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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

29 Dec 2005: Maharaj, Mac

POM     I am talking with Mac Maharaj on 29 December 2005. Mac, what I would just like you to do, and this section is going to be short so at most a couple of thousand words, maybe 1500, is to give me just a review of, or your reflections as it were, of the evolution of democracy in SA since 1994 and perhaps the best way, in order to compare and contrast, might be if you could compare and contrast the development of the democratic state under Mandela and the direction it was taking and the democratic state under Mbeki. If you look at democracy, as we know democracy is not just about people getting the vote, it's about the development of strong institutions, strong checks and balances, whether or not those institutions are developing in a way that enhance checks and balances, enhance the instruments of accountability of the government to the people.

MM     OK, I think we just have to treat today's discussion as a very, very rough cut because I haven't thought in the recent period, I haven't structured my thinking, and also this is a very difficult subject to deal with 11 years after SA's advent to democracy. Democracy is so young, so fresh, so much desired that any criticisms of democracy or the way in which aspects are evolving begin to be perceived as letting the side down and yet it is important to take stock from time to time and assess how far we are down the road and what are the obstacles along the road and what are we doing to overcome those obstacles.

POM     To be fair you must look at this also in the context of what has happened to you.

MM     Sure one has to look at it in the context of what has happened to me.

POM     Because if it happens to you it can happen to the man in the street.

MM     That is correct, but at the same time what has happened to me should not become the centre point, or the focal point, or the pivot through which I look at events. I must put a distance between what is happening to me and the overall picture, but we will try to do all those things in one shot.

     The first point I'd like to make is that I think 11 years of democracy in SA under an ANC led government has registered enormous gains. That cannot be gainsaid and there may be a problem that the gains have not been adequately communicated and marketed because I think that the 11 years have been marked by a measure of stability that has been unprecedented in more than five decades of previous rule in SA.

     The problems that the country is facing that threaten that stability are also very, very sharply delineated. We have managed to bring about fiscal prudence in the economy to reduce the deficit, to bring about some stability at the economic level, and in the context of a slow growth, that growth is picking up and currently there is talk and hope that this year, next year, it should be able to register a 6% growth rate. We have to integrate our closed economy, make it into an open economy and integrate it into a global economy, and much has been done in that regard often at a pace faster than world organisations expected us to act.

     At the same time I must say that the sources of instability present in our society are not uniquely a South African product. There are many, many aspects of it that are imposed upon by external factors over which we have very little if not no control whatsoever.

POM     What are you identifying as sources of instability?

MM     I shall identify them soon. I think the biggest threat to SA's stability and democracy is in the high unemployment rate, our failure so far in bringing about stability and growth to the economy to bring about employment creation. I think the second thing is, side by side with that high unemployment, the extremely sharp income disparities, the disparities are too wide. I think totally, whatever reforms we are making, the educational system is failing to bring, and I know there is always a time lag, but is failing to produce the skills that are needed for this growing economy. Fourthly, I think it is a matter of common knowledge that the AIDS pandemic is wreaking havoc in our economy and has already substantially lowered the life expectancy of South Africans. That impact on our economy, on our labour force, our skills base, etc., is still to work itself through.

     So these are among the primary sources of instability and I said they are to a substantial extent dependent on external factors. I say this because jobless growth is not unique to the South African economy, it is a world economy problem and there is no doubt in my mind that part of the problem with causing jobless growth resides in the way in which the world economic order is organised and structured. I think that the world economy is structured and organised in favour of the rich against the poor and so you have the same growing income disparities and you have the same inability of the world economy to solve the problem of unemployment.

     So in that context there are external issues relating to the global economy in the way in which the world order is organised over which whatever impact we try to make we are insignificant players. So that is why I say it is out of our control. And when you realise that then you realise that the achievements of the last ten years are even greater because in the midst of high unemployment, in the midst of growing income disparity, we have still maintained a semblance of democracy and there is still a manifest confidence on the part of the majority of the people of hope for a better future.

