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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 Jul 1998: Pahad, Essop
POM Let me begin with a question, when I met you first in Cape Town after you came back from exile you were a member of the SA Communist Party, you were committed to socialism, it's what you had spent your life pursuing both in the struggle and in your work abroad. What did you make of the Deputy President's excoriation (excoriation is the word I use) of the SACP when he went to their conference? Did you feel shifted, not loyalties, but a tug at the heart?
EP No, I don't know if it was excruciating.
EP Oh excoriating. No, let me say this, that obviously the President of the ANC is put there as a person of the ANC, not as Deputy President of the country, and he was speaking on behalf of the ANC. So I think that needs to be properly understood that it wasn't just the personal view, he was representing the view of the ANC to its alliance partner, the SA Communist Party. What I think he demonstrated was that he had actually read the draft documents of the party and therefore he made an analysis of the documents insofar as certain formulations were concerned and certain approaches were made to some of the issues that we are confronting. My view, speaking personally, was that it was quite a devastating critique of the documents. He wasn't shouting, he wasn't grandstanding, he was stating the view from the ANC point of view to say if the alliance partners are saying this then what are the consequences of saying these kind of things because the interpretation could be that the ANC and the ANC government are themselves doing certain things. Now it might be good if you actually got a copy of what he said because I think it will be important if you have to use it, that it's important to go back to what he actually said rather than what the media chose to select what he said or interpret it. So I felt no problems.
When I heard it, the first time I heard it was when he also made it so the matter was not discussed with me and it should not have been discussed with me anyway and it was not discussed with me so I was not aware at all of what he was going to say, so I heard it as much as anybody else. As he was speaking I agreed with his views and I still agree with those views that are certain things that were said in the draft documents which could have been said in a much better way. I thought it was a good thing too that a person of the ANC should have sufficient respect for the party congress to come and say what he said to the party congress, not going elsewhere and saying what are these people doing but coming to the congress itself and saying this is how we view the thing and you should understand the consequences of whatever decisions we take. So personally I have had no problem.
POM But if I look at GEAR, and I have asked this now for a number of years, on every single one of its major targets it has failed. The talk of about 5% growth is now - one doesn't even hear about it. This year you may have a 1% growth rate. With the increasing population you're going to have declining income for the first time since the government came into power. You have 130,000 jobs lost in the formal sector this year, so rather than job creation there is job loss. You have foreign confidence at one of its lowest levels in years. The economy was recently rated by Standard & Poor as being the second riskiest economy to -
EP Can I disagree with you there on a number of issues?
POM Yes, I'll go through them and then you can comment.
EP Well you're going through too many and then I'm going to forget them.
POM OK, take the top one.
EP It's not a matter of disagreement, I think it's a matter of how one views it, and you've got to go back to what GEAR is. It's a macro-economic framework, it's not a detailed assessment of job creation and a number of those issues will be dealt with in the Job Summit, the government will state it's position, COSATU has stated its position and the SACP will state its position with regard to how they think job creation can be brought about. It's not, in my view, intrinsically wrong that sometimes you postulate a certain set of figures in terms of growth but a whole lot of other things happen, some of which are beyond your own control, and therefore what you would have expected as part of economic growth doesn't happen. So I don't think it's necessary therefore to say that the macro-economic framework itself is wrong. It may be but I am saying I don't think there's a necessary, if you like, connection between saying there is a GEAR policy and there is not the economic growth that was postulated.
Insofar as job losses are concerned I think there's been too one-sided an approach to this issue. It is true that in terms of the formal sector there have been these job losses as recorded by the Central Statistical Services but then you have to go back and see how the CSS itself arrives at these figures. So basically, as all statistical institutions, they have a number of places from which they get information and on that basis make their extrapolation about what is actually happening. Now if you take the informal sector, as you know it is very large in SA and has been growing, the growth of the informal sector itself has enabled many people to earn some kind of income however small that income may be, and that is certainly not recorded in the official figures of the CSS because they don't have the capacity to capture that given how they capture their own figures.
Two, if you take the mining industry, true there have been those job losses and those are officially recorded but I think you will find if you do some further investigation that in a number of cases the mining companies have re-hired workers through labour bureaux, I don't know, they have got a few thousand of them now existing in SA. And these mineworkers are then re-hired at slightly higher wages than they had before but without any medical aid, without any pension rights and so on and so forth, so they indeed become a great deal more vulnerable in terms of what happens to them when they are no longer working because they no longer have the protection that they had when they were contractually employed and were part of the union. Thirdly, of course, when they come back they no longer belong to the National Union of Mineworkers and therefore have less of a protection than those who do belong to the union. So that, I think, has not been factored in too, I'm not sure what the figures are but one knows definitely that this has happened. If you take the construction industry in this country there has been construction going on, maybe not as much as we want but certainly nobody can say that there isn't construction going on. Houses have been built, other things have been built, roads.
POM The road from Johannesburg to Pretoria is one long construction site.
EP All of them. I can't detail the information but I keep on remembering London and as an Irishman let me say this to you, in the 1960s and early 1970s what was happening in England, if you remember, was what they call lump labour on the construction sites and these were mainly Irish and people from the Caribbean. Again they were non-unionised labour, they were employed practically on a day-to-day basis. Again, none of them had the kind of protection that you would have if you were employed properly. Now in England it was OK to some extent in the sense that you had a National Health Service so if somebody did get injured they had the capacity at least to receive a reasonable level of medical treatment. You also have a social security network that if you are not working you were able to get your rent paid and so on and so forth, which we don't have here in SA. And in spite of that you still had many people working at lump labour and they were getting paid much better than the contract workers. I think there is a similar phenomenon going on here in SA and you can go to any building site and you will find a number of workers who are standing outside looking for a job on practically a daily basis. Now those are also not recorded. Then you take the tourism industry, I saw in yesterday's newspaper by the way that they are now saying that tourism I think is just about 19 point something percentage. Now if you take the international norm -
POM 19% of?
EP Increase in tourism, and they were saying basically a lot of them were from the USA and the UK. If you then take the international norm, I don't know what it is, but for every tourist you're supposed to be able to create so many jobs and that's a norm that's accepted, international standards, and if you take a 19% increase then it must lead to some increase in job creation in the service sector but again it would be non-unionised labour basically, in many cases maybe in small hotels or bed and breakfast type places, so again it's not registered labour and it's not possible for the CSS to pick up that information in terms of the official figures. So therefore I was saying that I don't accept that one should approach this thing only from the point of view of job losses which there have been without a doubt, but you have to balance this with one of these other things that have been taking place in which case the problem may not be as harrowing as it would seem on the surface if one just took one approach to the thing. My own view is that there has been job creation in SA, a great deal more people have been able to find some kind of income and to some extent people's lives have improved.
Now depending on which particular countries one is looking at, but if one takes SA and not western Europe or north America, then the provision of clean water and access to it makes a great difference to people's lives whereas if you had to walk four or five kilometres and you now only have to walk 15 or 20 metres or 50 metres or 100 metres and there is running water and there's a tap, that does make a great improvement in the lives of people and that has happened and in terms of the programme of the Minister of Water Affairs millions more over the next few years will have access to this clean water.
Similarly with electricity, again those of us who have been used to switching our switches on and off we take these things for granted but if you grew up in a context in which you had no access to electricity, the access of electricity makes a huge difference in one's life. Even simple things that young people who previously had to study under candlelight if they have electricity they are able at least to carry on their school work in more comfortable surroundings, even if the house itself has not improved a great deal at least the electricity enables them to do certain things. So that has certainly happened and that has certainly led to an improvement in people's lives.
If you take access to health care, now not for the middle classes which had access to the hospitals and right now large numbers of South Africans have access to medical aid, private medical aid, all parliamentarians are on Pamed so if you get sick you go to your medical aid and the medical aid will pay for it, but if you don't have medical aid, you are very poor, the opening of clinics in many rural areas has also transformed people's lives, pregnant women for example who previously might have had to walk for a very, very long distance to see a doctor, now there will be a clinic, sometimes there are mobile clinics. Now it's not as wonderful as having access to a doctor next door or very near where you live but it's still a great improvement in the lives of these people so the possibilities of not losing your child is much greater. That in itself, I think, is a great improvement.
The school feeding scheme has had problems where there has been corruption in some areas in terms of people who have been given the contracts to feed the children, but that shouldn't detract from the fact that all of a sudden millions of children who might not previously have had the possibility of having at least a meal a day are able to, when they come to school, have access to some kind of nutrition, which obviously then also makes a difference in their lives and less of a burden on the family to feed them on that day. Of course it would be wonderful if they could have three full meals a day but, again, relative to what the situation was before. Therefore I'm saying that if you take the totality of the picture I would not agree with anyone who says that this government has failed.
If you're doing research I would like you to do research, to take a comparable country, but not western Europe, a comparable country in transition and see whether there is any government for I don't know how many hundred years who have been able to do as much as we have in the four years now, because it's just about four years that this government has been in power, in terms of seeking to improve the quality of life of the people.
