tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey WHUT May 6, 2012 6:00pm-6:30pm EDT
parliament in the national assembly, and formerly the premier of the western cape province in south africa. mr. ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. >> it is an absolute pleasure being on a legendary show like this. >> thank you very, very much. freedom day was just celebrated. tell me about it. >> freedom day comes as a hard won right to vote in south africa, those in the majority been black could not vote. it comes as a result of long, hard sacrifices the struggle. after 27 years in prison for nelson mandela. 30 years of exile for most south africans in the struggle. it came also with a joyous harbinger of reconciliation, national unity, and a forgiveness. so, i think we transit -- transcended a lot of the
bitterness of the past. how people can be different and unite despite past and its ease -- and the t -- emnities. >> turn the clock back a little bit and tell us and little bit about growing up in south africa in the 1960's and 1970's. >> far more in the 1970's -- but i come into a south africa in the 1970's where my parents had been absolutely fearsome -- or fearful, rather, of the turbulence of the 1960's. the 1960's would be the decade in which nelson mandela goes to jail, the anc and other political organizations are banned, the leadership of the movement going into exile. there is the killing of people in places of -- like soweto, a
mysterious death of the african national congress president. and so, people grow into the 1970's in a very fearful moment. and that a generation was traumatized. the generation i come from have no direct memory of the repression of the 1960's. and so -- i go to high school in 1976 in soweto. the township south of johannesburg crops as good and stick to the streets, rejecting apartheid, not knowing the fear of the 1960's, have some -- having absolute fearlessness as they go about their business. so in a sense -- more importantly, coupled with an idea of black consciousness that an affirmation that black is not something to be discussed at but that black is something that is
beautiful and that we can have black identity. so, a new unity for just outside the apartheid state. so, that lays the basis -- 1976 through to 1980 and the last mile of the struggle goes into the 1980's with young people largely showing their fearlessness. >> when you were a -- you were a student activist? leading boycotts and protests? >> yes. i think it is a job description that you don't go looking for but catches you. i happen to be in high school in the year 1976. by 1980, the second wave of uprisings happened and the students leading leading the kinds of boycotts -- by 1983 i get elected into the executive of the united democratic front which becomes the internal coordination of the african national congress, which was
banned. by 1985, i experienced my first stint in prison, my first house arrest after that. then i know what life is all about. >> what does the government have in mind in 1948 and in 1949 with this whole idea of apartheid? what were their goals? >> their goals were largely inspired by the kind of -- adolf hitler, the purity of the white race. the idea they were the chosen people, going to africa to bring civilization to the continent, to christianize the continent. so, they are not happy only but the idea of separating different races from each other, but perfecting the art and science of that separation. that, if you could imagine segregation, multiplied it by 10. because in south africa, they
work out which areas you can live in, what schools you can go to and what you can learn in the schools. so, blacks, for example were not allowed to learn math and science and still reaping the wind from that decision. who can marry and who cannot. so, they turn it into an absolute science of separation. but not only separation, also disposition. >> so, it was great -- greatly different than the united states. >> i think it made segregation almost look like a civil affairs -- whereas in south africa it was an art, science, and something white students could study at universities. >> before we go to the break, you mentioned nelson mandela. you mentioned that the african national congress. how did you all come together, the two of you? >> i went to high school at the school bus was known much more for its left-leaning and trotsky
ideology. so, my conversion to the african national congress came a lot more because i enjoyed the inclusive become of the focus on activism. i enjoyed the way in which it joyfully understood how it could take the struggle against apartheid, that while there was life and death of risks involved, we were still able to celebrate our humanity and not to give it up at all. so, in 1980, my great conversion to what we call congress politics, the politics of the african national congress, happened, but i remain ever thankful for the theoretical rigor i learned from the kind of trotsky movement which i emerged from. >> june 12 as a celebration as well. >> the anc is 100 years old. it certainly is the oldest
liberation movement on the continent and one of the oldest organizations anywhere in the world. so, i think this is solutely significant and comes at the moment of great introspection and reflection for us as we understand the lessons of being a liberation movement and becoming a government. >> let's take a little break to tell the folks at home -- we are talking with the ambassador from the republic of south africa, so sit tight and we will come back on the other side. "this is america." "this is america" is made possible by -- the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard.
