Return to Transcripts main page


Cyril Ramaphosa's future for South Africa; Former Facebook VP: Social media is destroying society. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 25, 2018 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, South Africa. Nelson Mandela's rainbow nation in trouble now. Corruption and unemployment

wrecking his dream. My conversation with Cyril Ramaphosa. He helped end apartheid and he might very well be the next president. He tells me that

corruption is his enemy number one.

Plus, digital addiction and the damage done. A former founding Facebook executive turned whistleblower on why he believes social media is ripping

society apart.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I am Christiane Amanpour in London. President Trump's arrival at the World Economic Forum

in Davos, Switzerland puts him in the same room with many nations that he's dissed and challenged.

Top of that list are Africa's leaders who've turn up themselves in Davos with this message, that their continent is open for business.

The standard bearer is South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa. Once at Nelson Mandela's right hand, he is now poised to become president in the next


But South Africa has gone from being the economic engine of the continent to a shadow of its former self. And when I spoke to Ramaphosa from Davos,

he told me that he will put his country back on the map, and that fighting corruption will be his number one priority.

Cyril Ramaphosa, welcome to the program.

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: Thank you very much, Christiane. It's good to be talking to you.

AMANPOUR: Well, this comes at an incredible moment. You've taken over the ANC. I can't help but notice your rainbow-colored scarf. But the fact is,

Mr. Ramaphosa, those colors are fading very, very badly.

What are going to do to fix your country up again?

RAMAPHOSA: Well, we're rebooting these colors. They are indeed rainbow colors that are meant to unite our country and to renew it. So, rallying

the people of South Africa around a new resolve to renew our country, to rid our country of all the bad things that have been happening in the past,

corruption being the key one and the low economic growth scenario that we've been facing.

And there's a great deal of excitement, a new mood in the country. And I've also been experiencing here at Davos, for the first time in many

years, South Africa has become a country of great interest.

Many, many business leaders and government leaders are coming to talk to us and they are wishing us well and we are basically saying South Africa is

becoming renewed and we're open for business and investment.

And here at Davos, I've been really, really, really pleased to see business leaders coming forward and saying we're ready to invest. We can see that

you're now deadly serious about renewing your country.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ramaphosa, you were very close to Nelson Mandela. You're one of the great anti-apartheid activists. Mr. Mandela must be turning in

his grave, that mighty legacy that has been so badly compromised by years of corruption now.

What specifically are you going to do to give people confidence that that corruption with impunity will come to an end? Specifically, what are you

going to do?

RAMAPHOSA: Well, my campaign to become leader of the ANC was pivoted on two things. Renewing the ANC and taking back to the values that were

espoused and subscribed to by Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and many other leaders, principles and values of honesty, of truth, of integrity, and a

good reputation.

Now, what I have committed to do together with other leaders in the ANC, as we have resolved at our conference, is to tackle corruption. Firstly, to

set up a commission of inquiry to go into the full mess that we've been having over the years of state capture, where a few individuals, a few

companies have captured our state institutions and were just stealing money left, right and center.

[14:05:03] We're going to do that inquiry. But at the same time, we are going to be fingering those who are to blame, having them arrested, having

them prosecuted and sent to jail without any fear or favor or prejudice.

That is what we have committed to do because we want to clean up South Africa, so that we can begin to make it more attractive to investors, but

at the same time to deal with the issues that have been impeding growth, that have been stopping us from growing our economy.

And I think we're on a roll now. We're in a new era and we're just going to move forward.

AMANPOUR: It's a very tall order and you've laid out a very clear plan. Can you promise to your people that this will be more than just a few high-

profile scalps, that your inquiry, your commitment will be fully resourced, fully committed to this?

RAMAPHOSA: Yes. I'm promising to our people and indeed to anyone who has a deep interest in South Africa that this is not a flash in the pan. We're

going to go deep into the roots of this corruption because it has been all pervasive. It has dampened the mood of our people.

