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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
06 Jan 2003: Maharaj, Mac
POM When we stopped the last time we were talking about the manner in which the cabinet worked and made decisions. When I was looking at the period of the government of national unity you had said that on just about every occasion decisions were made by consensus and I suppose my question is were there any occasions on which the NP in cabinet raised serious objections to the point of where the ANC as majority in the end had to overrule them?
MM When I try to recall, just on my feet, there were a number of issues that cropped up which clearly the two parties were coming at it from two entirely different positions. Firstly the Reconstruction & Development Programme, clearly the NP had realised that for it to function it could not simply stand up and oppose a la Buthelezi, bring out a statement in a meeting and we'd say OK it's recorded, let's go on. So it did not take a stance that it was opposed to it but it came with the buts: but how can it be done, but the resources are not there, etc. You could see a divide opening and the ANC tried to accommodate the buts and address the buts. So that was one example but the effect of it was that while the government functioned reasonably the message out in the public was a divergent message because I think that the important thing was to bring the white constituency and the black constituency together on a common vision and goal. So the NP would go out and say, yes, but it won't work, and the ANC would be trying to say, yes, and it must work. I think that therefore it did not bring the two constituencies to share this vision. The message was a mixed message going out.
The next time I saw the problem was over the TRC, no, over the equality legislation and the affirmative action as part of the package of the equality legislation. The constitution committed the country to building a society based on equality. Both parties were agreed that there are inequalities but how do you address those inequalities and overcome. The ANC comes with a package of measures starting to come through affirmative action in jobs, non-discrimination but non-discrimination plus affirmative action, skills training. And again the response of FW and them was, yes, but it won't work.
Now for myself I became impatient with that because here we were in government as ministers responsible for departments and we had inherited a bureaucracy whose top order was almost exclusively white and male. At the same time in microcosm I personally experienced a frustration over this problem because here our departments were populated with what we inherited, Afrikaner, male, and we were trying to incorporate people from the democratic forces who were previously excluded. We had had this guarantee of the constitution for job security but that did not mean that we could not now shift anybody around in the top order of the bureaucracy. So we would be asking ourselves, what are we all doing if we are committed to this equality? And I recall on one occasion in cabinet and outside cabinet having a quarrel with FW. In cabinet the quarrel was I said, "But Deputy President, you have an office. You have brought all your staff that you had previously to populate your office. I don't see any black people in it. Where isyour commitment?"
At the same time I had a huge quarrel with FW and his late wife at a party in Camps Bay where I went to a dinner invited by a German shipping group and at this party I found myself at the same table with the German host and with Deputy President FW and his wife and Hernus Kriel and myself. I told you about one of the chaps that I had inherited as my secretary who I was uncomfortable with. Now I had also learnt that his wife, the secretary's wife, was a key staff member in FW's staff. OK, I had ignored it all. By now the chap was working for the department and Khetso wanted to get rid of him and he was in breach of various rules and Khetso was looking at removing him because one of the things that he did was to file medical certificates to say that he had had a nervous breakdown and therefore was away, but in the meantime we found him on holiday in the US and everywhere. I said, "If you're ill you can't be away on holiday to the US." So we were questioning that as part of the labour legislation.
In the middle of that this function takes place and at this dinner Mrs de Klerk was already fuming at me because my department was trying to fire this chap and she'd obviously heard about it. So as we were chatting she started making pretty aggressive and offensive remarks. I recall her saying that, "Oh, you people in exile you were living the life of luxury, living in mansions in London, etc." And I said, "Where do you get this from because you're talking to a person who has not lived in any of those mansions and if you're talking about a place that is the home of Oliver Tambo in London, that has been after years and years, and he is the President, but if you talk about how he lives in Lusaka let me tell you because I know his home in Lusaka, and let's talk about how we live." I found that offensive. Suddenly in that heated debate and FW at the beginning was trying to cushion and try and shift the topic but she was determined to keep going and then she blurted out, "You", to me she points, she says, "Everybody says you're a wonderful chap but I think that you are ruining people's lives." I said, "Whose life am I ruining?" "No, you know!" So I said, "Sorry, I don't care whether this is a private dinner, you can't make that charge and get away with it. You'd better tell me who you're talking about." And she said, "You have a staff member who's had a nervous breakdown." I said, "Oho, you're talking about the one whose wife is working for your husband and the one who's presently on prolonged holiday in the US, can afford it, but who has filed a report to say he's had a nervous breakdown and he's medically ill and unfit to come to work. Is that who you're talking about?" And she was a woman who couldn't control herself, she said, "Yes." So I said, "I didn't know that this was the problem with you, that you're judging me by this instance, by the version that you have received from his wife." And we had a stand off because I said, "If that's your attitude then I'm sorry, we really do differ."
So I am saying the problem was now being mirrored in microcosm on a specific case, in macrocosm over what were our staff complements, where do they come from, which social background do they come from?
POM Did De Klerk respond to you when you said he had no people of colour on your staff?
MM No, no. In that cabinet meeting he just dodged the question. You didn't have a cabinet meeting where you just confronted each other and pursued the argument because you were discussing a general legislation. You were not discussing the specifics of how you're running your department and when one put the issue it was an illustration of the problem and saying, if you can't overcome it how do we overcome it? Is it left to me, the black person, to employ black persons? The real challenge is when a white minister begins to employ black and a black minister begins to employ whites, then you begin to see whether we are standing above the situation. I shouldn't be the guardian of black employment nor should he be the guardian of white employment because what model are you holding for the country? So I am saying over those issues of affirmative action, employment equity, etc., huge problems were arising, But again the tenor of the functioning of cabinet was not to make those issues crisis issues.
Then there was a tricky incident, that was the raids that were carried in Umtata while FW was President where it was purported to be a PAC hideout and they killed women and children, it was an SADF raid. Now here we are in government together and the survivors of the victims and relatives are claiming damages, are suing the government and the question is do we defend that legal action or do we pay damages? But before you decide whether you're going to defend it you have to decide is their claim legitimate and their claim is predicated on the fact that under FW's presidency FW sanctioned the SADF to make this raid. The question on the raid. After the event it was very clear it was not a PAC base but you claimed as President that your forces raided a PAC base and you justified the deaths on that ground. So in cabinet the question was: FW, you were the President, what do you say? It was a tricky moment and eventually FW came and said that the civil claim cannot be defended, that we should pay out damages.
Now it was easy to agree that we will not defend the action, we will offer a settlement and the minister in charge is responsible for working out amicably with the relatives what the settlement should be but the trickiness was here we were sitting around the table and you could drive the discussion to the point of saying I want you, current Deputy President of the country, to put on record at cabinet that you were wrong and that you ordered and sanctioned a thing. Yes, your security forces may have said that it was a PAC hideout but did you put the caveats to test whether that intelligence information was reliable and, secondly, did you put a caveat that they should not just go indiscriminately and shoot people? With that overwhelming force you could have apprehended the people rather than kill. It became necessary to back off from driving that point.
POM You wouldn't drive that point.
MM You wouldn't. You would assume that what you have said and his response to buy in that a settlement should be offered to the relatives was implicit in his mind, that 'I really did what amounted to a human rights violation'. But we settled it but we didn't push the point. But why am I raising these things? Because I would have thought that this is the type of matter that he would have gone to the TRC and explained, not by the TRC questioning him.
POM Was this after the TRC - ?
MM This was before the TRC, well before, it was early in the administration but I would have thought that if the point has been registered by us in a gentle way it would sit in his conscience and when confronted with the TRC this is one of the items that would have featured by his saying: in my evidence I will voluntarily say that here is an example of a mistake which in its factual basis, perception by others, would amount to a violation of human rights and I would explain how I came to sanction it and then I would explain how I am sorry about it.
POM He would jump into the TRC?
MM Yes, jump in.
POM The TRC is a separate session altogether.
MM But what I am saying is one left the matter thinking that it sits on his conscience. So that was a tricky thing to handle because it was very easy with us dominating that cabinet to push the discussion to the point where it became abrasive and where you forced him to acknowledge wrongs. We didn't do that but you could see the tension in that and clearly there were discussions going on between Madiba and Thabo as Deputy President with FW.
The next type of issue that stands out in my mind is over the TRC legislation. That was a longstanding thing that went backwards and forwards into committees and bilaterals and everything.
POM We'll deal with that but not today. We'll do that all together.
MM And I think I've dealt with it previously, I've dealt with that. So I am saying here are events that stand out in my mind as events that were jarring inside that government of national unity. I think both parties tried to sweep, tried to avoid those jarring issues from becoming crisis issues for the government of national unity but I think that the real issue that was happening was that FW and his party felt that they were not being accorded the status that they think belonged to them.
POM That status?
MM Meaning the authority.
POM But they had their ministerial authority.