Now the challenges remain immense because millions of our people are still suffering from poverty. The government itself had got the ... partly from the UDM and DP and that we agreed and a poverty and inequality report was done, very serious research was done, probably the most extensive research ever done. The report was presented to government, the government accepted the report from the researchers, organised a conference with major stakeholders including all the main NGOs and everybody else and then government has undertaken that certain things need to be done and certain challenges are to be met.
POM If I recall correctly that report together with the report of the National Coalition of NGOs said that GEAR, at least the latter did, that GEAR was contributing towards an increase in poverty rather than a diminution.
EP Sure, you must distinguish between the two. The PIR report did not say that about GEAR.
POM No, I said the latter.
EP The latter one yes, and that's a matter for discussion. I happen not to agree with the NGOs, I happen not to agree with the position of the SA Communist Party as well that it is GEAR that has contributed to - but that's a matter of debate.
POM That's what I suppose I'm getting at, is that when GEAR was formulated it was formulated on the basis of certain assumptions. Some of those assumptions have changed, some of the realities of the global economy have changed. Who has the right to say that GEAR should be re-examined rather than there being an attitude of GEAR is government policy, it will remain government policy, it's really not open to debate. You have President Mandela saying GEAR is my government's policy and will be changed over my dead body.
EP No, no, you see we must come back to what we mean by a macro-economic framework and that's the problem in this debate. Is there anybody in this country who says you must not have macro-economic stability? Is there anybody in this country who would argue that you must not have a macro-economic balance? Is there anybody in this country who will really argue that you can go on a wild spree of borrowing? Well I doubt it, I don't think any sensible person would. But it's fundamental to GEAR. That's why I'm saying it's a question of how we understand what GEAR is. At the same time what GEAR says is that the ratio of the deficit to the GDP, so it postulates that we want to bring it down to 3%. Now, sure, that's the position of the government but that's not a principled question, that's a matter of a detail whether you have it at 3% or 4% and obviously any government would have to take into account what the prevailing set of economic conditions and circumstances are. But the principle of GEAR I don't think is seriously challenged by people in terms of what I am saying about macro-economic balance, macro-economic stability, not over-borrowing.
The other question that has then to be also answered, it's quite easy for the government to borrow, what's that? What's the problem? Borrow money? A lot of people are ready to lend you money at very onerous rates of interest. Now who is going to pay for that? Not me, but whoever is going to be in power in ten, fifteen years time is going to pay a very heavy price for this borrowing. I don't think a government that acts responsibly can say, well let's worry about ourselves and we'll get a few good kudos and then people will go into the street and say what a wonderful government this is and then fifteen years down the line somebody says, but that bloody bastard Essop Pahad, and then you say, look what they have left us with, look at this terrible legacy. They were complaining about the legacy of apartheid and now we've got to complain about the legacy of profligate government. So I think that's a serious matter that needs to be addressed.
You also have to address the question to say that, and that's what SACP argues, COSATU argues and your coalition people, the religious groups argue, that you must not fall into the debt trap of the IMF and that. But if you are forced to go and borrow money from the IMF what are you going to do? Then you have to comply with whatever strictures the IMF is going to impose upon you. You don't have a choice. They say we're not going to lend you this money unless you fulfil the following conditions, and now you want the money so you then fulfil the conditions of the IMF. The way not to fulfil those conditions of the IMF is not to be in a situation in which you have to borrow that money. This is the actual economic reality which needs to be debated, which needs to be discussed and people from all sides need to come with an open mind and I am saying that it's no use proceeding from a basis that GEAR is a swear word and therefore anything that happens in this country is because of GEAR. So if you don't want what happened to Russia where as powerful a country as Russia, and Russia is a very powerful country in the world, it's not South Africa, it's too important to be ignored by anybody, and yet Russia at the moment is compared on the basis of the borrowing requirements it has had and what it has borrowed to follow to some extent the dictates of IMF conditions. That's how they lend their money, the same as you and I. If we want to go to the bank and want to borrow money from the bank they will impose certain conditions and say, OK what have you got as collateral? Well I've got this house that I've saved up for for 50 years or 40 years and they say well put the house up for collateral and if you can't pay them they take your house away.
I'm simplifying it but I think that's the actual reality of it and therefore the way, in my view, to approach this question is not in this way of where it becomes a kind of a battle of wills, I am right, you are wrong and that kind of approach, but what is the actual situation? If you do some figures and if you borrow whatever figure it is, ten billion rand, let's calculate at the present rate of interest what you would pay back in fifteen years time. The other element that would be introduced is that if you borrowed additional money now and you have your growth, assuming you have sizeable growth, what additional income you're going to have is then not going to go into meeting social needs but is going to go into paying off the debts of that money that you borrowed.
So it's a kind of vicious circle here which in my view some of the people who have been taking these positions have not given sufficient consideration to. If you read the actual party documents, the draft documents, and they were draft documents for the party congress, I thought the actual draft document of the party put it very well. The party document said with regard to the deficit target it should be open to periodic review, taking into account changed circumstances and conditions, which I thought is a perfectly reasonable position to put. It was only afterwards that some of the delegates insisted that you must say GEAR must go. OK, that's what they said in the end but the original party document which is also in the resolution of the party congress has that position which I believe is a very correct position to take.
Therefore, what I'm really arguing is that I don't think one should take a one-sided approach to the thing, there is a more comprehensive understanding that we need to have of not only our own economy, of not only our own place in the world economic system but also in terms of the relationships that do exist at the moment between the more developed economies and the rest of the developing economies. Then there is a huge gap between the power that resides in those countries and the power that resides in the developing countries. There is a huge gap between the power that resides, for example, in fund managers who may or may not be able to speculate on a particular currency. They sit there and their job is to make money for their employers and they make money for their employers. They don't sit around saying, oh my God, how will this affect the poor person in the Transkei. So therefore all of these have to be factored in. If you look at the SA economy there has been no drop in confidence from the foreign investors, it's just not true at all.
POM So why would Standard & Poor - ?
EP I will come back to Standard & Poor because you are not correct on Standard & Poor either, I am going to come back to that. We have had since 1994 something like R50 billion that's come into this country, I just saw this thing in one of the financial papers the other day. Unfortunately only about 25%, you can check the figures, don't accept my figures as being accurate because I'm trying to recall what I read, but something like 25% only was foreign direct investment. The rest were basically chasing paper money on the Stock Exchange and short term capital flows. Now wherever short term capital flows go, and this is what's been happening in what they call the emerging markets, you are extremely vulnerable because people put in the money and they pull it out, whereas if it's foreign direct investment in productive capacity and that and you build a factory you can't take your factory and go. But also foreign direct investment in more productive things does create jobs. The other ones create paper money. But there hasn't been a shortfall of foreign investment in SA, it's been unfortunately not of a correct type. Now if you know Chile, it took some steps to try to regulate this by putting on some restrictions in terms of short term capital flow but at the moment Chile are re-examining the situation as to whether or not the position is correct because again you are a vulnerable economy, as we are, and the people say, well OK if you want to put too many restrictions on us we won't go into Chile we'll go to Argentina or to South Africa or to Brazil. Now Chile themselves are reconsidering this as a whole within the developing countries and it will come I'm sure at the Non-aligned Movement conference. There is itself amongst the developing countries a discussion about whether it's possible to find some way of acting through international institutions that whereby you could see if it's possible to put some kind of restriction. So it's not a peculiar South African problem. All these emerging markets are facing a similar problem.
If you then look at the investments made by BMW to produce the BMW 3 series for export, Volkswagen have put in a lot of money now to produce cars for export to Europe. General Electric are saying they are going to come to SA. Outside of the USA General Electric - GE has 12 divisions in the USA. Only in India do they have 12 divisions in the whole world and the other countries in which they are going to have all divisions is SA. Now that doesn't tell me that foreign investors don't have confidence in the SA economy. If you look at Telkom who are looking for an equity partner, almost every single important, huge company dealing with the electronic media bid for the equity stake in Telkom. That doesn't tell me again that there isn't confidence in the economy. So I don't necessarily accept that view.
In our own discussions, and the discussions that the Deputy President has had, and he has regular discussions with the CEOs of the major companies, no problem, when President Chirac came here he came with the top French companies who were represented by their highest CEOs. That's not saying that we don't have any confidence in your economy. My understanding was that it's not they themselves who said this, they have a separate research part.
POM That's Standard & Poor?
EP Yes Standard & Poor, they have a separate research part who then came with this view but I have not seen the actual report.
POM To be exact in what they said, they said 'among the top ten emerging markets'.
