About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

01 Sep 2000: Jordan, Pallo

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POM     Pallo, this is the last interview in this series, this has now lasted over ten years. Let me begin maybe with the conference that's been taking place on racism in the last few days. A couple of things have struck me and one was it was billed as a dialogue, yet if you look around 90% of the participants are African, Indian, coloured. Of the whites who are here maybe 5% are women who are gender oriented and maybe of the residual white males maybe half would be 'movement oriented' like Charles Villa-Vincenzio. There are few voices like the one you had yesterday from the white Mineworkers Union. Is it in one sense a dialogue among the converted? It's certainly not a dialogue between black and white.

PJ     One of the difficulties always with anything like this is that no-one is press-ganged or conscripted to come here. People come here on a voluntary basis. As it is, after yesterday, it would appear that one of the political parties that was participating has withdrawn.

POM     Which one is that?

PJ     I'm told the Democratic Alliance.

POM     They withdrew?

PJ     That's what I'm told. I couldn't vouch for it. The Afrikanerbond who were also participating, it's a former secret society

POM     The Broederbond?

PJ     Yes, well the refurbished Broederbond, they have withdrawn as well. So people come here on a voluntary basis and you can't force people to come in if they don't want to, so people come on the basis of their commitment to non-racism or anti-racism and with a commitment to build towards a non-racial or an anti-racist society and you can't force them. Perhaps the absence of white participation bears testimony to what I was saying yesterday, the state of denial, and that state of denial is not induced by malice, it's not even induced by ill intent, it's induced by misunderstanding most of the time. It's induced by maybe fear some of the time. It might well be induced by deeply felt guilt also some of the time. But at the end of the day it's something that you have to confront. You can't duck it.

     If you take, for example, some of the things that have been said in the conference thus far, you take for example the contribution made by Dene Smuts yesterday and she said, "You're in transition denial." Now I don't know exactly what that means, I still have to decipher it, but one guesses that what she was trying to say is that, look, SA is in a transition, it's not the SA of pre-1994, it's in transition and you have to come to terms with that. No-one is denying that it's in transition but what I think is being suggested is that you have to wait for the whites to feel comfortable about change. Now I put it to you that that is making too big a demand on anyone. It's very easy if you're a beneficiary of an injustice to say wait until I come to terms with the change and I feel comfortable about it, change should take place at the pace that I find acceptable. It's very easy, very easy. Now that is an aspect, a dimension of precisely the denial I'm talking about.

     Now you take, again for example, what was said by the young man from the Mineworkers Union who says, "You're blaming even me, I'm a young white person." I wasn't blaming him, he chose to identify with that Mineworkers' Union. He is free to join any other Mineworkers' Union he wants to, he could join the other one, the National Union of Miners. He chose not to join that one. That one is predominantly black, he's chosen to join the predominantly white one which has a particular history. It's his choice and that particular history is a reprehensible history and there is no doubt in anyone's mind that it has a reprehensible history. It's a matter of record. Now he doesn't like you to remind people that that is so. It's nonetheless true. In a country of 80% African population I am sure even today there isn't one African miner, the African mineworkers, not miners. Now that in anybody's language is an abnormal situation. It would be ridiculous if one went to Britain, for instance, where people of African descent are perhaps a smaller minority than whites are in this country, and all the miners in Britain were of African descent. You'd think, what? What's going on here? A totally weird situation. Here they seem to think we should find that acceptable. That's asking far too much from anybody. So this is what we're talking about when we're talking about a state of denial.

     Now why it is dangerous is that it induces in the minds and in the manner in which the average white South African conducts himself this notion and this feeling that all right 1994 was the end of something, this is when we were on top and that's now ended, that's now a closed book. For most black South Africans, 1994 was the beginning of something, the beginning of a process which is going to lead to a non-racial society. No-one expected it to happen like we're going to vote on 27th April and on 28th we will be in paradise, no-one expected that. And even now if you go into any of the most impoverished areas populated by African people no-one will say to you, "We expect paradise tomorrow, or even next year." They would say, "No, no, we realise that we have to be patient, it's going take time to undo this thing." But they want to travel hopefully whereas I think most white South Africans  think we've arrived once everyone could vote.

POM     Do you think white South Africans thought it was the end and that they found that it wasn't the end in the sense that even though they changed, they lost political power, they still had almost a total concentration of economic and social power and that if one looks at the last six years I can't find a white person that I've interviewed or gone among or when I go out to Sandton or Rosebank or whatever and see anybody who has a lower standard of living than they did six years ago. In fact they are just as well off if not better off than they were six years ago.