MM Yes but I don't think I think they felt, I think his members, his executive, his leadership was telling him they are not according you the respect that you deserve, because FW had to make a transition from President to Deputy President, from fiddler to second fiddle and second fiddle, which he had to share with Thabo, not a second fiddle on your own. Secondly, I think they subconsciously harboured the idea that their long experience in government equipped them with an expertise that we did not respect. They never stopped to say whatever that expertise it had been an expertise which had mismanaged the country, not just because of the race issue but had mismanaged it at simple, for example, management of the finances of government. They assumed that because they had ruled for so long we would bow to that expertise of governance and yet you could see that we were not predisposed to bowing to that expertise because we came from a position which said, without saying it in cabinet, you actually mismanaged the economy, you mismanaged the funds, you shifted them around, you borrowed and indebted the country, you tolerated the corruption and you put a lid on it. So don't tell us you've got that expertise, don't tell us that we must bow down to that experience.
They found it difficult that that was happening and I think that they also found it difficult that Thabo as the Deputy President with FW was clearly earmarked as the next President and that meant that Madiba would put issues on the desk of Thabo rather than put issues on the table of FW when it came to long term issues. They felt that the issues ought to be put equally before both, that is to say politically they entertained the ambition that if you treated them equally the chances of FW's future are still open beyond the Deputy Presidency.
Now I think that his own NP colleagues in the cabinet, some of them began to sense that that was a problem with FW. How much of a problem that arose from his own self and how much of it was also generated by his late wife is another question because it is a matter of record that she had conducted herself post the 1990 period extremely unhappy with the developments. She had even rebuffed Madiba at Oslo when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded. Oh yes, oh yes! There was a huge, huge clash. She actually burst out at functions against Madiba. At the dinner table she felt that the hosts were paying too much attention to Madiba, that they were seating him in too much of a prominent place vis-à-vis FW and her and she felt it unacceptable that people were out in the streets screaming for Madiba and in support of him and Madiba would go to the balcony and her husband was not being received like that. So there was a huge bust-up with Madiba.
POM But did she say this to Madiba?
MM To Madiba, to his face. Yes.
POM With FW beside her?
MM She even said, I can't remember the details, but I seem to recall the versions that I'd heard from Madiba and others, Madiba would say it very gently, but he said, "She told me straight off she doesn't accept that I should be seated in a more prominent place than her husband."
POM Did FW make any attempt to was he embarrassed?
MM What I remember after that is that when we got into government, very early, we didn't even know what happens to the houses, we didn't know what houses exist and Madiba in his usual generous way calls in FW and says, "Here are the accommodations, where would you like to stay?" Now you would assume that this is the President speaking, you have lived in the President's home, presidential residence, you now have to move out and here's a gentlemanly offer to select from the alternatives. FW comes back and says he wants to live at Groote Schuur which is the residence that he occupied as the President. Madiba says, "OK", and Madiba takes Westbrook in Cape Town.
POM He takes which?
MM Another house called Westbrook. Then Madiba a little later says, "Mr Deputy President", a few days later, "In Pretoria what's the position?" FW says, "My wife wants us to stay in Libertas", which is the place that he occupied as the President. He's not thinking, he's not thinking that wait a minute my President has left me in the residence that I occupied in Cape Town, am I not exploiting that generosity by saying I want the same residence where I stayed in Pretoria? Madiba handles that problem, I believe he visits the place, he says, "Let me see it", and he says to FW, "I'm not so sure, I think I need to live here", and FW says, "But my wife wants us to live here", meaning she wants him to occupy both residences that he occupied as the President and Madiba says, "No." And he tells me, "How am I going to allow that? That was going too far."
I don't remember the exact houses and details but I remember the incidents so my memory may not be because that was too small an issue, Padraig, but I am saying this only at the moment in addressing the mindset and I am saying these were the sort of pressures under which FW was living from his party leadership, from his wife and how much of it was his own coloration even though he wanted to walk into the future. There were clearly tensions building up and the tensions reached a point where in his party they began to say you are unable to impact on this majority party, on its government positions, and essentially that was saying, you are unable to modify their positions so that in the government of national unity the ANC component of government accepts us as crucial initiators of positions and policies. To me that was a non-starter. You could not, coming from the past, be the crucial initiator if you didn't buy into the creation of an equal society overcoming that discrimination of the past.
So there was the recipe where a point is reached where within his party people are advocating we can do better if we pull out, we don't have to put up with this, we need to occupy the opposition desk because we can command a support in the white community, we can make inroads into the coloured and Indian communities and we can win African people on our side, without stopping to think that in all those respects it would have to depend on people who had risen to prominence in the old order and they decided suddenly, we're walking out. But we could smell already that they were thinking of walking out. So when he went to Madiba and said we're leaving, what did he expect? Madiba to say please stay? No. Very calmly having anticipated the matter, having also had members of the NP who were in the cabinet individually going to Madiba and saying we are facing this problem, there are people who want us to leave the government, "I have come to you, Mr President, because I don't think it's right. We shouldn't be leaving." So he was well on top of that and expecting it and so when FW came to tell him he just said, "I hope you know what you're doing and good luck."
POM The government programme was set out in the RDP, that was the blueprint that was to be translated into actual implementable policies. Did the NP accept the RDP as official government policy?
MM No, it said we agree with the RDP but for government policy the 'but' has got to be taken into account and without that 'but' being factored into it they didn't conduct themselves that it is government policy.
POM So did it become a matter then in cabinet of you listening to and trying to take account of their 'buts', but at the same time after having done that, essentially gone ahead and implemented the RDP?
MM To implement it across the board.
POM You said all decisions were made by consensus, that in the end faced with the option of turning a cabinet meeting into a crisis or the alternative being a reluctant consensus, they gave their reluctant consensus and there's a difference between consensus that's enthusiastic consensus and a consensus where one party is giving its consensus because - ?
MM We treated the matter, in my mind we treated it slightly different. We treated it as implicit consensus. I don't recall us driving it to the point where we said, "Now say, do you agree, however reluctantly." We often began to develop a technique of passing it over and saying in our minds, what is an implicit consensus? Because you have not stood up to say I want it recorded, I'm opposed, and yet because the person didn't say I want it recorded that I'm opposed, I couldn't read into that is it reluctant, so I left it, or is it enthusiastic? I said let's cover it, there's an implicit acceptance, passed, whether it's reluctant or enthusiastic it's implicit, let's go ahead.
POM When government began there must have been some apprehensions on the part of both the NP and the ANC whether or not this arrangement would work. In your view for the period that it existed did it work better than you had expected or worse than you had expected?
MM I think that there were positives, great positives and great potential in a government of national unity. I don't think that the potentials were realised. Nonetheless there are a set of positives that emerged there that were good but the fact that the potential and the strategic issue for the country was not realised was a serious problem.
POM The positives were?
MM The positives were that we were nonetheless transmitting by the simple functioning of the government, without a blow-out taking place in the public arena, a message to the people of SA that this was a new era and that this era held huge hopes for a united people to move forward across the divides of the past. The potential was not realised because I think we were sending out mixed messages, separate messages and diverging messages and I think we failed to put together programmes which we could champion together. I felt at times that Madiba as President was bending over too much. For example, he would try to rotate the Acting Presidency between FW and Thabo. Some of us were restive about that.
On the other hand FW's people began to feel that Madiba was avoiding putting FW into the acting position because (a) they complained that FW was not being sent on trips abroad to represent the government and more often than not Madiba would go out and if the rare thing happened that Madiba and Thabo were out then he was given the Acting President's role here in the country but the big public events were taking place internationally where the image of SA, where you were representing the country at some function, was not being accorded to him. I felt we were bending over a bit too much but I think Madiba was pursuing a different position.
There were times when FW and Thabo and him were away and then he did the unusual thing, he made Buthelezi the Acting President.I remember the first time there was a frisson in the country, what's Madiba doing? And people were saying he's going too far and others were saying he's doing a wonderful thing and yet he was very careful how he did that, not to give the idea that there's a triumvirate ruling this country. So I think there was an in-built tension in that but at the same time there needed to be the crucial issue was to bring the white community into the new order and you could not, FW didn't make an effort uniquely himself to bring them aboard, vigorously, nor did he invite us into that process of joining hands to bring them over. There was the political rivalry that was real because they were looking at the next thing what happens in the local government elections? What happens beyond the local government elections? Therefore there was a tendency to guard the constituency as your unique area.
What am I trying to say? I am trying to say that from my perspective while at times we were rough with FW, while at times in cabinet we shelved off proposals that were coming from his side, through his ministers even, into processes before it re-emerges so that it would fit in with our strategic goals, they were perceiving it as snubs and by the time they walked out one sensed that their willingness to be partners was eroded, the heart wasn't there.
It reminds me, I became uncomfortable on one occasion, cabinet was meeting and we had had a process in the Arms sub-committee to develop the rules and regulations governing our sale and purchase of arms, the Arms Control Committee which Kader was heading. And for months this sub-committee was not reporting progress and at one of the cabinet meetings I spoke numerous times on different aspects and FW's retort at the end of it was to say, "Let Mac go and join that committee", that was his answer to the problem. I saw it as a way to say go there, shovel the shit and you'll find there are real problems which you cannot surmount. So I went to the committee. I briefed myself on the details, I asked Kader how he saw the problems that were arising and then in my mind I mapped out a process and I went to the first committee meeting and I was a bit taken aback that it was the old guard through Armscor who were leading the discussion and they were leading it in circles, burying it in detail.