     So much can be said about the achievements but I think that there are a number of other features that may at this stage be low key warning signals, may in fact turn out to be false warnings, but nonetheless they are there and I think it is our task to always look beneath the surface, to look for those signals and signs that point to the dangers ahead. The first of these dangers arises from one of the strengths of the SA struggle pre-1994 and that strength was a very high level of mass politicisation of our people and their organisation into a plethora of civic, ratepayer, rent-payers, NGOs, community organisations. It was the proliferation of these organisations drawn together under the umbrella of the UDF and supported by the trade union movement, COSATU, that gave our struggle one of its special strengths. In our constitution, interim constitution, I think we have perhaps one of the few constitutions in the world that made reference to the place in our society for civic organisations.

POM     That was in the interim constitution. Was it in the final constitution?

MM     The final also. Now the record is very, very much different. There are a few NGOs in existence, I think if somebody sat down to make a number they'd probably tell you taking every little one into account from semi-existent to almost non-existent they'd probably say there are about 300 to 400, but they don't register anywhere on the Richter Scale. Nor has government and civil society found a way to work together without undermining the independence of each other. Their relationship is still simmering with latent tension. I don't say there shouldn't be tension, there should be tension in that sort of relationship, but the tension takes an unhealthy form. There have been a few statements by government, one or two that have questioned the bona fides of these organisations sometimes on the basis of their funding. That in itself says that there is a problem and that it may be bigger than one thinks because the tension can always be managed differently. That's one of the issues and I think that one of the best illustrations of that relationship is between the Treatment Action Campaign on HIV/AIDS and the government and the Health Department, and yet there is no doubt that the TAC has done an enormous amount of work in making people conscious of the threat and dangers of HIV/AIDS and even on taking on the pharmaceuticals on their pricing structures. So what could have been potentially a relationship of independent allies working together for a common goal is at the moment faltering and perceived as a relationship of antagonists.

     So I think that is the first area that I would isolate. I would have expected, looking back on part of the problem, I would have expected we would have done more to encourage civic and community based organisations to come into existence and to get into relationships where we could be co-builders of this new SA. So that's one issue.

     The second issue, obviously you referred to my own circumstances and the problem of any comment at this stage is that so far commentators in SA in the media have tended to dismiss anything raised by me, or anybody else who is affected, as being raised by interested parties and therefore ipso facto what has been raised is being regarded as -

     Commentators dismiss what people like me who are interested parties, affected parties, raise on the grounds that as affected parties what we are raising are not bona fide issues, we are raising issues to deflect attention from our problems. The result is that some of the issues that one is raising get lost and from my point of view I have consistently said I have no problem with any proper investigation being done about me but I have a problem with the way in which those powers are being exercised. I believe that those powers are being exercised in a way that constitutes abuse of power. That issue of abuse of power is ignored as being raised by a person who wants to deflect attention from something wrong that he has done.

POM     You're talking specifically about the National Prosecuting Authority?

MM     Yes. The question of abuse of authority is an important category by which one should be always measuring how far a democracy is moving forward. Historically it is the wielders of power, whether they grabbed power legitimately or illegitimately, but once they have contained that power and done whatever they can to legitimise it in their hands it is the way that power is abused that becomes a threat to the freedom of peoples.

POM     In that regard two comments: one is, let us talk about that in relationship, and it may be a different form of abuse of power, in relation to what I might call 'the fear factor'. You have referred to conversations you have had with people during the whole Zuma saga, this is before the rape charges were brought against him, while the ANC was in uproar, where people were convinced that their phone calls were being tapped, they were turning on televisions in rooms when they were having conversations, they believed their e-mails were being looked at. Now these would be members of what would be called, in normal terms, the elite.

MM     You're referring to an aspect that is a symptom of the problem. It is common knowledge but never written about that for some years now, not recently, but for several years now people even in government and ANC are wary about talking on phones, are wary about being bugged when they are in a conversation.

POM     Where do you think that wariness arises from?