PJ     Things have picked up.

POM     Their comfortable lives haven't been disturbed.

PJ     The comfortable lives of most white South Africans has not been disturbed. In fact it has become better in many respects. If you take, for example now, I was travelling a couple of years ago with a fairly wealthy white couple and they were saying, "Oh we are so relieved", they are English speaking, "For the last so many years we've been using our British passports to travel because we were so embarrassed to admit that we were South Africans. Now we move around freely with our South African passport and we find that people welcome you with open arms and so on."  Now they are actually the people who are in a position to travel, they are the people who are in a position to take advantage of all the openings internationally in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, India, China, which were more or less barred doors to the average white South African and they've suddenly opened up. The people who voted for the ANC in Soweto most of them can't travel, they can barely get to the centre of Johannesburg never mind getting a plane and going to Singapore. These people are in a position to do that so in addition to the comfortable lifestyle that they have here in SA many other doors have been opened to them as well. They are highly advantaged.

     When I say 'the end of something' they thought that you had arrived in 1994 whereas for black South Africans that was the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journey. This is a problem. Now that is a perceptual problem and as I say most people don't do it with any ill intent but that's in their thinking, that's it now. We've all got the vote, everything's cool now. Whereas for the average black South African it's now the beginning, we've got the vote, now this vote we're going to use as a means of putting in place policies that are going to overturn, reverse, do away with the consequences of the past because the consequences of the past are still very much there.

POM     This is three parts in one. One is, I thought that you were unduly harsh with the Mineworkers Union because (i) he had come, so he deserved a mark for that, (ii) he spoke what was on his mind and he deserved a little mark for that, (iii) the conference is about dialogue and the way you demolished him left little room for dialogue.

PJ     No, it left a lot of room for dialogue.

POM     Maybe not to him.

PJ     I had dialogue with him after that, yes. Because in addition to what I said there when I did meet him, because he's an Afrikaans speaker, I even had a dialogue in his mother tongue, which took him by surprise. No, it left a great deal of room for dialogue. But what we don't want is people to move out of here complacent.

POM     So nothing has changed, it's just a conference.

PJ     You have to shake people up a little, give a wake-up call. It would be like someone who was the Grand Dragon of the Ku-Klux-Klan when he finds in spite of all his efforts the Governor of his state is an African American and then he complains that this man is discriminating against him. It's a little much, it's a little much. Even in a dialogue it's a little much to make a claim like that. One expects a little tiny bit of introspection about what you must do for what you did, some indication of what you have done and what you stood for. It's not that you can just wash it away, it never happened.

POM     This will lead me to two conversations I've had with whites. The TRC has kind of washed right by them.

PJ     The TRC not only washed right by them, the TRC hasn't, apart from maybe Wouter Basson and this other chap, the Vlakplaas man, De Kock, I don't know of any white who has actually been called upon to pay for his sins. And even there part of this very, very heavy duty denial mode, a few bad apples, a few mavericks.

POM     In fact I find with some whites that it gives them a false sense of moral superiority, they're almost saying it's just the bad apples that did that because if we had known what those bad apples were doing of course we would have stopped them. So they are kind of morally superior with the disclosures, not in any way introspective at all.

     I want to switch gears, not gears since 'gear' is a bad pun these days. OK, AIDS. I've become very deeply involved in the whole AIDS problem in Southern Africa and particularly in South Africa. In another part of my life I edit a Public Policy Journal and I'm doing a special issue on the Social & Economic Impact of AIDS in South Africa. I have not found at AIDS conferences that I have gone to, that includes Durban and it includes internal ones here, the same degree of passion and the same degree of call for commitment that comes from the heart and the soul that I've seen here in the last two days with regard to racism. When I ask cabinet ministers what's the major challenge facing the country in the next 15 years not one of them says AIDS and after they say something like poverty or crime or a combination, then I say how about AIDS? Then they say, "Well AIDS is part of  - you know." Then I say no, no, it's THE priority, it's THE challenge and unless you deal with this you're not going to have a country. No-one buys into what I'm saying so I find AIDS denial.

PJ     There might well be.

