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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

11 Dec 2002: Maharaj, Mac

POM. We are just talking about after his release from Robben Island, the Press Council in the UK. Is that right?

MM. No, in SA.

POM. In SA, arranged for – ?

MM. No, they hadn't arranged. The prison authorities and government arranged for a surprise visit to Robben Island by a whole delegation of journalists. This was in early 1977 and somewhere around February/March all the newspapers in SA published extensive reports of this visit to Robben Island glorifying the wonderful conditions under which we were living, wonderful cells, wonderful working conditions, diet, and they carried a photograph of Madiba saying that he was there with a spade, that he was trying to shun the pressmen and avoid them. Now it was such a glorification that I looked around to say how do I take this matter up even though I'm under house arrest and I've just come out of prison. Sometime in March/April, about three to four weeks after the articles appeared I found out that the government had created a Press Council to which complaints on press conduct could be filed and I thought that if I filed a line by line criticism and factual repudiation of those reports and filed it with the Press Council I would (a) get a hearing and (b) through that hearing although I was prohibited from speaking to the media, I would get the media to publish the alternative version, at least one of the media. So I prepared a fairly thick dossier and applied to the Press Council, found that the rules had said that you had to file your complaint within so many days of the report being published, so I was late, but I applied for condonation for late filing of my complaint and simultaneously filed the substantive complaint. Well all that the Press Council did to me was to respond by saying that my application for condonation was turned down so it never got into the media that I was repudiating and challenging the facts.

. However, I took that report when I went abroad and I think I filed it with the UN Special Committee on apartheid but because of that preparation when I got into London and I was interviewed by the Defence & Aid people my response here would be very tight, almost not like a verbal response because the issues were so crystallised in my mind. So that's why I think that the interview response you would find that you don't get me as the person coming out but on the other hand this memoir that I wrote as a tribute to Mandela on his 60th birthday, that my recollection says is something that I wrote, and I was planning to write something longer than what it was, but it was really trying to get a flavour of what I experienced on my way out from Robben Island in all the prisons in the wake of the Soweto uprising and about the way people were perceiving Mandela who by 1976 had been in prison already for 14 years. He had never been seen, no photographs were published, no article had appeared, no interview had appeared about the man, and the regime was consciously trying to bury us into oblivion and yet I was saying that in every prison I passed through, as the young people were pouring into prison, this was the single question they asked me when they learnt that I was coming out of Robben Island, "Have you met Mandela? What kind of a man is he?" And I was trying to say here that not just not forgotten but in a very positive way at a mass level there was really in the black masses a deep sense of attachment to him. That is why I quote this poem – Bounded you gave me knowledge of freedom, Silenced you taught me how to speak. It's a wonderful poem by this young Jennifer Davids.

POM. I'll work both of those into –

MM. The full poem is a poem that's written as a tribute to Chief Luthuli when he died and Jennifer Davids is from the Cape Flats area, Manenberg area, a young coloured girl, she was 21 at the time when she wrote this tribute to Luthuli and we smuggled it into prison. I was stunned by the quality of that poem. I subsequently tracked her down when I got out of prison and was abroad and I found that she was teaching in South London and I met her but by this time she was working as a teacher, she had gone abroad, she was still interested in poetry but she was now into the poetry of Gerald Manly Hopkins. Then I lost contact with her. I thought she was a very, very promising poet. When I came into the country in 1987/88 – no, post-1990, I heard that she's somewhere in Namibia but she disappeared. All that potential as a writer, if you read her poems –

POM. Is the full poem available any place?

MM. I asked David Philip because it was published by David Philip as a small book of poems under the title Searching for Words. So I did ask and maybe we could follow it up with David Philip to find out if they've got one somewhere and even if it's photocopied I'd love to have one. I can remember so many of her poems. There's one to her mother, she was displaying an enormous talent of word-smithing and ideas and Luthuli, this poem on Luthuli, the one tribute to Luthuli was written, when I spoke to her in London she said it was written after Luthuli died and here was this 21 year old coloured girl from Manenberg Flats.

POM. She's in London?

MM. No Cape Town, and Chief Luthuli has died and of course the papers don't carry much about him but that knowledge, that rudimentary knowledge of Chief Luthuli inspired her to write this poem in which you'd never heard of this man, you'd never heard of him, you never heard him speak and she says there, 'Bounded, you gave me knowledge how to speak.' Just this portion, she says of Chief Luthuli, 'Bounded',and he was banned, 'You gave me knowledge of freedom. Silenced (he was not allowed to speak) you taught me how to speak.'

POM. Lovely.

MM. The full poem is such a wonderful tribute to Luthuli because if I remember it, it starts off about his fingers curled around the universe. It's astounding but all that promise and potential, growing up in the Cape Coloured Flats in a deprived community.

POM. I'll get somebody on that.

MM. It's David Philips publisher. The book is by Jennifer Davids and it's entitled Searching for Words. A wonderful book of poetry. When I got that in prison, when I smuggled in that book of poems, I'd read them I said, here's a talented black poet coming up. She said that life was impossible to make her way. She ended up getting to London and she just got caught in the business of daily living. Inspiration, life has knocked it out, squashed it.

POM. Is she still writing in Namibia?

MM. Maybe she is but not publishing it. I said last night at the Ismail Meer book launch, I was the MC at the Ismail Meer book launch –

POM. How did that go?

MM. It went very well and I said that there is a problem about publishers giving support and facilitating up and coming writers particularly from the black community because they need a lot of support if they are to really flower. You can't expect the word-smithing that you can get easily so you need to help them but they also need resources because what does it mean, a best seller in SA is 3000 copies. I am sure David Philip when he published her work in 1969 or so he took a loss on it, so if he took a loss what did Jennifer get? Nothing.

POM. Anyway, there could be a number of places to start but since I saw in the paper this morning, I think it was the Cape Times, it said the ANC is considering – they're going to look for a broad national amnesty.

MM. I saw the headline, I haven't read the article.

POM. This is the Cape Times of 11 December.

MM. It's not a new matter. It says that this is coming from the ANC structures in KZN because you know that the TRC process never won the co-operation of the IFP in relation to issues that arose in KZN and secondly, as you know, the security forces who were summoned before the TRC you had to extract bits of truth from them like extracting a tooth without bloody anaesthetics, so they never came clean. The political settlement, particularly in the framework of the government of national coalition where the IFP came into government facilitated a process of diminishing and virtually eliminating political violence as a day-to-day event in that province but it has been a province that has been simmering and many of the comrades in the ANC who come from that area have been saying that the TRC process did not adequately deal with the situation in KZN, that therefore they think that there should be a special amnesty process to facilitate the stabilisation and long term elimination of violence in relation to political differences in that province. There has been from time to time some resurgence of violence, both parties claim that it is not coming from them but from time to time it does erupt. So there are tensions there but the proposal has been a controversial one in that even Archbishop Tutu has said that creating a special amnesty process, having closed the book through the TRC process, would be undermining of the TRC process. I think that there are elements in the white right in the country, represented by the Ferdi Hartzenbergs who have also argued that there are certain issues and certain individuals from their own community whose problems need to be addressed also within the framework of a special amnesty. So there are those pressures. I suppose the matter became once more topical in the recent presidential pardons which are there as a power within the capacity of the President through the constitution but because some people were released and immediately went on to commit – one of them is appearing in a trial – it has once more raised the question whether the presidential pardons were being used for issues that should have been addressed through the TRC process.

POM. And those pardons were all one-sided in the sense that –

MM. The presidential pardon and the granting is a sort of periodic thing that a president exercises in a country in relation to the prison population. Mandela had also granted certain pardons long before the TRC had even gone through a quarter of its work. Obviously it caused some controversy but this time it caused it more because the feeling was that in that list of pardons this year there were a number of people who were serving in prison for so-called political offences. The Minister of Justice has been saying that he processed those as the normal pardon process that the President exercises and sent it on as recommendations to the President. Clearly the issue there was not – this proposal is saying can the ANC conference discuss the matter as a political issue, amnesty for people who still claim to be in prison for political reasons or who are still fearing that they could be charged, whereas the normal presidential pardon is an act of clemency that the President utilises in order to say, OK, here's a person who's been in prison, what does the person's conduct in prison say? I don't think the criteria as set out, I'm not aware whether the criteria for the exercise of that clemency are set out but the normal process that I would expect is that the Ministers of Justice and Correctional Services process the matter and say this is not a parole matter but the conduct is such that we have reason to believe that the person has remorse and that he can be reintegrated in society.

