The Presidential Years

I think for me he was more engaged at the beginning, but, maybe it was because I engaged him more at the beginning as I myself was not experienced, I engaged both of them actually, the deputy president and himself.

Even on the question of the Nkosi Albert Hospital and on the question of tobacco. De Klerk called me to his office to say, ‘You must stop this nonsense of tobacco because it’s going to put the farmers out of work and it is not necessary.’ Then he told me that I must build the Pretoria Hospital. So I said to him, ‘Well the first one I have to build is the medical school here in Durban because King Edward is a mess and its training of medical students is actually a disgrace.’ There was a report of an investigation that his own government had done that said King Edward was not fit to train medical students but he had not done anything. So that was the first hospital I must build. He told me well, Pretoria is Afrikaner heritage and he is going to fight for it in Cabinet, and I told him, ‘It’s fine, you can fight for it.’ I didn’t tell Tata because I didn’t think it was necessary. On the tobacco thing I told him that I was the Minister of health and I had the responsibility for the health of the country – farmers could plant other things, there’s no land in South Africa that can only grow tobacco. ‘We will have programs together with the Minister of Agriculture to help farmers shift from tobacco to other crops.’

I didn’t tell Tata, I don’t know who told him, I told some colleagues but didn’t tell him as I didn’t think it was necessary. But one day he called me in and said, ‘I hear that De Klerk called you in and said these things.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He asked, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I said, ‘I didn’t think it was something I needed to involve you in, I didn’t need your decision on anything.’ Then he said, ‘No, you must tell me if he calls you again, but I have told him that he must never do that; he must never call my ministers and tell them whatever.’ So he was quite angry with De Klerk and intervened.

For me he was really a pillar of strength in terms of being able to do the things that were maybe sometimes controversial, like tobacco, and Thabo also. There was lots of information coming out that if we didn’t tackle the tobacco issue, then around 2020 or so there would be more people dying from tobacco-related deaths than were being killed by AIDS. So it was very important that we did not wait until we get to that time and find ourselves with big problems.

If you were able to explain your case in terms of what program you are doing he would be very supportive.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma