution of Oliver Tambo to the struggle has been under-appreciated and not recognised?
TM. Definitely, definitely under-recognised, definitely not fully appreciated the way it should be. I think the government could do more to honour Oliver Tambo.
POM. He kept the organisation, he kept everything going.
TM. Not only that. He kept the organisation going, he kept the focus on the liberation of SA going and he mobilised, not alone obviously, but as part of a leadership, helped mobilise the international community against apartheid. There was no single cause I can remember personally that mobilised so many people internationally to move in unison. When it was June 16 we were all in meetings in halls throughout the world commemorating June 16 with an ANC banner. It was the ANC flag, I don't think there was one town in the world where you could say you couldn't find an ANC flag, because there was an anti-apartheid of one sort or the other with all these dynamics and problems. And the humility of the President was amazing. Oliver Tambo was the kind of person who when he came into a room you all stood up without being asked to stand. You know that kind of respect that you had for the old man, it's just amazing.
. I must tell you a story, in 1989 a group of students from the University of Stellenbosch came to visit the ANC in Lusaka, a very difficult bunch of students, Afrikaners, raw. The first day when we met them it was like a war, literally. I remember one of them saying, "I don't even know why I've come here to Lusaka to see terrorists. You know, you blow up people, you do all of these things, I really don't even know why I came here. I think I must go home."
POM. These students were?
TM. From the University of Stellenbosch, Afrikaner students. They came to meet the ANC. We composed an ANC delegation of young people to meet them and I was in the delegation. A couple of them were quite nice but the nicest one was the spy and the most difficult ones were the good people. Interesting. So we decided, no, let's have a strategy. Some of us must be nice to the students. A group of us must play the hawks, must donner these chaps, we must feed them up politically, and so we went in, we hammered them. No, please, I was amongst the diplomats you know, and others were hitting. In the middle of all this tension Oliver Tambo decided to come and pay us a visit, so a notice was sent to the chairperson that the President is coming in just now. He said, "Oh, ladies and gentlemen, the President is walking in just now." So as he walked in all of us stood up, including these Afrikaner students. I thought it was wonderful, just without anybody saying, please stand for the President. No, just as he walked in everybody just stood up out of their own accord. It was amazing, this is how you give a human being respect for the role that he plays, such a humane, dignified - a man of dignity.
. And then he arrives there and the chairperson says, "Welcome Mr President, do you want to say a few words?" "No, I've just come to say hello." He says, "Yes, but say something, you can't just say hello." So he then said, "OK." Actually I had been surprised, why was he carrying a knobkerrie? Do you know knobkerrie? It's like a walking stick but not quite, it's a fighting stick with a sort of a knob at the end, but it was a short one. Actually as he was coming in I wondered why is this old man carrying this stick today. He never carries it, he's not a traditional man, he doesn't carry sticks around. So he says, "Well I have just come here to say hello and I am sure all of you are wondering why I am carrying this stick." He says, "Well, this was given to me by the Masai people in Tanzania. They said to me, 'Mr President, always carry a stick when you go into a meeting because you don't know what's going to happen there and when things are still peaceful in a meeting you must hold the stick by this knob but when things turn nasty hold it the other way round'." So he says, "Well I've come to this meeting to say hello to you. I hope I can keep on holding my stick by the knob and not the other way round." So that was quite cute, cute old man. I think his contribution to South African society has not been fully recognised. I am personally upset that his biography hasn't come out.
POM. Is anyone working on it do you know?
