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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

22 Aug 2000: Motlanthe, Kgalema

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POM     Mr Motlanthe, let's maybe start with the very comprehensive and searing report that you presented at the ANC conference in Port Elizabeth. Among the things that you identified were a significant decline in paid membership, that recruitment had come to a standstill, that many, perhaps most branches were in disarray, that there was little communication and interaction between the government officials and the grassroots, there was widespread disillusionment with the ANC at grassroots. For the majority the ANC had not delivered and continues not to deliver, the pervasive feeling that corruption is rampant, people are in it for themselves when they get into the ANC and that what counts is nepotism and who you know and that's the way to get forward. If you had to look at that in toto, what would you ascribe as being the major reason for this slippage in membership of the ANC and the drift away from its core values, the values that are so exemplified by the prisoners from Robben Island? I say that in the context that I just had an opportunity to read the manuscript of a book that Mac Maharaj is editing, that he smuggled out of prison along with Mandela's biography. These were men of steel, they went in in 1975 and they're just seeing the light of day now. After 12, 13 years in prison they were optimistic, idealistic, driven by hope and vision which appears to be gone in many respects.

KM     Firstly the size of membership, here you're referring to valid membership, membership that is in the books of the ANC and paid-up membership. That has gone down. There are reasons for that. One of the reasons is the membership system itself which allows for membership to be renewed on an annual basis and that it should be issued, each member should on the anniversary of their membership if they pay their subscription which is really a nominal twelve rands, they should be re-issued with a new card, a new card with a number that has no relationship to the previous one. So every year literally you are like a new member in terms of these records. Because of that, and related to the cards, the recruitment packs were made up of booklets of 20 pages each and people who would recruit 16 members remained with four sheets incomplete and therefore  delayed submission because to submit the money you had collected you would submit the complete book and of course the longer it takes for you to submit in certain instances the money then finds other use and then the book disappears and then the consequences are that those members who would have paid would not have been issued with cards and then it's delayed for a protracted period of time. If they don't have cards, valid cards, it means they are excluded from any formal meetings of the ANC such as conferences. When there are nominations, for instance, for people to go on to lists ahead of elections it's primarily the card carrying members who do so because you are excluded from participating unless you are a card carrying member.

     So it's those kinds of problems, then of course it's also linked to the fact that the smaller the structure the more controllable it is to the extent that there are people who would want to be forever endorsed by these structures. It is in their interest to keep the structures low and small because that way using patronage you can convene that structure if it's a branch, and in the ANC it's only the branches that nominate people. Conferences of the ANC are by branch delegates. So if a branch is small in a community of 50,000 people then the branch has got 100 members and it has the right to nominate and endorse and so on and decide who goes to conference and so on. The reality is that if I'm the one who recruited the 100 and if I'm the one who knows the expiry date of their cards and I am in a position to furnish them with cards at that point they will no doubt continue voting for me. Therefore these are some of the reasons that explain these diminishing numbers.  They are not a reflection of the social base of the ANC.

POM     Not a reflection of the social?

KM     Base and support, in other words the support of the ANC is much bigger than the actual membership.

POM     Sure.

KM     That is why if you take last year's elections here, 18.3 registered voters and 10.6 of them voted for the ANC. That is why we have been able also by giving ordinance to these ANC members who are excluded by virtue of not being card carrying members but are actually willing and they say they will have the money but they don't really get the opportunity to have our and this membership is very stupid, very strange in the sense that you have to complete like a new member a whole card, form, it has to be completed again every year. If you don't do this at the point when your membership card expires, if you don't come across there in your branch somebody in possession of a recruiter pack and you are able to pay and complete, you won't be furnished with a membership card. So it excludes even where the invitation is that there is a recruitment taking place, in essence we are merely recycling old members of the ANC who were able to access a membership card rather than new recruits. We have designed a new membership system to correct all of the weaknesses that I have alluded to as a way of correcting the numbers as well. We would like to come up with card with a unique number so that you must be issued with a card for a lifetime. What should happen is for the subscription to be paid annually.

