About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

20 May 2004: Reddy, Freddy

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

POM. Dr Reddy? Padraig O'Malley. How are you?

FR. What can I do for you?

POM. I would like to talk about, or if you could take me through – you came to London around the same time that Mac did and Mr Seedat and you were part of the group that, I won't say, hung out with, were around Vella Pillay and his wife Patsy and you studied to be a psychiatrist and you were involved in the setting up of the Anti-Apartheid Movement or the boycott movements that preceded it. I am most interested if you could take me through your coming to know Mac, in what circumstances both in London and after London. I understand that you – I know you've done or are involved in projects like the Gaza(?) Community Mental Health Programme and things like that and what kind of similar relationship if any did you have with the ANC, with people in the camps and things like that. So maybe if you just started talking and I could take it from there.

FR. Well let's take – you know I just heard about Mac before I left South Africa around 1956 I think. I was working at a hospital and then he came into the hospital.

POM. You were? Sorry, you were?

FR. At a hospital, King Edward VIII Hospital, and I heard that Mac was in the ward admitted for an eye injury. So usually I went around visiting people if they needed some kind of help while they were in the hospital and I only heard about Mac through indirect contact that this guy was a street fighter and he was a dangerous person and so on. Anyway I went to his bedside and tried to ask him if I could do anything for him but he was so angry and he didn't even answer my questions, he didn't even say a word. Anyway I did what I should do and I left him. That was the last time I saw Mac in South Africa.

. Then, as you know, I hitchhiked through Africa and finally came to London in 1957 and then while in London I wanted to see the sights of London because that was the first time I was in London. I went around visiting –

POM. Now were you a trained doctor at this point?

FR. No, no, no, I was poor as a mouse.

POM. You were like the rest.

FR. I had no work or anything and only had a standard five education when I arrived there and I got a job within three days after arriving in London to survive. So I got a job in the London Underground Transport as a porter and that helped me very much because I got free uniforms and free travel and so on. That's a whole long story that's been written down in my autobiography. Anyway, so I went to visit Speakers Corner and there I heard a man from the Communist Party with a communist banner talking about socialism. The whole message was so good to my ears because of what was happening in SA and my own background with the struggle against the authorities for wages and where I found an illegal trade union movement, not trade union movement but lied to the authorities, called it a social club but used it to negotiate and agitate for wages. When I heard this man talking about people's power and the rule by the proletariat and what socialism means, state ownership and equality and all that, I thought, my God! That is something we should have in SA. When the man was over with his speech I went up to the rostrum and asked if I could join the Communist Party so the man took my name and address and he asked me where I was from so I told him I was from SA. So he said, "Well, look, you will hear from us in a week or two." So I gave him my name and address and then about three weeks later there was a knock on my door where I lived with an English lady and unexpectedly, this was an unexpected call, I didn't expect anybody. My landlady opened the door and she found two men there wanting to speak to me. So I went to the door and there I found these two men and I recognised Mac because I had seen his face before, but Hassim Seedat I didn't know. They came into the house and I got them seated in the lounge, then they started questioning me. I asked them who they were and why would they be questioning me. They told me that, "You have applied to become a member of the Communist Party." I said, "Yes, but the English Communist Party." Then they said, "No, well, the English won't take you as a member of the Communist Party but they'll take you in as a member of the South African Communist Party and we are a part of that and we are here to talk to you about why you want to become a socialist." I thought we were going to exchange ideas about what we meant, what I thought about socialism and so on, because I was not a communist before that and I didn't know anything about socialism anyway. I was just attracted by this man's speech in Hyde Park.

. So Mac and Seedat were busy, not interviewing me, I thought it was more of an interrogation. Anyway I went along with them because I didn't know about security and all that. At that time we didn't think about security as much as we did later on. But anyway they left after a while and told me I will hear from them, and I think it was some weeks later I got a call that I should come to Downhills Park to meet the other members of the group. That is how I met Mac once again in Downhills Park living with Seedat, Kader Asmal, and contacted Vella Pillay. We were the first four I think, four or five of us that were there at the time. That's how I met Mac Maharaj.

. During my contact with him in London during – well as a group we did a lot of things, we had meetings, we were mainly interested and occupied with collecting money and support for the –

POM. Did you move into their flat or you still lived where you were?

FR. Yes I lived alone with my landlady. She was my English mother because I was always unemployed or getting into some kind of difficulty but she helped me through. Mac and the other guys were either students – Mac was teaching actually at the time somewhere or the other and he couldn't stand the children. The English children were not like the South African children, obedient to teachers, so I think he couldn't tackle the situation so he stopped teaching. Well Seedat, Kader Asmal, they had support from home either partially but they were all students, I was the only one that was working and trying to study at night.

POM. What was your first impression of Mac as you got to know him in London? How did he come across to you?