EP It's not they that said it, it's one of their research groups that they have. So I'm just asking again, just check the facts what actually happened. You could check yourself to find out who actually said it. Sure they are important because their fund managers look at them and say well if these people are unhappy maybe we should also be unhappy. Just explain to me who in their right mind could say that SA is in a worse situation than Russia? Absolutely. Nobody in their right mind can say that. (1) Russians had to go for this huge loan, (2) Russia doesn't have the financial infrastructure that we have here in SA, (3) they don't have the same level and depth of banking system that we have in SA, (4) if you talk about crime, I mean everybody knows, Time Magazine I don't know how many articles it has been running over the last one and a half to two years which anybody can go and read in which it writes that Russia is basically run by Mafia from top to bottom. Now under these circumstances if somebody comes and says that SA is worse than Russia then something is wrong with either their assessment or their methodological approach but nevertheless it's still important because as I say fund managers and others do tend to listen to these people. What I'm really arguing is that one should not, when one is making an assessment and analysis, accept at face value what people say. I think it requires a certain level of research, a certain level of study and analysis before conclusions are made.
The Deputy President is going to the USA next week for the US/SA Bi-national Commission. He will meet with Clinton and then he will have a one-on-one with Al Gore.
POM That's if Clinton is still around.
EP Oh he'll be around. He's not going anywhere. But whether the meeting can take place is another matter depending on his own programme. But there is no indication at all to us from the USA that they are overly concerned about the SA economy.
POM OK now, I take everything you say at face value and I will say the reality is that the index of business confidence within the country as measured by SACOB is -
EP But you see -
POM No, let me finish the question.
EP No I won't. You see if you say SACOB then you must add to me and say who is SACOB, who does SACOB represent.
POM Let's come back to that.
EP Yes because it's very important not just to mention these institutions.
POM Let me ask the question first and then you come back and give me the response.
EP Because I know what you are going to say but carry on.
POM Well I am going to say that the reality is that the economy this year is going to grow at, at best, about 1%, that per capita income is going to fall.
EP I said no to that last bit but carry on.
POM I'll just even stop there, that the targets set of a 5% growth rate that were set -
EP Sorry, come back to SACOB because we are going back to what I had answered, let's come back to SACOB's business confidence index, that's what I want to answer. So, SACOB represents what?
POM White business.
EP Oh yes. And what is the business confidence index amongst African businesses? Why is that unimportant? Sure, they might not exercise as much economic power and influence as some of the members of SACOB, and incidentally SACOB represents more smaller white businesses, they don't represent your big capital in SA. Raymond Parsons can't speak for Anglo-American. What does Oppenheimer want Raymond Parsons to speak on his behalf for? Or Liberty Life or Old Mutual or Sanlam? I am saying when you make that assessment you must arrive at your own independent understanding of what's going on in the country. But it's wrong, it's really very wrong to take the views of some whites in this country and then make an assumption that that is a view of the rest of SA, it is not. And I maintain this that it's not. It's the view of them, it's an important constituency. I accept that and I accept that you need the confidence of this constituency too and that the government needs to do what it has to do in order to try to address the concerns of these people. But they are not the sole arbiter of confidence and I am saying go and ask black business people, go and ask emerging African business people. I think they have a lot of confidence in the new government. I think they have a lot of confidence in the economy.
POM So you wouldn't agree that the economy this year is going to grow by no more than 1%?
EP No, the economy is likely not to grow by more than 1%.
EP But what I'm saying - as I said to you before, you've got to take into account other factors. Once this country decided to move away from the old protectionist approach which was not going to work -
POM Into the global economy.
EP You entered that, you made yourself vulnerable to a whole set of other things which have nothing to do with us. When the first crisis occurred on the East Asian markets we did rather well because what had happened was that the people who took the money out from there put it in SA. But the consequences of a longer term period also badly affected us. Now if they can affect western Europe and north America, I mean as an economy in south east Asia, very far from those places, then we are just as much vulnerable to those changes. Where investors decide that it's safer to go to the more developed economies, just go and park their money there in the meantime, then of course we will suffer because there is a whole approach not to SA as such but to emerging markets as a whole. Therefore in a sense it's emerging markets as a whole that suffer some of the consequences of this kind of action so I don't believe it's necessarily anybody sitting there and saying well I don't like SA, terrible people. No, it's a question of how they understand and therefore I was trying to argue that if you look at the non-aligned movement there is an approach to try to say how do we as developing countries address this issue in a more cohesive manner and in a kind of group manner, and to what extent can you utilise existing international institutions whether United Nations or other institutions in order to achieve greater stability with regard to fluctuations and flows of foreign capital. That's what I was arguing.
And I was arguing also that if I am right about growth and employment in the informal sector and growth in those sectors which are not registered, then the per capita thing, the way you arrive at the conclusion itself, I think then remains open to debate. So what I was really arguing was that I don't accept those assumptions that this is necessarily what is going to happen. I don't accept the assumption of SACOB. Well Raymond Parsons knows - I don't know how many times I've debated with him and argued with him since I came from exile in 1990 in his assessment of what the economy is and what should happen in SA. But they are entitled to their view, they take a view from a certain perspective, so we take a view from another perspective.
Now anybody who wants to make an analysis assessment would need to take into account all these views and arrive at their own independent conclusions. I'm not arguing that people must accept what I say as the God-given truth. No, not at all. All I am arguing is that there is another view and in SA we must not proceed on the basis of what white South Africans are saying only. They feel disempowered, many of them think democracy is a bad thing. There are a lot of blacks sitting in parliament, blacks taking decisions, they don't like it. You can listen to any radio programme in the morning and you will find white South Africans who phone and sometimes they blame us for things that were done by the previous government. No. You therefore have to weigh up all of these things. In the end what's going to happen is that we go to elections in 1999 and that's what elections are about to some extent, they are an opportunity for people to pass a verdict and the people will pass a verdict on us. White South Africans are not going to vote for the ANC in 1999 as they didn't vote for the ANC in 1994 basically.
POM But black South Africans are not going to vote for the NP or the DP in any significant numbers either.
EP The wonderful thing about our people is that they are politically very highly conscious and very sensible, they're not going to vote for foolish parties like the DP.
POM So they'll vote for the ANC.
EP Which is a problem for us, now in preparing for the elections in 1999 is how do we enthuse our people to go to the polls in 1999 because where our people may not be happy because water may not have been delivered to the specific area in which they live, it's no use going to just tell them well you didn't have it in your village but you know 100 kms down the road they've got clean water. But they don't have it. Obviously one of the issues, we think, in the lead up to the elections that we have to deal with is to say look, sections of our people will not vote for anybody else because they can't bring themselves to vote against the ANC. The ANC is their mother, their father, their brother, their sister, but they might not like the local ANC leaders or the provincial ANC leaders and therefore not go to the polls. That's a possibility. It's our responsibility as the ANC and its alliance partners to go during the election campaign, to go and convince the masses of our people that they should go to the polling booth and that they should vote for the ANC. The extent to which we succeed will only be reflected, as I said, when the election results come out. The rest of us now we can pontificate and speculate but that is what would happen. But what is absolutely clear is that the ANC will win the elections in 1999. There's no doubt about it as I was in no doubt that we were going to win the 1994 elections handsomely and I am in no doubt that we will win the 1999 elections handsomely. But as I said, the percentage is very difficult to determine at the moment because if you look - the only thing we have if you look at the research surveys that have been done by these research survey organisations, what is common to all of them, they differ in some of their percentages, is that there is a large growth in the don't knows which I think is a reflection of what I am saying. People are saying, uh-uh, I'm not sure, I'm not going to vote, and that's a problem for us as the ANC that we are going to have to deal with.
Now the reason I'm raising it in this way is to say that if there was this lack of confidence and outpouring of ill-feelings towards the ANC it would be reflected too. What has also happened is that the NP has lost something like 10% in terms of the research survey, from 20% it's down to about 10%. If they include the election results of the bi-elections that took place as a consequence of local government elections, the DP has gone up. But for the DP 100%, that sounds fantastic doesn't it, 100% improvement means you go from 1.5% to 3%. I mean, really! And if you are the PAC you go from 1% to 2%.
POM So let's accept that the ANC are going to win the next elections and win them handsomely because in essence blacks are not going to vote in any significant numbers, if any numbers at all, for either the NP, the DP, the PAC or whatever. At the same time you point out that people may not go to the polls, you won't have the same turnout that you did have the last time because the last time was unique in terms of it being the first time people actually were able to vote. Not turning out to vote is in itself a measure of dissatisfaction. Now if all the things that you say that have been proved, that the economy is growing more than the official figures suggest, that the employment situation is improving, that there is a lot of construction going on, that health services have improved with clinics spread out throughout the country, with the education reforms, with all of these things, with all that you've managed to do in four years that no other country probably in transition has managed to do, why should there be this concern about our voters might not turn out to vote which is an index of their level of dissatisfaction in one way or another with our performance?
EP There may well be a whole set of reasons, maybe some of which I myself might not know about. There was certainly a very high level of expectation from the masses of our people in an ANC government, in Mandela, high expectations that centuries of neglect, and I'm talking about centuries of neglect, would be redressed. And I am saying again if you're sitting without clean water it's not always helpful if somebody comes and makes a speech and says but 100 kms up the road that village has and your turn will come. At the moment at which they don't have it, they don't have it. So obviously I am saying that that element is there because we have only begun to deal with the immense challenge of poverty in this country. Millions of our people live in poverty, in dire poverty, specifically in the rural areas and more specifically African women and children. It's a serious challenge. I will not argue for one minute that we have come to grips with that, I'm saying that's a challenge that still remains for us to deal with. It's there, it exists. People are not theorising about the poverty, they suffer that poverty, and therefore, yes, people may well not be at this moment in time inclined to say that I will go to the polling booth. What I was trying to argue was, it's going to depend on our capacity as the ANC and its alliance partners to be able to go back to our people in a way in which we are ourselves convincing. It's no use convincing ourselves when we sit in a meeting of the NEC, it's not going to be very helpful.
We are going to launch, for example in the North West Province I just got a notice, we had agreed some time ago that what we are going to do as ANC, we're going to go on a 'listen and learn' campaign. So in all nine provinces the different regions will organise 'listen and learn' campaigns where we will call the community, we will go to those meetings with our councillors, local councillors, and say to the people we have come to listen and learn from you and the people must speak, and they will speak, and in many instances they will tell the truth. The truth is not so palatable in terms of their living conditions. But it's one way that we of the ANC want to actually show, it's not only our willingness to listen and learn but our willingness to try to do something.
We also have to find other ways and means of interacting and this is where the ANC structures, for example our local branch structures are very important. It's known that over the last year and even before we went to Mafikeng many of our ANC structures were not as vibrant and as active as they were before for a whole host of reasons. Many of the best people went into all kinds of institutions and so this transition from a national liberation movement, which I think we still are a national liberation movement but one that is in power, imposed on us a whole lot of new issues and new problems so our own structures had been weakened, which we discussed openly in Mafikeng, which we have looked at at the last NEC meeting, we're going to come back to it. At the moment the National Working Committee of the ANC every Monday is going to a different province and meeting with the Provincial Executive Committees of the specific province to just address some of the major issues that confront the province and whatever problems and there are many problems. So I am saying that we have to address many of these questions on a kind of broad canvas with regard to this so there is no simple answer to it. One of the answers, certainly in my view, is that we need to ensure that our structures themselves function and our structures themselves begin to take up the issues of our people.
Let me give you one example, take the pension pay-outs. A decision is taken because you've got to put this on computers, have a data base, and a decision is taken that a data base will be on the basis of the new ID card, the green one. That's a computer, the computer only operates if you press the right buttons, you can't talk to it. Many of our people don't still have this new ID book so they go and collect their pensions but this computer doesn't have their name and can't clock in their ID number because it's not programmed to do so, as a result of which they don't get their pension and they are told, but you are not on the pension list. Not so much that they are not on the list but it is that the data base hasn't captured them. Now I have said to the ANC structures in the North West when the issue was raised, I said I don't understand what the hell you people are talking about, why don't you go back there to your area and go and mobilise the pensioners, go and find out who doesn't have the new ID book, go and help the pensioners if they don't know how to read and write, fill in the forms for them, go to the local Home Affairs Office and get the pensions, get the ID book for them? That's the job of an ANC branch. Oh, yes? So I am saying in a sense what sometimes you were doing automatically when we were a resistance movement, people were not doing automatically once we became a ruling party.
POM Let me just comment on that, one of the townships that I do quite a bit of work in is Alexandra and the complaint year after year is that they never see an MP, they never see a minister, that Tokyo when he was Premier visited once with Mandela, but essentially that there is a government out there that ignores them, that the ANC structures have more or less collapsed and this pains them and makes them feel neglected, makes them feel that the government that they elected and the liberation movement that they loved has in a certain way turned its back on them.
EP That's precisely the issue I'm raising, and there are a whole host of reasons why this happens and I am just surprised that you are saying they have not seen their MPs, it absolutely astonishes me. No, I am going to ask one of them now, well I won't say next week, from Alexandra Township, I am going to call them and ask them and say I am told that you MPs are not seen in Alexandra Township. It's unacceptable.
POM Give them the name of Linda Twala. Linda is the councillor in the community.
EP I accept that and I am saying that's precisely what I am saying must be addressed by the ANC and it is precisely what we are trying to address. I am saying one of the ways forward for us is to start with this 'listen and learn' campaign so that people themselves go back, MPs go back, those of us who are from the NEC and we are deployed, I am deployed to the North West, will have to go to different regions in the North West just to go back and give people back the confidence in their representatives, because that's what we are, we are not representing our jackets, are serious about it. So I am saying in short that that is what we want to address but Alexandra Township itself then, you get this contradictory report, as you know it's quite a well known research agency, five months ago or six months ago and which appeared in the Business Day so if you want you can check that, they did one survey of Alexandra Township and found that 85% of the people there say they will vote for the ANC. I am saying you get these different things that come up.
But never mind Alexandra Township I was trying to make the point that I think there is a general problem. The extent to which we get our own organisation in fact really starting from the branch level upwards functioning effectively will be a very important factor in this thing. The extent to which our councillors, look at councillors and I am now making a broad sweep because there are many areas that I am saying it doesn't apply to, are themselves in meaningful and regular contact with the community is very important. I find when I go into meetings in the North West that the masses of the people have no problem with me, viva Essop, viva Essop, they will sing about you, but when it's a councillor, oh no, no, no. Then they are very angry. But that councillor, we never see him, and they know the councillors because the councillors - Essop lives in Johannesburg, he doesn't live in the North West, but the councillor lives with them in the same area so they know them, they grew up together and whatever else it is and the families know each other, but they say, no, but these councillors are not doing their work properly. And that's what you will hear so that sometimes it is not necessarily a criticism of the national leadership or even the provincial leadership but of this. Sometimes there is a criticism of the provincial leadership that the provincial leadership comes, they fly in and they fly out so to speak. I mean they go with a car but that's what they say. And then they say but the national leadership, also some areas would say, but Comrade Essop you've done so many meetings in the North West, you've never come to my area and my people want to know who is this Comrade Essop. Sure, organise a meeting and we'll come. So that's that.
Again, what I'm really saying is it's the way we as the ANC deal with these issues because we ourselves, if we are honest, are aware of them. We don't have to be told by somebody else. If we are doing our political work we would be very well aware of what the people themselves say. Let me give you one example, the Deputy President, or the President of the ANC in this case, has his constituency office in Winterveldt just outside Pretoria. You know Winterveldt was very famous as one of these really horrendous places which just sprung up with informal settlements and there is absolutely nothing in that area. And he goes and the whole community comes, for after all he is the President of the ANC, he is the Deputy President, he is not Essop Pahad so they will come, and they come and they have a meeting and the Mayor of that area gets up and makes a very nice report about all the things they are doing in front of the community, and says, "Well Comrade President you see one of the great improvements is we've got taps now. Sorry they are not inside the yards of the house but they are just outside and so many houses but everybody here now has access to running water. They don't have to worry about it", and so on and so forth. A great improvement from when had no water at all. One woman gets up and says, "Comrade Deputy President, you see this Mayor, this Mayor is telling you the truth about those taps but he doesn't live here so he doesn't know what's going on here. You see the taps are there but people have been damaging those taps sometimes and what happens to us now is (from whatever time she gave, I don't know) six o'clock, seven o'clock or eight o'clock in the evening till the next morning six o'clock we don't have water because the Council has switched off the running water because they say people are interfering with these taps. Now this Mayor doesn't know these things because he doesn't live here, so what he says is true there is a tap and it is true we will get water from six o'clock in the morning till whatever time in the evening but at night if we want water we don't have it." And of course this Mayor didn't know.
Now I am saying that we are in a situation in which it really is wonderful - when he told me the story I said, but that's great that in your presence somebody from the community, no leader, no nothing, gets up and is able and feels strongly enough to be able to express a view. I said I find this when I do meetings. So I am saying what there is is that people ought to have the confidence to stand up and say and they do that in many meetings I go to, many meetings sometimes I go to I just have to say to the Mayor and the councillors you are not speaking here and you are not just going to stand up and give them foolish answers. At the end of this thing I am going to speak, I am listening. Because obviously people want to defend themselves. It's a natural human reaction. So what I am really saying is that, sure, there are these sets of problems that you have, there are other difficulties that we have in the ANC which we addressed in Mafikeng. It will still boil down to our capacity as the ANC with the two alliance partners. If we are able to work, if we are able to get our activists to become again very enthusiastic, to do the kind of work that we are saying. For example, we are saying in the North West, we took a decision which said from now till elections (and really the election campaign will only begin next year, it's not going to be this year) must be visited at least twice. Now you can take a decision but if your activist who lives in the community isn't going to go and do that then your decision remains a piece of paper.
