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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
24 Oct 1996: Kriel, Hernus
POM To start with, you are the sole, outside of Gatsha Buthelezi, the sole Premier of a province that is not controlled by the ANC and you work closely with the national government. Do you find the relationship between the national government and the province a satisfactory relationship or is it one where you feel that the Cape is being penalised for its relative level of development, if one were to put it that way, or the relative favourable treatment it had received in the past making life an awful lot more difficult not just for the people in the Cape but also for the National Party in the Cape?
HK Let me try and answer the first part of your question first and that is the relationship between the Western Cape government and central government. With some of the ministries and departments on central level our relationship is fairly good, with others very bad. On average I would say it's not a very cordial relationship but at least to a certain extent mutual respect is being shown from both sides. The second part of your question, and that is to answer whether we are being penalised, there is no doubt that the whole idea of equity between all the people of this country means to the ANC that you have to break down what you've already established. In other words the lowest common denominator becomes the norm and that is very disturbing with the result that whereas we in the Western Cape have over the years spent our money on education and on health services and other provinces spent it on roads and fancy holiday resorts and things like that, we are now being penalised because of the money allocation being made to us with the result that this year we had to do away, terminate the services of 6,000 teachers. According to what we see happening in terms of our proposed allocation of funds from central government we will have to repeat this unfortunate 6,000 again next year which will bring us close to 12,000 teachers that we will have to get rid of. We find it totally unacceptable.
POM And at the same time you have a shortage of teachers in many of the townships and squatter camps and areas like that where not unreasonably teachers who had the choice of being retrenched or reallocated chose retrenchment over reallocation. Is that correct?
HK Most of the teachers that will have to go, or that we had to ask to go, came from the coloured and the white community. Now for them to be redeployed I would say in the vicinity of 50% to 60% of them are married women, now how do you redeploy a married woman from the Cape to the Eastern Cape, from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth? It's not an option. How do you redeploy a white person who cannot speak Xhosa, a coloured person who cannot speak Xhosa, how do you redeploy people like that to townships? It's impossible. So the whole question of redeployment is really a farce.
POM So that you are faced with a situation of where on the one hand you have to lay off teachers and on the other hand within specific areas ...
HK We have to appoint other teachers, yes.
POM You have to appoint other teachers or there is over-crowding or classrooms are not yet up to standard.
HK Well I think we've made provision. Obviously there's room for improvement. We hope to improve the quality of the school facilities, but again we don't think we have the money to do so. We're just trying to tick over.
POM The two other areas that I see mentioned frequently where funds have been cut, one is health care where you are going to lose something like 420 hospital beds that will affect 20,000 patients over the next year and there is a lot of concern about the overall quality of health care in the province diminishing. That's one. And two, in the area of housing I think I saw a statement some time during the year by your housing minister that in the next five years the backlog of housing was actually going to grow not diminish.
HK We will be building houses, yes, but if we look at the number of people that are coming in from other areas into the Western Cape and especially into the metropolitan area, then it's a bottomless pit and you can do what you like. I cannot see unless we can have some major economic development in the surrounding provinces that we will be able to get ahead.
POM Now Cape Town is a booming city. I have a number of colleagues from my university here this weekend and, other than the weather where I had promised them Table Mountain and magnificent views, and they have been unable to see very little, they are struck by the amount of development going on in and around Cape Town particularly on the Waterfront and the hotels going up. Is this increasing a lot of jobs or is the rate of migration into the province and the rate of migration from the countryside still creating a larger problem of unemployment?
HK It is creating a larger problem of unemployment, no doubt, because people believe that they can come here and there are jobs aplenty around which is not the case. People come and they find themselves stranded here, living in squatter communities under horrible conditions trying to find a job and we cannot keep up financially to provide housing, as we've already pointed out to you, we cannot, even with the financial resources available to us, we cannot even provide a decent piece of land with water and electricity and refuse removal and that sort of thing. We find it extremely difficult to do that. On the other hand, yes we are growing economically. We think the average for the country this year will be about 2.5% growth rate. We still estimate in the Western Cape a 3.8% growth rate which is largely, or can largely be attributed to the increase in tourism. Now it is fortunately true that tourism does create jobs, there's no doubt about that, but it's on a fairly high level that you create this. You cannot really use people in the tourist industry without some sort of training and people will at least have to be able to read and write and speak one or two languages, that sort of situation. So it's not really for the very low developed people, it doesn't create too many jobs in that field unfortunately.
