About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

07 Jan 2003: Maharaj, Mac

POM     Mac, we had been talking yesterday about GEAR and your response really to critics of GEAR is that your criticisms are fine but where's the alternative, or where's your alternative? There's one aspect of GEAR and that is that it was embraced by the Nats, it was embraced by the DA as economic policy, what we call the fundamentals of economic policy, they have no differences with the government at all. So to a certain extent those who are labelled neo-liberal subscribe to the same economic policies as the government or vice versa. In one sense or another they are neo-liberal policies as the word neo-liberal is defined these days. Do you not find it ironic that the party of apartheid like the successor parties who were so afraid that this country would turn, become communistic for so many years or even socialistic, and who even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall still looked upon the economic policies of the ANC with suspicion, now sees the ANC almost queuing to a line that is almost copybook what they would prescribe themselves?

     I'll put this in the context of - in the years leading up to 1994 one of the questions I would put to the NP and the DP would be their concerns in terms of negotiating priorities, what were some of their concerns and they all put property and the economy before issues of politics.

MM     I think first of all I have become disenchanted with labels including labels such as neo-liberalism. I think that if you are grappling with a strategic vision and in the context of dealing with the reality as it exists, there is a necessary measure of pragmatism as to how you move forward to arrive at your goals and the ANC when it set out its strategic vision for the post-election year at its Bloemfontein conference was very clear that a strategic vision could not be set with simple five-year or ten-year concepts because the changes that are needed in SA are of such a fundamental order that you could only talk about it in terms of decades. Bloemfontein, as I recall, set out four strategic objectives to be realised at the very least over a period of 25 years. That included the issue of democratisation of our society beyond the formalities of a constitution that I think is a very, very good constitution.

     I have a quarrel with labels and therefore when you say don't I find it ironic, I say if you have to do something, settle in your mind that you are doing the right thing and if the right thing has a label, to hell with the label. I have reached a point –

POM     Labels emasculate meanings.

MM     They emasculate. For example, let's take a simple question, the socialist/communist thought was based on the assumption that democracy for the working class as the majority force in a society overrode the issue of individual rights for anybody. It was almost evolved as a very sharp position.

POM     Now as a former communist how do you react to reaching the acclaimed status of having the ordinary workers clean your car?

MM     Don't you see, I said you can steal it, I am not attached to property, as long as you replace it with liquid capital. Now I was giving the example and therefore it saw, through the experiments in the Soviet Union, the dictatorship of the proletariat as a further enhancement of democracy. But today you look back, where do individual rights fit in? And I think it is incontrovertible that the progress of society needs movement towards equalisation with regards to the enormous, untenable disparities in wealth and income. But at the same time if you impose the class interests of any particular class and in that process erode the individual human rights or block the evolution of individual human rights, the society is going to be that much poorer.

     Now if somebody says to me the concept of individual rights is a classic liberal concept and because you now have in the constitution of SA a Bill of Rights dealing with individual rights, that has now made you a liberal, I'd say that's not the way human society has developed. Human society developed even from slave to feudal to capitalist society, moving not in a linear path but certainly progressing to a better and better quality of life for people, to better realisation of rights, protection of the individual. And similarly in SA the protection and the advancement of the group that was denied access to the benefits of the modern economy in society.

     So as a group the previously disadvantaged need to be moved to a position where there is real equality of opportunity that it is not constrained by inherited inequalities, but at the same time individual's rights are protected and enhanced. So human society has moved, sometimes taking the bad of the past, our job is to look at the good of the past and move it forward to a better life. So you don't simply say because that was the fault in the 18th century under the name of J S Mills, therefore whatever Mills advocated is wrong because I will be tainted with the label of 'that is liberal'.

     You may argue with me on this matter but I will say to you I am trying to be consistent. Even when I dealt previously with race I have said I learnt in prison, don't label a person who in a particular action is manifesting a racist underpinning, don't label the person as a racist, rather say this particular act of yours or this particular view is racist. That allows you to say you are a person influenced by certain good ideas and influenced by certain backward ones.

POM     We have no quarrel on the issue of labelling. None at all.

MM     So I say now, when you say is it ironic that GEAR has been received so well, sure, and received by people you would have expected to be the most conservative forces in our society and previously the rulers. The fact that they receive it well is not the issue for me. You would want your programmes to be received at a national level because you are expecting to couch the different segment's interests in a way that the totality of society sees you as governing in the interests of the nation. And each class can see in that that it is of benefit to them.

POM     Well the irony or the paradox, the irony maybe, is that the ANC has had far more trouble selling it to its own constituency than to those labels. I mean the person who does the labelling is the President of SA, he is a classic labeller.

MM     But the underpinning then of GEAR is wider than GEAR itself. The underpinning is the strategic objective of the ANC, as I say, defined at the Bloemfontein conference. It's very simple, it's four points as a strategic objective. It was to move the society to greater equality and lesser inequalities, to grow and develop, not just to grow the economy in terms of growth rates, but to enhance the quality of life dealing with issues of joblessness, etc., to further democratise the society and to remove the legacy of racialism and therefore de-racialise this society and we said we cannot achieve this in five years. This is a quarter century objective because your wish to reach that cannot be realised overnight.

     Now that is the underpinning. That underpinning is further spelt out when coming into power we said we need to integrate this economy into the global economy. The reality is we are living in a world with a global economy and no longer with two super powers and two systems competing. The world order is governed within a capitalist order. But, we said, the rules of that world order need to be changed. Now obviously to the extent we succeed in our internal programmes in the reshaping of this economy within that global context, to the extent that we build the alliances, we enhance our capacity to change the rules.

POM     Let me take this back a step. I think we were in agreement yesterday that, again, given the realities of the world order as it is and what we've learned is that to make predictions as to where it's going is kind of 'plunk-plunk'.

MM     Hazardous.

POM     That's the model, it's proven and there are just those models. We agreed that growth without employment is for the moment a phenomenon. We agreed that foreign investment has not and for the foreseeable future probably will not flow in the direction of SA.

MM     Or at the requisite levels that we would like.

POM     To create the level of growth and supposedly would stimulate jobs and probably may not. And we talked about how do you deal with what may be the coming paradigm of growth and increasing unemployment because technology will change and how do you deal with joblessness and give people meaning and purpose, dignity and all of those things in life. There needs to be a re-shaping of a lot of thinking in a lot of directions. Would not one step to enhance that, say less emphasis on growth because growth is not achieving, is not creating adequate redistributive mechanisms either in terms of jobs or regeneration, is that we will have to look more at redistribution, maybe while there is emphasis on both growth and redistribution perhaps we should start putting a little more squeeze on redistribution.

MM     That is an issue of balance. That is an issue of management. That is not an issue of the strategic perspective.

POM     Yes, but do you not think that this is what COSATU and what would be called the ultra-left or whatever are being –

MM     Accused of.

POM     - their anti-privatisation campaigns, it's about redistribution.

MM     No. In the debates what is needed from my side is that –

POM     When you say 'your side' you're speaking as?

MM     As an individual, is that in a management of a process there is always a question: are you maintaining the right balance? And that should be an issue of vigorous debate. But are we agreed that we are pursuing both growth and redistribution, or are you descending to positions in this debate falling on one side or the other. I find often in the debate at the moment the paucity of an alternative leads me to the conclusion that those who are saying increase in the balance the redistribution effort, often a protection of the existing system e.g. the debate over privatisation does not say what is good to enhance the integration of our economy, the growth of this economy, the export led growth in terms of the role that transport plays. And when we come to passenger transport are we removing the spatial organisation that apartheid imposed?

     Now, if we are agreed that we need to enhance the competitiveness of our products then the transport sector in the movement of goods, services and people should be lessening the cost of transport as a component of the cost of our goods. I don't find that argument coming anywhere from people who are saying increase the emphasis on redistribution, because your capacity to do more effective redistribution is dependent and interrelated with the growth of your economy. So I'm saying it's a balance, you've got to keep watching whether you are not overbalancing. That is why I said yesterday that the deficit reduction has now reached a point where it is legitimate to ask whether you should not deliberately be prepared to increase that deficit to use those resources in another way.

POM     Particularly even before redistribution to infrastructure.

MM     Infrastructure and capital expenditure in developing the productive capacity of this society. You can retort by that and say, Mac, does that mean you have become a liberal because you are arguing that redistribution is dependent on making the cake bigger? No. All I'm saying is making the cake bigger is a necessary part of the redistribution but if you just want to slice that cake into more slices and forget about it growing bigger where are we? So I am saying if the debate took place within that pragmatic perspective and it said why are we maintaining this? Apartheid and white SA created every one of the parastatals that we have at the moment, to serve whose interests? A minority's interests, acceptable to capitalists. Does that mean because you are socialist that all of those parastatals have to be retained? Aren't you asking the question, in the limited capacity and resources is that parastatal performing the functions that it was supposed and now needs to perform? And if it's not now performing the needs do you say because I want the state sector to expand, hang on? No, you can't say that. You have to say, is this a strategic asset? And then you have to define what you mean by a strategic asset because at times in the past you described steel as a strategic asset. Is it really a strategic asset any more?