TM. Lucy Callinicos at Wits University. Eddie Webster's wife. Do you know Eddie Webster at Wits? She's working on the book. She's been working on it for a long time. I know she writes very well but she is really taking a lot of time. At least his book should be out by now, really. You know the first time I met Oliver Tambo, and that discussion was in 1985, I had been in Lesotho then as a student and while I was at the university - let me explain: the Lesotho government had maintained a very progressive international policy, supporting the liberation struggle, all OAU positions, SADEC positions, UN positions on apartheid, they adopted and pushed through those policies. Inside the country although the ANC was not allowed to operate openly they turned a blind eye to ANC activities in Lesotho at great cost to them economically and politically and socially and from a security point of view. So there was a good relationship between ANC leadership and the Lesotho government but the Lesotho government had a repressive home affairs policy, domestic policy, because it was not a democracy and that was a problem. So those of us young, enthusiastic political activists, democratic and so on couldn't quite reconcile ourselves with the notion that you can have a progressive international policy and a repressive domestic policy because what is it that internationally you support as progressive but you refuse to do at home? After all charity must begin at home. But of course that was a problem. If that party that was in government in Lesotho had called for elections they would have lost the elections. So you have no international progressive policy. So it was a contradiction.
. Now as students at the university we were caught up in a situation where from time to time we had to be involved in actions which were contra to the Lesotho government. The ANC leadership didn't take kindly to it, and I was one of the student leaders on campus and the Lesotho government sent messages to Lusaka to say, look this young man and the others are disturbing the relationship, we are going to have to deport him and the others. So the ANC leadership, I think they first sent Jacob Zuma to come and talk to us. We sat him down for about three hours at the university at the end of which he agreed with us. He was supposed to come and read the riot act to us but we convinced him. Then he went back to Lusaka and said, "Look I met those chaps on campus", and he said to the leadership, you must ask him about it, he says, "I have discovered gold at the University of Lesotho." They said "What are you talking about?" He said, "These chaps that you want to give a hard time, that's the ANC gold that I found there." And they said, "No, you've just been overpowered by the students intellectually." Then they sent Florence M... to come and read us the riot act. She read the riot act, we sat her down and convinced her about our case. Then they sent old man John ..., he's the Ambassador to Cuba now. He read the riot act to us. When he finished, we sat him down, told him about our case, he was convinced about our case. When they all went back to report they said - but these people are right, there is a contradiction and these people are aware that they must handle the contradiction carefully." They don't want to disturb the relationship, they don't want the Lesotho government now to start chasing ANC people out but at the same time as democrats they cannot position themselves so openly and together with the Lesotho government. They can't. They can't mobilise those students on campus. And thirdly, we have all taught these people that the task of a political activist and a revolutionary is to create centres of support for the movement. Lesotho has one university, the majority of the students at the university don't like the government, the students come from all over Lesotho and what our students are doing at the university, they're building a political relationship with all of these students so when they go back home they have got relationships with students all over Lesotho which becomes a fertile ground for us if we have to launch a major guerrilla warfare in the country, in SA, all of these Basotho former students will become our support base. Our cadres may move from one point to the other and say we are ANC. They will say, we know about the ANC, you can stay here. Now the leadership decided, no, no, we're not sending people to Lesotho any more, we must summon students now to Lusaka. So that's how there had to be a delegation. Ngoako Ramatlhodi, the Premier of the Northern Province, and myself were then called to Lusaka to go and face the leadership on this question. We arrived there and Oliver Tambo was there, Joe Nhlanhla, Alfred Nzo, Chris Hani, a whole lot of the leadership, Zuma wasn't there. They said, "We would like to understand why is it that you are disturbing the relationship between the ANC and the Lesotho government. The Lesotho government is complaining about you, etc., and you they want to deport you and so on." So we listened but we started again, slowly and patiently explained our case.
. When I go back and I look - it was my first meeting with Oliver Tambo.
POM. When you compare Oliver Tambo and President Mandela, what strikes you as special about both or how do they complement each other? Madiba commands such an international stature and yet one feels that Tambo would have commanded the same had he spent that amount of time -
TM. It would have been a different presidency though. Madiba is a person, I don't know how to describe it, he's is a star.
TM. He's a celebrity.
POM. An icon.
TM. Madiba is a celebrity. He is just an exciting person to be with but also I think he's a traditionalist. He's like a Chief. He's a tall, big man and there's something starish about him.
POM. A regal air about him.