POM Kader doesn't strike me as somebody who would be inhibited.
MM No, he wasn't inhibited but how to drive that process, it would open with one of these Armscor people telling you the intricacies of arms purchases but not giving you the facts. I said, "You can bury yourself in instance after instance." I remember going to Armscor and getting a briefing of all their committees when an application to purchase arms comes, which committees it goes through, so they were showing you all the committees. I said, "No wait a minute, what's the criteria you are using? What's your criteria?" So at this committee meeting I said, "Let's put up on a chart here a process that we're going to follow and a time frame. Let's break up the issues, cluster them and tackle them systematically and you, the officer who's giving this briefing, no, no, no, don't tell me about the past. Let's just come with a clean slate." And Kader was chairing and supported that. Within a period of two months we'd cracked it, that is we had a report ready to give to cabinet that we're not saying this is perfect but here's the criteria, here's the guidance, this is the way cabinet guides that process.
But I was very clear, and maybe I was wrong, but I interpreted FW putting me there as a challenge to drown me, to say, if you've got so much to say I'm going to lock you up into processes. So the moment the report was ready I felt that what would happen is that there would be a drive now to create a tension between Kader and myself as to who should head that Control Committee and some people would exploit that, well, Mac went in there, and make it sound as if it was Mac's achievement and therefore Mac should. I didn't attend that cabinet meeting because I was somewhere else in the country but I anticipated the problem and wrote a note to the President to say in the context of this report, against the cabinet agenda item I want to indicate that the workload that I have currently is big enough and I will not be available to continue to serve in that committee even as a committee member. That way I excluded - in my view what I was doing was excluding the possibility of creating any semblance of rift or rumour of rift.
This incident came up in my mind as to how FW was shaping the functioning of cabinet because it remains a concern of mine, which I think I previously said, that in its functioning we were so overwhelmed with our individual tasks and the documents would be given to you the night before, you therefore did not have the wherewithal and the organisational capacity to study every minister's proposals so that when you met there would be a real discussion. There was a tendency to say he is specialising and is responsible for that field so what he is saying, unless it jarred, let it pass. The only thing that began to happen over time is an increasing look by the Minister of Finance as to the financial implications of your proposal.
POM How did Derek Keys function in that regard? There is this that on one occasion towards the end of the negotiation process he went to both De Klerk and then to Madiba and said, "Listen, this country is just about broke. If you guys don't get your act together very shortly, technically we'll be bankrupt, so the time is about up. I'm not a politician, I'm a finance man." In fact I didn't know until the other day he was at Wits at the same time as Joe Slovo was. But what influence - did he say in terms of we are beginning from a position of almost financial bankruptcy and now you come in with a very ambitious programme of change and the fact of the matter is that in the short run you are not going to see much change in terms of policy delivery because the resources are not there. You may want to build a million houses a year
MM I bought that story and I certainly was very well disposed to Derek Keys right from the beginning in cabinet, clearly as a result of telling Madiba, briefing him and making a presentation at cabinet and telling us we are flat broke, and I bought that story because it was impassive and I think it was up to a point correct. I was also impressed that on the other hand he came in his first full budget, not the interim budget, with the RDP levy and said how much we could raise by that once-off levy in order to be able to do some of the programmes that we wanted in the face of that bankruptcy. I bought that and I thought he was impressive and I thought he had this ability to communicate on high financial matters with a great simplicity and good sense of humour and demeanour.
But subsequently I felt that was not the complete story. By the time I left government in 1999 and shortly thereafter I came to the view that the scarcity of resources was real but that there was a huge drain on the resources that we had by the efficiency of its use. I believed that government was trying to make use of those resources efficient but by 2000 I began to have a very rough figure in my mind that about 30% of the total budget resources were being wasted, that control over the efficiency of that expenditure would realise a savings of up to 30%. Now that's a very substantial figure. In terms of the budget it is bigger than anything that was raised by that RDP one-off levy and I think that Derek Keys having been in the previous administration and being the economist and businessman that he is would have simultaneously or very shortly in his tenure in the new government, have driven the process of creating an expenditure evaluation unit in the Ministry of Finance if not in the presidency to create a mechanism against the budget reallocations to see how efficiently every ministry, every province, every institution was using that money.
POM But concurrently you have the situation where most ministries, even with the allocations were not spending their full allocations.
MM Not spending it. This is what I say, this would be part of the expenditure evaluation function that why are you not spending it? What is the problem? And what you are spending is it leading to results or is it being wasted along the chain of the bureaucracy. Both questions needed to be addressed and I felt on hindsight that given his business background he would have persuaded his ministry and the President and the cabinet to create that mechanism so that what is spent is spent efficiently and what is not spent is diverted to where it can be spent.
POM Shouldn't that too have been a function of individual ministers? If you were Minister of X and at the end of the year you find that you have only spent 80% of your budget, is it human to look for an excuse why you did not spend 100%?
MM No. If you left it to the individual ministers that would be normal if you were already a settled democratic environment where the rules of accountability, where the Auditor General's report after the event says it's not being spent, would be addressed, where the rush, because the allocation is for the year, that as you're nearing the end of the year and the Auditor General is looking at you, you don't go into a rush of spending to try and show that you've used up all of it. You've still got to be saying, when I say I'm going to use this money, I am attending to the fact is the money being used properly. I am saying in the creation of this government who had the expertise to say you don't put money without constantly looking whether that is bringing the returns that you want. I am saying Derek Keys with the status, the authority and the background that he had would have known from his previous experience in government that here was a gaping hole and this hole had to be closed and it could not be left to 25 ministers to do it on their own, that he could have resourced it and given it the authority if he located it through his agency under the presidency and said, President, this is something you will have to drive with your full authority because it is a key issue for the future of this country that the scarce and limited resources are optimally utilised.
POM But Mac, that problem continues to this day.
MM To this day, but what has happened is that because he didn't drive that sort of process it has been left to Trevor Manuel through the Ministry of Finance to bring in the rigour through his sole authority and what has happened is quite often he has had to tolerate 'the rebelliousness' of ministers and provinces and local governments by negotiating mechanisms such as Section 100 of the constitution which can only be invoked by the President. So he's got to convince the President that direct central government intervention is going to be helpful and the President obviously has got to be always asking, central government intervention? But wait a minute, my ministers and departments are not yet efficient. Where am I going to spare the resources? And unless there's a crisis like in the Eastern Cape, there is a reluctance to do that intervention from the position of the presidency. I am saying, yes there is evidence of a slow tightening but what the country needed was the past was riddled with inefficient expenditure, learning from that lesson here is a crucial, immediate mechanism that has got to be put. You've got to put a tight bandage straight away, don't let old habits settle into the new order and make it a difficult uphill battle, each minister, each department going through all its contortions and resistances and settling into habits to the point where the Auditor General continues to put in reports in parliament but no public opprobrium seems to attach to the fact that here is a minister whose department has not spent 30% of the allocated funds. You would have thought by now that report would be frightening. It has become so normal that it hardly seems to cause an uproar and a pressure therefore from the public on government to say, hey, that minister, that DG has had long enough, what are you doing to haul him over?
POM Isn't that what the President is there to do? To evaluate his cabinet?
MM Unless you have a mechanism of how to control and measure and evaluate how that expenditure is happening beyond the report that says it has not been spent, I am saying there were two problems, one is the unspent portion but as crucial is the spent portion, has it been spent properly? You needed a section of a bureaucracy armed with the teeth, beyond the teeth of the Auditor General.
POM Were there people there capable of doing that?
MM I don't think there was a problem if you mandated it. You would find the people. We developed very early through the advice of people like Derek Keys and Chris Liebenberg, I think it was Chris Liebenberg that brought in a person from the private sector on secondment into the finance side. Similarly we brought in, what was the name of the chap from SA Breweries into the police force? (Meyer Kahn)
POM Oh yes, I remember him.
MM So we could have turned to the private sector. I see it in the banks, because we are controlled by lots of regulations we manage risk in its diverse forms with huge implications if you miscalculate and you have to govern through corporate governance rules and mechanisms a mechanism that says you're efficiently managing it. Besides the external auditors you have internal auditors, you have forensic auditors all working away at risk management structures and processes. But they have teeth. When they come to the board and management and say this is wastage, you can achieve savings this way, it's a very serious proposal and they come and quantify here that, hey, if you did this thing this way your savings will be R100 million.
POM But that could be done today with - ?
MM I think it is being done but it is being done in an environment where old habits of the previous order have settled. I am saying that Derek Keys was ideally placed to chart out new ways by saying besides being bankrupt here is a gaping hole and you need emergency measures to staunch that hole because you cannot allow that hole to be part of what you settled into. I think the headway would have been greater and the scarcity of resources would have been ameliorated very, very substantially.
POM In addition to that you had an inefficiency that was in-built with an entirely new set of ministers taking over who had absolutely no experience in government before and had to go through a learning process before they themselves got to a jump off point.
MM That is why a person with experience from the private sector that resources are used efficiently, otherwise you run risks and are not a viable business, were appointed which if put on the table would have been bought into by us, some reluctantly but with a sense of excitement and therefore our mindsets would have been shaped by a dominant strand of thinking which says spend but measure whether you're getting the adequate return on that expenditure. And I think this is the challenge. To simply call the challenge 'delivery', no. You can start delivering the old Nats built toilets in the veldt, the socialist experiment measured production by how many boots did you produce. The fact that if you bought that pair of boots and walked into the first rain the sole came apart, I think those are important lessons. The question was how to staunch that wound, how to bandage it and I am saying inexperienced as we were we would have raised less objections and obstacles for such a unit to function effectively and before we knew what's what we would have found that in the presidency there is a mechanism sharpening its evaluation capacity, moving from department to department and province to province evaluating all the projects and putting in a report for the President which he could take to cabinet and say, here's the gap, Minister, I've discussed with you, this gap you are not staunching and you now are on notice I want a report in a month's time how you have staunched that. And when the minister says, but I have installed one million taps, he says, but 500,000 of those are not working. So straight away there's a huge check and balance.
It's an ex-post facto judgement when you say how do I evaluate Derek Keys, Chris Liebenberg. I say they did a great service but I am saying when I look at where they came from I think that they missed a great, great gaping hole that was sitting there. It's not a criticism of Derek Keys as a person, it's an evaluation, it's an attempt by me to evaluate what could we have done which could have taken us further down the road than we have reached and which could have removed some of the things that remain huge obstacles and have accumulated over eight years to be obstacles to efficient delivery and to not invoke scarcity of resources as an easy answer to failure to do more. That's all it is.
POM My reply, I suppose in a sense, would be that the debt was stacked against you from the start in the sense that when you had a set of ministers who moved from the environment of struggle to the environment of governance but whose mindsets were still in the mindset of struggle not governance
MM No I don't think that was the problem. The logic of that argument is no win for the country.
POM It's accepted that you were probably the brightest of the ministers, or the brightest of that group, and you could I just looked last night at the final rating by the Mail & Guardian and you were classified as the best minister. Now you had certain gifts, you were able to get on top of your brief quickly. Other ministers were not as equipped as you were intellectually.
MM No, no, even in my personal case the Mail & Guardian fails to acknowledge that 80% of my success, if not more, was getting a competent DG and with his help building a team.
POM But others ministers did not do that?
MM I think other ministers, some of them, I wouldn't say all, with the same will that I had tried other ways. They appointed DGs too and that was the luck of the draw, an accident, but we could have been, including myself, 50% better if there was sitting over us this Evaluation Committee, including myself. To say that I was the best does not put into that evaluation because nobody could see that inner how better we could have been. I think that each minister had to grapple with the problems of his or her department as they saw best. Such an Evaluation Committee coming from outside of us with the stamp of the President but developed by Derek Keys and populated by him with expertise from outside would have so compensated the environment that the political will we had would have driven the thing through. That's all I'm saying. I'm saying coming into government and saying because we had no experience, that is true of every country. Being a parliamentarian is not an experience of how to run a government anywhere in the world. So when new administrations come in unless they have so settled, like in Britain there has been a bi-party government of saying I've been out of government for fifteen years, for five years, for ten years, I've got a crop of ministers. What experience have they got? Unless you turn round and say, well they've got superior education, but I don't buy on that education too because in this cabinet, in the first cabinet people were highly educated, not necessarily in the technocratic sense, but a minister is not expected to have those technocratic skills. You have the political will and you have an idea of governing an organisation in such a way that you build a team but anywhere nobody teaches you how to build a team, nobody teaches you how to interact with people. Those are things that happen along the way. It's the environment, have you created the environment? And I'm saying who should create that environment? So I'm trying to shy away, Padraig, from the real issue of lack of experience which is true, but I'm trying to shy away from elevating that issue to such a high status.
POM Well, say that combined with the fact that you immediately had to embark upon the transformation of a civil service that had a particular culture.
MM That would be anywhere, it would be anywhere.
POM I know but civil services don't change.
MM This group essentially was a take-over by Rand Merchant Bank, which is a merchant bank, of a retail bank, which they had no experience in, where the rules are totally different, and a retail bank that was in serious trouble. The key people that came into FNB side came from Rand Merchant Bank. What experience did they have? Zero. They had experience of running an organisation but so did we. Even to run the ANC was to run an organisation spread over three quarters of the bloody world, living in exile, learning from experience with no text book to guide you but you still had to command a unit even if it was a five-person unit. You had to run a camp, you had to run logistics, you had to run an educational section, sending of people who say I want to go and study, setting up the Solomon Mahlangu School.
POM Were they evaluated? Were they done efficiently?
MM No, no, but you had the experience of working with people and giving them leadership and earning that leadership. With all its inefficiencies just to run a soccer club gives you a skill on leadership but we were not running a soccer club, we were running a very huge disparate organisation with all the inefficiencies.
POM That's the ANC you're talking about?
MM I just don't want us to make I think that if we say lack of experience, don't let's make it into an insurmountable hurdle. I think it was surmountable but I think we need the tools and the instruments to create that environment which would make us accountable and therefore place us in an environment where we had measures of delivery, different from just a generalised claim. You say the Mail & Guardian. I think one of the earlier report cards said some nasty things about me and the taxis and I think road safety because
POM Oh the Mail & Guardian it's just a subjective evaluation of
MM Just a subjective evaluation.
POM All of these, every paper does it at the end of the year. I compared them and there were no just as at the end of this year.
MM I remember there was an African woman, it's the Mail & Guardian also that one year the first minister that it called to be fired was me, not in the first time, the first report card, second report card, by the third report card, she called publicly, "Fire Mac, he's a total disaster."
POM So you really made up on your fourth year.
MM Why don't you use that for your - ?
POM That's the one that Pat pulled off the machine. I was looking for something on Khetso Gordhan actually and this report comes out.
MM What experience did Khetso have? Regional organiser of the UDF.
POM all the Vula people in positions
MM No the Vula people, from that ANC background when they were drawn into Vula it was operating with a drive, a sense of purpose, a sense of commitment and at a point in the rock face where you could not but forget that the price was your life and the life of others. So it's not because they are special people, it's the special environment in which they worked that sharpened the very sensibility that was there was in the ANC. But it now made it an every moment part of you because when you were living and operating illegally here in those conditions of those days, every minute you could do something that somebody else would lose their lives including yourself. So you had to carry through. It's not as if there aren't laggards in the Vula machinery, there were laggards, there was lots of space for you to just dawdle your way through but even if you dawdled the risk was your life.
POM You got to choose the people you wanted to work with you?
MM Not all. Yes, technically I chose them but what did I know about them? Some of them I chose them without Katherine Mvelase, I had never met her. Outside recommended her. Somebody in my team, Gebhuza or somebody said, "Oh I know her, she's good." OK I want her.
POM We'll leave Vula there, we'll leave delivery there. Let's see, if you were in De Klerk's situation and this is often pointed out of trying to do two things that were in a way contrary to each other. On the one hand you are a participant in the GNU and you were active and supportive of that. You engage yourself fully in it. At the same time you are the leader of a political party that is going to contest an election and you still want to get the most votes you can, so in some way you must differentiate yourself policy-wise from the incumbent government. The problem is you are part of the incumbent government.
MM You're putting the question in a particular way which we have dealt with previously but the short answer, I can give very long answers, I think De Klerk by his February 1990 statement showed that he had risen to leadership and grown above the leadership of the NP machine, was thinking in larger terms. So he showed an immense leadership capacity. With that very bold stroke in February, bold because it almost outsmarted us because he didn't say I am releasing, I am going to release these people, not others, I am unbanning the ANC and the PAC but I'm not unbanning the CP or MK. He just swept across the board. Now that's a boldness of a leader. It shows that he was sitting at a point in his own development where he was standing on top of a mountain looking down right across the terrain and saying, challenges, we'll deal with them. I think that the approval that he got from the world and even from Madiba, his first statement was, "De Klerk is a man of integrity."
POM And from Africans.
MM And from the townships and all.
POM A man I interviewed every year and was part of the treason trial. His name was Henry Tshabalala, he referred to him as Comrade De Klerk.
MM So, those bold moves had generated the good work. Now the question was, do I grow with that challenge or do I retreat into the party machine man? Madiba never allowed himself to become a party machine man. He would constantly fight us, he is on record, I think he recounted the story the other day in public, he said shortly after we were unbanned and we had our elections and we set up our Working Committee and everything, he was abroad and he heard abroad that we have allocated portfolios in the Working Committee and he flew back and looked at the list. He said, "How dare you do this? Go and look at the Working Committee decision", I was not in the Working Commission that first round.
POM This is the Working Committee for?
