This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
15 Sep 2000: Motlanthe, Kgalema
POM. I was going to start where we left off but I won't yet. On the 12th you had this mini summit between the ANC, COSATU and the SACP and you came out with the statement that everything is in order, what we were talking about are operational differences, that we get our act together in terms of communication rather than what other people might think would be fundamental ideological differences. The SACP and COSATU over the years have been so opposed to GEAR and I've heard the same thing year after year when I interview people either in COSATU or the SACP. To every, and correct me if I'm wrong, objective outsider it would appear that GEAR isn't working, it's not creating jobs. I know that's a global context but it's not working, it is not creating jobs and the people at some point that I talk to are going to hold you accountable for not creating jobs.
KM. That's true, GEAR is not just to create jobs and there are good reasons why. I was saying GEAR has not created the number of jobs that it was expected to create but there are other reasons as to why there have been job losses. Job losses were not as a consequence of GEAR.
POM. I know that. OK, so we can skip I have studied enough to have gone through that. My question would be if I were in the alliance, we know all reasons why jobs are being lost but if jobs are not being created how can we create them?
KM. I wish, I wish that was the view, but the view is that the reason for job loss is GEAR.
POM. That's the view among the SACP and they won't go away from that?
POM. So there's a fixation on that.
KM. There's a fixation about that and a simplistic attribution of job losses to GEAR and yet the truth of the matter is that to the extent that what GEAR as a macro-economic policy has to address among other things, if not the key element, is macro stability. Now the economy of this country suffered from structural weaknesses in the sense that it was informed by the old notion that if you were white you couldn't enter into any work milieu as an ordinary worker, you had to be a supervisor of the black component of that workforce. So it created structural inefficiencies on both sides where you had in other words you had unskilled workers located within supervisory levels, unskilled workers regarded as general workers, and it took the skin colour into account. So now if you now do away with that, the trans-nationals, the major investors come and they take one look at that kind of arrangement and they say, no, this management structure is bloated, many people here are not adding value at all because they are not informed. The new investors are not informed by skin colour considerations so they do away with these, whittle down the management structure and leave maybe one or fewer people to run it.
. I can give you an example, in the mining industry the management, top management structure when Billiton (that is Gencor) and Goldfields came together they did away with the majority of the management structure. All the elements that were there they did away with them, whittled it down to a very small management level. The same applies to Rand Mines, they did the same thing because they found that the overheads caused by just your management, head office level, were too high and that that they weren't adding any value to what the people on the mines could be doing, so they did away with all of that. Now what people will not say is that there were job losses as part of the management of these top companies as well. That element would not come out because they are fewer but quite a great deal of them were blasted out.
. Now on the other hand the majority of the black workers when there is the introduction of new technology, there's a restructuring of the manner in which production is organised, precisely because of poor skills, lack of basic education, they then get left out and once they are out there all the other enterprises are moving in the direction of modern production methods, computerised and so on. So they are unable to absorb them. If you take the number of unemployed people that are usually used, the statistics, this economy would have collapsed. If you had those kinds of numbers unemployed the economy would have suffered tremendously. The economy hasn't suffered that much because for the skilled workers, skilled personnel, the jobs are there, the opportunities to get employed are plenty but because part of the apartheid system lay in the fact that for the majority of the people, I mean when they designed Bantu education they had a feeling, they said this education must produce a Bantu who will be able to follow instructions not a Bantu who would have other ambitions outside of just manual labour. Now that has caught up with us now. We have the majority of our people who are unemployed. Nothing, I mean the education system didn't prepare people for being innovative. It simply said if you get good education, and the educated people most of them don't know what to do with certificates because they were told if you get a good education with a certificate there will be a job for you, your future is secured. And the world has changed, the world has changed tremendously from those days.
. So here the problem is that indeed we have these many people that are unemployed that do not have the requisite skills to be absorbed in the mainstream of the economy. The government can and will, is committed to do so through public works programmes more especially in terms of integrated rural development. You know the construction of infrastructure in rural areas, it will be able to offer employment opportunity to people with really minimal skills.
POM. In 1991 I hosted at my university a team of 12 people from the ANC who were going round the United States who dealt with specifically the New Deal and how jobs were created through the New Deal and how public works programmes were effective in pulling the country up and yet it's like ten years on and nothing has happened. That's one. Two, your alliance partners, COSATU and the SACP, they're bright people, everything that you said to me they know. It's not that they don't know so when people say
KM. They're bright people, yes.
POM. - they're as bright as you are, they could come in and say exactly what you say, jobs are being lost because of this and that, a changing world economy, Bantu education, lack of skills, this, that and the other. They know that, so what are they asking you to do about it that will change or appear that the country is more geared towards job creation?
KM. Well they say let's develop an industrial policy which hangs together with the macro-economic policy. They say whatever we do at industry level must help to advance macro-economic policy.
POM. But you're already in a post-industrial economy.
KM. No, by industrial policy they mean that sectorally clothing and textiles and iron and steel and so on, mining, sectorally, it has got to be a thorough examination of what changes need to be effected in there.
POM. Changes in this country?
KM. This country.
POM. In clothing and textiles with free trade you're going to lose them.
KM. In each sector. Whatever we do, if you take clothing and textiles there have been job losses because tariffs have gone down, opened up the market and that's precisely because instead of the old factories with 2000 workers, with those who design using a long ruler with a piece of chalk drawn on cloth and designing and the cutters having to do the patterns, the pieces of a shirt, in cardboard form first and then cut the cloth accordingly with a pair of scissors, it's all done on computer now. So your big factory is run into 20, a small factory of 20, efficient, trained, better paid people.
POM. Mr Motlanthe, I'm trying to be a part of the SACP or COSATU saying, you're telling me nothing I don't know.
KM. I hear you very well.