TM. Yes, some aura, there's something around him that's Madiba. He obviously believes in maximum delegation, which Oliver Tambo did incidentally, but Madiba is a man of maximum delegation. He never came to my office, for example, while I was Minister of Labour because he trusts people, he delegates people. Oliver Tambo would have, I am sure, built a much more concentrated presidency office, office of the President, where there is sufficient capacity. For example, there have been a couple of legal errors committed in the President's office which have led to sometimes unhealthy situations like this rugby thing, instances of - because the lawyers there are good but may not be the best. You can't have one lawyer in the President's office, you need maybe a couple of lawyers. So Oliver Tambo would have concentrated a lot of the experts maybe in the office of the President. They are different people even though they worked together for over 60 years, but they're different people. But there are some similarities, both traditional English gentlemen, though I don't think Oliver Tambo would have worn the shirts that Madiba is wearing, to be honest. I don't think Oliver Tambo would have worn the shorts. English gentleman, tie, proper tie, not the way we do the knots these days, the old proper Windsor. And I saw him from time to time in Lusaka having this other - not a tie, what do you call it? You put it inside.
PAT. A white thing like a priest wears.
TM. Yes but inside, not a tie, what is it?
PAT. A collar of some kind?
TM. He wouldn't, Oliver Tambo, unless he was wearing a khaki suit wouldn't wear a shirt without a tie or that collar thing. The English gentleman and spoke English very well as you know, much better than many English people.
POM. Who was telling us about the Irish Ambassador who - oh Kader was, since Kader spent all his exile in Dublin so he befriended the Irish Ambassador when he came out here, a very nice and competent man. But he only, only and always, dresses in a black suit and they took him off to Table Mountain and he wouldn't take off wearing a black suit and tie.
PAT. But a tramp, climbing Table Mountain in his jacket and tie.
TM. Oliver Tambo was a gentleman, but also I think - yes Madiba is more outgoing, Oliver Tambo was more reserved, but very fine, very fine, very, very fine, revered in the organisation, Oliver Tambo. Madiba is also a pleasure to be with, kids like him very much. He gets on with so many people, he's got a warmth. Incidentally, once I was asked to write a speech by Oliver Tambo. He called me into his office and said, "Would you draft a speech? I'm going to speak in Harare at the naming of the town of whatever the town was. No, the town is declaring freedom of the city for Nelson Mandela and can you draft something? These are the people who are going to be there", and so on and so on.
POM. Is that Harare?
TM. Lusaka, but he was going to go to Zimbabwe at some time, not Harare, one of the little towns. So he asked me this about ten o'clock in the morning. So I said, "OK." I am a night person, I work at night. So I took down notes, through the day I did a bit of research for things and so on, looked at some of his speeches because to write a speech for somebody you must get into their mannerism, then listen to a couple of tapes of his interviews and so on. At about four in the afternoon I went to sleep so that I can wake up maybe about six and work throughout the night. So I woke up maybe about seven, had a shower and so on, got something to eat, organised myself. As I was sitting down, start working on the computer, in comes his driver. He said, "I have come to fetch a draft copy of the President's speech." So I said, "No, I haven't started." So he said, "But he talked to you at ten o'clock in the morning and he wants the speech now so he can look at it before he goes to bed and so I can bring back the corrections and you can correct overnight and in the morning it must be ready." So I said, "No, I am only starting to work on it now." This chaps says, "Look here Chief, when the President asks you to write his speech you must go and work on it immediately because he wants it before he goes to bed, then you can do your corrections overnight." I was so embarrassed. So I said, "Well, say to the President I didn't know about that. My work pattern is that I work at night and I was going to work on it. It's much better if you want me to do something, tell me the day before so I can work overnight. I'm sorry but he's going to have the speech in the morning." The driver went back and he told him and he said it's OK. But then I learnt from that day onwards, when the President or the head of your organisation or head of department requests something from you, do it immediately, and I try and expect that now from the people I work with.
POM. I remember, it was during one of your first years back from exile, the question of the business community came up and you got visibly angry -
TM. You don't forget that.
POM. You went on a tear about the way they treated not just you but others who came to visit them, as though you were docile little boys, treated you with condescension, that all you had to do was to listen to them and you would learn how to run things and everything would be right as long as you came to them for advice and you were really pissed off. But you went away saying, "Those bastards, who do they think they are?" And now it's like six years later and you are Governor-designee of the Reserve Bank, these same businessmen have to walk through that door and will have to walk up those stairs and elevators and come to you and you can keep them waiting all day if you wish. And they have to come in and say, "Yes Governor, no Governor, indeed Governor", and pay the appropriate bows to your office and to you. Do you sometimes in the middle of the night wake up and get a little chuckle out of that, how circumstances have so dramatically changed? Or do you feel that their attitude has really not changed?
TM. No, their attitude hasn't changed.
POM. That they still think they can -
TM. Attitude hasn't changed, not just in relation to myself but in relation to the new order, that's what is important. I go to many meetings, conferences, dinners where there are business people. The majority of them are white who control anything of substance, itself still reflective of the political economy of apartheid and I pick up things like when a minister comes to address a meeting, when the minister has left they all said, "What do they think they were talking about? They don't know anything. Just ignore whatever the minister said." But they keep on inviting these ministers and pretend to be listening, clap hands when they finish speaking. When you leave they say, "What hogwash." So the attitude is not correct and now there is a dangerous tendency where the white business community is engaging in what is called 'rent a black'. They will have one or two blacks on their board as if they are transformed and changed and reconciled with the new SA, but actually they are not. It's quite sad actually, very sad, and I know that as Governor I have to work with them but it doesn't mean that I have to be like them. I think they have a long way to go in changing themselves and transforming, including the financial institutions that I have to deal with a lot, a lot of work to be done. I think there has to be visible change otherwise we are putting the structure of our society and the economy at risk if there is no fundamental change.
. Before you go, I will show you a file that Maxine has of the letters of congratulations which I have received from many people, including the business community. I appreciate some of the letters and so on, but at the same time I am sceptical about others.
POM. Done out of expedience, make sure you get on the right side of him.
TM. Because they know I can squeeze them. I've got a bit of power.
POM. I know. I'll tell you what I found fascinating, when your nomination was announced there was all this fuss made about the position of the Governor of the central bank is one which requires extensive experience and knowledge of -
TM. Banking experience, independence.
POM. - the banking sector. They have to know the technicalities of the market and how slight movements - they must have a great sense of intuition as only people who have come up through the system that develop these qualities and now we're going to have this man Mboweni spend one year as Stals understudy so he can fulfil the minimal constitutional requirements required for the appointment of a Governor. And then you have the currency crisis beginning in May and just in the last week of September you have the IMF come out with a report on the Reserve Bank's handling of the rand which, to say the least, was less than kind.
TM. There are only three paragraphs.
POM. It says, "It may have risked turning a contagion problem from the Asian markets into one that affects SA. The Reserve Bank had exacerbated pressure on the currency in May by intervening in the opens and spot market and pursuing an uneven monetary policy through the repo rate, the broad belief - ." So you have this situation of where key elements in the international banking community say the board here and the Governor mishandled the situation internally. There wasn't a word of criticism of Stals. No-one said it's his lack of experience, he obviously lacked intuition, he didn't develop the proper intuition. Whereas if it had been a black person in that position, if you had been one year in the job and you pursued the same policy the Reserve Bank pursued since last May you would have been pilloried from post to post.
TM. Sure, oh yes, oh yes, no doubt about that. There is no doubt about that. But you know that's part of the challenges of transformation. One could not have been born and grown up in more interesting times, the fight against the political system of apartheid, now entering a fight for the economic and social transformation of society. It's exciting. I think those of us who have been accorded his own responsibilities I think will look back historically and say we were greatly fortunate. We suffered under it but we didn't give up. We struggled to change it. We acquired whatever skills are required for us to engage in this process of transformation. We took the plunge. In a sense, for me, for example, to have accepted this position in the bank, I have taken a plunge. Incidentally I have met about 96% of the staff of the Reserve Bank already, collectively and individually and you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe you are in Australia. My secretary, Maxine, keeps saying, "Chief, it looks like we have gone back to 1994 when we started at the Labour Department", but the situation couldn't have been any different. Yesterday as we were going home and I was very tired, it was after six in the evening and I was really exhausted and I had a really hard time, so I said to myself maybe when we look back those of us who were put in situations which sometimes are difficult - imagine you are head of the South African army today, like Gebhuza (Siphiwe Nyanda) is, it must be a hard time. The key control structure in the whole military is still the old, no different from the bank here.
POM. What's the composition here in terms of the number of blacks who would be in senior positions?
TM. There is only one black General Manager in the bank.
POM. General Manager. Our of how many General Managers?
TM. Out of about ten.
POM. And the key middle management structure is?
TM. Key management structure, there are three senior blacks.
POM. So when you walked through the doors -
TM. Are you feeling any sense of pity for me?
POM. - what vibe did you pick up?
TM. ... at the lack of progress ...
POM. Spelt which?
TM. La Cock, Jacob. One of the things that I said, "I wish you the very best in concluding your conference, I would like also to thank you very much for the support which you have shown collectively and individually for my appointment to the South African Reserve Bank. I know that there are those who stood on roof tops to oppose my appointment. To them I say that it will be of major assistance to their stress levels if they reconcile themselves to this reality sooner rather than later." How tongue in cheek it is. Reduce their stress levels!
. There are 1826 members of staff here at the bank. The bottom 30% is 80% black, so the security people, they call them 'utility' workers here, and they are your security people, workers at the canteen, but not the chefs, only the waiters and the bar people. Then very few black secretaries, very few, very, very few. Actually I think there may be two or three black secretaries that I have seen. Most of the secretaries are all white women. Then there are cleaners, messengers and here you have maybe about 2%. From the lower ones, 80% of whom are black.
POM. To the top.
TM. When they begin to begin - just the entry level of management up to the top management, maybe only about 2% are black. That's my observation. Are you shocked? You want my job?
POM. Are most of the whites Afrikaners or English speaking?
TM. 90% of the technical staff at the bank come from the University of Pretoria or Stellenbosch.
POM. So this is truly an Afrikaner bastion of power.
TM. Oh yes. And apparently historically you never applied to come and work in the bank. You were 'invited' to come and work there. Pray for me on Sunday will you?
POM. So do the employees here fall under the provisions of the sunset clauses in the constitution?
TM. It's a problem, this thing is treated like a private company. That's one of the problems. The bank has shareholders, one of the rare central banks in the world.
TM. Yes. It's got a share capital, it's got shareholders. The shareholders appoint 50% of the members of the board.
POM. And who are the shareholders?
TM. Individuals, companies.
POM. Go on. This is slightly contrary to everything I learned about what a Reserve Bank is.
TM. Like there's a share capital.
POM. So 50% is held by individuals or corporations and 50% is held by the government?
TM. No, the government doesn't have share capital as such but has the powers to appoint 50% of the members of the board. So on the board you have seven members of the board appointed by the government, seven members appointed by shareholders.
POM. But the government has the power also to appoint the Governor?
TM. Yes, amongst the seven, one of them is Governor and three Deputies, which is the Executive Management.
POM. And then the shareholders have the right to appoint?
TM. Seven directors.
POM. But no Deputies?
TM. No, not the Governors, that's the prerogative of the government. The Executive Management, the Governor and the three Deputies are appointed by the President. But I am sure if they had had their way they would have wanted to appoint the Governor and Deputies, the shareholders.
POM. So when it comes to making a decision?
TM. It's a tie-break but fortunately the Governor has a casting vote.
POM. Has the breaking vote.