MM The NEC, post-1991 elections, the portfolio allocations. The structure suddenly turned the ANC on its head, the Secretary General became more important than the President. The portfolios were allocated. Madiba says one person, a woman, was given three portfolios (Cheryl), no place for Albertina, no place for Gertrude Shope, three portfolios sitting in one person, and he called her and he said, "Listen, one portfolio, choose which one you want." "No Madiba, I can manage all three." He said, "Listen, one portfolio, you choose which one you want but you're not going to have three." Calls the Working Committee, he says, "Since when all the tasks have been allocated. What's my task as President? All my tasks are minimal and all of them I'm hemmed in, I've got to come to this, I've got to come to that. Now look at the Secretary General, look at his responsibilities and look at his obligations. Who does he account to in his day-to-day work? Guys, I don't understand this, you've done this thing without consulting me. You've walked into solutions which are completely outside the functioning of this organisation." He tossed it over.
POM So did he reallocate?
MM He didn't reallocate, he said, "You do it, you do it, but I'm saying this one, here's the force, here are the problematics, unacceptable." He doesn't give the example of Cheryl because he doesn't like her. He loves Cheryl, but he said, "How can you guys ignore the women who built this movement and are still around and take this young person, good as she is, and give her three responsibilities to the exclusion of the others? I don't care how competent she is."
POM This goes back to a point we discussed earlier. I had asked you if people had portfolios were these portfolios that would be like shadow ministerial portfolios?
MM At that time we were not even thinking of shadow ministries. We were saying here are the functions of the ANC, we've got people coming in and settling in from exile, we need a department to attend to their welfare. Here we've got new propaganda, we need a Department of Propaganda. Here we've got the Treasurer/General, we need a department to handle that. We need an organising committee, we need a person to be the head of the Organising Committee. And we need a negotiating team. But he was saying who you allocate to and who you make that person accountable to organisationally is crucial and you can say maybe he even went so far as to say, "I need to be in the steering seat as President because we need to drive these processes and I see the person who sits in the President's seat must be driving."
POM Did he drive his cabinet that way?
MM By the time of cabinet far more relaxed, far more passing on to Thabo and intervening from time to time but not with that strong oh yes, he did that in government. Oh yes. There's an incident, again he was abroad, I don't know who was the Acting President, I think it was Thabo, but Alfred Nzo as Foreign Minister announces the appointment of Ambassadors in Malaysia, Indonesia and various countries. Been approved, they're taking up their posts. Madiba came back. He said it's not going to happen. They said to him, "We are legally committed, we are at huge risk, diplomatic and financial." He said, "It's not going to happen. Comrade Alfred Nzo, you've made these appointments, I disagree with the appointments, I have strategic reasons for my disagreement and you are going to cancel those appointments." They were cancelled.
POM This is when he was President?
MM President of the country.
POM There was an incident quoted, and it may be one of these urban legend ones, just before the ANC conference took place. It was in the Sunday Times by their political editor, whomever that is, and it talked about the appointment of Tito as Governor of the Reserve Bank. It said Thabo was the Acting President at the time and Thabo made the announcement. This was after Thabo had been elected President of the ANC and it said Mandela rang him and said, "How could you have made that appointment?" And Thabo's reply was, "Mr President I am now President of the ANC." It struck me (a) that an Acting President or whatever would never make that kind of appointment, that that would have to receive cabinet approval.
MM And the President's. It doesn't matter where the President was. But I don't remember this incident but I remember very clearly the incident of these Ambassadors, it was round about 1996 and it was countermanded. Hardly anything went out into the public arena but I know some of the reasoning behind it because FW was seeking to ensure that his people were appointed from the old civil service and Foreign Affairs to critical positions and he was making an overture for independent resources for the NP from Malaysia. In my view Madiba was sensitive to those issues, he was watching that like a hawk and no matter how much Nzo could have said, these are people whose seniority warrants them to be appointed and I have processed it with -
POM Why would Nzo be involved?
MM Nzo was Foreign Minister but Madiba was saying the appointment of Ambassadors is too sensitive an issue, "And, Foreign Minister, you can claim that you consulted and everything, it's not good enough for me, you did not consult me as President. I would have let you make the appointments but you needed to consult me so that I could sensitise you to certain sensitive issues which I don't want to go out into the public arena. So don't come to me." He jokingly once said, "You know when I came back I called, Nzo was away, the Deputy Foreign Minister came and he explained how for months they had interacted with a host government because a host government must approve of the appointment, how they processed all that, how the seniority allowed them to be elevated to these positions, how they had experience, etc., etc." Madiba said, "Not good enough." He came back, the Deputy Foreign Minister, with a legal opinion of the implications, diplomatic fall out and financial implications and disturbance of the Foreign Service and Madiba would laugh and say, "You know if you ask their advice they will always tell you you can't do it differently, they will always tell you why a decision cannot be unwound." But he says, "I said I have solid reasons why this thing should not proceed and I will manage the diplomatic fallout but you are going to cancel this appointment." Done.
POM Do ambassadorial appointments have to be approved by cabinet?
MM No, it was within the province of the Foreign Minister. You would expect him to consult with the Acting President and he would have said I've consulted, and you would simply file an information note to cabinet when it's done. But it had reached a point, the announcement was made when these people were weeks away from their departure now. The governments in the counterpart countries had approved and announced also, it was a joint announcement that so-and-so has been appointed Ambassador and will be taking up his post on 1 February, and the host government welcoming the appointment. Madiba says, "Cancel."
So when you're asking me was he interventionist, in certain things he was interventionist but in other things he was passing the reins on and he was doing this thing, those interventions were one-to-one. He would not let that become a fight in cabinet. He was not going to go to cabinet to explain his reasons in the coalition government. He didn't even take it to the ANC. He didn't want it to be talked about, his reasons, but one-to-one with the minister he said, "You are going to countermand this order."
POM Was that one appointment or a number of appointments?
MM A number, I think there were about four appointments all done simultaneously and he wanted them all wiped out and set the rule from that time, "Minister, now do you understand that you are not going to make appointments without consulting me and if I'm away and there's an Acting President you still consult me."
POM If Nzo had consulted him would he have gone along with the appointments?
MM No, his reasons were too substantial. He would not have approved those appointments and that's the reason why he countermanded it. He didn't countermand it because he had not been consulted, he countermanded it because he disagreed with the appointment of those individuals.
POM On the grounds that?
MM On the grounds that they were part of a process that he saw as dangerous for the country.
MM Being that the old order was going to get itself a grip on our interactions with the East, the countries in the eastern part of the world. They had no foothold there, the old order, but now they were going to create a grip there and he did not want the grip in the old order.
POM How would that have benefited the old order?
MM He had already, before coming into government, cultivated that eastern sector of the world. He now wanted the new democratic government to consolidate that relationship and if the ambassadorial appointments were coming from the old order then he would have probably had some intelligence reports also of their role because the diplomatic service, I think you and I would agree, is often the best place for covering all your agents, the Secret Service, etc. He would have had his reports there too and would have said, no, too dangerous. Other appointments can be made, new people can be appointed, even inefficient people that don't allow that foothold. He didn't articulate his reasons, he would have given his reasons presumably to Nzo, presumably to the Deputy President, Mbeki. But that he got his way was based on those type of issues, in my mind, rather than just the individual personality.
I think he did the same when it came to the army, the police force. I think he was careful that some of the practical steps he was taking, like the appointment of Johan van der Merwe as Commissioner of Police, should not be misread by his own colleagues to mean that he was now completely trusting, because that was the potential, the danger was there. He appointed General Meiring as General of the army, he appointed Justice Corbett head of the Appeal Court, he appointed Van der Merwe Commissioner of Police. It was very easy in that situation to say, oh, this is the tactics the President is using, all the old guard are welcome.
I remember him having a huge clash with General van der Merwe before April 1994. I had gone to report to Madiba some developments and he picked up the phone, it was about eleven at night, he picked up the phone, he was not yet President of the country, spoke to General van der Merwe and General van der Merwe began to make excuses. Virtually the tone was, "You're not the President. I hear you but I'm going to do what I'm doing." I briefed Madiba that this was some problematic move by General van der Merwe and Madiba on the phone dialled himself from his bedroom, he was in bed when I woke him up, spoke to Van der Merwe and Van der Merwe and him carried on talking but in very polite terms. Madiba said, "General if you persist that way there is going to be a huge clash between you and me."
POM This was before he became President?
MM Before he became President. "You are not going to proceed on that path."
POM This was in relation to what?
MM I don't remember what the incident was. I'll have to think it over. And despite that when he became President he appointed General van der Merwe and he has told the story about how General van der Merwe was retiring. That he has told somewhere publicly. Van der Merwe came to see him and said, "Mr President, my term is expiring, I would like to retire." So he says, "I'm not too happy about that but if you wish to retire and you've decided firmly and you've not come to discuss with me whether you should retire, you've come to tell me you're retiring, OK." Then van der Merwe says, "I'd like to make a suggestion about my successor." Madiba said, "No, no, no, let's not discuss that. Can we schedule another meeting where you've re-thought your positions about retiring and let's meet." Van der Merwe went off thinking, "Fine", because of Madiba's politeness, and when the rescheduled meeting took place Madiba walks in, or they come to him, General van der Merwe, and he's come with his decision who's going to be his successor, General Basie Smit, he walked in there, sat down and said, "Mr President, if you recall I told you I will be retiring." He says, "Yes." He said, "Well I've come to discuss that matter. I will be retiring and my successor is here." Madiba says, "Hold on, hold on. Why is General Basie Smit here?" He said, "Well he's my successor." So he says, "General, I scheduled a meeting with you, not with you and General Basie Smit. So please General Basie Smit, no offence, can you just leave the room?" He leaves the room. He says, "Now General, your decision to retire is yours but the decision who is your successor is not your decision." He said, "But Mr President, he is the successor in seniority, preparations, I have made the preparations for him to take over." He said, "I'm sorry General, you're not the President. It's my job to appoint. That item is not under discussion here. Your retirement, yes, is under discussion. Your successor is not under discussion." End of story.
Again he never talked about this until years later but General Basie Smit didn't become his successor. If he had appointed General Basie Smit it would have been carte blanche to the former Security Branch to be on top. It just goes to show how General van der Merwe had misread Madiba. He had misread Madiba's appointment of him, he had misread Madiba's politeness. He had misread the ease with which I asked Madiba the other day, I said, "What happened to the assassin of Reverend Johan Heyns?" Because Van der Merwe had gone and given him a report, "Madiba, we now know the assassin and we are on his track." So I reminded him the other day, I said, "What happened?" He says, "Do you know, I had a report and the reports were saying they were about to arrest him, that he's a very slippery character but they have identified him. But nothing happened, come to think of it nothing happened." He says, "They were giving me the run-around."
So Van der Merwe misread all those things and that when he goes and briefs Madiba one-to-one, "Mr President, you know this is happening, we're on the track", he thinks he's pacified the old man and because the old man hasn't said anything, hasn't asked him details, he thinks, "Oh, the old man's buying my story." But the old man was sitting there and saying let's see what happens. All he could say is, "General, are you sure? Is your information correct?" "Yes, Mr President, we are absolutely sure. We've identified the assassin."
POM You're saying he never raised it again?
MM He doesn't raise it, he just marks it down. But Van der Merwe misreads everything.
OK, Padraig, you start all sorts of bloody trouble about the workings of government. You start all sorts of trouble in my mind.
POM About what?
MM About all these incidents which sit in my subconscious as part of how I assess developments and how things were going.
POM That's what I'm trying to get at.
MM You may be wanting to get at it, I don't want to walk that road because there are matters of style, there are matters of strategic perspective and there are matters of management of a transition from an old order to a new order for which there are no copybooks and text books and how each one manages it is a very, very subjective factor. There are no guarantees that if you appointed so-and-so it would be the right thing and there are no guarantees that if the wrong appointment was made these are the corrective techniques and procedures that you can use.
POM Yet the only minister who was dropped from cabinet, and then subsequently re-appointed to the cabinet again, was Pallo Jordan. Unlike in many other countries there was no cabinet re-shuffle. The same is true of Thabo's government. It doesn't seem to be in the culture of the governing style to get rid of ministers who were not performing up to par.
MM Yes, but again let's deal with Madiba first. Having understood the background where we were coming from and our lack of experience and the need for political cohesion to be established, what were the corrective measures? Just keep re-shuffling? Or what happened with Pallo, rightly or wrongly? Dismiss one at a convenient moment, dismiss one whose reputation was fairly good? A few months later the opportunity arises, reinstate him and say right, I've sent my signal, now let me find ways through this signal to try and get the others to come into line, to apply themselves more zealously. So am I building a person or am I just saying that the task of building is irrelevant to my exercise? My building is going to be resting on one thing, that I have a stick in my hand. It's a consideration, how each one would handle it is another matter but if you were concerned about political cohesion of your movement, cohesion of the country, recognising the inadequacies, lack of experience, I would be very careful how I used the stick. That it seems to have become a habit, a legitimate problem to flag and raise, I may be inclined to say you're using too little of the stick.
Throughout Operation Vula there was only one occasion that I shipped back a comrade who came from outside and sent him back outside. I never had to do that with others, not because they were not slipping up and I didn't even announce it, nobody knew, nobody knew he was in the underground. In Vula there is only this one comrade that I had to ship out and I went and explained to him why I was shipping him out and I left the door open that we would recall in and in fact we recalled him. But only the people who would have known about it, some people in the leadership in the Durban structure and of course Siphiwe Nyanda and myself. Nobody else knew about it. Others, any time they breached the rules of underground work we tried to correct it while they were on the spot and we didn't have instruments of sanction in our hands so the only sanction was this drastic one of saying to the guy, you're heading out, you are going back abroad. And you had to explain why. But as I say the essential part of that instrument was to say to him, you now have to leave, and he made all his pleas, "No, too serious, you're endangering everything, you are going out now, you will escorted out, arrangements will be made to receive you, no punishment will be administered, you are merely being deprived of this enormous responsibility and honour of being in the front line of battle. You need to go back there, there will be a report there. Hopefully you will get retraining and if your performance there matches, there are skills that you have that we would like back here and we will make arrangements to get you back."
So, what was the stick? We had very little limited sticks but you knew that every person was valuable and if they had skills you said the skills have not yet flowered and by shipping him out I was robbing ourselves of a very powerful skill. He had done a six months course in Cuba specialising in the manufacture from household items of ignition devices, electronic ignition devices. Now all the ignition devices that you could manufacture here locally with rudimentary skills were very, very problematic in their time, their level of efficiency and margins of errors could not be calculated accurately. The electronic ones had a far greater accuracy, that if you said even the limpet mine which depended on pins of lead of different colours, if you wanted the limpet mine to go off in two hours you used a piece of lead with a certain colour, put it in the slot and it had a cutter that would be released and depending on the strength of that lead it would cut that lead pin and once it's cut through it would trigger off the detonation. Now depending on the strength of that lead pin it would take two hours, it could take four hours on a different colour, it could take six hours to cut that lead pin. So you could set it to go off in two hours, you could set it to go off in six hours, but your accuracy was fundamentally affected by the temperature in the environment because if it was very hot weather that lead would become easier for the cutter. So even if you took a lead pin that said six hours for the cutter, if it was very hot it could cut through probably in four hours, five hours, you couldn't predict. That was the limpet mine. This guy had now gone on an intensive, specific course in Cuba on manufacturing electronic timing devices for ignition and he had passed with flying colours. We didn't have anybody to replace him with, to shift him out.
All I am saying is that's me in that environment, how I assessed and with the help of Gebhuza and others, which measures I took, and the severity of my measures were how much he was endangering the rest of the network by his transgression and I did not have a repertoire of sanctions, (a) I could talk to him, (b) I could ship him out, no in between. So I am saying how much more in the tasks that a President of the country had in building an organisation that was made up of such diverse elements, diverse backgrounds and experiences and in steering a transition in the context of a government of national unity.
POM So how would you say did Mandela perceive the mission of his presidency?
MM He maintained the government of national unity for the sake of the country: within that framework settle the ANC into governance; within that framework build the ANC as a viable machinery; within that framework develop a competency in the civil service, and in that framework my team must have the overall message that it's a team of the government of national unity but I know that the bedrock of that team is the ANC. That's at the management of that process.
POM It's often said that he perceived his mission as nation building.
MM Sure, but I said a government of national unity, to me it's predicted by the constitution which said you're building a nation for the first time, so I assumed that. He called it, his actual strategic programme, the strategic programme that he presented publicly and in cabinet was building a nation and carrying out a reconstruction of our society. It was never one. It was nation building in the framework of reconciliation and reconstruction. There is a tendency for commentators to focus on the reconciliation as if the reconstruction belongs to Thabo and the reconciliation is abandoned by Thabo, whereas the programme was national building in the context of reconciliation and reconstruction. So people forget the reconstruction part.
POM Of the issues that the cabinet had to face, what were the most daunting and important? What are the ones that stand out in your mind leaving aside, again, well you can put it in, the TRC, without going into it?
MM I think it was across the board in the framework of our overall perspective to develop policies in each ministry and department which flowed out of that and to make those policies grapple with the reality that you inherited on the ground and therefore have an implementation strategy that was realisable That's a mouthful.
POM That is, that sounds like
MM A Marxist text book.
POM This was what we set out to do, this was like theory.