POM. But do you think that if there were what would be called a general amnesty and those who had been convicted of crimes associated with the apartheid era, whether they are security force police or people like Clive Derby-Lewis or the policemen who killed Steve Biko, do you think that would undermine the TRC?

MM. The potential to undermine the work of the TRC is there because one of the fundamental pillars of the TRC amnesty process was tell the truth. But you see when the truth, even if you came forward with it and the truth is delayed for too long, the effect of that truth telling is undermined. As happened in the TRC the feeling was that many of the apartheid Security Branch forces were only coming forward and talking about little segments of what they did where they thought the TRC had considerable information. They did not come forward and volunteer and come clean. Now if an amnesty process comes up now (a) the delay in timing, (b) where's your cut-off point? Is it pre-1994 or does it go on to those who continued to engage in violence after 1994? Because there's a watershed with 1994 because that watershed is democracy, the advent of democracy and the creation of the TRC. So the mechanisms were provided and if you did not utilise it for things you did in the tenure of that thing, why now?

. The other side of the picture, of course, is would an amnesty with clear guidelines and transparently declared guidelines, help to further strengthen the entrenchment of democracy and the removal of conflict as a mechanism, of violence as a means of resolving conflicts and differences? Would it? I haven't heard the debate on that question. Hopefully this proposal will lead conference to debate those issues but I think you'd be hard put to justify it.

POM. To justify a general amnesty. But it in a sense means that given the resources of the country the fact that it's still in the kind of infant steps of its own democracy those who took a gamble on saying they won't come after me, have won out. Many of the guilty calculated the odds and said, "You know what? I'll take my chances."

MM. Yes. And in effect you could say those who said, I give no credibility to this new state's structures, have won out. Yes I think that's one element but I think why I said you'd be hard put in that debate to justify the need for a general amnesty is that you also have to look at the fact that in the social fabric of the country there is a widespread acceptance that criminality, bad as it is, is acceptable, that violence as a political means to resolve conflicts is still something that you could access. I think that's the dangerous point.

POM. Let's talk about that from two angles. One, the IFP took the TRC to court over the sections they wanted on Buthelezi. The TRC violated court orders in not producing the papers that were asked to be produced. In fact they are in contempt and have been in technical terms, so the question arises: why can't they produce the papers? If they can't produce the papers then how could they reasonably reach the conclusions that they did? That's question one, which puts a question mark behind the process again. That's question one I'd like you to address: why would the TRC act in this way if they had reached these conclusions? Because I told you before in relation to Boipatong, which I researched in depth, that there was no basis for any of their conclusions at all.

. Second, you have related to that the fact that you talk about the simmering violence that still exists particularly in KZN which I would suggest lends a little bit more credence to the argument that the war between the IFP and the ANC during the eighties and into the nineties was not just something that was constructed by the security forces, or that the security forces were primarily to blame for it, because in an era post that those tensions still exist and there's even talk now that if the IFP were to pull out of the government of national unity, which Buthelezi has indicated he is ready to do, you could have a new inflammatory situation in KZN in a matter of weeks, months and that something must be done to ameliorate that situation.

MM. Padraig, we can debate this matter ad infinitum over the legalities, etc. The question for me really is the political maturity of the leadership at all levels in the political parties. Are we all consistently and singularly driving home the message before each of our respective constituencies and structures that there is now a democracy and the resort to violence is completely unjustifiable.

POM. But if violence is so prevalent in the society itself –

MM. The violence is prevalent because the political leaderships continue to behave and speak in a language of pre-democracy. Right now the traditional leaders, because they are unhappy with the powers being granted to them, turned round and argued and said, be careful, if you do not handle this problem properly and give us the powers there will be violence. No, I think a mature leadership committed to the building of democracy even though it has genuine issues, has got to say to the people, this issue we don't like, this proposal we don't like, but no matter how much we don't like it the issue has to be addressed in non-violent means using the democratic processes of a democratic state and any one of us, as Chiefs, who even raises the spectre of violence is leaving the mass consciousness of our followers to think that it is an option. I think in the same way the IFP should not be saying if this matter, if we pull out, if the government of coalition crumbles there will be violence. They should be saying –

POM. The IFP may not be only saying that, the ANC may be saying that too.

MM. Exactly. I'm saying political leaderships. I'm saying across the board in this country post-1994 every political party has an obligation to keep saying to its foot soldiers, its commanders, its officials, that you have got to drive home this message that the significance of 1994 is not that differences have disappeared but that none of these differences, no matter how harsh the conjunction, legitimise you, my supporter, you, my branch leader, from raising the spectre that there could be violence. You have to say, I am going to take responsibility to say to you that you cannot do that.

POM. I agree with you but my turning the clock backwards question would be that it has always troubled me from either the people I have talked to or the research I have done, that the ANC goes to such a great length to say that the violence in KZN which took 15,000 lives was really something that was manipulated by the security forces aiding and operating one side. My, I suppose, analysis would be that the capacity for violence existed on both sides and was fed by the security forces because otherwise now you don't have the security forces but you still have the simmering of violence between two sides.

MM. And you still find members of the police force turning a blind eye or even colluding with the current little sparks of violence.

POM. Do you think the ANC in the past in its kind of version of history is being completely honest in exonerating itself from most of the responsibility for the violence in KZN and says it really was the IFP and the police attacking supporters of the ANC who, of course, had to defend themselves or whether it was more complex?

MM. However much complex the evidence of the ANC at the TRC did not seek to totally exonerate itself. The ANC is the one political formation that went to the TRC and said however we may justify what we did there are instances where we have to accept responsibility for the way things went.

POM. There's a difference between saying there are incidences than saying in KZN there was a civil war going on between the supporters of the ANC and the supporters of the IFP.

MM. I think you are entitled to put that interpretation but what you're not entitled to do at the moment is to expect that the ANC has arrived at the same interpretation. From my point of view, without being able to now sit down and research the matter, but what sticks out is that the security forces sure took advantage not just over KZN, they did it in 1952 when we launched the Defiance Campaign. They claimed that there was an underground army called the Chisa Chisa army, a Chisa Chisa Movement based on the Mau Mau and that it was the fomenter of violence in the Defiance Campaign and therefore justified the regime's repression. Now, no evidence was ever produced of that Chisa Chisa army but when the Defiance Campaign in 1952 was in full swing it was the story to justify the legislation they brought in. We felt that that was a manipulation by the state. We've come to the KZN situation, we find definite evidence that KwaZulu/IFP men were taken to the Caprivi Strip and trained.

POM. We've gone through that, yes.

MM. We find, and I've referred to Jac Buchner, KZN Commissioner of Police, he was a Security Branch man and I think I've told you previously how I think he featured in the 1960s, the late 1960s as putting the pressure on Buthelezi. So now we say the resources of the state under the guise of the Bantustan led to the IFP being continually given the space and support and facilitation and finance to engage in that violence. So one central truth that emerges in that part, that the state exploited all the tensions created by apartheid in order to foment and use Inkatha as a shock force to deal with the ANC. That's one truth.

. The second, the ANC responding to that situation in its wisdom came to the conclusion that it had to answer tit for tat, not as the ANC head office but ANC and ANC supporters on the ground. In the process of that lots of positions were taken around the violence. I've told you of the incident where I was present in the country where comrades wanted arms just to fire on a potential action in Natal and how I refused to give the arms because I said you're not dealing with the cause of the problem, you are going to leave a wound for generations.

POM. I've also talked to people in Vula who said what they were doing, training people in the use of firearms.

MM. To defend the people.

