Transcript of the question and answer session on the occasion of the Public Lecture by the Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, at New York University, New York, United States of America
28 Mar 2011Question:
Thank you I am Penny Andrews and I am the academic dean at the City University of New York Law School and I am also coordinator of the South Africa reading group. My question relates to your opening comments about non-racialism and the cosmopolitan South Africa. As you probably are aware after the election of President Obama, people spoke about this new post racial America, and the post racial America has actually brought a lot of racists to the fore and this anti immigrant sentiment. In South Africa as well I think that there is this discourse on race and I think about the anti immigrant sentiment expressed last year and then this debate that Trevor Manuel has raised about racism and colourism in the Western Cape and elsewhere. So my question is three parts:
The first is I want to ask whether the ANC, with its commitment to non-racialism has certainly been a beacon for all of us who work in the area of race. Has the ANC, is the ANC still committed to the philosophy of non-racialism?
The second is how, what is the ANC if, the ANC is committed to the philosophy which I think it is, what is it doing affirmatively to ensure that some of the issues that Trevor Manuel raised now have been addressed.
The third is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the lessons of reconciliation has been very important for the Unites States. Are there any lessons that you think South Africa could provide for the United States as we struggle towards non-racialism in this country.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe: Thank you very much Ms Andrews. The first question, yes the ANC is committed to non-racialism and its commitment goes back to the very beginning of the ANC and was distilled into very clear policy position as enshrined in the Freedom Charter adopted in 1955 which has a preamble that was seen as treason by the then apartheid regime in 1955 because whereas the apartheid government had a policy of a white supremacy, so called, the ANC did not counter that with the notion of black supremacy.
It instead posited the strategy of non-racialism and hence in the preamble to the Freedom Charter it says “South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white, no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people”. That is the preamble to the Freedom Charter and for that no less than 156 leaders of the congress movement were arrested, charged and tried for four and a half years for high treason because the apartheid government regarded such pronouncements as high treason.
However the efficacy and the correctness of this view has been proved by the fact that now the very party which introduced the system of racism in South Africa came to a view that its usefulness in the current setting is zero and therefore publicly announced that they now close shop and they disbanded themselves and decided to embrace non-racialism.
That leads me to your second question about affirmative action, the policies of the government; in fact affirmative action is enshrined in the constitution of South Africa in that the Constitution is founded on the understanding that apartheid created accumulated disabilities in various facets of life as it affects the majority of the people in South Africa and that therefore there has got to be transformation of society; and the Constitution is therefore transformative in its very founding principles.
But of course change in society takes time and we find that those who slide back, and let me say this upfront, you will not find one single white South African who ever supported apartheid today, not one, not one. All of them had a black friend, were opposed to apartheid in their own way, and so on. But of course from time to time they slide back into old habits. However the environment has progressed to such an extent that they are very careful, they would not of themselves initiate any debate around this issue. They wait for a black person who sees things simply in black and white, to make a statement about affirmative action and they hang on to that statement as apartheid in reverse.
So whereas the constitution says we must transform society - we must right the wrongs of the past, to create this united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist society - they see in every step that seeks to address these accumulated disabilities as racism in reverse. But of course we understand that and they cannot lead the country in the right direction. Ours is not to be diverted, is not to join them in their conservatism but to continue communicating the primary message of the creation of a non-racial society, and that is what we do.
The TRC was in a sense informed by the manner in which our problem of apartheid was resolved through dialogue. We found the solution not by vanquishing the oppressors, and the challenge which faced us was the fact that they were still in power and we had to persuade them to accept that we should have democracy and election that would involve all the people of South Africa, when they knew quite well that they stood to lose the election.
Now I want to re-phrase that, so that it becomes clear. Here were the ruling block, in power, not under immediate threat to be unseated and we had to persuade them that it is in their interest to subject themselves to democratic elections even though they knew they were going to lose those elections.
And there in lay the basis for us to deal with the challenge of knowing the truth, instead of introducing the Nuremburg type trials, we said anyone of the perpetrators of the brutal system of apartheid would be indemnified from any form of prosecution if they tell the truth and the whole truth.
Because it was important for us as a country to know the truth, what happened to people who disappeared, who was responsible for that; and by creating such an environment in which; such as a cathartic process could unfold we were able to bridge the divide right up to the point when we had elections in 1994. We were divided and treated each other as mortal enemies but through this process we were able to find common platform for moving forward. Thank you.