POM     Beyond that, decisions made by the apartheid regimes weren't only made for the maintenance of white privilege, they were also made within the context of current orthodox economic thinking at the time and parastatals in the forties, fifties and into the sixties were – all of Western Europe was creating parastatals all over the place.

MM     So you can't start from a preconceived notion, you have to ask a very pragmatic question: here it is, what function is it performing now in this economy? Is that function strategic? Is that function crucial and is it structured in such a way to conduct that function? But if you argue with me that it is merely to keep the workers employed in that, still employed, you've forgotten the question of growth, you've forgotten the question of efficiency and you've forgotten redistribution, because you are saying even if I have to subsidise this inefficient industry because there are X thousand workers there, you are forgetting that if that became efficient it spins off onto the entire community, not just those X thousand workers. So the debate doesn't take place that way.

     Quite often and at the moment on the right the so-called committed liberal ideologues say get rid of it because you need a market economy and on the left they say retain it because the state must own it. My argument is, my experience in government was with the limited resources you have to prioritise where you're going to deal with - attack problems and I say we inherited a bloated bureaucracy. Merely to reduce that bureaucracy for the sake of reducing would be wrong but to reduce it for greater efficiencies and more effective delivery which therefore amounts, yes, to a reduction in the size of the state in terms of the number of people in the service, but it enhances the power of the state because you become a more effective instrument.

POM     But there's another but and that is that efficiency itself is only one criteria by which you can judge social and economic impact.

MM     Sure, but it is a necessary criteria because you cannot use your scarce resources and say I am not concerned about how efficiently I am deploying it here rather than here. And of course the liberal argument, the pure free market argument is let the market allocate the resources. Why? They argue it is the most effective mechanism. Now I am saying market failure is as much a characteristic of capitalism as market success. So you're back to square one, approach the issues pragmatically, define for the people and the public because you represent the public. Define to them the parameters within which you are examining this problem and show them why the steps you are advocating are going to be good for that industry and for the rest of the economy and for your redistributive capacity. Don't lose sight of your redistribution because if you allow the market forces to do the redistribution we know that the status quo will remain.

POM     You're at my economics seminar, we began on this yesterday and I've listened to you and I've listened to all the other arguments. So we are agreed on the following, maybe just two or three things. One is that the level of investment, direct foreign investment that is needed to generate that level of economic growth, that will jump start the economy into a different phase, appears not to be materialising despite our best efforts, and goddamn it we've tried everything.

MM     And you must continue those efforts.

POM     And we continue them but it's not materialising and that for the moment is a fact. Two, our economic levels of growth are really anaemic when you take into account the level of growth versus the level of growth in population.

MM     And versus the level of the basic needs of the people not being met.

POM     It's just not general enough, it's stagnant. Three, growth does not appear to create significant employment. In fact we are faced with a problem of unemployment that by some estimates is as high as 40%, by other estimates it's 30%, whatever it is it's unacceptable.

MM     It's an unacceptable level.

POM     But we are not in a position to really say we'll halve that, as the President said, by the year 2015. That's just a promise.

MM     And it's dependent on the growth of the economy.

POM     Of everything else happening all over the world.

MM     And it's making still the assumption that that growth in the economy will necessarily lead to more employment.

POM     And the experience of at least the developed economies that this is not so and as developing economies move more into … like the industrialised transformation and move into the technological transformation they're cutting out the job creating sectors, becoming less and relevant.

MM     The experience of the developed and the developing is that the growth of the economy in the modern period is not leading to the growth in employment.

POM     So, what do we do, guys?

MM     What you do is that you cannot abandon creating the conditions for those investments, both foreign and domestic. Two, you cannot abandon growth in the productive capacity of society. Three, you cannot abandon efforts to bring about more and more redistribution and addressing those basic needs but you have to keep looking at how can you stimulate investment into that infrastructure. Now the state has limited resources but the state has been able to play a part in also reordering its expenditure pattern. Is its expenditure going into consumption side or is it going into capital formation side?

     Now Trevor Manuel has announced that he is now increasing investment in infrastructure and it is true. I last year argued that his budget, while it showed a proportionate small increase in capital expenditure, I felt that when you really looked at the figures in terms of real terms it was not impressive. But with the achievement of the deficit reduction he is now increasing – we should be debating can we increase it more? Can we increase it more? Let's just take a simple question. What is the debate in the transport sector? How can Spoornet, our freight movement, because our infrastructure is decaying, it has been neglected under the Nats and we have not reached a point where we can get it moving. The requirements are enormous. Are we debating that our solution today must also lead to more investment in the infrastructure in the transport sector whether from the ports to the railways to the roads? And where do we get those resources from.

     My argument is, you can call me whatever label, but the path that this government took in terms of its national roads has led to capital expenditure in the development of those national roads.

POM     Development of?

MM     National roads, the arteries, the main arteries. That has been done by concessioning and toll roading, etc. Where is the huge gap? Are we creating the roads' infrastructure to bring the rural areas into this national economy so that people can become involved as part of the entire productive economy? I think the rural roads are like – why? Because we left it to the provinces and the municipalities. Not a bad thing in itself but with the public works programmes could we not do more?

     So that Department of Public Works becomes a crucial one in the immediate period. Is it investing, directing capital into that infrastructure using public works programmes because those areas are amenable also simultaneously to more intensive labour utilisation. It has been done in many countries, both capitalist and socialist experiments were the generation of public efforts in those areas of capital formation, of investment in infrastructure, can utilise more labour than elsewhere. So, are we doing that? And then we have been trying but we have made all sorts of mistakes. There's nothing wrong with making mistakes. To me with mistakes the issue is do you learn from them?

     When I went out with my son to that Kosi Bay I went to an area in KZN where we built that road through Muzi to Ponta Do Ouro. We launched it during the time I was in office, the road was now complete. At the juncture of that road and other roads arose a town which did not exist at the time we started that road. I think it's called Makosana(?) something. I went to that town, I was shocked at the level of vibrant economic activity. It was buzzing but I saw that in the growth of this town Public Works had built a whole nice thatched complex with stalls allocated and shutters on the stalls and nice archways and walkways. Three quarters of those facilities were not occupied. The town had grown using a portion of the front of this facility but away from it and there were busy, busy shops and supermarkets and fruit stalls out in the open but they were not using those stalls inside the complex. What did it tell me? It told me that in planning that we were likely not to have been sensitive to what the people need there. It was a lovely design, thatched roofs, walkways but all secluded, whereas the stalls were now in the open area where the transport congregated and the buses and the taxis came in, where the private vehicles came in and these were open stalls. They had not gone to the closed stalls. So who was wrong? You must start off – we were in our planning, in our design. We were not sensitive to what the people needed. That's why they stand empty.

     So I am saying Public Works made an investment but the investment, when you look back, was wrongly designed, not meeting the needs. That's why the return from that has not materialised. Don't make the same mistake next time. Next time ask, where's the hub of economic activity? What do those people need? What type of facility? Do they need one grand structure with alleyways in it or do they want a more open structure and do you build and slowly see how it is fulfilling the needs and expand it rather than just go and build a complex and go away. That's all that, to me, that's involved. Sensitivity that people will do things that are convenient for them. You cannot determine that. That's why you continue to study all the time what do the people want.

     Even here in this bank we say we want to be client focused. What does that mean? Meet the client's needs. Client's needs, you go and ask the clients and then it depends on what questions you ask. Don't start imposing on the clients what you think they need. So Public Works to me is a crucial lynchpin in this period.

POM     This is a repetition and I don't want to get into it now because it will come up in one of our final sessions later on. But in all the variables you've pointed to as affecting the economy, whether it's participation in the global economy, the need to reorient what has been a protectionist economy to global needs, attempts to attract foreign investment, creating an investment user environment, relationship between growth, employment, investment, what you would call foreign investment as an autonomous variable, in all of that you have never mentioned HIV/AIDS, the relationship between –

MM     Even before HIV/AIDS I have to mention the variable of skills development.

POM     OK skills.

MM     Crucial.

POM     Crucial but again, and I won't get into it, I'll wait till hopefully there are some more studies coming on the market, but, again, even in the area of skills and development you've got to say what is the return of the investment there and when you factor in …you can divide it by two. Similarly, I talked to, I won't say any kind of high almighty level, but definitely to businessmen who are concerned about SA and when you talk about foreign investment the first thing they will mention is AIDS.

MM     AIDS, we have discussed it many times, surely AIDS is a crucial aspect, so crucial that it can be equated to the black plague because it can undermine everything that you're trying. All your infrastructure investment and development of skills, etc., is predicated on the fact that that investment will bring the returns. AIDS is right tackling the issue at both the population that is the consumer and the population that is the producer. Your infrastructure investment is part of going into the population being skilled, etc., and serving and bringing about the growth.

POM     But if I said, well, Trevor, I look at your budget and I look at your short term and your medium term and I've always raised the question, have you factored in the impact of AIDS and the increasing toll of AIDS deaths that will be a reality over the next number of years even if you cut the rate right now, and the increasing proportion of the budget that will necessarily have to be devoted to the health sector?