In their last election, many people did not even bother to vote because they said this is not the ANC that we know. Now, after the election,

people are saying the ANC is back. A new mood is abroad in the country and we're going to make sure that we do not disappoint our people. We're going

to make sure that we capitalize on this mood and give our people more than hope.

I go home, as I leave today, before President Trump speaks, with a bag full of commitments with regards to investors who want to come and invest real

dollars in South Africa.

So, this has been a really fantastic journey for us as team South Africa.

AMANPOUR: Well, you point out correctly that South Africa has been a beacon on your continent to the world for every possible reason over the

last several decades. Are you the right person to turn this around? You are an ANC insider. Can you do it?

RAMAPHOSA: Yes. I believe I can do it and I have no doubt that millions of South Africans are going to rally behind us, behind me also as a leader,

behind the African Nation Congress as the party of transformation, a party that can further the achieve the dream that Nelson Mandela had.

But Nelson Mandela is really our lodestar. He is the one who led us out of oppression. He is the one who gave us freedom and we are going to make

sure that we do not soil this freedom that Nelson Mandela gave us.

And I, having worked with Nelson Mandela, want to take Nelson Mandela's dream forward. And I'm determined to do so.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ramaphosa, you will know better than I that many in the world and in your country and on your continent believe that your current

president, Jacob Zuma, has been a leader in soiling that legacy of Nelson Mandela.

And there is a lot of talk right now about replacing him, about you taking over in some way even before the 2019 election. What can you tell us about


RAMAPHOSA: Well, right now, we've got me as president of the ANC and President Zuma as president of the republic. Our Constitution is designed

in a way where he still has 18 months to go.

But in the ANC, we've all agreed at the National Executive Committee that we are now in a transitional period. And this transitional period dictates

that we should navigate through this transition very carefully, delicately and we've been given the mandate to engage with President Mandela -

AMANPOUR: President Zuma?

RAMAPHOSA: With President Zuma. What am I saying? With President Zuma to see how we navigate our way through this transition. So, we're engaging in

discussions with him and we're looking at a variety of options.

I mean, one of the things is the opposition parties want to impeach him and others want to have a vote of no-confidence in him. And we are now saying,

the African National Congress, let's look at all this. Let's see what this transition can mean to the ANC and have a thoroughgoing discussion with


And I've said, Christiane, whatever we do in the end must be in the interests of the people of South Africa. It must not be focusing on the

interests of one person and President Zuma is well aware of my positioning on this. And it is with this that we're going to engage in further

discussions with him.

[14:10:15] AMANPOUR: Wow!

RAMAPHOSA: So, watch this space as we go through with the transitional talk.

AMANPOUR: I am watching this space right now. You are loud and clearly signaling that you hope you will take some kind of deal to step down.

RAMAPHOSA: Well, what we're signaling is we are going to navigate through this transition carefully. And I've also said that we do not - we should

never do anything that will show disrespect towards him or humiliate him, but this moment requires that we should all have sober mind, sober heads,

and make sure that we put the interests of South Africa ahead of the interests of any one of us.

AMANPOUR: Can I move now to President Trump? You just said that you would be leaving before he arrived.

But can I ask you, if you were to meet President Trump, what would you say to him about the current apparent lack of interest by the Trump

administration in the African continent and also, of course, the comments that he allegedly made describing African countries. I don't want to

repeat it, but you know very well what I mean.

RAMAPHOSA: Yes. I know very well. I mean, if I were to bump into him - unfortunately, it's not going to happen - I would say, President Trump, as

a leader of an important country like the United States, it is important for you not to disrespect or show any disrespect to any country in the

world, or indeed to anyone that you have dealings with, and we want the United States to engage with a world with other countries with due regard,

with respect, particularly Africa.

Africa is the origins of humanity. And you must, therefore, respect your origins. President Trump's origins and his roots are in Africa. The

umbilical cord of his forbearers is in Africa.

