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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Maharaj, Mac [Second Interview]


Conducted by Howard Barrell, Johannesburg, November 20 1990

[Note on tapes of interview: This is transcript of complete interview. Interview starts on Side C]

Right, Mac, could we start today with when you come out of prison. You come out, as I understand it, in December 1976. Now, you have been, as I understand it in an earlier discussion with you, given certain tasks by the leadership on the Island. Can you just briefly explain the character of those tasks and what perspective informed them?

Well, we had had intense discussions in prison about the way forward, about tactical-strategic questions. Clear: I was fully in the know about those debates and discussions. But the task that necessitated my leaving the country is something that I still cannot go into. It was a task that it was envisaged would take me six months to a year to complete. And I was therefore required to go abroad to pursue those tasks. They had nothing specific to do with regard to questions of strategy and tactics. This was a straightforward job that I had to do. So, but of course, if we are to locate the context of the question, if I were to read which way you are heading, then, sure, one had developed certain viewpoints in prison. These viewpoints related to the way the struggle was developing, tactical questions, strategic questions. But we were very mindful - certainly Nelson, Walter, and the single sections - were adamant throughout those years that we had a duty to understand what was going on, but had no right to tell the organisation what to do. Even the leaflet that I brought out, written in the name of Nelson, had the caveat that it should be handed to the president [Tambo].

Now, which one is this? The "hammer and the anvil"?


That statement?

Ja. And it had the caveat that it should be handed to the president and he had to decide whether it should be issued. Fortunately, it accorded with the wishes of the movement and its understanding of the situation. And, in that sense, it was heartening because it showed that the basic thrust of our thinking was in line with what the leadership was thinking.

What was the basic thrust of your thinking on the Island [Robben Island]?

That was a leaflet written at the height of the June revolt. And the central thrust of all that was to emphasise the need for the unity of our people in action and to say that here was a situation where our people and our children were being massacred, and, as in the past, this time in even more passionate terms, we were saying, Nelson [Mandela] was saying that we cannot afford the luxury of little problems to impede the development of black unity. And he went on to emphasise that, while black unity was the bedrock of the struggle, that this unity needs to encompass and reach into the white community. And, of course, from our understanding of movement strategy and tactics, we had always assumed that mass mobilisation, mobilisation of the people, and their involvement in the struggle, in all forms of the struggle, was a fixed position of the movement - not only theoretical, but practical. And that, therefore, these two things had to be combined, and therefore we talked of the hammer and the anvil.

Now can I pick you up on this? At the time that you come out of Robben Island, it must have been clear to people on the Island that, although arguably the gist of black consciousness was not contrary to movement thinking, the movement per se was weak in the sort of incipient mass organisations that were then emerging.

Yes, we had sensed that, fairly accurately. But we were not alarmed by the rise of black consciousness. Because we believed that that phenomenon has manifested itself in generation after generation in different forms. The only difference was that here it was being put forward as a concrete organised force. We saw its shortcomings - that is its emphasis on psychological liberation, but we were favourably, or considerate of its positions, because we thought that it was a positive contribution. Secondly, just before my departure from prison, comrades like Eric Molobi had just arrived in prison, and Masondo.

This is Amos Masondo?

Amos Masondo, Eric Molobi - the first group of black consciousness. And, although they were sentenced for all sorts of other offences, we received their reports. And Molobi had been in the delegation to see, meet the ANC. And had met Cde Thabo [Mbeki]. And, in the usual way, they had put forward in that meeting the request that the ANC should facilitate their training and that they should set up a private, a separate army of their own.

When had this meeting taken place?

This meeting had taken place before June [1976]. And contact had been established between black consciousness, led by Steve Biko, and Eric [Molobi] had gone, as I recall as an emissary of Steve and black consciousness.

Where had the meeting taken place?


So this is in early 1976?

Early 1976 - even, maybe late 1975. And he had reported, I think, fairly accurately our positions, because they would have been our answers. That is, that they were received well; that this whole very dangerous area from the point of view of legality, of training, was no problem; but the idea of separate commands and a separate army was rejected in a proper discussing atmosphere. And my impression of Eric's report was that - well, it's not just an impression, I think he said as much - that he returned to South Africa to face quite a bit of criticism from some circles in the BC, to say that he had caved in to the ANC positions, in that he agreed with the positions that the ANC was taking. That was the prelude to what was going to be a meeting between Steve Biko and the ANC on the eve of his murder.

Where was that meeting due to take place?

That meeting was going to take place outside. Cde Thabo [Mbeki] - I saw a clip in Harare, I cannot recall exactly, but in a clip which was a film being made on the making of the Biko film, that's Cry Freedom, Cde Thabo appeared on it, I've only seen it once, one evening, and accidentally so it's not properly in my mind, but what I do recall is that that is the first time that publicly the ANC has gone on record that Biko was on his way to a meeting with the ANC. I've been aware of that - and we had not gone public. And then in that context I have my own theories as to how and why Biko was murdered.

Can you voice them?

In my opinion, through the ground side and Craig Williamson's relationship with the black consciousness and the Ginsberg Foundation, he acted as an intermediary, in some aspects, and, as a result, he was privy to some of Biko's lieutenants, and he became aware that Biko was planning to meet the ANC. And I believe that Biko's murder, whatever physical form it took, was something that the regime had actually designed - that he should be killed.

Was it anything like to protect Williamson's cover?

