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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
03 Feb 2000: Fivaz, George
GF As Commissioner I had a Chief of Security and that was Johan van der Merwe and a number of incidents happened. I took cognisance of this now as a result of the TRC for the very first time. It was never reported to me during my term of office as Commissioner and that is exactly what Hennie de Witt told me and he is a very honest, straightforward guy. I have no doubt in my mind that you can believe what he is telling you.
POM Now he was Commissioner before?
GF Before Johan van der Merwe, just before Johan van der Merwe, he succeeded Johan van der Merwe. I think immediately before him was Johan Coetzee and before him was Mike Geldenhuys in terms of succession.
POM So you're saying part of the problem is that you had two
GF Yes you had two structures and two structures reporting differently.
POM Was one the security?
GF Yes the State Security Council was the boss of the one and the Security Branch reported to the State Security Council but the Commissioner of Police reported to the Minister of Law & Order although the Minister of Law & Order had cession on the State Security Council it was not the same matters of concern in terms of relationship between the Commissioner and the Minister of Law & Order that happened between the Chief of Security, Chief of Operations of the SA National Defence Force and the State Security Council. It was different structures and that is why a number of people - and I was confronted on a number of occasions by the now government saying, but you can't tell us you never knew about it, you never had insight, you were never informed. And it's a fact.
POM This is even when you were Commissioner? Before you were?
GF Before I was, but you must remember I was a General, a Major General in the SA Police and as a result of that I was a member of the general staff, the Supreme Command of the police. But in the meetings around ordinary policing and normal policing issues which happened in the general staff the very sensitive issues around security were never discussed because those issues were discussed in a different line of command. I think that is why in those years, for instance, even around the issue of inspections, how we inspected it, that function was split. An Inspectorate for the Security Branch and an Inspectorate for the normal police. So the two were not aware about what the other one is doing, so they were busy with their own things and to a large extent it was kept away. I'm mentioning this because it struck me like a blow between the eyes when Hennie de Witt told me, "You know, George, I want to tell you today that whilst I was Commissioner of the SAP certain things happened which I took cognisance of only afterwards, during the proceedings of the TRC." It was never reported to me, I was never aware of it, I was never aware of the fact that this type of thing is happening. The structure was a dual structure, that is really the case and this is a good motivation from Hennie de Witt in terms of his statement.
In any case, Padraig, I just mention that because we were talking about people are saying different things at different times and sometimes it's hard to believe that some people are saying 'We were not aware', or 'We were informed in the following fashion'. I'm mentioning this to indicate that it could be possible because you had the two structures and some of the issues happened even without the knowledge of the Commissioner of that time because Hennie de Witt told me, "Some of these issues are horrifying, it's horrific that people have been poisoned, people have been slaughtered within the structure of the SA Police Service or for that matter within the structure of the SA Security Forces and I was the Commissioner and I was never informed about it, nobody discussed it with me. As a matter of fact I wasn't a member at that time of the State Security Council. The Chief of Security and the Chief of Operations and those people were members of the State Security Council and they discussed issues in the State Security Council."
POM That he wasn't aware of.
GF Yes. That is a fact. But that is not why you are here. You want to have nice tea and cookies?
POM Anything cold would be fine. That raises two questions. The first one being that when the report of the TRC came out where again the management, senior management of the SAPS, as it would then have been called -
GF Or SAP.
POM But when the report came out it would have been then called the SAPS, right? In 1998? In 1998 when the report of the TRC came out it was South African Police Services, right?
GF Yes, but that will be on the SAP, South African Police. You are talking about 1988?
POM No, I'm talking 1998 when the report of the TRC came out. So did the senior management of the police who had been there during a good part of the era covered, did they feel that they had been given a fair hearing and justice had been done to their case?
GF No I don't think so at all. Most of those people, and not even those people, I think many of the more junior people are still today under the impression that they were sold out. They were sold out by the previous government and they were sold out by specific individuals. I had a chat last week, we have a Chat Show here on the Afrikaans TV channels with Marietta Kruger. Now she's a well known TV personality, she's running this show now on British television, and with me was Roelf Meyer and Roelf made a specific remark there saying that some people were, for instance, responsible to negotiate amnesty for the security forces and for one or other reason, because he was now with Cyril Ramaphosa responsible for a different portion. So for one or other reason it never happened. From the very beginning it was agreed between the two parties that there should be amnesty for the security forces from whatever side, so it was not properly negotiated. Later on Roelf was sort of forced, pressure to bear was put on them, Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf, to amend the preamble of the constitution to make provision to a certain extent for amnesty of the freedom fighters, the security forces or whatever the case may be, but that was not the idea. From the very beginning it was absolutely agreed between the parties that a proper dispensation for amnesty should have been negotiated.
