Essop Pahad - Interview: The role of the media - SAfm

19 April 2001

19 April 2001

PROGRAMME: Tim Modise Show
TIME: 17:11
ABBREVIATIONS: EP - Minister Essop Pahad, TM - Tim Modise (Presenter)

TM: My guest this morning is the Minister in the Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad. He takes a keen interest in what goes on in the media, as he is head of the Government Communication and Information System. He has commented on various occasions about the role of the media. Good morning to you Dr Essop Pahad and welcome.

EP: Tim, good morning and thank you very much.

TM: The media has been in the news itself. The media is there to reflect the news, to report the news, but somehow as an institution, as a sector we have been in the news. Are there particular cases that come to mind for you that make the media to be in the news in the manner that the different media have been in the news?

EP: Let me say first of all that critical to any process for the consolidation of democracy in our country is to have a vigorous critical media, which is independent of the government, and that, is quite important for us to understand. The second point is that the freedom of expression which is enshrined in our constitution is and must be non-negotiable so that the issue does not arise about the freedom of expression. The third point is that we face some serious challenges with regard to professionalism and skills levels within our media industry and all of us have to address that particular issue. A whole number of stories keep on appearing in the media. Some of them are unsubstantiated allegations made about people in leading positions. My own view is that a more thorough professional approach would try to ensure that within certain frameworks and criteria, some of the things that had been said should not perhaps have been said.

TM: Dr Pahad, other people would say that maybe the top political leaders like yourself in the country are over-exaggerating the influence the media has over the population and the events that tay reflect on what is going on and that it is up to those that get reflected upon to improve or to be of such integrity that the media will not have a chance of reflecting on them in that negative manner.

EP: No, let us say first of all that it would be and is the responsibility of the media to reflect any negativity that the media may assume is taking place in the country. All of us who hold public positions are up to scrutiny within the media. My argument is that when serious allegations are made, then surely it is correct to ask that these allegations be given proof. Otherwise what will happen is that there will be uncertainties in the mind of the public. Whether or not there is an exaggeration about the role of the media, I do not know. I think what we have to accept is that the media is a very important player in our democratic system.

TM: You personally have been criticised by various sections of the media of being thin-skinned, that you are dishing it out, but you do not want to take as much as you dish out. What is you comment to that?

EP: Well, I am not sure about that. I do not mind being criticised by the media at all and in so far as my own work is concerned, if I am not doing my job properly, the media surely must criticise me for not doing my work properly. I do not have a problem with that at all. And I am not thin-skinned with respect to criticisms from the media. My response if it is studied properly will show that what I have asked for is that there be greater objectivity with regard to the reporting.

TM: It has been said that the office of the Presidency seems to be bent on getting the media to toe the line, and playing the role of a praise singer rather than playing the role of a critical commentator on the affairs of the country.

EP: No, I will deny that very emphatically. It is not true at all. The Presidency has at no stage ever asked any media, personnel or institution to be acquiescent about what goes on in the Presidency or what goes on in the government. We will never do such a thing.

TM: The example is the comment made on this station by journalist, Max du Preez and the same comment repeated in The Citizen two days after that, namely, that "the President is a womaniser" and that the reaction of the ANC was over the top; it should not have reacted in that way and that Max du Preez was perfectly entitled to making such remarks, and The Citizen was perfectly entitled to reporting on those in quotes "in the public’s interest."

EP: Well, that is what I am talking about, unsubstantiated allegations. You will have noticed that Mr Van Zyl Slabbert, the non-executive chairperson of the company that owns the Citizen, has written a letter to Citizen, emphasising that he does not wish to interfere in the editorial content of that newspaper. He has written that he is unhappy with that report and has indeed in that letter to The Citizen apologised to the President. So its not us that are just objecting. The question about the reaction of the ANC, surely the ANC will speak for itself. What the media needs to do and I believe the public broadcaster needs to do, is to ask itself whether it is correct for individuals to abuse the public broadcaster to make these very wild, vile unsubstantiated allegations about the Head of State. And that is what happened in this case. The Citizen then chose to give it a front-page story, plus a story in inside pages by Martin Williams, in which some very secularist things were also imputed about an SABC journalist. No, I do not think that is correct. If there is evidence, people must produce the evidence.

