About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

07 Oct 1999: Pahad, Essop

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POM     I want to start with a couple of things that have given me kind of ill feelings in the last couple of days. One was going through Braamfontein and seeing the forced removal of hawkers and seeing the police use teargas on poor, marginalised people: the notion itself that if you remove hawkers from the street, that they're an irritant and that somehow this will bring about the revival of the downtown area as the commercial centre of Gauteng and then SA. On weekends I've bumped into ministers, senior officials, in Sandton and Rosebank Malls shopping – not that there's anything wrong with that but it's far removed from where the masses of the people live. The destruction of the squatter camps, 200 shacks demolished by a private security company who had the authority, or seemingly had the authority, to use teargas. In the old days all those things would have made world headlines, they would have been shown as police brutality.

EP     I'm not sure that a minister shopping at Rosebank Mall would make world headlines.

POM     Well not the malls.  Who is standing up for the marginalised people? You talked the last time about how there were more jobs in the informal sector than were counted by official statistics. At least these people are eking out a living, they are making means work. I know the idea is to move them to parks or centres where they would all be together but they depend on passers-by for their trade and if I want a box of cigarettes or something I don't say, well I'll take two turns to the right, three to the left and go to a park and get it. It's their immediacy is why they sell. If you remove that you're really in a way taking away – what happens to them in the meantime while these parks get ready?

EP     It's a very difficult question. It seems to me, obviously a lot of this, in the case of Braamfontein that's a decision of the Johannesburg City Council, but it seems to me that you can't both have your cake and eat it. You either have to then decide, it seems to me, that you want to clear up the Johannesburg CBD, you don't want the CBD to become a ghost town, you don't want the CBD to become so seedy and rundown that nobody goes there and therefore if you take a decision that you want to revitalise the CBD you've got to start somewhere and one of them has to be, unfortunately I think, and that is the streets with the proliferation of these small hawkers, anybody puts up a box, there are no hygienic regulations there and it would certainly get out of hand if another hundred or others just came and also put up a box and started selling something. So there have to be some regulations. I am quite sure in no other city in the world except in India can somebody just put up a box. I mean in Oxford Street, I know, the police have a very close look at people who stand on the pavements outside these shops selling whatever they are selling, necklaces or whatever else. So there has to be some regulation, I don't think anybody can argue.

POM     What is the mindset difference between a white government saying the streets are getting proliferated with blacks, goddamn it, and - ?

EP     I think the approach is not correct, in my view, because then you get stuck that you can't do anything that was done previously because it would be associated with the most abominable regime that we know. If the cities were regulated for hygienic and other purposes, they were not, and their budget was they were regulated to keep all blacks out of the commercial sector. That's what it was. So Indian shopkeepers could only have their shops in clearly defined areas. It's not what we're talking about, it's not the same thing. But also at the same time you have to have rules and regulations which do protect legitimate businesses and if you go and talk to any of those business people, I'm not talking about the big shops, go to Yeoville and talk to any of those small shopkeepers they will just complain that the presence of a lot of the hawkers stops customers from coming into the street so that they are not even getting the customers into their shops. So there is a serious problem that I think can't be overlooked. The level and amount of force that's used I think should always be a matter of concern to all of us because one wants to be in a situation in which you use some form of force only as a last resort.

POM     But who speaks for them?

EP     No, they must speak for themselves as anywhere else in the world, broad civil society organisations. Hawkers are already organised into a structure. Obviously they're already speaking for themselves. I saw in yesterday's newspaper that they are going to have a massive day off for protests and demonstrations. Obviously the ANC itself as the ANC, the SACP for example, also will not be part of a trade union movement. They would have to be part of it but I don't think it can start from a basis that merely because they're hawkers and they're doing something that they must have the right to violate laws. Nobody must have the right to violate laws, nobody. I don't see why hawkers should have any more rights to violate laws and regulations and by-laws than anybody else just because they're hawkers. No, I don't think it's a correct position to take. But I am saying in the way you deal with them I don't think it's the correct position for people to take, to go and set up an informal settlement anywhere else because what's happening is not people themselves because on a lot of occasions there are unscrupulous elements, indeed selling off land that doesn't even belong to them, and then they want to force the government to say they must house them first whereas the government has got an orderly approach, has got a list of people that need to be housed and we have already long ago agreed with the Minister of Housing that that's not going to happen. People who are on the list and who must get housing first will get their housing even if these other people go and occupy the land illegally and if they occupy the land illegally then they have to be taken off the land. At the moment if you don't do that it means you will never have land for housing because you go there, you clear out the land and you decide this is the land for housing and then people just come and occupy the land and say they want houses. No I don't think that's possible and I don't think that's correct either. So it seems to me what needs to happen is that we need to find an orderly approach to these things but people themselves also need to have an orderly disciplined approach.