No, it was to prevent this meeting, because Biko had been shifting, moving in his positions, from an original position of BC at its formation, and Saso, that it was occupying an unoccupied terrain caused by the illegalisation of the movement; that it was not intending to be a rival movement to the ANC and to the PAC; and that, at the appropriate time, it would be left for the members of BC to decide which of the two to join. Now that was the original position. But Biko had begun to move. Contacts had been established with the ANC; his emissaries had been coming and discussing and reporting; and concrete proposals were being sent; Biko had realised, and was moving from psychological liberation to combining that with practical action. He had reached the position where the Soweto Uprising had taken place. He had seen what it meant and that, while psychological liberation was a very important ingredient, it now needed to be supplemented with action to overthrow. And he himself, I believe, had moved to the recognition of the need for armed struggle. When Molobi returned, the controversy was, among some, that he was aligning himself with ANC, but, more than that, that he was abandoning the occupying of the vacuum, and moving from psychological liberation to action. Now, Biko was trying to carry his forces, and the ANC advice to him was that we did not want the BC movement split; we wanted him to continue in the direction of his development and bring the bulk of his forces into active struggle. So, I think that, through Craig Williamson, the regime got to know the direction in which Biko was thinking, and they panicked because if he was moving in that direction then the alignment was going to be very clear.

Now, can I go back? OK, you treat with consideration the arrival of BC. But, when you leave the Island, the movement still has to confront the difficulty that ANC qua ANC organisation within this incipient mass movement is weak. What strategic or tactical perspectives are emerging from the Island at the time that you leave in order to correct this relative weakness of the ANC in the incipient mass movement?

It's difficult for me to indicate any coherent position on the Island. You must remember it was June when the whole phenomenon burst on the centre state. I was shifted from the Island in October. I was busy preparing. And we knew that I would be just whisked away suddenly. We were excited by the events, but extremely angry with the massacres. And we had not gone through the process of discussing the issues. And Molobi and them's arrival was the first of a group who could authentically now tell us what they were thinking. Molobi happened to be put into the one wing of the isolation sections where we were kept. And it enabled us to communicate in writing and get his reports. And he was keen to ask us about us. He already had aligned himself and showed that he was with us. Similarly, to a lesser extent, Masondo. There was one member who was more PAC inclined, who has vanished from the scene. So, we hadn't had a considered view. Secondly, I think, Robben Islanders were coming out up to that stage, perhaps even after that, at times preoccupied with specific aspects of struggle. For example, what should be the tactics vis a vis bantustans, or a specific bantustan. And many were at a disadvantage in that they were not sufficiently able to exchange views with Walter [Sisulu] and Nelson [Mandela]. Communications intra prison were quite a laborious process. They eased up and became better as time went on. So, there was that problem. And the Island comrades were preoccupied with those specific aspects. There was discussion that had been ongoing on the general aspects. And they impacted on the debates that went on over questions like tactics to be used in a specific bantustan. The most important of that is that people like Nelson [Mandela] and Walter [Sisulu] were ready to examine the history of the ANC in a highly self-critical fashion. I recall that we being in a debate with Nelson about the slogan over Sophiatown, "Over our Dead Bodies". Because I had gone to raise the matter with him and Walter to say: Wasn't that an incorrect slogan? We reached a very easy and rapid consensus that that was one instance where we had put forward a slogan without thinking it through. Similarly, we had examined the Lobatse Conference decisions on the boycott of the Transkei elections, and what it meant in the nature of the 1964-65 repression in contributing to blocking us from reaching the masses. But you see what I am saying is that in that way there is an underlying position that the masses and the people are the makers of history.

Now, then, do you come off the Island - OK the ANC qua ANC is weak in the black consciousness movement; it's pretty weak in the emergent union movement - do you come off the Island with any particular perspective on how to remedy this weakness?

We used to give the guidance to comrades who asked what they should do when they get out - and in those years you were house-arrested, banished and restricted - so we used to give the general line that it was their job, wherever they were put by the regime, to survive, to reach amongst the people, begin to understand what is happening, and that they should begin to build people's forces, not necessarily MK; but that the practical measures would depend on their linking up with the movement and getting the movement's advice from Lusaka. I recall this very well because I had not expected that I would be asked to go out. It was out of practice. Never had anybody been told to leave the country. It was always: Contact the movement; they'll decide; they know better. And so a person like Walter was very privy to my thinking and helped to shape my thinking; and the likelihood was that I would be restricted to, say, Newcastle; and I had already mapped out in my mind what I would do if that happened; and specifically, that I would begin to relate to the people there, begin to organise them no matter how repressive and how dormant the masses were; and I would try to make contact; but, that, if there were no responses, I would move ahead in that direction until the movement would find it to its advantage to make contact with me. Now Walter encouraged this line of thinking. But it's in the middle of this thinking that the specific task that I am assigned is developing, and I then dawn onto the idea that, hey, the implication of what I am being asked to do - and it took a long time to brief me - is that I have to leave the country. So, I had to confront Walter and Nelson, and they said, Ja, that's the implication, and you have to do it. So it changed in my case. But it wasn't so in every comrade's case.

So you are given no specific political, mobilisatory task apart from the general task, and then this special task?

And my instructions are clear. That you have to abide [by] and be guided by the organisation as it exists in Lusaka. Nelson has put it graphically even in his case when he was released and Walter: There is only one ANC and that is the ANC which has its head offices in Lusaka, and whose president is Oliver Tambo.

OK, now when you come out...