TM: Do we know therefore what needs to happen in the media? Are there any norms to be followed? Where should these norms come from? Because, you know, from time to time the common refrain one hears is that in democratic societies the media is very vigorous in its critical approach to the way government operates and that in the South African context, with a very democratic constitution, the government is overly sensitive.

EP: Well, I can only speak for ourselves. I do no believe we are overly sensitive. I think the SABC does have some criteria which all of the people working for it, presumably yourself, should at least try to follow in terms of the work they do. As you know, some time ago I wrote an article in the Sunday Times after allegations were made about me which were not true. The Sunday Times, to their credit published what they considered to be a framework and criteria for their journalists. It is so far the only newspaper group to do so. Our hope is that more and more people do so, then we will all of us know what is the framework within which the media operates.

Caller: Good morning. I apologise for calling quite a bit the last week but you had such interesting programmes. This morning I am not calling with an opinion. Minister, I want to say to you I am an American historian. I am writing about the black concentration camps during the South African war. I enquired at the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology to verify the site that the State President was coming to, to conduct the ceremony and to lay a wreath. I informed the person I work for that they are on the wrong piece of ground. I must say to you that other people in academic world will tell you that I am the person in the country who knows the subject mainly because many people have not taken an interest. When I discovered that there were some hints of corruption also, to protect the State President, I asked that someone in the State President’s Office be made aware of the situation. What I was told was that they did not know what to do about it. I can tell you, no American president will go into a situation like that when they have been warned that there is a scam, and there was Mr Minister, and there is. It is very sad. I want to plead with you to protect President Thabo Mbeki. It is not important to protect the underdealings. It is important to protect the office of the President. If I am sounding a little upset, I am, because I was quite surprised when they cancelled my contract. That is not the reason I am calling. They just stopped paying me and just excluded me from then on. That is what is known, Mr Minister, as cover-up. I think it is very sad.

EP: Thank you very much and let me say first of all that I certainly agree with you that the president of any country should not be put in an invidious position in which he may attend first of all a wrong site and secondly that there might have been something untoward with regard to that particular occasion. Unfortunately, I am not aware of the case that you are talking about. But I think what should happen is that you could send me the documents and I will certainly discuss this with the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. I think that we need to ensure that whatever we do is done in a correct manner.

Caller: I just want to say that I am not trying to stir the waters because this event has gone and past. But I sometimes feel that President Thabo Mbeki is sometimes overly criticised because he is not being protected.

TM: What do you mean, protected?

Caller: I think that people who surround the State President, their function is not supposed to be public relations. Their function is to make sure that the State President is well informed. That he will not fall into this kind of situation.

TM: Thanks for raising this because it leads to the question that I am going to pose to Dr Essop Pahad. It has been reflected upon in the media that people who work with the President are ‘gatekeepers’ who keep information, who keep people away and who keep information away from the President.

EP: Well, that makes a number of assumptions and that the President is not well-informed about what is going on both in South Africa and abroad. I would refute that. I think the President is probably the best-informed person in South Africa. But the issue that the caller raised is an important one. It is not a matter that his staff are gatekeepers. He is quite right that it is the responsibility and duty of the staff of the President to keep him abreast of developments and to keep the President also informed about what may be possible things that would happen in the future. I would like to tell the caller that in this particular case that you are talking about, the principal person that would act as the advisor to the President would be the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology because that is his line function responsibility. To the extent that those of us who are presently in the office are not doing our job properly, there is always room for improvement and in the Presidency we are always willing to learn and to improve on what we have to do.

TM: Anyway, I am going to ask you to stay on the line so that we can take your telephone number.

Caller: Hi, Tim, Good morning to your guest. Look, first I think I have a bit of a positive suggestion. The Voice of America (radio station) has a phone-in programme every night and in the last five minutes of this phone-in programme, they always have a little statement about the policy of the United States of America’s government. They give a short talk of five minutes on aspects of its policies and I wonder if we should get something of that nature going. For instance, in the last 25 minutes of the previous programme or maybe five minutes of your initial programme before you start talking to your guest.