FR. He came across to me as a very reticent personality, all the time very angry, tense. He said very little, usually the others talked about policy and talked about this and that but he didn't say very much. I didn't hear him say anything personally about himself and then he got married.

POM. Did you ever meet Tim?

FR. Yes I met her, I know Tim very well.

POM. Is that right?

FR. By then the years went quickly and it was 1961. I remember that we were doing a lot of parties to collect money.

POM. He went to Germany.

FR. Yes. I think he was going for training there.

POM. That's right.

FR. MK training. I lost contact with him then. I moved from London in 1961 to Norway and started the Anti Apartheid Movement in Norway as well. Then in 1979, no, no, I heard sometime later that Mac was arrested in SA and sentenced to a 12 year imprisonment and there was a lot of talk about that he was too incompetent or that he was not experienced enough to do the kind of work he did or something like that. Then the fellow that went with him, Nandha Naidoo, was also arrested but, I don't know how it happened or what happened, but I found Nandha later on in London, some years later, very angry with what happened I think. But anyway I didn't get the details because Nandha seemed to have been disturbed by all that.

POM. Very angry over how they were arrested?

FR. Arrested I think yes, arrested and all that happened to him while he was there. I think it had something to do with that people didn't support. I really don't know the story. Anyway he was very upset and then I think that upset him further that he probably developed a slight mental disturbance for a while but I saw him recently, he's OK now.

POM. He was very angry with Mac?

FR. I think he was with Mac in that same blow up that they were doing. I don't know what happened, whether he quarrelled with Mac, I don't know.  I qualified as a psychiatrist eventually in Norway and then I was trying to get back to Africa. By then I couldn't go to SA because the SA government discovered –

POM. What you were up to. 'We don't want this guy back.'

FR. They renewed my passport the first time but the second time in Norway they said, "No, we'll give you a travel document to go back to SA." I said, "No way." I decided to stay as a refugee for the rest of my days in Norway. In 1979 I got a message from Lindiwe Mabuso who was the Chief Representative in Stockholm. I was always talking to her and asking about getting back into the camps and working with the people as a psychiatrist or a doctor, but she said, "No, you know it's very difficult, people will be asking questions. They don't know who you are", and so on. So I had to wait to get some kind of chance to get there. But in 1979 the ANC made an appeal in the Sechaba calling for doctors to come and help after they started the schools in Tanzania and in the camps. Then it was the exodus of thousands, hundreds of students in 1976 and suddenly the ANC, which was not prepared for such an experience, suddenly found themselves playing host to hundreds of youths without tents and food and so on so they had to very hurriedly try and get things done. During this period of time there were lots of psychiatric disturbances and people were having difficulties with their mental state. But they didn't think about psychiatrists at the time but they just called on South Africans to help as doctors and when Mabuso rang me from Stockholm and asked me if I had read about this, and of course I didn't, but she gave me the address and so on and then I wrote to Lusaka and told them that I was willing to work.

POM. Who did you contact, can you remember, in Lusaka?

FR. Alfred Nzo, the Secretary General. They were very happy. When I arrived – we had to pay our own fares of course, the ANC didn't have any money at the time to do anything so we paid our own fares, we went by Aeroflot, the milk train to Africa. You know about Aeroflot don't you? So that's the other story. Anyway I got to Lusaka and there I met Oliver Tambo and Nzo and they were very glad that I was willing to come but there were no other doctors who came voluntarily from outside, abroad.

POM. So you were the whole thing?

FR. Yes, the only one that came there to start doing some kind of work if necessary. There were one or two Englishmen but they just came for the conference that was going to be held on the ANC health programme. I was immediately put to work. I talked to OR Tambo, they introduced me to him and we had a long chat on politics plus why people got psychiatric problems.

POM. Why did he think, what was his - ?

FR. He asked me what is the cause of psychiatric problems. Then I explained to him that different situations contribute to mental illness. Then while talking he suddenly said, "When we planned the revolution we did not think of psychiatric problems or mental health problems. We thought we'd just have a revolution but I didn't envisage the development of social and other problems." Later on it turned out that the girls were becoming pregnant and they were producing children, this I am writing in my autobiography as well, where they didn't expect that to happen. These children and pregnant women became an economic burden for the ANC because they had to take care of them.

POM. These were the girls in the camps?

FR. Camps and schools and wherever. But the first thing was that they did not anticipate mental health problems in the revolutionary movement. Then he asked me how long it took to produce a psychiatrist and I told him from the time I started studying medicine until the time I became a specialist it takes about 15 years. He said, "Wow! That's long."

POM. We could do two revolutions in that time.

FR. Anyway he appreciated the fact that I was willing to come and he made me feel very welcome and accepted. My first visit was very, very difficult because everybody was suspecting everybody in Lusaka or in the camps and everywhere.

POM. What camps did you go to at that time?

FR. I started working immediately because the one thing that happened was that they gathered all the patients that they had with various mental problems and social difficulties and so on and so on, so I was working almost from the time I arrived there up to 18, 19 hours a day and Wolfie - I don't know if you know Wolfie?

POM. Yes, I interviewed him before he died. Sorry, I didn't, I was going to. But yes, I know him.

FR. Wolfie said to me, "How can you work so many hours?" I said, "Well this is why I came to Lusaka." So I had to work hours and hours going through dozens of patients each day.

POM. How many patients would you have?

FR. I had about 18 patients a day, that's about one hour twenty minutes each. I was working long into the night.

POM. So would they bring them, had they all these people housed in one facility in Lusaka?

FR. They had a so-called youth centre and they gave me a room to interview them there in the youth centre.

POM. But where were they keeping them?

FR. They were living in different residences in Lusaka, the houses were all in the civilian area. They brought them from the different residences to this centre where I was doing the interviews and assessing their state of health and doing therapy and so on. It was really – they had no medicine, nothing at the time.

POM. You said it was very difficult to work in Lusaka at that time because everyone was suspicious of everybody else?

FR. Yes. The one thing that I immediately got to know was because when I arrived I didn't know anything about security, I didn't know anything about espionage and so on, so I was very open and if I met somebody I asked what's your name, where do you come from, just ordinary conversation, and people just stopped and looked at me. Dr Msimang, who is now deceased, said to me, "Freddy, when you are in Africa you don't ask questions, you don't ask people's names and you don't ask them where they are going to or where they have come from. Just learn that." That stuck, then I realised what was happening, then I didn't ask any more questions I just waited for people to be presented. Then of course all the patients were even more suspicious because I didn't know what was happening in the security systems because they were being interrogated or they were writing so-called CVs before they entered the ANC and this, of course, I did not know very much about that at that particular time but later on, there's a long story about that that is being written down.

. So these guys were even more suspicious of me because I learnt later on that they thought that I was interviewing them to give information to the ANC security because I would get a lot of details if you get them to talk. On the other side there were a lot of people in the security suspecting that if I came from abroad I was a spy of the South Africans.

POM. You must have felt really welcome.

FR. This was the first time I arrived there.

POM. At that time, just in your first run through, was there any commonality among the patients you examined in terms of their mental states?

FR. You mean commonality of diagnosis?

POM. Yes, were there one or two or three things that were prevalent among a lot of them?

FR. Well I did an assessment later on. It turned out that 80% were suspicious of each other. I've got the statistics somewhere written down. They were suspicious of each other, they did not trust anybody, they felt lonely even when they were in the company of other people and they were in a high state of anxiety, depression. Those were the main factors I discovered. This being suspicious, I wrote a poem about it actually Those were the main things that I noticed, depression, those were the major outstanding factors that I registered.

. So the question of in the camps, it was apparently even worse. I didn't know that then the health department who had Tchino(?), Manto and Dr Mtlang(?) were the chief –

POM. Sorry, who were the first ones? Doctor?

FR. Dr Mtlang, he was the chairman of the health committee. Then there was this Tchino, then there was Manto. They were the three main doctors that were there.

POM. That's the present Minister of Health is it? Manto?

FR. Minister of Health, yes. I did not know that they were deciding to send me to the camps and that the security was now arguing and discussing me as a security problem or a security risk because nobody knew me there. So I didn't know that Piliso, who was the head of security I think at the time –

POM. That's right.

FR. You know him, you've met him?

POM. He's dead now.

FR. Well they contacted him and of course I knew him in London because we worked together in London. He was in London when I arrived and we did a lot of work together so he knew me and so he could vouch for me. Then the first trip was to Angola to our command office in Luanda and from Luanda that's where I met Masondo. No Masondo came –

POM. It would have been a bit later.

FR. No there were some other young guys, somebody by the name of Ali(?) and so on and Piliso was there of course. Even there they had already prepared patients for me and I started working immediately, seeing them sitting out in the garden, under trees and interviewing them and talking to them and getting their histories.

POM. Among this group, again, was there a prevalent diagnosis that applied to the majority of them rather than to individuals?

FR. Individuals, but here in this case there were some very severe psychotic cases and so on. I didn't make any kind of assessment through any kind of programme. It was mainly the same kind of problems, psychotics and psychosis was prevalent, depression, anxiety and suspicion all the time, fear all the time. At the time I didn't feel very much that there was so much talk about spies and so on but you see I didn't know what was happening in terms of security and I didn't even think about espionage and counter-espionage and infiltration and so on, because I was a doctor and I didn't think about these things. Then it came out – no, at the residence there were those who were living in Luanda, they were not in the camps. Then from Luanda I was sent to the camps lying right out in the bushes, hundreds of kilometres away. I then went to the camps and a lot of these things have been written down in my autobiography and I'm trying to finish as soon as possible.

POM. Thank you! I mean I was going to say just give me the name now, I'll get it right now. You're like myself, you can read all about Mac in my book. Well you know, I'm still writing it.

FR. So I went to the camps and Piliso was there so I accompanied Piliso from one camp to the other and then the medical assistants chose the people that needed help and so I interviewed them and so on.

POM. What was the general picture you were getting of the state of guys who were in the camps?

FR. Well what I discovered as a general condition was that the camps had two or three groups of cadres. One was the Cuban group and the other was the German group and the third was the Russian group. When I say that I mean those who had either studied or were taught or trained in these areas. So those who trained in let's say Cuba knew each other, knew the language, spoke Portuguese and so they formed a kind of an ad hoc group in the camp so they usually socialised with each other and they met together and so on. The East German ones did the same and the Russians did the same. A lot of it was discussion around ideologies and the differences arose because of the differences of opinion as to who had the best form of socialism, whether it was Germans, Russians or Cubans, that kind of thing.

POM. But did you find any kind of, what would I say? Here they were sitting in camps in Angola really doing nothing, waiting for the revolution to happen but they weren't going home to take part in any revolution, they were out there in the bush.

FR. I'll tell you about that. So I discovered that and that was a major area of conflict or, let's say, fragmentation that took place in the camps. But now the worst thing was that I discovered that most of these people, as I have written in my book, were young people who left SA after Soweto believing that they will go outside, leave the country, train as a group, train as soldiers and come back. Most of them left individually, we must remember that, so they were going to go back as individuals, as trained cadres and do sabotage and take revenge on what was happening. They thought that would take place in about three or four months or even half a year and they will be back but what they did not know was that that was not going to take place. You must remember that before that period the Wankie expedition with Chris Hani – he was arrested there I think?

POM. He was in Botswana, yes.

FR. Yes, that Wankie expedition failed and since then there was a very long lull, there was a period from in the seventies where up to 1976, 1977 where the ANC was almost inactive in many ways, even MK was up to then inactive. So even in Europe we noticed that. So it was after 1976 when these students came out or the youth came out and there were all kinds of people in the groups. I'm reading all my information from my book, I can't do that, can I?

POM. You can, I'm going to give it back to you anyway when I give you the transcript so you can look at it and say, "Yeah, OK, my writing has been done. I just talked that chapter."

FR. Yes, and so the expectation was that they would return home within a short period. I think most of them were talking about six months training and they should be back in the country but that did not happen and there were no programmes for them. So what the camp leaders did was that they made them dig trenches and fill the trenches again.

POM. They were digging trenches and then filling them back up?

FR. Filling them again because this was a desolate part of Angola, right deep in the jungle, there were no people around, there were no cities around, no even villages around. It was pretty isolated and once you were in there you were in there and there was no way of getting out of there.

POM. How many would be in a camp?

FR. Well I didn't get the figures altogether but I don't think there were very many, a couple of maybe a hundred, two hundred in one or a hundred in the other, or fifty in another, something like that, I don't know exactly. Then they were bored by this and they didn't know what to do with that so the boredom turned into frustration and frustration into conflict with their commanders. So the camp leaders were experiencing difficulties in that sense. To alleviate that situation they sent them for this same training course again and again and this again caused frustration and most of them were not moving to any place to do any kind of thing that they anticipated or planned to do when they left the country, so in other words there was no action taking place and this was causing a lot of psychological frustration in the camps that I went to.

. There is one story about one guy I wrote about who worked as a medical assistant and he was having a lot of problems and it turned out that he was on a train either from Russia to East Germany, one of those trips, and he was pretty drunk, he was with a couple of guys and they were sitting in the coupé and this fellow decided that he wanted to go out of the coupe and look into the other compartments to see if there were any girls sitting around. Then he walked and he opened the door into one of the compartments and to his biggest surprise Masondo was sitting in the coupé and this fellow just barged in, he was drunk you see. Masondo didn't say a word apparently, he just re-adjusted his behaviour, left the coupé and went back and then he landed in this camp called Quibaxe as a medical assistant and he believed that he was not going anywhere because of that incident on the train. So you see how these little things that happened to these boys and girls here and there would - the authorities or leaders of the ANC caused them to fantasise so many things that were not really real as well you see.

POM. Now were there boys and girls in these camps or were they segregated?

FR. Oh there were both men and women in the camps.

POM. There had to be sexual activity between them.

FR. In the camps it was not so easy because I think they had pretty good control over that in the camps, but elsewhere in the city areas like Lusaka, Dar Es Salaam and other such areas, the relationships were quite – the social conditions were quite loose so people met in cafes, restaurants and went to visit each other in their residences and so on. But in the camps it was not so easy because it was so isolated and so easy to control. There are lots of case stories that I'm writing down in my autobiography but this is too long, this is about Mac, it's not about this.

POM. Yes. When are we going to get to Mac?

FR. When will we get to Mac? You see I went to all the camps, most of the camps in Angola. I made an assessment of what was happening there.