You see I think there was many a slip between cup and lip and now if you speak to the security people, those people who were really the operatives, they will tell you straightforwardly that Kobie Coetsee was responsible for that portion and he failed and now a lot of those people are before the TRC, some of them are in desperate trouble, some of them are on the thin end of the wedge, they are waiting for jail sentences like those people in the Motherwell bomb explosion. If you speak to those police officers then they will tell you, "We acted on instruction, we were instructed to do what we have done and now we have to bite the bullet as a result of that." So I think they lost a lot of confidence in the previous dispensation specifically around issues of making provision for amnesty, making provision for protection, making provision for a proper revelation of what happened without a long process and a long procedure.
POM My information, I've followed the amnesty thing through and through over the years, now I've been told by all four participants at the Pretoria Minute that four of them were sent into a room, Fanie van der Merwe, Mac Maharaj, Joe Slovo and Niel Barnard, and they agreed, they drew up a draft agreement, said it's done. Then Kobie saw it and tore it up and said under no circumstances. I would guess from talking to him he saw some advantage in trying to use it as a lever for other political purposes not knowing that in time the balance of power changed and when he wanted it it had swung to the ANC and they said you missed your opportunity.
GF But that's exactly what I was told about this and I think for good reason the security forces of the past, whether they have done right or wrong that's not the issue, but I think there were certain phases and there were certain agreements and that one should have been negotiated properly because the door was open. This Roelf Meyer he told me from the very beginning Cyril Ramaphosa and the people from the ANC were absolutely in agreement that a proper clause should have been negotiated for the purpose of amnesty and for the purpose of smoothing and speeding up the process.
POM Let me just ask you two questions on this, and I've asked General Meiring, and this would be talking about the security forces in the police, given their intelligence capacity, given their ability to infiltrate both internally and perhaps externally, is there any way that they couldn't have known what was going on when they knew so much about everything else that was going on in the country?
GF You are talking about - ?
POM How it would be possible for the security structures, the intelligence structures within the security forces not to be aware of Vlakplaas? How was it simply possible that it would escape their attention over such an extended period of time?
GF But you are referring more specifically now to the failure to negotiate, what block are you talking about?
GF Oh Vlakplaas! Sorry. I think most of the security people were aware of Vlakplaas without any doubt. As a matter of fact I was aware of Vlakplaas and I was never engaged in the Security Branch, I was never allowed into the circle. But I was aware of Vlakplaas but my knowledge about Vlakplaas was that they have created Vlakplaas as a rehabilitation centre for captured terrorists, the so-called Askaris. That was my knowledge about Vlakplaas, that Vlakplaas has been utilised specifically for that purpose when they have succeeded from the security forces side to swing around the mindset of the so-called terrorists of the past, they were taken to Vlakplaas and they were rehabilitated and they were integrated as informants into the SA Police of that time and into the rest of the security structures of that time. I think the normal, ordinary police officer was never aware of the fact that Vlakplaas was also used for another purpose, to launch operations from and to create a specific capacity for the Security Branch to eliminate people and do what we have seen now and what has been exposed. That was not general knowledge. All the people were aware of Vlakplaas, all the people. I can't think that anybody can tell you we were not aware of Vlakplaas. They were aware of Vlakplaas. What they can say is we were not completely aware of what happened at Vlakplaas. But they were aware that Vlakplaas was a police institution and I think most of the common police officers must have had the knowledge of Vlakplaas as a rehabilitation centre for captured terrorists and for the swinging around of people, converting them into proper informants and using those people to infiltrate the ANC again from their side.
POM Related to that, given the extent to which the TRC, and one might agree with their specific figures on something, but given the extent to which they documented torture during detention, illegal methods used to elicit information, the number of people who supposedly jumped out of the tenth floor of John Vorster Square by slipping on a bar of soap, given that a few voices like Helen Suzman would day after day in parliament say this is happening, one voice, but laying it out as it turned out was happening, can again senior management structures in the police say: well we were unaware that this kind of torture was taking place or that these methods were being used with detainees? Or was it more a matter of them saying - ?
GF I can't see that sure, those people in the Security Branch can't say we were not aware. Those people working at the cells you see what happened, you will know Jackie Selebi, for instance, the new Commissioner, he was detained in that section at Protea Police Station, security cells. They had security cells, Security Police cells all over SA and all the political detainees were detained there under security supervision. So the people who worked there as cell guards were Security Police officers. There were special rules, there is still a whole complete set of special rules applicable to political detainees. The Security Branch was totally but totally responsible for the detention, interrogation and the circumstances around political detainees in security cells. They had blocks, they had one in Eastern Cape and once again the normal police officers were absolutely aware of the fact that this block is utilised for the purpose of Security Police detentions, or detentions by Security Police. They had no access to the prisoners or the detainees, nobody else, because the security legislation of that time made provision for that. Not even the lawyers of those people were entitled. Later on they granted special permission to have magistrates as sort of lay visitors and other people as lay visitors to visit the cells and to visit the detainees. You see the system was designed for the purpose of - this is the turf of the Security Police. No other police officer is working with this category of prisoner, no other police officer will visit, has the right to visit those detainees.
I think to plead total ignorance, to say today that we were never aware of torture and we were never aware of the fact that the Security Police detained people and they tortured people to get information out of them, that is a blatant lie because all of us, myself included, were, for instance, deployed on border duties. You were deployed on border duties and once you have arrested an insurgent on the borders there was no mercy for that type of person. In my case I was never a witness, an eye witness of a killing of a terrorist or what and I served on the border. Maybe to a certain extent I was not at the right spot. I served in the old South West Africa, that stretch in the Caprivi Strip and whatever. During my term we haven't arrested anybody. But in any case it was common cause and no mercy will be shown to a detained terrorist, not at all. So I think it was common knowledge that those people were treated in a different way than other people.
Later on when it became very sensitive as a matter of fact I had lunch with Madiba yesterday and we talked about detention on Robben Island and detention during his defiance campaign here, the Rivonia trial and that is also very interesting. Later on, and he is saying it himself, the Security Branch for one or other reason became much more sensitive. They were more open, they were more gentlemanlike with the detailed people and it was really a different story. He was telling me yesterday at the beginning, even at the Island, it was hard, no mercy at all to those detained people, no mercy. You are entitled to what's in the rule book. In wintertime it can get very cold, for instance, on Robben Island and the rule book is saying you are entitled to one blanket and then you are going to have one blanket and nothing more whether you are freezing or whatever the case may be, one blanket. The rule book is saying you must have at least two decent meals a day then you are going to have two meals a day and nothing more. You can't, when you are a little bit more hungry today, ask for a second plate. This type of thing. He is saying later on, I think, more and more people came to realise that there is a big possibility that these we are dealing with will eventually become the government of this country and I think they were more lenient and he is saying it himself. He is saying it was absolutely, in his mind, very clear that people, especially the security forces, came to realise that somewhere along the line the people we are guarding now and we are detaining now might become the new government and then what type of mercy are they going to show to us? So I think it's also phases, that's why I'm saying very interesting phases.
POM I was talking with General Meiring and he had said he's going to give me copies of hundreds of pages of submissions that they had made to the TRC and made a report in response to the TRC's report pointing out factual errors, saying this is an error of fact, this is an error of fact.
GF I think Johan van der Merwe will be in the same position because he made a point out of it.
POM Yes. He was saying the same thing. Is there feeling among, and I would say (i) white management structures in the police that a lot of what the SAP submitted was either ignored, not put into context?
GF I think it was not put in context. As a matter of fact I personally tried, although I was never involved but I thought we are busy building a new country in SA and somewhere along the line we will have to create a cut-off, we will have to start working into the future and we will have to forget the past. You can't take the past for ever, for the time to come into the future. That is not going to assist a lot. Fortunately I think many people, most of the people, are really of that opinion that we must create a cut-off point and we must move forward. But you see I created a number of meetings or organised a number of meetings between Thabo Mbeki, Johan van der Merwe, Hennie de Witt, Mike Geldenhuys and Johan Coetzee, a number, four or five meetings for the specific purpose to give those people the opportunity to tell Thabo Mbeki what they know about the past, what they have as advice about the future of this country. During those sessions it was put on the table in a very crisp and clear way that amnesty should be treated in a completely different fashion, a completely different way. Not saying that you shouldn't reveal what happened but, for instance, the issue of joint amnesty or when a number of people apply, corporate amnesty or something like that not blanket, group amnesty, there must be provision, for instance, for a group of people to apply, not necessarily individuals because the Act is not making provision for that. So you can have groups to come forward and to say we have done the following. We were together in a camp in Lusaka. We planned the following as a group and we operated as a group. Those people responsible for the bomb blast in Motherwell, Eastern Cape, that type of thing should have been made provision for in the Amnesty Act but that was discussed and it's still going on. You can see every now and then in the newspapers it's popping up.
Constant Viljoen, for instance, he's now pressurising again for group amnesty, group amnesty, group amnesty. I think from the very beginning that was the idea. I think the failure of Kobie Coetsee to negotiate this properly is really now a situation of there is no provision for group amnesty because from the very beginning they have created a sort of a in legal language around the issue of group amnesty. I think if you take the history of this country into consideration then, of course, I think lots and lots of police officers and security personnel, NIA agents, military people including Georg Meiring and those people, I think they are still of the opinion, we need group amnesty, we need an easier process.