TM: Good idea, but you know what is going to happen? Someone or your neighbour is going to phone and say, that is the government’s programme again.

Caller: Yes, but what they could do is that they could talk about certain positive aspects and things that the government has achieved.

TM: I know you want to raise a question, but at the back of your question or comment, I want to raise a couple of the same questions. For example, I want to find out from Minister Pahad, what his views are on the coverage of transformation in the country. Whether he thinks that transformation has changed or developed. Whether the positive developments in the country have been given a fair share of coverage in the media or not. You are raising a very important point there. I am going to ask him to comment on that. But, what did you want to say?

Caller: I just wanted to say that I think that bad relations with the media are because the government is not living up to its policy of openness and that sometimes it makes a mistake like anybody does and then instead of being open about it, it tries to defend its wrong actions. It just makes things worse – just like Nixon trying to defend Watergate. I just gave a couple of examples. I think that virtually everybody in the western world says that Mugabe is becoming a tyrant, but the government stubbornly defends Mugabe. You cannot defend the indefensible. Then, for instance, take the Aids debacle. You get a government’s spokesperson like Mrs Gumbi, she is a legal advisor, but she comes on to your programme and criticises Professor Magoba. He is a world authority. Probably the major South African authority. She has the temerity to criticise him. He was very courteous and very diplomatic and he did not attack the government at all. She tells him that he must think twice about what he knows. I mean that is incredible. Then you get people like Parks Mankhahlana who made statements and I think he tried to pretend that he had not made the statement. The statement that the government could not give pregnant mothers Aids-drugs because it cannot afford to support orphans. The government must not try and defend things like that. I think they may say, look, we are sorry that was a wrong statement. And you know, all I would like to ask is that they communicate with people. I just would like to give a few examples about the lottery money. You have heard four different government’s spokesmen, including President Mbeki, making a statement about why they are holding-up the lottery money, making ridiculous statements like saying that we have to wait until there is enough money before we could distribute it. Say for instance they cancel the lottery tomorrow; they would have to distribute that money. How is it ever going to be a reason why they cannot distribute it?

EP: I am not sure whether you want me to respond to each one of them. Let us start with the suggestion that the caller has made in the beginning. I happen to think it is a very good suggestion and I think that you just have to pressurise Tim here to take it up with his bosses. As you know, if I were to do that I will be accused that we are trying to compel the public broadcaster to be a propaganda arm of the government.

TM: I am imagining if I were to do that, what will happen then?

EP: Well, they can attack you. I think that it is a good idea. You will have noticed that we have an agreement with for example e-tv who will be starting an interview with the President soon. We have an agreement with the SABC that on important national occasions there will be interviews with the President. We have an agreement with Tim Modise that the President is going to appear on his show. Unfortunately, something else came out at that time. So I agree with you that there are different ways in which we can do this and we should utilise this tool to the best. With regard to the other issues, let me just say about Ms Gumbi; I did not hear the programme but surely if Ms Gumbi or anybody else is appearing on the Tim Modise show, in the spirit of openness and transparency and the democratic right to express a view, she should be able to express her view. She has expressed her view. If you do not agree with that view then you should say so and you should explain what particular view you do not agree with. So I think Ms Gumbi was well within her right to express her view about the issue that was under discussion. Let me deal with the lottery money. What the President has said and what the Minister of Trade and Industry has said is not a question that there is no enough money at the moment in the kitty. It is that basically learning from the British experience and the British themselves saying that we must be very careful when you start giving out the money because if you do not do it properly in the beginning you are running to difficulties as the time goes on. So from our point of view, we want to try and get it right as much as possible. So that once we start distributing money – incidentally, some money has already been distributed – then we will do it in a proper manner. So it is not a matter of saying that we are waiting for some golden standard to be reached with regard to the money. It is a matter of trying to ensure that we get it right and the people who deserve to get the money should get it.

TM: Well, I think the other issue that I was raising was the fact that sometimes when government departments make mistakes, including the government spokespersons, it appears that government generally finds it difficult to say sorry we have made a mistake, the last time we said this we were wrong, or we were misinformed or we have arrived at wrong conclusions, we have now changed our view, we apologise for the statement we have issued, this is our new position. It appears that government finds it difficult to do that.

