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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

11 Sep 2000: Heath, Willem

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WH     Good morning, Patrick, how are you?

POM     I'm fine Judge, how are you?

WH     Fine thank you.

POM     I'm sorry I wasn't able to make it to East London. I looked forward to seeing you in person.

WH     Yes, I also looked forward to that.

POM     But when you're trying to do ten things in ten days travel gets difficult. First of all how are you doing?

WH     I'm fine thank you. I'm coping with all the problems that come my way but I'm fine, thank you very much.

POM     It makes just a good starting point, you say you're coping with all the problems coming your way and I'd like to take you back to the Anti-Corruption Conference in Durban last year where the mantra was 'corruption is the single biggest threat to democracy'. That was repeated over and over again. In this regard, after a further year in your endeavours, where do you think SA stands since your Investigation Unit began its work? Has the case load of corruption changed? Has it gotten better, i.e. diminished? Has it gotten worse? Is it about the same as it was when you started?

WH     The process as such, you will understand just now why I'm putting it that way, the workload as such hasn't changed, it has probably increased but the cases are not being referred to us. When we saw each other last year in October I think I may have explained to you that we go through a proclamation procedure before a case is then officially referred to us and what the experience now is, is that the Minister of Justice either does not refer the cases to the President in order to refer them to us, or he unilaterally refers the cases to other agencies who we believe cannot do the cases.

POM     Now I will ask you a very loaded question and you can answer it or not well answer any question as you choose by saying 'I prefer not to comment', but there have been suggestions that this is quite a deliberate tactic on the part of the government that in a way you have become a victim of your own success and in that sense almost an embarrassment to the government, that rather than exposing corruption in all kinds of places public and private you began to expose too much corruption which for the international image of the country isn't exactly they want to show they're fighting corruption but they don't want to show that, my God, corruption is rife all over the place, that there's a tension between the two, the two objectives of on the one hand trying to show we're doing something about corruption and on the other hand showing that corruption is indeed rife and may be even increasing and we may have to do a lot more to get it under control and one way of doing that is to sweep it under the carpet, or some of it under the carpet.

WH     Well I think you have given part of the answer, it is a very loaded question and seeing that we are on record

POM     I can take anything off record if you just say it.

WH     Can we take this one off record?

POM     This is off record.

WH     We can maybe analyse it and see what we can place back on record.

POM     That's fine.

WH     I've got no doubt that the government is keeping the cases away from us and obviously when I refer to government I'm not referring to the whole government but the people dealing with this. So it is a deliberate attempt not to refer the cases to us because they feel embarrassed that we have uncovered so much corruption. They believe, and I believe that's not the correct way to approach it, but they believe that if they can keep it quiet then the international world will get the impression that we are not as corrupt as we are and therefore they can create a much more positive perception.

POM     Would these elements in government see if there is an international image of there being a high level of corruption in SA this is just going to be one more deterrent to foreign investment, therefore the best way to do it is to sweep some of it, as I said, under the carpet and to keep quiet about it?

WH     That is what they do and what they do on top of that is that they have established in the past year a new anti-corruption body, part of the Scorpions, which actually had indicated publicly that they are only going to investigate corruption in the police and of course we know that they do not have the experience or the infrastructure or the facilities at their disposal that we have got. So we see that just as window dressing.  To get back then to the two questions, off the record, we are facing serious problems because they are hiding corruption.

POM     Does this hiding in itself become an incentive on the part of people in both the public and private sector who are engaged in corruption to believe that they have now a higher chance of getting away with it?

WH     That's very much so, that's the risk factor that they've taken away and therefore there is no deterrent.

POM     Does this, I won't say multiplicity of agencies, but the fact that the Scorpions have a corruption unit and you have been operating too successfully with your corruption unit and I am sure in other agencies of investigation or the Justice Department there are other investigative units, is there (i) a lack of co-ordination between what everybody is doing, or (ii) has the multiplicity of agencies created an atmosphere of competition between them rather than an atmosphere of co-operation?