POM     I suppose as an organisation that puts so much emphasis on consultation and consensual decision making -

EP     But we are not saying that you consult until you are dead. Of course you must have consultations and of course the Johannesburg City Council, as I understand it, is saying that they've been in discussions with representatives, including with these hawkers themselves, over a long period of time, have already told them over a long period of time what their plans are. It's not like somebody issued an order yesterday and the police went into action the next day. It's not that at all, so those processes of consultations must continue. The process of trying to arrive at a more consensual decision, sure that should continue but at some point I suppose, it is not a central government action. I think you must please make clear when you're going to write about whatever you're writing, it is a decision of the Johannesburg City Council in terms of what they think is necessary to do. I, as a resident of Johannesburg –

POM     If I'm a member of the SACP –  who? Ketso Gordhan?

EP     No, Ketso Gordhan is not a member of the party. As you know Ketso Gordhan is in conflict with the trade unions and some parts of the SACP on Egoli 2000. No, no, Ketso Gordhan is not a member of the SACP.

POM     Just to move to rapes, violent crime, a rape every 26 seconds, child rapes increasing, rapes within families increasing. I think 30% of all crime is within families. My question would be: what are, do you think, the imperatives or the motivations that such violence on women is being perpetrated? Recently there was evidence of it, of men being gang-raped after cars were hijacked just as a form of humiliation or showing total power. Why is there this rooted – it's not sexual, it's like an anger, do you know what I'm talking about? How do you get a grip on that?

EP     Let me say first of all, just to make this clear, it's a very top priority for the government to deal with this issue of violence against women. It's difficult to try to explain why there is this level of gratuitous violence. I am not sure about the statistics, about the increase, because I think a lot of this has been happening. We've known for a long time -

POM     A lot of this has been going on for a long time?

EP     But people never reported it.

POM     There's a pretty high rate of reportage now. Compared to developed countries it's above average.

EP     Which is a very good thing because it gives us a better idea of what is going on. The Deputy President, when he was Deputy President, asked this question: what is it that is happening against women? What have we done to them to so destroy even the most elementary level of just humans? He has posed this question a number of times. It's very difficult to get the kind of answers – because there are many answers on what apartheid has done to destroy the family especially during the eighties when it didn't matter what you did, if they thought you were part of the struggle you had a whole layer of young people who gave everything they had to the struggle against apartheid so didn't go to educational institutions, as a result of which you had a large layer of people who were basically unemployable in a context already with the high unemployment rate. Then there's to some extent among some of the young Africans a kind of belief that if they want a woman they should have a woman and therefore if they had a woman it's not rape. So in a sense our own definition of rape has changed. Now we're defining rape not just in plain physical abuse but rape as where a woman has been compelled, whether mentally or physically, to engage in a sexual act. This was never defined in other countries, this definition is a later definition. Now how do you deal with that because you have to deal with it because it is there because you have compelled somebody else to do something that that person didn't want to do. So it becomes a serious matter to try to understand and I think we're still trying to understand what is it that has happened with so many of our people to lead them to do things that are impossible to understand. If you rape a woman consistently, as has happened in Bez Valley, and you then use irons to disfigure the person and to dismember them. No, it's impossible to understand what is it that will make one or more people behave in this appalling, appalling manner. Psychologists have tried to understand this. We're trying to understand this. Obviously as I am saying there are these historical cases of what happened under apartheid.

POM     Is there anybody that I could talk to who you know who's done work in this area?

EP     Well I think you should talk to Saths Cooper who is a very good –

POM     Saths Cooper? Where is he? He's not with Violence and Reconciliation?

EP     You might find him there, I'll give it to you, but talk to Saths about that, about the psychological side because I'm not a psychologist but I would certainly agree, and all of us would agree, that it's a very, very serious problem. As I said, when he was Deputy President, now President, he's very determined that we should try to get to grips with this problem. So it is this use of gratuitous violence. I mean you go into somebody's house, you're stealing a TV or a video because you need to sell it for ten rand in order to eat. It's not the end of the day from the person that you've stolen this TV and video from, it's insured, they'll get it replaced, but why do they have to then engage in gratuitous violence?