EP: Well, I think we have to be very concrete because then I can respond to a concrete situation. In general terms, nobody can disagree with the fact that this government has changed its mind and it should say so. And that certainly will be a correct approach, but in this particular case if you feed me with a concrete example I will be able to respond.

TM: I think what the caller was saying is that we seem to be involved in spin doctoring all the time that you want one to spin doctor permanently and that creates problems down the line.

EP: No, not at all, you see the caller has raised for an example issues that have been in the media now for some considerable period of time. The question of Zimbabwe and the question of HIV/Aids. I do not know how many times the President himself, in Zimbabwe, in the presence of President Mugabe he spoke about these issues. After the meeting with big business, big business in South Africa issued a statement supporting the President’s position. Now I do not know who was supposed to apologise for the President himself answering questions in Parliament reflected upon this. With regard to the HIV/Aids thing, I recall that I, at a press briefing many months ago, made sure that following that the GCIS issued a statement to say that the government proceeds on the basis and premise that HIV causes Aids. Now, we said that on numeral occasions. And our whole five-year programme is based on that premise. Now what more do you want me to say?

Caller: Hi, Good Morning Tim, and I am pleased to be with you and Minister Essop Pahad. Tim, first of all I would just like to congratulate you on putting the Minister back on the show again. I would also like to ask through you if having the Minister on your show could be a weekly slot instead of your tourism lady because I think the Minister or any Member of Parliament sharing a light on issues that concerns the nation is very crucial.

TM: I will defend that part. I think I have been put in the defensive. On Monday if you follow the programme, you will realise that the Minister of Social Welfare and Development, Dr Zola Skweyiya, was on the programme and it is three days down the line, we have Dr Essop Pahad, Minister in the office of the Presidency. And I will take you back to Thursday that towards the end of the programme we had the Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, talking about the Ellis Park tragedy.

Caller: I hope that is the trend that you are setting now.

TM: Well its not only about government. You see we talk about everything.

Caller: I think at the moment government take a priority here.

TM: I think sometimes the Ministers run away.

Caller: I think all the Ministers that you had on the show have conducted themselves and they responded to the questions from your listeners in a very honest and fair way. I think the reports that are going around condemning or criticising government is just an onset on your show.

TM: I must say that the approach on this programme is that we want to promote a better understanding. There are certain things we do not know, including myself. And we want these occasions to be opportunities for us to understand much deeper and better what government is up to so that when we criticise them we can do so from an informed position.

Caller: That is right and what I would like to say is that when you have the Ministers, even Commissioner Jackie Selebi when he spoke about statistics and all of that, you find that there are people who are very critical about the statistics not being made public. They seemed to be quiet on the day.

TM: Well, actually I have been reading the criticisms in newspapers and I suspect that most people who are critical did not listen to the programme. If they did they would have a better understanding.

Caller: Of course and I agree with that and I am saying that if we can have the Minister or any Member of Parliament on the show on a regular basis to answer questions and to face the criticisms and give government explanation for things that they are doing well we will be happy.

TM: Yes, we take your point. Abdul Mayfair, good morning.

Caller: Morning and peace be unto you. Morning Dr Pahad. Dr Pahad,...

EP: I have being wanting to speak to you for a long time, Abdul. I listen to you permanently on the Tim Modise Show.

Caller: Well, I know you from those days from back street and all that you know, but...

EP: No, I will never forget that back street.

Caller: You see, Dr Pahad, I think you should have at least bring the President on the Tim Modise Show once a month to inform the nation about what is happening. Because people are under the impression that the country’s President does not care anymore. He is keeping himself too aloof. I do not know why but the main question is what happened to that person that was insulting the President? You remember there was a CD that was circulating in South Africa, insulting the President and former president Mandela. Could you tell me what happened to him?

EP: Thanks Abdul. I said that we are still working hard to ensure that the President does appear in the Tim Modise programme. With regard to that CD, this is now a matter for the investigative agencies, police and for the Public Prosecutions. If they think that the crime has been committed, then they have to do what they have to do.

TM: But many people think that a crime has been committed anyway.