POM So you have in a sense a phenomenon experienced in many places of growth but no decrease in the unemployment rate?
HK No I think we have the growth which is helping with the unemployment rate but unfortunately I believe, and figures are not all that hard, I think we base what I say now on very soft figures, but I think more people are coming in than we can create jobs for. So we're not really solving that problem at this stage.
POM I want to turn for a moment to the constitution. One, to your mind is the relationship between the provinces and the central government now settled to a level that you are comfortable with or do you still think that the constitution provides for over-centralisation and doesn't give the provinces much room for manoeuvre? Two, the constitution also provides for a multi-party democratic system of government. Do you think that exists in the real sense of the term of there being viable alternatives to an ANC government or an ANC dominated government? Three, many people talk about political realignments and your own party is, it now likes to call itself the New National Party, opening itself to multi-racial, understanding you must make breakthroughs into the African community to attract significant support and others talk about divisions within the ANC leading to a hiving off of either COSATU or the SACP and some kind of split in that direction. What scenarios do you envisage in the future nationally and in this province?
HK All right, let's first start off with the whole question of as it now known, the final constitution. I do not regard it as a final constitution because realities and not ideology will eventually necessitate us to change that constitution to move much more strongly in the direction of federalism away from the ANC's obsession with centralism. It is already happening in the provinces where the Premiers, and I'm talking about the ANC Premiers, are talking to Premier Mdlalose from Inkatha and myself who are both federalists and we can hear them more and more agreeing with us on the question of federalism but they are bound by central party decisions. So we think there will be a development but as it stands at the moment it's totally unacceptable. In many instances we are the PROs of central government in the provinces and we're not prepared to do that. A case in point is the question of crime where the MEC responsible for Police Services in the Western Cape has got no powers whatsoever. So with the crime as it is we have to take the knock and the rap for the incompetence of central government in this regard and this is totally unacceptable. We're prepared to take the knock if we have the powers to make decisions but not to take the knock for the incompetence of other people. That is only one.
POM So you can't design your own crime prevention programme?
HK No we can't do that. We cannot even ask them to redeploy people in areas. We've got no say over policing whatsoever.
POM You can't redeploy people?
HK No. My MEC cannot go to the Commissioner here and say, listen I think you have too many policemen there please have more policemen there. You can't even do that. So how do we then accept the responsibility for a high crime rate in the Western Cape? It can't be done. If we look at our finances we are totally dependent for 96% of our budget on grants from central government and earlier in our discussion here this morning I already pointed out to you that we're not getting the money that I think we're entitled to. So it's a very frustrating situation and a very frustrating relationship that we have to move within the parameters of central government, policies that they devise, and in many instances we have to take the blame for it and it can't in the long run stay that way. So the constitution will have to be changed again.
Your question about the realignment of South African politics, I think one should look at this and say that you don't have to be a rocket scientist or a very highly qualified scholar to understand that that will have to take place. The question is when and between whom because the ANC cannot carry on being an unholy alliance between the proper ANCs, the communists and COSATU which is the trade union movement. You just cannot carry on like that. So it won't happen before 1999, that I can tell you. They will stick to each other till the post-Mandela period. Within the other groupings on national level there's the National Party and the Democratic Party, those are the two significant ones. The other one is Inkatha which is virtually a KwaZulu/Natal party, not really operating outside. And then you have the Freedom Front which is getting smaller and smaller and less support and less support. In the final analysis even if you bring all of those together that still leaves the ANC with 63%, 64% or 65% majority which we believe is unhealthy. We would like to see a multi-party democracy which was part of your second question. We would like to see that. So the realignment I believe will only come after 1999.
POM But you're sure that realignment will take place within the ANC?
