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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

09 Nov 1999: Delport, Tertius

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POM     As usual, Dr Delport, before I look at my prepared list of questions, my first question will come from an off-hand remark you made when I walked in. The situation as I look at it now appears to be that you have an executive that is increasingly centralising power; an executive that reserves the right in the provinces it controls to appoint premiers rather than have them elected in any way; an executive that has the director generals of departments sign contracts with the President's office, not with their respective ministers; you have a parliament overwhelmingly controlled by the ANC and most of the Portfolio Committee chairman and ANC committees, therefore being a party list system is hardly a situation in which Portfolio chairmen drag a minister before them and question the hell out of him on some policy or another or question his decisions; you have most of the major legislation of the transformation legislation, except for the four bills that must be passed by next February as required by the constitution, already passed. What is the function of parliament?

TD     It's a rubber stamp, fast becoming a rubber stamp for whatever the President wants. You're quite correct, there's an absolute centralisation of power in the hands of the Office of the President. After his opening speech and the debate on his opening speech the President has not turned up once in parliament. I know he's not a member of parliament technically but parliament does have an oversight function and unfortunately even when questions are directed at the President one of the ministers will deal with the questions and we have had a very bad experience when Maduna, Minister of Justice, handles the questions, he simply refuses to give any subsequent question arising out of his answer and he just says, "I'm just here, I'm my master's voice, I'm just here to read his answer." The other feature is, of course, what you've already referred to, the appointment of MPs, ANC MPs to the important positions in various activities, or rather semi-state positions, and the fact that we are now in the process of forming a new police unit based on the FBI, the Scorpions. As we understand it there is a strong possibility that that unit, the Scorpions, will be directly responsible to the President himself, or at least because the legislation will be dealt with by the Minister of Justice. So it's not going to form part and parcel, it's not going to be a unit within the police, it's going to be a super police force that's not under the normal and within the normal structures of our security forces.

     We have, as the DP, especially Mr Tony Leon has raised his concerns on a number of occasions and I share those concerns, I think we're moving away from any form of federal structure. We are centralising and not only centralising at national level but centralising in the hands of the executive. We do manage to get small amendments to legislation but parliament is not functioning. Parliament is not really functioning. We're dealing with some legislation but maybe, maybe because they finished the debates on the Appropriation Bill, the legislation on the budget before the election, maybe that is one reason why we are not really functioning but we sit hardly two days a week.

POM     Even though parliament is in session, it actually convenes for about two days out of the five days in the week?

TD     Yes, yes, and earlier on we sat only on Wednesdays. Now we sit on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and this week we even sit on Thursday as well, so we have Tuesday, today and tomorrow and Thursday and that's some kind of a record.

POM     Now you have the two, you mentioned the Open Democracy Bill and the other bill that's gone through, at least re-drafting of some sort, the so-called Equality Bill whatever that is. Is it the DP's opinion, particularly more about the Equality Bill, that there is a slight Orwellian content to this bill in terms of what's designated as hate speech? For example, if I'm an Afrikaner and I refer to myself as a Boer, have I committed hate speech against myself? If I'm a black and I say, hey, I'm just a bloody Kaffir, is that hate speech? Do you have to have a commission that determines under what context or under what circumstances, what the tone of voice was, whether people were joking around having a laugh, or whether it was meant to be insulting? It seems like setting up again a huge layer of bureaucracy to partly control aspects of freedom, I won't say freedom of speech.

TD     You are touching on as aspect of reality in SA today. We have two South Africas. The one is the theoretical SA which if you read our legislation and our constitution you will think it's the most wonderful country in the world because we have a bill now, legislation on, and in any event our constitution guarantees equal rights despite whatever creed, colour, sexual orientation and yet we have the highest rape figure in the world, our women are treated like animals by rapists, gang rapists. So on the one hand you have the beautiful constitution and legislation and on the other hand what's happening in reality. We have wonderful rights and set out a wonderful court system and yet people don't get caught, they don't get convicted and the minister himself has admitted we're on the brink of total collapse administratively. So you have two South Africas, that's the point I want to make. What is said on paper and what's said in wonderful speeches in parliament and what's happening outside, the reality.