POM. We could get into a semantic thing here, the two parts of the question I'm interested in are: if the TRC has come to certain conclusions regarding Buthelezi's involvement or the IFP's involvement, do they not have a legitimate right to say before you publish that we want to see the evidence on which you based the conclusion, and that the TRC should say well here's the evidence, and that the failure of the TRC to do so puts a question mark behind the basis on which they reached that conclusion.

MM. I think the conclusion you are reaching is too harsh a conclusion. Nobody is claiming that the TRC was a perfect process.

POM. Yes but this is different.

MM. No, because the IFP is going – the TRC was never designed, the Act was never designed as a process that would go through the normal legal mechanisms and processes of judging issues. If we had done that we would be having a TRC sitting for 20 years.

POM. But Mac you can't say I was involved in the orchestration of murder of hundreds of people and you're going to publish that in a report, and I say to you, well before you do that I'd like to see the evidence.

MM. Sure, but you are the party that refused to come to that process.

POM. But that's still not the point. I want to see the evidence on which you base your conclusions.

MM. Sure, I'm not defending the TRC here. All I'm saying is, what is your responsibility as a political leader?

POM. I'll make it simpler. Why shouldn't, why hasn't the TRC, which is in violation of a court order, simply said, here are the papers?

MM. I can't find an explanation for that action but the fact that they haven't done that cannot be used at the political terrain to say, I who did not co-operate with that process and where my responsibility to steer this country into a peaceful direction is paramount, now should simply say don't publish your report because there is a legal principle, show me the evidence. Buthelezi never appeared, none of his men went before the TRC. They were in violation of the law.

POM. OK, but that doesn't justify a second violation.

MM. It doesn't justify a second violation. That is why I take it out of the legal processes and try to push it into a political process because I keep saying, you were a member of the coalition government which passed the legislation for the TRC. I think you had an obligation, not arising from membership of the coalition, but arising from the responsibility that was thrown on us as political leaders to say: imperfect or not, can I use this process of the TRC to entrench the idea, no more violence. Can I? That's how I went to the TRC. I can show you so many things of Security Branch men who got amnesty for things they did to me without my being asked what happened to me. It's their version the truth. I was never asked. I just opened a newspaper, I see they got amnesty and for what? For having assaulted and tortured Mac. I didn't even know the chap had applied but I didn't turn round and say, wait a minute, you can't give that man amnesty, you have not heard my side of the story. The reason why I did not do that is not because I didn't feel hurt, it's because I said, what is the larger picture?

POM. What you are saying in a secondary way is that when this person applied for amnesty and part of his amnesty application involved you, that the TRC –

MM. Should have got to me.

POM. Never informed you of his application and should have brought you before –

MM. Should have said to me, would you like to say anything about this? Do you think the person should be granted amnesty? Do you think the person is telling the truth? Because you are the one that was tortured.

POM. That's right.

MM. They didn't do that.

POM. Well does that show a breakdown in the administrative procedures?

MM. Yes.

POM. It shows that the damn thing in a way was a mess.

MM. Because they too in their own wisdom, having met as the TRC and planned their work, did not look sufficiently at the administrative processes to be laid down as a process to be followed. If you applied for amnesty for what you did to me, until I jumped up without having access to knowing even that you've applied, until I jumped up and started making a noise there would be no hearing. It was just dealt with in passing. This happened with Vuso Tshabalala. Only because some comrade said there is going to be a hearing, are you aware, Mac, will you come? And the families went and said, "We want to oppose this." There I went now and said, "What is the information?" And they said, "No, you'll have a chance to challenge them. There's going to be a hearing." In other cases there were no hearings.

. In their wisdom they decided to do it by a simple administrative process and maybe, I don't know, maybe they said, "Oh wait a minute, this is a case of Mac being tortured. Oh, 300,000 have been tortured. Granted, because we assume that that's the truth." Maybe the investigator said, I've questioned the officers, and because they have mentioned six other people they have tortured and I have spoken to two of them who verified it, I said OK they're talking the truth.

POM. OK, to stick to KZN. I think it is a legitimate question to ask why doesn't the TRC comply with the court order?

MM. Yes I think it's a legitimate question but it is not a sufficient condition to absolve you from your political responsibility today. For example, Padraig, we had to say when setting up the TRC, what is the point backwards into time from which gross violations of human rights should be cut off, and we cut off – I think we said 30 years from the coming into operation of the Act. Why? We could have said go back to the formation of apartheid. We could have said let's go back to 1910. We said, no, let's make a cut off, we need a manageable process because, par excellence, this is not a judicial process but a political process. So we said thirty years. The Act is passed in 1996, 30 years meant 1966. My main torture took place in 1964. Those who committed those tortures in 1964 don't even appear before the TRC. The TRC doesn't even look at what happened in 1964, yet I was tortured, my most severe torture was 1964.

POM. The TRC goes to 1960.

MM. I think that insofar as the gross violations there is a cut off from the point of view of the perpetrators. I think it was 30 years. Why did we select 30 years? We were not looking at saying does this thing cover my period? We were saying, wait a minute, in normal criminal law even for a murder in most countries 25 - 30 years state of limitations, so let's put a limitation. Why? Because the motive was not revenge and so we were grappling with a concept which has not still found its roots in law, a concept of restorative justice rather than retributive justice. So we who bore an enormous effect of torture in 1964 found our cases not even talked about and I've met people up to now raising that question, hey, why? How did you allow them to get away with this thing?

. What I'm trying to say, Padraig, I think that the IFP is fully entitled to raise that question of the TRC but I'm saying that's at one level to say we want the due process of law to be done to the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. I am saying the bigger challenge today in KZN is the calibre of leadership you give. If we had sat down, and even at the World Trade Centre, and said we want a perfect agreed definition of the past and from that agreed definition a correct process to arrive at a democratic constitution. This was our first position. We said the correct process is the constitution should be written by the people through voting for the delegates, we should have a convention by elected representatives. There should be a convention which would meet, which would write the constitution. The reality of the negotiations said, the NP said we are prepared to negotiate with you here a constitution that would take us to democracy. We said, hold on, that cannot be the final constitution. The final constitution will be written by the elected parliament so this is an interim constitution. And then came the battle. The NP delegation and its allies kept on wanting that interim constitution to become the permanent constitution. If we had engaged in due process we couldn't have resolved the issue.

. So I say that this is a very imperfect process. The challenge is how do you as a leadership – and that is why when KZN ANC says let's have a general amnesty specially tailored to this situation, first when they raised it when I was still active in the ANC we said, no, you can't have a general amnesty, it's undermining of the processes as far as they've come. They said then let's have a special one for KZN. And again we said but comrades, have you thought it through? It's still undermining of the national process.

. Now the KZN issue has come up again, not yet because there is violence but it is saying there is still instability and maybe in their minds they are saying if amnesty were granted on both sides through a general process it would help to stabilise the situation. I am saying let's debate it because from my side you have to calculate what would be the impact of the social fabric because I say one of the biggest problems we are grappling with is that the general social fabric had collapsed and therefore you have the political responsibility that if you are going for general amnesty, if I were to agree to it as an individual, I would say spell out the criteria, spell out the purposes and spell out and sign on the commitment of what next. And if I could get a commitment that all the parties say that they now take and sign on responsibility for their entire party structures to uniformly transmit the message that henceforth violence is completely excluded as a means to pursue your objectives and that we have all committed ourselves and it does not matter how I change my party political allegiance, this message I will consistently put. I think there's an interesting debate to take place.

POM. My snap debate answer would be that because violence is so embedded in the social fabric itself that the use of violence to settle political differences is really just a manifestation of a larger problem, that is the endemic use of violence in every form, as you said, the social fabric has collapsed.

MM. There has been similarly an argument that the core root of criminality is engendered by poverty. I cannot accept that therefore you can do nothing about criminality today until you've eliminated poverty.

POM. Yes but that's a hypothesis, it's not proven.

MM. Even the definition of the collapse of the social fabric, many, many people would go stand up and say no, it hasn't collapsed, it has simply in this area gone wrong.

POM. But you use the phrase.

MM. Yes I've used it consistently.