HK Oh yes, I have no doubt about that, I have no doubt. You may find that certain provinces may start off with this new realignment on a provincial basis and that is a possibility for the future.
POM Now when you look at the politics of the Western Cape which is one place where there is competitive politics, or the closest thing to real competitive politics in the country, many people I've spoken to have said that politics here have become racially polarised to the extent that it's like coloureds and whites versus Africans. Do you think that's an accurate analysis of the manner in which just politics is evolving?
HK Yes I think one can say that, but then that is not exclusive to the Western Cape. The majority of people that voted for the ANC in Gauteng were black people. Very few white and coloured people voted for them there. And you can take it right through the other provinces virtually too. So to single out the Western Cape on that score I don't think is fair.
POM That leads me to really the corollary of that question which is the policy of the New National Party which is predicated on attracting significant numbers of African voters, that being the only real way it can expand its base. Would you think that the reality for maybe a generation or so is that this is just a fantasy, that Africans are not going to turn around and in significant numbers vote for the National Party, the party they believe has oppressed them under apartheid for forty years, or for whites in general who they believe have oppressed them for 300 years, that it's just not going to happen?
HK There may be a lot of truth in what you say. We also realise that just to change the name of our party will not solve the problem. That is why we're talking about a realignment, that is why we're talking about not cosmetic changes like a change of name, but a significant new movement that must come about definitely under new leadership and most probably black leadership. That is most probably what's going to happen in the long run I believe. On the other hand I must just say to you that it has been said that no opposition ever wins an election, it's a ruling party that loses an election and the significance of that statement is that if you govern so badly or when you govern so badly people will start voting just for the opposition. Now I think the ANC is doing a grand job in that regard. They are losing support. There is a significant slipping of standards, of bad administration and black people are also starting to see this. In some instances it's sometimes worse now in certain respects that it was under apartheid. Take for instance the crime situation. It's far worse than it was under the old apartheid regime.
POM Take just PAGAD and that whole crime situation for a minute, there's a kind of, I won't say hilarity, but when you pick up a newspaper and see that well known identifiable criminals have called a press conference to demand around the clock police protection, besides there being an element of the ludicrous to it, it shows some kind of fundamental breakdown.
HK Of law and order. Oh yes, no doubt. That is why I referred specifically to it, that it's worse than it was under Kriel, if I may just say that. And it was a tough time when I was Minister of Law & Order, but in spite of that we still had control in the police. But the crime rate and as you rightly pointed out and the funny things that are happening under the present government is really laughable.
POM Why is it do you think that a police force that was widely regarded as being one of the most efficient in the world and top notch in tracking down and getting activists or whatever now is turning out to be one of the more inefficient, that the chances that you commit a crime and the chances after you've committed it of getting caught are I think of actually going to jail are two in a thousand, they're infinitesimal?
HK I think that there's a reason for it, the first one being that in the old regime the ANC systematically tried to break the credibility of the police within the black community. They in actual fact also fought them. So the morale or the breakdown in their image has a lot to do with it. Secondly, after 1994 the affirmative action, the firing of generals, etc., etc. and the appointment of people with no experience or very little experience in top jobs, including the minister I may say, led to a further decline in morale and efficiency. Lots of policemen have left the service, they don't see a future for themselves in the service because of affirmative action and because of so-called crimes of the past which today are being called crimes but which I believe happened in a time of war where you fought each other. No, I don't find it strange at all that this is happening.
POM Let's just talk about that for a moment, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and the trials that are going on. One, when you hear the allegations of Eugene de Kock or when you hear even General Johan van der Merwe the other day saying that orders for the bombing of Khotso House came from PW Botha and people like Colonel Cronje admitting to the murder, kidnapping and targeting of specific individuals and groups, a couple of questions, one, what's your reaction? Two, is it necessary to get this out so the past can be dealt with and put aside and everyone move on to the future?
HK I don't want to comment on the first part because that will take too long and our time does not allow us to do so. But on the second part I always warned against this Truth & Reconciliation Commission. It has become a witch-hunt. How can you bury the past if you just keep on with these sort of things and if only one side is really in the dock and the other side is not in the dock? It doesn't make sense and it doesn't serve any purpose at all. I think we're just making the divisions in our country stronger and stronger through this.