WH     Save for the Scorpions, and I include in that also the National Director for Public Prosecutions, there is no sense of competition and we actually have an excellent working relationship with all of them. Let me then mention quite a few of them: the Revenue Services, we've got with the Auditor General's Office, with the Public Protector, with the Commercial Branch of the police. I can't think of the others now but we've got an excellent working relationship with them but there is a sense of competition between us and the Scorpions which is from a technical point of view unnecessary because they are only investigating it from a criminal point of view and they can only attach assets or money if they can prove that a crime has been committed or that a person has been convicted of a crime whereas our mandate is much wider and of course emphasis is on the civil law. But I think the government and also the Scorpions have created or promoted this perception in the papers that there is competition.

POM     Well in the case of the Scorpions that would be correct between you and them, they are creating competition with you whereas other agencies aren't.

WH     There's no competition with the others, no.

POM     Are Scorpions doing this in part because this is part of a promulgation of the image of a super elite police force that are on top of everything and all over the place? I heard this in the Cape, I heard talking to local policemen resentment of the fact that when they begin what might turn out to be a high profile investigation no sooner have they started than the Scorpions move in, take over and grab the limelight and they are sidelined and they resent it.

WH     Those statements I have heard very often and I think if you just analyse what has been published in the papers then you will see that they only move in almost at the end of any investigation and then they just leave the ordinary police behind.]

POM     To go back, it would seem let me run through what was my litany and then you can talk about which ones you wish. It just began on notes that I put down. In the last year there has been a growing public perception that you are being marginalised, there are being efforts to confine your investigations to the Eastern Cape suggesting that there should be separate units like your own in other provinces, duplication of work. There was, I think, a recent court case saying that your mandate did not extend beyond the Eastern Cape. There have been budget cutbacks at a time when it appeared that investment in your unit yielded probably the highest return on a taxpayer's dollar, suggestions that it didn't play well to have a 'white man' exposing corruption among the ranks of those who liberated the country. The government appears to be more concerned with the publicity your success has received than with the impact of your success, the result of which would be, the message coming down would be, keep him under wraps. Is that a fairly accurate description of what's happening? Could you elaborate, correct me on some of that? And if it has happened why is it happening, why is the scope of your activities being curbed? As I said, does your high rate of success in establishing probably ground for prosecution coupled with the DPP's seeming reluctance to prosecute suggest political factors at play, i.e. it's not good for SA, for SA's image to be seen as a country where corruption is becoming or has become a way of life? A long question.

WH     I made a few notes.

POM     We can go back.

WH     I think I will only react to those that I feel safe for you to have on record. First of all the government has kept the cases involving corruption from us in the past year and those cases represent more than double the cases that we have received from 1997 to mid-1999. Secondly, that has the effect that the government has lost a lot of money and therefore SA has lost a lot of money. Thirdly, it affects the credibility of the unit in the eyes of the public because they know cases have been referred to us and we do not come to light with the cases and although we explain the technical niceties to the public they find it hard to believe that we are not investigating the cases and they feel unhappy about it. So although we may be innocent in this last aspect of the matter they are still unhappy about the fact that we do not investigate the cases. As far as the Eastern Cape scenario is concerned, whether we've been limited to that, the minister has denied that he has ever made that statement but we have had that judgment in Pietermaritzburg recently where the effect of the judgement was that we did not have the authority to investigate that case in KwaZulu-Natal. We are going to appeal against that judgment so that therefore I wouldn't like to comment on the judgment as such but we are not going to leave it at the perception that it had created that we are limited to the Eastern Cape.

POM     So at the current moment you are conducting and continue to conduct investigations that are outside of the Eastern Cape?

WH     We continue to conduct them for the reasons I've just mentioned.

POM     Now if the judgment in Maritzburg held up would it mean that successful investigations that you had held outside of the Eastern Cape and those who may have been convicted as a result of those investigations could go to court and seek to have their convictions squashed because you didn't have the authority, or it was said now that you didn't have the authority in the first place to carry out the investigations?

WH     Yes they would have to go to court to have those judgments squashed but even if the judgment does go against us we would try to encourage the government to amend the legislation and the proclamations to make provision for those cases. If they then do amend it we would just simply go back so it would be an exercise in futility for those institutions that we have taken judgment against to go through that exercise. That's of course on the assumption that the government does co-operate to amend the legislation and the proclamations.