POM     Do you think that many members in the ANC, particularly at the junior leadership level or whatever, junior official holding level or whatever, have no real comprehension of what the generation of the Mandela's and Sisulu's and Mbeki's and Maharaj's went through, and the generation before them, what they had to endure and the way their dignity was constantly insulted, the way that holding oneself together as a human being became an exercise in itself, that it's old men talking and reminiscing about the past but that they don't feel that passion in their hearts with regard to the need for transformation which was more abstract?

KM     Naturally people who did not have the misfortune, or who have escaped the difficult times that the older generations had to go through, may find difficulties in actually grasping the progress that has been made because they have no sense of where we come from. But that of course is something that can be corrected by history being told, being documented properly and designed to depict that past correctly, because if we don't learn from history we are also likely to commit the mistakes of that history. That's why history is very important but it is also natural that every time and place has its own problems and priorities. That's a natural thing. Children who today are of school going age and can go into a school that has no regard to skin colour, they don't know what you're talking about when you're talking about racial discrimination and separateness as it were. They grow up being friends and they share and so on. It is only when they are also taught history correctly that they will be in a position, empowered enough in the future to avoid sliding back into the mistakes of the past.

POM     Talking about issues one thing struck me, and this is something that I have probably developed an obsession with, and that is with AIDS, HIV/AIDS. Last year when I was interviewing ministers and the like I would ask what in the next 15 years was the major challenge facing SA, and they would say crime, the economy, whatever. No-one said AIDS. Then I would say, "Why didn't you say AIDS? You're wearing a pin." Then they would say AIDS is related to this, that and the other and it's a challenge but there are many challenges we're facing. My own view is that unless AIDS is the challenge, that unless you marshal all resources to beat this, that the rest is almost irrelevant. There will be no children at the schools, there will be no teachers, there will be no public servants and there will be no social and economic transformation. Yet even as I went through your presentation that had been prepared, the tactics and strategies, you have the five basic pillars, you've got the objectives, there's one section on AIDS and the AIDS programmes and it kind of says there's the President's Partnership in AIDS, HIV has been identified as a national concern, whereas to me the wording should perhaps have been that HIV/AIDS has been identified as the national concern and that everything else is subordinate to this because unless you get it under control you're going from apartheid to AIDS oblivion. Why does the ANC as an organisation, as a government, not pay more attention, be seen to be more visibly putting this forward that this must be the priority of the national agenda?

KM     Well it can't be the priority. It is a priority and we have done everything in our power to bring awareness, highlight it. As you say, all of us on our jackets we've got the pin, because it is also the collapse of the immune system. You can't begin with AIDS. The human immune system collapses under certain conditions. Even in the past - people are undernourished and exposed to all kinds of hazards, their system becomes weaker and weaker and collapses. Sometimes people just don't eat at all and the system collapses and once the immune system has collapsed opportunistic diseases find very low resistance and can actually kill that person. So in a way this one called AIDS doesn't kill. It is the opportunistic diseases that kill people because once your immune system has collapsed you contract flu like I did two weeks ago. It will be with you for ever, there is no waking up, there is no recovery. Tuberculosis as tuberculosis is curable, there is a cure for it, it can be cured. It is the totality of these opportunistic diseases when your immune system has collapsed that kills you. So society is still trying to isolate the virus so that it can develop a cure for that virus, but in the interim to the extent that all of us are convinced that it is spread through body liquids and that one of the surest ways of transmitting it is sexual intercourse, which is what happens in most cases, it means we must do something about that so that we try and stop the spreading of that virus and do all the relevant things.