POM. Now you use on the one hand two sets of figures, oceans of figures, I'm going to quote to you and I will. On the one hand you say we are a democracy and on the other hand you say our social fabric is collapsing. You cannot have a situation where democracy is gaining ground and taking a firmer hold and at the same time the social fabric continues to unravel. You simply can't have it.

MM. You can. In the movement of a society those realities have to be handled and managed corrected by a balance and I am saying the balance is the calibre of political leadership. Let's hypothesise that the idea of a general amnesty wins and that that general amnesty even says the unthinkable, that it would include acts committed even up to the year 2002, which includes what's happened here now with the arms and the Boeremag and all that. That's agreed, the criteria by which we would test is agreed, the administration of that process is agreed. To me not acceptable, yet unless there is another part before I can even consider the proposal and that part says, now will every political organisation, paramilitary, it's leaders come here and sign on that henceforth they personally take responsibility to always and consistently put the message, (i) violence unacceptable, (ii) this is a democracy, (iii) you pursue your differences in a democratic process, and that wherever it rears its head henceforth I, from which ever formation I come from, Ferdi Hartzenberg to the ANC, to beyond the ANC, say this responsibility I will take.

. Now that doesn't mean that you won't get people breaking it, breaching it, but an overwhelming singular message is delivered and more and more of these leaders constantly put that message through and wherever it is breached constantly repudiate it. Never come back to say now they had a good reason, an understandable reason, therefore condone it.Church leaders have to say the same thing. Cultural leaders have to say the same thing. Now I don't like it but if that process is going to gather momentum to say even as our society has been unravelling for so long and even though we can examine its roots and its genesis and areas where we are not attending to it properly now, the reality is we've made this commitment and we want to be held to it by the public. Would that be a contributor to moving this country to finding a balance to arrest the unravelling, begin to reverse the unravelling and remove in the public consciousness that you can use violence?

POM. But if large numbers of the public itself attach little value to human life, including their own, a message coming from above by elites kind of saying we will not do this and we will deliver that message, is meaningless.

MM. It's not meaningless, Padraig, because on HIV/AIDS one of the criticisms that you've been levelling is that the leadership of the country is not setting the right tone.

POM. That's right.

MM. It's assuming therefore that in this culture of ignorance around HIV/AIDS if the elite took a stand that is consistent and clear and began to transmit that message systematically it would contribute in this war. Similarly over the war that violence is not an acceptable means in a democracy, if all the elites, not just the government, signed on and kept delivering that message and involving themselves in the mobilisation and kept repudiating anybody who henceforth glorifies it, it would contribute in changing the climate. You cannot say that the mass ignorance has no role, in the removal of that mass ignorance the elites have no role. They have a critical role.

. At the moment one of the positive things which I'm not all that happy with is this Moral Regeneration Movement. The idea is good, the way it's being taken up I'm not happy with because it seems to be the province of government and religion.

POM. Is it taken seriously by anybody?

MM. I don't think so because I don't think that there is a consistent understandable message being put before the masses. I think even the words 'moral regeneration' is too big and clumsy. If we go into the street there –

POM. Well go anywhere and ask what does moral regeneration mean they will say they don't know what you're talking about.

MM. It's presented as an intellectual concept. What I'm saying is a very simple message. Now that we all have the right to vote it is totally unacceptable that anybody should resort to violence to solve their conflicts. Next message: whoever still resorts to it will not find support or sympathy from any political party or church or community and we are mobilising every community on that singular message, that it's unacceptable and that whoever does it will get no sympathy and support from communities, political parties and religious organisations. One of the sad things of post-1994 was that religious leaders, gangsters in Soweto, would celebrate funerals with stolen cars and priests would go to officiate over that gangster's death and praise that gangster.

POM. There was a famous case, I went to one, I documented it, it was incredible.

MM. Incredible phenomenon.

POM. I was going to say it was an out of this world –

MM. Now that priest should have been kicked out of his church.

POM. But they were all elected officials who were there.

MM. Exactly. Nobody should be there.

POM. He was regarded as a respected member of the community. I even have his name.

MM. And they start telling you how charitable he was but in the meantime he was raping the young women there, plundering the community. And then another chap stands up and say, "No, I plunder the rich", and the priest goes there to pray over his body and he doesn't pray and say this man was a criminal, a scourge in our society, God you deal with this man and find a way to redeem his soul. No, he says this is a hero, he's a good man.

. I am saying with that singular, simple message, if all work to it with even the problems that we have, do you think we would not make a significant contribution to arresting the unravelling of the social fabric? Do you think we would not make a significant contribution to restoring the principle that you live within the law?

. I'm right now living in a suburb where we have the problem of road enclosures. Sandhurst, the very, very rich have put on enclosures which the Council is saying is illegal, there's a court action.

POM. They're doing it in Yeoville, they're doing it all over the place.

MM. But they've excluded me. My side of the street is excluded so I have gone to that community, they'd refused it, the two ratepayers, they wouldn't have meetings and everybody's fighting court case, contribute money. I said, "Wait a minute, guys, what is this?" And I went to a meeting a month ago in Summer Place, I was the only second darkie in that room. Even the blacks who are living in that area didn't come and I said, "What is this? We are the wealthiest suburb, leaders and captains of industry, and we are saying that our example to the country is enclose yourself, it doesn't matter if it's illegal?" I said, "I can't accept that. How do you expect me to discourage a hijacker, a murderer? I have to be consistent, I will not act against the law." But I said, "Hold on chaps, as long as we discuss that way it's not good enough because I'm not reaching you. Now technology has reached a point, business against crime is succeeding in the CBD working with the police. It has reduced crime, it has perfected the technology, why can't we do a costing of that so that there are no enclosures, there's free movement but there is prevention of crime? Why don't we set an example and we have the means?" I just managed to force the two communities to agree to a joint working group to look at this option in January. And they said to me, "Wait a minute, we have spent R800,000 putting up these enclosures, we believe the Council is wrong." I said, "That's your problem. I will not support you on anything illegal. Let those court cases go on, if you're found wrong, you're found wrong. But I'm saying let's look at another way of solving the problem."

POM. While they're looking at another way of solving the problem have they left those enclosures up?

MM. No. I said let that be resolved by the Council in its court action and if you are found by the courts to have committed a crime I am saying you will answer why you did not support my measure because you will have declared that you have acted criminally. And I am saying, you are business leaders, you are the educated, are you setting an example how communities should deal with this question of crime or are you still setting up the fortresses because you can afford it?

. So it's been going on and they kept on wanting to talk about the past, why this Ratepayers Association wrote to the lawyers and went to court. I said, "All that, as is. You carry on your own way but can we do the costing and feasibility with a joint working group and the report will come back here", and I am saying that mechanism is without those road enclosures, with freedom of movement, with a result record from Cape Town CBD to Jo'burg CBD which says you are now not just blocking the criminal because he's still jumping the fence, but you are getting more effective arrest, you're getting more effective conviction and you're getting more effective prevention of crime. I said that's the way we have to go.

. So I am saying, Padraig, there are a number of conjunctures that arise on social movement issues where to debate rights and wrongs of the past doesn't take you forward when you are looking for an immediate movement that is forward.

. They told me, one of the leading women on the Sandhurst side, the most outspoken, hard-line, they said you will never meet her. I said to the Ratepayers Association, "Carry on with your action, I support you, write to them, etc., but give me the telephone number of this woman." She's a New York lawyer. They gave me the telephone number I phoned her from here. "Mrs so-and-so?" Yes. "I'm so-and-so. Can we meet?" She's obviously heard of me. She says, "Probably." I said, "You say probably. I'm asking to meet you." "What's it about?" I said, "Please just you and me." "Oh, OK." She set a time. I went to her home. She said, "I'm very busy, I can see you for one hour." We sat and talked for two hours. She wanted the history and I would listen to her and when she finished I said, "Wait a minute, is this the way forward? We are now busy fighting each other and our country looks at us. I'm not debating all those issues, I'm saying there is another way forward." She said, "What do you want from me? I'm not the Sandhurst Heritage Foundation." I said, "But you are influential. Tell them I want to meet them, get them to meet me as a Board." She said, "Alright, I'll do that." I said, "Now when they meet can I bring the Hyde Park Residents' Association with me?" "Why? Never!" So I said, "Because if your side agrees I want Hyde Park to agree to it and we move." She said, "I don't think they will agree." I said, "Can we debate it? Give me a hearing?" She said, "OK I'll see, I don't promise." I said, "Thank you very much."