POM     Do you get the feeling, and again this answer can be off the record, that you're being kind of hung out to dry by the government you are serving because you are doing a far too successful job?

WH     Off the record? [Yes, completely so.]

POM     Now if that is true, would you see that SA is a corrupt society in a comparative context, that the level of corruption continues to pose a serious and perhaps debilitating effect on the progress and development of democratic institutions, that it may be the single biggest threat to the evolution of a pluralistic democracy in the country?

WH     I'm of the view that corruption at this stage, still, and this is on record, still poses a serious threat to economic growth and that it has a negative impact on fundamental rights in the constitution.

POM     Do you also feel - from what you have said it would seem to me that whereas corruption and government efforts to fight corruption were the flavour of the month two years ago, it's no longer the flavour, it's no longer highlighted in the way that it was a couple of years ago and that this lack of highlighting is a conscious effort on the part of what would be called the spin control doctors of the government to see fewer and fewer cases written about corruption because it gives the country a bad image abroad?

WH     Are we now on or off the record again?

POM     Whichever you want. If you say off we're off.

WH     Well I'll answer that question as follows on record. It does create a negative perception in the international world if corruption is uncovered all the time and that leads to a situation where investors are hesitant to invest and it affects then at the same time economic growth.

POM     These are less technical questions, put it that way, but corruption, and I'm saying the obvious, can't flourish without there being a climate of corruption to facilitate it. Has there been any significant change in that climate that facilitates corruption over the last several years or is that climate still not just flourishing but having a heyday in many respects?

WH     Yes it is still flourishing and has been flourishing since the new government came into power and by saying that of course I'm not suggesting that the NP government wasn't very much involved in corruption. But for a number of years the government highlighted the negative impact of corruption. They've stopped doing that now and the fact that they have stopped doing that serves as a factor rather to promote corruption than to serve as a deterrent against corruption.

POM     You talked about, which the government used when it came into power, that the level of corruption was no higher under the new regime than it had been under the old regime, that a lot of the corruption that existed was corruption that was there before but hadn't been exposed and was now being exposed by them, that's the good new boys on the block. Is there, as you would look at say the last ten, twelve years, just in a broad kind of kaleidoscopic pattern, is there a qualitative difference in the kinds of corruption that are taking place now and the kinds that took place under the NP government? Is the character of the corruption itself changing?

WH     Yes it is changing and it is becoming much more sophisticated because of involvement of local syndicates and also international syndicates.

POM     This didn't exist before?

WH     Local syndicates did exist before the election but I wouldn't know to what extent because as you know that was rather a covered or a secret period, but the international syndicates have definitely moved in since the election because of the open borders, I'm not suggesting that's a bad thing, the opening of the borders, but they have moved in and they are very active.

POM     Is that one of the detrimental impacts of globalisation, that not only do you have free movement of goods, services and people, you also have the free movement of international crime, you have sophisticated hi-tech sectors where sometimes syndicates are far more sophisticated than the local law enforcement agencies they are dealing with in terms of the technologies they use?

WH     That is very much a negative factor or feature of globalisation and unless you then strictly control or decide to control corruption it's just going to become worse and worse.

POM     Again a loaded question and one you can say off the record, I don't want to or whatever. When the new government came in it was a government of idealistics, this is going to be a new society, a clean society, a society for the people, why do you think, just in your own view, in such a short period of time have so many members of the liberation movement so eagerly embraced a culture of corruption?

WH     I think the first reason is obvious, the lack of accountability which very definitely became part of the new government that made it so much easier.

POM     Accountability didn't exist at which level? At every level? Is this an organisational thing that they didn't have the organisational mechanisms in control to ensure accountability and how money was spent and where money was going? Was it part of the chaos of transition? Maybe man when he is tempted yields to temptation and it's easy to take a rand here and there while maybe you start just taking a rand here and there and suddenly it becomes a hundred and then it becomes a thousand, ten thousand and suddenly you say, oh my God, this is easy as distinct from people wanting to take as much out of the system themselves without giving anything back.

