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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.


Mac to Zarina from Moscow


My beloved,

Can you understand that at this moment I find it so difficult to put pen to paper? You are in my thoughts all the time. You and our glorious children. Each time I sit down to write I drift off into reveries. Tonight I shall try not to let that happen. I went to bed at eleven and found myself wide-awake at 1am. So here I am trying to write and this time with some understanding of my paralysis.

From the moment I woke up I have been overwhelmed by the yearning to hold you, touch you and to hear your inimitable voice. So many times in my reveries I dwell on how I could (?) hear your voice.

I marvel at my privilege of being part of a family with you, Milou and Joey. When I met you 10 years ago in Maputo (such a short ten years ago) I had reconciled myself to living with a void in my emotions. As for children – a family – any fleeting thoughts had long passed out of my mind when I went to prison. Then there was you. And fullness in life became a flood. By the time we had Milou and Joey I gloried in the three of you: everything "familoid" in me gushed out – something I never knew I had in me. From then on at moments when I looked into the future I could see myself dead because I know I could not live without you. How I miss you, love! How I miss Milou with his so gentle eyes lying, with his head on my lap, stroking my hand. How I miss Joey with her eyes alive, cuddling up to me and hugging me!

The pain of missing you through physical separation always lives in me. But at this moment the intensity of the pain sears my heart and mind.

It is a pain born out of the joy of living because you give me strength. Our beliefs, our commitment to doing whatever the struggle demands of us, become personal – intensely – because in concrete terms we seek to build a livable life for the Joeys and the Milous.

9/7/88:. Would that the soothsayer at Fort Vic was right about the long life ahead of you and me! How glorious it would be if we could [live] through to bask in the serenity of Milou and Joey in their thirties! How even more glorious it would be [if] we had before then carved a society that grants us all a livable life!

My paralysis is not only in writing – I want to drift into reveries because in this period I can't seem to get to grips with details – almost as if I want to run away from details. Details not only re Vula but also of everyday living.

Hence I feel a sense of guilt about the welter of unsorted details that I left you with. You have an immense task without them. I should have kept a grip in sorting them out better and given you more space. It seems that you have to be the rock giving strength to Milou and Joey and me.

I hope Geneva is sorted out. Sure you should not overplay your hand, but darling, don't overlook your strength – they need you.

10/7/88: What a mess I've created. Both sets of A1 and A2 disks were in my bag. At the 4am stopover in Budapest I did not anticipate that hand luggage would have to go through the X-ray machine. Before I knew it the bag was through the machine. So here we are with both sets of 4 disks each very likely corrupted! Can only send a message with J.S. [Joe Slovo] when he returns to have this redone and sent down by special courier. I shall put all that into a memo. Crikey – J.S. will only get back on the eve of the dBase course! Hope Archie [codename of one of the Vula administration team] will be able to handle sending request to TJ [Tim Jenkin] as per my memos. NB. The passwords.

By the way, and this is strictly between you and me. I am thinking of keeping a sort of journal diary of Vula. It can only be done if security is tight. I[t] also applies to finding a way to write to you personally. Do you think, a special receive/send data disk can be prepared and sent to me on the basis that only you and I have the matching sets. If this is possible from time to time I could send the disks out with all writing done encoded and you could decode it. I am not thinking of transmitting as in Vula but sending out disks. However we have to ensure the material is securely encoded and only you can decode and vice versa. Think about it my love – it would do a world of good and I need to be in communication with you.

11/7: A shopping list of things I didn't do, requests and reminders:-

-. Do remember to have the spare wheel of Starwagon chained and locked!

-. I did not arrange for Zesco and water people [to] transfer Chudleigh supplies onto our name. Suggest you have this done as ZM – not ZC [I often used my maiden name Carim] – so thaqt these unwanted water bills from Twin Palm [Road] cease.

-. Forgot to get Zesco and water people to disconnect Twin Palm [Road]

-. Hope second phone installed.

-. Please transfer all Vula on H/disk [hard disk] onto floppy and store safely. Also store away photos of me connected with Vula as it would be dangerous if unwarranted eyes saw them. I will be requesting Ivan and Co. to send me Vula budget as soon as we are settled and have LTs [laptops] going.

-. Ask Archie to have white car serviced, window (drivers side) repaired and to keep reminding Kei to arrange replacing windscreen.

-. Kept forgetting to give size of tyres on Milou's bike to Irene to obtain new tyres and tubes.

-. Fax machine and manual. Give it a dust, put in a box and ask Archie to deliver to Solly Makawa c/o TG [the Treasurer General of the ANC].

-. Remember to give OR [Oliver Tambo] your phone no. so that he can keep in touch.

-. Lillian [Mongalo] gave me phone nos. of special anti Robbery Squad. It's in one of the filing boxes – but it may be easier to get it from her direct and have nos. handy by phone.

How are Joey and Milou and yourself? Perhaps it is too soon to ask but are signs developing of improving understanding by and with Shanthee and Lucky? How are the kids getting on with them?

Some details about myself. A few days after I got here I requested to see a physiotherapist as knee remained swollen – subsiding of swelling very slow. They got all sorts of specialists to see – and what a good thing it turned out. They found a lot of fluid in the knee, did an immediate aspiration, put me under gymnastic exercises and daily treatment of radio therapy. Within days I began to flex leg – very painful and working at getting leg to bend and muscles to revive. It's slow going, painful to exercise but improvement is marked.