POM. I'm saying why, well one hears it every year, it's like crying wolf, wolf, wolf, the alliance is going to break up, the alliance is not going to break up. Why are they, with all their bright people who understand everything, as you say, still so dissatisfied?
KM. They are dissatisfied firstly because the trade union movement has as its basic responsibility the protection of its members and that's what gives rise to trade union consciousness that you are there to protect the condition of your members and improve on them. So what separates the progressive trade union movement from the rest of the other trade unions and federations is the fact that if you take also an active part in activities and affairs outside of the factory floor, outside of the work milieu, that then makes you a progressive trade union federation because you say this member of yours, of your union, does not live in the factory, he or she's got a life outside of the factory and therefore you take an interest in how even that life is organised outside of the factory floor. But this trade union consciousness, when you experience job cut-backs
POM. You were head of the Mineworker's Union?
KM. Yes. When you experience job cut-backs you must have a way of stemming the job cut-backs. Now there are two ways in which you could approach that problem. Here are retrenchments affecting our members. What do we do? The one approach is to try and understand why there are changes which result in job losses in the sector itself, in the enterprise itself. Once you understand that you then determine the steps that are required in order to protect those jobs, save jobs and where you are unable to save them give them training that will make them employable once they've lost their jobs. That's one approach. The other approach is to simply say we want a moratorium on all change, we will resist all change. Now if you do take that position indeed you will resist but what would that resistance consist of? You will resist, employers will continue to restructure and introduce modern ways of producing. They will cut back on those jobs and once those members lose their jobs without having been trained further then of course they will be helpless out there.
POM. Do you think COSATU understands this?
KM. That's why I'm giving you this too because the first one entails having to do the difficult task of trying to understand the sector itself and the enterprise so that you are in a position to anticipate the changes and actually fashion your demands in anticipation of the changes that are going to happen. No progressive-minded person can be against improvements of working or production arrangements because if those improvements, introduction of modern technology and modern methods of production, it may result in fewer people but it may also result in more leisure time for employed people. Now a progressive unionist would look at it from all of these angles but that entails a lot of hard work. The easier way that resonates with views of ordinary workers is to simply say we will resist, we are militant, we reject. That doesn't call on you to give any more explanation than that.
POM. If you're being honest with me, and nothing is going to be published for at least another two years, God knows where we will all be by then, are the unions misleading the workers? Are they misleading themselves by saying resist job losses, without looking at the larger understanding, the larger picture and making that educating, educating their members to say we are going to lose jobs but this is a broader picture? On the other hand if I'm a trade union leader - no trade union leader can go and say you're going to lose your jobs but it's for the broader picture.
KM. No you can't say that as a trade union leaders. That's why you have to understand what changes are taking place, what further changes are likely to take place and on the basis of your anticipation and understanding you can get your members to make demands which anticipate the changes because if you understand that, if you've got somebody waiting in the fax room - I told a Numsa conference, I said, "You know you can't resist introduction of modern technology and I want to give you an example of what I mean." And I said to them, "You've got a worker, one of your members, working in your fax room in your head office. His job is to collate faxes and send them where they are meant to be, process them. And yet some of you are already on e-mail. The day will come when all the people that do business with your union will do so through e-mail and one day, unless you understand that things are changing into that direction, one day your own finance committee is going to come to the head office and say what is that comrade doing in the fax room? We never see him do any stitch of work. And at that time that poor person would have no other role to play in the manner in which you organise your activities at head office and there is no other field to do something else and your finance committee is going to recommend to the executives that he be laid off." That's what happens. So you can't simply say, if you just simply take a stance of resisting it's inadequate. It may be correct but it's inadequate. If you say we are going to resist, your resistance must also entail demands for a social plan, that the employer must give you sufficient notice two years, three years, of his plan for restructuring and during that period of notice for such restructuring you then put in place other training programmes so that even when at the point of severance of services, when the services of some workers are terminated, they are armed, they leave armed with life skills that will make them either self-employable or employable in other sectors. That's how this issue of down-scaling of operations must be managed by organised workers the world over. But to simply say we will resist by marching or we will go out on strike you simply precipitate the job losses. They will happen and you would have left those workers with false hopes.
POM. Just on a scale, who do you find it easier to deal with, the SACP or COSATU?
KM. Well both of them, let me put it this way to you, the majority if not all members of the SACP are members of the ANC. The majority of COSATU members are ANC members in their own right. But of course by its very nature as a federation there are people who are not ANC members, there are people who are opposed to the ANC and there are people who would present themselves to the left of the ANC and say that the ANC is a right wing organisation and they have said so publicly. But the point is ANC members know what the ANC represents and its commitment, there are in no doubt about it.
POM. Now if you were still the head of the Mineworker's Union, where I met you first, and we were having this discussion and it involved tens of thousands of mineworkers being laid off, would you argue something differently?
KM. Well I was the head of the National Union of Mineworkers. We've had job cut-backs. We were the first sector to be affected by job cut-backs, the first union to be affected by job losses in COSATU and we went to COSATU and they advised that we demand a moratorium on job cut-backs. And we got back and we weighed the situation and we felt demanding a moratorium is no protection for the members and that's why we came up with a demand for the social plan. We set up a Mineworkers' Development Agency to ensure that those members who lose their employment, be it dismissal, retrenchment, they will receive training that would ensure that they are able to eke out a living even after having left the industry. That Mineworkers' Development Agency is today a thriving empowerment agency. It's got development centres in a number of rural areas and they train people from communities on life skills, how to produce bricks, how to produce bread, how to make fences, how to produce tombstones, how to make juice and bottle it, all of those things, because our understanding was that mining by its very nature is a diminishing industry, it's a diminishing asset because the more you take out of a mine the less remains.
POM. I'm sure I asked you this question before but I'll ask you again because it's just come into my head: SA is the biggest gold producer in the world and yet it doesn't make gold, it exports it as a primary commodity.
