The Presidential Years

Phil Molefe: PM

Nelson Mandela: NM

Antjie Krog: AK

PM: Good evening and welcome back we are at the home of our President Nelson Mandela in Qunu in this his farewell interview to the nation. Good evening Mr President

NM: Good evening Phil

PM: Mr President, in about a month’s time you will step down as President. History will remember you and your presidency as one of the most remarkable this century but how do you personally assess these last five years?

NM: I regard them as the five years of unexpected achievement although there have been weaknesses and mistakes. We have succeeded in confounding the prophets of doom and we have achieved a bloodless revolution. We have restored the dignity of every South African in this country. Nobody can now be called upon to produce passes and no policeman will be authorised to break into a house at midnight without a warrant and we have brought stability, both political and economic to the country. We are uniting all the people of South Africa, we are promoting reconciliation and we are making quality deliveries to our people. These are the credit side of these five years. But of course there have been weaknesses because we have had no experience whatsoever in governance. We have learned through trial, through mistakes and there is the question of the high level of crime – although we know the background. There is the question of corruption but nevertheless notwithstanding those weaknesses I think the achievements have been impressive.

AK: Mr President, you’ve said in Parliament that I am what I am because of the African National Congress and you’ve become known among ordinary people as the man who often makes the impossible possible. What single most impossible thing have you seen come true in these past five years?

NM: I don’t think it’s possible for one who wants to participate in bettering the lives of the people of the country to say this is an impossible task. If it is impossible you don’t think of it at all. We deal with the possibles and if you adopt that approach I think the question that you asked me is not really relevant because we don’t deal with impossibilities. We have tried to do what is possible having regard to the specific conditions in our country.

AK: Mr President and what thing would you, are you sad that didn’t happen, you personally?

NM: I don’t think it is correct to personalize problems in matters of this nature. We are a collective, we are a team and we do things as a collective and I would find it much more easier if you asked the question, ‘What does the organisation regard as something over which we are sad’. We are of course sad, that we have not been able to carry out the programme which we mapped up in the run up to the election because of finding things which we did not know. We never knew that we had a debt of R254 billion which we are paying at the rate of R30 billion. That meant we had to revise our programme and there are many things like regulations which must be complied with if you want to put a single house for a black man. Those are things we did not know and they sort of interfered with other time schedules. But apart from that I think that the dominating thing is that this government has done exceptionally well because during the 2, the 340 years of white occupation in this country, no government whatsoever has ever delivered what we have delivered during these five years. To that extent our performance has been historic.

PM: before we continue Mr President, perhaps let’s take a look at your long walk to freedom. There’s a clip here which will show how you have travelled this long journey and we continue with our discussion:

6 minutes to 11:50 (clips mainly from the doccie Mandela, his sister Madiba talking about his initiation; clip from Evelyn Mase, Winnie, prepared to die speech, Bizos, Albertina Sisulu, PW Botha, announcement of release, Codesa, relationship with De Klerk, Madiba shirt, clip of Barbara Masekela and Jessie trying to persuade him to wear a bow-tie, marriage to Graca.)

PM: It’s been a long journey, a long walk to freedom indeed. Mr President are you satisfied that you have accomplished what you set out to do?

NM: Well, as part of an organisation, as part of a team, I think I have done what was humanely possible within these last five years. And of course the journey has been a long one. I did not walk that journey alone. Right up to the time of imprisonment I was part of that team and there were men and women who made a far greater contribution than I did. Even in jail although our organisation placed the focus on one individual, nevertheless it was one of the ways of publicising the activities, the ideals, and the hopes of the organisation. And, therefore if you put my contribution as against that of other members of the liberation movement, not only the African National Congress, but organisations like the PAC, however badly they may have done in the actual election itself in 1994, but the ANC and the PAC and lately we were joined by Azapo, did together quite a pleasant, a splendid job. And I think, therefore, if you put my contribution as against that background I am satisfied with that humble contribution that I made.

AK: Mr President research has found that experiences in jail and incarceration affects one’s ability to relate to people but that’s not how people have come to know you. People see you relating excellently with world leaders and with ordinary people. How difficult was it to adapt after the 27 years in jail?

NM: I don’t think that people in every country behave in the same way, it depends on the background, the training one received. Now we are an organisation that represents the interests of the poorest of the poor with a comparatively low standard of academic achievement and our life before we went to jail was enriched by the fact that we were surrounded by ordinary people and we had to learn how to relate to them. And then in prison I was fortunate in that during the years of my imprisonment that is from 1994 [sic] [He probably means 1988] to my release I was already being prepared for release and I was able to invite anybody I wanted to meet, inside and other prisoners and outside. And I initiated the negotiations with the government and in that process I met a lot of people. And therefore when I went out I was thinking in terms of the initiative that I had started, of course as part of a team. And therefore it was not difficult to relate to the people I was serving, together with my other comrades when I went to jail.