POM     A person would say take everything you want, just leave me alone.

EP     And why not just leave the person alone? Sure. It's something we ourselves are trying to get to grips with but I think part of the answer lies in what happened under apartheid. It's what people must understand, what I've talked about before, this legacy of apartheid, this legacy of the worst form of institutionalised racism. It's something that we need to understand better, the consequences of that.

POM     Again, I try to intersperse visits to places like Sandton and Rosebank with visits to townships and contrast and compare what I see. One of the things I see, which is normal, is the emerging black middle class and I think they will now account in sheer numbers alone, they would be greater than the number of whites in that kind of category, not proportionately but in terms of numbers given, just the number of blacks. But that's besides the point. It has often struck me as I go around and see some very well dressed young blacks with the latest BMW or whatever and all the accoutrements of the good life, and I say to myself these are young people who have good jobs, earning good salaries and I also wonder where were they during the struggle. Is there a case that many of the people who were in the struggle, the youth that you talked about, have gotten left behind? They were at the forefront of the battle making the country ungovernable. The people, blacks who had the means to do so sent their kids to private schools or abroad or into exile or whatever where they got a good education, higher degrees and came back to the country and in the process of transformation they had the skills that were necessary for the new jobs that were available but they were never part of the struggle, they get rewarded almost for not being part of the struggle whereas the kids who were part of the struggle have been left behind as unemployable or unemployed.

EP     I think your approach is wholly wrong, and for me to answer that question is that you are going to take me in directions that one doesn't want to go into. The approach is fundamentally flawed. It's a repetition of this old thing that the people who made the greatest sacrifices were not the people who went into exile.

POM     I'm not talking about that per se, I just said either abroad or were able to send them to schools. I don't want to get into that whole thing, I didn't mean it that way, OK.

EP     But I'm responding to your question so I must respond to your question.

POM     Well take that context out, I want to take it in the context of better off –

EP     Let's take that context out, so I'm saying I don't know how to answer your question because I think your question is wrong, in my view, or it's wrongly put. It's also wrongly put in the sense to say that people who have done well now and who may be occupying certain positions either in the private sector or in the public sector were not part of the struggle. Of course they were. Some of the best student leaders, some of the best activists, some of the people who served long terms of imprisonment obviously were the ones who were going to occupy certain positions both in the movement as well as in government, and as well as being the type of people that the private sector would want to attract. Obviously they were also that layer of people who had certain skills, who managed to get a certain level of education. It is that also that enabled them to play the leadership role they did play. Inevitably, it's true of every struggle in the world, that's why I'm coming back to what I was saying, you had this large group of young people who did not necessarily have those kinds of skills or abilities but who had the courage and the determination to carry out the struggle and, sure, I'm trying to argue that they themselves in a sense they got left out because you couldn't take somebody merely because they were great activists in the struggle and make them a director in the government administration or there were others who were not necessarily very actively part of the struggle but they were part of the process as a whole. Now that's an issue that I think every revolution has had to deal with and it's very, very difficult.

     To your earlier question I was trying to answer where some of the problems might lie, it may lie in people who just feel that they have no real stake in society as a whole and therefore act in ways and in a manner which is very difficult for anybody to understand, because to be poor does not mean that you have to then engage in the kind of violence that they are engaged in. There are many poor people throughout the world who don't engage in those kinds of things. There are many poor people in SA who don't engage in those activities. So I don't think it's because some people have got jobs and because some young people are riding in the cities, I don't see why young blacks shouldn't ride in the cities. Nobody has ever said to me, there are young whites riding in Mercedes Benz, why do they ride in Mercedes Benz? There are young Indians who ride in Mercedes Benz. But as soon as it's Africans then something is said about it. It's just that it takes us into a different thing. If we want to have a class approach which says to what extent would an emerging African, the middle strata, lend or not lend political stability then let's talk about that. Let's not individualise that somebody is buying a car or somebody is shopping in Sandton, that is just a waste of my time to deal with those issues. And in SA you need that emerging African middle strata because it was deliberately, systematically suppressed in this country by racism. But you need that because you need that layer who would inject both into the economy, into the politics and everything else, a view which is necessary, I think. So nobody finds it difficult to agree with other sociologists that the middle class play a critical role in the development of their economies. So if that's true then it's true also of SA. Now once you enter into that realm there are people who want, unfortunately, I don't like it, I don't want to be ostentatious, but there are people who want to be ostentatious with their wealth. They are ostentatious with their wealth, not satisfied maybe with a house worth R50,000, they want a house worth one million rand, but what can you do about that? I don't think it's a fundamental issue that we need to deal with.