the ctc foundation, afo communications, and the rotondaro family trust. americans know very little about africa and south africa. what is the size of the country? is it a big country? >> i think it is probably a bit of a subcontinent. i think we could easily be one- third of europe. but that is the massive size of the african continent. it as massive as the land mass is the opportunity that opens up across africa and getting the impression that americans are learning more and more about africa because they understand that the economic salvation lies on that last frontier, that the u.s. has been shying away from. >> why do you think we have been shying away from it? >> the u.s. has only seen africa
-- and sometimes justifiably -- as a continent that needs its assistance, rather than a partner in trade and investment and tourism. american has often seen the continent of africa as a place -- absence of democracy, rule of law, and human rights, and make that a precondition before being able to enter into economic relations with the continent. justifiably in much cases, but i think africa has cleaned up much of its act in the current period. >> the you think there are some guilt feelings as well because of our race problems we had here in america? >> i think that america has also not entered robustly into conversation with africa because they felt this court -- discourse would be one of reparations -- for a heinous slave trade that happened over 400 years ago, of this segregation problem where blacks were discriminated against in
the u.s. but i think -- has transcended some of the issues. i think the best way to make things right is to continue very important programs such as the aids program like pepfar, the african growth and opportunities act that allows african goods to come into the u.s. market duty- free. but more importantly, i think we can find a way to operate equitably with each other through good trade, good investment, and for the first time, africa has something to put on the table. >> what is the population of south africa? >> about 13 million people. >> what is the racial breakdown? them almost 75% -- >> 75% of what we call black african. i think one is dealing with about 10% to 50% of whites and the rest would be colored and indian -- and covered in this case is not a pejorative as it
is in the u.s.. it is people who are of mixed race within south africa. it would describe people like myself as well, being of malay origin. >> how about religion? is it a christian area? >> i think 80% of south africans will identify with one or another the nomination within the christian faith. the community i come from, the muslim community, is at about 3%. there is a good size of atheists. there are hindus, there are significant populations of jews -- and every other believe you can find in the world would be in the great mosaic of south africa. >> with such a small percentage of folks who follow islam, yes, you have been out in the forefront to try to bring people together, have interfaith conversations. what is your motivation?
>> i think it is a responsibility i have as opposed to a motivation. when a small 3% muslim minority can find peace with itself and peace with fellow citizens in a country like south africa, they should be a model in some way for the troubled minorities who find themselves all over europe, in the united states, and other places in the world. we don't have to be perpetual strangers within our host countries. we don't have to seek to create an islamic system where we live. we can live where we don't make the rules. we can live according to the values and objectives of our faith without necessarily wanting to insist that every rule and regulation should be inscribed in that country. in south africa has reached an south african muslim, in particular, have reaped all the benefits of living democratically, abiding by human rights conventions, by
subscribing to the rule of law, embracing every other variety in the country. and therefore, we have found peace among ourselves and peace with our neighbors, and that is the elusive model that the muslim world is looking for, and that is the elusive model that western countries are looking for and trying to understand this phenomenon of the other who happen to be muslim coming and living cheek by jowl with him. >> many languages in south africa? many different cultures? then the south africa has an enormous number of tribes -- >> south africa has an enormous number of tribes, each with cultures. it has 11 official languages -- it is official because we vow to ourselves that never again someone would be excluded on the basis of language. if you happen to be in court you have the right to defend yourself in the language of your choice. lying in a deathbed in the
hospital, you have a right to demand someone treats you who can communicate with you. and if you speak in parliament, you have a right to simultaneous translation based a language that you choose so you are not misunderstood. so much of the tragedy of our past comes from the simple fact of not understanding each other. and the south african flag is a flag with six colors, the most in any of the world -- and in the world, but it is shaped in a way to converge -- the colors of the liberation movement, of the old national party, the colors of the left, the colors of to write -- of the right, all in one flag. and we have an anthem that encapsulates four or five of our languages in order to create the same atmosphere of include city -- inclusivity. we would rather do more than the minimalist and heard people. >> how many countries in africa?