But if I may just say this: In our, certainly in discussion that I had been involved in, we had isolated the weakness that the movement had become cut off - the regime had succeeded in cutting the movement off from the people. That is why the hammer and the anvil was easy to formulate. It really encapsulated our assumptions, our consciousness that the movement - we of course put it this way, that the movement had been trying, but that the regime had succeeded in building that cordon sanitaire.

Do you suggest solutions to this?

No, solutions were not something that we ever advocated. We felt that each individual...


Yes, certainly, one had suggestions. For example, in my case, I had gone to prison hot-headed, and I was very clear in my mind that I would like to be deployed a) on internal problems of South Africa, and b) that I would like to be deployed to attend to this work of solving the problem of mobilising the masses, of redressing the balance. Now, I didn't see it as a balance that somebody had developed a theoretical or analytical outlook that was contrary to our approach. I saw it as the regime having succeeded and it needed very painstaking attention, and it needed somebody totally committed.

Now, when you, you are not restricted as I understand it to Newcastle; you are restricted to somewhere in Durban.

Durban, ja.

Now you spend, as I understand it, about six months inside the country before you go abroad. So, you go abroad in what, about June of 1977?

July, end of June. That was my second request: that, when they ordered me to leave, I said that you have to give me a minimum of six months in the country to get a feel of the situation so that I could report.

Now, during that six months that you are inside the country, you presumably establish contact with the movement inside the country, or you recruit people to the movement inside the country?

I did both. I managed to establish contact with the existing units in the country of the ANC and MK, and secondly, I managed to establish contact with various groupings that were not necessarily in touch with the ANC but were busy, were active in community struggles, in overt political struggle, and in clandestine forms of struggle - different groupings.

Now, we are moving into a delicate area. But it's absolutely vital. For me this could be another missing link - or I am theorising it is a missing link. People like - I think we can talk about it now - Pravin Gordhan, Yunus Mohamed - this series of, I'm thinking particularly of a series of bright, young Indian professionals, left guys, do you establish, or re-establish, or nurture contacts with people of this kind at this stage?

Well, in my search to meet people, I look for people and people look for me. I came out in the middle of the Gwala Trial, the Pietermaritzburg trial of Steve Dhlamini and company. I was already called in on the question of what happens to Steve Dhlamini, and advised that he should leave the country. But the important thing is that, when you ask questions about Pravin and Yunus, it emerged in my looking and I obtained the court records, the statements, everything they had made to the security branch - all the Pietermaritzburg trialists - it became clear that people like Pravin and Yunus had already been in touch with the ANC and were serving it, albeit in a very rudimentary form - logistical forms. But that they had lost contact as a result of the arrests of 1975. And they, in their turn, were amongst the groups who reached me, without revealing their existence as a group. They reached me on various theoretical questions on the nature of the struggle, and strategy and tactics. And I therefore had firsthand experience of meeting them. My determination was to meet people across the board, to be able to have a sense and feel of what was happening in the country. So, sure, I met them. I met them in different capacities - not on the basis that they were a unit. And I was able to get a fair measure of who was who, and it was not just in the Indian community. I reached into the Coloured community, for example the administrative secretary of Saso, Terence Tryon - he's been administrative secretary for seven years, and he was living in Wentworth. And I went out to meet him. But, when we met, we found he was trying to reach me and I was trying consciously to reach him. Because here was a person who occupied a continuous position in Saso, and therefore knew virtually everybody in Saso. The history of Terence Tryon is well known. He eventually left the country, joined, now openly became identified with the ANC, and is presently chief representative [of the ANC] in Angola. So, I illustrate that as another example. I reached into the African community. I made contact with the late Shadrack Maphumulo, who was killed in Swaziland. I made contact with the late Judson Khuzwayo, who was killed in Zimbabwe, and through them reached into a variety of circles also. But I never relied on any one. The fact that Judson and Shadrack Maphumulo were without hesitation ANC did not preclude me in my mind that, to understand the situation, I had to go to circles that may not connected with them. But they were able to give me a reading.

Now, do you start working with these comrades?

No, I'm discussing with them, getting their understanding of the problems, but I'm refusing to become involved because I know that I am leaving. And I was deeply conscious that I should not say or do anything that would mean that I have already put my hands onto a problem. I also knew that my mission abroad would take me outside of the neighbouring territories, and I did not know what the movement would deploy me [as]. I had my wishes, but what would happen. And I still entertained the dream: I had asked Nelson [Mandela] and Walter [Sisulu], but specifically Nelson, to write a note to OR [Tambo] that in explaining my task, why he had sent me out, that he would support my request to be allowed to come back within a year. And he had said: No ways. That's a decision...

OR [Tambo] had said so?

No, Nelson [Mandela]. Nelson said: No ways. And I said: [unclear]. But the decision will be, the organisation's decision will be according to it's needs. And I know, I was very angry about that decision.

Now, when you go out, presumably these comrades that you've met, you set up means to re-establish contact with them, or maintain contact with them at some later point?


You do not?

I say to them that they must find a way to relate to the organisation. Because I am refusing to tell, even let them know that I am leaving. So I cannot make any arrangements. And so I could not even make the arrangements to go and hand it over to somebody. I had actually to mislead them like I did with Vula that I said I was never going out.

OK, now, at the time that you - this period in Durban - you are meeting people in Durban who have contacts into Natal generally, what would you estimate is the formal underground strength of the ANC in Natal at that time?



Smashed by the Pietermaritzburg trial. Chaps surviving, regrouping themselves. They had a capacity to take people in and out of the country.

They were using Swaziland mainly, were they?

Ja. The late Nzima...

Petrus Nzima? The chap that was blown up in [Swaziland]...?

Blown up - was my guide across the border. And I did use them. I sent a message to the president to say that I was coming out on a mission and I would explain the mission, it would explain itself when I came out. But I said I do not want help from outside, that I would make my own way out. And I was doing that because I was deeply aware that even post-Soweto the regime had been making massive inroads through its repression: The Gwala trial was on, in PE Mati had been sentenced, in Cape Town - what was his name, not Looksmart Ngudle, the other one had been killed, Loza, it was Elijah Loza, had been killed - and in Johannesburg-Pretoria, there was the Pretoria 12 trial and arrests; there was also the arrest, the Rabkins had been arrested and then Tony Holiday's arrest. And so I was very wary of who I would utilise. Sean Hosey had been arrested. And I wasn't clear. I know I had already clear on Sean Hosey. I wasn't clear on how they had broken through in these four centres. And therefore I said: Look, I don't want to burden the organisation; I'll find my own way. Now, what I did find in relation to your question on the strength of the underground - because I wasn't going to dig into that - I wanted a feel of the political...

[End of side C]

So I didn't feel that was my job. I felt my job was to get a reading of the political temperatures, tendencies. But I did link up with the underground in the sense that I needed a capacity to get out safely. And, in this regard, the presence of Judson Khuzwayo was extremely useful because he was a comrade that I knew personally who had been brought to the other wing [of Robben Island] for punishment, and I knew his position in the structures and, therefore, it was possible to discuss and probe a little more with Judson, and to learn then that they capacity to move people in an out still, and they were still doing it. So I was able to discuss the problem and to rope in his assistance and, in that way, Judson, very rapidly by the way brought me on a very, very strict underground way of working with Shadrack [Maphumulo] and [Petrus] Nzima. And I must say that, despite whatever the hitches that arose, the exit was extremely smooth and was not only smooth up to the point of getting out of the country safely, but that my guides knew exactly where to take me, and I did not even spend 24 hours in Swaziland - I was already in Mozambican territory. And all this was through an existing infrastructure that was clearly well-oiled. And we had problems of all sorts - of finance, of transport, we didn't have cars and all that. I know that the morning I'm leaving Durban, and I have already gone and changed into my disguise, then comes the news from Shadrack [Maphumulo] that the car has broken down. So we had to improvise. So those difficulties were there. But there existed a well-oiled machinery that was able to handle everything, which needed sometimes my participation in solving the problems.

Are you able now, with the benefit of hindsight, to give some numerical account of the underground as you encounter it in Natal at the time that you come out, in the six months, the seven months between December 1976 and July 1977.

Clearly those six months, comrades like Judson and them, who were definitely in the underground were seized with regrouping. They had an infrastructure. Their regrouping was bedeviled by the usual problem when you are smashed in that way: to know who's who, who's reliable and who's not reliable. But, when I look back, each one of them was well-entrenched, covered their backs adequately. Judson only leaves the country 1978-79. Shadrack leaves it later. Nzima leaves it in between. And, all of these guys leave it, not just in a panic, fleeing; they leave the country on the basis that the organisation decides that they are needed in Swaziland. And that's the basis on which they go. So, I would say that, at that level, they had a network. But at the level that the network was capable to answer the political problems, the strategic political-military problems and tactical problems, I don't think that those networks were of that calibre - not because they were not of the calibre, but because they were seized with the problem of regrouping. And, when you are seized with the problem of regrouping, you've got no time to think of strategic and tactical questions.

Now, when you get abroad in July 1977, how long are you taken up with this task that you have got to perform? When do you, when have you discharged this particular task? When do you start participating in the exile mission in some other form?

Well, I went off to Britain. I was sent to Britain. And worked under great pressure on my mission coordinating with OR [Tambo], and then I was informed in November of 1977 that the organisation in Lusaka had decided that I should come back to Lusaka in December for a meeting. And, when I got there I was already told in London by the late Dr Dadoo that a decision had been taken that I should serve as the secretary of the Internal Reconstruction Department [IRD]. So, there were other proposals that they were coming up, that they were discussing - none of them involved consulting me. I had stated my position clearly when I got to Lusaka at the end of July [1977], that I did not want to work in the international mission. So I was informed that I am to come to Lusaka for a meeting of the internal department {IRD], that I was going to be the secretary of the internal department. And, when I got to Lusaka - I was there for a week in December, I hadn't finished my work in Britain - I was informed, I participated in a meeting of the internal committee, the head committee. And then I was asked what my circumstances were and finally it was agreed that I would go and wind up and complete whatever I was doing - they didn't know what I was doing, they only knew I was doing something for the president - and I was asked to report for duty, full-time duty in the first week of January.

Of 1978?


So then you report for duty? Can you tell me now, when you report for duty at this time - 1977-78, when you move into IRD - how, at that point, would you characterise the ANC's strategic and tactical perspective?

Well, I can only characterise that one by looking back. Because, as a disciplined member of the movement, one tended to over-read in favour of the movement. One didn't start off by saying that the movement was in trouble, or was not able to solve problems, or was not able to do the right things. But, when I look back, the RC [Revolutionary Council] had already taken a form - hey, I don't know how far this bloody thing; well, let's just turn this bastard off...

[break in tape]

[discussion of various computer software]

Right, where we left off was how you would characterise the ANC's strategic outlook in 1978 when you move into IRD?