. The meeting was held. They went through the history. I said, "I didn't come here to debate rights and wrongs, I've come here to debate a way forward and my proposal is not a solution, my proposal is that we investigate the solution and cost it and everything." "We will not spend an extra penny." I said, "I'm not asking you to spend a penny." They said OK. And they said, "But we don't believe in it." I said, "It's your right you don't believe in it. Let's get the costing, let's get the report how efficient it is, let's see and then we will debate." She says, when she informed me the meeting is taking place, "No lawyers please, it's off the record." I said, "That's correct." So I assume, because she's a New York lawyer. I said, "Well I take it that when we meet and whenever you open your mouth disagreeing with me I will say no lawyers." She laughed. I could have gone on fighting, you did this, you did that. They are cutting chains, the rich whites. One inside and the one outside are busy cutting the chains, the others are restoring the chains, the women driving in 4X4s threatening to smash those gates. I said, "Is this the way you conduct yourselves chaps? I can't believe it. And you tell me that crime is wrong and you don't want thieves, you don't want murderers coming into your area and hijackers and yet you're behaving like criminals."

. It's a question of with all the historical baggage that we have and all the rights and wrongs sitting all over, I am saying the debate on this general amnesty taken to ANC conference if it can be a full scale debate there, an intensive one, and if it can come out with a position that it can take and get a binding of all the political parties and not simply say we'll just take it to parliament and finish, because I say the criteria, the process, the goals and the commitment and the message have to be spelt out.

POM. A larger context, the one of, say, this being an interview on the eve of the 51st Congress of the ANC, about this era of the present as reading from the past on the one hand and reading the current issues on the other and trying to balance them in a way because your comments about society are as important now as they were when you were a senior member of the ANC. I came back and I picked up a paper, just got all the papers as usual, I went through them and I felt freedom fighters … by the Pew(?) survey of 44 countries and asked a series of different questions and when it came to SA which is among ten African countries included, it had that 79% of South Africans are dissatisfied with the way the country is being run. Mbeki rated the lowest among the ten African leaders in terms of approval. 51% of the people in the country see him as having a bad influence on the country. 96% of the people identify crime as one of the worst of 44 countries. 96% say disease, infectious diseases are a major problem. Again the highest in the world. The belief that only the poor are subject to AIDS, in fact they found no significant difference between those who are employed and those who are unemployed in terms of rates of infection even though the very poor were more prone to it. You have millions – this is just every time I pick up the paper, millions intended for social welfare and poverty relief stolen.Another study, 43% of all new graduates, doctors, after their two years service tend to get out of the country. A few miles from where I live, Khayelitsha and Nyanga, the average income is R200 a month, 75% of the people live on less than R185 a month. It showed grants to the poor, giving money to the poor doesn't alleviate poverty. You have the finding, the most significant one in the HSRC study that the pattern of AIDS is related not to poverty itself but to the pattern of movements within informal settlements.

. I picked these things out, I went through them yesterday. I made a list of them and I was depressed. At the same time, rape, 40% of children, 40% of children – you have this book coming out by Sampie Terreblanche in which he argues, shows figures, but concludes that people may be worse off now than they were pre-apartheid. This goes back to a study of when it came to parliament and it got buried some place, that service delivery now was no better than it was six years ago. You have this squabble going on within the alliance about ultra left and ultra right and you have this kind of a statement that if it were made by– how language changes, made by, like Smuts who should be told to watch the way he uses words. You have the Deputy President accused, involved in a major, what is going to be a major case one way or the other (I shouldn't make judgements). But in other countries accountability would be demanded, not silence that says I have nothing. It goes back to it's not the law itself that counts, this is a political issue as well as a legal one.

. You have Smuts saying, "The ANC is the ANC and any attempt, tendencies, whether from the extreme right or the extreme left to hurt the ANC or its partners, we are now in the process of cleansing each of the alliance parties of these tendencies." Now I could recall four, six years ago saying, "Mac, if you were a member of the State Security Council, if you made a statement and in it you used the word 'cleansing', now when you used the word 'cleansing' what did you mean by the use of the word 'cleansing'? Did you mean get rid of? Did you mean silence? What would silence mean?" It's the same kind of language is being used.

MM. No but, Padraig, hold on. This is not an issue. All that you are saying, all these studies they are there, they're on the table. You say you're depressed and I can understand that. Now put yourself in the situation where you have to take responsibility to deal with those reports now and what around the question, not nit-picking, I can nit-pick over the whole summary, no that's not the issue. The issue is even if half of that is true what should we be doing? That's the issue.

POM. Is there not something in it that you said where do we go? Is there not something in itself wrong, where it's incompetence. Senior civil servants are not dismissed for incompetence. Just to incompetence that you do not get rid of people who do not perform, particularly since you had a government – nobody ever is removed from their portfolio no matter how poor their performance in that portfolio, or are the problems so big that it really makes no difference who you have in a portfolio?

MM. No I think that the issue, again, all those facts I can turn to illustrate behind them the positives as well by virtue of those same facts. The issue is not that.

POM. But I want you to do that.

MM. OK, let's start with the Pew Report.

POM. 79% are dissatisfied with the way the country is being run.

MM. You had the newspaper article on the Pew Report.

POM. I'm just pulling the figures.

MM. But I want the newspaper article.

POM. Well I had pulled down the report from the –

MM. Yes, I want that.It says that Thabo's rating, I take it within the SA population as a bad influence, is 51% say so and this is out of ten African countries that were included in the survey. Now no need for nit-picking from my side because we can do that. The fact that 51% of the people are saying he's a bad influence and are able to say it even in a confidential survey. Positive. It can be turned into a challenge. Secondly, it says out of ten African countries that were surveyed, I don't know which ten, I think this is bad reporting because they should tell us.

POM. I can bring you the report.

MM. But this is news media reporting. But the ten African countries I would like to see.

POM. OK, I'll bring them in.

MM. Can you mention one better?

POM. Nigeria.

MM. Nigeria. Now if Nigeria is rating its President, that the Nigerian people say, a smaller percentage of Nigerians see Obasanjo as a bad influence than South Africans see Thabo as a bad influence, the perception issue is very important because it says you are a democratically elected President of the country, at the present moment 51% see you as a bad influence. That is a challenge that says can we discuss why they are perceiving that and can we discuss it simply deeper than just saying it's a media created perception?

POM. A second poll done separately by IDASA and Afro Barometer just released says only a third of South Africans trust President Thabo Mbeki and just 51% approve of the job he's done over the past year.

MM. I think that's a debatable question but I think that the issue is – can we turn all those statistics from a depression to a challenge because what is clearly missing here is a growing perception amongst the SA population that things are moving. There's a perception that things are not moving fast enough and there's a debate - what should be moving faster? Because at the same time I hear people say, in the rural areas, the votes for the ANC remain extraordinarily high, 80%.

POM. Of course.

MM. The same people who are saying he's a bad influence.

POM. But there's no-one else to vote for.

MM. No, no.

POM. We can discuss the difference between loyalty to the party which the policy papers presented to the September conference, my God unless we improve delivery loyalty is going to diminish pretty quickly, in fact there'll be a revolution, to what people want to believe and what they believe.

MM. This is where I say what's the responsibility? Accurate as it may be to say unless things are improved there will be a revolution, I think that political leadership requires you to stop saying that there will be a revolution.

POM. Who's saying it?

MM. The ANC. I am saying that the way you debate matters when you see that the larger problem is the removal of violence as a mechanism of redressing your problems is not to keep on raising the spectre of revolution, to raise the challenge without raising the spectre of a violent upheaval and say we have a duty to prevent a violent upheaval.