     If, for instance, you are diagnosed as having symptoms of this disease our concern is that we should have the medical profession saying that we have diagnosed this patient and the symptoms are that there is going to be a syndrome of these diseases, opportunistic diseases which are likely to kill this patient, how can we treat these diseases? When they say you are HIV positive in certain communities because the palliatives and drugs that are available are expensive, very, very costly, very few people can afford them on a regular basis. In essence it means, well you are dead. It's a matter of time. You'll be dead by such and such a time. And we say why can't we have an approach that says you show the symptoms, you are HIV positive, live a normal life, you're coughing, let the cough be treated as it were so that people must be able to get treatment for these opportunistic diseases. Firstly most of them would have treatment.

POM     What I am still getting back to is why of all the priorities there are would you, rather the ANC at the top

KM     If you ask me I would say our biggest priority, priority number one in this country is education. If we were to have, in my view, a national education campaign, another one and another one until you bring up the levels nation-wide, education skills so people can be part and parcel of the modern world in terms of technology information, information and other things.  I think we can overcome the spread of AIDS, I think we can. Then also you see the information flow could be multiplied, part of the problem is ignoring the situation. So if you had to prioritise AIDS, because part of the difficulty would be you know the predictions on how devastating it's going to be come from insurance companies that want to increase the premiums for insurance and so on. I've heard these arguments when I was in the union, the Chamber of Mines, Old Mutual coming across to say this is what is going to happen, so many people would have died of AIDS, this is going to deplete the fund and therefore we must increase the premiums and so on. They had those arguments and they are Doomsday arguments basically. And I am saying a bad thing is a bad thing. It doesn't need to be exaggerated. A deadly thing is a deadly thing, it doesn't need to be exaggerated. The motive of, for instance, insurance companies that want to increase premiums for their benefit in positing statistics and making projections of how we will be decimated, we need a bit of caution because if truth be told from what people were saying about countries such as Uganda there shouldn't be anybody left there right now and of course people are still there. Then you've got your other story that says, no Uganda has found a way, an effective way of turning this thing around. It doesn't make sense to me, but that's the way it will come across. There is always an educated explanation because this thing, the fundamental about this difficulty is that this virus still has to be scientifically isolated. That's the fundamental question because once it is scientifically isolated then the scientists will develop a proper counter for it  and we will be much closer to the solution of the problem. That's why it's a symbol, it's not one disease, it's a symbol of opportunistic diseases which kill you because your immune system has collapsed. This thing that causes your immune system to collapse must still be, the virus must still be isolated. There is no evidence anywhere that there has been any isolation of it. That is why people try various drugs to buy a little bit of hope and of course the pharmaceuticals are happy to make money out of it as well.

POM     It's a boon for the pharmaceutical industries.

KM     It is, and they are very powerful. They in turn, out of the money they make, they also sponsor conferences, they sponsor effective opinion makers, public opinion makers, and in this country we have seen a massive, massive campaign calling for a drug called AZT to be given to women who are rape victims and there is an absence of concern. If this thing works, this drug, surely it should work even if there has been concern, even when there is no rape, even if the consultant is concerned, surely it should work even in that instance?

POM     Do you think there is a campaign being mounted or being backed by the pharmaceutical companies?

KM     Well the producers of the drug they are very happy, they have so many sales persons, they think they could secure government approval and a commitment that it would be made available and it is something that has to be taken on a daily basis, made available to rape victims, pregnant mothers and that kind of thing, people who are living with HIV. They would make quite a rake in out of it and yet there is no proof that it actually helps.

POM     Just talking about rape, and this is deviating from my written down questions, it's one that I've puzzled over for many years, that why do you think the level of rape and particularly gang rape is so high in SA? Now the Medical Research Council has issued a study which says that only about one rape in ten is reported. Compared to other countries that keep statistics, I put it in that context because some countries don't, why do you think that SA consistently comes out as the most rape-prone country in the world and now the respected MRC says - and by the way only one in ten is being reported, we thought that only one in two was being reported but it shows now that the figure is one in ten, that it's probably ten times higher than we think.