WH     First of all it is part of the chaos which followed the election and secondly people arrived back in SA really not only to fill their own pockets but also to take revenge on the country. They were looking at themselves and not at building the country and therefore they will do anything to promote their own interests and they will not promote the interests of the country. Then as I've indicated there was a lack of accountability due to two factors. The one is ignorance, ignorance of employees, newly appointed employees. As you know many employees were newly appointed after the election. Secondly, people started forming syndicates or they were enticed to become members of syndicates and it was so easy for them to become members of syndicates. All of that has led then to a situation where corruption has become so easy, it's easy to commit corruption with a person ignorant, you pay him a few dollars, or when he's a very willing partner in the corruption.

POM     So if I were an individual presented with an opportunity to become involved in a corrupt scheme or scam where I would be receiving a modest pay-back but one that would add to my income sufficiently, if I weighed the odds by saying what are my risks of being caught as against the risks of not being caught, would the risks of not being caught be so overwhelmingly in my favour that it would be a rational decision almost to take advantage of the opportunity?

WH     Yes very much so.

POM     This in a way comes back to one of the things we talked about before and this is the question of morality. One of the things that I have been struck about my visit here this time, particularly with all the controversy about AIDS and the incidence of racism and crime that just seems it becomes positively disturbing if you start tracking rapes on a day to day basis, it's not the rape of A by B or a man of a woman, it's group rape, it's savagery, it's anger at some deep, deep level. Is there a social disintegration going on in the country that on the one hand you have an almost perfect constitution, you have working institutions of government insofar as parliament works and passes laws and all of that, but beneath that there's the real SA and that is morally and in a way institutionally beginning to disintegrate?

WH     Yes, very much so. In my view there's a serious disintegration. You find that in the social, moral scenario or field. People, as I indicated earlier on, they believe it's fine to be dishonest, there is no prosecution, the criminal justice system has still not recovered notwithstanding all the statements made by the various politicians. The criminal justice system is in fact still not operating or operating at a very low level. You find that the people involved in the criminal justice system are corrupt themselves and that of course sets a very, very poor example. Parents set a very poor example for their children and that has the effect that children grow up, students grow up in this country with the belief that it is fine to be dishonest, it is fine to commit crimes, a variety of crimes. Therefore, I think we are facing a serious disintegration in this country. There are lot of honest people, there are a lot people who seriously want to change things but the mechanisms are not in place and politicians are themselves not setting an example that they are serious about corruption.

POM     When you say they are not, could you elaborate on that a little when you say they're not setting an example? What do you mean? Is that because they themselves, or too many of them proportionately are involved in corruption, there are too many cover-ups, too many just letting things slide, I suppose that's the way I would put it?

WH     No I wouldn't suggest, because I don't have evidence to that effect, that too many of them are actually involved in corruption, but the lack of action creates the impression that they are not serious about it and therefore they're setting a bad example. In the cases where, for example, the Public Protector has recommended action against a premier and against a minister no action was taken and that creates the impression that there is a lack of discipline, there's a lack of follow-up and that notwithstanding even the provisions of the constitution politicians are prepared just to overlook, just to ignore serious matters.

POM     Just so that I get procedure right, you conduct an investigation, you come to certain conclusions, you forward that to the Director of Public Prosecutions? You forward it to the President?

WH     No, what we do, we've got our own procedure. When we decide that action should be taken, as I've explained to you before, we are basically looking at the civil action to recover, stop the loss of assets and to freeze assets. We've got the special court which was created in terms of the same legislation and we then apply for orders to return the property or to freeze the property. If in a case we find that there is some evidence of criminal activity as well, we then refer it to the Director for Public Prosecutions and it's for him to take action. We have done so, we have referred many cases to him last year and we've referred many cases to him this year.

POM     Now do they go on to the President to be signed off on? Does the President take the final decision on whether or not a case will be prosecuted or does the DPP take that decision?

WH     The DPP is supposed to take that, he's not supposed to consult the President and the President is not supposed to have any say in that.

POM     Do you find that you're sending an increasing number of cases recommending criminal prosecution and that simply nothing is happening?