POM     I don't understand why there's not a national crusade mounted at such a visible level that unless we get a grip on AIDS there is not going to be economic growth, certainly not economic growth that's going to bring about the alleviation of the poverty that we're talking about and it's going to destroy our social structure, we're not going to have an IT revolution because by the time you want to get IT you've got about five years of life left. You're not going to have this, you're not going to have that. I don't get it why it's not there. And I'm looking for an explanation. I'm looking for insights.

PJ     There might be many explanations, long before the pin was compulsory for public representatives I used to wear my AIDS pin, way back before we got into government because I had always thought that AIDS is a big threat. But we are dealing in a culturally specific society.

POM     Very culturally specific?

PJ     Yes. If you talk, for example, to our average church people

POM     Church going?

PJ     Not church going, the hierarchy, the clergy perhaps and some of the laity, when you talk to them they will say, "No, no, you're putting us in an invidious position about AIDS because you guys are saying tell the youth to use condoms. We would prefer you to be saying don't engage in pre-marital sex." I was once in a dialogue like that with a clergyman who I happened to know from when he was young. I said, "Look, when we were growing up how many times did adults tell you not to engage in pre-marital sex?" He says, "Oh!" And I said, "Did you listen to them?" And he said "No." So I said, "Well?" Now you see that's a dimension of part of the culture in SA in all communities. People are very embarrassed and reticent about matters of sexuality whether you're talking about Afrikaners, whether you're talking about Indians, whether you're talking about Africans. When we were growing up as African young people it was not expected that adults would talk to us about sex and sexuality except to tell you don't do this, don't do that, don't do this. There would never be this is how this thing happens. No, no, none of that open discussion. It wasn't even taught in the schools, sexual education like you have, I mean I don't know, now in schools. You were expected to, I don't know, pick it up by osmosis in some way or other.

POM     You're saying it was nearly as bad as Ireland. They never mentioned it at all.

PJ     There are all sorts of taboos and it's very difficult in that context to break out of those taboos and this is the biggest impediment. You lay on top of the cultural taboos, those which are indigenous, overlay that now with the religious ones like the clergyman saying tell the kids not to indulge in pre-marital sex and you overlay that now with even others borrowed from other cultures and you've got a very, very complex problem, a very complex problem.

     We tried when I was Minister of Information to get our public broadcaster to take up the campaign on AIDS. It was like pulling teeth and, as you can see, it's still not on the public broadcaster because of these taboos. Everyone was just terrified of touching it, sort of like you have in the US with the Christian right which in the US you couldn't have the adverts that you have on AIDS on TV in Britain. You couldn't, the Christian right won't permit it. We don't have here that sort of organised Christian right. It's just these amorphous cultural taboos which are out there which are sitting on top and that is the big problem. The government could probably do a lot more, the public could force the pace. But as you know with most of these things you always have to weigh up shall we force the pace or shall we nudge it forward rather? I think those are judgement calls.

POM     Do you not think given the data and implications of that, that you're almost at a state of emergency?

PJ     I'm not disputing that, I'm saying those are judgement calls whether you force the pace or you nudge it forward.

POM     What would you do?

PJ     Well as you were saying I tend to be tough, I want to force the pace myself but then some people might say that's the wrong judgement call because you're going to terrify the very people whom you are trying to force march in this particular direction.

POM     You're on the Budget Committee?

PJ     No.

POM     No? I thought you were.

PJ     I'm very far from the Budget Committee. I was chairing the committee dealing with the parliamentary budget.

POM     So it was the parliamentary budget, OK. Do you know whether when Trevor Manuel prepared his budget, current, medium run, long run or whatever, whether or not variables are used to take into account the impact of AIDS or whether it's done as though everything is on line into the future?

PJ     No, no,  I don't think it's done like that at all. When Dr Zuma was Minister of Health some of the more hairy mistakes that people accused her of making arose from her sense of alarm about AIDS and I know one dimension of the health budget is very much the AIDS issue. Now in terms of the macro impact of AIDS on the society if there's anyone who dinned it into the Ministry of Finance's head it was herself, Dr Zuma when she was Minister of Health.

POM     In fact who was telling me, it was Leon Wessels who was telling me that in 1990 when he was still Deputy Foreign Minister, that his appointment book showed that he had a meeting with two black women and he said, "What's the appointment about, what do these two women want to talk about now? Why are they coming to me, they should be with the Minister of Health." He had the meeting and it was Dr Zuma and the present minister and they had come to talk about AIDS. That was in 1990. So there was an awareness then.  Did AIDS get lost some way in the transition?