TM. We just pray that all the government directors are in the meeting.
POM. So if a decision were to come whether or not to raise the repo rate?
TM. It doesn't go to the board that.
POM. It doesn't. So what kind of decisions go before the board?
TM. The repo rate was fixed about an hour ago for today.
POM. And that's done by?
TM. It's done by the Money and Capital Markets Department. The Governor also learns about it after the rate has been set. I know it's complicated for an historian.
POM. I'm an economist! I was, I was.
TM. I think now he's become an historian.
POM. So what kind of decisions go before the board?
TM. They are corporate governance issues. The board has delegated most of its powers, which are contained in the Act, to the Governor. The Governor has in turn also delegated some of those powers to the Deputy Governors and the General Managers, but the board has reserved certain powers to itself. For example, any senior appointments in the bank, General Manager up, they reserve that right, the remuneration system and so on, corporate governance things. So when the board meets, the board will meet for about two hours once a quarter of the year.
POM. Once a quarter?
TM. And discuss the economic situation in the country, international situation, economic situation. They discuss organisational matters, corporate governance matters. They look at the financial report, the audit report, any other recommendations for appointments they must look at and then they have lunch.
POM. So if it came to setting the money supply?
TM. That's the Executive Management. But the way it works, there are going to be a few changes, not much, but don't say this because your book is only coming next year.
POM. It won't come out until 2001. You'll either still be here or you'll be teaching in Lesotho.
TM. Fortunately. What's happening it's a British disease called 'governing by committees'. So at the top you have the Governor's Committee, Governor and Deputies sit in the Governor's Committee. They are the committee at the bank outside of the board. Then there are three other committees, each one of them chaired by a Deputy Governor. The first one is called the Monetary Policy Implementation Committee. These are chaps who would discuss more about what's happening in the money market, capital markets, interest rates domestically and internationally, what should be the strategy to be pursued in influencing the repo rate. I will explain to you how the repo rate works just now, the money supply, they will discuss that. And one of the problems I have which I am going to work on, how these chaps meet and make decisions. The Governor is not consulted.
POM. The Governor is not consulted?
TM. Well maybe but they make the main decision, and then the Governor's Committee receives the minutes of their decision for information.
POM. Things are getting stranger and stranger.
TM. That's the Monetary Policy Implementation Committee. The power has really literally been taken away from the Governor's office. Then the next committee is called the Management Committee. Really this is an internal administration committee. The next one is the National Payment System Committee, so they are all chaired by the Deputy Governors.
POM. The National Payment one takes care of?
TM. Inter-bank payments, that is controlled from here. We control the banking system. You never notice it has got so much power until you notice that you actually control the banks.
POM. Can you help arrange an overdraft or do something simple like that?
TM. No, no, we're encouraging people to save. So inter-bank payments, for example to facilitate the payments by the banks, the Reserve Bank, putting the whole thing on an electronic system, but also what they call the swift inter-Reserve Bank payments, so the movements of money into SA and out of SA is controlled from here. So that's the payment system, highly computerised and one of the people that's leading this section I have a lot of respect for, very, very, bright, bright, bright African. He is a whiz-kid, there's no doubt about it. So this committee then reports. Now the Governor's Committee meets once a month. We had a meeting yesterday. We discuss all kinds of things there and we look at the minutes coming from these committees but I think it's the wrong system personally. What should happen -
POM. It should be going the other way round.
TM. No. What should happen is that we should create a kind of a cabinet, these committees must meet, yes, but don't make decisions, they make recommendations to the Governor's Committee. The Governor's Committee must make the decisions. So we've got to change that. Otherwise you will be sitting somewhere and you hear the decision has been made at the bank and you're a Governor and you don't know about it.
POM. So Chris Stals in fact is - ?
TM. It's a new system.
POM. When you were coming in they changed?
TM. I think, because they knew there was going to be change, they knew Chris was leaving and they made a plan.
POM. And prior to that?
TM. It was a different thing. Decisions were made by the Governor's Committee or by the Governor.