I personally am confident that we can get our structures enthused again, that we can move in a certain direction and that come next year what will happen is that our own membership will become more active and say, right, elections are here and we are not going to allow the NP and the DP or the UDM or whoever else it is to come and replace the ANC. So I want you to understand that there are a lot of problems, there are a whole set of weaknesses which we have to deal with but I don't think they are such that they can't be overcome.
POM I want to talk about three things, the one is the UDM, the second is the violence at Richmond and the third is why it is the stated goal of the ANC at this point to achieve more than two thirds of the vote in the 1999 elections?
EP Very briefly, let's take the last point first. The official ANC position is that we want a massive majority. Some ANC members have spoken about two thirds and more. The position we have officially, because we said we don't want to get involved in statistical figures, is that there is no political party (well if you can give me one I will be very happy) in the whole world which says we are going to enter an election not to win by a massive majority.
POM Well a massive majority here would allow you to amend the constitution.
EP No I will come back to the point, first we must answer the first question. I am saying to you the questions you asked me are questions that arise from the white media, that's why I'm answering in the way I'm answering because you are just asking me questions that come up in the white media and this white opposition parties raise. The first point I am making, produce one political party in the whole world which says we are going to enter an election campaign not to win a massive majority. What the hell are political parties for and what the hell do we fight an election for? Are we supposed to go to the masses of our people and say, everyone don't vote for us you see because if you give us a two thirds then what will happen is these people think we will change the constitution?
POM But there's another part to that and that is that the constitution commits itself to the development of a viable multiparty democracy.
EP I am coming to that since I drafted that part of the constitution. That's why I'm saying ask me questions, let's go beyond what this white opposition here thinks and this white media thinks, please. If you read the constitution, section one says you require a 75% majority to change that. It's a fundamental core of the constitution with regard to a multiparty system and all of that. We, the ANC, agreed to that. Why did we agree to that? The reason we agreed to that is because we said to ourselves this is not a position of an opposition party, this is an ANC position that the core values of a democratic system, as far as we are concerned in SA, we're not talking for anybody else, there should be a multiparty system, there should be the following freedoms that should be guaranteed and therefore let us even put it at 75%, because as far as we are concerned we don't want to change it at all. No, that's the position of the ANC. We are not asked, I mean to say that Peter Mokaba may or may not have said something in the Eastern Cape does not represent the view of the ANC and the Deputy President said this in parliament here in response to a question from Marthinus van Schalkwyk. He said, "No, I'm speaking for the government, not Peter Mokaba." That's how he put it. We are not going to change, so first of all, those fundamentals of the constitution even if we have 90% of the vote, OK? That's the position of the ANC. It's very clear.
POM But if you have 90% of the vote there's not much room for the development of a viable multiparty democracy.
EP You must go and tell the masses of the people that because the constitution says you must have a multiparty system don't vote for the ANC?
EP Well you can't be that foolish.
POM No, but you -
EP We are not going to do it, never mind, it's not a matter for discussion. The ANC is not going to take that view, it would be a foolish view for the ANC to take. We are going to go to the people and ask them to vote for us. That's the point I'm making. The point I am making about the constitution is that we have drafted the constitution. It was not imposed on us. It's as much an ANC constitution as it is anybody else's constitution so the core values of the constitution are there because we, the ANC, wanted them to be there in the first place. Secondly, insofar as the parts of the constitution are concerned where you think for example if it can be shown, if, I am still saying if, that the property clause in the constitution has been a hindrance to land reform then obviously any self-respecting government would have to say to itself, well our fundamental policy is land reform and therefore if we have the capacity to change it, well let's change it. But it doesn't affect the core value of the fundamental freedoms of the constitution. No. But I am still saying it would still need to be demonstrated that that is the actual case. The Minister of Finance says in the parliamentary debate last Wednesday that the independence of the Reserve Bank is not in question. No, the President of the country said it in his speech to parliament. The minister has now reiterated it. The Deputy President has said that. Why, why are people asking us that we are threatening the independence of the Reserve Bank?
POM Because they don't believe you.
EP Now who are they who don't believe us?
POM The whites.
EP Ah! Well, but they don't constitute the majority of the people in this country. That's why I'm saying to you when you say to me people say these things, let's qualify it. The NP and the DP are opposition parties. You must expect them to do those things because they are an opposition party. They can't have policies which are better than the policies of the ANC. Nobody in this country can have policies better than the ANC, and so they've got to look for these things which is fine. That is what the opposition parties must do. That's what they exist for but that does not mean that we, as the ANC, have to respond to them. Where they make sensible proposals we will. All I'm arguing is that therefore from the ANC point of view for us to want a massive majority is not a question of changing the constitution. The President, I say if you go back to his speeches this year when he did the State of the Nation Address, made it very clear what the position of the government is. The ANC has made it clear. Of course different ANC people, leaders, will go to different platforms depending on the kind of meeting and say things in a different way, but we shouldn't confuse that with the fundamental policy of the ANC itself and I am saying that we are not going to change the fundamentals of the constitution. Even if we have 90% of the vote we will not change it because we think that that constitution and the defence of those fundamental rights and freedoms is a necessary pre-requisite for a democratic society so we are not going to change it.
POM The President, well I will come back to the UDM and Richmond, but the President at Mafikeng in a kind of scathing attack on almost every form of opposition in the country from the media, to the NP, to the DP, to every institute, to elements in the third force, that it sounded like there was a vast conspiracy out there to somehow undermine and destroy, and he said what these people wanted to do was to destroy the ANC.
EP Have you actually read his speech?
POM I have read line by line and underlined every line.
EP Let's go back to what he said. It needs to be read very carefully. Of course there is a counter-revolutionary threat in SA. Only a fool would think there isn't a counter-revolutionary threat in SA.
POM But from whom and since there is no - if one is a realist there is no way of ever going back.
EP Is there? If you are a realist, if you are a realist, if you are in Ireland, if you are a realist you wouldn't go there and sit outside this bloody place and demand that you must march through a Catholic area without trying to negotiate something. Looking at it from the outside you think what kind of people are those Orange Order people who would destroy a peace agreement merely in order to get permission to march through a specific street. But they would not stop from marching. What I am saying is that with regard to these particular issues we just have to come back to the fundamentals. Now the fundamental is that there is a counter-revolutionary threat and it could not be otherwise because there are certain powerful forces, I'm talking of forces, not individual names, because if our people knew them they would have gone and arrested them, who are of the view that the changes that have occurred they don't like them and therefore they need to do some things in order to either reverse the progress that has been made or to make it more difficult for further progress to take place. Now again it's not peculiar for SA, it's happened in other places of the world and in Ireland today even if the over-whelming majority of the population of Northern Ireland voted for the agreement, it's a huge majority, and if you took the Catholic minority just separately, an even larger majority but I don't think that means that everybody who was serving in the IRA or one of the breakaway movements of the IRA necessarily agree with that position, and that they themselves might not get involved in some kind of violent action even if the overwhelming majority of their own community has said something else. So I think that we need to understand that. It is of course complicated in SA by the fact that if you take the fact that lots of arms were stashed away, arms are still stolen, I am sure arms are still smuggled in from the neighbouring states. You would have people who are highly trained militarily, skilled, and therefore you do have a situation in which there is, in my view, still this kind of threat and you don't need to have large numbers to constitute it. As I told you before I think in one of the interviews, the IRA I think consisted at any given one moment in time of maybe 50 to 100 operatives, that's all. But they've tied that British government down for what?
POM Thirty years.
EP If not more. I mean if one goes back to the original Irish uprising. A British government which is heavily armed, a very well trained army, highly skilled military officers, but they tied them down in just a small area called Northern Ireland. It's a demonstration that given the will and so on and so forth small groups of people can wreak quite substantial damage. They were unable to overthrow the British government, as these people will be unable to overthrow us, but they can cause substantial damage. So I am saying that that's what Mandela was talking about. I think that was the situation.
He then spoke about the opposition parties, not in the same breath as these forces, not in the same breath, and I think we need to make that distinction. He then said, well what are these opposition parties, what do they want, what is it that they are looking for? And all they do is carp, carp, carp, carp, anything you do. And he as the President of the ANC has as equal right as Tony Leon of the DP and Marthinus van Schalkwyk of the NP to go and attack those parties as much as they attack the ANC. We have a right to attack them. Why? What's wrong with that? And that's what he did.
In relation to the media the question is the serious people in the media paid very serious attention to what he had to say because what he was saying was true. It remains true in SA today. I am not saying that media owners don't want to bring about transformation, I think they do, but in reality what fundamental transformation has taken place in the newsrooms and in the management structures and in the upper echelons of the media in this country? What?