PM: Right. Mr President the negotiations you are referring to when you were in prison culminated in your meeting then President of the country, PW Botha in Tuynhuys. How was the mood, how was the reception when you met him at Tuynhuys? And did it ever occur to you that one day you will sit in that office as president?

NM: I must confess I had no such thoughts. And when I met PW Botha I had expected a stormy meeting and his response, his warmth, his courtesy completely took me by surprise and it was one of the most enjoyable interviews that I had. But at no time have I ever thought that I would sit in that office. I would say now what I have said before, it’s no longer confidential, that when we won the election – I had worked hard for those elections – like other comrades, but when I was asked by my closest comrades to stand for the presidency I declined. I said I was 75 at that time and I did not think that a man of 75 should lead this organisation and I wanted a younger man but my closest advisors persuaded me to change my view and because I am a disciplined and loyal member of the ANC I agreed. But until that moment I never thought that I would occupy this position.

PM: Well thank you Mr President. We will continue with our interview, a special farewell to the nation interview with President Mandela, brought to you live from his home in Qunu, we’d like to take a short break, please stay tuned.

Adverts: 19: to 21:00

PM: Welcome back to this special broadcast, the farewell interview – President Nelson Mandela talking to us live from Qunu in the Eastern Cape. The President is seen by many as a symbol of reconciliation here and worldwide. But before we discuss this perception, view of him, let’s take a look at this clip.

21:36 to 27:27 [De Klerk announcing on 2 Feb 1990 impeding release of Madiba, shots of his release, Groote Schuur Talks, Codesa, 1994 election queue, Madiba voting, inauguration, with Percy Yutar, “That is now past and we are now working together in the Government of National Unity with people who were behind that. His part was a small one.” His visit to Betsie Verwoerd in Oranje, PW Botha with Tutu, meeting Afrikaners, shaking hands with Constand Viljoen, Viljoen speaking isiXhosa in Parliament, 15 October 1994 with Buthelezi and Pik Botha on a reconciliation and peace campaign in black townships, and joint rally in Vosloorus: “Now is the time to unite and deal crime and violence a fatal blow”, Rugby World Cup Final, with Bafana Bafana at the Nations Cup, Nobel Peace Prize, “He [De Klerk] had the courage to admit that a terrible wrong had been done to our country and people through the imposition of the system of apartheid”. Meeting Gadaffi, Mobuto and Kabila on the Navy ship, campaigning wearing Mbeki’s face on t-shirt.

AK: Mr President what I’ve just seen you also shaking hands with someone like Constand Viljoen some months ago a Western Cape black academic said ‘Nelson Mandela has extended a hand, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has extended a hand but where is the white prince of reconciliation?’

NM: I do not know what they expect them to do. Because in regard to those issues where we have urged them to be involved they have responded magnificently. It is now common knowledge that I have asked white business people, Afrikaans and English speaking to participate in the programme of delivering basic services to the people who were previously disadvantaged specifically to build schools and clinics, which both of which are necessary facilities if we are going to improve the whole programme of human [COUGHS] resource development. Excuse me, as well as improve the health of our people. [DRINKS WATER] I am happy to say that whites have responded far beyond my expectations. It’s not only white business but the universities, the churches, individual whites have responded exceptionally well. You will understand, you will see the white hand when you take into account that when I took children out of jail I had to raise R55 million to put up a centre which is now known as Ekuseni in Newcastle. They raised that R55 million in one week. Anybody who does not see the white hand is blind, or is not prepared to see.

AK: Mr President, you’ve stressed the whole evening that you’re part of a collective, that you’re very much part of the ANC, but last year when you received the TRC report how difficult or how easy was it for you as while your party that you so fiercely belong to was asking an interdict, while on the other hand you had to accept a report which you said that is full of also, imperfections?

NM: You must remember that I act in two capacities: I am a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress but at the same time I am the President of the country I have to drive policy. I set up the TRC and with all its imperfections it did a wonderful job and I had to make a public demonstration, send a message that this organisation which we asked to carry out this task, it had done so to the best of its ability. There was no clash between my loyalty to my organisation and the discharge of my functions as President of the country because in the latter capacity I have to look beyond party loyalties and be loyal to the country as a whole.

PM: Mr President, as a reconciliator [sic] you have established strong links with world leaders, which of these relationships will endure even after your presidency?

NM: It is not easy to say, it depends on the nature of the problem. For example today I spoke to both President Boris Yeltsin of Russia to President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia. And the reason for that is that I was asked by the former Prime Minister of Australia Sir Malcolm Fraser to intervene because there is a trial of two Australians in Yugoslavia I had to intervene because that is a matter which is not going to take me days to resolve or pull out if I find it is going to be difficult for me to help. And speaking to both presidents the hope was raised that this matter might be resolved in a day or two. In such cases I will be ready to get involved but in matters which are likely to be protracted South Africa comes first and foremost and I will not bind myself in discussing protracted matters which are going to reduce my time to attend to the problems in the country.