MM     The wariness arises because of what I was referring to, that the threat to freedom arises from the abuse of power. Now when power is abused, as for example one of the allegations made, is that the prosecuting authority, e.g. in my case, has been found by Judge Hefer to be the authority that leaked the information to the Sunday Times in 2003. Now they are the authority charged with investigating and prosecuting.

POM     I don't think he found that. He said, my recollection is, that it pointed to them but Bulelani said he conducted an investigation and couldn't establish that, and he accepted what Bulelani said.

MM     He said, and you can check it, there can be no doubt that the leak was from the Scorpions but that he accepts Bulelani's explanation that (a) it was not Bulelani and (b) that Bulelani says there was an investigation which did not take it anywhere, but he said that situation is unacceptable.

     But the point I'm making is a different one. The point I'm making is as the prosecuting and the investigating authority if what they gave to the newspapers was even 90% of the evidence and they had come to the conclusion that that was bona fide authentic information then the correct thing to do would have been to charge me, not to put it in the media so that I get tried now in the media.

POM     We've covered that before.

MM     No, but we are talking about the fear factor.

POM     Yes, OK, that's what I want to get to.

MM     Yes, you cannot understand the fear factor unless you understand what harm that leakage does. What it does is it destroys your life, it destroys your opportunity to have a livelihood, it constantly makes you look over your shoulder – are they coming tomorrow to detain me?When the other day after the Schabir trial Jacob Zuma was now charged a week later one newspaper ran a headline "Mac Next?" Another periodical stated as a fact that I was going to be charged. What does that do to one's ability to live a normal life, to one's ability to generate an income? It almost takes you back into a situation where you live in a state of limbo. Now anybody else looking at this is afraid to draw attention to themselves in case they are made the subject of a similar enquiry. Allegations to these effects have been made before. The point is not whether the allegations are true or not true, the point is that I say with the abuse is generated fear and with fear comes self censorship, that is you become an acquiescent party to your own diminution of your freedom. Now that is a dangerous syndrome. Has that syndrome arisen? I'm not claiming yes or no yet. All I'm saying is there are pointers to it.

     Why do I say there are pointers to it? Let me give you an example of how I think. The touchstone seems to be pure politicking. Hefer referred to the abuse and he regarded it as unacceptable and intolerable. That was January 2004. This is now almost 2006, two years have gone. What the judge said, "I see abuse here and that it is not acceptable", nothing has been done about it, nothing.

POM     Were these questions not raised during the Kampepe Commission into the future of the Scorpions?

MM     I don't know, I stayed away from it for the simple reason when the Hefer Commission was appointed it was made to sit in Bloemfontein, four hours drive from Johannesburg. It meant that I was refused state funding although I was defending my record in government and contracts awarded in government. They only paid my travelling expenses for the days in which I gave evidence and yet at the end of the case the State Attorney for the Minister of Justice insinuated that my absence on other days showed a lack of interest in the proceedings and a disdain for the proceedings. As it is that and the First Rand enquiry had cost me R850,000. Now was I going to be given assistance to go to Kampepe Commission or was I going to do it as something again at my own expense? I just stayed away from the Kampepe Commission because as far as I am concerned the issue was not just where it is located, my issues were: has it abused power or not? The issue that it was charged with was: where should it be located? And if you read the evidence issues that I had raised already publicly as far I am concerned it's the job of the Kampepe Commission to take those into account because they've been raised publicly. I raised the question of who prosecutes the National Prosecutor in terms of the constitution? I said is there a gap in the law? And even though I know lawyers say the law cannot be an ass and therefore theoretically it is the President who has the power, the fact of the matter is that the President has not looked at that problem.

     But recently, I say politicking, recently in the Jacob Zuma case the issue of what happened to the Public Protector's report which said Zuma's rights had been violated by the NPA suddenly led to a statement by the ANC that, yes, it had been neglectful of this. And now it is referring some matter to the Public Protector, but my issue where the judge pronounced on it is forgotten.