POM But NAIL now owns -
EP And? And as Mandela said, then look below them. Because it's a question that again they face the same problem as if you talk to the managers they face the same problem we face in government and I then said to them, why are you not then being honest? Because they say we want to change, we want to shift but there aren't enough skilled people who want to have more African journalists in leading positions, but the private sector, other sectors pay more or sometimes they want to come and work in the government so we want to change these things but we don't have enough people to put into those positions in which they can do the job effectively and adequately. Sure, it's a problem that we have to confront, therefore the Independent Group of papers have said that they are prepared to launch quite an extensive training programme and so on and so forth. But it's a realisation that the process of transformation is very difficult because where you have a shortage of skills the old economic maxim of supply and demand comes into operation. Where the demand is greater than the supply the cost will go up. It's Economics One we did at university but it applies here. The reason I'm raising this is to say that surely the media, in my view, needs - and my argument is the media itself, at least the media bosses themselves, the main ones, are not averse to these things. They in general agree and say look, we agree that these things need to be done. If you take the public broadcaster here many of our people think that up to now the public broadcaster is acting as an opposition to the government. It has, in my view, improved over the last six to nine months but there was a time when you could hardly hear the voice of the government on the public broadcaster.
POM This is on the SABC?
EP Yes, that's the public broadcaster we have. You heard the voice of the opposition permanently. There were times when the Minister of Foreign Affairs would make an important budget speech in parliament and you switch on the radio the next morning, it's called AM Live now, and you heard Tony Leon, and you ask yourself in the bath, as I was sitting in the bath, what's wrong with this radio? What did this Foreign Minister say? I knew what he said because I was in parliament but the listener didn't know what the Foreign Minister said, they knew what Tony Leon said about what the Foreign Minister said, and then what Boy Geldenhuys said. There is something wrong and I am saying there has been some change because they went from being a propaganda mouthpiece of the NP government, they just jumped to the other extreme. Now we, let me say again, it's the ANC that insisted that we did not want the public broadcaster to be the propaganda mouthpiece of the party that's in power. It's our position, not now, it was our position when we were negotiating in Kempton Park. It was Joel Netshitenzhe and I that negotiated the setting up of the independent broadcasting thing on the ANC side, finding resistance from the NP, from Danie Schutte who is now sitting in KwaZulu/Natal. You don't know how many weeks of negotiations it took us to get the IBA agreed to. It was us, the ANC, and we knew we were going to win the elections when they came.
Therefore, I say it's unfair when people accuse us, and unjustly, for the very things that we ourselves fought for because we had a position, not from now, from before to say but you see what is our experience. And I say that as somebody who praised the socialist countries to the heavens. I suppose heavens is a wrong word if you're talking about the socialist countries, but never mind. We said, no, but there was something wrong with the media there and there was a time when people would not believe in the media, their own media. So that's what people wanted to listen to, the Voice of Europe and BBC and everything else because they didn't trust their own media and that's wrong. We must not fall into that trap. You need a vibrant voice politically before the elections. Politically before the elections we also said to ourselves that you needed voices external to yourself who would be able to say to you but what you're doing is not correct or what you've done there is wrong and don't go in that direction, because it's very easy to sit amongst yourselves and think everything you're doing is correct and you are so wonderful, and then people cheer and then you cheer back and everything is nice. And we said no we didn't want that kind of situation where the only mirror to us was our own faces, that we needed that external one, critical to that was the media.
Now I am saying this is an ANC position, it was an ANC position for many years, and therefore I do find it painful that people should make these unjust accusations. It does not mean that ANC people or ANC leaders may speak in ways which might give a different impression, because after journalists speak to me they go away, they say, "Oh my God that's a terrible fellow, don't ever put him in charge of the media because he'll want to control us", but that's the way I speak, I engage with them, I shout at them, they shout at me and I tell them if I think they're talking nonsense. I tell them I think you're just talking rubbish, you don't know what you're talking about. And then they go back and say, but Essop Pahad is a terrible man. But they must go back to the ANC position, never mind what Essop Pahad says, what is the position of the ANC? What is the position of the government? And have those positions changed? I am saying those positions have not changed. We did not have them only when we were in Kempton Park. Before we went to Kempton Park these were positions that had evolved in our own structures, in our own discussions.
The reason I'm saying this is because this question that the ANC constitutes a threat to democracy starts from an assumption where you have not understood the ANC as assumption is made that many of the best features in the constitution is a consequence of the intervention of the DP. It's a lot of rubbish. This little DP even in Kempton Park insofar as they were influential, they were influential to the extent to which their positions coincided with ours. They know that if they are very honest with themselves.
POM On that I'm going to give you a quotation and I want to see if you can identify the person who made it.
EP Are you testing my knowledge? OK.
POM "You can already smell authoritarianism tendencies in the air in SA. The ANC will win the next election by default because the opposition is so unfocused. There is a lot of jargon and not much thoughtfulness coming from the government. Mugabe epitomises where we could end up. We implement austerity but when we encounter resistance we give up. There are swings between demography and managerialism. It holds terrible perils for democracy."
EP Jeremy (Cronin).
POM Correct. Why would he make a statement like that?
EP In fact I am very surprised that he made that statement because he's denied that he said something similar as you know. The reason I'm saying Jeremy is because something similar appeared in the newspapers. I don't know, it's better to ask Jeremy why Jeremy said that. I happen not to agree with Jeremy.
POM I did ask him.
EP And he still stands by what he said?
EP Well I don't agree with him and you can put that down whenever you write a book. I totally disagree with Jeremy's assessment. It's one of the things that the President of the ANC criticised. It's not put like that, that starkly, in the draft documents of the party, not at all, it's put in a much more sophisticated way. But it is precisely what the President of the ANC criticised, to say, "But why are you saying", he said this to us communists, "that the greatest threat to democracy is coming from inside the ANC. Why are you saying that?" And I think it was a correct challenge which wasn't really taken up at the party congress. No, I would not agree with Jeremy at all. Why he says it - Jeremy is a poet so maybe he has a right to have a poetic license, but I certainly would not agree with Jeremy.
POM Just on the alliance, are you still committed to socialism in the way in which you were when you came back to the country?
EP If you recall, anyway the first meeting was not in Cape Town it was in Johannesburg when I first met you, we had come in from exile. If you remember, I don't know if I said it at that time, we ourselves were very much in the throes of examining and re-examining some of our own fundamental approaches to socialism. That was in 1990, the real collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union happened around 1989 and so we were as a party, as communist parties throughout the world were, including from those socialist countries themselves, faced with very, very fundamental questions both about the theory and the practice of socialism. In my view that process of thinking continues, I don't know all the communist parties in the world but I don't think anyone has found the confidence to say this replaces our old understanding. I think the party still is going through that period of coming to grips and trying to understand. Two, the will itself has changed in a sense where there was a certain element of certainty when you had these two -
POM Super powers.
EP No, I will use my own phraseology, two world social systems, capitalism one system and the other one a socialist system, in balance but nevertheless a kind of rough balance in terms of power relations and influence and so on and so forth. It doesn't exist. So whereas the powerful European and North American economies had to do something for the developing countries for fear that they might go over to the Soviet Union and therefore enlarge what they would consider the soviet bloc, they were doing things. Similarly the Soviet Union were interacting with countries and people that they might ideologically not be seen in the same bed with because they needed from their point of view to break what they considered to be the stranglehold of the United States and other west European powers on the rest of the world. It doesn't exist any more. Do you have a uni-polar world or do we have a multi-polar world? Some people argue that we have a uni-polar world because of the overwhelming power and influence of the USA. Others argue that, no, there's a multi-polar world because you still have western Europe, the EEC and you still have Japan. Well that's a debate but the fact remains whether - you can debate whatever you want, the USA remains the pre-eminent political, economic and military power in the world. It's a changed world so our whole analysis of balance of forces, which used to be our favourite word when we were in exile, doesn't exist any more. The balance has shifted. We used to say previously that the balance of forces has shifted irreversibly in favour of the forces of peace, progress and socialism. I am just repeating the jargon we used to use. That's how we used to write. It's no longer true in that sense. But that, if you like, was a kind of base from which we then made further analysis of what was going on inside our own movement and in the world. Now it doesn't exist so your methodological approach has to be different.
But in my opinion, I will speak for myself, it does not in my view affect the fundamental belief why I believed in socialism in the first place which has to do with the alleviation of want, poverty first of all of the masses of SA and of course then to broaden it throughout the world. That I still want to be in a society in which there is not only equality of opportunities but there is genuine equality between the peoples as a whole. It doesn't mean that somebody might not have better wages than somebody else. All of those elements of socialism still appeal to me, which is still something that I think is worth fighting for and I will continue to fight for it. The vehicle that we utilise, of course I still think the vehicle is the SA Communist Party, but that's a vehicle. Vehicles may change, they may break down, they might need a new motor, you might need to change the gears, and I'm talking about the other 'gear' now. But I am saying that that's the instrument. It's not the principle. To me there may be problems in the instruments, there may be problems in the alliances but that fundamental vision I have personally has not altered.