So, we expect respect from him, but we also expect him to play his role in promoting growth for the people of the world. The United States is too big

an economy not to play its historic and proper role.

AMANPOUR: So, in that regard, you've seen that under the Trump administration, first of all, apparently, no ambassador - US ambassador to

South Africa and there still isn't the top level of State Department officials for Africa. And President Trump seems to have given trade a much

bigger role than developmental aid to Africa.

And in fact, he said to his African colleagues recently that "Africa has tremendous business potential. I have so many friends going to your

countries, trying to get rich."

Is that the kind of engagement that you hope for from the United States?

RAMAPHOSA: No, I hope the engagement that we should have with the United States should be engagement that produces mutual benefits.

The United States must benefit as African countries or the developing countries must also benefit. And it must be a situation where we prosper

one another. One must not prosper at the expense of the other.

Yes, we want to continue trading with America. We want America to invest in our countries, so that the benefits should be mutual.

So, I want President Trump to focus his attention on development. The world needs development and the theme here is about a shared future in a

fractured world. So, we must all focus on how can we share the benefits of globalization, of global trade and development, all of us growing to become


We should not have prosperity only being the preserve of the United States. It must be something that's all pervasive where all of us can benefit.

AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Ramaphosa, some African leaders actually love what President Trump is saying. And I'm thinking of President Museveni in


Even after those offensive comments, President Museveni tweeted the following. "Donald Trump speaks to Africans frankly. Africans need to

solve their problems. You can't survive if you are week. It is the African's fault that they are weak. We are 12 times the size of India, but

why are we not as strong?"

Does he have a point?

RAMAPHOSA: Well, he has a point. But his response to President Trump is sarcastic. But at the same time, he's raising a very important point,

basically saying Trump is embarking on this posture because of our own weakness, let us deal with our own weaknesses, let us improve ourselves.

[14:15:04] If President Trump wanted his message, if that's what he meant to be an effective message, he only needed to say, is we want to work with

you as countries that are underdeveloped, so that we can help each other. You develop and we also get some prosperity.

So, there's a positive way of putting the message across.

AMANPOUR: And I can't let you go without asking you about a massive and impending major crisis in Cape Town, which is the center of your tourism,

your wine industry, what people flock to South Africa for. And that is an impending drying up of your water supply. April 21 could be zero day for


RAMAPHOSA: Climate change is a reality. If people around the world, but specifically in South Africa ever thought that climate change is just a

fable or a fiction, we in South Africa as regards Cape Town are now seeing the real effects of climate change.

We're facing a real total disaster in Cape Town, which is going to affect more than 4 million people. And I'm going back home and I'm going to

corral as many people as possible, to put our heads together and see exactly what we should be doing not only in the immediate term, but also in

the long-term.

But in the intermediate term, we've got to make sure that we bring water to the people of Cape Town without any fail.

AMANPOUR: Cyril Ramaphosa, you have a full agenda on your plate. Thank you for joining us from Davos.

RAMAPHOSA: Thank you very much, Christiane. It's good talking to you once again.

AMANPOUR: And we want to remember another South African moment. The passing this week of a South African great. The legendary musician Hugh

Masekela whose trusty trumpet sounded a rallying cry and was an anthem for the anti-apartheid movement. And he's mourned as the father of South

African jazz.


The great Hugh Masekela, dead this week at the age of 78.

And we turn now to Facebook, the most popular social media website in the world, with some 2 billion users, forever networking and connecting people.

The Silicon Valley giants are now facing a bit of a techlash as we battle fake news, online extremism and social disruption.

My next guest, Chamath Palihapitiya, was one of Facebook's most successful executives. He was the vice president in charge of driving up the users.

But he recently gave an astonishing talk at Stanford University, warning about the dangers of social media and the impact on our society today.

Take a listen.