POM. Do you not think in that context then that the ANC should stop referring to opposition parties, NGOs and anybody who doesn't agree with them as 'enemies of the national democratic revolution'? They're war words, they're words of violence.

MM. My position and where I sit is that this is the type of debate one would like to see in the public arena within the ANC, within government. That's part of the democratic processes but the parameters have got to be always spelt out. I think when you quote Smuts, I don't like that statement about cleansing, I find it unacceptable, but how do you remove it? By simply saying don't use that word? No you have to have a debate which says we can now set the agenda, we can set the tone and whatever you do don't set the agenda and the tone in a way that can come back and bite you.

POM. But it's being done that way. Isn't it?

MM. Yes. The fact that it is done that way doesn't mean it will go on being done that way.

POM. We hope.

MM. No, no, no, it does not mean that. There's a whole history in this struggle where things have been said in the wrong way and subsequently been changed. That's true as well, you wouldn't deny that. So the fact that it is happening now in the context that there are repeated conferences and debates and that these reports are being published, I am almost sure that you will find that Thabo has seen the full report of Pew.

POM. I'm sure he has.

MM. And I am sure that a whole lot of people in the ANC have not even bothered to read it, have dismissed it.

POM. I'm sure they haven't even seen it.

MM. Haven't even seen it but they've dismissed it. That does not mean that the way the language of today is is going to endure. You and I may be unhappy with how long it endures. The issue of Jacob Zuma, for example, in the papers should be neither understated nor overstated because when you said in any other country it would be dealt with, well I remember Margaret Thatcher's son dealing with Saudi arms, nothing happened. I see that Michael Portillo is making a comeback in the Conservative Party and I see even Bush saying things that anybody from a long term perspective of the endurance of legality would be seriously questioning. So I don't think that we must overstate it. Part of it is the fact that in SA these things are being brought out.

POM. Zuma, by his office that restores some way what damage there may be to public confidence, that this is just one more case of corruption or whatever, that's all.

MM. OK, that's a quote, I don't have a problem. I think that the issue is really – we've been losing our trend of discussion. You had started off by saying here we are on the eve of the ANC conference, here is this depressing picture. Right?

POM. Yes. Not just a depressing picture of what people perceive but of a social fabric that continues to collapse, in which delivery to the masses has not improved, according to the Public Protector, after six years.

MM. You're going off the track. I am not so sure that I agree with you that the social fabric is continuing to unravel. I am of the view that I accept that our social fabric had been unravelling, still remains unravelled in the sense that there is no binding force acceptable at the mass level holding this country together. That's a reality. That there are improvements side by side with evidence of alarming developments is part of the process as well. That there have been efforts to try and address this issue of the welding together of our social fabric and value basing it is also undeniable. That they have not reached a point where we can feel that it has become a dominant tendency, that's true. That the debate should be, have we identified the critical issues where that mobilisation needs to be done with the greatest potential of successfully getting a momentum? Madiba speaks of a war on AIDS, it's not yet a war.

POM. He has now used the word 'genocide'.

MM. Yes, but he says this is a war, we need to wage a war. I am saying there is no sense as yet that the country is waging it. But that does not mean we cannot wage the war but the crucial thing about waging a war is that you mobilise the overwhelming majority of your population behind it as fervent supporters. But the issue is on the table and the issue should be, how do we make it into a war with our people behind it? And it's not just a question of the patterns in the squatter camps. What is interesting about these figures is how prevalent it is also in the white community. And interestingly this morning I read a report where the white community is saying that the message against AIDS, the content of that message, many sections of the white community find it repugnant.

POM. This is the Love Life?

MM. Yes, and it's saying a survey done in Pretoria amongst, presumably, predominantly Afrikaner middle class people with their deep religious upbringing, Calvinistic religion, saying, "We don't like the message, can't identify with the message." But it's saying the prevalence is up to 12%. So it's saying constantly look at how to mobilise.

. This is how we used to mobilise in the days when we were not underground, we built a momentum. Similarly here in crime in the CBD I can show you outside Jo'burg if we stepped out, I'm sure you've been to Newtown Complex, it's changing. I can take you into the CBD, it's changing. The last statistics I've read is that crime is down in the CBD where the cameras are operating by 80%. They give you the success rate of arrests, how soon after the event people are arrested. They're giving the conviction rates. It's improving but it hasn't reached a point where perception has changed and we should be asking, how do we drive this process forward so that there is a greater momentum and a sense that the perception – because nothing makes people win more than feeling that they are succeeding. The big danger at the moment is if all these reports and figures that you are putting are used to create more and more – it becomes more and more a depressing item, the idea that we can succeed vanishes. That's the challenge of all the political parties and in particular the ANC. How does it find the ways to do that mobilisation? I wouldn't dismiss in that the fact that the elites are needed to push that and because they are elites is per se wrong. I'd say yes, you're needed but you have to get out there and you have to start rolling up your sleeves and you have to deliver a singular message.

. Now over AIDS what I suspect is that those whites in today's survey are brought up in such a Calvinistic outlook that they want the debate to be: should the answer be abstinence until marriage or should it be advocacy of the use of condoms? I think that's a false debate because the reality is there are fervent people who belong to particular religions which espouse abstinence and there are people, youngsters, who are practising sex and tell them to abstain is a non-starter. So see them both as messages that you have to deliver but see it in the context that we need a war against AIDS and don't now, sitting in those trenches, start fighting each other. So you're entitled to preach abstinence but the thing is you have to say that the transmission of this disease takes place through unprotected sex because even in a marriage it can get transmitted. So don't, all of you in the trenches, don't you start fighting each other. Keep your guns trained on the real enemy and you may be using one weapon and the other one is using a different weapon but train both on the enemy.

. So there is a tendency of this lack of pulling together. There isn't an intervention being made and sufficient intervention which says we are in the same trench, we may have our differences but let's keep it trained there. That is part of the problem and this is what should be debated.

POM. Is it not sad that a person who is at the forefront of the war against AIDS, who's even prepared to use the words 'unless we act soon we will be committing genocide on our own people', is an 84 year old former president?

MM. Yes it's sad, all of us should be saying it, but I would like him still also to be saying it when all of us are here. What do you mean by sad? That is one of the few voices that's saying it.

POM. Where's the leadership?

MM. And he is clear, he keeps delivering the message, saying come on the rest of you, come on government, get on board.

POM. Is it not distressing that the President of the country uses huge amounts of energy and time with a vision of creating an African Union and promoting a problematic economic programme called NEPAD while his own country is dying and he will not address the issue?

MM. I don't think we should contrast NEPAD with it and his efforts there. I don't think we should contrast the efforts that he's putting into NEPAD and contrast it with the efforts he's putting on AIDS. The real issue is NEPAD needs to be addressed and AIDS needs to be addressed. It's a function of government no longer to say there's too little hours in the day.

POM. Mac, there shall be, unless AIDS is addressed, there shall be no NEPAD. OK? So he's got the cart in front of the horse.

MM. No, once you do that what you are doing now is you're saying the management of government has got to be singularly focused on AIDS.

POM. No, almost. It's a war.

MM. So is it a war that we should also look at the development of our economies? We can't say until we've conquered AIDS, forget about the development of the economy.

POM. I'm not saying that. I am saying, as you have, that there are few voices that are prepared to say there is a war against AIDS and that it must be treated as a war and resources and energies of the people gathered to fight that war.

MM. Sure. I'm saying it's possible for him to give his attention to NEPAD and also bring his voice into the war on AIDS.

POM. But he's not doing that.

MM. It's not happening at the moment, not happening. Yes, not happening, I would agree, and part of the problem is that the views that he's been espousing still have a majority support within that NEC.

POM. Can you say that again?

MM. I think the views that the President expresses on AIDS still have a substantial support in that National Executive.

POM. You're talking about leadership? Then if we're looking at the next several years it's all we can look at, maybe we can't even look that far.

MM. I don't live in the world where I believe that because a substantial number of the NEC still think that way today they're going to continue to think that way tomorrow.

POM. How many people have to die?