POM     Is SA reaching the point where the division is not racial in terms of haves and have-nots, it's more class, it's between those who have jobs, who have positions, who have upward mobility and those who don't?

EP     No. That's just vulgar Marxism.

POM     You're calling Marx vulgar?

EP     No. That approach is vulgar Marxism. I had better talk loud because it seems to me you're deafer than I am. Of course not. Five years into a democratic dispensation, emerging from the worst form of institutionalised racism and race is not a fact in SA politics? How can that be possible? It's crazy.

POM     Although race is still, but is that in terms of - ?

EP     No, but race as a factor in SA politics, of course it will remain an important factor for a long time to come. It's inevitable. Those who argue that class is replacing race don't want to understand because previously they said class didn't exist, that race will continue to play a critical factor. Once you say conceptually that race is a critical factor you then inevitably say, well where is this overwhelming majority of your poorest of the poor and your overwhelming majority of the poorest of the poor are African. If you make a further assessment you will find that they will be African women in the rural areas. You don't separate the two because they still remain closely inter-linked. It's for that reason that we talk about a national democratic … one of them. For that reason I think we have to continue talking about the ANC as a national liberation movement as opposed to a political party with a very clearly ideologically defined basis.

     Now what we are talking about, and it's a matter of continuing debate still, for example in the Communist Party that is a debate about how to understand this emerging black business. But you can't move towards attempting to change the patterns of economic ownership in SA without taking policy decisions, without creating a context and a climate within which African entrepreneurial skills can grow, otherwise the economy will remain in the hands of the whites. But you've got to change that and in order to change that means that you've got to do that other thing and when you do that other thing it means you want to grow your black, your African middle strata, because black is a much larger one if you include Indians and coloureds. So that is inevitable that that must happen. Inevitably within the private sector, for their own sakes, at the moment they're not doing enough fighting, but they are going to have to have a greater number of Africans in managerial positions. You've only to better understand what is going on in SA itself. In the public sector we've already taken positions, we've already basically begun the process of transformation where there are far more Africans in senior management positions than there were in 1994. You have to do that because it has to correspond with the general composition of the population. We've got to take deliberate decisions with regard to woman and then specifically African women.

     Now obviously what that will mean is what you say, that to some extent the gap between those who are at the bottom of the pile and those who are growing may well widen. In the public sector we have a definitive government position that we must move towards closing the gap. We've already taken steps towards that and the gap is still very wide but we are deliberately and systematically taking steps to try to ensure that we close the gap by every time there is a wage increase to give larger increases to the lower paid workers and less to the very top. Now that's one way of trying to address the thing but when you start with a chasm, not a gap, to close the chasm means more than putting a bit of sand into the hole. It's the enormity of the problem that we have to deal with, it is very large.

POM     Are you still a member of the SA Communist Party?

EP     As I talk to you, yes, I am still a member of the Central Committee of the SACP.

POM     Define for me, very briefly, identify the main tenets that are the principles of South African communism and how they correspond or deviate from the principles and practices of the ANC government particularly with regard to economic matters.

EP     I actually answered that in one of your earlier interviews. I haven't changed any of my opinions on that thing.

POM     Well if you have let's not deal with it and move on.

EP     Let me just say the one thing that perhaps I didn't say, but I ought to read a bit. The SACP will have to continue to examine what it means by socialism. I think that's an on, on, ongoing debate and discussion. I don't think there are any more clear cut answers as we thought we had before and that debate and discussion will go on in the SACP. Insofar as government's policies are concerned, I've said it before and I reiterate it because I think it's important, I do not believe that the government is going to deviate from its fundamental macro-economic policies of fiscal discipline and it's more targeted approach to budgeting so that you have a better utilisation of resources that you have, that we're trying to get rid of the wastage that seem to take place. It's not going to change. COSATU, if you talk to different union leaders we're getting different things but the differences will continue and there are people in the SACP who are also very hostile, some not all. There's a place in this country for different opinions.