MM But each ministry, each department now had to develop the specific and workable framework and see that it fitted in. For example, Alec Erwin became Minister of Trade & Industry, he was previously Deputy Minister of Finance, and Trevor was Minister of Trade & Industry. The medium term motor industry programme was developed at that time. Today, only now this past year are the commentators saying that policy is producing successful results because it was a reshaping of the entire motor industry that existed in this country. At the same time Alec Erwin had to manage the reshaping of the clothing and textile sector and for years people said he's gone too fast and that what it has led to is massive retrenchments. Well as of last year the clothing manufacturers are saying they are now beginning to flourish. Having retrenched but what they are producing and the market that they are producing for is totally different from what they were previously producing. So in the motor industry you've got BMW producing specific models for the entire world market for export and the rest there was a trade-off, you can import without paying such high customs duty because there was a huge customs duty on anything foreign manufactured. VW is producing certain models for worldwide export. Mercedes-Benz is producing some of its models now moving towards exclusively producing them in SA for export. Textiles, we've had to deal with the competition from the east, we're no longer producing those T-shirts, etc., but we are producing Levi jeans for the US market. All those who have shifted their production and refocused it on the US market, taking advantage of Al Gore, are making a killing and they are re-employing people and expanding their workforces, but only as of last year.
Now no big drama in that story and maybe no long term foolproof answer. The people are now saying the world market for automobiles is shrinking and China is coming in on the production and is going to supplant us and be our competitor on the world market at cheaper labour cost and that the manufacturers are looking at the Chinese production facilities because China is saying, yes, you can sell your cars here if you manufacture them here. But when you say I'll manufacture them in China they say, provided you also manufacture for export. So they're saying there's a whole global restructuring of that happening. But I am saying as of last year all financial analysts are saying that that motor industry programme is paying off and on textiles they're saying it's beginning to pay off and that the pain that he put it through was a pain that was coming and had to be faced.
Now he had to develop that in his coming into office and administer it, the same way each minister had problems to do a deal with it in that framework that I have outlined. Take the overall policy framework, translate it into your sector, sometimes segment by segment in your responsibility of your sector, build it into a policy position, create the mechanism to administer it and implement that and realise that policy. Each one did it with different degrees of success on different sub-segments.
Education, you can see, was faced with enormous challenges and the results are still not coming through to the point where he's saying that department developed a policy, is consistently applying it and the period of the pain is being overcome and the results are now being seen as beneficial. Even this year's matric results, last year's, there are some analysts who are saying, "Uh-uh, these statistics are concealing rather than revealing real progress."
POM GEAR, the genesis of GEAR.
MM I personally think GEAR was a mechanism to address some of the perceived major steps that had to be taken in order for us to move forward to our reconstruction and development programme. In the restructuring
POM I want to move back to the genesis of it.
MM The genesis is to see the problem first, identify a problem.
POM What problem was identified?
MM We're going into a world economy, we come from a bankrupt state, we need to get the growth going. What steps do we take? So we say, manage the deficit, get that fiscal rigour into our practice. We say, get out of that foreign indebtedness that we inherited, do so in order to get growth going in restructured economy that we are talking about, not just exporting what we were always exporting but building it up. So growth, employment and redistribution is the full title of GEAR. That it built a model by calling in a group of academics to say here's the problem, what do we do? The academics sat down modelling away and put up this model and in that model it said if you do this, this is what will happen with different permutations, foreign investments will be attracted, this is what will happen if that happens, then the growth will be these different percentages and the employment will be these percentages and this is going to be the redistribution. Put up that model. Aim was the mandate, here is the reality, unable to attract, we need growth, what are the things that we have to do to create the basis for that? The aspect that got focused on in the public mind was that it was deficit reduction. Deficit reduction was a condition to move forward but not a sufficient condition, a necessary condition but not sufficient.
POM What was the sufficient condition?
MM The sufficient condition was that in that model you would then get the consequent foreign direct investment, that you would have that capital expenditure going on from the SA side and the outside side generating the employment creation as part of that growth. It didn't happen.
POM Two questions. One is that one would ask after six years why it hasn't happened, and two, one would think of remodelling GEAR to take account of why it hasn't happened. Or do you simply say, well it will happen?
MM No. I think it was a good attempt, it had a dangerous implication when you put the statistical model out. I think at the level of politics avoid putting a statistical model. The lesson of GEAR is that when you have those variables, even if you reduce them, you must ask which of the variables do I control and which ones are outside of my control. And to the public you have to say, these are the variables, these are the ones that we can control, these are the ones we cannot control and let's now work and I will seek to manage as government and track how those variables are shifting around. Instead the data was packed in and everybody was asking why not, why not, why not?
We know why now, right now in spite of the story that because of our corruption we're not getting the investments, Angola has got more corruption than us, it's getting more investments. Why? Am I going to blame foreign direct investors? No, they're going where they get the best returns. We were told if you get law and order, if you get safety and security, if you stop corruption it will come, and if you create the climate and the market force and the labour relations. We started attending to those things, they said, but you've got inflexible labour relations. And when we say, but wait a minute, other countries in the world have the same more inflexible labour relations but they're getting the investment, they say, oh it's because of your crime. So we say we're getting on top of the crime and they say it's because of your corruption. Those factors are prevalent from China to Angola but the flow is still there.
So you're dealing with an autonomous variable, it is a variable that you cannot predict and yet it is a variable in the equation. You can't say, OK, to hell with foreign direct investment, we'll build it without it.
POM Well you would if you had anybody saving but you have one of the lowest saving rates in the world.
POM So you've no savings, you've got still a deficit.
MM And you are into a global economy where the impact of global developments are hitting your currency and affecting your balance sheet.
POM OK, so if I were you at an economic seminar or a seminar on business or whatever and I stood up and said this model was built and it was predicated on certain assumptions and the assumptions were if we deal with A, B, C, D, E, F and G and we take these measures then this will be the consequence, direct foreign investment will flow in. It hasn't. The question is, of course, why hasn't it? Simply to say it's an autonomous variable is too simple.
MM No it says on the whys, I've heard all of you academics and I'm trying to address all the whys, but the only academic that I won't listen to is the one that says therefore forget about it, don't bother about foreign direct investment. Because once you say don't bother about it, tell me how else we move forward? Even the Chinese economy with its billions of population and market size is going out to get foreign direct investment.
POM It's getting billions.
MM But that's because of the size of its market. But Angola doesn't have our size of market.
POM That's an assumption, you say Angola doesn't have the same thing. Angola has oil.
MM That's why even Thabo has called in from Soros to the head of Daimler Chrysler to form a council advising him. He says, "Gentlemen, look at my economy. Keep looking at it and tell me, meet every six months. I want to hear your advice." And he listens to them. He's trying to do it but there's nobody else come with an alternative model. He says in the debate, whether you're coming from the left or right, please if you reject this model put an alternative model on the table. Even Patrick Bond is not able to put an alternative model.
POM A man who I was reading last night was saying how the left was treating you, that you were notorious. What was he quoting you? He said you were notorious among the left for rejecting the RDP.
POM You. He said you used to quip that the RDP is a living document, that you claim if you're a Marxist to say it's 1998. The point is if I were you are at a seminar and this is a seminar, you were in that group that Thabo, whatever, conducts around him and it comes to you, Mac, and you're asked, why do you think that despite our damnedest efforts we are unable to attract foreign investment? What have we missed, what have we not done?
MM No, I don't think we've missed anything on it. I don't think at that level we have missed. I think what has happened is that the assumption that if you address all those issues that it will just automatically flow.
POM It won't.
MM It won't. And to realise that for foreign direct investment this economy is a small economy competing with giants in terms of other potential attracting it.
POM Even Brazil.
POM Even Nigeria, more corrupt, it doesn't have any of these things. It doesn't have law and order, it doesn't have it's corrupt as anything.
MM Yes, they're worse. But it attracts investment. So the academics who told us when we put GEAR up, how many academics sang praises, and businessmen? But now when it doesn't deliver the results they say tinker here, tinker there and then one group says throw it out of the window and have a new one. I say, you've got your deficits under control, now you have to look at can you use deficit expeditiously and sustainably to inject growth by increasing the deficit but not letting it go out of control. Is the deficit margin now giving you space? Because you've succeeded in bringing the deficit down and I think the same debate is taking place over inflation and interest rates.
POM Well this has been, I did a paper on this in 1995 based on the work of an economist called Stiglitz, he used to be at the World Bank, who said that inflation rates can almost be twice the level they are here, that deficits can be much more, that within those expanded parameters you can generate growth. And he shows, gives examples of where
MM So he's raised the question which says you have succeeded in getting control of your deficit, now is it time to loosen the tap? It's a debate. Similarly it's saying you are bringing the inflation rate down, do you need to bring it down as much as you predicted because if you hold on to that you are raising the interest rates too high. So what's the relationship there? Tito says his job is to manage the interest rate within the targets that you've set for the inflation rate.
POM Now that's interesting. You know why? Because you know what the constitution says his duty is? It says it's to protect the rand. That's what the constitution says. It says nothing about inflation.
MM No, the issue has become: my sub-mandate between the Minister of Finance and myself.
POM Well, God damn it, it's not in the constitution Tito.
MM No but he is saying, Trevor, that's your baby. Trevor is saying, I want you to manage the baby differently.
POM Why isn't somebody looking at the constitution which says very explicitly it's the value of the currency which is the primary duty of the Governor of the Reserve Bank? And that is not related to
MM And when we wrote that we asked many economists how should we formulate it.