Is the South African government committed to press freedom and keeping a vibrant press in South Africa and I also want you to address the issue of media transformation which is one of the grievances that the government has invoked.
Deputy President: Thank you very much for your question. Firstly let me explain that press freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution of South Africa and secondly that the press, print media, is self regulated in South Africa through the Press Ombudsman as well as the Press Council. The concerns that many South Africans have is that the print media can print a story without double checking the information and without ever checking with the subject of the story.
They can make up stories. Let me give you an example: one morning I woke up to headlines, and this was in the period when I was serving as President, so the headline says President impregnates a 24 year old, actually has a child with a 24 year old and they produce one lady, they name her, the story also states where she works and all of that. Not a word to check with me and so on. I did not know this person at all.
And then of course the story ran and the others pick it up and so on for months on end. Eventually the same newspaper writes, tentatively, an apology that now says No, they now have discovered that this lady is not quite together. So! It is not quite an apology but it indicates that now they are saying their source was not quite a reliable source.
So when I was asked: what are you going to do about this? I said well there is a Press Ombudsman, I am going to write to the Ombudsman and see what happens, how I get relief out of it. And so that is an example. Eventually they all admitted that this was all an invention.
Now when you write to the Press Ombudsman the requirements are that firstly you must forego your right to take the matter through the courts, so it is conditional. And the turnaround time from the time when you submit a complaint, is upward of four months. So by the time the matter is finalised, and of course the apology is buried somewhere in page 14 of the newspaper in a little box, nobody can connect it to the original damaging story.
So this is the basis of the concern and the ANC, in its own conference, adopted a resolution saying it must investigate the desirability of establishing a media appeals tribunal that when an affected party goes through all the appeal levels, the editor, the ombudsman and so on and still finds not joy, you should have recourse to an appeals tribunal. Now there is not such body, there is no proposal of how the body should be structured and so on. It is merely to investigate the desirability of such mechanism. That is one process, this resolution was adopted in 2007 and to date it has not been implemented.
Then the Ministry of State Security, in seeking to come up with legislation which would enable government to declassify, classified, information, drafted a bill which was serving before parliament. And media mobilised and combined this bill with the old resolution on media appeals tribunal and said this is going to kill press freedom in the country.
And they were not debating the issues; instead they waged a campaign and, in our interactions, because we do meet with the editors regularly through the structure of editors called South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), we met with them and in our conversation we said to them since they had set in motion a process to improve on the Ombudsman office, that process may well address the concerns raised by the public. They have been conducting public hearings about how to improve their self regulatory mechanisms.
And the ANC has taken the view that it is not in a great hurry, as we say in South Africa it will hurry up slowly (laughter) in conducting the investigations as to whether this media tribunal is desirable or not. In order to give space for the processes that the print media has embarked upon and if at the end indeed in practice the Ombudsman office has enough capacity to process complains within the shortest possible time and give equal prominence to the apology, I am sure the ANC in the next conference would say there is no need for this resolution or this investigation. That is where we are with regards to the issue of press freedom.
The Protection of Information Bill has gone through public hearings, parliament is busy with it and I have no doubt that, because the test is that it must comply with the constitution - that is the test of legislation in South Africa - I have no fear that, that matter would be addressed accordingly.
Then media transformation, we already have, in a sense, I mean in terms of ownership and equity, there is diverse ownership, there are media houses that are owned by black people but of course business people are driven by profit, so they don’t look at policy they look at the amount of adverts that get into the newspaper and the returns. So it really does not matter that much.
We think that transformation in the media can best be addressed through the transformation of the media collages, the training of journalists, because we think some of the challenges arise because of the manner in which journalists are trained. Journalists are trained to believe that government by nature is inherently corrupt and crooked and should not be trusted, and so that is the manner in which they approach information and how to report on the developments in the country. Thanks.
Thank you so very much for your enlightening and inspiring remarks, my name is Diana Kirsten and I am the Executive Director of Shared Interests which since 1994 has been working with South African Banks to move them to lend to low income communities, black communities around the country in South Africa.
My question is: you spoke movingly of an increasingly interconnected but unequal world economy. That is the theme that resonates profoundly with people in our country as well particularly in the wake of the global financial crisis. My question is, what would you say to the international community, particularly to people like us; what can we do and should we do now to support South Africa’s campaign to reduce the inequalities that are so contrary to the commitment and the campaigns and the Constitution.
Deputy President: Thank you very much for the question and the good work that you are involved in.