POM     Which is healthy.

EP     It's a good thing.

POM     What a boring world if everybody had the same opinion.

EP     Absolutely. Why should we be afraid to talk?

POM     I'll just say the issues I want to run through.  The President has talked at length about the African renaissance, the social movement that's needed to underpin it, to make it successful. I've asked people this question but to me the greatest problem facing the southern part of the continent is AIDS and that unless you get a grip on AIDS one way or another there's nothing to govern, it's a plague, it's gone past being a pandemic. I attended the conference in Lusaka and I went there depressed and came away more depressed. And yet when I ask people here, senior people, what the greatest challenge facing the country is, they never say AIDS.

EP     Really?

POM     Not one person has mentioned it. That's why I was going to write to Kader and say: congratulations, you're the first person last week who said AIDS is the priority of the priorities.

EP     No, no, no, I am sorry that people have not responded to that. Just yesterday we were having a discussion. It is a top priority with this government. We're still doing investigations about the extent to which we have had some successes. As I'm sitting here talking to you without benefit of this research, I don't think we've made the breakthrough that we thought we would with this public awareness campaign. But I'm very sorry if there are senior people you have talked to who have not said that AIDS is – because I would agree with you, it would be depressing.

POM     When I say it there is a pause and they say, "Oh", and then they address it in that it's a regional problem, it must be dealt with regionally.

EP     You see, yes, all of those things must happen. It's a fundamental problem. I'm sorry, let's not even dispute, I agree with you fully.

POM     But awareness doesn't change behaviour, that is the experience of other countries.

EP     The experience of Uganda is that awareness does change behaviour. It's coming back to this earlier thing I was talking about where young people might think the women are there for the taking, where older men - for some reason there are some older men who think, who have been told superstitions, that if you sleep with a very young girl that that will help you to get rid of your AIDS virus, so they go around doing this. No, we have to deal with it but we've also got to deal with it on a regional basis because you can do all of these things in SA but if you get a large influx of people coming from the neighbouring states, and they will come, and when they come here they are not going to be abstainers.

POM     My question would be that, and I know the President is very interested in AIDS and was the founder of the Partnership Against AIDS, I think in October last year, it's about its anniversary.

EP     And this 9th October the Deputy President is going to go back on public TV.

POM     Why in the speeches he makes to African leaders and when he talks about the African renaissance doesn't he say: and the first thing we must address regionally, collectively, show the political will to take tough hard measures, is HIV/AIDS because without it there will be no renaissance because there will be nobody there to have a renaissance happen?

EP     You are right. I think he has done that but I take the point you are making that perhaps what should happen is that in every speech he makes he should say that. We've actually taken a decision after the Minister of Health came back from her trip to Uganda, that all ministers, the President and Deputy President, in every speech they make must talk about HIV and AIDS. But you're right and maybe it slips by, but there is a decision by us, a cabinet decision as far as I know, that we must use the same kind of thing that they did in Uganda where from Museveni down everybody talks about this. So there is no dispute that that is the single most important issue that we have to deal with. So I would agree certainly with that and I think you are right that we need to look a little bit more closely to make sure that all of us who make speeches ensure that we pound away at this message on HIV and AIDS.

POM     On globalisation and the renaissance, one of the lessons of globalisation so far is that the rich countries get richer and the poor countries get poorer so globalisation isn't working to the advantage of poorer countries yet there is no other game in town, you have to play by the rules of globalisation or you're not in the world economy at all. How do you handle this dichotomy that on the one hand SA has had to take measures to become part of the global economy that resulted in the shedding of hundreds of thousands of jobs, the introduction of technology to replace jobs, it doesn't have the skills base yet in place to compete in key areas of  - ?

EP     You are asking too many questions at the same time.

POM     I know but I'm trying to – is there any time in Cape Town we could meet?

EP     There are three reports, three or four different elements. Let me start somewhere else. If you look at the ANC, Mandela's report to the ANC conference in Mafikeng you will find, in my view, one of the best assessments made by any political party of globalisation and its consequences. It's an objective phenomenon, it's not a subjective will of somebody. So we can't sit here in SA and say subjectively we don't like globalisation therefore we're going to ignore it. You can say that but you will still have to put up with the consequences of globalisation. Is it possible for any one country, talking about our continent now, to deal with the negative aspects of globalisation? No. There are positive aspects too, I don't think we should ignore the positive aspects. Surely the answer is no. If you then go back to the Deputy President's speech to the Non-Aligned Movement conference –

POM     Last year in Durban?