POM     But even here shouldn't it be not the ANC who should be saying it was neglectful, shouldn't it be the government?

MM     As far as I am concerned it is the President who appointed Hefer, Hefer reported to the President and it's the President's call what he does with that report because he appointed it. I am not even going into the three versions of the terms of reference. The abuse, yes, we've covered that before.

POM     What I'm getting at is the difference between then and now, is the extent to which you've talked about this level of self censorship, this level of wariness of people believing that their phones are being tapped. I mean this is a qualitative change. If you have either senior members of the ANC, or people in government, or prominent businessmen or whatever, who are going around believing that their private conversations with other individuals, e-mails to other individuals are in fact being pulled off by someone, at somebody's direction, by some agency within government, that has 'Orwellian' implications. I don't want to exaggerate, I'm using that word with quotation marks.

MM     I don't want to exaggerate the implications at the moment because I'm saying how much substance, how little substance there is to all this, is a matter that should be properly investigated.

POM     But the point really when you're talking about democracy and freedom, isperception.

MM     The perception is, I'm saying here is a threat looming on the horizon and it is a threat that arises from the possibility of abuse of power by state organs. And I am saying historically it is the abuse of that power by state organs that is the greatest threat to the freedom of peoples. Now that does not mean that things have developed to a point where things are lost. It's what you do that is going to determine how things move forward. There is not enough sign for me that government is taking seriously the question of abuse of power by state organs.

POM     Would it also be true to say that there is not a sufficient, I might even call it public intellectual outcry about this abuse?

MM     The public intellectual outcry is trapped in a space that makes it unable to raise its voice against this abuse. It is trapped in that syndrome that these are institutions created by our democracy, they are good institutions and any criticism of them is undermining them. That goes for the media itself. The only time the media will stand up and howl is if you said let's investigate the media. For the rest the abuse of power and the threat it poses to democracy is not a matter of public discourse at the moment. At the moment the issue is posed as only one issue: corruption. I agree corruption is a critical issue in any society, any society. I've just come from the US where I can see how much corruption there is there but nobody questions that that society's democracy is now in danger. Yet danger to American society's freedoms is other things that are coming out. It's like George Bush announcing that he acknowledges that he authorised the tapping of e-mails and he did so against the law, expressly against a Congress decision forbidding that being done and he says, "I've done it and I will continue to do it." So here is the President saying he will break the law. So what message does that convey to other wielders of power?

POM     Well that hasn't been established yet.

MM     George Bush acknowledged it.

POM     But it hasn't yet been established that he's broken the law.

MM     No, no, the decision of Congress –

POM     Constitutional experts are saying this has yet to be fought over. We're not talking about the arrests, OK.

MM     All I'm saying is the threat to freedom is there in many ways and I'm saying in SA the abuse of power is pushed away and the singular issue that is isolated is corruption. If you look at the corruption issue also public allegations have been that the corruption investigations are selective. I'm not making a judgement call on the matter at the moment but I'm saying if it is corruption only this is what is stopping the commentators and public discourse from addressing the constant abuse and because they're not addressing the question of abuse beware that we do not find our freedoms eroded by stealth. The fault will be all ours.

     The next issue, the next issue is a very normal one, it's associated with the question of managing transformation. I think there is cause for us to do a little bit of backtracking and rethinking. When the TRC sat on the gross violation of human rights under apartheid one of the institutions that was likely to come under the spotlight was the judiciary and there is no doubt whatsoever that the judiciary under apartheid, in the 40 – 50 years of apartheid rule, had been party to undermining the rule of law and party to legalising a whole lot of measures which would not stand the test of any human rights court. But by that time we had already made appointments at the level of the Constitutional Court and even at the Appellate Division and it was the leaders of the judiciary who were then pleased that there should not be a hearing on the judiciary. They thought that that would rock the boat too much, they needed the space to manage the transformation.

POM     You're talking about Mohammed and –

MM     And Arthur Chaskalson.