KM. It just exports bricks of gold.
POM. But it doesn't add value. Why?
KM. It doesn't add value. Precisely because that's how
POM. Why do I go to Italy to export something back to SA made of South African gold?
KM. Italy makes more money out of South African gold than SA does.
POM. That's something the government can change. Why doesn't it?
KM. It is in the process of the Minerals Bill on the table now as we talk. There's a Minerals Bill on the table to change precisely that aspect. Not only that but also the fact that mining houses are sitting on deposits, they parcelled them out a long time ago and they are under no obligation to mine them. They can sit on them for the next 100 years. So the Minerals Bill is aiming at changing that, that if you don't mine these deposits they are not yours, they revert back to the state and the state can then attract other investors who are willing and ready to mine now so that jobs can be created. That is on the table. Beneficiation. Gold, platinum, diamonds, all the minerals.
POM. I have friends who come here and they say why is this made in Italy? And I have no answers for them.
KM. Israel does not produce diamonds, it's got 35,000 diamond cutters and polishers. Here there are 1700 diamond cutters and polishers, less than 2000. That's why it's got to be corrected. But you see that's why I was saying to you it is structural and GEAR was aimed at creating the macro-stability so that when you change these things you do away with the old and then introduce the new. That should happen within a stable framework, that's what it was meant to do.
POM. Are your alliance partners right when they say we were not sufficiently consulted, that we all should be on the same wavelength? I'm here at COSATU, you're there and you're ANC or SACP, we're not communicating enough to understand the structural adjustments that must be made because of a global economy?
KM. Partly they are right and all of us are complaining of poor co-ordination basically. It's co-ordination and communication.
POM. Why has it been in the past that - ?
KM. There's an explanation for it. We come from a background in which if you take the ANC leading this alliance, before 1994 all of the people who are in foreign missions, in the parastatals, in the corporate sector, in parliament, the legislatures of all the provinces and in the national parliament, were full time here in the ANC dealing with policy formulation and you had dedicated people just co-ordinating those things, that kind of co-ordination. This building was not enough for the full time personnel of the ANC before 1994. It wasn't. But now there's only six floors out of these 22 levels that are ANC and for the time being, for a certain period, the concentration of ANC leadership and skills were located in government which then meant that in terms of in government you can't go there and just sit and say we must wait for a conference, we're going to take policy positions on this and that. You can't. You've got a whole bureaucracy there, you've got all the capacity there to put things together and formulate and originate policy. So they originate policy there which then comes almost as a well-developed policy position. So by the time the others come into play, to interact with this, to engage with it, they are engaging with almost a finished product and that gives people, as you know, leaves many people with a sense of being left out of processes because in the past that process, because ANC was not government, that process originated from a branch member and then it goes and then you have the policy conference and then you debate with drafts, before you go to a policy conference you debate the draft and then at the policy conference you would then adopt a policy position. In government things happen, more especially when our people got in there (i) they had never been in government, (ii) they found a whole bureaucracy there. Just to grapple with that was in itself a major challenge and a new experience altogether and in a way created an impression that it's government that's running things. Yet when you speak to any minister they will tell you that they take their cue from the ANC. What they do in government is determined in the ANC structures here.
. So I am saying partly they are right because indeed we went through that phase and that's why as we improve on our capacity in the ANC to co-ordinate and to call on and to set processes in motion just take a simple matter like the budget, the national budget. You can't engage with the national budget once it is published by the Minister of Finance. It would be too late in the day when you do that. By the time he goes to parliament, the National Assembly, and reads out the budget to motivate it when you engage with it at that time it's a bit too late in the day. You've got to understand the budgetary cycles and begin to determine the physical budget and participate in that before figures are attached to it. That's what we have to do to co-ordinate and get the alliance to participate in those processes, to prioritise and say what is it that we want to do with education, what is it that we want to do with health, what are our priorities, do those things. So by the time figures are attached to it and it gets published through the Minister of Finance we should have participated throughout. In that way we will be able to change this perception.
POM. So there will be better
KM. There will be better co-ordination.
POM. - processes going on and relating that to the ideas that were founded here and picked up by the President and President Mandela and that is you were talking about a new patriotism, about getting rid of careerists and opportunists, people who joined the ANC to get ahead because it may be the easy way to get ahead. When I go around to people and talk to them, they find (i) nothing wrong with careerists and opportunists, they say good for them, (ii) when you talk about new patriotism they laugh in your face, (iii) I'd almost encapsulate in the phrase of 'we're all consumers now, all we're after is money, material things, going to shopping malls, getting into debt, moving up in life as quick as we can and if that involves opportunism or careerism so be it, that's what I want'. What you're saying is very idealist but it's not real.
KM. It's real, it's very real.
POM. Do you think it's real?
KM. It's very real. Firstly let me deal with this new phenomenon that the ANC is changing and operating under changed politicians because it's simply a fact that now it is in a position to I mean if you are in a position of responsibility in the ANC, you are also in a position to influence major decisions regarding tenders and all these kinds of things. The point is that the system itself as a whole, the system of capitalism operates on a basis of buying its way through. So firstly there will be many, many people who bring this or that present or gift to you. Sometimes they don't want anything in return and yet the point is they are opening up doors. Some day they will knock on the door and say, "You remember", and indeed you will remember them, they took you out for lunch, they gave you a little present for Christmas and this and that and so on. And that's how the system works. It consumes people. So people who are in positions of responsibility coming from struggle backgrounds with nothing, they gave their lives for the struggle as it were, so they have not accumulated anything. Now when they are made all kinds of offers, they are inundated with all kinds of offers, most of them will trip of course, most of them because their rectitude, moral rectitude will be wounded by that. I am saying this new patriotism we're talking about is one that recognises these changes, the real material changes that are now operating under different conditions and also that indeed it is not wrong for people to be ambitious in their careers. People must advance in life, there's nothing wrong in that but that, indeed you can be the point we are making is that you can be a minister or an MEC or an official or a political leader and earn an honest living by what you do, by being at the service of the people you can do that. You can resist these gifts and advice and we are saying because in the past the things that defined freedom fighters, it's generosity, a generosity that made it possible for you to sacrifice your all for the good of others.