PJ     No, I don't think it got lost. It's grappling with these perhaps intangibles but nonetheless real forces.

POM     But how is it intangible if somebody says the best estimates at the moment are that one of every 15 year old is going to die?

PJ     I'm saying you're wrestling with these intangibles, real forces like the taboos. You can't say I will go over there and rip out the taboo. It's there in society, it's embedded in people's consciousness, embedded in all sorts of things. You can't go and just take it out but it's there and it's a palpable force out there. Thank goodness it's not an organised force but it could very easily become.

     If you take, for example, just one thing, there was a book published, in fact it's quite surprising it's only causing a stir these days, published as long ago as 1970s, called Our Bodies Ourselves inspired by the Women's Movement in the US and it was a way of first of all breaking through a lot of the taboos about sexuality, women's sexuality, written by women for women. There was an organised campaign in the US by the Christian right that this book should not be in school libraries, it should not even be in public libraries. Now that is now organised opposition to discussion of sexuality. "It was obscene, it talks about masturbation", things that happen. That book hasn't come to this country yet. It probably is there, if you went to a bookshop you could probably get it. I can tell you if, let's say, the Minister of Health or the Minister of Education said, "Right, I am getting this book published in SA in a cheap edition and I'm going to make sure it goes into every school library and goes into every public library", the immediate response would be an avalanche of opposition from all over the place. The first people I am sure who would get into it would be organised religion, various sectors.

POM     Is organised religion here more conservative than - ?

PJ     No, no, I'm talking about these taboos that are there, like the clergyman was saying to me, "You people shouldn't be saying to the kids use condoms, say to them don't indulge in sex." I said to him, "You were told that and you did it so what the hell are you talking about?" He didn't say yes you're right, that's nonsense, tell the kids to use condoms, he still stuck to his view. If I pressed him, let's say in private because this happened in public dialogue, if I had pressed him in private he would have told me, no, my congregation would never accept a man of the cloth saying that. He would use them as an excuse but it actually reflects some of his own prejudices. These are the problems and I'm not saying that because of that you should hold back. Perhaps you need to force the pace and say, look, it's a question of do we have a nation tomorrow or don't we have a nation? I'm saying perhaps one needs to take the approach of saying do we want a nation or do we want graveyards? If we choose a nation then we've got to talk about sex and to hell with your taboo. Maybe that's the way to go. But that is, I am sure, a big part of the function of print.

POM     What other way to go is there?

PJ     It might seem like a very obvious answer to you but I will remind you that in your own country when women need to terminate pregnancy they have to cross the channel to go to England. What other way is there? Right, exactly. You're absolutely right but there's not a single Irish politician who dares to challenge those sort of taboos.

POM     Is there a task force that is academic or otherwise or social scientists too many congresses, whatever? I know too many conferences, whatever.

PJ     There are lots of task forces dealing with AIDS.

POM     But are they addressing things like how do you get rid of taboos? How do you tackle things?

PJ     Well I don't know, I really couldn't say.  I'm not one of the few with that knowledge.

POM     I suppose my confusion arises again, one talks about the inequalities which must be eliminated, the persistence of huge, massive amounts of poverty. The facts suggest that unless you get a grip on AIDS you can't eliminate the poverty. It's not a matter of getting rid of the poverty and then getting rid of the AIDS because the AIDS is there, you can't generate the growth that's necessary to get rid of the poverty, you can't generate the foreign investment because you will not get a foreign investor to come in here, he will say for every dollar of capital I put in I will have to - or $100 million, I will have to train three workers because two out of three might be dead in 30 years, I'm not going to do it, I'm going to go some place where there's no AIDS.

PJ     Like where? Which place doesn't have AIDS?

POM     In terms of

PJ     I know, but I'm saying like where? Scotland? I wouldn't put my money on that.

POM     2%, OK? I'm talking about when it levels off.

PJ     Be that as it may, I'm not getting into argie-bargies and arguments on AIDS, etc., etc. What I am telling you is that these are the South African realities and people might well feel that saying 'force the pace' would be the wrong thing. I'm not saying that anyone has actually said that much but I gave you the example of termination of pregnancy in Ireland. No Irish politician would be prepared to challenge.

POM     It has come up again, and it came up during the conference that AIDS is seen primarily as a black disease.

PJ     Well it's projected like that media-wise whenever it's spoken about, it's projected as something that's inflicting only the black population.

POM     Yet the white population here has a higher level than other white populations in the rest of the world.