I have a problem about answering the question at the level at which you have posed it, because it's not so much a question of strategic outlook; it's a question of practice.

That's - well I was going to make the distinction between idealisations of strategy and practice of strategy. I was going to come to that.

Something that you have to dig up. But let me give you some pointers. Morogoro [Consultative Conference] 1969 appoints a Revolutionary Council to take overall charge of the prosecution within the country. And, as I think through carefully all the departments that were set up as part of the Revolutionary Council, I can't outline them here. That's why you OU [Operations Unit, mentioned in book, MK: The ANC's Armed Struggle] was so wrong. It was Central Operational Headquarters - Operational or Operations Headquarters. But the point I want to make at this stage is: By the time, by 1978, bit by bit the RC has been denuded of departments that make it a viable entity to prosecute the struggle. For example, propaganda as propaganda has been removed, and the then head of propaganda is no longer sitting on the RC; he's sitting in the NEC.

Who was that?

Duma Nokwe.

What period is that?

Between 1969 and 79, the stripping had already taken place of propaganda. The result is there is no head of propaganda; there is no department in the RC as propaganda.

Where is it? Under the office of the president?

It has gone to the president - it is not at that stage, it is not even under the office of the president. Duma is on his way to dying, but he has removed it. Arguments that were used, debates etc, don't cut ice on this thing.

What were those arguments and debates?

As I understand it, the RC is a subsidiary body to the NEC; how can the RC determine what the movement should be saying at the level of propaganda? I am a member of the NEC; how can I be subjected to the control of non-NEC people?

Is that Duma Nokwe speaking?

Duma Nokwe. I am putting it a bit crude; it's far more sophisticated. But the net result is it is stripped of that. Secondly, you point out [in book, MK: The ANC's Armed Struggle] "Strategy and Tactics" of Morogoro has begun to formulate the question, quite apart from all the generalities, opens the door to saying "only the armed struggle". You'll find it replete in "Sechaba" by that time. And I take it up. I say: Where's this from?

You take it up when you go there?

Mmm. Nobody wants to listen to me, nobody. The departments of the RC by the time I get there are logistics to serve military work, ordinance, communications - nothing to do with the communications that we were thinking of - Central Operational Headquarters, and then Internal Reconstruction [IRD], answerable to the RC and answerable to the NEC.

Sort of halfway between the two?

Don't know where it's sitting.

On a point of clarification: somebody told me, in one of my interviews, IRD when you move in is under the office of the president. This is not correct, is it?


It occupies this kind of halfway position between the NEC and the RCRC?

Mmm. It's under the NEC; its under the RC.

Does it have representation on both?

On the NEC, there's John Motsabi.

Who's chairman of IRD?

And, in the RC, he's there. This stripping of the RC is still going on - tussles. John Motsabi would go to the RC and answer as far as he is prepared to answer, and dodge by saying: NEC. He'd go to the NEC, he's dodge there saying: RC. Now, maybe that's the personality of John.

Dodging about what?

About really accounting, and explaining, and following a perspective of work.

In other words, accounting for what political work has been done?

And accounting for how far he's building the underground, what progress he has made, what problems he's facing, what needs to be done.

OK, I want to ask you a question: The man [Motsabi] is no longer with us. I mean, my understanding is that Motsabi was an extremely ineffective man?

When I was informed in London by Doc [Dadoo] in November - he had returned obviously from an RC meeting, a full RC meeting at some stage - and the decision had been taken that I had been appointed secretary, I said to Doc in his office in London, I said: Doc, what have you all done to me? This man has a history of factionalism, and it is combined with the fact that, when he was secretary of the Transvaal ANC under Nelson [Mandela], besides his factionalism, he had a nervous breakdown. I hadn't met him yet, but this is what I know of his history. And Doc said: Well, if you don't do the work, who is there to do the work? You'd better find a way to do the work. So, that's what I knew of John Motsabi, when I am told that I am to do this job. And I said to Doc: This is the last person I expected you to put me to work with. And he said: Well, that's the reality; you have to pull your weight; you have to go there and solve the problems. So, besides being a factionalist, ineffective, incompetent, damaged - I don't know what he was before his nervous breakdown - but also a tribalist in the worst sense of the word.

What tribe was he from?

Sotho. Sotho-Tswana. Tswana. And [he] exploited the fact that he was Tswana to maintain his position by implicitly blackmailing the movement.

In other words, saying that there would be an overbalance of other tribal...?


Representatives if he were removed?

Mmm. So he was in a, if ever in his lifetime he had a motivation that was not overwhelmed by power play, personal power play, certainly by the time I meet him, he is into personal power play but combined with inefficiency and ineffectiveness. And that's the worst bloody combination. Because all you do it dodge all round, and you try to keep throwing stones into the pool, to muddy everything. But, in the context of the problem, in the context of the stripping of the RC, in the context of your thesis, the practical reality is that the RC that I found had probably about 10 departments, nine of them were serving military, and one was concerned with building an underground. And this, not because there was no "Green Book" [Report of the Politico-Military Strategy Commission, 1979]; this was preceded by "No Middle Road" [written by Joe Slovo]; this was preceded by "Strategy and Tactics" at Morogoro, which is replete with the question of the masses, etc; preceded by the formation of Umkhonto; it had a generation of members of the NEC and the [SA communist] party central committee, who had participated in the actual formation of Umkhonto; and preceded by a whole history of the ANC-Congress Alliance-SACP conception of "the people".