POM Do you not think that what appeared to be increasing divisions or ongoing divisions between the ANC, the SACP and COSATU over fundamental macro-economic policy is straining the alliance to a point of where the SACP perhaps should just go its own way? Is it necessary to maintain the alliance at all costs or might it be better for democracy in the long run if you had people committed to the same goals but seeking different directions to attain them?
EP First of all let's look at the SACP Congress, the declaration we adopted at the congress is very different from - there's a sentence there about GEAR but the rest of the declaration talks about the alliance and how the Communist Party wants to strengthen the alliance and how the alliance is led by the ANC and all of these things. So, again, you've got to weigh up what the final declaration of the party congress said with the one element, which is an important element for the delegates but nevertheless there is only one element in which they outrightly rejected GEAR, but if you look at the rest of the declaration it doesn't call for - in fact it reasserts and emphasises the need for an alliance. No, I think if you are discussing the alliance, well no alliance can ever be free of tension, then you don't need an alliance. I don't think any organisation was free of tension inside itself.
POM In the relationship.
EP Because, I mean, I'm so glad that within the ANC we can quarrel with each other, debate with each other, we're not a bunch of robots, somebody presses a button and you say the same thing and march in the same line. So there are differences inside the ANC itself and surely there must be differences between the alliance partners, surely. I think it would be a terrible thing if we had to arrive at the day when the trade union movement, COSATU, doesn't have a difference with the SACP as well as the ANC. It would inevitably have this if it actually represents and articulates the interests of its own members because its own members go beyond the membership of the party and the ANC. There are many people who are in COSATU who might belong to other political parties, who might not belong to any political formation but they are interested in the protection of their jobs, increasing their salaries, improvement in their working conditions and so on and so forth and therefore in arriving at this then COSATU would have to take positions. Lenin, in my view, once said that the trade union movement if left on its own would degenerate into economism, which I think is true.
POM Degenerate into?
EP Economism, which is to be just basically interested. But that is the job of a trade union movement and therefore where there is political leadership and guidance and that comes from - well I think it comes from the SACP or should come from the SACP and should come from the ANC. So the tensions and differences in the alliance are not new, they have been there ever since we've had the alliance. That's why Mandela is very fond of telling stories of how he tried to break up meetings of the party when he was here. At that time the ANC Youth League was not in favour of a joint campaign that was going to be run by the ANC provincial, in the old Transvaal, and the party and the trade unions. I think inevitably it must arise because you want to arrive at certain, or understand certain things from a different perspective. So we have always had differences, we've always had tensions in the alliance and I think that's inevitable. The issue is do we as the leadership have the capacity to manage these differences in a way that they do not lead to schism. I think this is the challenge and up to now the leadership of the alliance has always been able to manage this. Well I can only tell you what I think, I think we still have the capacity to do that but time will tell whether I am right or wrong. So it's the way we manage this. It's the way we will go and discuss whatever differences of opinion exist and then try to arrive at some common positions. The upcoming alliance summit when it does take place will, I think, give a clearer picture of the areas of agreement and there may well still be areas of disagreement between the alliance partners which would necessitate a level of continuous interaction and discussion in order to find some kind of common position. Now I don't think that the ANC is interested in breaking this alliance, I don't think the SACP is either. But nobody can say that the time may not come when such a break happens. But that's a subjective thing.
Looking at it from an objective point of view there is certainly a need for the alliance. The alliance was brought into being in order to achieve certain things, it's not just to get rid of apartheid. Again, I'm using our own phraseology of the movement. It's really to bring about a national democratic revolution. If that still remains the objective of the broad movement as a whole then that is what brings us together. Now we might differ on the path or the pace or the depth and so on and so forth. What I am really arguing is that objectively I would argue that there is still a necessity for the alliance to take place. Of course it's quite possible to argue and the party has not taken that position and certainly has not taken the position for the 1999 election even before congress, that in the 1999 elections everybody who gets on to the list will be on an ANC list. What the ANC has done, and I also serve on the ANC's NEC National Elections Commission, the ANC has said yes, COSATU structures and party structures will have as much right as ANC structures to nominate people for the list. It's not everybody else who gives alliance partners that much capacity for power and influence in the list. The ANC has done this. And so COSATU structures, party structures, as the list conferences take place go and nominate people at ANC meetings. Of course they are a much smaller number but they have a right to vote for candidates. The ANC in conjunction with its alliance partners have said this is the process that we want to take.
My own feeling is that, well not feeling but in terms of the decisions we have taken at the level of the party leadership, that we have agreed to this process. Indeed Jeremy represents the SACP on the NEC National Elections Commission. Of course he is also a member of the NEC but he comes to the meeting as, and known as, the representative of the SACP. I sit on the same commission, saying I am a member of the Central Committee, Jeff Radebe sits on the same thing, he is a member of the Central Committee. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi sits on the same committee. She is a member of the Central Committee but we were there in our capacity as members of the NEC of the ANC. Jeremy is there is his capacity as representing the party and he speaks on behalf of the party in the meetings. Fine. Where you would have a difference is not having a difference because somebody is speaking as a party person but you're having a difference because you don't agree with what somebody said. So that's fine. Well I think it's fine because 90% of the time they disagree with me so that's OK. But I am just saying that the issue of the alliance at the moment -
POM Is moot.
EP It's not there and I think in the party we are having our Central Committee meeting on Saturday, so some of the issues we're going to have to look at is making an assessment of congress decisions and making an assessment of - there has to be, there's an agreement that there will be a bilateral meeting between the leadership of the SACP and the leadership of the ANC, so what should be our approach. So we will discuss that at the level of the Central Committee. But I just want us to understand there will be tensions. Jesus Christ, the tensions in marriage, but you don't divorce because there are tensions, you divorce when there is an irretrievable breakdown. We have not reached the point of an irretrievable breakdown. I quarrel with my daughter permanently, she keeps on getting fed up because I keep on using her in interviews, but there is no break up between me and my daughter. The only time I can shout at her is when I speak to them on the phone from Cape Town. When I'm sitting with them I can't shout at them because they shout more. It really is a matter of how we manage these things and how we will manage the differences and how we will be able to continue to speak to each other in a way.
My own feeling, and again there will be a difference of opinion, quite rightly, inside the ANC, inside the party, inside COSATU, my own feeling is that what President Mandela did and what President Thabo Mbeki did was in a way to inject a sense of urgency and realism in the debate, just to take it away from the usual platitudes, saying let's discuss this thing and if you're saying you don't agree, well what does this mean? And Mandela says, well GEAR is government policy. It is government policy until government changes its policy. So, OK, people ask me what will you do? I say, well today is Sunday, tomorrow is Monday, I go to my office in the Union Buildings and if I have to implement GEAR I will implement GEAR. That's my job. If I don't want to carry out government policy then I must resign. It's as simple as that. I don't know why there should be such a big fuss about something, but I don't think that that situation has arisen at all in that stark sense. If it arises in that stark sense, if, and it's a big if, then every individual will have to make his or her own decision at that point in time and at that point in time you weigh up the thing and you make a decision about your life. I don't think the time is there but if it comes then we will make our decisions.
POM Two last quick questions. One, does the ANC want a merger with the IFP?
EP No, it's not a question of a merger. These bloody funny English words also come up and then sometimes we use them without looking. No it's not a question of a merger now. I thought what the President of the ANC had been saying, well both Presidents, the previous one and the present one, the previous one is President Mandela, now speaking as ANC now, and which was reflecting the view of the leadership of the ANC both in the province, KwaZulu/Natal as well as nationally, that we had to stabilise the situation in KwaZulu/Natal. Too many of our people had died and indeed right now as we sit, too many of our people are continuing to die in that province. Last night another nine people were killed in Richmond. You can't have a stable climate and a stable environment if you don't have a reasonable working relationship between the ANC and the IFP. In my view that has been the principle guiding point for both President Mandela as well as President Thabo Mbeki. And that's the discussions that have taken place and then my understanding is that those discussions are continuing, well there has been no report to the NEC as such about the discussions. All the report was that the discussions were continuing but quite clearly two things, his visit to Ulundi to attend the IFP congress and the very warm reception he received from the IFP delegates and you see they put him on the head table with Minister Buthelezi and the other political parties sat there in the crowd. That was the IFP's way of also showing the difference between the two, the ANC and the rest. He was given as much time as he wanted to speak. The other opposition parties were told, you have two minutes, that's all. Again, a reflection of to that extent the changing relations between the ANC and the IFP. Thirdly, we've always maintained, you find it in all the statements, but people thought that was just mere rhetoric, that fundamentally we don't have differences with the IFP with regard to meeting the needs of the poor because in Natal we share the same constituency, the poorest of the poor. The other difference may that with regard to their constitutional proposals about federalism and so on and so forth, in effect those fundamental questions in the same way as just getting and doing something and having a sustainable level of economic and social development.