PJ     I'm pretty sure, but you wouldn't know that from reading the SA media, from visuals, radio or anything. Of course in statistical terms the blacks would have more just in terms of sheer numbers.

POM     Let me take one paper just as a paper, the paper when I came here first that was at the forefront of the free press and exposure was the Mail & Guardian. It now seems to be in a perpetual battle with the ANC or the government or whatever. What do you think accounts for this?

PJ     There are a number of things, any number of things. It could be change in editors which is one of the things that's happened, it could be change in readership profile which is also another thing which has happened. Now whether the change in readership profile is a function of change of editors I'm not sure, they might be linked. It could be also that people at the top in the Mail & Guardian feel that unless they keep a watchful eye on the ANC, authoritarian tendencies would begin to asset themselves. It might be that it sells papers. I don't know. There is a tendency I will say towards tabloidism in the worst sense of that word. In the Mail & Guardian many a time the banner headlines, sensational banner headlines which catch your eye, bear little relation to what's actually the content of what's inside. Newspapers are businesses as well, so maybe they want to sell papers.

POM     When the Democratic Alliance was formed the ANC was contemptuous in its dismissal of what it saw as being two bands of racists and people who were opposed to any kind change coming together and getting together under one head, so it was dismissive in a way that struck me that the ANC has no respect for the opposition parties.

PJ     It's not that we have no respect for the opposition parties. You see what has happened, if you followed last year's election for example and you compare that with the 1994 election and you compare that with the all-white referendum in 1992, in 1992 when there was that all-white referendum the Democratic Party, under different leadership it was Zach de Beer, all their posters that they ran in their campaign were 'Vote Your Hopes Not Your Fears'. They went to the hustings in 1994 again and projected themselves as a party of change and a party that has always been for change and a party that always had a vision of a progressive, democratic SA, etc. In the 1999 election you could almost have switched the DP's slogans of the 1992 all-white referendum to read, 'vote your fears not your hopes', because the DP ran its 1999 campaign tapping very deep into the seam of white fear, trepidation, doubt, fear of change, every sort of phobia that white people nurse it tapped into in the most disgraceful way, most disgraceful. You can go and check it, for instance Tony Leon goes to Port Elizabeth, the coloured neighbourhood there, "Under apartheid you were too black, now you aren't black enough."

     Again tapping into minority fears. In the case of an Indian student, deprived kid, who applied to the university in Durban, Medical School, and she wasn't admitted, the government had nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing to do with it, not the Minister of Education, because all the universities in SA are autonomous. The Democratic Party talked as if it was the government that instructed the university not to admit that girl and because in the Indian community perception and understanding of that autonomy of the university is very woolly, people don't quite understand it, they're not quite sure of the facts, the DP did not say to them, no, no, this is an autonomous university, it took this decision. It just played on that knowing that given the woolly understanding of university autonomy in the Indian community that it's the government that's responsible, the government is discriminating against Indians in order to advantage Africans. Now that is what the DP, by choice, it ran its campaign like that.

POM     But for what purpose?

PJ     In order to get votes.

POM     From?

PJ     From Indians.

POM     One could say, if one were a cold blooded strategist, one could say if we are going any place the first thing we need to do is to destroy the National Party, we've got to take them out. Then we've got to follow the following strategy, we've got to get -

PJ     No, no, no, of course that was the argument when I attacked one of the DP leaders, Colin Eglin, about this. No, no, we said that we must get the NP out of the way, but the point is you become hostage of the prejudices don't you? You become hostage to your prejudices because in fact the DP transformed itself from being a party of liberal whites into a party of white reaction. It transformed itself by that and the role it has consequently played subsequent to that. If you take the incidence of the way they treated the whole Zimbabwe issue, it wasn't as if the government here or the ANC was saying no, no, no, right on Bob! Take those farms! And so on. In fact in parliament we were the first people to raise the issue of what was happening in Zimbabwe on the floor, it took them completely by surprise, they didn't expect it, knocked them dizzy.

POM     You raised it?

PJ     No, no, the ANC raised it. The ANC were the first people to raise it in parliament, the issue of Zimbabwe and what was happening there. They didn't expect that. But immediately the issue was in the public eye they then tried to turn it around against us, again cutting into white fears:  South Africa under the ANC is like Zimbabwe. Now what is that? And we are after all dealing with the same electorate, if for instance we go into the white community and take a random sample for a focus group, the results we get are not going to be that similar because they don't know who is doing the focus group because it's an independent researcher doing it on behalf of the ANC. Our focus groups indicate that those particular slogans touched all the buttons.