If you take into consideration what has happened up till now, how many people appeared before the TRC, applied for amnesty and how many were granted amnesty and how many cases have been completed, then you are talking maybe, I don't know, I haven't got the figures, maybe 5% of the whole lot. Now if you take the last three years into consideration and you multiply, then most probably we are going to sit with the TRC for the next twenty years in SA, if we continue at this pace. I don't think that is the idea. In twenty years time, in five years time, most of our people in SA wouldn't even know what the TRC is all about. I'm a great supporter of a criminal justice system, that is basically more visible. You must still remember what happened when you are dealing with the fate of the perpetrator. If you haven't got that in your mind, what was the reason for this person's appearance, what is the use of the criminal justice system?
POM To pick up a different point, that is given the structure of the security forces, both the SADF and the SAP, do you think that apartheid could have lasted as long as it did without the active support of a large number of black people?
GF I don't think so at all. You see you must take the whole picture into consideration. I think a lot of black people gained out of apartheid. There are many, many rich black people today as a result of apartheid, the consumer boycotts and that type of thing, that really benefited some black people considerably. Most of the black people were seriously wronged as a result of apartheid and I think for many decades to come this will be the position. As a matter of fact yesterday again I took my two painters, they are living in a squatter community on the other side of Mamelodi and if you go into those environments then you realise you know poverty and the result of apartheid and the type of end result of what happened in SA over a number of decades will be with this country many, many decades to come, maybe some centuries to come. But the fact is I think without the loyal support of the security structures and a lot of black people apartheid would have been dead some years ago already. The security people with the assistance of many, many black Security Police officers kept it in place.
POM That's what I mean.
GF Kept the whole structure in place. We kept those people in their seats. As a matter of fact we kept the gravy train running and we were never on the gravy train.
POM I suppose my question is that if you did not have a large number of black policemen who were active in perpetuating apartheid then apartheid would have collapsed.
GF Some years ago already. I'm in total agreement with that. The security people of that time were not stupid, specifically the command structure. They selected only the best in terms of whites and blacks and their black staff were very, very competent police officers and were very, very competent security personnel in the other sectors, like in the SANDF and some of the other portions like NIA and whatever. Those were very competent, highly motivated police officers and they recruited those people on the basis that the real prestigious part of the security forces in SA is the Security Police side. The others are really the run-of-the-mill, basically the common part of the structure, we are the prestigious part. And the people joined. But you are so right, I think without the input of those people, without the thousands of informants, they paid out millions of rands for informants, black informants specifically, without those people it would have been very, very difficult I think. It would have been basically impossible to keep apartheid in place.
POM When did your own moment of truth come? When did you say to yourself this is wrong, this is inhumane, this has to stop, this has to go?
GF I think for quite some time, it's very easy for a human being to become part of a group and later on to accept the behaviour of the group and the way of thinking of the group so you are sort of brainwashed into a position. I think I was in that position like many, many South Africans. Many of them are still in that position, they are still of the opinion that the before 1994s are still ideal for SA. It's never going to work out what we are busy with now. In any case I studied at the Free State University in the mid-seventies, from the beginning of seventies till the mid-seventies and I studied political science.
POM Niel Barnard would have been there at that time would he?
GF Yes, Niel Barnard was one of the lecturers at Free State University. At that time already I thought to myself this whole issue of apartheid, separate development, is not going to work because you don't have the basic ingredients, what's necessary to build a nation and that is that you must have at least the economics, you must have a productive culture, you must have access to the economic environment and you must be in a position to build a viable foundation if you want to strive as a nation. I think that was missing. We had many debates about the fact and I think that is maybe one of the reasons why I was never taken up into the Security Branch. At one stage out of complete ignorance and innocence I applied for a position up north in Ovamboland because during those years you were double compensated in terms of salary if you worked in any one of those parts on a permanent basis. So if you are transferred say, for instance, to Oshakati, then you will get a house there for nothing, you will get a lot of perks and you are going to have an allowance double the size of your salary more or less and in a couple of years you can save a lot of money. I applied and I was turned down. Later on I discovered it's really because my father was a United Party man and my father-in-law was a United Party man as well and he was over and above a Freemason. So it was turned down. Fortunately now I can say it was turned down.
You see what I am saying is I think it was a matter of during those years I already started to argue with people, saying this whole issue is a very short-sighted one because how on earth are you going to structure a nation by means of legislation. There were many examples already at that time all over the world. You can't structure a nation with legislation. You can organise it to a certain extent but you can't prescribe every move of a person with legislation. It's not going to work. It never worked in Germany, it never worked in France, it never worked all over. Eventually the masses - (break in recording) you are going to be in a very, very tight spot, you are going to paint yourself in the corner because majority vote eventually means democracy to a large extent.