MM. Even if people have to die the fact of the matter is that I don't believe that what is being thought of today will remain there tomorrow. I think there's been a shift in the AIDS debate. I think the government has said, and right now the Treatment Action Campaign has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over Mpumalanga to say that Mpumalanga is not fulfilling the Constitutional Court order and wants the HRC to see. But by implication what TAC is saying many of the other provinces that we have seen are fulfilling that court order. Isn't that so?

POM. No. That's a deduction that I wouldn't make.

MM. I listened to the TAC person on the radio but I also know that the roll out is going on in Gauteng.

POM. Yes it's going on in Gauteng.

MM. So there are provinces now taking in –

POM. Just on the limited roll out on antiretrovirals to pregnant women?

MM. Yes. But I think that the issue of antiretroviralsbeing made available in the public health system is now shifted from one of definitely no to say yes, but, there are still buts, but it's moved to a yes and I think that's a change. I think the debate that took place about antiretrovirals and about their being toxins is gone. I may be unhappy that the President has not made a statement on that one. The fact is the government has shifted. I think that similarly on the campaign against AIDS government has now agreed to put in more resources. I think that the private sector and the NGO sectors are beginning to pull together more. I've been at functions where Bill Clinton was the other day in SA in Orange Farm with Madiba and there was this whole campaign unleashed about the peer groups and youngsters being trained to go out to talk to youngsters and mobilise them. I can't remember what the target was, quite a few thousand. Love Life and another group called something else were training the volunteers. I think that's happening and I think that ministers were there was interesting to me.

. So I think that there is a shift in the debate on AIDS. We're not yet at the point where we can say the country is at war against AIDS but I think that the demands that the country should be at war and people not just demanding but doing things is beginning to happen. I think Tutu has been speaking of this thing too. I think, besides, others have been speaking. The disappointment has been not enough from government. And Jacob Zuma has been saying – he is heading the – and he got in trouble over Love Life and had to duck his head but he's coming up again with various AIDS campaign activities. So I don't assume that the positions that were occupied by government on AIDS a year ago have not shifted in the right direction and I think the studies that are coming through, I believe government immediately asked for extra copies of the HSRC/Mandela Foundation report. I was told the same day that they had used up all the printed copies, they had to go for reprints.

POM. I hope so.

MM. Yes, and I believe most important on that is that government has asked for that report in large quantities to start distributing it within the government agencies at the political level. That's an interesting development. The terrain is shifting.

POM. But we haven't got to a war yet.

MM. The fact that we haven't got to a war yet is a disappointment but it's a challenge.

POM. But the same thing applies to violence.

MM. And the same thing applies to corruption.

POM. The same thing applies to corruption.

MM. Yes undoubtedly, and crime. I think a lot of things are happening on crime. I think that the fact that the government has dealt with this incipient narrow group of right wingers has been nipped in the bud without the disruption of life. I think that's been a very significant move. I think so far the record says government has handled that thing very efficiently and in fact fairly politically astutely. I can imagine that that development if it had happened four years ago would have caused panic in the population and in the markets and I think that what has happened about it is that the government has dealt with it without government panicking and that's a very good sign too.

. I think on land redistribution there has been a significant speeding up. I think on housing, against all those figures I heard on the radio the other day, 1.8 million houses so far have been built. Nothing to crow about from 1994 but it is 1.8 million families have got a roof. Padraig, that's a lot.

POM. The problem with housing, which I learnt in Namibia, is that when people hear that housing is being built they go right to those areas where the houses are being built and you get more squatter camps and you end up by every time you –

MM. Back once more to that syndrome of the law and value based behaviour. You want to jump the queue, you can't wait. Well there's no country that has built houses at the rate that those people want it to who are jumping the queues and rushing. And at the same time they are the same people who are saying I want land in the rural area. They're the same people. Look at group after group, clan after clan that is putting in land claims, they say for the whole group they want the land but at the same time if you go and check the registers in the squatter camps, they are registered for homes there. It's the same thing when the PAC over the Bedell(?) occupations began to encourage it. What it was saying, the message was, outside of the law you can jump the queue. A dangerous message.

. So what I am saying, Padraig, is as depressing as the picture is of the perceptions there are positives in the development but none of the positives have reached that critical mass where there's a turnaround in the perception and a feeling of we can win.

POM. What would you like to see come out of the ANC conference which will set the agenda for the next five years?

MM. One of the most crucial items of the ANC's conference agenda is an item which people would not pay much attention to. It's the section on the organisational reportWhat's happening to the ANC machinery? Why is it so weak? How do you address it? And realising that you can never build an organisation without concrete structures. So the relationship between the political report and the organisational report is an intimate inextricable one, the debate on the organisational report will probably show that there is a large organisational reality and the decisions they take on how to rebuild the organisation and revitalise it cannot be decided upon without looking at what are the political tasks and how they should be addressed. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that organisational report on the state of the organisation. You will see that task, the … of that task, you will not have any proper mechanism to deal with these problems.

POM. To wage a war.

MM. I've said it before, I think we missed a moment in 1994. I think that that is gone. The question is how to mobilise from now onwards. I don't have the answers. What I expect is that because the programme on the conference … there will be the commission on the political report, there will be the organisational report and particular days have been set aside as entire days to debate those issues. I say that is a good thing and the decisions that may come out, I may not be entirely happy with them, I may be partially happy, I may be disappointed, it's not the end of the story.

POM. How about the alliance? How about the end to this wrangling over the ultra right and the ultra left and cliques?

MM. I think that should arise as a political report. I think that should be arising in the political report as an issue to be debated in a healthy way. My view, I am not going to conference with a voice, I have no vote in that conference, from my position I look forward to seeing whether that debate is enriching the social spectrum. How do you build a national interest identification with what you as the ANC would have isolated as the key identifying challenges? If you do not go to win the overwhelming majority of South Africans behind you there is no war on those issues. Confine yourself to a narrower and narrower base. Your base in the South African population should be expanding. You should be winning more people behind your agenda.

. In that context what does the tendency of labelling do? Does it enhance your gathering greater forces behind your objectives or does it dissipate that? Is it the correct way to engage with people who are within your ranks but disagree? Is there an edict from somewhere on top saying this is all you do? There's a whole new generation of cadres in the ANC coming there to that conference. They need to be involved in the debate because debate at conference is a process through which you learn and grow. One of the interesting things, and always a side effect to many bad things, is that a debate labels everybody, that scatters your forces when articulated forcefully and encourages others to come with a more articulate disagreement about it. Interesting to see how is it debated, does it come out with the conference having become enriched? That's part of mobilising your office bearers, mobilising your branches, your provinces, your regions behind you.

POM. If you are talking about mobilisation for war on AIDS, on violence, on crime, domestic violence, whatever, family violence – (break in recording)

. You were saying that if you want to mobilise the people behind these efforts to fight these sometimes interacting wars do you not need to find a way to make the opposition parties part of that fight too?

MM. I think you're posing the question too narrowly. That becomes a consequence of the larger decision. In 1994 when we came into government, I think by the year two Valli was Deputy Minister of Constitutional Affairs and he attempted to launch a campaign called Masakhane, let's help each other, let's work together. OK the campaign never took off. He pushed it up to a point. It was an experience on the table. The anti-AIDS, in the Mandela government, I think in the last year, an effort was made to push it. It went off into its own spins. In the post-1999 government the moral regeneration campaign hasn't taken off but efforts have been made. Those experiences need to be put on the table and interrogated to say what lessons do we learn? But to say first of all, yes, we have this idea that we need to mobilise the nation and we need to get everybody invigorated at the level of the ordinary person. Obviously assessed against each one why it hasn't happened but now is the time to look at it totally against the backdrop of the political climate of the country.

. There are a number of plusses happening now. The currency has withstood better than anybody else recently and for a change there's a sense of optimism coming through in the economy. The growth is saying not fantastic but optimistic. Now let's not just get caught up in praising ourselves. Let's take the issues that we can handle, let's learn the lessons and let's identify the issues that we need to deal with in order to build this forward moment. Follows in that debate your characterisation of all the social forces and the organised forces as to how you can reach them to draw them in is how should you interact with the other political parties? If you just address the question outside of that type of debate, what should be our relations with party A, party B, you're stuck in old paradigms of thinking and the ANC has an enormous experience in its period of struggle where it has drawn in people who have not been very happy to be with you in the anti-apartheid struggle. It has had magnificent victories.