POM     I saw this morning in the paper that the Agriculture Department in the Eastern Cape is about to close shop, it's broke.

TD     But of course it's broke, it's been broke for how long already. But how can you, when I was the minister or the MEC for Agriculture in the Eastern Cape we had something in excess of 25,000 people living off the agricultural budget: officers, extension officers, tractor drivers, the state was farming, it was shambles, at the same time 25,000 plus people living off the budget. At the same time in the Western Cape with ten times the Eastern Cape's output in agriculture, what with our wine farming,  maize and everything in the Western Cape, they had 1010 people working for the Department of Agriculture as against 25,000. We had a budget there of over R500 million as against the R84 million of the Western Cape. That was six years ago and it has not improved. When I made certain proposals how to rectify the position I was just taken away because I insisted that all these people be channelled to RDP programmes, put them on our RDP budget and let them we could have gone in for afforestation and used them at least because they were doing nothing, and that's one of our biggest problems in SA. All the thousands of civil servants doing not nothing, do you know the word? Bugger all.

POM     The majority of those civil servants now would be Africans?

TD     Yes, and especially from the old Transkei administration.

POM     To be fair, if you had been a minister coming in to take over the civil service there in 1994 where there were five different presidents in the country, 300 cabinet ministers, 15 departments of everything, plus Own Affairs, General Affairs, whatever, and you were told to integrate all this into one functioning unit ?

TD     It would have taken me two years to do it, but the big problem was they were not willing to look at any proposal that would take a man out of his job, his job where he was doing nothing, and put him in a job where he had to work. We had a huge RDF, you will remember the Reconstruction & Development Fund, and I am sure if that was utilised productively I think overseas donors would have contributed to that fund, it would have been an ongoing thing if we had real development, we had nothing. They didn't know what to do. They dished out a lot of money and for every million they dished out, R900,000 went into structures and people and directors to be appointed and offices to be set up and R100,000 eventually landed up in some form of development. Just take one thing, water reticulation in the Transkei, long term investment in other words, afforestation, you could have used 20,000 people working on water reticulation and on afforestation and taken it out of Agriculture and other budgets, put them onto RDP programme budget and that would have been an investment, a long term investment, the manpower that you're paying for would have been invested positively and productively. No, no, they were not willing to do so because then they would have the people that voted for the government. The interest of the country, growth and development has taken a back seat all along second to the interest of people getting salaries. You had to protect the salary.

     We have so many examples of people there was one again of a director of whatever, I get so sick I don't read it any more, who resigned or was sacked two years ago but he still gets his salary. He's not in the office, he's doing nothing but he gets his salary. That's an everyday occurrence. We have in the Eastern Cape along, I think, something like 20,000 what they call supernumeraries. You know a supernumerary is somebody with the integration of the various departments, there is no job for him, he has got no job but nothing has been done either to utilise such a person, those 20,000, and it's costing us over the past five years billions in salaries alone. Eddie Trent worked out that this government has squandered, thrown away down the drain, bottomless pit, at least three billion rands over the first five years of their government in the Eastern Cape alone. Now what could one do with three billion rands if properly managed? That's my concern at present.

POM     Would the DP find that it is in broad agreement with the broad thrust of ANC policy, reducing inequities, fiscal discipline, but while their policies are all good conceptually that when it comes to implementation the whole thing collapses?

TD     They don't implement, that's where it comes apart. Now there are some three, four positive aspects. The first one is that some of the ministers, especially Kader Asmal, the Minister of Education, has come out of what I call the era of reality denial, they refused to believe in the first five years it was the Mandela era, it was the era of freedom that's come and all that and the rainbow nation and all the beautiful things, now at least Kader Asmal has said in parliament our education is in chaos. Wonderful. At least he's getting to grips, having to get to grips.

POM     He's defining the problem.