POM     That they did?

PJ     No, touching those buttons amongst whites plays on the people's racist fears. The DP knows it. So what is the DP doing? Mobilising racism and bigotry within the white community, that is what it's doing. Now given that they are doing that how do you expect me to react to that? Very soon the DP will, and I'm not surprised actually that they were able to swallow up the NP, they have stolen the NP's clothes In fact the NNP had abandoned those clothes, they hadn't stolen them, they had left them on the bank of the river: these might bring us into disrepute, because the NP was trying to reposition itself desperately. The DP have stolen its clothes. Well not stolen, just inherited them, they saw the clothes lying on the beach there. And given that, the NP feels very comfortable under the rubric of this brand of liberalism. It's not liberalism at all, it's just thinly disguised white racism, very thinly disguised white racism.

POM     But then you have no respect for - ?

PJ     For white racism? Not an ounce.

POM     For the Democratic Alliance.

PJ     Not an ounce of respect for white racism.

POM     My question is, for the opposition, the official opposition parties?

PJ     If the official opposition party is organised white racism I have not an ounce of respect for it.

POM     Well since you think it is organised white racism then you don't have it.

PJ     Well is it or isn't it?

POM     In your view it is.

PJ     Well is it or isn't it in your view?

POM     I'm the questioner.

PJ     No, no, talking as an objective observer, you don't have an empty mind, you have opinions. Is it organised white racism or not? It is organised white racism. Does it deserve respect? No it doesn't. I had far greater respect for the Democratic Party in its between 1994 and 1999 position and occasionally, even yesterday after Dene Smuts, I tried to appeal to her better nature and reminded her of what she was prepared to do in 1988. Even today with all the contempt I have for her, but I tried to appeal to her by saying, "Look you had courage in 1988 to enter into dialogue because you thought it was important for the future of your country. What's the problem today?" And that's what we continue to do to people, even people in the NNP. You had the courage when you thought the occasion called for it to do certain things in the national interest. Very big risks, it is no risk actually today. Then she could have been put in jail for consorting with terrorists, questioned at the very least by the Security Police for consorting with terrorists. There's no risk today, none whatsoever, no knocks at the door at four o'clock in the morning, unless you've been robbing banks. We still appeal to their better natures. We are prepared to do this.

POM     I want to go back to Zimbabwe for a moment. The National Democratic Institute released a report about a month before the election which was the findings of an Observer Mission, mostly composed of Africans that they had sent to Zimbabwe, which said the atmosphere of intimidation and the lack of the demarcation of constituencies created an environment in which free and fair elections would not be held and President Mbeki kind of 'attacked' them and said

PJ     What he said was that you can't say an election is not going to be free and fair before it's held. We were as conscious as anyone that what was happening in Zimbabwe would compromise the environment of free and fair elections and moved a motion in parliament to that effect. So we were as conscious as anyone that that is so.

POM     What happened when you moved that motion?

PJ     What happened was that the motion was adopted by parliament. What happened?

POM     So the ANC accepted that?

PJ     It was an ANC motion, I didn't even write it.  The ANC took the decision that we are going to move this motion, so-and-so will read it. I read it, I happened to be the one who read it. It wasn't something that I got up and did on that. There is party discipline in any organisation, it's the whippery. It was an ANC motion, they made a point of saying, "We as ANC are aware of that danger", and why we moved that motion was to precisely put the Zimbabwe government and political players in Zimbabwe on notice that, look, if you continue in this way you are going to compromise the integrity of your elections.

POM     But President Mbeki's response to NDI which he delivered in Washington was slightly more than just merely

PJ     No, NDI didn't say that what you are doing is likely to compromise the integrity of the elections. They said free and fair elections are impossible. That's what they said and he said you can't say that, wait till the election is over and then you can say that. That was their point.

POM     Let me just put it in a hypothetical context: in 1994 in the townships outside of KZN you had whites put out, intimidation of black voters going on, African voters going on

PJ     You had it here.

POM     By the IFP.

PJ     By the IFP, you name it, you had it here.

POM     Would you say that the degree of intimidation in the months prior to elections in 1994 was higher here than it was in Zimbabwe?

PJ     Well I wouldn't be able to judge that, the degree, etc., but if you did a body count, for example, body count, a body count of corpses, we had more here than they had in Zimbabwe, far more.