POM     Going to Madiba and –

MM     And asking that – and also to the TRC and saying we don't think there should be a hearing.

POM     That would be damaging to -

MM     It would be damaging to the perception of the judiciary because they were concerned with the need to build respect for the judiciary while at the same time transforming it. But you see the reaction, looking back now, was the reaction of all of us when we are given jobs and put in a position to manage a transformation, we then say leave it to me, give me the space, I'll do it my way. Whereas the transformation that is needed in SA society is the transformation from the ground upwards in which ordinary people begin to feel that they are also relevant and taken into account and to whom there is accountability. So what you then see now is that in the past year there is a ferment in the judiciary but the ferment is totally on transformation based on colour. The other element of the transformation, of taking a legal system and legal practices based on an authoritarian state and transforming it into a legal system and practice conforming to a constitutional state is again not factored in as a critical change that is necessary in the transformation. It's an example possibly, and I have immense respect for the late Ismail Mohammed, Arthur Chaskalson, all of them in the judiciary, but I say that's the type of mistake all of us make when we are given the job and we need our colleagues to remind us, wait a minute chaps, the power of this change resides on the people on the ground and let us not break that nexus between the people and the exercise of power, let us constantly look for ways for that nexus to be strengthened and to be kept healthy and tenser.

POM     When you talk about the people on the ground who are you talking about?

MM     I'm talking about just ordinary people. If there was a hearing on the judiciary ordinary people would have gone there to tell them what they had suffered at the hands of the judiciary.

POM     That's at the TRC?

MM     Yes.

POM     OK, so that didn't happen.

MM     And now the only instrument that you have for the public is that you can go and listen to the Portfolio Committee.

POM     Yes.

MM     But the issue, people –

POM     Now you have this bill coming into effect which the judiciary initially took very strong exception to, perceived by the executive -

MM     The matter is still under discussion.

POM     Yes, and then you had a sidebar to that which you mentioned the transformation –

MM     What is happening now is that those changes are treated as a matter for the legal fraternity, the judiciary and government to resolve with civil society being asked every now and then – have you got an input? That's what's happening. And I am saying the process -

POM     So civil society is being closed out.

MM     Civil society is not being encouraged to engage with these problems and I am saying that the transformation definition is beginning to change in practice to purely one of representativity in terms of race and therefore I am saying this is perhaps the fruit of the representations we made that the TRC should not have an open hearing so it is now taking place in closed circles. It is now three, four months since the Cape Judge President's issues bubbled up in the surface, the Chief Justice and all intervened but no statement has been made, full stop at the moment. So the attitude is put a lid on the matter and let's quietly sort it out. Maybe you'll sort it out right, maybe you won't. But I am saying it's a worrisome aspect that links with my concern about the role of civil society.

POM     Let me just as it crosses my mind, and it has just now, OK, I was horrified when I read the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill that was presented to parliament. It had measures in there that were far more absolute, or as absolute as any measure ever under apartheid and it was being done in the name of anti-terrorism, against you, in the name of an ism, communism. The same mentality, there's an ism out there that can get us.

MM     And what was it opening from the point of view of abuse of power who would be in the position of power?

POM     Total.

MM     Total. This is the point about it.

POM     This is an ANC government that was –

MM     This is an ANC government, I'm saying to you, we ought to be debating constantly and sitting back, nobody whatever their track record is guaranteed that into the future they will always be good. The health of a society is in its body politic and therefore the issue should constantly be arising – but chaps does this not open, these absolute powers, do they not open the road to abuse? And when that abuse is exercised what happens, who suffers?

POM     I suppose my question to you, Mac, would be that this is an ANC government whose members on the ground in this country for 20 or 30 years have suffered the laws of detention ad infinitum, are themselves proposing the very same kind of laws.

MM     It was not being proposed by the ANC membership.

POM     No, but the government I'm talking about.

MM     By the government.

POM     Yes.