Caller: I think the threat to freedom of expression does not seem to be coming from government’s side but from media’s side. There is this perception in the media that we can criticise the government as much as we want but the government and the ANC do not have the right to respond. It has happened on many occasions. I remember some years back Bishop Tutu spoke about the government being on the gravy train. When President Mandela responded to that, he was labelled a potential dictator. When the TRC report came out, it was very critical of the ANC. When the ANC responded and gave its side of the story, they were accused of breaking the freedom of expression. And I think people think that the ANC and the government have no right to respond. The second issue is that of the apology that you have mentioned. I think it is very rich coming from the media in this country. They do not come out strongly from those who are opposed to apologising for the crimes of apartheid. But an even more interesting story is what happened before the elections when the then National Party government was killing people on the trains and everywhere. The media, especially the white media in this country, insisted that it was black on black violence. And the only person that I know who has had the decency to apologise is Ken Owen. All the others, even some whites said they painted themselves black to kill people on the trains, none of the media have come forward and said we have made a mistake we are sorry.

TM: I think the caller is making a few relevant points, and because of the nature of the relationship between those who are powerful by virtue of holding political office and the media there will always be those tensions. But I think that where we have probably made a mistake, unmandated, speaking as media practitioners on behalf of all the media is that sometimes we pretend in South Africa as if we did not have a government prior to the current government. Because then when you criticise you could also compare. And you can say this government is incompetent, fine, but incompetent compared to what? Then you can compare it to previous government. However undemocratic they may have been, they were also responsible. I am just saying this as a commentator on developments in the country. But that does not take away the fact that the media should be critical of government where it should be.

Caller: I think we have covered the issue of freedom of expression. We must not argue about the issue of freedom of expression because it is the constitutional prerequisite in the country. There are institutions which are there to protect freedom of expression. The courts, the Constitutional Court itself, protect the freedom of expression. But the issue only to raise is the right to reply and the issue of why news is spread around the world. Our education portfolio committee had a lecture in Scotland. When we arrived there we discovered that their qualifications system for further education collapsed last year. Many students in Scotland do not have certificates up to now. But what surprised me is that our news agencies did not pick that issue. You remember in South Africa when we had one or two question papers missing, that story spread around the whole world as if our examination system was about to collapse. Secondly, the premier and the cabinet in Scotland had a proposal in parliament on the fishing industry. They were defeated because some members of Labour Party were not in parliament. And the media asked the premier whether he was going to implement the decision of parliament. The premier said he thinks parliament is wrong, and he kept on not answering. But there was no media institution in Scotland, which said that democracy is under threat. But here in South Africa when cabinet differs with parliament it is said that democracy is under threat. No media news ever said Scotland’s democracy is under threat. They said, "We think the premier is not correct" They said he should implement the decision of parliament.

TM: I think that this is something that Dr Pahad had commented on. Other media organisations had also responded to that saying that there is no such a thing as a patriotic media; that he was calling for a very strange idea. You said, Dr Pahad, that media could be patriotic. Can the media be patriotic in fact?

Caller: Before Dr Pahad respond. Some of the people in Scotland said the issue of the qualifications is a Scottish issue. They do not think it should go out of the country. It is their problem. The whole leadership of the Scottish qualification authority was actually removed. From what I heard about it, nobody said the qualifications of Scotland are under suspect. The media there did not publish that story or take it out of Scotland. It was a not a major issue in the world.

EP: Let me say this Tim, you see if you reduce the notion of patriotism to a party political issue, then we are wrong. Patriotism is well beyond party politics. And so when we say that the media should be patriotic we are not asking the media to be patriotic to the government, to the ANC or to the party that happens to be ruling at a particular moment and time. It is to be patriotic to our own country, to our own people and to the issues that we confront in South Africa. And in that sense, surely all of the media, public broadcasters, private broadcasters, public sectors, private sector we have to be patriotic in terms of defending what we consider to be of national interest. But we must not confuse it with defending the government. They are two different things. Yes, I would want the media in South Africa to be patriotic, to defend the interest of the people of South Africa.

TM: I think the response from other sections of the media to that idea has been to say that the media is not in the business of being patriotic. The media is in the business of telling the truth.