POM     Where do you think the West comes in here?

PJ     Which West?

POM     The West.

PJ     Western countries?

POM     In 1994 they had observers all over the place and they were watching a miracle emerge. In Zimbabwe it was, as you said, far fewer, the count of corpses, far fewer corpses, it was like thump, thump, the heavy tummel of this is chaotic conditions have been created, Mugabe is behaving like a madman, a dictator, he's going to wipe off the opposition before the election even happens. It's farmer against his thugs, it's black against white. Why do you think what was the game?

PJ     Look, you see these are the considerations you have to weigh. I think most people in the world felt that we felt, at any rate as ANC, that the most important thing was to have elections so you could get rid of the NP government and I think most people in the world were persuaded that no matter what happens have those elections, get rid of the NP government because that's the only way you're going to get a grip on the situation. Now unless you had a situation where IFP thugs were actually making armed attacks on polling booths and so on we would have said the election must go ahead. As it is in places like some of the hostels here outside Johannesburg and in KZN they did actually seize ballot stations, they did in 1994. But still in that context and our people in KZN, the ANC in KZN were very, very angry because they felt that the IFP had stolen the election and they said, no, we should say the elections in KZN are not free and fair. And we said, no, if we do that then the integrity of the entire election is open to question and we can't say all right, the rest of the country has voted, we have to create conditions now in KZN and then we'll have an election there later on in the year or two years later or whatever. You couldn't do that so you had to live with the fact that that was what had happened.

POM     Does the ANC believe to this day that the IFP 'stole' the election?

PJ     No, no, that's what the people in KZN were saying.

POM     The ANC in KZN.

PJ     I was sitting in the Communications Centre for the ANC at the Carlton Centre and getting phone calls virtually once an hour, "Why don't you talk about this?" And I was saying, "Look, if you want me to say anything you must bring me concrete evidence. If you can bring an eye witness who is prepared to go on the air and say I saw this, this and this and this happened." There were extraordinary reports and I said, "I'll do it." In the end of course, and I said at the same time we must be compiling a report for the IEC, a written report about these incidents, and with the testimonials and the affidavits from the various witnesses who were the marshals.  Well they did do that in the end and I submitted them to the National Executive Committee and people said, no it's better to live with that, only whether we change government. So those are the considerations.

     Now again if, for instance, you hadn't had the elections in Zimbabwe, if you had said those conditions aren't right, it wouldn't have meant that Bob Mugabe was going to resign, he would have stayed in office. It wouldn't have meant that his majority would have been reduced. The majority he had before the NDI report would have been the same, so it was actually helpful in terms of bringing about if you were interested in bringing about change for a much more democratic environment in Zimbabwe. Would the course of action which the NDI report inexorably led to have been helpful? Those are the questions that you have to ask yourself. What would it have meant if the NDI conclusions had been embraced and accepted by everyone and what it would have meant would have been that Mugabe stays in office at least for another year so that an environment could be created in which free and fair elections would have been held. ZanuPF's overwhelming majority in parliament would have remained the same, so would it have been helpful? Those are the things one has to weigh when you make those sorts of judgement calls. Now in my view, having the elections has had an extremely disciplining effect on ZanuPF, their majority has been cut quite radically, there is no ZanuPF leader now who can think that 'I am king of the castle, you're the dirty rascal', or 'My God, I'd better be careful here. Good friends of mine have lost their jobs who were cabinet ministers, didn't even get into parliament.' That was an extremely sobering effect on ZanuPF what happened because the elections were held.

POM     To go back to the perennial question, this is like the wolf/wolf question. There are suggestions now, and there always have been since I've come here, suggestions that the alliance is under strain.

PJ     The Congress Alliance?

POM     Yes. And now that their strains are getting deeper.

PJ     It's some people's prayer.

POM     I know, but leaving that aside.

PJ     Look, the reality is that the alliance obviously isn't something that's frozen entirely. As I said to some other person, it might have been even to you, that the alliance is always a bit like a troubled marriage and perhaps a difference now is that whereas in this troubled marriage the fights used to happen in the bedroom now they're happening out where everyone can see them. It's nothing new, nothing new. To those of us who have been on the inside, it's nothing new.

POM     The next ten years in SA?

PJ     Next ten years in SA? Well the next ten years are going to be challenging like the previous ten years.