EP     Last year in Durban, he dealt precisely with this issue and subsequently the OAU heads of state. For example, he pointed out that George Soros in his entire book on globalisation has no more than three paragraphs on Africa. That tells you how important George Soros thinks the continent is with regard to globalisation, but meaning with regard to investments, with regard to dealing with fundamental economic issues. So our continent is not seen in any kind of important respect. Now how do we act regionally, for example, ourselves here in terms of our southern African region and then in terms of the continent, to begin to address these issues and address them with, as you say quite rightly, those who wield the greatest economic power? That means a continuous engagement with them. Well they're happy that our Minister of Finance is now going to be chairman of the board, he's not been elected chairman of the board, that's the board between the IMF and the World Bank, and he's the only one from the continent who is in this group of twenty. Now how do we then utilise the position that our Minister of Finance will have to put the much broader perspective, not a South African perspective, but a regional and an African perspective? How do we act together with other developing or emerging economies from Asia, for example, to deal with this thing so that we use – what would be your strength is your numbers – in a way which can improve the relationships and the bargaining positions and that is what we are looking at. But you can't browbeat anybody so we are in the situation in which some people thought they can ignore globalisation but you can't.

     Now we think, just talking about SA at the moment, that basically we haven't done too badly. Even the economic crisis in some of the Asian countries of course it had a negative effect on SA but not as large as would have been expected. Too, we have basically been able to still be an attractive market for foreign direct investment but not as high as we would want. We certainly would want it to increase but there hasn't been a total withdrawal from the SA market and we think that puts us in a slightly better position. But we have to then utilise those positions, as I say, in the interests of the region and the continent. But we have to deal with this issue. We also believe that it's in the long term interests of the developed countries themselves to address this issue. At a certain point the whole markets might become saturated anyway. We know at the moment they're investing only – the bulk of the investment goes into the developed countries themselves.

POM     That's right.

EP     And where it doesn't go to the developed countries it will go to China, it's a huge, huge market of 1.2 billion people. Some of it would go to India because here is a market of 900 million with a very large reservoir of skilled people with a middle class which may be around 200 million people. That's a market.

POM     And all you need is 1% of the market.

EP     And you're off. If you're talking about 200 million people who are classified as middle class in India, which means they can buy things, now how then do you get them to find a way in which you begin to get your investments to go into the most marginalised or ignored countries? We think it's part of this African renaissance process and it is a process, it's going to take 100 years, it might take longer. What is it that we need to do acting individually but also collectively and regionally to make it possible for investors to come in? So it means that there might have to be, where there are very tight regulations, some of the countries might have to soften them. I don't know of any African country at the moment that has, as used to happen before, very tight exchange controls for example where there might be a necessity to build infrastructure that would enable investors to come in. But you need to encourage investors not only to come to explore your mineral resources. They are there. But if you are investing in mineral resources how do we try to find a greater breadth of investments in other sectors which could be complementary rather than competitive. Here in our own country, as you know, we're still in serious debates with some trade union people around the question of tariffs. They're arguing that we reduced, for example textiles and clothing, we reduced tariffs too fast. We think that we had to do that because in any case we could not keep on protecting very uncompetitive industries but in a sense as capitalism develops textile manufacturing will go somewhere else. I think it's inevitable to that extent but there's still a very large textile industry in SA but that's a discussion that will have to continue. To what extent does the reduction of tariffs help?  As you know today the President is going to witness the signing of the agreement with the EU. It's happening this afternoon.

POM     Finally!

EP     Finally it's happening this afternoon.

POM     Your good friends the Europeans.

EP     Well port and sherry, they'll shelve it. But the important thing is that then also means that we will have to, as SA over the years, reduce tariffs. Now once you've taken that position and we have, it means your local industry will have a number of years in which they will have to improve their productive capacity as well as their competitive capacity because after a number of years they will not be protected from imports from other places. Now it means our own South African manufacturers will have to look and see how they become more competitive, how they become more productive. At the same time your South African manufacturing base, if it grows and we hope it grows, will have access to a very large market in the European Union.