TD     Defining the problem. Maduna has said, I don't think he's a good minister, I don't think he can cope, but at least he said our justice system is on the verge of total collapse. At least he is accepting that fact now. That's positive. The other thing that's very positive is the fact that the increase demanded, the fact that the government was not prepared to give in to the trade union demands, that they stood firm on 5.1% or whatever it is, that was positive.

POM     Held the line. I think Mbeki said the negotiations are over, period.

TD     Yes, very positive. Now I want to say something that may contradict what I've said earlier. In this situation where we are in, and it may sound as if I'm an alarmist or whatever and I'm just saying this to criticise the government, but SA is sinking if something is not done on the corruption, the lack of law and order, the total absence of any discipline in the civil service. We're going to collapse as a country if something is not done.

POM     Do you think Mbeki is aware of it?

TD     That's the point I want to make. Maybe you need a very, very strong president to get to grips with this situation. My only concern is that take the other day it was said they must let us know when next he comes to visit SA, when next Mbeki comes on a visit to SA. He's more concerned with the Congo and all the glamorous stuff instead of dealing on a day to day basis, on a hands on basis with the problems in SA. But maybe this centralisation of power, which is not good for democracy, the future of democracy, because once you've got the power it's very difficult to let it go again, but just maybe we need that if the holder of that power is prepared to get to grips with our problems. Maybe that's the reason why he was so anxious to get a very big majority in the election. Let's just hope it's not going to be any abuse of power but the utilisation of power in order to here and there with force to put things right.

POM     After the election I assume that every party did its own analysis of why the ANC performed so well, why the DP performed so well, why the NP showed signs of, as you said, collapse.

TD     You didn't believe me last time when I said to you the NP is finished.

POM     No, I just had another glass of wine. But you had said that the ANC would receive about no more than 55% of the vote.

TD     Yes I was still clear on that.

POM     I know this is not a normal democracy and maybe this is why, but in any kind of 'normal' democracy if you had a governing party going into an election where all groups in the population, that's white, coloured, Indian and black all believe you've done a lousy job on handling crime, that you've done an even lousier job on creating jobs, that your overall handling of the economy has been poor, that education is in a mess, that you haven't lived up to your promises with regard to housing, you would think that party would say, "God, we've a problem!" This is where opposition parties really pounce and take over and instead of them losing their percentage of the vote they received, it actually went up. What do you think accounted for them doing so well?

TD     Ethnicity, maybe even racism. It's black power. If you look back at history there were times when the NP government did everything wrong, even as far as their own supporters were concerned but never, never would an Afrikaner vote otherwise than for Afrikaners. If you go to the conflicts in Africa that we still experience, it's all about ethnicity and of course if ethnicity and broadly speaking race coincides, like in SA, then the focus is all the more sharp of the differences. Our election was not about policies, it was not about delivery, it's about maintaining the new position of power. That's what it was all about.

POM     Would there be another side to that in the sense that if I were an African living in a township and four years ago I had voted for the ANC and had great expectations of things to come and the things never materialised, do you think there would be the slightest possibility that I would say the ANC hasn't delivered, I have no house and the quality of my life isn't better off, I am still unemployed, I am still this, still that, therefore I'm going to turn around and vote for the party that oppressed me for the last 40 years?

TD     You see it's not only the party that depressed me, it's the people, be they in the Democratic Party, be they in the National Party, even be they with Holomisa, the UDM, they attracted relative well they did get support, Holomisa's support was in Umtata and surrounding areas there, in the Transkei, but elsewhere? No. And even you see it in the decline of the IFP, they have not attracted, they have not grown in Natal. It's all about the flag of freedom and 99% of black voters would rather receive a raw deal from Mbeki or Mandela than receiving a raw deal from a white. That's that, and it's not going to change in the next five years. It may change in ten years time, ten years down the line but not in five. So the DP, and this I shouldn't say in public, but we are doomed to an opposition role unless we become just another ANC. You see we have a dilemma in all opposition parties that seek to unite the white vote or white and coloured and Indian, call it the western culturally orientated, if people tell us you must get black votes, there's only one way of getting black votes and that's to become a black party, but then will that party have the same principles? I doubt it. It will become more socialistic in orientation. We also believe in a free market but you have a social responsibility and all that goes with it, but we're not basically a socialist party.