POM You find the reaction of people in the white community is one of resentment, that you are articulating exactly what they feel, that we're being picked upon, we're being put in the dock, we're being tried?
HK That's how they feel.
POM But the other side got away literally with murder and nobody is putting them in the dock?
HK That's right. No doubt about that. That is the way we perceive this commission to be operating. There is obviously another thing that's also worrying and that is that a commission like this where a lot of emotion is involved, there is no checking whatsoever, through cross-examination for instance, of the truth of statements being made there. So anybody can go there and say whatever they like and it's not being checked through cross-examination.
POM Would you say that South Africa, that the danger exists, or already it nearly is a kind of de facto one party state, at least at the national level?
HK No I don't think so. I still believe that the opposition parties play a significant role and the fact that the National Party is now fully an opposition party and no longer part of bad decision making will also make a difference, it's already made a difference. I mean it is embarrassing for the ruling party, many of the things that have been done by their own people.
POM On a scale of one to ten where one is total failure and ten is you are an A+ student, where would you rate the government's performance at governance?
HK At governance?
POM Or just the government's performance.
HK I can't give them 50%, it would have to be less than that.
POM Do you think there is a vacuum developing at the top, as President Mandela retreats more?
HK No I don't think so at all. We are already in the post-Mandela era. Mbeki is effectively in charge of the country. Mandela has become the PRO of the ANC and the country. He's not a young man any longer and I think he's played a wonderful role, I think his decision to retire soon is a good one but we're already in the post-Mandela era. We're already in the first Mbeki era, no doubt about that.
POM Do you think he is surrounding himself with advisors of quality?
HK I think he is a competent man. I'm very pleased that he will be the successor but I don't think he has surrounded himself - if I look at his think tank that he announced recently.
POM Who composes that?
HK He announced a think tank and people that will assist him and it was such an insignificant lot of people that it's already been forgotten. But Deputy President Mbeki can do well provided he has the backup to do well.
POM Before the elections there was a lot of talk about white fears and what would happen to the country when a black administration took over and none of these worst fears materialised.
HK Not yet.
POM And yet it appears that whites are more sceptical and fearful than ever about the future than they were even 2½ years ago despite the fact that the economy has actually grown, that many, many positive things have happened in terms of the smoothness of the political transition, yet why the continuing fear?
HK Perhaps because we know Africa and perhaps we've had experience of what happened in the rest of Africa and there are certain red lights flashing that are very well known to us.
HK Like law and order, like no financial control, like corruption, like internal strife between the ruling factions in the country. These are all red lights. Our economy isn't performing and we're not getting investments from overseas. The whole world cried for the end of apartheid, and rightly so. They withdrew their investments to force the then government to do away with apartheid and then that was the biggest mistake that the western world and the rest of the world made because that money isn't coming back. Why not? Because there's no confidence. There is not investors' confidence in the new government. They are all very pleased that it's not an apartheid government but it doesn't mean that they are overjoyed or that there's great confidence in the new government. Oh yes, there's great admiration for President Mandela and what he did but that does not relate to confidence in the government.
POM Investors don't put their money on admiration. One last dual question and it goes back to the negotiations. When you look back at that whole process of negotiations that began at CODESA some people have said to me, more recently on this trip, they said the National Party approached those negotiations rather arrogantly, they thought that they could walk circles around the ANC, they thought they could control the process, they didn't think matters through, they screwed up on the whole question of amnesty. As one example, if they knew that the end result of negotiations would have been a Truth & Reconciliation Commission as presently exists they would never have accepted it in the form it now is. That's one criticism. And then the ANC proved very adept and sophisticated and having a good strategic sense of what they wanted to get and how to get it. That's one. Two, is there anything the NP could have done that would have made a difference to the way in which negotiations went?
[POM The question was whether there was anything that the NP could have done at the negotiating table that would have made a difference to the outcome. Kriel smiled and simply said "No comment". In response to repeated prompting on my part he continued to shake his head but in the end said "We could have done a lot better".]