KM     That's a point I was making. In my view a bad thing needs no exaggeration because it is a bad thing. One murder is bad enough, it doesn't require to be exaggerated, more people killed, for society to be moved by that. The same applies to rape because it is a criminal offence. Now you know in the past, in the run-up to the elections last year, the media, they even had an ad on TV involving a South African born American actress.

POM     I remember that.

KM     Saying that every three minutes 17 women are raped in this country. And you know where the figure came from? Do you know where the figure came from? A police officer was asked and he said, "Yes, these are the figures for reported rape", and then he said, "No, only one in 35 rapes are reported." That hampers you. Then they did the calculation, permutation, rounded out the figures then divided them down, if I recall.  What it then means is this huge figure, in essence every 17 seconds a woman in SA is raped, or every three minutes 17 women something like that. But it was one such upset statistic. The people now take that, if those statistics are also extrapolated properly if that kind of statistic is extrapolated over a period of time across the country it actually means you can say at some point every woman should have been raped in this country. But you know there are cases of rape in this country and under the current conditions there is sufficient confidence for people to report that and I don't think there is any basis for anybody to say, no, this is actually the tip of an iceberg. How did they come to this determination that it's only one in ten that gets reported? How do they know about the nine? How do they come to that? This formula, where does it come from and on what is it based? I am saying it's a bad thing because you end up arguing about the statistics which clearly is bad. Rape in itself is bad enough. If it is one rape it is bad enough. Society should be revolted by it and take all the necessary steps to ensure that the action if it has already happened, because if there's anything that gets reported it has already happened. They can't prevent it from that point onwards with regard to that specific victim, but you must put systems in place, support systems, counselling and all of those things for the victim on the one hand. For the perpetrator on the other hand, the offender, he must be apprehended, brought to book and dealt with in accordance with the criminal justice system. Sometimes these are people who themselves are not normal, either a psychopath or somebody who has got some disturbed background. What do we do with them? You've got to ensure that the victim is not permanently destroyed by that misfortune. On the other hand you've got to try and develop sufficient awareness in society that people who display certain tendencies need help and the sooner they are reported to the relevant authorities for them to be helped in time the better.

POM     Pre-empted.

KG     That's only what any and every rape case should evoke from us. But once people are saying that all it has to do is that the figures are not respectively matched so you must say it's only one out of ten, so you exaggerate it, I don't think it helps.

POM     How are you doing for time? Time for one question? Many people have asked me this and I've wondered about it myself and that is the elections in Zimbabwe and the failure of an ANC-led government to come out against what appeared to many people who were there and to many Zimbabweans to be widespread intimidation, register rolls not being made available until the last minute, boundaries being changed, things that if they had happened here, if the NP had done in 1994, the ANC would have screamed unfair, unfair, unfair. And yet there was a peculiar kind of silence.

KM     The NP couldn't have done that in 1994 because we were co-governing at that time. We had traditional authorities in place

POM     OK.

KM     And any other election, other than the 1994 one ...

POM     I suppose my question is why didn't the ANC take these allegations of intimidation and an unfair climate for elections being created, widespread intimidation, withholding of voters rolls, take them seriously enough to say these elections can't possibly be free and fair?