MM     But there is nothing in history that says that an organisation that has fought for freedom will not when it achieves power again want to arrogate to itself power that is uncontrolled. That's the story of mankind's struggle.

POM     What is the check on the ANC?

MM     The check on the ANC is a healthy civil society. The check on it is a society that is debating. The check on it is a society that does not look at just corruption today but also looks at the abuse of power. And it recognises in those debates the place of abuse of power in the threat to freedom. It's therefore a society that does not say because you say so therefore it's right. It says I believe you but I would like to be convinced.

POM     Which leads me to another aspect that relates to abuse of power in the longer run and that is the fact that under Thabo there has been an enormous concentration of power at the top. Now one of the measures of democracy is the extent of which power, actual power is devolved. The closer it is to the ground the closer the exercise of power is to the people, by and large they all seem to be equal the more democratic your society. The more concentrated at the top in the hands of a few, the less democratic.

MM     I'm not sure that this question of concentration of power under the presidency of Thabo Mbeki is a correctly formulated problem. I think everybody wants delivery and I think that some years ago at the eve of the end of the first government I met you and I expressed the hope that we would re-look at the provincial powers because I said that the delivery point was the local government structures and that we needed to strengthen those structures. But I also expressed the fear at that time that if we don't address it we will never do so again. What I am seeing is that to every problem there is a response which creates a new institution. Even if the problem is temporary the result is the institution will live on long after it has outlived its purpose. And therefore vested interests are created which have nothing to do with doing things for the people, which exist for reasons beyond the rationale for which they were brought into existence.

POM     OK, let's put a name on these vast things rather than just saying –

MM     To call that centralisation, proliferation of institutions, is fine provided you do not then conclude that that is because Thabo likes to wield unique power.

POM     No, no. Let's say – let me put it this way: when after Yeltsin took leadership and said abolish the election of regional governors and said he was going to be appointing for himself, the west said blah, blah, blah, we don't like you, this is a step backwards to the democratising process in Russia, this is not good. But Thabo did the same, appointed governors, appointed the DGs, appointed the ministers, appointed their DGs, appointed the provincial ministers, appointed their DGs. We can go back to it, the election of premiers.

MM     First of all I don't know of any country with any form of democracy where the president or the prime minister doesn't appoint the ministers.

POM     Leave that aside, the government -

MM     Even though technically Thabo has signed the agreement, every minister who has wanted his DG removed has gone to the President and the President has removed the DG.

POM     Well Buthelezi might put a question mark beside that.

MM     One swallow doesn't make a summer.

POM     Well, he's not ANC.

MM     Nkosazana doesn't want somebody, she's got to –

POM     So you don't see the manner in which - ?

MM     I see a problem but I see that it was done to address a problem.

POM     To address delivery.

MM     The answer was the wrong way, that is normal in the function of society. The important thing is do you have the check of re-looking at matters? And I agree with you that a forum of the DGs sounds very nice as a co-ordinating mechanism but is it a democratic solution? So all I'm saying is this push towards centralisation arises from certain very, very real problems, temporary or longer term, but the answers that we have found are delivering consequences that were not foreseen.

POM     The fact is that there may be, just because of the nature of things, because democracy is messy by its very nature, there may be, I won't say a contradiction, but that there is a tension between the extent to which you can deliver efficiently and quickly at the level of democracy.

MM     I would accept that.

POM     Very often the dictatorships are far better at delivery than democracy.

MM     I would accept that. But the strength in that contrast between dictatorship and democracy is the one that we have to seek to exploit. Democracy gives you the space for you to re-look at it, to revisit the problem, to backtrack and to retrace your steps.

POM     In the 11 years has there been any re-looking?

MM     In the 11 years there are signs of backtracking but never of backtracking openly. Let me give you an example: when GEAR and privatisation was adopted what we did - right now government has changed its position on privatisation but it does not say we have changed our position, we had taken this position for this and this reason, the results have been C, D and E, they were not the results that we wanted, we are now therefore backtracking because we want to achieve E, F, G and we are therefore going to use the state institutions. The reason for me why that is important is that that is the way you educate your public to be an active participant in democracy because you sit with the concise summary of why you took those previous steps, what you intended, what outcomes did you create different from what you intended and therefore why you are retracing your steps and what you are hoping for.