How do we account for this deviation then, at that point?

I don't know. The only possible lines of explanation I have at the moment may not be correct. And what frightens me is that it suddenly takes good, very important, very dedicated comrades, who have definitely served the struggle completely unselfishly in one way. But it shows a tremendous degeneration of their calibre in the process of exile life and, in the face of having to rebuild in the context of whatever there was in South Africa before the repression and before Rivonia being so smashed, that they didn't know where to start. It is combined with the problems generated by racism in South Africa, and it therefore exacerbates the problem when an outstanding person like JS [Slovo], person like Doc [Dadoo] are removed, are far away from the scene in Europe, and it distorts their perspectives, distorts their personalities, so that they are outstanding but their contribution is now, are perceived as a challenge to what is being done, but I think it distorts the personality, where not in a crude fashion, where the overwhelming drive becomes placing yourself in the history books. That team that I was talking about - many of the players are aboard, but it's no longer a team. And it is combined with a perspective that Kotane developed. This is the enigma of all enigmas. A man who undoubtedly is the architect of putting together in a non-contradictory way, almost in a mutually supportive way, these two strands of Marxism and nationalism actually, in my opinion, ends his life as a liquidationist of the [SA communist] party.

By liquidationist, you mean somebody who is advocating the liquidation of the party into the ANC? Is that what you are saying?

Who advocates the line that the party's existence as a party is unimportant because it has no role; that it is sufficient that party people occupy positions in the ANC. So he wants the existence of the party but only to rubber stamp the individuals' position in the ANC, and feels that, maybe a very crude formulation, feels that thereby the triumph of not only the national democratic revolution is ensured but also the transition to socialism is assured. So he cannot see any practical tasks that the party can perform.

So are you explaining now the submersion of the [SA communist] party into the ANC and its inability to develop independent perspectives which may have corrected this quasi-militarist deviation which the ANC exhibits?

Yes, but it also explains the personality distortions that arose in those who fought for the party to exist as an entity in a viable [way].

What do you mean by the personality distortions? I'm a little unclear what you mean by that.

This is being very harsh. I am speaking to you very frankly at the moment.

Fine. Ok. I appreciate this is not the kind of thing one wants to...

What accounts for JS [Slovo] being what he is? I have not come across a person on the left who is as self-centred as JS. The centre of the struggle is where he is. And the issue of the day is the position that he takes. Even in extremely minute things, extremely minute to the point where - I had a fight with him when I was still illegal [during Operation Vula] - about Groote Schuur [Minute]; it was a bitter fight; I wrote an apology to him for that fight, the form that it took; but my central thesis was that you read Groote Schuur, it takes into account those who are in prison, it takes into account those who are in exile; it takes no account of the illegals and the people who are in the underground, be it political or military who are inside the country; it's totally silent [on them]. And his argument was that it flows from it; my argument is that it does not, you are dealing with the enemy. And we fought the whole night. Why? Because he was saying: I was there at Groote Schuur; believe me, it's a natural consequence. And I was saying: You may or may not be there, but you had no thought about this. And he found that painful. And fought back. But the upshot of it was that it is an extremely competent, qualified person, whose practice was to see wording, has participated in Groote Schuur, has participated in Pretoria [Minute], and has participated in the NEC meetings approving of the Working Groups reports, needs, when we are still in Westville, needs not a politician and a fellow freedom fighter, but needs an advocate to tell him, after hours of struggling, that this thing is crap, look at the formulations. And then he says: Ooh, what have we been agreeing to? But he doesn't say: What have we been agreeing to? He says: What have those guys in the Working Group been doing?

So, what is the distortion of personality in that? You've spoken about a certain self-centredness. Is it a sense of being thrust out in to exile, attempting somehow to record - whether it's crapping (well, I'm being very crude now), to record your mark in history somehow, and this clouds your judgment or ability to service a long-term perspective? You are looking for short-term marks on the pages of history as you go along? Is that what you are talking about? If we move further ahead: Is armed propaganda in a sense - the way in which armed propaganda, to my mind, survives for a great deal longer as the predominant form of armed struggle than it should do - is that a long survival of armed propaganda a function of the same distortion of personality in the sense that here is an external mission desperately trying to register some mark contemporaneously on the situation? No longer, because of the desperation of exile, able to look at a long-term development, a long-term perspective? Is that the kind of factor we are looking it?

In part. I think it explains a large quantity of it. But I'd say with JS [Slovo], a person of great competence, theoretical and practical - when JS is in a practical task, and his heart happens to be in it, then he is going to go through the details. He is going to really supervise, and he can inspire. But look at the exile situation. You could not go and live in Tanzania; you could not even go for a meeting...

Because he was a white communist?

Because he was a white communist. JB Marks was in Tanzania but could not leave Tanzania because of the danger that he would not be allowed back in.

This is the Pan-Africanism of these countries?

Ja. And now what happens is that Kotane has moved into the liquidationist path. There are two polls to the revival of the [SA communist] party - one from within the camps, which is made up of good and bad people, but rank and file, schooled in the party, but the other is from London. And, of course, London is able to put the theoretical arguments, is able to move around the world.

Is Kotane London?

Kotane is not London. Kotane is Dar es Salaam.

So who's London then?

Doc [Dadoo] and JS [Slovo].

Putting a liquidationist line?

No, opposing a liquidationist line.

Opposing. Oh, I beg your pardon.

But not able to oppose it with a constituency, but therefore can only oppose it by manoeuvring.


So, you get into a mould - a very harsh judgement...

[End of Side D]

Ok, let's go.

I say it's a very harsh judgement, because I have this love-hate relationship at a personal level with JS [Slovo]. I have an unqualified love relationship towards Doc [Dadoo]. But it takes me time to see, and I finally accuse Doc and JS in a private gathering taking place aside from an ongoing central committee meeting, and I say: Jesus, you guys have done a hell of a job in carrying out the fight to justify and establish the need for the [SA communist] party to exist; but, at the same time, you guys have fucked us up.

And why do you say they have fucked you up?

They've fucked up the [SA communist] party.

In what sense?

Because, doing that job of maintaining the fight for the party not to be liquidated in practice, without a constituency, they have to grab every and any shit who is amenable to that task in Africa. And they slip into that mould, unconscious behind-the-scenes kingmakers. And, when you are doing king making away from a constituency, you don't know who you are dealing with. As long as the chap shows the qualities of articulateness and he follows in the right racial classification, you pick him up and you promote him. Because you reckon, after that fight the sifting will take place.

Is there anybody of this category, this low-grade recruits that I understand you to be referring to, is the anybody in that category who is perhaps dead or gone to whom you could refer by name?

They're alive.

They're alive still.

I had a fight with JS [Slovo] in Maputo. I said to him: JS, you promoted a person to the central committee on the day he joined the party. And I say: You did it, JS, because you met the guy; he satisfied the following criteria - he was African, he appeared to you to be an intellectual and articulate and, number three, he implied that he was in the [SA communist] party. You had a capacity to check whether he had been in the party; you didn't; you invited him straight away to a meeting of the extended central committee; and put him in the central committee. And he said: No. And I said: Yes. And we talked the name out. And he was embarrassed as hell because I could prove that the man was never in the party.

You wouldn't feel comfortable mentioning this person's name?

Ja, for purposes, not using it today...

But for purposes of my understanding.

Andrew Masondo.


Then the same thing happened with another, who was in the [SA communist] party. In the regrouping that took place and the fight back against Kotane, he was involved. He was never, he had never moved through the normal party machineries - and we must qualify this because underground party you can't move through different experiences to balance your growth - but, when I met him he was a D category, which therefore meant you had to be separated from the others. But I meet him for the first time when he is invited to join the district committee, post-Rivonia, and he serves only in one meeting of the district committee of Johannesburg because we decide, because we have an invitation from outside to say: Send people to party school to train. We decide to send him off. As it happens, he therefore does not attend any more district committee meetings. So he's not even blooded into that. And, as it happens, he doesn't go out. But comes the arrests and we are detained, and he is detained, and by every account he has made a deal, because within three weeks of detention he is released. Well, it's clear on the basis of a deal - we have that...

[Interruption for phone call]

So he gets out, and he says to the chap he made a deal. And the chap is wise enough to say: Ship him out. And not on the basis to say: Comrade, you've done something wrong. But he goes out, he does his military training, all sorts of things happen. He ends up - when the party then has its central committee meeting in 1971 - understandable, into the central committee, into the politburo, and being rapidly promoted by JS [Slovo] and Doc [Dadoo]. And then he has a fall-out with JS. Now, again, I am not, I cannot claim that I am an objective observer of this thing, because he turns out to me to be one of the biggest disasters of the movement. And you praise him in your book [MK: The ANC's Armed Struggle].

Are you talking about Jele?


I don't praise him. I say that he emerges as one of the key figures on the PMC.

He didn't even fight in Mozambique.

Why does he tell me specifically then that he did?

He's bullshitting. He enters Mozambique from Tanzania. Immediately after that, they go into an ambush. The entire unit, Frelimo-ANC breaks apart, and Frelimo absconds. He is detached from the group, and he then alone, over weeks, finds his way back to Tanzania. Of course, he suffers East Africa, malaria, etc, hunger, deprivation, etc. But have you ever stopped to ask why a person who has been seasoned in combat, then disappears from the combat field and home front and ends up in the World Peace Council and never gets back into combat work?

I can't because I have not been involved in it myself.

But look at it. Chris [Hani] fought - Wankie. What's his next mission? Home again. Justice Mpanza, he's in Aventura, he's in Wankie first, then he's in the infiltration repeated to Botswana. That's where his legs give way because he is stored in an ice-box, and at the border he is delayed - the person who is transporting, the officers at immigration and customs suspect him, they ask for the entire ice to be off-loaded, and then they load it back when they don't find anybody, and he's stuck in an 18 inch compartment. And they load the ice back and they take the driver into the customs office casually and offer him tea and coffee. The guy can't say, I'm in a hurry - he must sit down. So he spends hours while this chap is frozen. And then he dashes out and, when he pulls this guy out, he's almost a block of ice in the bush. He thaws him and from that time the chap [Mpanza] has got permanent led problems. But that's Botswana. That thing goes into a mishap, and Mpanza is no intellectual. He's taken back to Zambia, and he's into Aventura. Aventura fails, and he's into the Madagascar group to fly in, and then he's captured. Right? Now the movement is looking all the time for a comrade who has got determination, the desire to go home to fight and the readiness to do it. So it doesn't take somebody who's blooded and just throw him away outside. But Jele is moved out, and he's World Peace Council for years. Why? It doesn't fit in with the rest of the combatants.

What's your answer to that question, briefly?

Promotion by JS [Slovo] and Doc [Dadoo].

