INTERVIEW: ANC Limpopo leader, Cassel Mathale

By Greg Nicolson 19 December 2011

After being reelected as Limpopo ANC provincial chairman, Premier Cassel Mathale sits down with GREG NICOLSON to talk about Gaddafi, Malema, Pravin Gordhan, and Limpopo’s terribly slow internet.

I was surprised to hear you mention Colonel Gaddafi in your speech yesterday. Why?

I mentioned him because of the manner in which the Security Council handled his issue. We think they should have applied the same approach with other countries that are facing similar challenges where people are protesting and sometimes being violent but there is no action from the Security Council. What is the reason? They should apply the same rule. We must not apply different standards.

We don’t condone what Gaddafi was doing to his own people. It was wrong. He should not have done that. He should have engaged with the Libyans and created an atmosphere where they can participate in choosing the leader of their choice. That’s what Gaddafi should have done. It’s a very difficult question because the rebels were armed. So you can say he was dealing with a group of, you can’t call them bandits, but they were armed and they’re not an army. So he had to respond in the manner in which he did but it was not justified. Including the response of the West, it was not justified because both sides were just killing each other instead of engaging. Even now to completely create peace and stability in Libya the Libyan people must talk amongst themselves and ensure that everybody is in the transitionary phrase for them to have a stable country.

Colonel Gaddafi is also a favourite of the ANC Youth League. How important it is to have Youth League leader Julius Malema’s support at this conference?

Well, the support that we have in the province is not necessarily a Youth League support. It’s support from members of the organisation. You have got the Veteran’s League, the Women’s League, the Youth League and the ANC. But in their totality they are part of what we call structures of the organisation. So different members of the organisation made their contribution. So it would be wrong to say that it is a victory because of Julius Malema. It would not be appropriate. But it’s a victory of the ANC.

On Julius Malema, seeing he is facing suspension, what sort of future do you think he has with the party?

He’s innocent of all the charges until they are concluded. And once that internal process of the movement is concluded we will know what the movement have [sic] decided on the matter. Of course the Constitution clearly says the following can be used as a sanction – either you are suspended, or you are given some task to perform or you are expelled. So at the end of the process that will be determined, but for now he’s as innocent as any other person.

On another topic, were you surprised by Pravin Gordhan’s intervention into five departments of the Limpopo government?

Obviously, yes. When we were informed that we were under administration we were surprised because in my own view I believe that the matters should have been handled differently. Section 100 (of The Constitution) doesn’t solve problems. You only apply it in an environment after you’ve tried every other method of intervening and it doesn’t help so the only method left is section 100. Because I believe The Constitution of the Republic is designed in such a manner that we have got three independent spheres of government with different responsibilities. Each sphere of government operates as an autonomous entity. The national government of course oversees the two spheres of government, both provincial and local, because we are a unitary state. We are not federal. Now for national to interact with any of the spheres of government it must interact with them in the context of cooperative governance. Where there are problems they must identify the problems and work together with the affected sphere to resolve them. And if it’s not possible or the problem persists, you then go and take extraordinary measures, because section 100 and section 139 is [sic] applied to an extraordinary situation that needs intervention.

I believe our province has not reached that stage and that’s why I’m saying we were not excited about it. Of course we were not expecting it at the same time. From where we are we have identified that there is a problem: the issue of the overdraft. Of course there were issues about the money that was being paid for projects that were old, which we pushed departments to conclude this financial year and it ate into some of the money that is generally released, intended for specific areas. But there was interaction with National Treasury and agreement that they will release some of the money. Some of the money was released to pay for projects that were completed which do not fall within this financial year. Those are things that we inherited. They are certain liabilities. So we believe that the matter should have been handled differently, but nevertheless a decision has been taken and we will work with national government to ensure that we speedily resolve this, because it’s not in national government interests to have a situation where a minister must deal with national politics and at the same time deal with departmental politics within a province.

Was the timing of Gordhan’s announcement suspicious?

I don’t know why they did it in the manner they did. They might be in a better position to clarify that point. To us, we interacted with them with the will to resolve. But we knew that the internal processes of the movement is separate. It can’t be influenced by any other decision. We don’t view it in that light. As you can see, we’ve had conference. Conference has expressed its views, not influenced by any other things.

Finally, what’s your vision for Limpopo’s future?

Limpopo has a great future. Given the resources at our disposal and its strategic location within South Africa, being on the northern tip but bordering three SADC countries, we can strategically say that Limpopo will be the transport hub of the region in terms of goods that will be transported from different African states that are part of SADC and into the world. Also the mineral resources that I spoke about and the natural resources that are there. We are confident that, with our Limpopo 2030 Vision and the Limpopo Employment Growth and Development Plan, we have a great potential to position this province to be the future of South Africa. Of course key to that is human development, your skills development. If you invest in human capital, you are guaranteed that whichever direction you want to take the country you will have the personnel to drive it. Also in terms of IT, Limpopo must become the IT hub of South Africa. In that regard we are busy interacting with role players to roll out optic fibre for internet connectivity. The rate at which current infrastructure is (developing), it’s very difficult to do business. If you open the internet it takes forever because the cables that are in the province are not designed for high-speed. So we want to build a(n informational) freeway for our people and we believe that will unleash the economic potential of this province to the world and everybody will want to do business here. They will know, if you go to Limpopo you will get the fastest access to the internet; you can do business with anybody in the world. So we believe that’s what will become of this province. I know we’ve been characterised as the poorest province, but I’ve always argued since I came into office that we are not the poorest province. We have got potential to be the centre of the economy of South Africa. DM

Photo: Greg Nicolson