CHAMATH PALIHAPITIYA, FOUNDER AND CEO, SOCIAL CAPITAL: I think in the back deep, deep recesses of our minds, we kind of knew something bad could

happen. But I think the way we defined it was not like this.

It literally is a point now where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.


AMANPOUR: And Chamath Palihapitiya joins me now. Welcome to the program.

PALIHAPITIYA: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: I mean, you know that this talk at Stanford created a huge ripple that people are still talking about. What do you mean in your words

now about feeling guilt, about how it's sort of disrupting social fabric as we know it.

PALIHAPITIYA: Look, I think a lot of the things that we do at our best there, creating things that have never been part of. But what we are

increasingly learning is that there is not just positives that come with the things that we build, but sometimes unintended consequences.

And before the surface area of these unintended consequences were relatively minimal because the things that we were creating were not that


I mean, if you had asked me, would we ever see a site that connects basically the entirety of the connected world? I would not have said yes.

But now that it's possible, we almost have to close that chapter - chapter one in many ways - and now start to ask the difficult questions of how do

we solve the 1 percent of these issues that are now really unintended and meaningfully disruptive if left unchecked.

AMANPOUR: But just to get clear what you think, the short-term dopamine- driven feedback loops that we've created are destroying how society works.

No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth. And it's not just an American, you say. It's not about Russian ads. It's a global


So, how do you - what is your solution to reconnecting those connections you're saying have been disrupted?

PALIHAPITIYA: So, if you think about like the business models of how Silicon Valley works and what has created success in the past, what we've

always tried to do is figure out something that scarce and make it abundant.

[14:20:10] So, you take companies like PayPal, companies like Uber, companies like Google, what do they do? They take a thing that we all

want, but we can't have easy access to and then they proliferate it and make it abundant.

Today, I think what we're learning is that the thing that we all need more of is truth. And the question at hand now is what is the business model of

truth and who is responsible for it, who should be creating it?

And what I would tell you is that, in part, people like myself, should be responsible for figuring out what that means, but in the same way consumers

need to understand.

And the reason is because you will then anoint and pick the products and services that embody those values. And so, that's what I mean by that.

It's trying to figure out how to propagate truth.

AMANPOUR: So, obviously, this became a huge, huge bone of contention during the 2016 election. And Facebook has taken its share of a battering

since then about it.

And as a new year message, Mark Zuckerberg said that his 2018 mission is to fix those things that have gone wrong.

But some people are saying, for instance, that even if that sort of new newsfeed that he's talking about had been implemented in 2015, perversely,

it might've magnified Russian interference. And some people are saying that he's saying about this newsfeed may not work at all?

PALIHAPITIYA: Well, I don't know who these some people are, but they're probably -

AMANPOUR: Facebookers and (INAUDIBLE) executives.

PALIHAPITIYA: They probably really don't know Mark, for example, the way I do. I mean, our relationship was forged at a really seminal moment in the

company's lifecycle and, frankly, our own lives.

And what I will tell you about him as a person is this is one of the singular, most determined and intelligent people I've ever met. And the

minute that he actually focuses on something, he is probably the most guaranteed to find success.

So, the fact that he wrote that, to me, gives me an enhanced confidence that Facebook is actually on the right path.

AMANPOUR: So, why, though, as some people are suggesting that, despite his goodwill and what he wants to do, and, obviously, forced by circumstances,

why might it not work? I mean, you're the expert. You're the algorithm guy.

PALIHAPITIYA: Well, I mean, I think it's a fantastic news cycle, and so a lot of this is just postulation and speculation.

I think the reality is, if you take a step back, what they are doing is they are coming to terms with how this system should work and,

specifically, how does it work at scale.

And I think, at scale, what we need to do now is find places to not just amplify popularity, but to amplify, as I began this conversation, truth.

And he was the first person in that message to sort of talk about the difference between the two.

And so, what I would say is, let these guys have a moment in time to iterate and try to solve this.