MM     I think that the AIDS debate in this country very briefly needs to be put in its context. Under the NP, under apartheid, AIDS began to hit this country and from the NP it was denied. In 1990 when we were legalised the ANC went around the country tackling and raising the AIDS issue. Nkosazana Zuma was at the front of that campaign. So everything indicated that a government led by the ANC was seeing this as a problem at a time when everybody, private sector and the previous order was in denial that it is a problem and to the extent that they acknowledged that there was an emerging problem they saw it as a problem of the black community. They did not see AIDS as a problem of the white community.

     OK, we come into government. In the first few years of the government from the President down we talked about AIDS. We actually set up mechanisms, began to put aside budgets, we created an inter-ministerial committee headed by the Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. So I say, yes, I think that the problem that arose with AIDS, putting the best construction-

POM     The ministerial - ?

MM     The ministerial thing was working. When I left government I was asked by Nkosazana Zuma, please can I put a two-pager on how I went about it in the transport sector. I even had the employers and the employees in the transport industry come together at the Bargaining Council which was supposed to deal with wages and conditions, put money in for the development of the training programmes and the peer group training, and we had started it. So I did the paper. So I say up to that time there appeared to be will but somewhere along the line the President, by raising this conundrum of the relationship of poverty and the African epidemiology of the disease, sent out signals that were demobilising.

     I think the matter was not helped by the stance of the Minister of Health because however sophisticated the arguments of the President were, the Minister of Health in simplifying the arguments just tied it up into knots. The message that came across, and the more the President dug in his heels, the more he aligned himself with the dissident camp no matter how much he may argue that intellectually he was trying to do all sorts of efforts to deal with the African epidemiology (is it the right word?). In that situation we reached a huge impasse and a demobilisation of effort. Even civic action groups like TAC found themselves now in confrontation with government rather than working together. Even the issue of the pricing of the drugs and the battle with the pharmaceuticals became distorted by this position and the result is nowhere do you find in the forecasting and projections efforts to quantify and put into the forecast the impact of AIDS down the line.

     Two things have happened since then. One, we cannot underestimate the position that Madiba took publicly and Tutu has been taking publicly. We cannot underestimate the effect of the TAC stance in building a momentum to change that position. Where are we now? We're at the point where the ANC conference in Stellenbosch has led to a shift in the stance of the ANC government. How far is that going to be carried through? I don't know. I still think it's a struggle but I think that the stance is shifting. I see in today's papers that the AIDS activists who have been doing the sit-in have just called it off, I think they are saying diplomatically because of the appeal by the Minister of Health. That does not mean that they have come to an understanding with the Minister of Health but it is certainly that from the AIDS activists there is a stance that's saying we see the prospect of government changing its position so tactically we are prepared to back off from this sit-in because we hold out the hope that the stance of government is going to change.

POM     That government will follow the order of the Constitutional Court.

MM     Yes, and implement it, because the previous order they welcomed it but the implementation has become the problem and the minister's statement on the implementation and some of the MEC's, particularly Mpumalanga, were not helpful at all to the process.

POM     Don't get into AIDS. I just want to go back to investment because there was a survey done, and I will try to track it down, but there was a survey that indicated that among international investors that SA still fell into the category of an area, a country of uncertainty and the uncertainty factor was related to how AIDS was being dealt with, the impact of AIDS, and, two, at the time the study was being carried out the rand, particularly the volatility and fluctuations of the rand, were two hedges against investment here. So that two ways of making that autonomous variable less autonomous perhaps might be to deal with, as you well know, they don't make investments in areas they consider to be where there's uncertainty attached, where the level of uncertainty –

MM     You can raise that matter in the context of foreign direct investment but I say the AIDS issue has a far greater reasoning that says you've got to wage this war against AIDS. It's that foreign direct investment may factor it in in its considerations. I don't see it as a very significant issue because AIDS is ravishing Angola, it's not raised as the uncertainty factor in Angola in the flow. So that's neither here nor there. I do not want to challenge that argument that it arises as a consideration in the investors' minds, I think that I would raise it still in the fundamental core that, guys, because we went into this state of denial we have (a) failed so far to make it a real war of the people against AIDS and (b) we have not been able to factor it in as a meaningful variable in our projections of the future in every area be it health services that you've got to provide, be it education, be it productivity in our economy and be it the skills that our economy needs. So it needs to be factored in and what I'm saying is that now on the AIDS issue the question of the war against HIV/AIDS (there needs to be) a movement in government stance.

     You raised two issues, one is making it a war against AIDS, two is factoring it in your forecasts in every arena of public and private life. I think that the two are inter-related. But it is crucial now and raises signs for some optimism that we are moving into that war phase. If government's stance shifts it has opened an obstacle that was blocking the opening of the war front against AIDS. It was confusing the public and it was even creating friction with the private sector where it sees the problem and wants to address it on its own, e.g. the mines. So that shift is taking place there but that shift will not be measurable only if you are carrying out an awareness war. It involves also treatment of those who are suffering, who are living with it and it all involves from national budget to all forecasting to incorporate it, including the private sector, and it involves things like the price of pharmaceuticals, the generics and all those things. But the two issues are the war, a shift in government's stances makes that war more realisable and it makes it more possible that government in its own forecasting begins to do it. And it's correct that people like you should raise the issue: why is your medium term expenditure framework, why is it that it does not have an item 'the impact of AIDS'?

POM     Especially since your department commissioned three years ago studies to estimate it.

MM     To estimate it. Sure.

POM     They only can be estimates, you're not going to get a model that's –

MM     I've told you we've done it here in this group as a result of one segment pointing to a prevalence higher than we thought. We started a study, we've done the modelling and it's just waiting for the modelling exercise and its output and its forecast and its costing to go up to the executive before we are able to talk about it openly, but we have moved. But if government began to move all of us would begin to do it, not as something we are just doing on our own but as something we know is part of the national effort and it will enrich government's own forecast. Between the situation that was prevailing mid last year, 2002, and the situation as it is at the beginning of January 2003, there are now some grounds for optimism.

     You're looking at me cynically as if to say, Mac, you've done your best to defend this government. No, I'm talking from a country/global perspective. And I saw last night what Zambia is doing. I think at about one o'clock I watched SABC Channel Africa and there it said there's a special programme coming up on Zambia now making it a war against AIDS. Interesting. I didn't see the programme, it was just advertising the programme that one of these nights, they told the date and time, that there is this special programme dealing with how Zambia is now beginning to wage the war against AIDS and dealing with the steps that it is taking, but it showed in clips hospital beds with AIDS patients in Zambia.

POM     Well we will leave it there because we could spend the whole day going round in circles. Just to conclude this section on whatever, the discussion within the NEC on GEAR –

MM     Oh yes, let's round that up on GEAR. Let me concede that while I think there were all these flaws, there are all the results issues of the effect of GEAR. Process-wise I think there is a legitimate criticism that GEAR got formulated in the perception of the public in the back rooms and got imposed and therefore the consultative processes to carry the alliance and the public into it was inadequate. I think there's an important message there in the development of democracy in this country. I am not advocating endless consultation but I think that the transition in SA from autocratic rule of apartheid to a democratic rule took place in the context that our deepening of democracy must accept consultation with all stakeholders and role players as a necessary part of the process of evolving positions. You can make the consultation shorter, you can sometimes make them longer, but you cannot avoid consultation.

POM     But the debates within – we talked about labelling and it strikes me that the debate on GEAR/privatisation, whatever you want to call it since that's one of its major components, has become a matter of labelling, it's reduced itself to that.

MM     Yes.

POM     There is no intellectual debate.

MM     And there is no point in allocating fault because both sides of the debate have resorted to labelling.

POM     Did this begin in – what I'm getting at is the cabinet accepted GEAR but in the NEC was the discussion about it far more heated and ideological?

MM     Yes, it kept cropping up in various NEC meetings and it kept at times being pushed under the carpet when it would surface. I can recall instances where it would rear its head, sometimes it would rear its head in informal discussion but never, never was it adequately addressed to say, OK chaps. You will remember when GEAR was announced, Trevor Manuel announced 'non-negotiable'. I think that contributed to the hardening of positions. All he needed to say was, and maybe it's easy to be wise in hindsight, all he needed to say is that we had certain pressures in government, we had to arrive at a position, we've taken it. Unfortunately, we've made a mistake, we've not engaged in adequate consultation. We are pursuing it but in the meantime within a structured way I am ready to come and explain its rationale and everything and let's debate it while government pursues it, but please, any disagreements, don't act against it because the consultations will take place over this period and to the extent that those consultations require any modification it's a modification of the data that you populate that model with. It's not a modification of the model itself, so I am prepared to go that far. And I think things would have been held differently. So in the NEC it popped up as debates from time to time and sometimes we debated a bit and then it passed away, sometimes it would be pushed under the carpet but always it would be said we will discuss this in the alliance, and the alliance never got down to discussing it as far as I know.

POM     Never discussed it properly?