POM     The ANC is, how could it be more I mean Mrs Thatcher would be proud of their economic policies. They slash expenditure, cut budgets and maintain budget discipline in a way that if you had said ten years from now

TD     It's an enigma I cannot understand. They talk about education for all, a better life for all. Once again, that's the talk, that's the 1% and the reality is they're doing quite the opposite. In many instances they're doing quite the opposite. I mean GEAR as a policy, you can't fault GEAR.

POM     Growth, employment and redistribution

TD     There's nothing wrong with that policy. It's not rigidly implemented, especially when it comes to privatisation. The new word of, what do they call privatisation now? It's got a different word now, it's a different term for privatisation, maybe under that new flag it can progress.

POM     But if somebody told you ten years ago or less, ten years from now you're going to have an ANC government and they're not going to be talking about the industries, the parastatals they were going to nationalise, they're going to be talking about the need to accelerate the rate of privatisation, what would you have said?

TD     I must say I am amazed, very much positively.

POM     In terms of core principles, are there differences between the DP and the ANC?

TD     Our attitude, our content of democracy there is a sharp difference especially when it comes to multi-party democracy. Maybe we made a mistake, we made a lot of mistakes but we should have insisted, something that I did table at one stage but it was left at that. But I mean in the formal structure appointments for ambassadors on whatever state or semi-state, the SABC board, etc., it should also have been multi-party appointments so that you reflect the composition of the electorate not only in parliament but also in all other state and semi-state activities to get a more balanced situation. Then the other sharp difference is, of course, that we are committed to clean administration and effective administration and that's totally lacking. Again it's all very well to say so in parliament and elsewhere and in documents and in policy statements but it's a far cry from actually doing that and it started, ill-discipline started when you allow this to happen, that to happen, you allow a premier to say that politicians do lie, you must accept that, and you acquiesce in that statement, you don't take him to task or in any event he should have been sacked as a premier.

POM     So the collapse of the NP, is that terminal?

TD     It's over. It's over and done with the NP. The final demise will come, or annihilation will come in next year's local government elections. The NP will get nowhere.

POM     How would you interpret that? Would you interpret it as whites', particularly Afrikaners, disappointment with its performance or is it an indication I think one person has said to me that whites are turning their backs on the past, they're turning their backs on apartheid and they're quite willing to move into the new SA and they still see the NP as being part of the baggage of the past, it can't dissociate itself no matter what it does.

TD     It's more than that. Yes, yes, plus, plus. People now realise what a mess the NP made during the apartheid years and, secondly, what a mess

POM     When you say mess you mean?

TD     I think their whole policy, the fact that they never realised that it can never work in the long run, the policy couldn't work, it can't work. They want to get that over and done with and they don't want a constant reminder. That is why, and you know that was my view that the NP after 1994 should have simply disbanded and re-emerge in a totally different way, not a mere name change. It should have simply disbanded. De Klerk was at the height of his popularity then, he could have emerged as the South African party or whatever, as leader even, that would have been maybe even acceptable. But then the people also realised that the NP lied about the so-called successes of Kempton Park, about the multi-party government and De Klerk always said this will be a unique constitution, a home-grown, never again will one party dominate, never again all the power in the hands of one party, and it's there. This is exactly what we have, a winner takes all situation. Yes we've got all the other niceties of subject to the constitution and you can go to court and have a law set aside and you can go to the Public Protector and you've got your basic fundamental human rights that you can insist on, take the government on in court. But as far as governance is concerned and who will govern there is no effective input from any opposition party.

POM     So in the Portfolio Committees, are there any members now from opposition parties?

TD     Yes, sure.