POM. I was telling you about this book that Mac got out of jail, it will be published next year. It was 1975, just before the Soweto uprising and the ideals but this is a different world, ideals don't count.
KM. It's a different world but I am saying if a George Soros who is the guru of the speculative economy of the world can say that there is something wrong with this system, it creates many paupers, it also sinks people who make earnest efforts to progress and live well. George Soros observes that much. I am saying that the freedom fighter in all of us, because in all of us there lies some freedom fighter, who says you can distinguish between right and wrong and that somewhere you feel there's something that says to you, what am I doing to help others, can I be happy if there are others who are suffering elsewhere?
POM. Well my answer to that would be the whole history of humanity says yes, but that when you get ahead you forget about those who are left behind and you want to get ahead more. You want three or four gold bands, you want a bigger house, you want a bigger car, you want to send your children to better schools, you get into debt. You're creating a middle class and once you create a middle class, that middle class forgets about the poor. In fact they go the opposite way, they say, "Do you know who's paying the taxes? We're paying the taxes and our taxes are going to people who don't work, who won't work, who are welfare loafers or whatever you want to call them." In fact rather than as society is built
KM. But what we are saying is that this new patriotism, we will call it, we have to link to people who still hear the cries of the poor.
POM. But how many people do?
KM. Well they are there, they are there and in the ANC certainly the characteristic of the ANC as an organisation is as the representative of the poorest of the poor.
POM. But many people now are saying that's not true any longer, that it used to be.
KM. No, otherwise it would not be in a position to take steps against those who think that the ANC exists in order to create conditions for their own enrichment. It wouldn't be in a position to act that way. It is in a position to do so precisely because there are sufficient people and the membership, general membership, who do not take kindly to greedy opportunists.
POM. But if the general membership, which by the nature of things
KM. We have no other then people say even as a leadership we have no other power except in general membership. If there is something that's not right we are able to take steps against anybody and the only authority that we have is from the membership, we go to the membership and say this is what this comrade is involved in and this is un-ANC, un-ANC, and we are taking the steps. They say that is how we must act. Otherwise we ourselves would be thrown out.
POM. Let me turn it around a little bit to what I would call human nature. Anybody who gets out of a ghetto, and I came from a ghetto in Dublin, colonial, the whole shebang about British colonialism and whatever, when people get out they don't want to go back, they want to put it behind them. They don't say, "Oh my God I ought to go back to I'm living now in Sandton, do you know what I should do? I should go back to Soweto once every month and remind myself where I came from." They say, "Thank God I'm out of there and I'm never going back."
KM. As an individual you are quite within your rights to state that view, but if you are a member of an organisation whose main mission and purpose
POM. But you are the person who pointed out in this report that that is gone. OK? Now how do you set about recreating, how do you go to meet let's say I was in the struggle, a fighter, I've come back, I've now got a nice pretty good job, I live in a good neighbourhood, I worry about my children, their education, I worry about safety in the street, I worry about all the things people in middle class neighbourhoods worry about. How do you come back to me and say, "Comrade, where's your patriotism?"
KM. We do that but we are also well aware that material conditions determine consciousness. Your lifestyle and what you are exposed to will impact on your values, your sense of values, and that is why if you are detached from an organisation like the ANC then there's no point of reference. Your point of reference would be your other wealthy neighbours and so on and your values and everything else would evolve in that direction. But if you are a member of this organisation you will interact with the poorest of the poor from time to time and it will remind you that suffering and poverty is not a virtue and therefore there is good in you having succeeded to escape from poverty, there is good, but for as long as it is just individual and leaves out the whole majority of people, a whole big section of our population, it is inadequate. We must do something together as a collective to lift people and we engage with you on an ongoing basis, therefore you are conscious, we reinforce that generosity in you which made you to be a freedom fighter in the first instance. Whereas that would be eroded if you are out there on your own, wallowing in wealth and affording everything. Then your concern would be, you regard the poor as riffraff, you regard the poor as a threat, you regard the poor as beneath your dignity.
POM. That's what people do.
KM. But I am saying if you are in an organisation like this one then -
POM. What if you're a Roman Catholic, I'm a lapsed Roman Catholic, being Irish, and you're taught the same values but that's not the way people behave. That's fine in theory but it's not the way people behave in practice.
KM. Yes I know that, but an organisation like the ANC is a liberation organisation. It is in government, it has the power to change conditions, it has the power to do something about it.
POM. But you can't change my behaviour.
KM. It's not like we're a talk shop. We can change laws, we can change laws that determine how things operate.
POM. So you will legislate behaviour?
KM. Not behaviour but the conditions. Of course without pretending that we can create a regulated society, we will not even attempt we understand that as an individual you have all the right to accumulate as much wealth as you would like to, enjoy it in whatever manner you want to. You can even leave your wealth to some animal foundation, you can even do that. We know that but we are saying, you see, we are an organisation, we are movement and we believe as a movement we can impact on this society from the inside.
POM. I have to argue with you.
KM. We will lose some, we will win others.
POM. To me you're losing.
KM. No, no, no, we're not. We have full faith in the victory of our efforts. In other words we wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be here.
POM. Who should be here? You have an organisation, you've a job, you've position -
KM. No, I wouldn't be here. Believe me I would not be here. I had a choice. I had many, many choices. I am here by choice, I am not here by accident.
POM. You're not representative of everybody. You are representative of you.
KM. The majority of my comrades have made similar choices.
POM. But in this report you say, "We have got to change and recover our idealism, our want of sharing, wanting a vision of uplifting the whole people." That's gone, slipping away. How do you recover it as more and more people who are members of the ANC get in, thank God, in the middle class, get better off and suddenly their concerns are about they have a mortgage, they have a car they've got to pay on, their children they're sending to better schools.
KM. That in itself, Padraig, that in itself is not a liberating experience because indeed they have got all of those things but on credit. When the interest goes up they lose them and therefore they can still understand that it is better if the condition for their children to receive proper good quality education, something that is afforded to everybody else, because that's what a liberating condition is. It is in fact a very depressing experience. On the surface, materially, they may look better off but in fact in terms of being free that person living in an RDP one room who has no headache about a bond, servicing a bond, his only headache is how to expand on this one room, is much freer. So I am saying these things are relative.
POM. Are you trying to create a kind of an ideal society, caring society that has never existed in the history of humanity?
KM. It's an ideal that we must strive for, a caring society is an ideal that we must strive for.
POM. But it has never existed.
KM. It is an ideal that is achievable because, Padraig, if George Soros, if all the riches that he has accumulated, still has to go out and accumulate even more, that's an indication of how insatiable the system is and that the more you get the more you want. And yet he is able to stand back and say there's something wrong with the system, we are on a roller-coaster, yes, but where is it taking us to?
POM. You could say he's somebody who feels guilty that he made so much money by not creating a single job in the world, but by speculating against currencies.
KM. Yes. The fact that he still has a modicum of guilt, that in itself
POM. But you have to be very rich to make money in that peculiar way before you get guilty.
KM. That in itself is a saving grace because it says the possibility exists of creating a caring society.
POM. I don't see in SA when I go around right now, and maybe I'm all wrong, I don't see a more caring society evolving. I see people more disillusioned among those, particularly blacks, who've made it into the middle class, totally concerned with their own needs. You have to have a middle class, you have to and that's part of the upliftment and change of society.
KM. It's a material condition, the way they earn their living, their social consciousness.
POM. When I had the first title of my book, this is ten, eleven years ago, this was before the end of apartheid, I thought I would be very subtle with the title, it was South Africa Shades of Difference. Shades are about colour and differences about transformation. I've now changed the title to South Africa "We're all consumers now".
KM. No, Padraig, you see if you take an historical approach you would then underestimate the accumulated disabilities. You will underestimate the effects of centuries of deprivation on a society like this one because you have here virtually two nations living cheek by jowl in this country. I mean you have a first world country, which is ourselves here, you will see that people live far much better than some people you find in the wealthiest of countries. And yet in the same countries you go to some areas you find grinding poverty and our challenge is to uplift the people in the lower rungs and we are determined to do so. We are determined, we know we will not achieve all of that in our lifetime. Part of our problem really, the mistake that we committed, was to try and address everything in one go even issues that no country has actually addressed instead of prioritising because in society people want demonstrable proof that you are actually committed to address their concerns. Nobody should be under any illusions that you can address all of their concerns. A few are informed, a few cynics will continue to expect that but the majority of the people would appreciate demonstrable proof that you are actually committed and you are addressing their concerns. If you prioritise and do a good job, say if you were to take education and fix education, fix it to a level where people can be innovative and so on, by just cracking that one problem area, lack of skills, we would in fact simultaneously be addressing other issues, issues of unemployment and so on.
POM. You've now a person who got a degree in computer engineering and went into a high paying job, his or her first concern isn't going to be how do I give back, how do I help my poor comrades. It's going to be how do I get wow! Now I can afford a nice big car, a BMW, now I can afford a condominium out in Sandton, whatever, now I can afford a big holiday abroad.
KM. If out of 80 that we take through that kind of training we get 20 who will go back, that would be a tremendous achievement.
POM. It would! But how do you do that?
KM. A tremendous achievement.
POM. It would be a phenomenal achievement but how do you get that when there's not - what I get and this is at the end of my study and the last time I'm probably going to bother you until I send you the transcripts and you'll have to correct them and go through them and do all of that, but how in a world that firmly rejects helping those who are down below, a world, not South Africa - ?
KM. Yes, the globe, the world.
POM. That includes my own country, next to the United States we have the highest, now, mal-distribution of wealth between those who are well off and those who are poor.
KM. But the biggest nation on earth, the Chinese, do care and they are modernising their economy and they are committed. And you find sufficient pockets the world over, globalisation, the vices of globalisation, the fact that negative elements can be transported and transmitted across the world within the wink of an eye, the fact that wealth in the form of money can be moved from one country to another in volumes of trade, all these things have got advantages and disadvantages and the disadvantages will make a sufficient section of the world population aware that surely this arrangement is for trying, surely something has got to be done about this. The point is that what is required are those who will apply their minds to work out alternatives perhaps and how a better managed and equitable world order can be created. That's why for the first time, the first time, the multi-national institutions, world financial institutions, World Bank, IMF and all of that, have come under tremendous pressure to be transformed, to be changed. All of these elements will reach a point of convergence. The fact that just in the money market the volume of trade in money, paper money, is 68 times more than the actual trade of goods and services will some day
POM. We live in a false world.
KM. - be corrected, that in fact this whole thing has no relationship to trade in actual commodities. I am saying there is sufficient awareness, I interact with many people from many, many countries who are equally concerned about these matters and that's why I'm saying we have full faith in the victory of our efforts. We believe we will succeed, maybe not in our own lifetime but we are like your spring flower which blooms during winter, if I may put it that way, and we are content that to the extent that we represent hope for a better tomorrow, that's fine. We are very happy with that.