MM     No, as far as I can see because by that time I'd moved out. I don't see that the alliance sat down and had a structured discussion on GEAR which led to a point where there are conclusions. Each time they came out of it to the public arena I just saw positions continuing to harden more and more. The privatisation debate to me should never have taken place. We had agreed with the unions on the National Framework Agreement at the time when I was in government, with the trade union leadership of COSATU, published it and we had filed it by agreement of government and COSATU with NEDLAC. All that was required was to continue with the procedures and objectives as stated in that agreement and if government felt that in some aspects the procedures were too cumbersome, table the issues and if COSATU felt that the implementation of that agreement was weakening here and there, table it and discuss it because the National Framework Agreement agreed to the restructuring of state assets but it stated procedures and conditionalities and defined the objectives of those restructuring.

POM     The National Framework Agreement was?

MM     Was signed between government – it was around 1997/98. I was part of the government team. Alec Erwin was there, Stella was there, oh a cross section of ministers. We debated into the nights, day after day. We signed it, we created structures in accordance with it in the transport sector, we moved forward. And no matter what anybody says, whether the results have been wrong or right, Airports was done in that way with the agreement of the unions, Telkom's partial privatisation when Jay Naidoo was Minister of Telecommunications, was done with the agreement of the unions.

POM     Moving to the constitution when the National Assembly sat as the Constitutional Assembly, or was it the Constituent Assembly?

MM     Constitutional Assembly because some parties in this country didn't like the word 'Constituent' Assembly because it had been used in our first positions, so the compromise was we changed the name.

POM     That's like saying – what was I amazed at recently? It was at the ANC conference when they sang the National Anthem and everybody dug into Die Stem.

MM     No, but on the Constitutional Assembly this word 'Constituent' Assembly, it's origins go back to the French Republic so it has had this republican tinge to it and when we put it in the Harare Declaration and everything and you go back to our call for a National Convention, so convention was looking like a bad word, constituent was looking like a bad word, we were saying it's going to be elected delegates. Oh, big problem, elected delegates! Is this your idea of a Constituent Assembly? Then when we saw the interim constitution all we said is that the two Houses of Parliament are the elected people so the two Houses sitting together will be that assembly. How do you argue against that? Somebody said, "Can we call it the Constitutional Assembly because it's going to write the constitution?" Fine. But all the elements of the Constituent Assembly, that it's going to write the constitution, that it's going to be made up of people elected by the population and then we had to add those constitutional principles that it will go to the Constitutional Court for certification, for compatibility with those principles. OK, OK, that's fine.

POM     If you look at the final constitution, and I'm sure I asked you this in an earlier interview and I could even dig up the question, in what ways did it significantly differ from the interim constitution and to whom would you accrue the gains and to whom the losses?

MM     I can't remember at the moment, Padraig, any substantive differences between the two. Sure, the chapter on interim measures is gone. Sure, there is a little more finer formulation of the relationship between central government, provincial government and municipal government, a little more checks and balances. There was still the need for that constitution, the final constitution to be certified by the Constitutional Court against the framework of the constitutional principles. I think there were refinements here and there particularly with regards to local government. I do not recall any significant substantive changes to the Bill of Rights. We retained the Bill of Rights being an integral part of the constitution. I think that there was a lot of fine tuning around some of these autonomous bodies like the Reserve Bank. No, when you ask the question at the moment I cannot recall any substantive issue.

POM     Well I have four specific categories here, I suppose I should ask the questions or put the questions down. One, the answer is obvious, what did the NP not get that it wanted?

MM     Oh we dropped away the civil service security because that was a five-year thing so that dropped away.

POM     The government of national unity.

MM     We dropped the government of national unity because it fell away in terms of the interim constitution.

POM     But the NP wanted to keep it.

MM     Now the NP wanted to perpetuate it.

POM     If De Klerk was so unhappy with it and felt himself demeaned and that the NP was not playing a really significant role and in a sense was being emasculated as a political party by its continued participation in the government of national unity, why would he have fought so strongly for its perpetuation?

MM     I think that was political jockeying. I think that when he wanted it in the final constitution he regarded it as an entrance that would allow for group rights to be still brought back, that if you removed that mandatory requirement for a government of coalition thereby you removed that opening. Yet in the meantime in practice in the existing government of national unity the forces on his side wanted him to pull out. And behind that, him to pull out, was a whole lot of political in-fighting going on in the leadership of the NP. I think the NP had not overcome within its own leadership the blaming phase, oh, so-and-so sold out at Kempton Park, oh so-and-so sold out here, oh so-and-so caused a problem. I think Delport, Hernus Kriel, I think Kriel definitely had ambitions.

POM     Was there anything that the NP got in the final constitution that it wanted and the ANC didn't really want to concede but gave in the spirit of accommodation?

MM     I think all the fundamental trade-offs had taken place at Kempton Park. I think the fundamental difference between Kempton Park and the Constitutional Assembly is that the balance of the forces participating had shifted dramatically. At Kempton Park you had 19 parties sitting around, government sitting as government and as NP, and I think that in Kempton Park the enormous battle was that government thought it had created a table where it was the overwhelming, the predominant force, and so the battle took place there around a table that looked like stacked against us and yet we had to find ways to prevail. So all the compromises took place there.

     In the Constitutional Assembly now with an elected set of representatives all the small parties had disappeared and those that came through in parliament were so small that they really – even if they had the will they did not have the capacity to participate significantly. The NP came in still on a reasonable high that it could be a significant force. The technical argument that here are the constitutional principles agreed, here is the Bill of Rights agreed and here is now the constitution. Fundamentally the job is fine tune. You could not put a fresher experience on the table to say after the interim constitution we now have an experience of a reasonable length that allows us to say change this, change that. The table had changed completely and to the extent the NP would say today, 'I have a problem with that final constitution', they could not even now say it was not a legitimate and credible process. So I think sitting back now in 2003 no party can say that the Constitutional Assembly, I come out of it with deep grievances. No.

POM     Well it may only be a debating point, but wasn't it at that point in time that the approach of the NP was as far as possible to ensure that the interim constitution was in fact the final constitution and what you are saying is in a sense that's correct, there was a lot of fine tuning but what was agreed at Kempton Park with a little bit of fine tuning here was in fact the final constitution and that while the NP or De Klerk might have been pissed off that he didn't get permanent power sharing, permanent power sharing was never provided for in the interim constitution anyway?

MM     Anyway.

POM     And he had signed off on that.

MM     And there was no hope that he could bring it back. No hope.

POM     Except you have the New National Party sitting in –

MM     You see the time when we said 'interim' at Kempton Park, well before it was even agreed, the constitution, because there was a fear that what would be put into it would become a permanent blockage to real democracy being realised. But as the constitution was finally completed in November 1993 what was left? Composition of the cabinet, we made it a voluntary coalition and we made it terminal. How does cabinet function and take decisions?

POM     That was a required coalition.

MM     It was a mandatory coalition but voluntary for a party. If you got a certain threshold you had a right to be in it but you need not exercise that right. But it said terminal, five years. How cabinet should take decisions – they wanted all sorts of mechanisms with vetoing structures, majority decision but in the spirit of consensus making. Who was to vote? Every person whatever their colour, male or female, at 18 I think, a universal franchise. Then the tussle became federal or unitary state. What emerged was a whole mixed bag. Federalists could walk in, walk out saying we got it. ANC certainly gave on many, many federal aspects, but ANC itself has also changed so that by the time they came to the final constitution many, many ANC people in parliament and in the structures within the provincial systems wanted more power for their province. So the debate no longer became do you want federalism or do you want a unitary state. So I am saying even that debate events had outstripped the debate.

POM     I just want to ask this on the NEC itself. For the first time you really had a change in 1991 in the character of the ANC. For decades it had been people in exile, now you had the participation and inclusion of people who had been in the mass movements here and the inclusion of people from other sectors, to some extent people who didn't know each other very well or their habits. How in its workings did the NEC of 1991 differ from the NEC of 1985 which also would have been a first because it included Indians and coloureds and whites for the first time?

MM     The big change – well there are all sorts of small things, it became larger, 90 people, yes people that didn't know each other, all that. At Kabwe we didn't even know who we were – who this one is called, this name, where does he come from? We didn't know. But you were in the camps in Angola, you were a soldier. I think the big change was the consciousness that our commitment to non-sexism now had to be manifested in the compositions. It was not an overnight change, we had already begun to move in that at least commitment in words in exile, here, but I think that in the post-1990 reconstitution of the ANC inside the country this impulse became firm and became one that you wanted to practically translate. And the interesting thing about that is that quite apart from the 30% quota that we put subsequently, even before we set the quota that consciousness had permeated a very large number of the delegates almost to the point where that consciousness did not have to be spoken of very sharply, there were still speakers who would slip into sexist language. The chap was still on his feet talking when there would be oohs and aahs and before the oohs and aahs had finished the chap would be embarrassed. To me that was an enormous shift which you could feel in the post-1991 era and it began to come through stronger and stronger. That's the big change for me.