WH     We, of course, just indicate to them that there's evidence of criminal activity. Nothing has happened in any of the cases that we have referred to them and they have not informed or reported to us, informed us that they have taken any action. So I must then conclude that they have not taken action. The particulars that we have sent through to them were very scant particulars because we invited them to study our files, we would make our files available, we invited them to have consultations with our investigators and lawyers and they haven't done so yet.

POM     The relationship between corruption and poverty and unemployment, is that a second level of corruption that can be identified? For example, I've heard the case made on one occasion quite passionately by an individual that in many cultures particularly when the switch of power can be very quick and while you hold a job one day, the next day you don't hold a job, so that while you have a job you take everything you can get out of it because you've got to look after yourself, you've got to look after your family, you've got to look after your extended family. It's almost a social obligation to screw the system because the system is a cruel and capricious system, whereas power changes quickly and with power changes your position in the social order of things.

WH     Well, yes, we have had many allegations made in documents to us and in conversations that people use their positions to promote the interests of their family or friends. We haven't investigated many of those cases because of the lack of evidence. We believe that corruption does lead to poverty and we see that in the Housing Department, you see that in the Welfare Department and in the Health Department.

POM     Does vice-versa happen, does poverty lead to corruption?

WH     Yes we find that as well because people earn in some instances small salaries and they then try to supplement their salaries by becoming corrupt.

POM     Why, I suppose this is the larger question, since an increasing number of people that I've talked to in the last couple of years have moved away from talking about the legacy of apartheid to talking about we must take responsibility and accountability for our own actions, yet in the same way that there appears to be no obvious leadership in that regard shouting out the message, there's been a summit on morals and a summit on job creation and a summit on this and a summit on that and a summit on the other, but nothing seems to translate into tangible actions of leadership not just with regard to corruption but with regard to HIV/AIDS, with regard to racism itself. Why is there such a dearth of leadership in the country that speaks and confronts the people about the problems they must face if they are to make it out of their trap of being continually thought of as a third world developing country with all kinds of problems and not particularly worth investing in?

WH     I'm not sure I understand your question. Is it a question of whether you find that the leaders do arrange conferences and make speeches but there's no follow up and therefore the points or the statements that are being made are not followed up? Is that your question?

POM     Yes.

WH     I think it's because our leaders in this country many of them are not serious about the issues that they tackle, that's just again window dressing and they do not follow it up and therefore their leadership doesn't stretch any further than the conference, they do not follow it up and SA has now learned that there are a lot of conferences, a lot of talk shops as we call it, and because the experience is that there is no serious follow up afterwards it's not even worth your while to attend the conferences or to attach any weight to it. That's actually a further deterioration in our moral set up as well of course as in the political and economic set up.

POM     There are two questions, one I had asked you but I don't think you answered fully, is there a qualitative difference between the kind of corruption that was practised during the apartheid regime and the corruption practice now? That's one, and two, you have people who say well the level of corruption is high but the level of corruption is no higher than it was during the apartheid days, which doesn't excuse it, it tries to rationalise it. Is there a qualitative change? Does it operate more now in the public sector than in the private sector? Is there any data collected on that?

WH     Data collected on that as far as I know, I can just judge it superficially from the cases that we have got stretching back to before 1994, or going back before 1994, and the cases that we do have now, I think it's much more in the private sector now than it used to be before the elections. I think to the extent that it did come to light before 1994 it was limited to the high level of government and now the private sector is playing a role in it which becomes bigger and bigger because they find it so easy to do that and the majority of our cases are actually against members of the private sector and not members of the public sector.

POM     Which would be one more reason why trying to keep your investigations under 'wraps' since you're showing that the private sector, which outside businessmen are being asked to join, is not this paradigm of moral behaviour but rather engages in all kinds of corruption and if you're a businessman you would think twice before saying I'm putting my money into a country where the private sector seems to have a tendency to pervasive, corrupt practices.

WH     That depends on your own attitude of course. If you are corrupt yourself and you are a citizen of the United States you would probably risk your money in a country such as SA where the private sector has become more and more involved in corruption, but if you look at your honest, and I would like to feel that the majority of them are honest business people in other countries, they would be very hesitant to deal not only with the government but also with our private sector.