POM. What were your major conclusions of that assessment?

FR. My major conclusions were that I recommended that since they did not have any direct infiltration programmes for these youths they were living in these camps isolated, they had no social intercourse with anybody, they were bored, they came from urban areas and they were suddenly put into these bush areas so one had to try and give them some kind of meaningful activity rather than refilling these trenches and sending them to different courses which they have been doing again and again. I suggested that, for example, that they should get a team together and dismantle a jeep through the working manual, or a manual of a jeep assembly, what do you call that?

POM. I know what you mean.

FR. So they all could work as a group assembling and dismantling a jeep which will give them double qualifications in that they will know how a jeep functions, how it will be put together and then if they returned home they will also know how to do car repairs so they could get a job. I suggested that they bring in typewriters so that people can learn how to use a typewriter. I planned activities on the basis of what was easily transportable to those distant areas.

POM. Did you get any sense of paranoia that there were spies among them?

FR. That was rife, that was continuous all the time. When I interviewed them of course they wanted to make sure that I was not giving information to anybody and I told them, no, I'm a psychiatrist. I am bound to confidentiality and I can't give them any kind of information regardless of what you say unless you tell me what to do, but I can only give recommendations as to what you want, for example, whether you need treatment, whether I think this job is not good enough for you or that you should be transferred to hospital or something like that, that kind of recommendation. But I couldn't give them information, if you told me as my patient that you were a spy for somebody I can't give that information if it's going to cause your death, for example. I couldn't do that because of my professional training but anyway I could make recommendations for treatment or a retraining or schools or education or unfit for military things.

POM. Were they suspicious of each other?

FR. Yes, almost all of them were suspicious of each other all the time.

POM. What was the relationship between the command and the cadres?

FR. Well most of the cadres were always wanting to dream or fantasise, no the reality was that they wanted to meet the leaders of the movement, leaders of MK. Now the leaders of MK couldn't reach all these areas as quickly as if you were in Jo'burg and you tried one to speak to the other. These were hundreds of kilometres through difficult roads to get there and of course if Joe Modise came on a trip or if OR came on a trip it meant a lot of arrangement to get them there. These people were frustrated in a sense that they did not meet the true leaders of the movement as often as they would like to. They felt, they had a longing to meet the real leaders because that is what they wanted to do and they even left the country for that. So this was not possible or it was difficult, it was very rare that leaders went up that far north. It's the same kind of frustration that ended up in, I think, later on when the mutiny took place.

POM. Yes, in 1981?

FR. 1984.

POM. Were you surprised or did you say this was really the logical outcome of the conditions they were living under, the fact that they hadn't been moved for three or four years and had been out there, something like this was waiting to happen?

FR. Yes, I anticipated that but I didn't think it would be at that scale, I thought they would just protest and they will probably challenge the authorities or something like that. I didn't expect, I don't know to what extent the mutiny was but anyway I just heard about it as I heard about the Gang of Ten that were arrested as spies and one of them was the person that was the commander of the camp in Quibaxe. I knew him very well and he, of all things, was interested in classical music.

POM. What was his name?

FR. He was called Mahamba. So he is the one who apparently, this I am not sure of but I was told, he was the commander of the camp that I went to, one of the camps in Quibaxe, that's right because the other camps each had their own commander, and he was the one who drove me from Luanda to Quibaxe and on the way he told me a lot of stories about things that happened, for example – oh yes, I forget to tell you that when we went from Luanda we drove half way, nearly 100 kilometres and then stopped a truck and all of us got out and then they gave me a uniform, soldier's uniform. I didn't get the whole uniform.

POM. They made you an automatic General?

FR. I got an army jacket and an army hat which I had to wear before we went further into the camps. This had something to do with the military or something like that.

POM. Mahamba was telling you?

FR. Telling me stories about all the things that happened, hunting, and then he told me how the first doctor that was going to go to this particular camp was ambushed at a particular spot and he showed me the spot where this doctor was killed. That was the first doctor that was going to go there. Otherwise they had only medical assistants who were trained mainly in first aid work, they were not trained in any professional way and they were looking after all those young people in the camps and they knew nothing about medicine. They had a lot of difficulties and they were very happy that I came around to assist them.

POM. Did he strike you as somebody who cared for the men under his command?

FR. I didn't see him with his men but you see most of the people that were with him were his assistants. He was very charming, tall, handsome, well built and very articulate. I was really impressed by his figure. I was impressed by the story he told me, he was telling me the story about how he went hunting, went out with a group to hunt food for the people in the camps and he lay under a tree and a black mamba was approaching him and he was asleep but then he felt this intense heat of the sun on his face and it was getting so hot that he woke up and he woke up and he saw this black mamba coming towards him and he took his revolver and he shot it. These kind of stories he used to tell me on the way. Then he told me how to get food, there was a shortage of food.