. So there is a depth of experience sitting there which has to be tapped but in a way in which you bring people into your own ranks understanding the problem and why they're going to do it. That changes the debate of how should you relate to party A or party B because it's around an agenda that you have set and it's around a set of issues that you've identified that have a potential of drawing this together. But uppermost in your mind is how do you energise the ordinary citizen. This is why for me simply to say how you relate to the political parties is a consequence of that strategic decision.

POM. My observation would be that you and I can both agree that all the people should be mobilised around, say, AIDS, the question is not, I believe, about that. I might say well this is the best way in order to achieve that and you might say no, I think there are other ways of achieving it. And if I go and say then, well if you don't agree with my way you are an enemy, that paralyses the process. It's about transformation and we all agree on the need for it but we disagree about maybe means or how the ends should be achieved, I don't become your enemy because I don't agree with your way.

MM. What I'm saying to you, Padraig, is what do I expect at a conference of the ANC?

POM. OK, I've moved away from that.

MM. You've moved away from that. And how should the discussions be structured at conference to be the most productive. I'm saying that's a base line because if you don't do that and you just go to the consequential issues and push them at the top of the agenda your chance to galvanise is denuded because I said to you after looking at those experiences, the need for that mobilisation, the need to pull the country together, the need to energise the ordinary people around what issues, what are the social formations that are your hard core concentric circles, right, the next concentric circle, the next one – but having made the set of concentric circles even the outermost circle that is most remote from the core is defined as part of a circle that you need to draw in to complete that circle. Then arises the question that if you are to draw in where do you concentrate your energy so that you conserve your energy? Then arises the question how do you speak to the others, to the other concentric circles to allow the possibility that they become part of that large circle?

. When you have that type of debate the issue of the characterisation falls out in a different way. The result is you have equipped people with a deeper understanding of the language that you should be using and there will be people who will say with Padraig I need to attack him to win. And others will say wait a minute, you can attack him but he agrees with you around the larger campaign. He comes in with a deep sense of injury. You should be what you've defined as the different concentric circles, don't humiliate. The language you use, sit back and ask yourself am I humiliating that person? Go that course. Because if I am, even if I brow-beat them into the circle I have not won an ally. That's the context for me. It's a question of how do you persuade social forces. And I don't exclude the stick but I say how you wield that stick is important.

. The rest of it falls into place. If conference does not go as far as I would wish it to go, I would be looking and reading how far did it go? Has it taken a step forward, two steps forward or has it taken us backwards? Now that's me the partisan believing in the need for a radical transformation of our country and I therefore would not speak of the ANC, I don't want to be just trapped in the formal thing that I will only speak critically of the ANC inside the ANC. I think that's a legitimate policy, but I will not speak of the ANC in such a way that I humiliate them. I see it as part of that inner core of those concentric circles.

POM. … of the ANC whether it's for debate or if that debate is not conducted in a way that is one –

MM. And to organisation.

POM. Or to the organisation, that that kind of debate is in fact not only legitimate but should be encouraged because it's healthy.

MM. And I think the task of leadership is to put the framework within that debate. They haven't. Therefore I am not here putting answers because I believe that even in a debate such as at conference in those commissions, even if I went there as an active participant I would be learning from other people that we will come out with an answer. If I was still active I would be saying how can I help shape that agenda, how can I help shape the functioning of those commissions? Is it necessary that in this commission it should open up with a set of points that the commission needs to address and should I be helping to steer whoever is chairing it to steer the thing to probe the experiences so that as we move towards the list of decisions in that commission and recommendations to conference we have gathered that experience, that individual, that branch, that regional, the centre of experiences into enriching that decision.

. It is therefore important that you don't go in there and open the commission with an answer. Even if you have a set of answers in your own mind you need to first pose the problem and participate in the answers and present those answers that you think are the ones in such a way that others can interact with it and enrich it and reject some of your answers. That's the function of conference to me. That is why conference is over five days but it's not just plenary session every day. Most of the days are going to be spent in commissions and those commissions are going to be closed commissions so that you can speak freely and grapple with ideas and answers and then each commission would have a rapporteur reporting back to plenary so that plenary can now discuss that report back.

. Now I know big conferences are very, very difficult to manage and therefore the preparation for conference was as important and one of the sad things that you are raising is that precisely by the characterisations that have gone on so far manifest in the media, much of the characterisation seems to be in a divisive way. The focus of conference is not, sufficiently at least, emerging in the media on issues. OK, if that's the reality how can conference become the catalyst for the change to the environment? Because post-conference it's necessary that all the structures from head office, the NEC, the regions, the branches now take the conference message down and examine it and make it action. It has to happen and it will happen. The only question is the degree to which it happens. The greater the degree to which it happens, the greater will be my optimism that in a shorter time span we will be having forward movement. The less it happens it means there will be a longer time span post-conference to get things moving. That's the way it has been for me always even in the liberation phase of the struggle.

POM. I think you prefer dealing with the past.

MM. Yes, I prefer dealing with the past but I think that as a result of what we were talking about today I began to articulate a definition of where I draw the line between being an activist today of the ANC and the more passive player that I am now. Today's discussion has helped me to understand that narrow line that separates me from the activist that I used to be.

POM. In a way if these wars are to be waged you have to become an activist again.

MM. Yes.

POM. There's no such thing in wars.

MM. True.

POM. You don't want to go to your grave and look back saying I devoted 40 years, 50 years of my life to achieving the freedom of my people and, my God! –

MM. And all of that is now lost. True. But the challenge is that at the moment I'm not sitting at a point where I say I want to be that type of activist. And I am clear that in such a war all of us will have to be activists but I don't have to be a front line activist because I think that phase is over. The energy that is required for that frontline activist and the level of practical commitment that is needed, I have to balance in terms of other pressures that I assess for myself, but that I will be part of the forces in the war against it, I am even now to some extent. I go to all these events and so I'm not –

POM. Even though you're never invited to Pretoria?

MM. It doesn't matter. OK for today?

POM. You're done?

MM. I want to go and check about my youngster. Are you seeing other people in this period? When are you going back to Cape Town?

POM. I am seeing Ivan Pillay this afternoon.

MM. Good, good.

POM. And then Aboobaker.

MM. Ismail Aboobaker. Good.

POM. What was his – he was in charge of intelligence?

MM. No, Rashid was special operations.

POM. So did you work with him?

MM. Many times I worked with him, many times. Then he was ordinance, he was in the logistics supply of the armoury. He was in charge of the central armoury and the smuggling in of weapons and our requests for weapons began to be smuggled out from his armoury via Joe Slovo and OR without him knowing that it was coming to us.

POM. So he would have the armoury – where?

MM. Wherever we had the armouries from Angola to Zambia, all over and he had networks bringing it down to the neighbouring countries and into the country. He was in charge of that in the last stage. He was first, after his military training, an instructor in Angola. From instructor he went into special operations under Joe Slovo where he was Deputy Commander, then Commissar, then Acting Commander, then Commander, then Deputy Commander and then when Cassius Make died and we had to keep the logistics section going and we reorganised military headquarters he became Chief of Logistics.

POM. You're saying you were stealing arms from his armouries?

MM. In the sense that we did not want him to know that certain arms that he was delivering were being collected and that I was in the country. I remember there was one time they said that we should park a car in a venue in Jo'burg at night and his people would come and transfer the arms into our car. We must park the car and go away and later on come back and collect our car and it would loaded. I said, "No, no deal. Your guys see our cars? No. You park your car and go away. We will come and collect it so you won't even know which car we've used." He just found it unacceptable.

POM. Who am I seeing tomorrow?In fact I've interviewed Ivan twice and we got so interested in talking that we never got to Vula.

MM. OK. Give him my regards. How is the writing going?

POM. I have chucked out about nearly a quarter of a million words in our interviews so far.

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.