POM     Who are chairpersons of the Portfolio Committees?

TD     No.

POM     There on it, they're represented but they're not chairpersons.

TD     They're represented but not chairpersons.

POM     And the chairman runs the committee.

TD     Sure. The chairman, he listens, he takes whatever is said and recommendations are made, he takes it to his minister and if the minister or cabinet says OK you can accept this, we're happy with that, or if they say no, that's the end of it. We sit now with the Open Democracy Bill with a committee of 57 people. One afternoon at five o'clock, one specific afternoon, I think it was a Friday or a Thursday, I said I propose that we adjourn now because I notice that we are eight opposition members and only three ANC members present. But when it comes to the day that we vote on the bill then they will all be there. It's a debate. Normally I wouldn't under any circumstances have a committee of which I'm a member, which started 35 minutes ago and I'm talking to you, but whether I'm there or not there doesn't really make a difference because we're talking and talking and give views and it will go back and then we'll vote and it will depend on whether the chairman and the minister decide this way or that.

POM     One of the accusations made against the NP was that in 1948, in particular in 1960 with Dr Verwoerd, that SA began to engage in a vast experiment in social engineering, is the ANC doing essentially the same thing, rearranging society?

TD     Yes.

POM     Perhaps with different objectives but still

TD     With different objectives, there are two guiding stars at present. The first one was what they call transformation, the process of transformation in which affirmative action plays a very prominent role. And now the second one is Thabo Mbeki's African renaissance. Now put together transformation and African renaissance means an Africanisation of SA because remember SA to a large extent, and it is something that we were accused of in parliament by an ANC member, to a large extent, not to a large extent, to a certain extent, is an extension of the western world in terms of way of life, what you see outside in the streets, but it's an extension in the sense of SA is at least more than other African countries part of the technological development of the western world if you look at the infrastructure, the basic structures that we have, infrastructure and organisational infrastructure. Now I'm not sure whether an Africanisation means doing away with the technological world that we've got here. I do not know what is understood by the African Renaissance seen with the concept of transformation, or Africanisation. I don't know. All I know is many, many young South Africans are leaving. I'm lucky my three children, and they're all married, they want to stay here, but I hardly know any of my well it's difficult to mention any one of my old friends with not at least one child already settled overseas. It's become the order of the day, the normal thing to do. I believe, in Australia there are more members of the Dutch Reform Church that I belong to, and I think in Sydney alone there are more members of the DRC than in the whole of the Eastern Cape. You know, apart from language church is a very, very narrow sort of definition, maybe not even 50% or less of South Africans living there, having settled there, would be members of the DRC, so there are masses of people in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and then of course in London. I think there are thousands, especially young people, living and settling in London.

POM     And they've no problem getting visas?

TD     Well they get them some way or another, they do get them.

POM     It's like a Diaspora.

TD     Yes. I'm Afrikaans and we are looking at the modern technology of creating on your web sites the means to communicate with Afrikaners all over the world. It's going to come, some form of a network that will bind SA and Afrikaners wherever, people of the Afrikaans language.

POM     What happened to the Freedom Front?

TD     Gone, dead. Once again it's an absolute disappointment in the leadership. I told Constand Viljoen at the time, don't trust this thing because of your Volkstaatraad, Council or whatever was it called, I don't even know because I knew it was just a farce, because I personally asked or accused Ramaphosa, I said, "Now you give the Freedom Front what they want but you were very tough on what we wanted in terms of cultural protection, etc., etc." And he laughed, he said at that time, "Yes we did but they will get nothing, they will get nothing." So they were just playing with them.  And now people have realised that Constand Viljoen, who's a very good man, that he fell for the ruse and they just played with him. So no confidence in his leadership.

POM     The UDM?

TD     Well how can they get anywhere with two leaders?

POM     2% or 3%?

TD     But leadership again, leadership. Who outside of Umtata will follow young Holomisa? And I suppose you know that the white support, especially the Afrikaans support that Roelf took with him, has totally disintegrated. There's nothing there of the UDM. In the East Cape we've taken all their members now, in Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and others have gone to the ANC.