. The other thing was that in the camps we ate – in one camp we had yellow mealie meal three or four times a day. This mealie meal came from somewhere in West Africa. So when food came the food came in bulk loads so that meant that for three, four months the same item was served again and again and I found this – and everybody in the camps was so frustrated that some of them did not even want to eat. The human being needs more variety than other animals. Goats can eat grass all the time and survive but human beings, the diet causes a lot of problems as well as psychological problems. So eating this mealie meal, yellow meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner was the most frustrating thing that they experienced. Even I started reacting after just three or four days.

. In another camp they had these dog biscuits, they used to call it dog biscuits. They came from Russia I think in cans. These biscuits were thick and a lot of protein and were made for Russian soldiers I think and they had to eat that continuously and then they had loads of these Russian sardines. They had a special name for it and you had that.

POM. But you'd have the same thing, in different camps you'd have the same thing, you'd either have sardines three times a day or you'd have mealie meal three times a day or you'd have Russian dog biscuits three times a day? Oh my God.

FR. Yes. The dog biscuits in between but it was the same thing. So in one camp I used to get sardines all the time; in another camp I was getting mealie meal all the time. There were no vegetables to go with it. Angola was in a terrible state, there was no food for the people in the country. Nothing was being tilled, the coffee plantations were left, were abandoned and they were not producing anything. No garden vegetables were being produced and there was no money in the country. People were bartering things that they had with each other. Our camps were placed in this kind of a state where food was almost impossible and the food just was mealie meal, sardines, dog biscuits again and again and again. I was so frustrated that I asked many of the commanders to send somebody who would go into the bushes, go to these abandoned farms to find wild tomatoes or wild chillies or things like that, and I found them.

POM. Why didn't they organise the young people in the camps to go out and do that?

FR. The thing was that they were all - in my opinion everything happened so suddenly that people were not prepared for these kind of numbers that were arriving.

POM. But this is 1980 now you know.

FR. Yes 1980.

POM. You go out there and you find food in an abandoned farm and the commander of the camp never thinks, you know what? I'll send some of the people under my control, I'll send them out every day and I'll have them go to these farms and look for food and gather the food.

FR. It just didn't occur to them. I think they were so concerned about their security, about training and they were constantly under attack by the Savimbi people from the north. I think they concentrated more on this happening and that is why they just had to survive on whatever they had. They didn't think about these other things.

POM. Providing.

FR. It didn't occur to them until I came and started talking and we went around looking and we found some of these things.

POM. Was there a certain degree of, what would I call it, kind of dependency that had been inculcated because of their situation? They waited on supplies to come rather than having the initiative to say, OK, we've got to go out and find the food ourselves. They just sat there and waited till the trucks arrived with the mealie meal and the sardines, that there was a certain lack of initiative?

FR. Yes, well lack of initiative also because you needed camp discipline, you couldn't leave the camps without permission and the commanders were young, inexperienced, they didn't know about guerrilla warfare, they did not know how to live off the land even though some of them were trained in Libya and learnt how to survive in the desert but this was Angola, it was bush country. In Libya I was told that they were taught how to catch a sand snake, bite the back of the neck and skin the whole thing in one pull and eat the snake.

POM. But there were no snakes hanging around there in Angola.

FR. Most of the wild animals had disappeared because of the firing, gunshots, they had depleted the stock of, for example, wild animal food. No deer and whatever there was there, so the crocodiles also disappeared and what they did was they used to take a grenade and throw it into the water to stun the fish. Can you imagine that?

POM. Oh I've been fishing! Guerrilla fishing. So in all of this where did you bump into Mac again?

FR. I didn't meet Mac at all during that period of time, no I didn't see Mac at all in the camps. This was the time when I went. This was the kind of situation in the camps in Angola and then because if somebody came up with the initiative and made some plans then one of them I know personally was very, very articulate and he spoke English so well, he was already in a prison quarter when I met him.

POM. He was already in?

FR. In prison under arrest because I was told to even see them to see that they got the proper treatment and so on.

POM. Why was he under arrest? He was under arrest for?

FR. Well whatever, I don't know. They gave all kinds of reasons, that he was undisciplined. Now the only thing this fellow did wrong was that – he went to school, I think he must have had about a standard five or standard six education and he was very intelligent so he learnt the English language to such a high level that anybody speaking to him would think that they were talking to a university graduate with majors in English language. So this fellow had started bringing things to try and alleviate their position so he went around organising tents or something like that, I don't know, so he was very active and this activity caused problems for him because they began suspecting him now; what was he doing, where does he get these ideas? I don't know. This was one thing that quelled any kind of initiative from people who were not in the commanding position.

POM. So if you were just a cadre and you started having ideas about maybe how you could do this better or that better or do something you immediately were upsetting the status quo, spreading ideas that people shouldn't be thinking about, therefore you had to be an agent.