EP: You know very well that every single media say what they say, write what they write "in the public’s interest". Now once you start with the notion of public’s interest then you have to say how do your best serve the public’s interest. You cannot serve the public’s interest in South Africa if you are not patriotic. Therefore, I think the media themselves are quite right. The media has the responsibility to serve the public’s interest. Surely we may differ about the definition of it. But surely in that sense you cannot defend the public’s interest of the masses of South Africa. We are talking about the masses of our people without saying that there has to be some element of patriotism. There must be some love for this country of ours.

Caller: I am trying to find out from our guest: Is it really helpful for us to expect the current media with its history to actually articulate the new ideas in our new country? Secondly, I want to comment about Van Zyl Slabbert’s apology to what the Citizen newspaper did. Do we need to set up new means of communication which will articulate the needs of the working people, articulate what the masses say, because my worry is that we are caught up in this vicious circle where these papers are trying to move government from an objective theme of alleviating poverty in this country.

TM: Well before the Minister’s response, the other question that could be posed to you is that we do have the public broadcaster anyway, as one of the public institutions. Why is there a need to set up alternatives or extra media organisations in the country?

Caller: I have a problem in that you picked up the SABC. We pay our licences; and people like Max du Preez used what I pay for my license. The SABC must look for relevant people who are going to articulate the needs of the working class in this country. It is a class, race and gender issue, which must be addressed in this country. The SABC is failing to pick up people to articulate that line.

EP: Let me say that I agree with you, but at the same time I think we would all agree that there had been some important changes within the public broadcaster itself. There had been some changes within the ownership of the print media. But the issue you raised is the most critical one and I think the public broadcaster, if you ask my own view, needs to examine itself. To what extent does the public broadcaster actually in reality articulate the concerns, the interests, the worries of the poorest of the poor? To what extent are they able to go to the rural areas of our country and report about what is happening? Let me also say that in order to address the issue you are raising, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) released a document some months ago on the Media, Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA). We are at the moment in discussions with representatives of the private media and the print media to see how best we can launch the MDDA because we want to have a development and diversity agency to do the things you are talking about. How do we expand the possibilities of more and more of our people accessing not only the radio in these very community radio stations to play an important role, but also the print media. And we hope that within the next few months following these intensive consultations that we had, that we would be able to say something very concrete about Media Development and Diversity Agency.

TM: I just want to make a brief comment. It appears that, as long the media remains business that the bottom line will dictate what happens to the content.

EP: That is precisely what I think should be debated and I hope you will debate that tomorrow with you listeners.

TM: Well it is going to be the key issue; transformation and reconciliation will be the subject for discussion.

EP: You see I wonder whether we should stick with this old myth. The good news is not news; bad news is good news for the media. I think it is a wrong approach. What you need, in my view, is an approach which says, here there is bad news and that must also be added so that people must also know what the bad news is. But at the same time people should also know what the good news is and I thought what you said earlier, for example in response to one caller, that on this program you brought in different people in order to enable them to be able to speak about the work they are doing and to the extent that they have some good news to give, they will give. It is fundamentally about what is happening in the urban areas. If you go to an area called Goedgevonden in the North West Province, there are some very serious issues around land rights that have been going on for the last few years. People have been in the forefront of the struggle to regain their land. I think that is a very interesting story.

TM: But the owners of the newspapers will tell you that look we cover stories that are of interest to our readers and if our readers are in urban areas of a particular class, culture and so on we will report on this issue.

EP: So why is the land issue in Zimbabwe of such interest to our readers and not the land issue in South Africa. If we are serious, then I think we must address this question properly. If the land issue of Zimbabwe is of such interest to the readers of South African newspapers, then surely the issue of land, land restitution, redistribution, the struggle of our people for the return of the land when they were forcibly removed must also be of interest to our country.

Caller: I just want to ask why no one has been disciplined for things such as the crime and corruption, accountability and transparency. I want to ask the Minister why no audited financial statement have yet been produced for Lotto and from the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. I would also like to put to the Minister the issue of the arms deal. Should there not have been a referendum after all. The government has promised citizens of this country to look after the health, to give them accommodation to educate them etc. But instead we found that the illiterate is even more illiterate these days and the underprivileged are more underprivileged. What is happening is that the government is concerned with petty issues instead of concentrating on the major issues. Yesterday on my way to Pretoria I heard about restitution and compensation. Government has got money. Surely there is money in the Lotto, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and in the arms deal. This is non-sensual when the country has no money, and I can assure you by the time the arms deal matter is finalised, it will no be less that R60-billion.