POM     How do you feel as an Afrikaner who points the finger of blame, no matter where that finger points you point it honestly and clearly and have hard criticisms to make about it and the undertone of accusation against you is, well, all the same, he's a member of the old order, of course he would be making remarks like that. Where does race come into the matters that you deal with? In the same way as, how will I put it I was at the AIDS conference and I found that the only silence not broken was the silence about AIDS and race. Then I went to the Racism Conference and I found that the only silence not broken was between racism and HIV/AIDS. Is there a third silence and that is those who 'have the qualifications to criticise', if that's the way to put it, and those who don't, and if you are an Afrikaner obviously you belong to the old order implicitly or explicitly, you simply don't have the right to make allegations against a new struggling government trying to correct the damages of the past. Do you get that?

WH     I have found occasionally, actually only very occasionally, that the question of racism was or has been raised in my work. I enjoy a strong support amongst the black people and also the ANC. Maybe I must say particularly ANC. I have only found that raised by culprits that we investigate and maybe on one or two occasions by malicious politicians, but I think that the reputation that I've personally built up has shown that there's no racism in me and people accept me as such and I think that's what also initially led to my appointment by President Mandela, because, as you would recall, I had already been involved in these sort of investigations for more than two years before he appointed me.  But, yes, occasionally people would say you're an Afrikaner, you're not entitled to raise these points because you were actually part of a much worse scenario, but I haven't experienced any difficulties of substance in this area.

POM     But do you not get frustrated when you see your budget being cut and you measure that against your rate of success, cost out your rate of success and the return on the taxpayer's dollar that you're giving and find that you're a net giver back to the treasury, not a net taker, and rather than saying this is the kind of activity we should be funding they're saying this is the kind of activity we will take money from?

WH     Yes, I do become extremely frustrated and very disappointed. Disappointed because it shows lack of appreciation and co-operation and frustrated because it means that I cannot do the work that's waiting to be done, notwithstanding the fact that they withhold work of course, but the work that can be done and is available to be done, all that I must save in so many areas which really makes it difficult to investigate cases and to finalise cases.

POM     Do you get a forum to put your case?

WH     Well yes I have presented a case to various standing committees in parliament and of course I have written letters and I have discussed it with the Minister of Justice, but the reaction is always, part of the case of the politicians, it's always that there's no money. In the case of the standing committees, although they're also politicians they are much more sympathetic but I don't think they are in a position to do anything about it.

POM     There seems to be a lack of just pure economic reasoning there. You are saying you give me one rand and my return on that rand is not that I lose it, it's that I give the treasury back three rands. To me logic should be that they should say give the man more rands and we will have more money coming back into the national treasury.

WH     Yes that's the logic but that actually brings us back to your very first loaded question which is, I think, also the answer to this question.

POM     Which is image, exposure.

WH     Yes.

POM     Do you feel that your unit will survive in a way that makes its work again, that you're not under-funded to the point of where your work loses the impact of what it had and becomes just one more unit drifting out there trying to make a difference but without the resources to make a difference?

WH     I still believe in the future of the unit but we are going through hard times. We've had quite a number of resignations, key personnel, which of course has a further detrimental effect on the activities of the unit and the statements that were made and have been made by some of the politicians have created a lot of uncertainty at the unit and in order to find stability and certainty people would rather go for other jobs and that of course is negative because valuable human resources are now being lost and probably lost, not for ever, that's probably too long.

POM     Do you find the Scorpions poaching on your unit?

WH     They've got one of my people. I think they might want more but I don't think they want  the statement to be made that they rely on me for human resources so they would be very careful in doing that, I think.

POM     And, thank you for the time, you must be very busy just now.

WH     I'm actually running late no I'm not, it's five to twelve, I thought it was five to one. Then we've still got a few minutes.

