TOPICS > Politics

President Nelson Mandela

October 6, 1994 at 12:00 AM EDT

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: President Mandela, thank you for joining us.

NELSON MANDELA: President, South Africa: You’re welcome.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Your main appeal on this trip has been for business investment in South Africa and for support from the government. How significant, staring with business, have the commitments you’ve gotten from there been in terms of what you wanted and what you need for South Africa and that transformation?

PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: I could not have expected more than I received from business, both from, both in New York as well as in Washington. The response of business has been very positive.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: It’s been observed that the investment boom that was expected in South Africa once South Africa was rid of apartheid just hasn’t materialized. Why do you think that’s the case?

PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: I am not surprised by that. It is for South Africans to settle their own problems You will remember that there were unfortunate predictions as to what was going to happen when the results of the elections were announced.


PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: Yes. We prevented that. And no businessman would make plans to invest in such an environment. And even our own businessmen were not prepared to invest in their own country. They were exporting their capital. Ten billion rands left the country in six months.

That money now is coming back to the country according to the governor of the reserve bank. And those people who had were cautious, extremely cautious, now feel that an environment exists In the country which will secure their own investments.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Did you have to reassure the businessmen that you’ve talked with in America about stability in the country? I mean, were those questions that came up as you —

PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: Oh, naturally, the question of political and economic stability, the question of fiscal and monetary discipline, the reduction of the high level of taxes in our country, and the reduction of government consumption to prevent inflation, all these things are matters of absolute interest to every investor throughout the world.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How much of a problem — you said that, you know, the concerns that people had over instability following the election, the predictions of a civil war and so forth never materialized, yet, one of the other two problems, twin problems you’re having to deal with is rising crime and spreading labor unrest. Do you find concern about that, and how do you assuage that concern?

PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: Well, the question of crime is one of concern to everybody. But the position is that the security forces in our country for the last four decades did not concentrate on suppressing crime.

Their main objective was to suppress, to crush political activity. And in the process, crime grew to unacceptable proportions. And criminals were able to form powerful syndicates, and they virtually took over the control of the life of the community in certain areas. It is that structure, those syndicates, that is dismantling, and we have put a large number of those fellows behind bars.

We are succeeding in bringing down the level of crime, but we must also clean the security forces because in this process when the criminals formed these entities, they were able to accumulate powerful, massive resources. And they involve some of the members of the security staff.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Are these black criminals and white criminals?

PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: Oh, no, no, no. I’m talking about whites now, white members of security. And you must understand that in our country, although blacks are in the majority, only 20 percent of the police are deployed in black areas and 80 percent are deployed in white areas.

These are the problems that we’re facing. And in spite of that, we are already reducing, we’ve gone a long way to reduce the level of crime. As far as labor is concerned, nobody who knows our situation should be concerned over what Is happening. The basic reasons for the demands that are being put forward by workers today is the fact that whites, white workers get three times, up to five times more wages than blacks for the same job.

And, therefore, let workers see their counterparts enjoying privileges which are denied to them, and they sire fighting for parity. Nevertheless, when I intervened and addressed a conference of the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions, which is the biggest labor federation in the country —


PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: COSATU. I appealed to them not to press their demands in such a way that they should disrupt the economy of the country.


PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: The response was absolutely positive. If you notice, It was said — what I said to them, if it had been said been somebody else would have provoked even greater trouble but the leadership of COSATU listened very carefully.

Because the point I was making is that you have got 5 million of our people unemployed. You will need to create jobs for those people. We can create those jobs if business is able to respond, and if our workers are demanding more salaries, then that is going to lead to more entrenchment and is going to increase the number of the unemployed. And I think they listened very carefully to that.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I remember asking you when you first got out of prison if you were concerned about the potential crisis of rising expectations. What about now? Do you feel that the expectations that have been raised by your government being in power are such that the people will have patience until you can begin to — till this pipeline begins to flow into the communities? I mean, do you have a handle on this?

PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: You will notice that during the run after the campaign for the elections, there is one point I kept on hammering in every rally that I addressed, that our concern is to address the expectations of our people, that that — that this is not an event that can be achieved overnight. It’s going to demand a year, two years, even as much as five years to be able to address these basic needs.

And I think our people understand this. What they are watching is the thing that we have started laying the foundation to address these aspirations. We have already started, for example, with free medical care for children under six and pregnant mothers.

We have started — we are now feeding free of charge one million children throughout the country, and we can, therefore, point out to our people that we have formidable problems. We are faced with the question of the absence of infrastructure to introduce free medical schemes and free school feeding. Nevertheless, we have started, and that has created a tremendous impression.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. President, if I could turn to another subject, and that is Haiti and President Aristide, whom you’ll be meeting today. You said yesterday that in your reading of him, he wits a flexible man, broad-minded and open to reasonable argument. I assume you were referring to the issue of amnesty which South Africa has had considerable experience dealing with. What is the status of the amnesty in your country now, and do you see any lessons or do you have any lessons that you plan to share with President Aristide in that regard?

PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: One of the points I’ve made which I would like to repeat here is that we have had a very conservative community in our country, the Afrikaner community.

They are the people who are in the security forces and who have been very negative in their approach. In June this year, I attended the biggest congregation of the Dutch Reform Church in our country, which is a church for Afrikaners.

If I had gone there four years ago, the police would have defended me against people who wanted to kill me out of hatred. This time, the police defended me against people who wanted to kill me out of love. Every one of them wanted to shake hands, wanted to embrace, and wanted to touch, And the police had to defend against that.

That’s an indication of how things have changed, because our message of reconciliation, of nation-building, of granting amnesty, indemnity, has struck a powerful, favorable chord. And people can understand that we’re here not for purposes of retribution but to forget the past and to build our country.

There are, of course, cases where there can be no amnesty in our own country. We’ve made that clear. Those are high officials who sat down and planned the murder of innocent civilians who were no threat for anybody at all, we can’t excuse.

But the masses of the members of the security forces who committed offenses in the course of depending of apartheid against the freedom fighters who were fighting against apartheid, those are due for amnesty, but people who deliberately planned murder of innocent civilians, we have said very clearly, those must be punished.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And so what will you say to President Aristide?

PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: So far as Haiti is concerned, we are saying that people who committed offenses in the course of their political activity, however reprehensible it might be, the general approach is to grant amnesty and indemnity. And that Is the message. The application of that principle we’ll leave it entirely to President Aristide.

But it is, necessary far one to heal the wounds of the past If you are going to build your country and to have unity. I am working with people who fought me very bitterly before the elections. It was my responsibility as the man who is leading the majority party, my responsibility to heal the wounds of the past and to work with people who were my opponents.

Today if you entered, you attended a meeting of the cabinet, you will not know who belongs to the National Party, who belongs to the Inkatha Freedom Party, who belongs to the ANC, because that understanding that it is our primary responsibility to unite the country and to promote the spirit of reconciliation has taken root.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And that’s the message you plan to deliver to President Aristide?

PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA: That’s the message I will give to President Aristide.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, President Mandela, thank you.