     Non-racism, always there. Preceding every conference you will hear members, some so-called leaders, speaking intemperate, descending to racist language, like the one over Jeremy Cronin. I think Dumisane Mkwai was absolutely a rabid racist in what he said. But you look at Stellenbosch and the outcome, you look at who is elected and where they came up, you can't find a sign of it. Those jockeyings that start in that emotional way, I think politicians have a tendency to speak in intemperate language. There seems to be something in political posturing that lends to demagoguery. There is something about when you talk to an audience of 5000 people, some chemistry that happens to you that the more they applaud you the more you like to be outrageous, and some people then think that the baser things are the way to get away with things. It is what is now called between populism – but all these words have shifting meanings. But I think that intemperateness almost seems to be a characteristic of politicians. Fortunately in SA whenever it has manifested itself in the ranks of the ANC it's always a minority where the outcome comes through.

POM     That can also lead to something equally as abhorrent and that is political correctness practised to an extent where it almost emasculates strong and vigorous debate.

MM     You know that's true but my impression, and this is a controversial one, I'm just thinking on my feet, it's just an idea that comes to me, the ANC has been at its vigorous best in debate in two situations, where it has faced deep divisions or where the person or persons at the topmost leadership of the ANC set the tone. At Kabwe OR systematically encouraged, even at the conference, debate. Now I don't want to become personal, there cannot be a finger pointed at a particular President of the ANC to say this one discouraged debate, all of them followed that pattern, that the issue be put on, let people debate and at the end of the debate you try to wrap it up and bring out a consensus position.

POM     There's a general consensus throughout the country, whether you're aware of it or not, that Thabo discourages debate. OK?

MM     How? This is what they don't know –

POM     Do you know something the rest of us don't know?

MM     Yes. Read his speeches, it's the way he builds a statement which you're happy with but it's ambiguous when you try to unpack it. Secondly, he brings a formidable intellectual force in the argument. Quite often I believe when you look back that intellectual force has brought in anecdotal information outside of your knowledge and therefore presented in a way where you're not ready to say, wait a minute, is this anecdotal or substantial? So it becomes almost intellectually overwhelming. And to the extent we say there is no debate let us acknowledge part of the debate is that the people allow themselves to be overwhelmed, not because –

POM     He discourages it.

MM     - he's got a stick that he wields. That's why he can also say with certain legitimacy, "What do you mean no debate?"

POM     That's compliancy. It's called acquiescence.

MM     Consensual.

POM     It's called having your own people around you so they will not challenge you.

MM     It therefore raises a more fundamental issue, whether consensus seeking and consensual politics is not also something that has a limited a shelf life. I don't know. We live in a country at the moment where consensus seeking became a necessary instrument at CODESA but are we not generalising it and incorporating it into our practice so far that we're now elevating it to be a hallmark of democracy?

POM     A principle rather than a – ?

MM     I don't know the answer but I know that we are contributors to that lack of debate.

POM     Well was there a difference in perspectives of those who had been in exile and those who were home grown?

MM     No. I don't think there was a difference in perspective. There was no difference in strategic goals. I don't think there were big disagreements about tactics but I think that we did begin to enter the era of normalisation of politics and therefore career orientation, which is part of normal politics, become a feature of life. I think much of it, the factions at the moment have not been around policy but simply promotion of one's careers.

POM     Sorry, many of the - ?

MM     The factionalism, the divisions have been about careers dressed up under the guise of some larger good. It is an inability to accept that seeking a career is in the nature of if you regard politics as a profession, part of it –

POM     The same thing applies to struggle. I've been re-reading, it'll be in another session, your interviews with Howard Barrell, and I don't want to get into them now but one of the questions I'll be raising is that from your remarks to him it comes across very clearly that what was motivating many people on many occasions was not moving the struggle forward but keeping the struggle exactly where it was and they were doing so for positions of power and influence and patronage and status within the ANC itself in its little cocoon in Lusaka.

MM     Yes, except that they could not defend – I'm saying the normal ambition of a career today just – (break in recording) In the struggle period if you said openly that my ambition is ten years down the line to be the President of the ANC it was incompatible with the environment, but today it should be normal for a person to say I'm going into parliament because I hope in ten years to be the President of the country.

POM     But that doesn't mean that a person in the struggle wasn't saying to himself that in ten years I intend to be and therefore I have to go about it in these sort of subterranean manoeuvrings?

MM     Sure. All I'm saying is you could not regard that statement of ambition as a normal participant. So the change now is for a person who says that, just recognise it as normal to be saying, normal to be entertained and say now with that career orientation how do we regulate ourselves so that that ambition is placed within a framework of the conduct that is acceptable.

POM     Just taking back to, to finalise this, and with Archbishop Tutu who called it first the gravy train. For a number of years when issues of corruption were raised the government or the ANC would say why don't you talk about the corruption that went on during the apartheid era? Why do you just point to our corruption and anyway we are better. It's being built out of proportion. In fact at this point it's not being blown out of proportion. It's sad to see the number of people from the past who genuinely were engaged in the struggle to free this country who have in one way or another allowed themselves to become corrupted in their positions or who have taken advantage of their positions to engage in corrupt practices. Why? Why did it become so easy?

MM     I personally think in part it's because of the nature of our transition. Our transition was built on moving forward in a co-operative framework. We therefore had to create mechanisms where the old and the new guard were brought in, the old order and the new order. Usually when there's a turmoil the new order even if it is saying in all its orientation appropriates certain moral high ground to itself and one of those moral high grounds is service to the people. That was diluted in SA. You did not get that message coming through that there is a moral measuring rod by which our practice will be different from the practice of the old orderbecause if you said that you were like saying to the people in the government of coalition, you there are that old order, so that message got fudged and that message did not get carried through into the public arena as a consistent message and it's one of the errors.

POM     But there has to be something more.

MM     Sure, there must be more. I am sure we can sit down and discuss several elements of it but I am trying to say what is the element that is different from other situations that is peculiar to us? Here we were sitting in this government, you didn't want to say let's do it different from the way they did it. You said I want to do it different policywise, we didn't say I want my practice to be different.

POM     But over nine years, almost on a daily basis you will see in the papers an article about a scam, about millions missing here, millions missing there, millions unaccounted for. It's a continuous thing.

MM     It's not the problem of the millions missing. The problem is there's something that seems to be inhibiting those in power from punishing people when that happens and punishing the people in higher positions more severely than the people in lower positions. It's as simple as that to me.

POM     What you're really saying is that it's like committing a crime. If you are 'a career criminal' the odds of getting caught and convicted weighed against the possible rewards from committing a burglary or a robbery or whatever, on a rational level you would choose the robbery when you weighed the probabilities in the same way as it applies to corruption.

MM     You're not seeing the top guys. I think the higher you are in leadership the stronger the sanction should be because when you impose sanction against a person at the top the impact of that message throughout society is more meaningful than if you take a chap who has robbed somebody of their handbag here and give him one year and the chap at the top you say R20,000 fine, and the chap is still in the same social circles, he's still in the cocktail circuit. There's something inhibiting the powers that be at the moment. They say they want to punish but the people are saying we don't see the punishment. And then in a defensive way they say, here, let me give you a list of so many civil servants who have been fined. But you say, I haven't seen the DG, the director, the minister go. This is a problem. When you're changing the moral fibre it is even more important, when you're redressing this fractured fabric of society and re-stitching it and bringing a sense of morality it's necessary that you should be harsher at the top. It's necessary that it should be publicly seen and that's not happening at the moment. No matter how many people are being arrested and charged there is no sense – you know what society is, that pressure is coming from the top and being applied at the top. That's the problem and maybe it's because of some defensive, something that is placing those in power in a defensive state that says, oh if I fire this person he's a comrade. I think we should be gentle with comrades but I think also what is the substance of the crime. I think that there should be a sense that when you've robbed the public you are abusing a trust that is fundamental to the career of politics because you can only restore the balance if it is acknowledged that the profession of politics is built on the assumption that you are there as a servant of the public. You may advance your own career but it is the nature of the profession that says its rationale for existence is that it is serving the public.

POM     But I was talking to Khetso yesterday. One of the consistent themes that emerged in our conversation was he saying, yes, this won't happen or that won't happen unless the political will is there, and his overall assessment of government was that there is no political will in this country.

MM     Yes, I would expect him to formulate that and I would support that formulation in many instances and that includes this question of corruption. The test of whether that political will is there is how you apply it to your closest colleagues, not how you're going to apply it to somebody you don't know who's an anonymous face. So if you call it political will I would support that view and I say that that political will is absent because it seems to me that the powers that be are too often when these things crop up, in a defensive posture. It's like closed shops.

POM     Is there still this syndrome and it goes back to what angered you over Vula and that is that when you dressed down some members of the NEC because of their public comments, your position was that you do not attack a comrade, you are degenerate in a struggle, you don't disown a comrade, that is not what this is about particularly given the situation you were in then when you knew you were in real negotiations, you were in that in between sticky stage. Is there still that in public at senior levels, at middle levels in public life here that if you are a comrade or have been a comrade that there's a loyalty factor that kicks in, that even if you've been engaged in some correct practice for me to expose it would bring disparagement on the ANC so I let it go?