I think from those early seventies, later on I was approached on a couple of occasions later on to join the Security Police, I said no, I will never feel comfortable there. As a matter of fact as a Brigadier in the Efficiency Services of the old SAP I was approached by Basie Smit and by Johan van der Merwe to go over to the Security Police because at that time they were busy with restructuring, joining hands with the Detective Branch and whatever the case may be, and I said no, please leave me where I am, I am comfortable where I am. I think since mid-seventies, to answer your question, I thought, I already started to think that this is not going to last for ever because nothing lasts for ever.
POM So when something like the Soweto Uprising occurred, the security forces indiscriminately shooting down
GF Opened fire.
POM - shooting down children, did you talk to anybody about it and say this is wrong?
GF You see what was extraordinary in those years, I was stationed in Bloemfontein during the uprising in Soweto and more specifically around Sharpeville so although today it's not a distance but in those years it was quite a distance because the Soweto uprising occurred and nothing happened of that nature in the immediate environment of Bloemfontein. Bloemfontein was always a very calm and meek place, it was totally stable during those years. Although we as young people, because we were absolutely young people in those years - what was the date?
POM 16th June 1976.
GF It was 1976 but it started, before that there were incidents already. From the late sixties onwards.
X Maybe Sharpeville, you could say, was the most significant, the Sharpeville Day, 21st March, 1960, that would be the most significant.
GF Yes, you say 1960 and that was now a little bit before my time. But since I joined the Police Service in 1965 it already started to flare up in Johannesburg and the immediate environment and later on, of course, it was this Soweto uprising and whatever. I think we were very concerned about it. I killed one person in my life, two, two persons in my life. The one in a motor car accident and it's still fresh in my mind, and the other one I killed as the result of my police work, it was a person that I caught red-handed breaking into a house and the person ran away and I warned and I warned and I took a shot and I killed the guy. That type of incident will remain with you till your grave, it's not animals you are killing, so that is why I am saying this type of incident I think you must be very blunt if you are saying no, I was never worried about it. But here you were part of a big structure.
I think later on my views about apartheid became more prominent and visible and it was picked up and I think some of my colleagues just ignored me as a result of that. Many people were disgusted about the fact that, up to today some people are blaming me that you are a liberal, that you are also a sell-out because really I'm still a confidante of Nelson Mandela. Some white people just can't take it that you are working hand in hand with people who are reformists, people who have done a lot to this country. I hope I can still work into the future with Nelson Mandela.
POM Can we just change the subject a little, you said something that I find very interesting and that was that you can't legislate society, just make laws and expect human nature to adjust to the law and enforce it in that way. Do you think that the ANC may be falling a little bit into this trap with legislation that almost mandates political correctness? Maybe the best example, though it wasn't legislation, would have been with the Human Rights Commission on subliminal racism, whatever that is, in the media and the famous picture that was supposed to show subliminal racist characteristics of the picture about Johannesburg where it turned out that the picture had been taken in Uganda, you have all kinds of equality courts coming into being, you have provisions on hate speech, that if you called me a kaffir it would be hate speech, if you called yourself one it wouldn't be. If we both said it together and we were laughing then it would be a kind of a joke that we're telling to each other. How do you set up courts to adjudicate? When you start describing rape, I think I have it handy, rape might be defined in terms of if one put one's finger up somebody's nose that could be described as rape, that you're moving into areas of normal human activity.
GF Unfortunately I think that is the case and I think the ANC must be very careful.
POM Do you bring this up with Mandela?
GF I haven't had the opportunity yesterday to talk about that because we were tight in terms of schedule, but maybe it's a good thing whilst you are mentioning it to raise it with him when I meet with him. I'm going to meet with him again in about three weeks from now. Unfortunately I think that is the case. I don't think you must try to regulate human activity and human association by means of legislation. Conduct of course, conduct , I think you have to regulate conduct of people on the basis of the values and norms of society then you have to regulate conduct because if you are clear about your values and norms you can't steal from another person, you can't rape a woman or have intercourse with a woman without her consent. I'm talking about values and norms. Nothing wrong to regulate that by means of legislation but as soon as you are going into the nitty gritty and I think to a large extent exactly that happened in SA, the petty apartheid laws tried to regulate the activities of people and the association of people. Immediately you are going to have resistance from society and you are going to have sort of a wedge between community and your Police Service because you have to regulate from the Police Service side, from the law enforcement side what is coming from government in terms of legislation.
In my days we had to regulate the old liquor law. At one stage blacks were not allowed into licensed premises in SA. Later on they were allowed into white premises but on the condition they can't use, for instance, the swimming pool of an hotel and they can't dance and they can't use the bar. When you have blacks in a bar then people, some of these twits of society, will phone the police to tell the police there is a black man sitting in that hotel drinking and now you are obliged to go and remove the black man because it's against the law. Now you get resistance from the black community towards the Police Service and later on you have a wedge between community and police.