FR. Exactly. Much of that had taken place because the people who were in command were not Oliver Tambo, Joe Modise, in place, they were subordinates, they were camp commanders who had no experience, some of them did not have education to the level of some people that came in after 1979 and so they misinterpreted because of lack of knowledge and suspected these kind of activities as being subversive. So the poor fellow, I felt so sorry for him, I said, "You shouldn't have learnt the language as well as that", like Kader Asmal does.

. So a lot of things like this happened where it was not easy to control from Lusaka or Robben Island. These things were taking place on a different level. So that was my first experience. Then of course for many years I've been going up, in and out, from 1979 to 1990 so a lot of things take place as we go on.

. From there I go to Mozambique and from Mozambique I go to Tanzania, from Tanzania I go back to Lusaka and give a report of what I have seen, what I have done and what the state of things were like. But I did it as a psychiatrist, I didn't say much about any other things. These are the things I saw and these are the things I have written about and had seminars in Lusaka about, these kind of things, so it's not unknown but it comes later on.

. So at one stage, I'm not sure whether it was 1986 or 1987 or 1988 when I arrived in Lusaka, I heard that Mac was around so I asked people if I could meet Mac. Oh no, Mac was a mysterious person, he was either here or there, but one day, I was usually placed in somebody's house and so I was placed with a South African expatriate who was working as a plumber, he was not an ANC member but he was just working there and he had a house so they sent me to stay with him. While talking to him I said it was a pity that I wouldn't meet Mac because I know Mac is out of Lusaka. He says, "No man, Mac is not out of Lusaka." I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "You want to meet him?" I said, "Yes I would like to meet him." He said, "OK, I'll take you there." And so this man drove me to Mac's little outhouse that was in Lusaka. We knocked on the door and Mac and his wife Zarina, he was now married to Zarina, Mac opened the door and he saw me standing there. He said, "Hey, what are you doing here? Nobody is supposed to know where I am living." Now imagine me coming all the way from Norway and I find Mac so easily. And you know they talked about security and very often it was – to me it appeared like everybody knew everything that was taking place and they said it was security, I didn't really think there was any security there.

. So that was my first meeting with Mac in Lusaka and then we talked a little. There was very little time with him. I think it was late in the evening when I met him and we just talked about trivial things and I left him there. But this one thing that sticks in my mind, "Nobody is supposed to know where I am. How did you find me now?" In other words, are you a bloody spy as well?

POM. Oh you're listed in the Oslo telephone book, Flat number 73.

FR. OK, and that was about 1980. Then I met Mac again at a meeting, it was the time when the SA government was really active in eliminating people, the bombs in Maseru and Albie Sachs and Slovo's wife being killed, bombs in Paris and so on. I was in Lusaka at the time and that's when I saw Mac entering a meeting with bodyguards, police bodyguards on each side and he was under protection. I think that was 1988, 1989. That was the same position with Phyllis in Harare when I lived with Phyllis. When I went to see comrades in Lusaka –

POM. That's Phyllis Naidoo?

FR. Yes, she was also under police protection and I had to go through police checks all the time before I entered the house, each day in and out. So that's when I met Mac but I didn't talk to him. Then he was married to Zarina and when I found him with Zarina I didn't have any particular wish to be in their company. That was when I saw Mac again.

POM. Now how did you know Tim?

FR. Tim was in Downhills Park Road in London, she lived there for a while when Mac was in London.

POM. So you knew them when Mac was in London and then she stayed on in London until he came back from the GDR.

FR. I left her in London and then she went back to SA and that's a hell of a story where she was actually isolated, lived in frustration, fear. I am sure she told you the whole story about when she went waiting for months and months and go to Robben Island to meet him and he abused her and so on. She told you the story, didn't she?

POM. She told me, I have talked to her on a number of occasions and my impression is that she still is very bitter over the whole thing. She feels that she came back and she spent over 90 days in isolation and she went and lived in Cape Town, waited hand and foot on him, and then because of the harassment she was under in Durban she left and went back to London. Then he came out of jail and just vented his anger on her and took off with Zarina. She felt like a fool, but she was the last person to find out that he was going around London with Zarina while he was complaining about the size of the flat she was in in London, that it was too small for him to entertain.

FR. You see there are things about Mac that I just couldn't understand. First he was a communist, he was for socialism, he was for equality, a classless society and so on. Then he goes to prison, he comes out, the way he treated Tim all the time. He did not look up to Tim with respect because he had some sort of grandiose ideas, self-image that was not true about himself. His own background from what I know from little tales here and there and an interview I had on TV with him about the brutality of the police and the way he was treated, what I know from friends who lived near his house, the way his parents treated him, abused him, Mac was I think so bitter inside himself with all that happened to him.

POM. His father abused him?