POM. I will give you a funny question, it seems to me that if you study societies that the people who (I don't want to use the word overthrow) people who change the dynamics in the society are the emerging, the middle classes, people who you go to and say get educated, get a good job, get a skill, get this, get that, get the other. That's like in the same way here the black and white middle classes probably have more in common with each other than either have with the poor. They share the same keep the neighbourhood safe, is our garbage picked up? Are our children going to a good school? They are the first to turn on those who hold to, just to use Mugabe as an example but I think you can use any country, is that the liberators or the liberation movement hangs on to the poorest of the poor who don't gain at all or haven't gained, will still vote for the liberation movement. The people who move up the scale because they have been liberated turn against the liberation movement. The MDC's vote came from the middle classes that wouldn't have been there unless Mugabe did what he did in 1980. Yet the poor who are poor will still support him and they're still poor. So what's the paradigm?
KM. Well, you know, let me give you a different paradigm. Take Libya, Libya in all the oil producing countries utilises the revenue accruing from oil as a national kitty and have succeeded, they are a Muslim country, they have liberated women. Their women wear slacks, pants, they drive cars, they are in the military and yet they are Muslims. Every Libyan family has got a home, not a lean-to shack, a home, double storied house, they live in flats. Every family has a car. All their major national roads are tarred in a desert. They have created, they spent 29 billion and they have created an artificial river, manmade river, to water the desert and today they produce their own citrus fruits. Now Gaddafi because of the way he handles this natural resource has created the resources for the Libyans to do everything they want. If you are a Libyan you are sent to college up until, if you want to do a Masters, until you do a Masters, and they pay. So money is not a problem. Capital is not their problem because of a simple thing, their natural resource which earns their hard-earned capital is there as a national kitty, it's not parcelled out amongst a select few. Now I am saying to you here is another example of someone who got into power on a ticket of liberating the Libyan people and has actually succeeded to create a content nation. That is why it is forever a standing item on the agenda of adversaries to that kind of arrangement. Many, many greedy people who want a piece of that revenue, the world over, mainly in the West, hate Gaddafi a great deal. Many people think they hate him because he's they use all kinds of excuses, he's a terrorist and this kind of thing. They don't hate him for that, the real reason is because they want access to that revenue, they want access to that oil now. He's denied them that and united the Libyan people and made this resource a real national resource.
. Now it's one example. In other situations where liberation movements, if we take the South African situation, we've got diamonds here, we've got coal, we've got platinum, we've got chrome, we've got iron ore, we've got gold, manganese, we've got all of these minerals, if we were to turn the revenue, direct it into the national kitty, we would be able to do a whole lot of things. We would be able to build proper houses for people, construct infrastructure in this country within a short space of time and of course, instead of just a prominent middle class emerging, you would have the whole nation of people living well, their children receiving education to the highest levels and therefore an educated people capable of inventing and utilising modern technology, all content. But you see where none of that is available to government, none of the natural resources here are available to government, and therefore the government, even the people who take away these natural resources will themselves climb on rooftops and criticise government for having failed to do what they have not done themselves for the last 300 years.
POM. That's why, coming back to gold, it's ridiculous to have a country that produces the most gold and doesn't create a job after it comes out of the mine, it goes some place else where they create jobs and then export it back to you and you buy it.
KM. That's why in rural areas, because the mining workforce was recruited from villages in rural areas, when they are retrenched you must remember here there was even the re-movement and resettlement of people from rural areas, from all the arable areas into barren areas, so the conditions of poverty there would be this much more pronounced. But I am saying we are aware of these problems and we will continue seeking solutions. We are determined to continue finding solutions to these problems.
POM. I know I'm keeping you a long time and you must be very tired.
KM. I still have to go to another meeting.
POM. Another meeting, OK. I suppose then just two last questions. When the NNP and the Democratic Party joined, became one, I was taken aback by the statement issued by the ANC which said all they are are a bunch of racists who are against any kind of transformation and what they want to do is make sure that the privileges enjoyed by white people or the people they represent would be protected and entrenched, they're not interested in the rest. I think the venom of the language took me aback. My first question would be, does the ANC respect the opposition parties?
KM. Yes we do, we do, we accept that we are into a multiparty democracy and that they have the right to exist, they have the right to express their views, they have the right to oppose the government, they have the right to criticise the ANC, which they do almost as a full time occupation.
POM. Do you think they contribute anything towards the transformation?
KM. They contribute negatively on transformation.
KM. Yes, they contribute negatively because they never give credit on any point. To them no good can come out of the ANC government.
POM. But then in Britain you'd have the Labour Party saying no good could come out of a Conservative government and you'd have the Conservative Party saying no good can come out of a Labour government. That's part of the give and thrust.
KM. Yes that's part of it in a normal well-entrenched democracy. We are right at the formative stages of a democracy, the scars of racial discrimination and the brutality of that kind of discrimination are still very much with us, very fresh and they continue to conduct themselves and take positions that suggest that indeed in fact they even speak ill of the country. I mean they organise groups, they go abroad and they speak to investors and say there is too much crime, it's not safe.
POM. Yes but not serious opposition.
KM. No, not just opposition, not just opposition but also unpatriotic, that the country
POM. Do you think the Democratic Alliance really are against change, they want to see things stuck as they are or do you think they are reaching out in their own way, understand the necessity of change? Do you see Tony Leon going into Alex and trying to make the case of his party?
KM. With them the first consideration is really that they want power, they want to control.
POM. Well you want power, you want to control too.
KM. They want to rule the country not from a platform that says this country belongs to all of us who live in it but from a platform that says let's forget about the past and we are all about tomorrow. That platform is a platform that is very artificial, it's a platform that is anti-transformation because it says we have no past, all we have is today and tomorrow and because of that the playing field is all levelled up, those that have no skills, no education, no wealth, no access to basic amenities, it's because they've not worked hard enough. Now you see it's a very wrong position.