POM In the constitution?
POM Now you were already entering a world market. Even at that time the Johannesburg Stock Exchange was the 12th or 13th largest in the world. You've a free floating currency, which meant that you knew any free floating currency is a currency that's open to speculation so to give the Governor of the Reserve Bank the mandate to protect the currency
MM But Stiglitz was one of our advisors before he came to this position of his critique of the deficit.
POM Ah well you see he's not in politics. It hasn't generated employment. That's OK too. Why?
MM But we know that in the modern economy of the late 20th century almost universally growth did not go with employment creation.
POM In fact you have growth without job creation.
MM And those who answered labour intensive projects I mean I looked around, I said, "Guys, do you want to build the road to Maputo with labour intensive? All my studies have shown (a) it will take me ten years to build the road, (b) after I've built the road it'll crumble within two years and the cost will be higher than the cost of building it in two years using modern technology. So if you tell me use labour intensive to build a gravel road in the rural areas that's one thing, but don't tell me to build a super highway when the needs for restructuring our economy are so powerful and important that I have to race against time." And yet there were comrades, "No, you see, he's failed because he's not followed the RDP precept of labour intensive." That's not what the RDP said. The RDP didn't say use labour intensive irrespective of the actual conditions you are dealing with. It didn't say that. Let's go back and read the RDP.
POM Anyway it would be a step backwards not a step forward, just as you point out.
MM So to say he abandoned his Marxism, Marxism doesn't say you must build things with labour intensive in everything. It doesn't say that. In fact Marxism says the opposite, it says capitalism is the highest stage of production incorporating technology that society has reached but it has reached a ceiling beyond which it cannot take growth. You need to reorganise the ownership of those means of production to take it to a higher level. So it says you need a mechanism to permanently integrate technological innovation into your production methodologies. That's Marxism. That's Marx.
POM He too would be taking a step backwards because he was in an age of technological change when he wrote everything.
MM That's what I say, that's why I say Marxism is a tool of analysis, not a set of answers. Marxism particularly is a peculiar tool, it's a bloody sword with two edges. You swing it this way it cuts through the problem, you swing it this way and it cuts your own fucking head off. So just because I've got this sword in my hand doesn't mean I know how to use it. But if you understand that it is a tool of analysis then you know the answer is not infallible, it's how you use those tools. I can't give you a saw and say, right make this table. And you say, I'll make it. It's how you wield that saw, how you measure, how you employ that saw that's going to determine how you're going to get the cut.
POM So you've neither investment, you've neither employment, you've had redistribution. I have an interview with Sampie Terreblanche next week, I used to interview him regularly and I went back to him to go through his forthcoming book. Now Sampie is a serious economist and
MM So is Vella Pillay.
POM That's true, that is why he doesn't like -
MM I had this argument with Vella the other day, he was at my home. Yes, we had a meal at the restaurant and then we went to my home.
POM Couldn't argue in the restaurant.
MM And we had a damn good stand up fight which started off in the restaurant, because he said to me, I said I was going to the bookshop, we were eating at Willoughby's, and I said I'm going to the bookshop and I bought him A Fortunate Man as a present for Patsy and the Sisulu book as a present for Vella. And he said, "If Sampie's book is there buy it for me." So Sampie's book wasn't there and that started the debate, the discussion and the fight. What we both read in the newspapers Vella was now saying that Sampie's right.
POM He might have said he's right but he didn't read the book.
MM So I said hold on, what have they in the newspapers? With all my respect for Sampie as an economist let me start off with my base line, I had known of no economist solving the problems of any country's economy. Let's start like that. Point two, what I have read of Sampie is that in his measures he has not brought in the quality of life affected in the deepest rural areas by the one million taps, by the 1.4 million homes, by the changes in just people beginning to feel that they are repossessing their dignity. I said he has not put that in the quantification as far as I can read and I am saying you've got to counterbalance that with why the public keeps re-electing the ANC.
POM Oh no you don't.
MM You don't?
POM No. You were doing fine until that point.
MM Anyway we had a stand up fight because Vella will tell me to do everything assuming that this economy has the power of the Chinese economy. In 1959/60 he and I had a stand up fight at his home in London when he came back from China and told me that the people's communes were the future. And the fight was over two questions. "Vella, who owns that land in the commune?" And he told me that that's an irrelevant question. I said, "No, bullshit, you've just come from China. Did you ask?" And he was fudging the question because the state owned the land, not the community. The second question was based on his report. I said, "You're glorifying the fact that they are using wooden ploughs. If that's the prototype of communism I've got a problem because communism is supposed to ease the burden of life not to make me plough with a wooden plough." I said, "Did you ever plough with a steel plough? Well I've ploughed and it's bloody hard work. What is it with the wooden plough?" And he was furious with me.
So he and I have stand up fights. We love each other but every time he quotes me China I say, "Wait, you are a Chinese partisan." Right now China is taking the capitalist road under the guise that it is still communist rule, a real problem. Stop saying it's communism, stop saying it's socialism. Say you want the party that was ruling to still rule and say you're now taking the capitalist road because you jumped over stages of restoring Your productive forces did not grow under your communism and the parts that you took, modelled on the Soviet experience and Eastern Europe, took you to a dead end. It's simple, don't tell me Jeremy Cronin has been to China and comes back and sings praises and yet the very Roads Agency we set up in Transport, China has asked Nazir Allie to come and brief them so that they can use it as a model, but this Roads Agency in SA he is saying China is saying come and teach us how to do it. Jeremy goes to China and says China is doing wonderfully, but here he says this agency that we created is a desertion of policy. Come on! Give me a break, Padraig.
POM Well our University Institute, we had a programme where we sent judges to China and then Chinese judges come to the US, an interchange programme, it doesn't really affect their legal system but everyone loves to go to China. So, our judicial system they will love but besides that everyone came back stunned by the fashions, the cars, the sheer display of gross material wealth. That's all they could see.
Maybe the assumption should be at this stage of 'post industrial' development where the major economies are essentially service economies, economic growth does not increase employment and we must start from that fact, therefore do you accept that in the foreseeable future that the level of employment is not going to increase that much? Now I will say this thing about Derek Keys, for ten, eleven years I've interviewed him and I've asked him every year give me a projection of the increase in employment. He's always said there's going to be none, every year. That being said, my question would be how do you manage an economy where you begin from the assumption, and again it's an assumption, that for the foreseeable future you are not going to therefore to make any change in the level of employment, a number one priority, is in fact making again a promise that cannot be kept.
MM Everything says it's unrealisable.
POM That's right.
MM So you have to say now can we revisit that promise? And can you economists agree that we should change that assumption and support us then when we have to politically live with that consequence and then explore how do we change the quality of life of those unemployed without deadening, without creating a sense of total dependency on the state, that is without killing their initiative.
POM That's right.
MM A big problem but can we get a consensus amongst the economists to put that question up? No. Let's look at within the alliance, the debate. It hasn't flagged that question.
POM It dare not.
MM The first thing is to put up that question and say is that a legitimate question? So the debate is a new order debate just as I said earlier it is within the framework of changing the rules of the global economy.
POM I wrote someplace, and it was used some place because I liked it at the time, I think in 1995, that SA gained its sovereignty just at the time that the concept of national sovereignty was being thrown out the door. It was like, we're there! It's gone.
MM And we tried and we are still trying to say that the economy should be defined not as a South African economy but there should be a co-operative Southern Africa economy but to get the inter-dependencies and the benefits flowing. Look, today's newspaper says, "The Namibian government has reversed its decision to bar SA Express and SA Air Link from operating scheduled flights for mainly business travellers from the capital's Eros Airport." The original decision was intended to protect the interests of Namibia's ailing airline and the minister said he is making this rule immediately out of the blue. Air Link and Air Express cannot fly into Eros, they must fly into the airport 40 kms away because Namibia's national airlines are ailing. Now he received protests but the biggest protest has been the World Airline Authority saying it's violation of the agreement. If you do that your Namibian airlines will not be able to fly to any other country, so he backtracks. Why? The knee-jerk protectionist measure he thinks that's going to solve the problem. That's not going to solve the problem so he backtracks.
POM That decision was taken on information of about 40 or 50 years old.
MM But what was he planting? War between SA and Namibia or whatever? Yet you're saying southern African economy needs to gel together so that it becomes a larger market so that its interaction with the global economy has more say and more muscle so that the resource market into which you are attracting foreign capital is a larger one than your individual ones.
POM But shouldn't more attention be paid to that than to the promotion of NEPAD, like a two-stage phased ?
MM NEPAD with all it's wishy-washiness provided a continent-wide framework but allows for those sub-regional developments, so that it says all of us are still thinking together. But NEPAD does not remove the essence of concentrating on the steps and the bites that you have to take. So I don't have big fights with NEPAD, my issue is how do you move forward practically. Fine, go on, discuss trying to get it together but get this southern African economy going and if you have one more reference point that is consistent with NEPAD and that persuades people to come in, all the better. Nothing in NEPAD impedes your moving forward in SA.