FR. His father, yes, he hit him in public I believe. Living in Newcastle where they were living, I knew his neighbours, they told me about this, when he was a little boy. Then after that he comes out – many people become revolutionary leaders by chance, by small things you do and then suddenly people just use you and you get into it and then you start moving at your momentum based on your unconscious, the unconscious factors inside yourself, the driving force. So I think Mac had a lot of aggression which was compounded by the arrests and beating by the police. I believe the police beat him so badly in prison that you don't forget those things. Then when you come out of that kind of situation and you come into a position of authority then you become very, very authoritarian, an authoritarian personality, a tendency to become arrogant, a tendency to look down upon people which he actually did once with me but I did not retort at all, I just looked at him in his eyes and I said, "OK, I will get you one day." And Mac was a person if you did something to him then he will make sure that you pay for it some way or the other. This is the kind of personality I experienced with him.

. And so, where was I now, and then it was his wife, I met his wife Tim after they got married. That he should then give all this up, all these ideas, I was so surprised when I heard this advertisement on the radio where he is doing an advertisement for the sale of The Economist, the magazine. I was so surprised. How did this man become a capitalist? Then he's a director of the bank and then he says he's not a communist any more.  He is like various other people have done in SA as well. All these kind of things don't talk about very strong personalities with conviction, it's almost opportunistic in a way to say that, well, it was like that but I can't do that any more, I must do something different or something like that. Do you know what I mean?

POM. So if you had to make, if I said to you what do you know about him? Has the information you have and the behaviour you've observed – how would you describe him personalitywise? If I said to you, who is Mac? And I'm talking about his kind of psychological, personality make-up.

FR. As a psychiatrist, as a professional, I will look upon Mac as a grown-up man with a hurt child inside himself that is constantly trying to overcome a deep pain and his behaviour is then directed to becoming that person who persecuted him at some time or other in his life, whether it was early childhood or the police and all that kind of thing. To do this you need the material needs, money, this and that, so this might be the reason why he behaves that way because I used to sometimes go to Lusaka, for example, when he was a member of the Executive Committee of the ANC - you know that?

POM. Oh yes.

FR. And you know he resigned from some kind of thing where he was supposed to, what was it, I can't remember exactly, he resigned the post because he didn't want to accept a secondary post or something like that. Did he tell you about that?  The reason why he resigned from the Executive Committee?

POM. He resigned from the ANC because, he says, the interim leadership appointed by Lusaka didn't include people in the underground. That could mean him, but he says 'people in the underground'.

FR. Because he was underground as well you see. This also points to the kind of thing that if Mac doesn't get what he wants then he will opt out and do it in another way to get that kind of recognition I think. I'm speculating now. This is just an analysis so I don't know how far that is true. This is ideas that go through my mind when I think of Mac. I don't know, I'm talking so much I don't know where I am now.

POM. You'll get a transcript of the whole thing. Does it surprise you that after all these years that Tim hasn't let go?

FR. What did you say?

POM. That she hasn't let go.

FR. No, no, it doesn't surprise me at all because he treated her like muck. He wanted a woman who was like Zarina, educated, upstanding, with status, so that he could, what do you call that, adorn himself with.

POM. Kind of fed into a sense of grandiosity.

FR. Exactly, fit into that kind of pattern, not pattern, what do you call it? You know I speak Norwegian every day.

POM. You do? Well your English is fantastic.

FR. I speak Norwegian for the last 40 years now, hardly any English. That sort of thing that you go into the limelight and you have this partner with you who could meet that audience in the limelight. Tim was a nurse, I don't think she did more than standard eight and she was a very loyal, Hindu girl, and she was loyal to the husband that she was married to but she did not think about becoming the wife of the President of South Africa or the minister or whatever it is and so she did it the way the Hindu women do, get married and be loyal to your husband. But now Mac had other ambitions in life which we did not think about, or at least I didn't even think about it. The reason why I've not been running to SA to get into the Health Department to become some kind of a pen pusher there is simply because that's not what I thought about when I began my work against apartheid. I worked so that everybody could be equal, justice, education and so on. I think that may be for me personally but I did think that Mac was that type as well, but then you see suddenly he's a director of a bank, he renounces all the things that he once told us that he stood up for and then I see him in different situations and the things he said to me in Lusaka made him quite a different person. So that's the story I can tell you about Mac. But instead of Mac I've been telling you all about the camps.

POM. That's terrific, the camps are far more interesting. When are you going to Johannesburg?

FR. I'll be arriving on 21 June.

POM. And you're staying until?

FR. I think 26 July. Then I'll be in Pretoria and Durban. The first week in Pretoria, the rest of the time in Durban because I'm going to fix my flat.

POM. Is there a number I can reach you at there?

FR. You can leave a message if you don't get me.

POM. I will indeed and I'll have a transcript of this interview for you then we can go over it and talk some more. I look forward to meeting you. Maybe you'll have your autobiography finished by then and you can give me a copy.

FR. I'm not a writer, I don't know how it's going to sound when I write it on paper.

POM. I will see you here. Bye bye now.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.