POM     The countries that are going to grow in the next few years, the manufacturing sector has become increasingly a smaller part of the overall economy of the richer countries just as manufacturing replaced agriculture, information technology industry is replacing manufacturing industry:

     (i)     the lack of a skills base here because of past educational practises and the need for training;

     (ii)     and this goes back to affirmative action, is a quota system the better way towards dealing with the question of making the workforce more representative at every level of the demographic composition of the country rather than - ?

EP     There is no quota system.

POM      I thought the Equity Employment Acts sets quotas.

EP     It's not a quota system. I think you should understand that. I think what is required is a more detailed study. I know we keep on saying the skills base is low. We need to say where is the skills base that is low because otherwise you run into all kinds of problems. If the skills base is low with regard to specific areas of IT then we also need to identify the specific areas. At the moment there are many South Africans being recruited here, almost on a daily basis, by British and American firms. So it doesn't mean there isn't a skills base, there is already in existence a skills base otherwise they wouldn't be recruited.

POM     In fact the demand is bigger than the supply?

EP     No, no, students who are finishing their studies in computer studies have been recruited by firms in Britain. Now as I talk to you I am saying we need to look again and see what is it, is there a problem? And sometimes, and I agree, young people are going, they are going to work for two or three years, get experience, want to move around and then they'll come back to SA hopefully. But there is a shortage of certain skills. There is a shortage of certain management skills because management was confined to whites and therefore you have a serious shortage of good managers. Now in order to have good manages you've got to expand the base from which you're going to recruit your managers and that's what we've been saying, that you have to do this and in order to do that it means you've got to go to those who had never had an opportunity before. I am trying to explain this employment equity, the thinking behind it. It's not so much that you take and say you will have this percentage and so on and so forth. You also have to take people out of the comfort zone. We had to do it in the public sector.

POM     Take them out of the - ?

EP     The comfort zone of working with people who are of your same racial group, of the same colour. Of course it's easier. If you are a manager somewhere you tend to look for people who are more or less at the same school that you went to, more or less at the same club that you went to. It's not wrong as such, it happens everywhere else in the world. This is to some extent how recruitment takes place. That's where Oxbridge played such a dominant role in the British socio-economic life until recently. But you've got to change that pattern and how do you change that pattern unless you also use some kind of other methods to say, but you've got to do something about changing this.

POM     Would it be an approach where you would almost give an incentive to a company to train, to invest in the training of people who have potential so that they can be promoted into positions - ?

EP     Well we do more than that, I hope it's more than that. It's more than just having incentives. We are saying that there's going to be a skills levy and that skills levy has to be utilised in order to train people. Our argument is that indeed it's in the long term interests of the private sector that we do this because most of these people will then remain employed in the private sector. So you've got to do that. But with regard to the disabled, yes, we are insisting on a certain percentage after a certain period of time otherwise nobody will employ disabled people, so we are saying you have to employ people with disabilities. With regard to women too we've made some improvements. In the public sector we've made some remarkable changes. Our office here, the office of the President, the majority of people in senior management are women. But you won't get these changes unless there are conscious, deliberate decisions made to move in a certain direction because, as I say, people would be quite happy to remain in their old comfort zones. While there is a World Cup in rugby going on, let me use that as an example, we played Scotland now last week, this chap called Deon Keyser who played marvellously, I don't know if you saw the game against Scotland? He not only made a try but scored on and then played very well defensively. This poor chap has been playing rugby all his life so 'they discovered him three years ago' when he was 26. If there wasn't the pressure on these rugby selectors to look beyond this narrow white base, Deon Keyser would not have been selected. If he gets selected he's there on his own skills. But you needed that pressure I think sometimes to force people. So our sporting authorities now have taken certain positions that they're going to do that.

     I come back – we're talking about SA, therefore you need an approach which says what is in the long term interests of the economy of SA and the long term interests of the economy of SA is to, as you quite rightly said, expand the skills base and you can't expand the skills base only within the narrow confines of the whites. You've got to expand it with the blacks and when you're talking about blacks then in particular with the Africans. So that's an economic necessity I think for all of us and this is what drives the policy. It's not so much saying let's have so many black, let's have so many Africans, just take anybody and put them in any position, that's never been our view. We've always said that people must have a modicum of the essential skills but if it's a choice between people who are somewhat of equal weight –

POM     All things being equal.

EP     And if for example the white person is slightly ahead, well then go for the black one, but if the gap is so wide then obviously we're not going to go for the black one because you are doing a disfavour to the black person because that black person, he or she, would not be able to do the job. It's as simple as that. So that's the approach we have. It's not a matter of quota.