>> 54. >> and south africa has the largest economy, is that fair to say? or one of the most successful economies? >> senneff however, has the most diversified economy. -- south africa has the most diversified economy. it is much more industrialized than any other african economy. its growth rates is much less than, say, nigeria or envelope, and that is because we are so integrated in a world that is in recession. whereas, if you have a single product like oil you can really grow. that speaks about the power and the diversification of the south african country. >> what are the exports? what are the leading exports? >> south africa at exports, everyone knows gold and mining and minerals and so forth. what people don't know is, for
example, every c clas mercedess and 3 series bmw in the usa is manufactured in south africa. what people don't know is some of the finest wines are exported from south africa. that is the legacy of the french huguenots. we supply the u.s. market in every shopping center -- in the off-season in the u.s., you find our citrus and other fruits that come here. we do that. we do also very sophisticated stuff. such as, for example, we of the only company that destroyed our own nuclear weapons. and we now -- we put it to peaceful use, so that now comes nuclear isotopes the streets cancer in the united states of america. those are the variety of exports, and many more. >> did i read someplace that the united states still owes a trip
over there to pick up nuclear waste? >> they would like to pick up the nuclear waste and controlled. we told them that unlike the united states, we destroy their nuclear weapons and therefore you can trust us to use the nuclear waste. >> so, we don't have to pick up? >> you don't have to pick it up and then sell it back to us. we would rather sell it to you as medical isotopes. >> president jacob zuma, a hero. he came from very humble beginnings. a guerrilla fighter himself. also very controversial. what are his challenges? what are the challenges of south africa? >> i think we would love to have the united states unemployment rate of under 9%. ours is probably close to -- we would love to have our young
people really skilled, really educated, on top of math and science and being able to contribute to the technological age and to the knowledge economy. unfortunately, a past where young, black students cannot learn math and science to compete with a world, it takes two generations. one generation simply to get the teachers to teach it in the second generation to get the first products of math and science getting into universities and the economy. so, a long road with our skills shortages. >> so, jobs would be one. there is poverty in the country. >> there is a significant amount of poverty. and that poverty is income poverty -- meaning, people who don't earn any money. but at the same time, we have diseases that we need to combat, like hiv and aids, tuberculosis,
and in some places, neglected tropical diseases. but we also have problems of a first will nature like cardiorespiratory diseases. so i think we have all of these things coming, and therefore presidents zuma's challenge is how to ensure that we get the right skills, that our economy continues to grow, and that for the very poor there is a safety net. that stops the bottom of the world from falling out. >> some concern as far as investment. i know you have a background in economic investment, finance, because of infrastructure and and kind. sometimes it scares people off of investment. is that a fair statement? >> i think people are very surprised when they come to south africa and find that we
probably have some of the most post-modern airports. certainly after the world cup 2010, our airports are anything better than anything i have seen at dulles or jfk or anything. and our road infrastructure clear -- we use the world cup to modernize, we have monorail's beginning to develop as a result of the investment. so, we did not put our money into building only stadiums, but into the road network, rail network. locomotives we bought from general electric -- and so forth. i think people are really surprised by the amount of infrastructure. and i think that certainly on the level of crime, the statistics are terrible and unfortunately a lot of that is intercity as opposed to between south africans and people
visiting. >> my sister in law was there within the last year and said it is a beautiful country with a very welcoming people. >> absolutely. and that is the story of world cup 2010. and the biggest chunk of visitors came from the usa, and they were pleasantly surprised. >> the relationship between south africa and the united states. is it good, healthy, progressing? >> i think it is at the level where it should be. it is favorable enough for us to be seen as a friend of the u.s.a., but it is critical enough for us not to be seen as a client of the usa i think that that is a really important balance, that we enter into negotiation with the usa on any given matters -- the current one, sanctions on iran. we had our perspective, but at the end of the day we preferred the sanctions to work than another war in the middle east. so we cooperate on those things.
we cooperate on ensuring there are no blood diamonds on the market. we cooperate to ensure that democracy is brought to syria. but i think we would retain sufficient independence and autonomy so as to not simply endorse military options and unilateral actions by a country like the usa. >> it is interesting, and these are my words, not yours -- that you are not there as somebody who is necessarily a client of the united states. actually, the trade percentage is really small. -- fairly small. it is big, but fairly small. some of your trading partners go all over the place, right? >> i think that the trade proportion is probably proportional to what south africa has to offer the u.s.a. and what the usa is willing to offer south africa.
but the moment of opportunity will come when african -- the growing democracy and rule of law, but the kind of economic architecture in which the whole looks sub-saharan africa becomes one common market and south africa becomes the gateway into the common market. >> what kind of a timetable the uc for that? >> three regions have signed up already. east africa, central africa, and southern africa. we would get that market going. west africa will be joined fairly soon. we are thinking about a matter of two years and so for that to be in place and for a common market to be offered to the usa. >> does it help that president obama is the president of the united states right now with the relationship? >> ironically, there is a very favorable reaction, even to president bush because he had really kept the issue of pepfar,
the african growth and opportunities act, on the table. but that relationship has just multiplied with the emotions that also comes from having a person who traces his roots to kenya in the white house. and so, i think that for the united states, that has been a wonderful thing because it does not have to really put in so many billions of u.s. dollars to ensure security in africa to put down -- that could emerge from africa. i think there is a nice, secure atmosphere that the u.s. can be thankful for. >> we are down to our last 30 seconds, mr. ambassador. what one thing would you like folks who are listening to us to take away from the conversation? >> i want to say among all the export products south africa has come of the most and port and one would be those that relate to the life, a legacy, and values of nelson mandela.
we need someone who is known as a peacemaker. we need a world that is a gentler. we need a world that is far more aware of the human instincts between people, and that is what we are going to be doing as our diplomacy in the u.s.a., around the statue of nelson mandela in washington. >> thank you, mr. ambassador. it's terrific education and conversation. >> it has been an absolute pleasure and honor. >> thank you. for information about my new book, "the chance of a lifetime ," an online video for all of "this is america" programs, visit our web site, thisisamerica.net. "this is america" is made possible by -- even national education association. the nation's largest advocate for children and public education.