POM     If I asked it in a series of

PJ     Challenging but also I think very exciting. Ask me a series of what?

POM     I suppose if I put it again, went back to my own obsession with AIDS, if I said well if you don't get a grip on AIDS it's not going to be very exciting.

PJ     They might be tragic rather than exciting. Well of course.

POM     Do you think the country will?

PJ     Will what?

POM     Will the government move, will the point come when the critical mass of either dead or dying people - ?

PJ     I don't think it's a question of the critical mass. I think it might be more a question of maybe people's comfort zone about certain things might be intruded upon.

POM     What do you mean by that?

PJ     I think if you could convince a critical mass of people in the government leadership that grasping the nettle of maybe annoying, alienating, antagonising a lot of people because you want to talk up front, freely in every medium of public expression and public communication about sex, is worth it because you're going to save the country that way, then it will happen. I think right now people are not persuaded that it would be worth it. They are still afraid.

POM     Who would you lose votes to if you did that?

PJ     It's not a question of losing votes.

POM     There's no threat to the government in doing so?

PJ     No, no. Well, there might well be.

POM     From where?

PJ     I'm saying there might well be in people's minds.

POM     The people in the government?

PJ     Yes. Like I was telling you, if you take the Irish politician, the Irish politician who said we have to grab the nettle of the termination of pregnancy, is terrified in the first place of the Catholic Church, I'm saying an Irish politician doesn't want to talk about termination of pregnancy, is terrified of the Catholic Church. The Catholic clergy don't have to run for office but what he is afraid of is what is going to be said in the pulpit on Sunday to his voters.

POM     There's a different dimension to the problem.

PJ     It is a different dimension to the problem but it's comparable in that you're dealing with taboos and what he's afraid of, whoever is in the pulpit on Sundays, is going to say, "Immoral so-and-so, immoral that, immoral that." That's the same sort of thing that people are afraid of. Now in Ireland that might actually translate into how people are going to behave come next election. Now in SA it might not translate into that but it might translate into saying the ANC and its leadership are immoral people, they are degenerates and that is what people are afraid of or might well be afraid of. That is my suspicion.

POM     This ties in, maybe it's irrelevant, the sidebar question is if the ANC had such success in mass mobilising people

PJ     To fight for their freedom?

POM     For their freedom or for an amorphous thing called a vote.

PJ     No, no, but their freedom. We wouldn't fight for the vote.

POM     Freedom is even more amorphous.

PJ     We did fight for their freedom which entailed, of course, acquiring the vote. No-one wants to live on their knees, or very few people.

POM     They will be living in their graves unless they mass mobilise.

PJ     No, no, I'm not disputing that. What I am saying is that no-one wants to live on their knees so no-one is going to if the most powerful Bishop could go into the pulpit and say these people are saying   They will say, "Fuck you, Bishop." It's not as if there weren't people who didn't try that. PW Botha went all the way up to Morea the headquarters of the ZCC, it was one of the biggest African independent churches, and tried to organise the clergy of that church against the ANC.

POM     That's the Zionist Church?

PJ     Yes, ZCC. He even said, look, if you people come onto my side with your followers I'll give you arms to whop the ANC on the head and all sorts of terrible things. The Zionist Bishops didn't dare do that because they knew their congregation didn't want to live on their knees and the ZCC said we are not going to live on our knees, we are going to get on our feet. It would have destroyed the church, they would have lost their followers. They didn't dare do that. Now that is the difference, whereas if the ZCC clergy, given all these taboos I've been telling you about, began to say the ANC is immoral and so on and the people would say, what do you mean they're immoral? Look at what they're saying, look at the things they're doing. Playing into these taboos and fears. Those are the sorts of things that people are nervous about. Now I personally am of the view that you say it's too bad, the national issue is much more important than what the Bishops and so on say or so-and-so will say, but other people maybe don't think that.

POM     Look in Uganda.

PJ     Different society, I mean I don't know Uganda so I'm not in a position to comment. I suspect that there are similar sorts of things. I suspect there are. What I do know amongst other things also is that when the Ugandans began their AIDS campaign they blamed it on the Tanzanian soldiers who had come there to get rid of Amin, which makes it a little bit easier also. It's a foreign import. I'm not saying that's what Museveni has used but I do know that one of the elements in Uganda was AIDS was brought to Uganda by these Tanzanian soldiers who came in to get rid of Amin. Maybe that's the way we should go, say the Irish brought it!

     I have to go.

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.