POM     So the transformation and the support that Inkatha received, it's becoming more of a regional party than it was before, is there an Inkatha after Buthelezi?

TD     I doubt that, I don't think so.

POM     So would you see its vote then as being up for grabs or votes that would automatically swing to the ANC?

TD     I think they would go to the ANC. They're in government with the ANC, people will tend to look after their own positions and jobs. I think they will go to the ANC.

POM     If you had to make a decision between a party that's going to be in power for a long time and a party that has not a chance of being in power for a long time, you're more likely to join the party that's in power.

TD     But of course, because they've got, as Tony Leon says, they've got a longer gravy train than we can ever hope of having. There are so many posts and positions. That is so.

POM     What's the greatest challenge facing SA in the next 15 years?

TD     To utilise the expertise that is there. As simple as that. Utilise properly the expertise that we have in SA.

POM     Now I ask this question of everyone across the board for a reason, not to see if their answer is different, but because no-one has ever said to me the greatest challenge we face is how to deal with AIDS which is eating away at the very fabric of our society. We account for 10% of new infections every day in the world, it's going to cut life expectancy by 20 years in 15 years.

TD     I've been with you and you would use your own discretion, I've been very open with you.

POM     Pardon?

TD     I say you will use your own discretion and I trust you not eventually to publish something which is very sensitive and what I'm going to say now is very sensitive but it may give you some insight into the heart of or the psyche of people in SA and I don't mean only whites. [Many people believe we are - in any event our population is too big, so what if AIDS takes away one third, we've still got a lot of people to care for, to take care of. I personally think that is the root cause of what you perceive as an indifference. Indifference, yes, because when you say maybe it's a solution, in the old days we had wars, we had all sorts of things reducing and keeping the numbers under control and nothing is stemming the population explosion. The birth rates have come down a little bit but not sufficiently. Now on a more theoretical level I say, and I think I've said it to you, no economy of any country in the world can provide first world standards of education, of health care, of housing if your birth rate is that of the third world. It's not possible. Why don't you have a shortage of housing in Germany? Every year there are less Germans, not more, and we have this ongoing demand on the economy for housing, for more schools and it's not possible. So if AIDS will reduce that number now I know the other effects of AIDS, the expenditure on hospitalisation, the fact that it's normally people, the economically active people or in their best years that are affected because then they're sexually active and so on. I know all of those, but deep down South Africans see it a little bit, even black people have told me, that we're too many, we've got too many people. So, so what, so what?]

POM     It's very interesting to hear you say that because the US Embassy did two reports recently, one was for the State Department and one was for US companies doing business in SA and the one that went to the State Department was classified immediately, which means there is no access to it unless you find some way to get somebody to get their hands on it which is extremely difficult. But it was classified because its hard-nosed assessment was the predominance of AIDS is among the unemployed, the poor, rural women and children and if you remove a chunk of them from society, even if they're working, there's an abundant labour pool to fill their positions so there's no economic cost, no macro-economic cost in that regard. I think they estimated that the total impact on the growth of GNP over a spread of years would be less than 1% and that while it might cause a lot of social upheaval with families involved and the millions of families involved, that it wouldn't have an impact on the macro-economic picture as far as growth and productivity was concerned which goes some way to back up precisely what you're saying.

TD     Of course people don't rationally come to that conclusion, it's just an intuitive feeling that we're too many, we can't cope, because I get all the beggars at my door every day and I want to help but how can I? Where do you stop? And people coming to ask for jobs, jobs, jobs. So, through experiencing, SA people get to the point where they say we've just got too many people. But that, of course, what you've said now is the rational argument that yes it won't make that much of a difference.

POM     I want to run through a couple of things, Tertius, that arose in our interview the last time. We'll have to go through the whole interview together again to clarify things, that's why at some point we'll need to spend a couple of days together.

     There's something called The Blue Book that the NP had prepared. Were you ever aware of that?

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