EP: You know, we just have to be honest with ourselves. We cannot really go on like this, repeating stuff which is just totally untrue. Never in the history of this country have we had such openness and transparency as we have now. I do not believe we must talk as if we have not had a past, and a very tragic past. At the moment there is openness, there is transparency. Every single budget of every single government department has to be discussed and debated in Parliament. The Portfolio Committee looks at this. Secondly, what you said about the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, I don’t know what you’re talking about because to me it seemed that the fund has already distributed a great deal of money. Then about the arms issue; I do not know what you’re talking about the arms issue here. Either you say that you want a credible Defence Force, or you do not want a credible Defence Force. So if you are pacifist and you argue that you should not have a Defence Force at all, then we can enter into proper discussions as to why there needs to be a Defence Force. But once you say that you should have a Defence Force, then surely you must accept that you should have a Defence Force. Lastly, let me say this about this business of just throwing out vague accusations. It is totally untrue that there are more people illiterate now than there were before. There are more African kids going to school now than ever before in the history of our country. There are more, for example, African women and African girls today in school than ever before. There are people who are better off today in South Africa than they were ever before in the history of our country. It is totally untrue to say that the situation is worse than it was ever before. I agree that for those who were the beneficiaries of apartheid, the situation might not be as nice as it was for them when they were the beneficiaries in the colonial system. But for the masses of our people the situation is certainly much better.

Caller: Unlike my parents, my situation is much different than before. I have two quick questions or comments that need further explanation. Why has the state not prosecuted apartheid criminals like President Botha, like all apartheid criminals? These apartheid criminals committed horrific crimes and they should be charged. They should go to prison. If the state has failed to prosecute these criminals, why can’t they be sent to their houses like with Milosovich? My second question: the ANC was overwhelmingly given a two-third support in the last general elections to erase the scourge of racism. As it is, every aspect of our lives, from the economy, education, health, access to finance, in fact every challenge in this country is defined by racism. South Africa needs a special ministry to deal with this demon.

EP: Let me respond to the first question. As you know, we negotiated the settlement in South Africa. We came to an understanding that the best way forward for us with regard to our own particular situation was to arrive at an understanding.

TM: But what about justice, Mr Minister?

EP: It may well have been that had we not arrived at such an understanding the situation could have been worse in South Africa. Now that is a matter for debate. We took a decision that what we will do is that we will set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that would then deal with this matter and would get people to come before the TRC and give evidence. With regard to the second matter, you are absolutely correct. If we do not deal in a decisive manner with this scourge of racism, what we ask for in our constitution to create a non-racial, non-sexist society is not going to happen. I believe it is the responsibility of every single MEC, government minister, every single local counsellor, and every single government department to deal with the issues of racism. It is not a matter for one ministry. It is a matter for all of us, and in this case the President has given in my view a very decisive leadership and so I fully agree with you, we have to deal with this scourge of racism.

TM: Well Dr Pahad, as we conclude the programme, what are your thoughts on the media? Have the relations between government and the media and the public improved? We have not really said much about the relations between the media and the public. Where do we stand at the moment, and how can it be improved?

EP: Let me say this, and we said this when the President met with a group of editors, that to the extent that those of us who have been given the responsibilities of communicating government policies, government positions are not doing our job properly, we would certainly welcome criticisms, suggestions, and proposals, from media practitioners themselves as to how we can improve our work. We certainly would welcome that. I personally would welcome that. So that to the extent that we are not doing our job properly, please let us know what we should do to improve that. Certain suggestions have been made to us over the years and I hope that in addressing those, we have taken those proposals on board. Lastly, let me say that there has to be a continuous interaction between government and the media with a clear understanding that we do have to serve different purposes.

TM: Right. Well, let me just interrupt you there before we go over our time limit.

EP: Oh sorry…

TM: But thanks very much to be our guest.

EP: Pleasure.

Transcribed by Government Communications (GCIS)


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