AMANPOUR: Do you regret the tone of what you said in Stanford? Because, clearly, you did post something afterwards and people do believe that

Facebook got to you.

PALIHAPITIYA: Well, look, Facebook - look, Facebook made me.

AMANPOUR: And then, came down like a ton of bricks on you after Stanford.

PALIHAPITIYA: Well, no, not really. I mean, listen, those that know me know that like they don't control me. Nobody controls me at this point.

AMANPOUR: But you changed your tone.

PALIHAPITIYA: Absolutely, because I have a responsibility to think about all the people that I worked with, that I worked for, that worked for me,

an immense for this organization that's still there.

And to be honest with you, Christiane, I am coming to terms with my own bully pulpit and, frankly, learning how to control the message, to dial it

in more effectively, to be more succinct and positive, offer solutions.

And so, part of it is just me recognizing that as one of the leaders of the Valley now, I have to do a better job frankly of bringing these issues to

the limelight in a way that's constructive.

AMANPOUR: So, many people want to know - before we move on to some of the bigger issues here - why, for instance, Facebook would not open up its

databases to investigators who are looking into the Russian interference in 2016? Why wouldn't it do that, do you think?

PALIHAPITIYA: I have no idea.

AMANPOUR: But why wouldn't it?

PALIHAPITIYA: I have no idea.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it could win the PR battle, if nothing else.

PALIHAPITIYA: Again, I think that sort of issue is the same issue that Google faces every day when somebody says open up the Gmail -

AMANPOUR: But Twitter and the others are.

PALIHAPITIYA: Again, it's the same issue that Yahoo! faces. The point is that there is a slippery slope of things that happen, and it's up to those

companies and the executives in the seats of power at that moment in time to make these judgment calls.

And I think it's very hard for us, as the peanut gallery, to sit on the sidelines and opine -

AMANPOUR: But you weren't on the sidelines. You were in the middle - you're in the middle of it.

PALIHAPITIYA: At the time I was in the middle, and for the last seven years I've been on the sidelines building different things. And equally,

and I would say, in some cases, many more important things.

AMANPOUR: Well, I have two more things that I really want to ask you in two minutes.

One, react to President Trump and the whole immigration debacle. I mean, I believe you are an immigrant.


AMANPOUR: You grew up on welfare. Give us a little bit of sense of your life story.

PALIHAPITIYA: My parents escaped the Civil War -

AMANPOUR: In Sri Lanka.

PALIHAPITIYA: In Sri Lanka. We grew up in Canada. When we did that, we started at zero. We had nothing. My mom was a housekeeper. My father was

largely unemployed. We dealt with a whole host of issues that other people have dealt with - depression, alcoholism, et cetera. And yet, we battled

through it.

[14:25:08] And today, I think what I would say is, I'm somewhat of a testament to some amount of luck and hard work, but also sacrifice.

And what I would like people to understand is, like, that is a value that exists everywhere. There are tremendously talented people all over the

world who want to contribute and add value in the same way that I've had opportunities to.

And I think when you think about immigration, what we need to do is realize that that human capital, if put in a place to succeed, will literally

sacrifice everything.

AMANPOUR: And you've also been very vocal about wanting to harness the incredible positive force of the Internet for something more than just

another food delivery app.

PALIHAPITIYA: Yes. I think the best way to think about it is, we lost sight of risk and value, meaning it used to be the case that technologists

like myself would focus on the things that were exceptionally valuable in the world. And they turned out to be not that risky.

Now, we've inverted that thing. And what we do is we invest in very simple, shiny things that turn out to be not that valuable. And so, we

need to course-correct. We need to go after cancer, diabetes, climate change, the substantive problems of the world that, if were solved, would

create immense wealth and opportunity that would cascade across countries. Those are the kinds of things that, I think, we need to be inspired by.

AMANPOUR: Chamath Palihapitiya, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and


Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.