MM     No, that was not the issue. The issue was you were still at war. When your comrade runs into trouble against the enemy who do you give the benefit of the doubt to, the enemy or your comrade? I say you give it to your comrade because you don't have access to the facts. The situation is different that we're talking about now. Now you're in power, you're living in a democracy, you have to create a sense of accountability and you have to create a sense of moral conduct in everybody. That's not … who's the enemy. The enemy is lawlessness, the enemy is lack of morality and respect for life. Against that enemy don't give me the benefit for corruption. But you have it.

     You've triggered off something funny in me. I don't sympathise with Jeremy, I have many reservations about Jeremy Cronin but the language used in attacking him robbed those who criticised him of the language he used in that interview, he used a nice catch phrase. To me it's not as if Zimbabwe is not descended into tyranny, to me the problem is that while you use a nice phrase on our doorstep you made it sound as if that form of corruption democracy is an African phenomenon, yet it happens. It's happened in China, it's happened in Russia, it's happened in other countries and it's wrong to make it sound as if it's a feature of Africa. So he used a very emotional term, very close, but having used that term the attack on him was as demagogic and then became racist. Then, I want to avoid being personal, but Jeremy is the only person who in the 1999 elections at Wits University published in Business Day and personally attacked me for my role as Minister of Transport. He, by name, said, "Mac's policies are a disaster for the people."

POM     This is in nineteen - ?

MM     1999. And he saw me subsequently, he never even came and said, Mac, I'm sorry, it was an off the cuff remark, I was in a corner.

POM     Was he quoted?

MM     Yes quoted in Business Day at a Wits University debate. But then go back, there was a time when I was in the government, a minister, and Saki when I was abroad attacked me personally in the most vituperative language on TV. I came back and saw clips of it. He said, "The Minister has a hidden agenda and I am going to expose him. He was a member of the NEC. Yes he's CEO of Transnet, he's attacking the Minister of Transport in public. Nothing happened to him, nobody said, Comrade, you justify your remarks or you withdraw them.

     So the environment began to grow, so when Jeremy comes along and starts using this 'white messiah', immediately putting him into a position that if you're white you're some lesser person. And this he's saying about a fellow colleague in the ANC who has been longer in jail than Dumisane has ever been. Nobody says to him that that is unacceptable

     So I think that the thing that we're talking about here is firstly you've got to set the tone, you've got to set the pace too and you've got to show that this is not an issue where you can invoke an enemy to be able to evoke a solidarity because to fight corruption, to fight abuse of public trust, the enemy in that case is a negative social phenomenon and when you then give that person the benefit of the doubt you are actually giving the person the benefit of the doubt as against the public interest. So it's a different scenario and I think you've got to make a distinction between being in war. If I'm sitting here in the trench and there are the opposing forces, if one of my comrades in this trench fool-heartedly steps out into the open terrain to attack the enemy and gets shot, am I supposed to sit back and say you bloody sod while he is writhing there in pain, maybe only shot in his leg but now going to die, am I supposed to say, good for you, let them kill you? Or am I going to say to my fellow soldiers here, can you train your fire here while I go and pull him back into the trench to save his life? I could say train your fire there and let me go and pull him back, at the risk of my own life, but I don't say bloody bastard, you should not have got out of this foxhole so you pay the price. That's a fundamental concept of comradeship and solidarity to me. And yes, while politically I've stayed with the ANC, I still support it, make no mistake my human respect for some of my comrades in the leadership is zero. It won't change because that's the position that I saw in the line of fire and to me that was that, it's lost.

POM     You have so often when you've talked about setting the tone, you have summits on moral regeneration, it's now almost become a cliché to call for an RDP of the soul, but the tone is not set. You had all these editorials that appeared –

MM     It's nice in words. Words are actions.

POM     - five months ago after the spate of child rapes.

MM     I can turn round with these twenty soldiers that we entered the trench, I can say how we talked about the need to be together, to act in unison, to train the fire on the orders of our commander and how to secure ourselves. All fine in theory but under the heat of that battle somebody is going to do something that is against what we agreed. The test is when that person who ran out of the trench, thinking he's still coming to grips with the enemy, but shot in the leg and lying there in that open ground, the test is what I do. I said to them we must all stand together and we are stronger together and even when we train our fire it's more effective if we train it uniformly. Now I'm the one that has the duty to say now, chaps, we're going to rescue that guy. You train your fire this side, you do that, I'm going to pull him. And then they said to me, wait a minute, you're our commander, you are being as reckless if you go to rescue him. You stay here and keep command, I'm going. But it's the action. All the talk is theory and training if it's not backed up by action. Where's the respect? It loses it's power.

POM     Well this, and I'll go back to it again, but I would say you're hitting now on themes that you very explicitly talked about in your interviews with Howard, that among many of the people whose names are legends of the struggle it was all talk, talk and talk that never got translated into an action. I'm leaving that to hang there because I'll go into it later.

MM     With this caveat. Even when I say that there are colleagues of mine that I've lost respect for I would be wrong if from that position I then claimed that some of those individuals could not regain the respect. I would be wrong if I did not now acknowledge that in every individual there is the potential to correct themselves. Whether I would be big enough to acknowledge that a particular individual who lost my respect has regained it, whether I would be big enough I don't know, but nothing has happened since then that those individuals that I lost respect for have done anything to regain it. But I must leave it open that people always change, but I'm acknowledging that I'm not sure whether I'll be big enough to acknowledge it. That doesn't mean I won't do things with them but don't ask me to put my life on the line for his life.

POM     Just before we leave – the taxi wars became a kind of a standard feature, they're still going on, they're unending. What did you identify as the problem in the industry that led to so much violence?

MM     It was an industry that was allowed to grow up in anarchy by the NP government. As simple as that.

POM     Did you have taxi wars during the NP government?

MM     In the NP days the NP stimulated them actually from the time – the NP encouraged the formation of the SA Black Taxi Association as a buffer against us guerrillas. They used taxi drivers to report on our presence and movements. They encouraged that Association, but when we politically won SABTA to support the Namibian independence the Nats found that they had a problem in the child that they had created.

POM     But here we're talking about 1985 when there were no kombis.

MM     It started up with a sedan car being allowed to be pirate taxis but when the Association was created, the SA Black Taxi Association, the government gave its blessings and in that taxi order were people who had deserted us in 1960, were people who were gangsters, criminals, and the government security forces found it convenient to recruit many of them to become their informants to report on our guerrilla movements. They were happy with that so lawlessness was there and anarchy but as long as it was utilisable against us they were happy, but when Namibian independence came SABTA sent hundreds of kombis to do ferrying of voters to enable the Namibian election to take place. From that moment you had a proliferation of associations growing up and now the anarchy was not just between –

POM     Why from that moment?

MM     Because the government feared it had lost the collaborationist stance of the Association to a stance of support for the liberation struggle and it now said, it encouraged any group to grow up as an association where the wars became between associations. In that condition of anarchy it just ran riot, doing it's own thing for their own benefits and the police would just close an eye.

POM     Were the police part of the problem?

MM     At the minimum closing an eye but the security forces were part of the problem.

POM     While you were minister?

MM     By the time I'm minister and I want to bring order to this industry, huge vested interests, collaboration by government departments with those criminal elements, in the police force, all over, in local governments, in licensing offices, everywhere, but it included the police and it included the intelligence section of the police.

POM     Now were they colluding as owners?

MM     In the case of black policeman they were owners and the others they were getting rewards.

POM     Kickbacks.

MM     Kickbacks.

POM     The intelligence services were involved?

MM     Yes.

POM     For what purpose?

MM     Because previously the intelligence services from the police side were using them as informers and eyes and ears in the struggle against the liberation forces.

POM     And now?

MM     Now just to make money, just to be able to perpetuate their jobs, justify their existence. I never saw an intelligence report when I was in government that was meaningful of the taxi violence. I had to sit down and knock their heads and say I'll write a list of 30 names of the leading warlords and I'll turn the page over so you can't see it, you write your list. "Oh no we can't."I say, "You are doing intelligence work, you've got informants, you've got agents all over, write your list. Why can't we write a list of 30 thirty people and compare your list and my list and agree that here in both lists there are ten names that repeatedly appear. Now get down to it and do your job and get the information so that I can charge those ten. And you, police, lock them up." It didn't happen.

POM     Now would you not ring your colleague?

MM     I called my colleagues, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Police, and I sat down and we signed an agreement.

POM     And they didn't follow up?

MM     Oh they followed up, we set up a joint task force. The police set up a task force, a presidential unit. Nothing happened. "What's happening, Minister?" We were trying to get them resources, we need safe houses, they need vehicles, they need clandestine houses, trying to get them all that. Let's have a report, call him here. Comes here, "I'm doing this, I'm doing that." "Hey, I told you, where's the list of the top ten suspects? Are you busy wanting resources throughout the country?" I had a list of the ten and the ten are in high places, get resources for those ten, watch them and let's see. "Ja, ja, ja, we're busy." Then they locked up some people, a leading warlord in Cape Town locked up. The case comes to court, drags on, drags on, docket disappears, case is inefficiently prepared, the chap walks scot free. What happened? In the end I said to my colleagues in government, "Ministers, close the bloody unit. Close that unit. It's made up of the wrong people."