What I am saying is if you look at, for instance, the Domestic Violence Act, there are many clauses in that Domestic Violence Act which I think are totally ridiculous. It's supposed to be activities of society and it's supposed to be civil matters that should be sorted out as civil matters but as soon as you make it an Act of parliament and you make it punishable when you break it then you have the police in play and the police must act and you have this resistance from community and the community is of the opinion the police are vindictive, the police are a lot of persecutors, they are preaching the principles of community policing but they are doing quite different things in practice. What they are doing is dead against community policing but they have to do it because it's an Act of parliament.
I think exactly what you are saying, I am very concerned about the fact that the government of the day is going into nitty gritty issues. Some of the bits and pieces of legislation coming out of parliament are not only an obstacle for the Police Service in this country because it's very difficult to police it, it's very difficult to police the Domestic Violence Act. You will need a Police Service as big as this one only to police the Domestic Violence Act if you want to do it properly in terms of that Act because they never thought about the practicalities of it, but it's now legislation and there are a number of examples where I think they are stretching it a little bit too far and they are falling into the same trap to a certain extent as the previous government, trying to say to people - you are not sitting on this bench, this is for whites, you are not going into that toilet, it's a white toilet. That type of thing should not be regulated by legislation. It must be part and parcel of the values and norms system of civil society and they must sort it out. You have a Chinatown in London, no legislation is saying Chinamen are supposed to stay in that place but they are grouping together on their own without legislation and they have their own values and norms and they are doing their own things. As soon as that becomes a total disturbance to the rest of society then of course government has an obligation to look at it because they have to protect the rights and interests of society but I think some of the issues are a little bit far-fetched and they are searching it a little bit too wide. That is my idea.
POM Looking back on your years as Commissioner during a remarkably difficult period, the grades that come in on your performance are mixed. Some say that you have done a good job, some say that the rate of transformation has been far too slow, that the old guard is still firmly entrenched in senior management positions, that any number of things - down to last week I picked up in the paper, or today I think The Sowetan was querying some of the appointments that you had made in your last months in office, that they were either tokenism, racism, nepotism or whatever. Last week I read again on the roasting that you had been given by Gavin Woods when you were before the Public Accounts Committee and I remember the last time I saw you you were just printing off a letter or sending a letter back to the Accounts Committee.
GF I gave you a copy.
POM You gave me a copy, I have it right here. (i) How would you evaluate yourself? (ii) What were the biggest problems that you faced? (iii) What are the biggest problems that Jackie Selebi faces, and I include that with almost make it a statement rather than assumption that if you had made the kind of remarks that he had made that you would have been fired on the spot or before the following morning.
POM And if you brought your uncle into a dispute about a piece of land over six or seven years that you'd just be gone.
GF For sure, and I think your timing in this job must be 100%. Here and there I made a mistake in terms of timing myself but fortunately I never had this type of public row on some of the things I said and some of the things I've done. The one issue I'm still very, very unhappy about is Gavin Woods because I personally think, and today I'm sitting here last Friday I had meeting with my Accountant and we talked about this Gavin Woods issue and the fact that it did a lot of harm to our image. If you go into that report then you will find it at one stage we thought we must ask for the appointment of independent auditors to go into that and to point out how ridiculous some of those issues are. They took us on on shortages which occurred in 1967 on the borders of SA, in the old SAP. There was still a shortage of R3.5 million on the books, now we have to take responsibility for that. I was not even a sergeant in 1967. I think that specific month I was still a constable. Later on that year I was promoted to sergeant in 1967. There were a number of blatant errors in that report. That is why we are so critical in that letter and I will stick to that letter because the facts in that letter are absolutely 100%. I believe there is a second report now from the Auditor General and it's like this - so I don't know why or if it's as a result of our fight or whatever the case may be but Meyer Kahn told me Friday that the latest Auditor General's report is only a pleasure to read. I haven't read it.
But in any case that's something of the past. You have in a portfolio committee like that a lot of people sitting there with pre-set minds and none of these people, including Gavin Woods, are really financial experts, including Gavin Woods. Gavin Woods must come and tell me, and I have the assistance of Meyer Kahn, one of the big business people in SA, but not only in SA but in the world, he was working with me. Gavin Woods must come and tell me what type of big business he managed in his life and what type of big financial administration he was responsible for in his life. So what I am saying is a lot of people are talking but really without experience and without substance. It's a difficult situation to run a budget of R14 billion, it's a big budget, it's a big shift. To make small mistakes, if you take the issues they have raised and you really put it into a percentage of the total lump sum we have managed over a long period of time, then you are talking about very minute portions of the budget, minute portions of the budget. He made certain remarks about the fact that we have a more serious situation than Sithole from Correctional Services. Correction Services was a completely different kettle of fish. The allegations were that Sithole defrauded the department. There was nothing of embezzlement or fraud or whatever the case may be in our situation so I think we were treated extremely unfairly really by those people and I stick to that story.