POM     Let me turn to something that you touched on and has cropped up in different ways in our conversations over the years, the results of the elections. Now in a 'normal' democracy a party that was going into an election where on the major issues like crime, joblessness, performance of the economy, the majority in all communities gave the government failing rates –

EP     Well they didn't.

POM     I know, but in polls and surveys they did consistently.

EP     All right, I'll discuss that point.

POM     Now you would expect that party, at least its support at the polls, to go down. Here you had a situation that despite the setbacks, some of which the government had no control over, particularly in relation to the economy, it comes back with a bigger percentage increase than it had when it was first elected. Now how would you interpret the election results?

EP     A year ago I said to you that a lot is going to depend on the capacity of the ANC to get itself geared up for action, it certainly happened. I also said to you that the level of political consciousness, I didn't use the same words, of the African people is much higher than it is of the whites here. I didn't even mention the Indians and coloureds but I include all of them. It's not so much that people didn't say for them crime is a high priority. What went wrong was when people were making extrapolations of that.

POM     I'm sorry, when they were making?

EP     When they extrapolate their own thinking, that's these research surveys, that if 60% of Africans say that crime is of major concern to them it therefore was read as saying that the African people, or 60%, are also very unhappy with the government. There are different elements. So, sure, of course crime is of major concern to all of us, of course joblessness is a major concern to millions and millions of our people but it did not necessarily translate into one of hostility to the ANC. I think that was part of the problem when they were doing their interpretations although there was the second element which continue to show a rise in the fortunes of the ANC even at the level of the polls. So the polls were not that wrong in many respects, they were certainly wrong about the IFP. First of all I don't think there's anybody here in this country, any political party, that has the policies and programme that the ANC has. That's the first thing. I don't think any of them have the kind of credibility that the ANC has with the masses of our people, never mind what they say in Johannesburg, what I, in one of the interviews, called the 'dinner table conversations of the chattering classes'. They are not ANC supporters, they don't care about the ANC. These are basically whites who don't know how people think but make all kinds of assumptions. Maybe they say they've talked to their driver or their domestic worker. So an understanding was wrong because they haven't been to the rural areas, they haven't done political work.

     During the election campaign I, as everybody else in the leadership of the ANC, went actively campaigning and we actively campaigned in many rural areas. My own experience was once we played that song, for example, you talk, people raise issues, pension pay-out points as usual, and you play this song in which they sing about Thabo Mbeki, old people, 70 years, 80 years, grannies, grandfathers who would get up and start dancing and come and hug me and start dancing, and when I went back I said, but what are these people talking about? Here I've been to the poorest of the poor areas and there's no access to water, some of them have been waiting a long time for land to be given back to them, we dealt with the issues but there was not a single voice in all of the groups that I spoke to that was hostile to the ANC. They might have been hostile to some councillors but not to the ANC and not to Thabo Mbeki, not to Mandela. And Thabo Mbeki was the main figure in our election campaign, it was not Mandela. Mandela played a big part but the campaign was around Thabo Mbeki, all the posters were about Thabo Mbeki. And people said, no without Mandela we will not – it's because, let me say this to you, fundamentally whites, large sections of the Indians and coloureds, are unable to accept that the level of political consciousness and understanding of the African masses is much higher than theirs. They think because they read English and they read newspapers they are politically conscious. They are not. And that is what explains fundamentally the support that the ANC enjoys. We don't enjoy a blind support from our people, we enjoy the conscious support of our people. And our people, the poorest of the poor, are much better at understanding the difficulties of governance than even the middle strata we talked about because an element of this middle strata we talked about, African middle strata I'm specifically referring to, if they have a Toyota and can't get a Mercedes Benz they think their lives have not improved. Of course it's nonsensical but that's how they think. You go to the poorest of the poor, water, electricity has fundamentally transformed their lives, access to two basic necessities which we take for granted you and I, once they get access to clean water, access to electricity it transforms their lives. Their level of understanding and even understand of why sometimes you explain to them why they say, no, it's OK we know that government hasn't got lots of money, we know it will take you time. And that is the difference and that's why any other political party is going to find it very difficult to eat into the ANC support.

POM     Can I arrange something else in Cape Town?

EP     Talk to Samson, but I had better not keep my boss waiting.

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