POM     Is part of the reason for that not one of the intended or unintended consequences of globalisation, that the government does not want to say we have decided that privatisation wasn't exactly right? They don't want to be perceived in the markets as backtracking on privatisation.

MM     Markets have never punished people who honestly backtrack.

POM     Well –

MM     When Mandela had switched positions they have not punished him. He's been open, he's been honest and he said, "Listen chaps, we made a mistake." Finish.

POM     One of the big boosts to the market here was the whole GEAR, privatisation, going the free market route.

MM     But everybody today knows that all the parastatals will remain.

POM     Yes, but it's not announced – well let's leave it, it's only a sidebar. So this brings us to another thing.

MM     I was mentioning this as the strength of democracy vis-à-vis a dictatorship. Democracy gives you the space to revisit problems, to backtrack, to find new paths and to do so in a way that is empowering. Dictatorship does not give backtracks but never the space.

POM     So this brings us to transparency. So my questions on transparency – there is a problem.

MM     There is a problem but I would again say transparency is not an instinct, it's a constant striving towards it, therefore it is to be seen in that process way and that is why mechanical views don't happen.

POM     OK. One final thing I suppose I would bring up would be –

MM     But make no mistake, Padraig, the tendency to want to act timeously, decisively, is a genuine requirement and even under Mandela there were instances where we acted where in hindsight I would say we did not take it through its proper, full process. Our commitment of our armed forces to Lesotho was a major decision but in terms of my recollection we did not take it through its proper process. I think that that was announced by the Acting President, Buthelezi, and it was announced based on his having spoken to President Mandela while Mandela was abroad and it was brought to cabinet as a fait accompli. So I am saying there is always this tendency, you've got to act, you've got to be decisive, you've got to be firm, you've got to be timeous, it's got to be now.

POM     Just to round this off, one can say democracy is a word and freedom is a word. Democracy means many things and freedom means many things so you have these tensions between delivery and freedom from want, delivery and concentration of power. So you may diminish the democratic space between what's involved in the concentration of power and the space in order to bring about freedom from want at the other end. So there are hierarchies of freedoms, some take priority over others.

MM     I wouldn't put hierarchy, I'd put a matrix in which all sorts of tensions are present and you have to constantly be balancing.

POM     You say that all freedoms are equal but some are more equal than others?

MM     I don't know which ones are more equal. If it is want then you've got a big problem, you'll not be able to pursue it immediately, that freedom of expression is not the first one. Secondly, you'll never be able to pursue the judiciary if the first one should not be the independence of the judiciary.

POM     But if you die from practical lack of food you don't get a chance to express anything.

MM     Who does the judiciary account to? We talked about transparency.

POM     Who?

MM     I don't know. To whom does the media account? Don't tell me the consumer, don't tell me the purchaser of the newspaper.

POM     The media account to their readership. If the people like it they buy it, if they don't like it they put it out of business. That's why The Sun does so well, babes on the third page, sport on the back page.

MM     Hierarchy of freedoms may well be a dangerous concept. I think that the particular mix and balance of history for movement forward to take place in a society is unique to that society. The issue is whether in that matrix you have a design that will show you when you're going too far in one direction at the expense of another. So that is what you've got to be looking at and that is the strategic look that has got to be present but as I say my final word on this matter is that everybody justifies what they did by explaining their intentions. I think that's the worst, worst crime. Intentions have nothing to do with it, it's the outcomes that should be the issue. Politicians, like business people, intentions, intentions, intentions, and yet the reality is nowhere in the world in any form of activity are intentions what come out as outcomes. The real issue is we should be looking at outcomes. Are we empowering our people? Is hope growing, is hope diminishing? Is unity broadening or is unity narrowing?

POM     OK

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.