POM     Did you get a report?

MM     I told my colleague, the Minister of Safety & Security, I said, "Listen, that chap there in your Crime & Intelligence Unit on taxis, that's a bloody Security Branch man from the past. He's a bloody corrupt bastard." I said, "But it's your job, you've got to get rid of him."

POM     And nothing happened?

MM     Ja, ja, ja. Maybe he didn't believe me. I went to the Minister of Justice, I said, "Join in the meeting, I want to fast track this process." He joined in the meeting. We called the press and we announced to them that we've decided now to work together, taxi warlords your days are numbered, we're on top of it. Nothing happened.

POM     So again it was a case of if I –

MM     Lack of political will.

POM     And if I wanted to be a taxi warlord if I said my chances of enriching myself versus my chances of going to jail, the probabilities are strongly in favour of being able to enrich myself.

(Break in recording)

     You're using this kind of whole excuse of psychotherapy, you're using it now to your own advantage. Oh I've got to see my psychotherapist, we've got to cut and you're here. Oh I've got to see him twice.

MM     These are difficult questions, Padraig. One needs to be cautious not to be overwhelmed by the moment.

POM     That's why I send it back to you for comment and for review, not to change the content but one can always look at the language. You are always free to look at the language in which you put something and to say, oh that's excessive language, in fact the excessiveness of the language takes away from the point I was trying to make.

MM     The validity of the point. And one has to always ensure that validity doesn't get lost by the emotions of the moment and the most difficult thing is by your own ego, in my position. It's been a great life, many painful moments, many bitter moments, but nobody can live a life if you allow those painful, bitter moments to overwhelm your consciousness. When you came in I was talking to somebody on the phone who was saying, here's a job offer that I've got, should I take it up? It was an MP, and I said to her it's an interesting job but have you got the passion to do it? She said yes. And I said, "As long as there's a potential for your passion to grow in your job. If it's not there don't do it." And this chap called me just now about my affairs from another division of the bank, "I'm thinking of doing this thing." I said, "Listen, please select something better as a potential for your passion to grow. If it doesn't have that potential do not take it. Nothing else matters because you will never be fulfillingly engaged if you cannot generate the passion."

POM     A continuing feature of your life is (i) the existence of these passions and (ii) your ability to find ways to express them.

MM     And to avoid particular impediments from -

POM     So to a degree for all the incredibly dark experiences you've gone through, you've been in one sense extraordinarily lucky in the sense that most people grow up, go to school, have to take a job whether or not they're interested in it, get stuck in a job.

MM     Just grinding away.

POM     And grind their lives away, but that's their life.

MM     That is one of the enduring, valid points made by Marx when he brought up the category of the alienation predicated on the fact that everything had become commoditised and he traced it down to the production, I don't know which examples he used, but I say just the making of a shoe. There was a stage in society where the craftsmen made the shoe from start to finish and could see the finished product so that you could feel, but the modern production line with the conveyor belt you're just stamping the eyelets in, you never see the finished product, and a huge alienation and … of commodities takes place. Now you can't cry about that, it's the nature of modern society but the point about that is that you need to find ways to compensate so that people can feel passionate about their lives because once everything denies them any passion in life, their work doesn't give them passion, for God's sake the next challenge in this world is that people must treat leisure time as something that is so valuable that you need to skill yourself how to use your leisure time.

POM     Well I hope this country doesn't follow what they have done in the US which is seven hours of television a day.

MM     You even eat your meal in front of a TV. It's no different than sitting at a conveyor belt. That's why I was so chuffed, I haven't done anything for my kids to help them there, but when my daughter left on this holiday the first time, well not the first time, but this time alone with her gang of friends and a few days before she left I said, "Joey, what's your programme, what are you going to do? You're going to be in Cape Town for ten days, what are you doing there?" And she said, "Dad, you know we have a problem, we are five of us, there is no activity that does not have one person or other in the group who has a fear of that activity, but we're going to be doing it." I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "We want to go abseiling but there's so-and-so who's scared of abseiling. We're going to be doing kloofing but there's this other one who is scared of kloofing. Then we want to do this but this other one is scared of that." And when I listened to her list I said, "What a wonderful thing my baby." She said, "Why?" I said, "I don't see here that every night you are going to go to a club, just clubbing." She says, "Dad where are you living? We're not going to go clubbing, we're going to have a ball." So I said, "But is there no club?" "Oh yes there is one night we're going clubbing out of ten." I just said to myself I don't care if you're jumping off cliffs and you're bungee jumping and you're jumping down waterfalls and you're going sand-boarding and you're going bicycling, you're wonderful. You're just simply too wonderful for me because without any guidance from us parents and you can see now, I didn't even know what was abseiling but I say they are distributing their activities, their leisure with such action-packed fun things where if they had to just do what was common denominator and nobody had a fear nothing would happen. But they were to bolster each other but they were doing active, variant things. She said, "And we're going to the Botanical Gardens and we're going to climb Table Mountain from that route, from the Botanical Mountains"' I said, "Climbing Table Mountain?" "Yes, on foot. Then we're going to be too tired, we'll come down with the cable car." Fine, fine.

     Now we should be overwhelmingly showing our kids today in the schools how to spend their free time, not by lecturing them but by involving them and the fun of doing all those activities and we should be doing everything not to make them just stick to oneactivity.

POM     But most children don't grow up in the environment that Joey grew up in or in the environment in which she chooses her friends.

MM     I agree with you but the only thing is don't move to the point where you say poverty and deprivation deny you the opportunity. I grew up poor but I could go cycling on my own, nobody told me to go cycling. I could go fishing, I could take a quarter loaf of bread and go away for the whole weekend, but that quarter loaf of bread when I was really tired and I sat down to eat it, tasted like the most palatial meal. The point about it is, yes, it limits it but I'm saying in our schools, in our activity we should be exposing young people to that because that's going to be an important component of the quality of their lives against the alienation that the majority will experience in the workplace. What fun is there to be working in a huge complex like this? 30,000 people. You must feel you're just insignificant. So fulfilment is the attitudes which you have here at the workplace but more important also, what do you do when you leave the workplace? Does it compensate for that alien issue which is inherent in that work structure? I think that's one of the most crucial things because I don't know how to spend my leisure time. I didn't know what it was to have a holiday. Leisure time is going to be one of the crucial determinants of humankind's future.

POM     When one sees the model out there of what people do one is not encouraged.

MM     Because besides the alienation that takes place in the workplace from what you're producing, there is also the professionalisation of leisure time so that if you're playing soccer you must only play soccer, if you're playing tennis you must be going to coaching and it's to become the top tennis player so that every damn thing from your diet to everything you're thinking is tennis. That's not leisure, that's work and this is what happens so you've got professionalisation and this whole separation of the producer from what he's producing. That's why I feel so hurt even in our inter-personal interactions, I know I like to keep being flippant and joking but in the service industry which has become the biggest employer, be decent to the people who are serving you, make their day, man. Don't let them go home feeling that, Jesus, they were just serving a bunch of ogres who just feel that because they've got the money they can just order them about and make them feel smaller and smaller. I just find it so offensive because I say why should that person feel that they must do their work with some passion? You see it all over and in SA the complication was that it was also a black/white divide. That's why even when I'm being bloody flippant I don't care whether Philippa walks in, this lady walks in, I've never met her, say something that makes them happy. I don't understand the need for that lack of –

POM     Sorry, the bus drivers invaded?

MM     Invaded Struben Street, blockaded it with buses, abandoned the buses in the street, all the corridors of the street were blocked, hundreds of buses and about 6000 of them now congregated in front my office shouting slogans, carrying banners, demanding to see me. And I said to Khetso, "What are their demands?" He says, "Well we've gone down there, they say they want to put their demands to you, to the minister." So he doesn't know what the demands are. He says, "I've offered them to select a delegation and come up to your office and meet you. They refused." So I said, "What do you suggest I do?" He says, "I think you should go down and see them." So he got a megaphone, get it, come on, let's go. His confidence in me, my confidence in his judgement that coincides with my instincts, OK. We go down there, they're heckling away, people are shouting all sorts of epithets. Get hold of this megaphone, get onto a little bit of a makeshift raised place, I don't know whether a car or something, and I address them. I say, "I am told you've got grievances. I am sure you have." "Yes!" "I'm told you want to see me." "Yes." I said, "Well, the door is open and I'm saying to you two things, number one, appoint a delegation to come and sit down and discuss with me, people that you choose, maximum so many. Number two, before that meeting takes place lift this blockade, let the traffic move easily and disperse. Let's have an orderly discussion, proper listen and we talk." A few slogans here and there, Amandla, the cheering. Some were shouting, "Oh no!" I said, "What's wrong with you? Do you want us to run the country or do you want us to mess up this country?" Quite tough language. "It's enough, get your delegation, I want them in my office in 15 minutes. The rest of you, I want the blockade lifted before they walk to my office and I want you to disperse." They dispersed and all the white civil servants were saying, "Shit! What is this? This is a thing that we used force, would get your arms and teargas them."