PM: Mr President over this weekend the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aziz Pahad, Minister of Trade and Industry Alec Erwin and Minister of Mineral Affairs and Energy Penuell Maduna will be visiting Libya. What is the significance of the visit and also considering that Erwin is Trade Minister and Maduna is responsible for oil.

NM: All countries from the moment the sanctions were lifted rushed to Libya in order to establish trade relations. And there is no reason why South Africa should not do so. Libya is very rich country, it has got oil and it has other products which are needed by the entire world and our people are going there in order to establish formal relations with Libya.

PM: Well thanks Mr President let’s take a break and after the break we look to the future, please stay tuned.

Adverts from 34:36 to 36:33

PM: Welcome back. Mr President, let’s move on to your hopes and vision for the future. On June 16th your successor will be inaugurated. What will happen on June 17th and from there on?

NM: I have not planned my programme after June 16 but as soon as the inauguration is over I will then decide what I should do but I will have no separate dreams and visions from that of the African National Congress. Of course the first two or three years will be occupied by writing, in writing down my memoirs as president of the country and there’s going to be little time for anything else. But as I have pointed out on countless occasions, I am a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress. I will always be ready to answer their call. I will also be a strong supporter of the government and if they ask me to render some service I will listen to that most sympathetically because it is our duty to make this government succeed in all its endeavours and unless all of us, inside and outside the government, are prepared to help there may be difficult times and that is why it is necessary for us to keep our activities, if asked by the government, because it is the duty of every patriotic citizen to be of help to this government.

PM: As you prepare to bow out of the public stage, are you satisfied that sufficient groundwork has been laid and what’s your view of your possible successor?

NM: Well if the country elects Thabo Mbeki as the next president as all of us think, I think that South Africa will have made a very good decision. It will be a very good investment because he is suitably qualified. He is, he has got a Masters Degree in Economics, he has literally grown up in the movement because his father is one of the kingmakers of the liberation movement in this country and he has served in the Senate and the National Council of Provinces. So that he is a young man with a very favourable political background and of course as I have pointed out before, during the last two to three years he was actually running the government. He was the de facto president and leader of this country. I was merely nominal – a president in terms of the law of the country – but the actual running of the day to day problems of the country, it was done by Thabo Mbeki. I have not the slightest doubt therefore, that preparations have been made and I am confident that he’ll do even better than he did when he had to consult somebody else as he did and as he will continue to do until the 16th of July [sic].

AK: Mr President, linking to that, you are known to have stood for a principle and were prepared to pay for your life, with your life for it, and then you went to China and didn’t talk about human rights there, what kind of advice would one then give to upcoming politicians, when there’s a politician, when should one be prepared to pay your life for a principle, when do you negotiate about it and when do you ignore it?

NM: Let us put it this way: Experience in history has shown that it’s not the individuals who change the policies of countries, it is organisations. South Africa shifted from its apartheid policy because of the intense pressure exerted by the liberation movement and other democrats inside and outside the country, especially the liberation movement supported by the international community. That is what changed the policy of South Africa. You can’t expect an individual to be poking his nose into the domestic affairs of countries. You must respect that but if you want to do something in regard to the domestic policy of a country then you use international bodies or regional bodies. And it’s a misconception to think that an individual can be a factor in influencing, change policy of a country.

PM: Mr President you are known to have been someone who has had a very hectic schedule and sometimes waking up as early as four o’ clock. Are you still going to continue to wake up and four o’ clock? And what are some of the things you look forward to once you retire?

NM: Well, you get used to certain habits. It doesn’t matter what time I sleep. I’m asleep, like last night I slept at one o’ clock, because I was entertaining the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, and but I woke up at the normal time.

PM: And that is?

NM: That is, well this time I woke up at half past five. Ja. [SMILES] And, and I think that whether you like it or not, between five and half past five, I’ll be up. That has been my experience. You must remember that in jail we followed a tight schedule. In jail you had to wake up at about five o’ clock and exercise in your cell, your single cell. And then do other things – that became built into your system. And also I was linked to a certain sport outside and very often, three times a day [week probably], we woke up about 3 am and did road work and we’d run from Soweto, past Baragwanath, past Uncle Charlie’s and then turn to Langlaagte and come back home. And now those habits, the cumulative effects of those habits is you have a certain period in which you can sleep and whether we like it or not, at the end of that period you wake up.

PM: Do you intend to go farming?

NM: Well, I have got a little ground, plot of ground and we are doing some farming, we are producing spinach, mealies, onions, carrots, and other vegetables. We have cattle on the farm, but I do believe that it will be properly organised when I am living on the farm.

PM: Well, Mr President, in fact on that note I hope we’ll come back in fact and interview you now as a farmer. Thank you very much indeed for having us in your home and also the nation, speaking to everyone live from

NM: Oh you are welcome

PM: Thank you

NM: You’re welcome

Ends at 46:13

990520TX-1999-05-20-Farewell interview with the SABC, Qunu

Original Source

SABC TV Archive, SABC Information Library, Johannesburg.