TM. No, but it's transition politics and transition realities. Fortunately by now, after four years as Minister of Labour, I have picked up a lot of tricks.
POM. As they say there's more than one way to skin a dog.
TM. There are many ways to skin a dog. Now the interest rates, the repo rate, I partially like the new system but I am not quite sure whether it's appropriate for SA but I think we should run with it nevertheless. What happens is, there's a new tender system. The banks every morning by about eleven o'clock must indicate to the Reserve Bank the amount of money which they require, their liquidity requirements, because they come and borrow money from the bank in case they are short of money. So Standard Bank will come and say we are short of three billion rands so we would like to borrow three billion rands from the bank. The bank says fine, what rate of interest are you willing to pay for it? So it's an auction. The Standard Bank says no, we are going to pay you 21.58%. The Reserve bank says OK. Another bank comes and says we want three billion rands, we will pay you 21.6%. Another one says, no, we want two billion rands and we are going to pay you 18%. And the Reserve Bank having looked at the credit extension, having looked at the area of the interest rates, having looked at the exchange rate and all of these things, gives a signal to the market that we would either give you the full amount that you want or we will give you more if you want or we will give you less and then if you give them less you are signalling that interest rates must go up because it's a liquidity question. If you want the interest rates to come down you provide more liquidity. And it's quite nice. At 12.15 put all the figures together in the computer and out comes the repo rate for the day.
POM. So there's a programme when you feed the information into the computer that analyses it.
TM. It's very simple, much more simple than when you read it in the text books. Standard Bank, First National Bank, they all tender for a specific amount. As I said R3 billion and so on, and they all say, we want to borrow this money from you at this rate of interest, at 21.58% and so on. So if all these requests they total R10 billion and we, having looked at the market behaviour notice that, no, if we get them R10 billion this thing is going to maybe push interest rates down or just maintain it equal, we will rather - they want R10 billion, we're going to give them R9.5 billion, to R500 million short, because we want to keep the money tight. Then you find that there's a bank here that tendered for maybe R1 million and they said at a ridiculous rate of 15%, the chaps who want the interest rates to come down. It's difficult to allocate for them. So you take all of the banks which if you look at the amount of money and the rate which they are prepared to pay, have tendered, if it comes to R9.5 billion then you cut. If there are six of them, all of them in terms of their tender, it comes to R9.5 billion, the others fall out automatically. So you allocate the money then to those banks. Then you take these rates which they are willing to pay and average it and get the rate for the day.
. Now the key thing there is the policy decision and strategy that you take. Do you want to send a signal to the markets that they must tender at lower interest rates or at higher rates and that decision is because you want to maintain maybe the interest rates at 20% or you want to bring them down. If you want to bring them down you provide all the liquidity that they need and then the rates will begin to come down.
POM. Going back to the staffing, will this then come under the Employment Equity Act? So you have made a plan?
TM. This has got to be covered, obviously. You see I am not yet in charge so I'm in transition.
POM. Right now would the bank itself see itself as - ?
TM. They have to, they have to. They are not exempt.
POM. So they have to put forward a plan like any other company?
TM. Like anybody else. And they are beginning to do something about it so things will change. But you see, this is a problem you know, the human resource problem. How many black econometricians have you got in this country thanks to apartheid? And it's one of the difficulties that we have so our plan has to focus in particular on the human resource development part so that in the next ten, twenty years we must have a sufficient pool of well qualified economists to come and work here or who can work in the private sector as well.
POM. Are you competitive with the private sector in that regard?
POM. Yes, in terms of salaries and things like that.
TM. They are embarrassingly well paid here I think. I don't know what you would do with such a lot of money. They are well paid. Now of course they don't have share options like in the private sector but they're well paid. A General Manager here can be paid something up to R800,000. That's a lot of money. And they've got a very generous car scheme, generous retirement scheme, generous medical aid scheme, generous insurance scheme. That's why people don't want to leave the bank. Some of the people have been working here for 30, 40 years.
POM. What's your vision, the role?
TM. Ah, now we can't discuss that, you see, now in case that comes out because part of the agreement - you have to treat the bank very sensitively. It's a very sensitive institution. So one of the things, for example, that we have agreed upon - that's why I took you on a long drive - is because anything that comes from me, I have noticed, hits the headlines. So I am really not talking about, even this thing is quite sensitive so please treat it as such.
POM. Oh you will get the transcript back. When you get the transcript back you can - recognise that this book is not coming out before the year 2001.
TM. I just mean now.
POM. Whether the IMF report was discussed?
TM. Again, it's another policy matter that we have to be very careful about. But as I said it was three paragraphs. It's a pity I couldn't find it, I think it's at home, three paragraphs. The IMF is made up of human beings. The write things, they don't always get it right. They didn't get it right in Asia, they didn't get it right in Russia.
POM. "Only tough action can save South Africa from collapse."
TM. Is it today?
POM. Today, 11th September.
TM. Oh, I didn't read the papers today. (Break in recording) I think he works for -
POM. Set up there, a top London based consultancy firm.
TM. What does that mean? It's a hedge fund. He was just trying to improve his position. I think it's a hedge fund. I have got it, I've got the print-out from the Wall Street Journal yesterday. But I think what we will do is maybe we will organise the last interview maybe some time next year, after I assume office. As I say, I avoid - it's very sensitive this institution. Somebody said to me, if anybody ever thinks that you have a headache it will affect the market. Goodness me! Am I not allowed to have a headache any more? If they hear that I've been checked into a hospital for a check-up -
POM. Don't bring any monitors in here.
TM. But I'll be in Washington in October, beginning of October and November, Washington, New York, Chicago and Mexico, Chile and Argentina and talk to their central banks. But I want to observe the relationship between Congress and Greenspan. It's fascinating.
PAT. Congress won't be there.
TM. Congress won't be there?
PAT. They're running for election.
PAT. Well through the end of September and then back in January.
TM. Really? Oh dear. Oh dear. Bad timing. Anyway I will have to go by this report, but I will talk to him about how they interact and why he got ... so late in life.
PAT. There's an interesting book that Bob Woodward wrote called The Agenda. Have you seen it? It's on the first two years of the Clinton Administration and the relationship between Greenspan and the President and the Congress. I will send it down to you if you're interested.
TM. OK, OK. What university did he go to, Bob Woodward?
PAT. Bob Woodward, or Rubin? You mean the Treasury Secretary?
TM. No the writer, the one you're taking about.
PAT. It's Bob Woodward from the Washington Post.
TM. Oh OK, I thought you were talking about the former Secretary of Labour.
PAT. No, that's Robert Reich. He's a friend of yours, right? Where did he go back to?
TM. Yes, a bright man. Some university. No he didn't go back to Harvard.
PAT. UBC or BU. Harvard wouldn't take him back.
PAT. Because he wasn't an accredited professor, he didn't have tenure. He wasn't an economist.
TM. So? But he was better than many economists.
POM. Harvard puts itself above any Reserve Bank. That's where Mandela is the third person who has received in the history of the institution, who will receive an honorary degree out of cycle. Honorary degrees are only handed out at commencement time in June of each year when students graduate and only three other people, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt have been granted degrees other than at the end of the academic year when students graduate, so Mandela will be the third.
PAT. And so they have this attitude that says Mandela should understand what it is we're doing here. We don't make this exception for anyone.
TM. So he has to go when they want him to go?
PAT. No, no. Everybody else has to go in June when they want them to go but they're making an exception for him and they hope he appreciates that!
TM. I don't think it makes any sense to him at all. Folks, I think we have to bring our interview to an end.
POM. OK. I spent five hours putting all the questions together, page after page after page, and articles on everything. I have to wait at least a year? A year before - well till after you get appointed, because a year from now I will be in the middle of writing. Look at my questions! It's a pity, I spent so many hours on it.