I think, Padraig, if you talk about my judgement, about myself, it's very difficult because you can't compare yourself with any previous Commissioner. They were not in the same position. It's the very first one, it's a very unique one, it will ever be a very first type of Commissioner for the new SA Police Service. We have re-invented the wheel in many instances. We have created new structures, new programmes, new whatever the case may be. Many of the issues were possible to get some advice from abroad, from Northern Ireland, from England, from Belgium, from wherever the case may be, but in most of the cases it wasn't possible. It was a matter of here you have a certain set of facts and you have to manage it into the future. You have blacks in the minority and you have whites in the majority in a department. Now you have to manage the two sets of individuals into a specific direction in such a way that you create a future for both because you want to be as balanced as possible in terms of making provision for both in the Police Service.
So if some people are saying it was too slow, in my mind it could have been a different situation maybe in terms of speed and in terms of motion but then you would have lost the confidence of a lot of police officers in the Police Service, you would have created the impression that you are only going out to please the one portion's interests and you are neglecting the other. So it's very difficult, it's a very balanced type of situation you must continue with and I told Jackie, your challenge will be to continue on the basis of trying to be as balanced as possible. As soon as you go into a specific direction and you are going to be too heavy in terms of pleasing the black sector of the Police Service, the white police officers are going to say there is no future for me, they are going to wipe us out totally and if you are doing it to the whites the black will say exactly the same so it's very difficult.
I think over the five years we have succeeded to bring eleven Police Forces of the past together. I'm not saying that we are where we should be because in terms of neglect of the past I made the point on a couple of occasions, I made it at the last meeting between you and me as well, that 30% of our Police Service, 30,000 more or less, police officers are still not properly functionally literate. They are not functionally literate as a matter of fact as a result of the neglect of the past. We inherited those people. Those are adults, they are people who are in the Police Service for many years, they were taken into the old structure of the previous dispensation without education, without the basic skills to read and to write. How the hell is it possible now in a quick and short period of time to teach adults to read and write in a Police Service? It's unknown when you are talking to other police officers.
So there are still obstacles but I think we have done fairly well. I think it's nonsense to say that we still have, here and there it could be the case, but the vast majority of senior structure people in the Police Service are really enlightened people, they are people with the commitment and the courage to go forward with the Police Service. They are not the old guard. Here and there they can talk about the old guard, maybe it's George Fivaz, and the old guard is Andre Pruis, but those people are very competent police officers, they are people with the skills and the knowledge to take the Police Service I'm talking about Andre Pruis and some of those people. They have a tendency to refer to some of the people like Pruis as 'the old guard' but he is one of the most competent senior structure people in the Police Service.
I personally think we have done well, we have done well but I am not saying, I'm not that arrogant, I'm not saying that we have done everything. It's not going to happen in the next five years and maybe not in the next ten years. I think it's still a matter of moving forward step by step, making sure that you are not going backwards, but you can't do it too rapidly, you can't do it too slowly. It's really a matter of trying to balance in the best interests of all the parties concerned and I think we are doing very well. If you look at the Police Service nowadays you still have a lot of criticism, you still have a lot of negative aspects around the Police Service but look at the score book. They are doing very well in terms of some of the community projects out there, they are doing very well in terms of quick response. They have had a number of successes over the last couple of months and I think month by month in my mind they are moving forward and that is really what you want to have. You don't want to have a situation of switching over from the one dispensation to the next dispensation overnight. It's never going to happen because then you are going to have this culture shock on people that will be to the disadvantage of this organisation deep in the future. I think we have done well.
Let's then say we are a little bit too slow, maybe we are, but that was deliberate for the purpose of making sure that we are not creating a shock to such an extent that we destroy the SA Police Service, that we destroy the morale of the Police Service. We have done it on the basis of making sure that both groups will start working together, will start knowing each other, will have confidence in the system and will know the system is concerned about my fate and my future. If you create another set of rules then I'm afraid you are going to destroy the Police Service.
POM If I asked you what was the biggest and most serious challenge facing SA over the next ten to fifteen years what would you point to?
GF I would say poverty really and I'm saying poverty because poverty and all the relevant factors relating to poverty are really one of the issues responsible for crime in this country. I think we will have to do something about the economic welfare of this country. That is one of the big challenges. And going hand in hand with that is the issue of crime in this country. If you have huge sectors of the community in total despair, without destination, without hope, without running water, without education, without the basic infrastructure, what can you expect other than criminals emerging from that environment. So I am saying we are doing too little in SA around the issue of poverty and economic welfare. We will have to do much more about it.