     Of course that's not the end of the story, those buses left and they had complaints against the Minister of Public Enterprises who was running Escom then. From there they drove to Escom.

POM     A different response.

MM     They burnt down the buildings at Escom.

POM     They what?

MM     They burnt the buildings down at Escom.

POM     That's a slightly different response.

MM     The Escom leadership didn't want to see them. I tell you, Padraig, this life –

POM     Yes but I would say give you a crowd and a challenge and you're running towards the crowd.

MM     No I don't think it's because – even a crowd if you don't allow them to boil over, they like people who are courageous and they like straightness. They don't want long things, they don't want you to fudge the issues. They want you to say yes, there are bloody problems, man, but let's talk about it, let's find a way forward and let's do it with one thing – we want to build this country. You're not denying that there is something behind their anger and that's the essence of it and I think that they are always generous unless you've allowed the situation to become so inflamed that it's too late after that. So it was not a question of Khetso waiting until the thing had boiled over. He was able to say to me, "They have assembled there, I went down there, I proposed a way forward with the leadership. They turned it down", and he came straightaway to say because he knew he could come and I suppose he would say I knew if I went to Mac he wasn't going to hide. Perhaps he had in his mind that the only way forward is Mac address them but he knew that the issue would arise and I would say yes, it's right to go and meet them. The fact that they are saying go to hell, apparently they swore at Khetso and chased him away.

     Then there was the other time in the early stages of the taxi thing, Khetso says he's organising a conference of all the taxi representatives throughout the country, 250 to 300, we paid for that, the consultation meeting and we had it at the Volkswagen Centre at Midrand on a Saturday. So Khetso comes and briefs me, this conference is on, we're going to be putting our proposals there of the way forward, etc. OK, good, I support you. He said, "No, Mac, I want you to come and make the opening address and then you leave and then you come back to make the closing address. The rest I and my team will manage the discussions." I said, "Great." So Saturday morning comes, we go off to the VW Centre, the auditorium is packed but I make sure I go there ten minutes early and there are still delegates hanging around and I read the chat light-heartedly, assemble, I've got a speech Khetso helped prepare. I speak to them, I address them and I tell them that now carry on with your conference, I'll come back this afternoon, excuse me, and I go off.

     Now as I'm going out, I said, "What time do you want me back?" Khetso says, "Conference should be over by about half past three, so you're free until then." I said, "Fine." Eleven o'clock a phone call, Khetso, he says, "They've hijacked the conference." So I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "Shortly after you left as we went on with the meeting, about half an hour into the meeting they put a proposal from the floor that they needed to caucus amongst themselves for a few minutes. So I allowed them and I and the officials left the room. The caucus has not stopped, they have decided in their caucus to continue the meeting without us and they are not letting us back into the room and they are having their conference, so they've taken over the conference." I said, "What are you going to do?" He said, "Well I'm waiting, I thought I should just inform you of this. I am going to leave them till lunch time and when they have their lunch and they reassemble I'm going in." I said, "Good, when do you want me?" He said, "I'll let you know at lunch time." During the lunch time he hears from the delegates that they have concluded their meeting, that when they resume at lunch time they want Khetso there and when Khetso is there what they want to do is they want to read out a riot act to Khetso, a set of ultimatums, take it or leave it. So I said, "What do you think you should do?" So he says, "Well I have to go back there and I have to hear them." So I said, "OK, I'm on my way, I'll be joining you."

     So I rush, I get there, the conference has resumed after lunch. There's Khetso on the platform busy taking notes at one end of the table and there's a chap at the microphone in the middle of each issue, he was a preacher so he really got these guys going. Every point he itemised the point, stated their position, put their demand to me and gave me on some 48 hours on others two weeks, on some seven days, we want your response, this is our demand. And to each one he puts it to the audience, he says, "I'm summarising", and Khetso is busy and they have told Khetso, "You record it now." He's giving it ad lib on the hoof and each section, "Is that correct?" "And this one we give him 48 hours for a response." Phew! I go sit next to Khetso and he whispers to me, he says, "Well this is what's happening." I said, "OK. You've got film slides?" He said, "Yes." I say, "Get ready, start preparing slides of a cluster of issues and start preparing in each topic what is the way forward." And there's no time to consult what the issues are. He says, "Why?" I said, "No, I'm taking over this meeting." He says, "How?" I said, "Let's see, I don't know."

     Anyway, the speaker goes on and then what does he say? He says, "That concludes our demands, the conference is over, delegates drive safely, speedy journey home"' He's closed the meeting. I jump up, I rush to the microphone, I said, "Hold on, you're not leaving. You've put your demands, it's recorded. Now the meeting starts because I am responding to you." Everybody is looking, what the hell is this? And somebody shouts, "No, we're going." "No, I paid for this conference. You will at least have the courtesy to hear me out." Some people are mumbling, "OK, OK, it's Mac." "Khetso, have you got slide one ready?" He says yes. I don't even know what's on the slide. Put it on the machine, projector, put it up, I'm looking at it for the first time. I say, "Is this an issue that you put up?" Yes. OK. Now from just the topic on the slide I work out what the issue is in my mind, raise the matter. Now on this matter I don't come to the part that they have put 48 hours for response. Now what's the issue here? In my mind the issue is this or this or this. Do you guys agree? Somebody heckles, "Hey chaps, let's go." So I say to the chap, I spot his face, "What's your problem? Are you scared to discuss?" And I turn to the audience, "Are you people such cowards that you are afraid to talk like grown ups? You want to run away? Is that the cowardice you have? Is this how we fought apartheid? Come on, you want to run, run. You, you're the one that said let's go, do you want to leave? Are you a coward? Go." Everybody bursts out laughing, everybody is laughing. I said, "Now great, guys, at least we can laugh. Let's talk and you, don't worry, sit down, sit down. You want to cause trouble you're welcome", because I have seen them isolating him. "By the way if you want to heckle please do so and just put your hand up, I'll call you to the microphone to do the heckling so that everybody can hear." And everybody is now laughing.

     Then I come back and I say, "Now on this one all I have is a note from Khetso, the way forward is this process. Nonsense." I said, "No", and I'm blocking the slides bit by bit, "The way forward chaps is to follow a process involving you." Somebody else heckles, "Ah we don't want a process." I said, "But you're going to be in it. What's your problem?" "No, you're going to pick." I said, "No, no, no, you, you must serve on that task force." "No not me." I said, "Why? I'm saying let the biggest troublemaker here stand up and we'll put him in the team. Does anybody have a problem with it?" And of course I can see amongst themselves they realise that that one is a troublemaker even amongst them. So I see one chap he's unhappy, so I say, "Oh, you people realise he's a troublemaker amongst yourselves too, so you don't have confidence in him?" I said, "I'm prepared to put him there, are you prepared to vote him there? And by the way, are you prepared to serve on that body?" The chap said, "No." I said, "What's happened? I thought you want to solve the problems, you want to take over my conference. Now I'm giving you a chance to take over the process. What's your problem?"

     On my feet on that platform I negotiated every point, but the strong thing about Khetso was that I had now negotiated all the key issues and got them to agree. Now I was worked up and I was giving them a bit of a lecture and Khetso sensed that, wait a minute, you've got agreement on all the fundamentals, don't overshoot now because if you start going to the technical minor points they might start rumbling. And him, no offence, I took no offence because I said that's the judgement somebody else must make, I can't make it, I'm negotiating on the hoof. And Khetso just walked up to the microphone, he said, "I think we are at the point where the conference is over." That was enough for me, so I say, "Yes, can we now close this conference? We're right at the point on how to move forward on every issue, I undertake to carry out every part that I want to and I expect you to rise to the challenge. Are we agreed? Can we close this conference?" "Yes, yes, yes." Finished.

     So I am saying there's goodwill there and you can't often carry it on your own. You need a team of people and had it not been for Khetso sensing that, right, we've achieved everything, all the key things have been achieved, now don't – and obviously it's going through his mind, we've gone beyond our expectations so don't now try to get the last ounce out of it. And you must have people who have the courage to say in front of everybody that I think we should close it, interrupting me but feeling free enough that he can interrupt me. That was a hell of an issue.

POM     You enjoyed every minute.

MM     Every minute of it. And when I left here they had arrived in their Mercs and at that time I had the Jetta, the VW car, and they had arrived in their Mercedes Benz and BMWs and everything, and I had arrived just with a driver, no other bodyguards. When I'm leaving the conference you should have seen, as my car is going past, overtaking somebody, others are coming and overtaking me, hooting away, "Oh Mac, Oh Mac!" And I'm busy saying, "Where's the preacher? Where's the preacher?"

POM     Well I've got Claudia saying on the occasion when you ran out of gas in The Wilds or whatever that she was scared stiff, where would we get gas, our cover is going to be blown, the only thing you were saying was, "See, you screwed up." You had an argument about it.

MM     What were you saying about Ivan and his wife? That they're on the way to Hermanus?

POM     Yes, and I'll speak to them tonight. And I have Leanne calling the others. When I got home now I'll make some calls. I'm seeing Ivan Pillay at –

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