POM. Have you sat down, like we are sitting here you and I, with Tony Leon and had a conversation with him?
KM. Well no, he's very he's a person who rides on a very high horse, it's very difficult to reach when you are an ordinary person really walking on solid ground.
POM. Now if you picked up the telephone and rang his office and said ?
KM. I speak to a great deal of people in the DP, I speak to a great deal of them but Tony Leon himself as a person, no.
POM. How do you find them? Do you find them still - ? When I met Dene Smuts, for example, first
KM. You know when I was in Numsa once I was in Mozambique with Bobby Godsel, we were there as part and parcel of a team from the industry going to look at how the pensions of Mozambicans who had once worked for the mining industry were being dispersed and we had time to discuss generally, even politics and so on. Tony Leon had just been elected to lead the DP and Bobby Godsel was saying to me, "Oh, he's a brilliant person, he's a brilliant leader", and so on. Bobby Godsel was telling me that Tony Leon is a brilliant leader, political leader. Well Bobby Godsel is a DP member coming from Anglo American you see, they are the backers of the DP. So I said to him I think the DP with its liberal platform will have a great role to play in the political landscape of this country but I said to Bobby then that, "Tony Leon, I find him to be not serious." And he said, "What do you mean?" I said, "No, he seems to think that every issue is a matter for debate and that you just debate with the aim of scoring points. A leader of a political party that seriously wants to take a constructive role - "
POM. That's Westminster type of politics.
KM. " - in a country like this one would have to understand that it's not about scoring points, there is more to it than that, it's much more important than that." He still comes across to me as that, as someone who debates for the sake of scoring points.
POM. I suppose my question would be, why don't you just pick up the phone, ring through to the DP, say it's Mr Motlanthe, S-G of the ANC, I want to speak to Tony Leon, put me through.
KM. Let me tell you one of my experiences with him. Once we were in Cape Town at parliament and I was speaking to General Nyanda, Chief of the SANDF, and Tony Leon walks up to us, I was engaged in conversation with the General, and he walked up to us and without asking for permission, or an excuse just to say I'm sorry to disturb you, but he just walked straight to General Nyanda. I was just standing there and he said, "General Nyanda, you don't know me. I'm Tony Leon, I'm leader of the DP, pleased to know you. I want to have a discussion with you some time. Thank you", and off he went. He's that type of person.
POM. Why don't you turn him on his head, pick up the phone and say, "Do you remember me? I was with General Nyanda when you introduced yourself to General Nyanda."
KM. Well there are things I can't say to you now about it but I speak to many other people in the DP.
POM. But they're not all unreconstructed racists. The party came out with a statement saying all they are is a bunch of racists who are that didn't help to -
KM. No, no, in real life you also allow for evolution of individuals and also that your policies and vision and arguments impact on people and sometimes they impact life itself, expose even people who hold the most conservative of views to settle things that if you were to describe it in biblical terms are like the trip to Damascus and before you know it the most conservative of conservatives can say, "Wait, I never really looked at our own situation from this angle. I think the correct and constructive road is this one." So that's why, personally I never get alarmed with pronouncements from the most rabid of conservatives and racists. I only worry to the extent that they may, they continue to have the potential to incite racial conflict.
POM. Do you not think this statement coming from the ANC that says, rather than saying we're glad that you two have gotten together and now maybe you can learn from each other and reach out and develop, make a real attempt to get to know blacks in a black constituency, than to say you're just a racist bunch of pigs, is a statement that shouldn't come from the ANC which it did?
KM. Yes it did precisely because when they came together, even in the lead-up to that, their view was that they need to come together to oppose the ANC and they don't say on this and that policy or this and that no, to oppose the ANC. As far as they are concerned the ANC is the devil incarnate and the ANC is devil incarnate because it has championed non-racialism. From the 1950s, when our leaders came out with the Freedom Charter which said that SA belongs to all who live in it, they were thrown into jail, they were put on trial and charged with high treason and their trial lasted for four and a half years. And yet it is in fact the teachings on the Freedom Charter to generations from the fifties into the nineties which made it possible for us to resolve apartheid through peaceful means because that's where I mean in spite of the divide, you yourself have gone around and you are shocked by the lack of progress in terms of upliftment of the poorest of the poor, in spite of that there is no bitterness along racial lines. It's not like you have invasions here. It is because of the teaching, the foresight of the leadership of the ANC and the fact that whole generations were weaned and trained and nurtured on the teachings enshrined in the Freedom Charter. That's why we are able to understand why the whites who lorded it over us think the way they do. So when the DA came into being, the DP and National Party came together, they came together on a platform of opposing the ANC totally, not on this or that, and they represent a very dangerous trend in the country. You can't come to any other conclusion other than that they are a formation for the restoration of what existed in the past.
POM. So when you see Tony Leon going into Alex, do you see him being opportunistic or making a gesture of - ?
KM. Well it's very clear that you can't wrest power in this country other than by mustering sufficient votes. You can't take over power in this country other than through the ballot box. So the easy targets are the poorest of the poor, if you can get them onto your side you can be in government and once you are in government you can effect all the changes that you desire. That's why he will walk into Alexandra Township, that's why he will go into Alexandra Township and go in there in a way that must be covered in the media, it's just a political ploy. He would not go into Alexandra to meet with the people of Alexandra and interact with them and get to know how they live and so on. He will not do that, but he will want to go there in a high profile manner because it's really all of a political charade.
POM. If you're going to have a multiparty democracy, and many people would say that part of a multiparty democracy is that the party in power can be thrown out and a new party come in and the new party can be thrown out and the old party come in like in most European countries or the United States or whatever. How do you see that happening here? How do you see a party led by Tony Leon or led by anybody else trying to get into your vote, trying to get votes away from the ANC without saying we're not anti-ANC, we're a political party that's trying to say the ANC isn't doing a lot for you people and if we're in government, which every party does in every election, which Al Gore and George Bush are both saying we'll do more for the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich and everybody in between? What's the difference here?
KM. Well the difference here is that if the DP were to say this is our vision and this is what we would want to do for you if you vote us into power because we don't think the ANC is doing enough for you, it's no problem, no problem.
POM. But you feel just demonised.
KM. No, they don't posit and present any alternative vision. They don't present any alternative. They say they are fighting back. It's like they have been defeated and now they have to fight back. That is the platform that they used to mobilise for last year's election, that we must fight back because they had lost privilege, they had lost power so they must fight back. They are not saying we come from a very bad past, we are where we are thanks to all of those who made it possible where we are, we all contributed in our own humble way, we think we want to consolidate these changes and take fully to a non-racial society and we will address this and that and that. If they were taking that stand, no problem, no problem. And if they were saying look, we will outdo the ANC, no problem, no problem at all. A different thing. It would make them truly South African.
POM. One of the things they say is that the government is not paying (and you tell me, please just be blunt and say I've got to go, OK)
KM. I've got to go now because my meeting is at seven.
POM. OK this is the last question. They say, and this comes back to where our conversation began six weeks ago. They say the government is not doing enough about AIDS and I agree, I don't think the government is, to be honest with you.
KM. Well they are wrong. I'll tell you why. You see, and this is one of the things that would explain to you how racism manifests itself outside of the law because now you see we've removed all the racial laws but the legacy of racism, more especially in the realm of ideas, is still very much with us and the former ruling bloc controls the mass media in this country and they have deliberately and I will explain to you in one sentence what our position is with regard to AIDS. AIDS is acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Now that means your body defence mechanism is down and out, it's a condition in a human body. Our understanding of that is that TB if not treated, if you contract TB and it's not treated it eats away and lowers your immune system to a point where it can actually lead to AIDS once your immune system has completely collapsed. But TB would also be regarded as an opportunistic disease, that once malaria, another disease, has caused a decline of your body defence system, when you contract TB your body will not be able to defeat TB and therefore that condition would be described as AIDS. So there are about 30 odd different diseases that are regarded as opportunistic diseases which would kill you if your immune system has collapsed. There's a virus called HIV which is one of 69 possible causes of the collapse of the body immune system and our position is that from all accounts this virus has not been isolated and photographed and studied under controlled conditions as to what it's behaviour is. Therefore it remains one of the many causes and not the sole cause of AIDS and therefore the response to AIDS is informed by that totally, that there is ongoing research work by scientists to try and isolate this virus. Now there are people who are driven by pharmaceuticals who say that that question must never be asked because pharmaceuticals produce drugs on the basis that HIV causes AIDS, period. It is the only cause of AIDS and that's it. Any other question, you are a dissident, you are bad, you are malicious, you are dangerous to society, you will be responsible for the deaths of so many children and this and that and so on. It's all crap from the pharmaceuticals. That's our view and I can give you another example.
. I had a meeting with the leadership in Uganda. A few years ago the figures of people who were reported to be HIV positive and suffering from AIDS were huge. It was like Uganda's population was going to be wiped away. And they said to me when I said, "What have you done to turn this thing around?" they said to me, "No, the figures were exaggerated in the first place. We have just continued with our normal - "
KM. No, the statistics were
POM. But generated by the drug industry?
KM. Yes, were exaggerated. So that if you were to pull them out now and do your own calculations there shouldn't be anybody walking around in Uganda now. But because the population is still there they had to find an explanation and the only explanation they could find was that Uganda has succeeded to turn this thing around. They won't tell you what the Ugandans have done, they will not, because they have continuously said, "We've continued with awareness programmes, prevention programmes and so on", which is what we are doing here and the government has done a great deal on that. What the government has refused to do, for which it's being maligned and crucified today, it refused to be railroaded into contracting with Glaxo-Wellcome for the supplies of AZT, a drug called AZT, which everybody said AZT must be prescribed for pregnant mothers, for raped women. The government has refused because the drug is expensive and it turns out that it was not developed for that purpose. The scientists say so. Glaxo-Wellcome have said that it was licensed for that but because they had mobilised the entire media and so on they were able, of course, to create a picture that the government is not committed, doesn't care because they repeat lies. But like everything in life the truth will out on this matter and that's why we are not concerned. We know what we have to do, we must continue to ensure that our people practice A, B, C, they abstain, they remain loyal to one partner and they condomise as some kind of prevention from spreading the disease and also that once people have contracted this disease they should still be treated for the opportunistic diseases. TB is curable to the extent that if somebody shows symptoms of TB they must be treated for TB. It shouldn't be labelled as AIDS and therefore as there is no cure for AIDS, therefore you're condemned to death. That's our position.
POM. Do you think, again, that whites use this in a racist kind of way to whop the ANC?
KM. No, they are gullible. You see half of them don't read but they regard themselves as well informed because they're white. The reason why when you ask you ask any of the experts whether they have seen evidence, any piece of document that says scientist so-and-so in such a country has isolated this HIV virus and photographed it and studied it's modus vivendi under controlled conditions, they will swear at you. They will tell you that question was answered twenty years ago, they will tell you you are giving audience to dissidents. They will not tell you because it's not there. That's why they become vicious because it is simply not there. They take it on authority and then it gets passed on like that but there's no authority, it's a lie repeated by those who are supposed to know better. The truth of the matter is that if they were to admit that indeed no such thing has happened, I mean it would cause serious reverberations across the scientific world.
POM. They'd all be out of a job.
KM. Yes. It would be like when Galileo invented the telescope and said the earth is not flat after all, it's round, it caused serious reverberations. That's what will happen with this thing.
POM. I must thank you very much. I appreciate the time you have given me.