Put very bluntly South Africa is two countries in one land space. And we say so because the physical economic and social infrastructure is informed by the divides of the past. So we have one part of the country which is well developed, really no different from any of the developed cities in the world. On the other hand we have under development that can be compared to the poorest of countries in the world. You will have in one community a school with sport facilities and everything and you will have in another community a school meaning brick and mortar classrooms, period, nothing else. So and that applies in all facets of life, clinics, the hospitals and everything else, the streets and so on.
Now as a government we believe that provision of economic and social infrastructure in the rural areas as well as the black townships would equalise at least the physical environment of the country. And we already experienced this in Soweto. Soweto is an amalgam of townships all sprawling together as one and has a population of more than two million people. In Africa it is the biggest township. And a few years ago the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality decided to tar all the streets in Soweto. The practice in the past was that only the main roads for the buses and the taxis were tarred and the feeder roads were never tarred, they were left dusty. So the decision of the Johannesburg municipality to tar every street in Soweto had a catalytic effect on Soweto.
Today Soweto is like a modern suburb. It has got parks where children play and these parks are maintained by the horticultural section of the municipality. They look after wetlands, they have shopping malls and there is a thriving campus of the University of Johannesburg. Residents themselves now have added to the beautification of their environment. In the past they would have, if the refuse collection truck does not come around they would take refuse and dump it in the open field. Now the open lot is a park and is no longer used as a dumping site. Instead, from the capstone to where the parameter of their yards end they have planted grass and flowers and the place looks very beautiful, very beautiful.
On the eve of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, one of the prominent rugby teams in South Africa, the Blue Bulls, based in Pretoria had to forgo access to Loftus Versfeld Stadium, which is their home stadium, to the FIFA local organising committee and yet they had a Super 14 semi final match to play.
And so they searched around for an alternative stadium and they found that alternative stadium in Orlando, Soweto. They went to Orlando Stadium, and when they got there, the community in Soweto, the people around the stadium, are quite enterprising, so in anticipation of good business, they painted their walls in the colours of the Blue Bulls welcoming them. And the Blue Bulls is supported mainly by the Afrikaners. Most of them had never set foot in a township in their lives.
And this rugby semi final took them to Soweto because the infrastructure there, Orlando Stadium, met their requirements, and when they got there, they interacted with the community in Soweto. They also discovered other benefits. They discovered that whereas in Pretoria the price you pay for 375 milliliters of beer in Soweto you get a quart for the same price. So they were very happy, they played very well, they qualified for the finals and they took the finals to Orlando Stadium once again and they were very happy.
So in a sense it instructs us that once the infrastructure is there, South Africans will settle everywhere and interact harmoniously as South Africans. So the questions is what can you do to help us, we say it is infrastructure development. Any assistance that you can give to us in that regard would be most welcome. I am sure Minister Ebrahim Patel here, Minister of Economic Development will be happy to interact with you in that regard. Thank you.
My name is Andrea Atikom, I am from Cameroon. I just wanted to reflect just a little bit on what his Excellency said about South African role in conflict resolution and prevention on the continent. You rightfully said South Africa has now become a champion on most of these initiatives and you sighted Sudan and the referendum and what South Africa did over there. But I was just wondering, there is a view in parts of the international community that South Africa is actually part of the problem in Ivory Coast, in Côte d'Ivoire, in that South Africa, and if I may be politically incorrect, that South Africa has flip flopped so many times on their position with regards to what is going on in Ivory Coast and I think this is probably the best platform for his Excellency to clarify what South Africa’s role and position is as to the outcome of the elections that took place in Ivory Coast. Thank you.
Deputy President: Thank you very much for that question around Côte d'Ivoire elections. Now let’s take one step back and remind ourselves that Côte d'Ivoire experienced civil war when Force Nauvelle in the north with their own military army of plus minus 20 thousand soldiers were in conflict with the forces under President Gbagbo, and South Africa was involved in facilitating peace. And the Pretoria Agreement which they signed made very clear recommendations of steps that ought to be followed and steps that would lead to free and fair elections being held in Côte d'Ivoire.
The nationality of prominent persons such as President Ouattara was questioned. So, even those issues had to be dealt with in the dialogue that was facilitated by South Africa in Pretoria.
They went back and worked on those issues and that is why President Ouattara could also contest elections as he was accepted as Ivorian. However they did so with one aspect still outstanding, and this is the integration of the armed forces because it was understood that you cannot have two armed forces in a country and hope to have peace. They were rushed in into holding the elections partly by the United Nations.
So however that is what happened, these elections were held and, incidentally the person in government who was given the responsibility of preparing for the elections, supervising of the elections ensuring that all the arrangements were in place was Prime Minister Soro, the leader of Force Nauvelle who served as Prime Minister in President Gbagbo’s government. He meticulously prepared for the elections.
Let me explain the other problem there is that they have what they call an Independent Electoral Commission and this Independent Electoral Commission comprises representatives of all political parties in the country, so it is not quite independent, it is a body made up of representatives of all political parties. And they have what they call the Constitutional Council. Now in law these two have two different roles.
The Electoral Commission organises and conducts elections but has the right to pronounce on provisional results, only, not final results, provisional results. The Constitutional Council which now comprises mainly people appointed by President Gbagbo has the right, upon receiving any objections or complaints from any of the parties, to go and investigate and if it comes to a determination that indeed the elections in this or that constituency where not free and fair it has the right to nullify the whole elections so that the elections can be conducted afresh.
So that is in a nutshell the role, the functions of the Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Council and of course their composition. So the Electoral Commission because it consists of representatives of all parties, also deals with objections, of whatever nature including counting and so on.
Now this is what happened: As the Electoral Commission was tallying and consolidating the results, Gbagbo’s representatives challenged the outcomes. However just on the basis of brass facts, it was clear that Ouattara had won the elections. So the chairman of the Electoral Commission went out to announce the results. Meanwhile Gbagbo lodges a complaint to the Constitutional Council about results in three regions in the north and the council upheld his objections.
And however, when the council then did the tallying of the results having nullified the results of the three regions that President Gbagbo had complained about, remember their function is to nullify the entire election not just in certain regions, they still found that Ouattara had more votes. So, they went to verify and investigate in two more regions which President Gbagbo had not complained about. So clearly what they were doing was to find fault in sufficient regions to tilt the numbers. So they acted unconstitutionally but they are the constitutional council. And this is what caused the problem, and of course they went ahead to pronounce Gbagbo the winner as well as swearing him in to become President.
Meanwhile, soon as the chairman of the Electoral Commission made the announcement, the United Nations (UN), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union (EU) all pronounced within quick succession that Ouattara was the winner.
Now you say there are allegations that South Africa flip-flopped. We are in the southern tip end of the continent. ECOWAS is the region where Côte d'Ivoire is located and ECOWAS had said that Ouattara had won.
Gbagbo’s people came to brief our President. Soro, the Prime Minister who had now moved across to Ouattara’s camp and being appointed by President Ouattara as the new Prime Minister also came to brief us. And all what South Africa said was; what are the facts? Because elections are not difficult; you go out and every constituency you can tally and the totals come up; it is easy to verify where things have gone wrong and correct them; it is not that complicated.
So South Africa said, what are the facts? And that’s all that the President of South Africa raised. And on the basis of that question all parties were interviewed by the African Union (AU) high panel: the commission, the council, Gbagbo, Ouattara and everybody else - and on the bases of that, it all transpired that the Council acted unconstitutionally and that on the bases of the results Ouattara had won the elections. And that is all that happened, I thought I should give you the background into that and so we all say Ouattara is the President, he has won the elections.
Thank you very much Mr Deputy President my name is Larry Abber, I am a professor of applied psychology in public policy here at NYU. And have had the pleasure of getting the return on investment through collaboration with South African colleagues for the last decade including Tshediso over there seating on the other row, working at the University of Cape Town, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the HSRC on various studies.
I want to pick up on one point that you made powerfully and that is the role of education in the future of the nation. And also follow up on the idea of inequalities, so South Africa has been advancing in education but still it is not where it wants to be, what do you consider two or three greatest challenges in providing basic quality education and especially in combating, as education improves, the disparities that exist. So South Africa shares with many other rapidly developing countries the challenge of inequality of growing quality but a greater spread amongst certain communities and any thoughts you have about that will be appreciated. Thank you.
Thanks, thank you sir, I am a South African. I know a number of South Africans have studied at American universities and I think a lot of people are very impressed by the way in which the universities transfer skills to these foreign citizens and also instill a lot of American values in those individuals, you know things like gender equality.
You mentioned South Africa and the fact that we have started scholarships, making education more available to locals. What are your thoughts on education programmes and access to other African countries, starting something like a Fulbright for individuals from the rest of the continent to bring them both to help spread our values of non-racialism and democracy and also teach those up and coming leaders further skills that they can take back to their countries.