But going hand in hand, and it's like the chicken and egg situation, what comes first? It's the issue of crime. Crime of course is still one of the extremely important issues.
POM Why wouldn't you say AIDS?
GF You see once again if you look at AIDS, and I talked about the relevant issues around poverty, I think the AIDS factor in Africa, not only in SA, has a lot to do with poverty, under-education and all those issues I've mentioned. So AIDS I think goes hand in hand with the issue of poverty and despair and no destination, low levels of education and all those issues, the basic issues that I referred to. I think if it goes better with this nation in terms of economic welfare the whole set of values and norms of society will improve and AIDS has a lot to do with values and norms, it's got a lot and that is linked to education. It's really a situation of chicken and egg, you don't know what comes first. In my mind if you visit, and you have done it on a number of occasions, and he knows about it because his every day of life is in that environment, if you look at what's going on out there in SA and up north in Africa then it boils down to the issue of poverty in my mind. Poverty, because poverty is really responsible for a lot of things. You can't have proper education, you can't have a proper set of values and norms, you can't create a better infrastructure for yourself, you can't create a better future for your children. It's really a matter of we have to attend to the economic welfare of our country and that is one of the grave mistakes of apartheid because it could have been better. I'm not saying it would have been totally different, it could have been better in terms of better and more acceptable income per capita if it was possible for all the people in SA to participate in the economic welfare of this country.
POM When you see President Mandela again I have a question for him, you can say you met this funny Irishman who has been sending him letters for nine years and he's never gotten a single response, but that's a different issue. You can ask him, I would like you to ask him why he hasn't used his immense moral authority and stature to address the question of AIDS over and over again, that he brings groups of businessmen to impoverished villages, he gets schoolhouses built, he gets community centres built, but if the disease continues on its present course there will be no children to occupy those buildings.
GF For sure.
POM There will be no teachers. Why, rather than making peace in Burundi and running off to the Middle East and being in Seattle at WHO and being in Washington with Bill Clinton, why isn't he saying that unless we get this disease under control there will be no new South Africa to enjoy the new freedoms?
GF There will be no Africa.
POM So why isn't he doing that?
GF You know he's got such he's a saint, he's a saint really. I must raise that issue. Most definitely I'm going to raise it. You see, Padraig, I mentioned that to him yesterday the fact that he's very much involved in the international environment and I don't think on his request. People want to have him there, they are pestering him. I am going to raise it with him.
One of the issues I want to discuss with him further is the issue of you know there are a lot of countries he's involved in, I'm also interested in getting involved in some of the countries where they need a re-vamp of their Police Service, maybe not on a full time basis but maybe to give the people advice because I think people will, as you are saying, criticise, and people will say we haven't succeeded and we haven't gained a lot and we were not successful. I think that is relatively speaking without measurement because why are they saying it, how are they comparing, how are they measuring what they are saying and how are they substantiating what they are saying? You have counter arguments for everything they are saying.
The fact is I think we've gained a lot of experience, it was a very unique situation in SA the last seven years and I think we have relative peace and stability in SA. It could have been better in terms of crime and in terms of brutal killings and whatever. It's not the ideal situation but it could have been a Mozambique, it could have been an Angola, it could have been a Congo, it could have been a Rwanda. That is the counter argument. So we are not that badly off I think, it could have been worse. I think we have gained a lot of experience and maybe, I know the world out there has a lot of need and a lot of demands in terms of police reform. I personally think that's the stepping stone. Once you have a solid Police Service in place it's going to go much better with your country on the condition you have a solid government in place and you have at least a commitment from your government to attend to the root causes of crime. That is why I am saying I don't think the government is up to standard with attendance to the root causes of crime, poverty, what you are talking about, AIDS.
What you are talking about is, of course, part and parcel of the fate and the future of this country and of Africa but the root causes of crime have to be the serious consideration of a government, specifically in SA, and in Africa. We are talking about the African renaissance. If you want the African renaissance to succeed those governments will have to be very, very, very committed towards the root causes of crime, poverty, education joblessness, homelessness, despair of the nation. They must give some direction to their people and they must keep on doing what they were supposed to do.
At the beginning of 1994 they started with the RDP, the Reconstruction & Development Programme. That programme never got off the ground really. A lot of people walked away with huge amounts of money. That programme never got off the ground properly. Here and there you can see they are building houses and whatever the case may be but reconstruction and development was really supposed to be the pillar-stone of what is necessary for SA, that is to create a proper foundation for safety and security in this country, for prosperity in this country, a proper foundation for a proper set of values and norms for this country because it also incorporated the issue of reconstruction of the soul of the nation. I personally think they will have to revitalise many programmes of the RDP.
POM We will leave it at that. Thank you ever so much for your time.
GF Thank you, Padraig. When are you going back?
POM I'll stay in touch.