POM     As I said, what bothers me, this is a non-prosecutorial or non even justice question, this is the larger question of I've been working here now since 1989 and am coming to the end of my study and getting down to writing and I'm finding that I began with apartheid and I'm ending with AIDS which is, to me, destroying the country. It's not being taken seriously, it prohibits, doesn't inhibit, economic growth of any kind that will lift the country, give a jump-start to the economy. I find gratuitous violence more prevalent now than it was six, seven or eight years ago. I find, as you do, a collapse in the social order of things. I find that corruption is as pervasive as ever and attempts, as in your case, to expose it being looked at in a different light as though it's not good for the country to be seen a little bit of corruption yes but not too much. And it leaves me wondering where SA is going, what's happened, what happened to the rainbow, what happened to the spirit of 1994, if you wish to call it that? Was that a myth, a needed myth at the time, but that really had no substance to it?

WH     I think first of all we are probably our own worst enemies but we've also lost a golden opportunity to make this country a magnificent country. Obviously the government inherited a lot of negatives when they took over and I've got no doubt that in itself is quite a battle to fight, but I think we have lost a lot of opportunities that we have got and which we also inherited and we're not making use of it.

POM     When you say opportunities, opportunities like?

WH     Well we could have started by cleaning up the country. We could have given the people the houses that they need. We could have built a strong economy but we have allowed ourselves to use and abuse politics and other factors to create a negative perception in the international world. Although our politicians say to us every day that they make so much progress in the international world my information is that it is not so and in fact investments have actually gone down since 1998. I think also that we've got a President who is not strong, he's leaving it to a certain extent, or maybe to a large extent, to his ministers to run the country and their departments. He does not show a strong hand when a minister is completely undisciplined he does not fit in the role that he is supposed to play. Our public has become demoralised. If you take your black people, if I need to distinguish between the two, they haven't got what was promised to them. The white people don't get jobs so they leave the country or they're just demoralised. So I am afraid that all of that is extremely negative and because we have allowed ourselves to get carried away by superficial political statements and because we're not looking at our problems seriously in trying to solve them we have lost, I think, a golden opportunity to build a golden country.

POM     Do you think, for example, that I made two piles of paper, newspaper cuttings, when the country lost the bid for the World Soccer Cup in 2006. It happened around the same period as the AIDS Conference in Durban and I put articles that dealt with why SA was robbed of the World Cup and what that meant the outside world thought of Africa, not just SA, and I made a pile of all the articles that were appearing in the paper on AIDS, what AIDS was doing to Africa and the pile on FIFA outweighed the pile on AIDS. I said something is wrong here.

WH     Of course there's something wrong, we've become so superficial. We get carried away with things that do not and will not have the same value to us.

POM     Is the President spending too much of his time trying to be a figure of international stature, whereas he doesn't see that Rome is burning?

WH     I think he's spending too much time on this international or overseas but of course it's very important to build up contacts and to retain those contacts. But I think what is worse is that when he's back in SA he does not show a strong hand when it comes to politics and to the administration of government.

POM     Do you think, and I say this for the reason of trying to understand the man, not that I would quote you on it, it would be just trying to understand him, that here is a man who left the country at any early age, was educated in England, spent a lot of time in Europe and in the United States, moved back and forth between Lusaka and mostly the Western world, was an ANC person, protégé of Oliver Tambo, very loyal to the organisation, comes back, is almost made Deputy President and never has to get his feet dirty by walking in the grime and dirt of the townships to know who the people are, to see who the people are, and four years later he becomes President but that he doesn't know his country because he's never been here and that he's trying to compensate for that by this kind of African Renaissance, Africanism, African solution for an African problem, trying to over-emphasise his over-emphasis of his Africanism is an over-compensation for his lack of security and identity of who he actually is? Or is that theorising on the worst kind of intellectual level?

WH     I don't think he knows the country well, in fact I don't think he knows it at all because of his absence and for the reasons that you have just mentioned. He has never got down to the people in the tribal areas, never got down to the real financial difficulties of SA and, yes, I agree that he's over-emphasising African Renaissance. He's very theoretical in his approach, he's not very practical. I think we were all hoping that he was going to be a good administrator and therefore a very practical man with a very practical approach. I think that all of that then makes a contribution to the fact that he doesn't make good decisions on cabinet level or even beyond that and below that.

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