Deputy President: thank you very much for your question, I think the biggest challenge which faces our country in providing quality basic education is how to correct the problem of teachers in the basic education sector. And I want to give context to that.
In 1954 the then minister of the so called Bantu Affairs, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, introduced what was called Bantu Education and the way he went about it was to take over teacher training colleges and set about a programme to produce a particular caliber of teachers. And once the system reached the point where it can reproduce these teachers, they no longer had to do anything about it. And we are seating with that problem today. So you have two types of teachers, those who regard teaching as a call, who are strong in the matters of teaching. [sound of a drilling machine in an adjacent room – “someone’s tooth is being extracted here, sorry my apologies, that is one sound I used to dread as a youngster” - light hearted moment – laughter]. The point is we need to open and build more teacher training colleges and recruit the best professors to train new generation of teachers and aim to reach a point where the system can reproduce itself. Then we would have solved the problem.
Only two weeks ago our minister for basic education invoked the constitution to take over responsibility and the running of education in the Eastern Cape province. Because save for a few schools the system is not working there at all. Any excuse is used to get the children out of classes, if there is a problem of water supply in the community; the first response is to get learners out of school to go and protest there. If a teacher dies, they take Tuesday to organise a memorial service, which would be held on Thursday. So Tuesday they don’t teach, Wednesday they finalise the arrangements for the memorial service, Thursday they are at the memorial service, and Friday they are finalising the arrangements for the actual burial and the learners are forever disadvantaged.
The situation is uneven in accordance to areas, in the former middle C schools in the White suburbs, which are not integrated of course they are no longer white suburbs, the schools there are working, the school governing body which includes parents works perfectly, the teachers stay longer, and they are experienced teachers.
In the townships and the rural areas it is a different ball game with a few exceptions of course as I said. There is a school in Venda in the Limpopo province which every year gets 100 percent pass in grade 12 in Mathematics and Physical Science - flying colours every year without failure. But that is the exception to the rule. The general picture is that which I have painted.
Minister of Higher Education: Thank you very much for the opportunity, although I thought the Deputy President is doing very well, I did not expect to be called.
I think on this issue of establishing Fulbright type programmes in South Africa to attract students from the rest of the continent into our country, there is already something similar to that, that has been taking place and that is what I would like to quickly share with you and maybe say how we can strengthen that.
As of now in South Africa we have approximately 70 000 foreign students in our universities and 90% of them are from the African countries. In fact we are rated, if I am not mistaken, top 8 destinations in the world in terms of attracting students from outside South Africa. In addition we also have a protocol in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) where student from the SADC region are charged as if they were local students in out universities, which means we are basically subsidising them. And this is also expanding a little bit because we are also getting even countries that are not in SADC like the Sudan especially the South of the Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. We are extending the same arrangement within the constraints of our own fiscas.
I think though the challenge in expanding this, we have actually been saying in our bilateral engagements with countries from the north in particular. We have started a few of these things in the US and I think we could invite this campus to be part of that to encourage tripartite arrangements. Say for instance between New York University, 1 or 2 universities or more in South Africa and a couple of universities in the continent, where we could actually have some kinds of partnerships that are also aimed at making use of our resources in South Africa but also in such a manner that there is sharing of ideas. In that way we think that that is where concretely we could also be able to take forward this kind of programme because it is not just about attracting students; it is also about sharing ideas in quite an innovative manner and sharing our experiences and values. That would be my brief response to that question. Thanks.
Your Excellency, My question is, is there any is there anything that South Africa is doing to encourage other smaller countries to help them with development since South Africa is the biggest economy in the continent. I know that in Nigeria there is a huge South African presence, there a so many developments coming from South Africa to Nigeria. So my question is; are you extending these kinds of developments to other small African countries.
Deputy President: Regarding the last question, Africa is divided into economic regional communities and it is through these economic regional communities that we try to learn from each other and to strengthen each other and from time to time tripartite summits are also convened to look at challenges. The main challenges are infrastructure, absence of infrastructure. An ordinate amount of time is taken for goods and people to move across borders.
These are challenges of interconnectivity between various countries. But there is heightened awareness for the need to strengthen these regional corporations and inter-trade within the regions. In SADC for instance we have, as you will know, the South African Customs Union and a country such as Swaziland derives 60 percent of its national budget from the South African Customs Union. So there are those kinds of mutual benefits from the regional economic communities. Thank you.
Source: The Presidency
Issued by: The Presidency
28 Mar 2011
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