Discussions are continuing between the ANC and the IFP. When they have concluded they will then come and report so I don't know what they will come and report and what the final part of the agreement will be. What I think is important is that at least it has, notwithstanding the violence that's going on in Richmond and two or three other parts, but it has, I think, considerably improved the political climate in KwaZulu/Natal which I think all of us will accept is in itself a good thing and I saw in yesterday's newspaper, the Business Day, Premier Ben Ngubane was responding to an article written by a Business Day correspondent in which he is really tearing that journalist apart for the way the journalist wrote about the IFP congress.
It's not a merger, there is no merger being discussed. What's being discussed is how we can co-operate and what Buthelezi said, and it's an interesting thing for you, it's only the African journalists that picked it up, in The Sowetan by Nthato and ... I don't think the Natal papers, I can't speak for the Natal papers, the others said Buthelezi said blah, blah, blah. The African journalists picked up what Buthelezi said about how the IFP wants to continue to be in the government. But it's not a question of a merger.
POM Talking about Richmond and the UDM and the categorical refusal of the ANC to sit down with the UDM to find ways to bring the violence there to a halt or to contain it. I was talking to Chief Buthelezi yesterday and he said it reminded him of their efforts to sit down with the ANC to talk about bringing violence to an end and how those talks didn't take place for a long time but in the end they had to take place. Why would the ANC adopt, committed as it is to the stopping of killing, why would it adopt a position of a categorical refusal to talk to another party that is involved in the conflict?
EP To start with I must say I know very little about the kind of dynamics in Richmond, so in a sense it's somebody speaking from afar so to speak, I think you should bear that in mind. It's not a question that we had said we would not speak to the IFP, so I don't know why Minister Buthelezi said that. I don't think the ANC ever said it would not speak to the IFP. I think there was a time when Minister Buthelezi, at that time before he was a minister, and President Mandela of the ANC had come to some understanding about doing joint meetings and so forth and that those events didn't take place. But that there were meetings I think it was clear there were a lot of meetings that took place.
But be that as it may, it would seem to me that the starting point has to be then to say where is the violence emanating from? Because if you say in order to stop the violence in Richmond the ANC must meet with the UDM, you're starting with an assumption that the ANC is responsible for the violence too, and on the other side the UDM is - whereas it's quite possible that there are more sinister forces who are behind the violence and who may or may not be using elements in the UDM to serve that specific purpose. So I think we need to bear that in mind, so it does not mean that if it's necessary the ANC may not at some point speak to them. The ANC is saying at this moment they don't see any point. The ANC people have not refused to go to a meeting where the UDM have been present so we must distinguish between where there would be, say, a meeting called by the community or by the police chiefs as happened the last time and as you know the ANC people walked out of the meeting because it was a meeting called for by the Portfolio Committee of the KwaZulu/Natal legislature. The chair of that Portfolio Committee is Becky Cele and when they go to the meeting one of these IFP people decide that they must move a motion for something else and some of the other parties. But you can't change the chairperson of a Portfolio Committee like you're going to an ordinary branch meeting of somebody and say I don't like this chairperson. If somebody chairs a Portfolio Committee here in parliament and Patricia de Lille chairs the Transport Portfolio Committee, the ANC people can't go to a meeting of the Transport Committee and say we want our own person to be a co-chair or a chair, it would be wrong. Therefore it was unacceptable to the ANC but the ANC were at the meeting.
POM So who wanted to change the chair?
EP The IFP, one of their people, they wanted to change the chair and said there should be a co-chair between the IFP and the ANC, so the ANC people walked out of that meeting. But the reason I'm saying this is that the ANC did not say that they would not, as ANC, not go to the meeting which is a broader meeting called for either by the police or whoever else it is by the community. It's just to get it clear that what the ANC has said is that it will not engage with the UDM in a bi-lateral discussion. That's what the ANC have said, it has not said that if the UDM is present in a meeting it will not go or if it's called by somebody else, and I think before that the Speaker of the KwaZulu/Natal Legislature had also gone to Ulundi to try to talk to as many people as possible, again as the Speaker of the KwaZulu/Natal Legislature. He happens to be an ANC person.
POM Why wouldn't it engage in a bilateral?
EP Because what are you going to engage with the UDM about?
POM You're going to talk about killings that are taking place.
EP But then you're making the assumption that - if the UDM says, but we are not behind the killings, what are you going to talk to them about?
POM Well the ANC says we're not behind the killings so you both have something to talk about that if you both are not behind the killings it's to figure out who the hell is behind the killings.
EP So how does it have to figure out who is behind the killings to talk to the UDM? That's not the job of the ANC or the UDM. That's the job of your South African Police Service, that's the job of your intelligence agencies. They must go and find the killers, they must go and bring them and find them and take them to court and build up enough of a case to be able to find them guilty. It's not the job of these political parties. Insofar as this police force and law enforcement agencies may need the assistance of political parties, fine, political parties must offer them and encourage the communities to offer them assistance.
What I'm really trying to say is that, at least as I understand it from the side of the ANC, it's not saying outright rejection, we're not going to talk to anybody, it's a question of saying what political purpose would it serve? And surely for the UDM it serves a fantastic purpose. They are a little hotch-potch of an organisation who have more publicity than their strength deserves. And so, big deal now, UDM meets with the ANC, so the UDM is on the same footing as the ANC. For them I can see the political kudos that would accrue from such a meeting. But the whole of KwaZulu/Natal they have nothing. What they have is in that part of Richmond where Nkabinde has a base. What do they have in the rest of KwaZulu/Natal? And frankly, what do they have in the rest of this country? Go now to the Transkei and go to Holomisa's home village and you will find that he doesn't have support in the very village he comes from, which does not mean, just to finish off on the UDM, that among certain sectors in the Transkei, for example, that there wouldn't be a support base for him, sure. I think amongst the civil servants for example, sure, especially those civil servants who feared that with the downsizing they would lose their jobs and everything. Many of them got promoted under Holomisa who didn't deserve to become Chief Directors, Deputy Director Generals and Director Generals, and we are paying them salaries for doing no work, huge remuneration packages. So, of course, obviously they would continue. The extent to which, again, it is difficult to determine at the moment the extent to which they have been able to get the support of some elements of traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape and Transkei, for one of the their leaders who comes from Pondoland, but so does Stella Sigcau, so does Stofile the Premier of the Eastern Cape, they also come from Pondoland and Stella is a Princess. So if you're talking about traditional authority and traditional status then Minister Stella also has it.
So I am saying in my view the amount of publicity that Holomisa gets is well beyond what he deserves in terms of what they represent and insofar as they have been getting a support base they've been getting support from a number of disgruntled NP people. So it remains to be seen what the actual strength of the UDM really is and the elections will show that. What I find funny is that these great democrats here, and some of them, I mean this little military dictator from the Transkei, where does he become a great democrat from? And this fellow Roelf Meyer who was at one time a Minister of Defence and a Deputy Minister of Law & Order, he's now a great democrat? I mean, really! I speak for myself, you think I can take them seriously as great defenders of democracy? I am sorry I can't. But they are projected and they are going to save who? Because it's only those who are threatened by democracy who think they need to be saved. If you're not threatened by democracy what must you be saved from? And so I say again and again that in the end we will see what the actual situation is.
Now obviously, as you know very well, there have been immense problems in the Eastern Cape, immense. Where we inherited a huge bureaucracy from the old apartheid system, that's in the old Bantustans, corruption was more rife because this apartheid government poured in money into these places, didn't care what happened to the money, never asked for any accounts, never asked these people to account for this money because they thought we will just give these Bantus money and they will not vote for the ANC. That was their approach.
What I am saying is that therefore even the UDM needs to be looked at, you need to look at its structures. Just look who are their treasurers. I don't think you will find an African person there. I think in one place is an Indian, the rest are whites. But you inherited this structure, very corrupt and they continue to be corrupt. It's not that they became corrupt after 1994, they were corrupt, we inherited all of them as part of united SA, making it one again, as part of what we agreed to in Kempton Park that all of their jobs were protected up to a certain point. Now sure, of course that creates huge, huge problems for us in the Eastern Cape, in the Northern Province, in the North West to a lesser extent. So what I am saying is that in this period of four years, and that's all we've had, all we've had is four little years and I mean in the history of a country what are four years? It's not even a drop of water, it's even less than a drop of water. We've had to deal with many issues and there are many of these issues that are going to be with us for some time but nobody must doubt the commitment of the ANC to deal with these issues. Of that I am absolutely sure and when you publish your book you can put as my epitaph that I am absolutely sure that the African National Congress will not waver from its commitment to improving the well-being of the masses of our people. That is my epitaph, you can put it when you publish your book.
POM Thank you. I've lost contact altogether with COSATU. You remember that you had fixed me up with Sam?
EP Yes, have you not spoken to Sam again?
POM Sam just kind of dropped out.
EP Has he not spoken to you.
POM He spoke to me twice and then he said -
EP All right, I'm going to see him, no he's not - I don't know when. If he comes to the Central Committee meeting -