KM     No. I think the outcome of the elections in Zimbabwe vindicates the position that the ANC took. Our view was that Zimbabwe had organised elections, three elections prior to this one, very successfully and they were experienced and that indeed even these ones, our view was that they should not be pre-judged because the problem we had with pre-judging was that when you have people coming from all over the world, Europe, coming there and saying, "Well we know there is going to be cheating, we've come here just to assess it, the extent of it", it's a wrong way, you can't relate to people in any country in that fashion and it wasn't the first time. We have listened and heard the same noises being made with regard to the elections in Mozambique last year when Renamo said there was going to be cheating. Some of the international bodies were saying the same thing that there was going to be cheating and actually at some point even saying, "We know if Renamo loses, we know that there has been cheating." There is something wrong with that kind of approach. Our view is that elections must be conducted in a climate free of all kinds of duress so that people can express their will. From our own experience here even in 1994 when bombs were popping up on the eve of elections, we know that no amount of intimidation will in fact some people hold their lives in their hands in the face of all manner of intimidation and actually didn't submit just so that they survive long enough to vote against it, because when they vote they do so alone, in secret. It's a secret ballot. Nobody will be able to go back and say, "I know you didn't vote for us", and that's why the outcome of the election vindicates this. It's one thing when on the day of the elections people are back from going to the polls and falsified papers are added to the ballot boxes and so on. That's another matter, that's rigging or if there is intimidation, that's rigging, that's another matter. Then you can say, "Well these elections were really not free and fair", but when the people themselves, the nationals of that country stand in the queues confident, determined to go and cast their vote there, they enjoy their own choice. Who are we to say that this that you were engaged in was not correct? Because to declare elections not free and fair there are consequences. You must then take it to its logical conclusion and say therefore they must be annulled, they must be nullified. Do you want to do that without any basis for it? So that was our view.

POM     Did the ANC think that there was a climate - ?

KM     What we steadfastly refused to do was to be dragooned into joining the cacophony of noises that were pre-judging the elections. We said we would not do such a thing. And that has been vindicated by the results themselves and the people of Zimbabwe themselves.

POM     Do you think President Mugabe has been internationally scape-goated? That internationally, outside of Africa, that he is looked on as an old man who is trying to cling on to power by any means possible?

KM     No I think worse than that, I think there are international players that would want to determine the leadership of Zimbabwe without themselves participating in the election. Because Mugabe was elected by the Zimbabweans in accordance with their own constitution and, boom, all of a sudden because there are going to be elections everybody else says no, he shouldn't be there. They want to treat him like he has staged a coup or he has zapped political power. It's one of the things that I'm

POM     From your perspective would you see the hidden hand of the west trying to arrange the succession?

KM     Basically what they are saying is that Mugabe is not good for the Zimbabwean people and I say, yes, that's fine, you can come to that determination

POM     Sorry, you were saying that

KM     That they decide that Mugabe is not good enough for the Zimbabwean people, that's fine, but then the Zimbabwean people through their own votes must reject him. There's no quarrel with that at all and they are free to support whomsoever in Zimbabwe, like they supported the MDC. The MDC literally had rolled out a whole team, a whole TV crew to profile the leader of the MDC. They are within their rights to go and run an election in another country, that's fine if that's what they want to do. I don't know if they are going to be happy if a TV crew from Zimbabwe next time round came here or Tanzania, three different crews go out there for elections in the UK to basically run the election for the opposition, the Labour Party or the Conservative Party. The point we're making is that we would not be part and parcel of that kind of thing. We understand what sovereignty means, we respect it and we leave it at that. We do not go out and condemn a President elected by the Zimbabweans. No.

POM     I know you have to run. About five minutes? So maybe I will end with an easy question. It made me smile yesterday when Harry Oppenheimer died and all these tributes were being paid to him. President Mbeki and former President Mandela and other high officials said Oppenheimer played a seminal role in the industrialisation of SA over a period spanning most of the 20th century. Through his work he bequeathed to our country an industrial empire spanning the width and breadth of the world. No-one mentioned that he did most of it on the sweat of black labour. Was that just kind of conveniently forgotten?

KM     Well no. At the moment of death there death of any human being and of course at that moment your concern is really not so much but what you say is directed at the departed soul, but it is also meant to comfort the bereaved family in their moment of bereavement. That's why people, it's a societal norm that people say dignified things, words of condolence are meant to be that, words of condolence as opposed to a comment on the character of the individual. It's words of condolence and more especially from high office, nationally, you have to  say things in accordance with the dignity of your office as well.

POM     I'm not going to have you speed all the way to Pretoria and end up a casualty. Can I tell Diana that ?

KM     Yes.

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.