Since arriving – (?)(?) so got involved in intensive preparations esp[ecially] in disguises. It was decided to bleach my natural hair. Have already had six bleachings – it is now yellow blond but they are confident they'll get it right. Big improvement on wigs as it gives greater flexibility, less bothersome (after this bleaching will have to be about once a month) and with wigs gives variations. Outside of one visit to a concert – it's all work, work, and work. But that's good as it helps to concentrate my mind.

12/7/88: My dearest love, I am overwhelmed by your letter! I feel ten times stronger just by reading it. And how I love the kids. Against your strength I feel I am weak-kneed. I have been preparing postcards to be sent monthly from here to the kids. I shall have to take care how I write the rest so that Mils [Milou] can read them. I have brought them pool balls etc and a toy piano (battery powered). Please tell Joey and Milou that I ask them to share the musical instrument and I hope they have lots of fun with the tubes etc in the pool.

Am pleased the ITC [International Trade Centre of Geneva, my new UN employers] has been sorted out and especially that the dates are fixed. Trust Roelofson to start tough but you handled him real cool.

It's shocking that there is no documentation in Lusaka. Looks like even the Moureiras like to make themselves indispensable to the point of holding 3rd world countries to ransom. When and where will people come forth who put the well-being of the masses as their priority?

You seem to be getting your teeth into the job. Darling, I believe in you, your strength and your ability. Remember what I said earlier in this letter – you are our family's strength. With you by our side the kids and I cannot but be strong. We shall be together again – make no mistake.

Indeed you seem to be moving like a tornado! But do try to get regular and adequate rest/sleep. What about jogging? Are you managing to keep that up too, in the midst of the whirlwind?

14/7: JS spent last night from 6pm to 11:15pm with us (we are "house-arrested" in an obscure flat). He was very pleasant. In my usual way I got many things off my chest. Poor JS – he literally had to wriggle when I told him how it pains me that we – the makers of revolution, which is about humanity – are ourselves becoming unfeeling. To be fair he was jolted. When leaving he hugged me and wept. Before that during the chatting it became clear that he was in awe of your strength and bravery. He said to me "Mac, Zarina is even braver than you. Do you know that?" While talking about you and your bravery he began to weep. All this in the presence of Sylvester [one of the codenames of the deputy commander of Vula]. I am convinced now that one of his major problems vis-à-vis the two of us is his awe about certain qualities he sees in us (which he deeply respects) but cannot handle. (Maybe partly because he is caught up in image.) When he left Sylvester said "whew" at some of the things I had said. All in all it was a real letting-hairs-down session around problems of the struggle and about people in struggle becoming uncaring. You are right – it's unfair to measure [him] against OR.

Many thanks for the phone nos. Sylvester left this evening. The stay with him was useful. I think we are developing confidence in each other: we will need a great fund of it and trust and respect for each other's judgment. The signs are we will be able to function as a team. During this period he gradually became on edge as time drew nearer. It did not disturb our developing relations. At another level this getting into a tight ball of knots is a positive thing because I see it as part of the signs that we are internalizing the challenge we face, have accepted the challenge and slowly began to work ourselves into a condition of raring to go at the task.

Tomorrow it's getting together all the bits and bobs, checking every detail. JS plans to spend evening with me, then early on Saturday I move. I hope by then to be really to say:

Boldness, be my friend!

I feel the immense weight on my shoulders. In a sense even Sylvester begins to lean on me and look to me. Your presence by my side and the knowledge that our family, as a family, a single unit is going into battle and not me as an individual, gives me great courage.

I begin to feel deep down we will conquer, we will accomplish things which will give pride to our family and particularly in the future to our lovely children.

Please give my love to Shanthee and Lucky. For us all it is a season of challenges. In a way, by their being willing to help us and the kids, they are in fact part of the process of rising to the challenge. We shall overcome, our people shall be free!

Tell our Milou and Joey, I shall be thinking of them always and always. Every night I imagine I am kissing them good night and every morning I shall imagine I am kissing them awake. I cuddle them both and caress them with all my heart.

As for you, my love, I caress your feet. Be strong. Let us forge ahead hand-in-hand. Together we are invincible. Henceforth let us have a simple word "Victory!". If I feel pain, it is pain born of the passion of my love for you.

Graçias á la vida, my love,

At all moments and always



Pto back of p.9

-. I did not work out ticket etc refund to Shanthee and Co. Take half cost of their return tickets and add packing costs of their goods and refund.

-. Have had a cloth eye patch made.


15/7: In A/C box file there is a cheque for +K2000. Please deposit in our a/c and give equivalent to Ivan [Pillay] or Archie.

-. Please get Archie/Ivan to refund phone a/c dated April 88. It is in region of K28,000-00 and pay a/c.

Hope everything settled with Wamunariyas.

-. Has Archie returned SACOS [South African Congress of Students] booklet to Thabo [Mbeki]?

Hello my beloved,

Time is running out. Still so much to do. Am waiting for camouflage bag, documents are busy being prepared – you name it. But all with amazing meticulous detail. My bag was ordered from Paris – only arrived last night. Hosts being marvelous. I detect surprise in them thqt we had advanced so far with arrangements re Vula without their aid. But they feel honoured to be in the final stage and are pulling out all stops. (Back of p.8). The glimpses they have seen of the preparations we did impress them no end and they are exuding with confidence (though when I arrived they seemed sceptical!)

5am tomorrow starts final hairdo etc. All of which we have rehearsed and rehearsed even to the point of final dress rehearsals!

For me, you shall be by my side every moment. Every step I take we shall be moving hand-in-hand.

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.