Because they are looking so badly for people who are going to fight the liquidationist tendency?

They are looking so badly - oh, who are not only going to oppose the liquidationist tendency, but is going to front their position and who is African and articulate. And he plays that game. So they manoeuvre this thing. And it suits him, too. Because his experience in Mozambique has been enough the frighten the hell out of him from anything else. And so, I don't know when he told you that he had fought in Mozambique...

This was last year in July.

Before that he never mentioned it. I know about it. I don't know who else he told. But I didn't know of it from him. But the point I am making: In all my participation in meetings with him, and he enters at the time of the PMC, there isn't a contribution, a discussion in which he has shown any military knowledge. Yet he was trained in the commando units. Now, you would think when a discussion is going on, he's got a contribution to make. But he's got none to make. Not because he hasn't got it - he's articulate enough - it's because, if he opens his mouth and begins to contribute in that area of discussion, he's likely to be fucking deployed in it.

OK, let's move on from this if we can to: So, you've got this RC which is almost entirely military dominated...


Do you then agree with my statement, and it's a statement which JS [Slovo] seems to concede as well, that, clearly, when you arrive in Lusaka, the movement, in practice, seeing military struggle as the means to, really in effect the sole means to effect some sort of advance inside the country and the reconstruction of some political base?

In practice, and even in the debates, they spent their time saying they need the internal. But they categorically said it was to serve the military.

In other words, my formulation [in the book MK:The ANC's Armed Struggle] that political struggle is being seen as subject to the tactical imperatives of armed struggle?

And they go further, that, when they see the internal beginning to be built - and I am resisting that it should simply willy-nilly serve the military - they then set out to chop us, to block us every inch of the way.

Really. Now, it's quite important to me - you can understand why, although personalities are not something by name that I want to deal with in any offensive context - who, by name, in the military is most instrumental in blocking you in those early days? I'm talking about 1978.

JM [Joe Modise], JS [Joe Slovo].

JM, JS - that's what I thought.

To the point where they created in the Botswana machinery - and I've proved to them by March-April 1978 - that they had set up, taken people in the internal [IRD] committee in Botswana; they had taken, out of the four members that were there, I hadn't put them there...

They were there when you arrived?

When I arrived - but they had taken the two Africans and drawn them into Operations [Central Operational Headquarters] and had, under Operations, set up another political committee.

So Operations was now running its own political committee?

And so, these two were literally spying on what - they had nothing to offer in the IRD. But they would listen to all the information and take it to the Operations political committee.

What date are we talking about now?

1978. And I proved it by having their man confess to this in Lusaka. And JS [Slovo], when I reminded him recently, has forgotten it. He had claimed no such thing was happening. I had raised it in the RC. I had raised it privately before him and JM [Modise], because we were friends, we drank, and they denied it, and I knew my facts; and I waited for the chap to arrive in Lusaka and, at head office, I just said: Come into this room. He was their man, from Central Operations, there was JM and JS and I said to him: Psshhht! And I confronted him for the first time: Explain which committees you belong [to]. And the guy looked at me and tried to hedge, and I said: Don't hedge, now; I've come from Botswana; I've made a study. And he says: Ja, this is true; he names the people; and says whose mandate.

Now what is your explanation for this hostility that develops to IRD? What's the dynamic? What's the cause of it?

The hostility comes from Duma's [Nokwe's] time. Where Duma, sensing that military work was being raised to such a point that everything is subservient - and Duma is NEC and assistant secretary general - finds that the only way to fight back is to pull propaganda out of the RC, to emasculate it. Now, Duma has pulled out. Thabo [Mbeki], who has worked in Swaziland under the RC and, given the personality that he has - this is before my time - and the casualties and arrests [connected to] Swaziland over that Gwala trial and other trials, is pulled out to headquarters; he's moved to secretary of [Moses] Mabhida and, from there, instead of, he hasn't got the muscle to do what Duma is doing - they think he's being sidelined by being shifted first to Duma's assistant in propaganda and then moved to Nigeria as chief rep, thereby being pulled away from the RC - I think that Thabo's personality is such that he never fights a battle head-on. He proceeds to regroup in his own, very, very cunning way. And he makes the Nigerian mission a breakthrough in Nigeria and plus, combined with his competence, moves towards the presidency. But, from that position, he has got a vantage, an overview. And, therefore, he's able to proceed with making contacts at home, with stimulating developments, but outside of that field. And he has got his own ambitions, to imprint himself. There are two people who want to imprint themselves as the theoreticians of the movement: it's Thabo with his subtlety and js [Slovo] with his lack of subtlety.

Now, let me just understand: Does Thabo head propaganda at some stage after Nokwe?

Yes, when he becomes...

When does Nokwe...?

When Nokwe dies, 1978, late 1978, Thabo [Mbeki] succeeds him as head of Department of Information and Publicity.

Again, under the NEC?

Under the NEC.

Now, I'm trying to understand: Do the military people see you as some kind of threat? I mean, what is their problem about effective political reconstruction? Why are they blocking effective political reconstruction by political means with such fervour?

I think there are two problems there. First of all, the very creation of the RC was a [fire?] struggle. It meant the end of isolation for people like JS [Slovo] and [his] almost marginalisation to London. That is why JS, who is one of the architects, the key architects of the solution of the RC, creation of the RC, is so enthusiastic about the formation of the RC. He has not stopped to grapple with the problems: What does it mean? They have not resolved the question of the relationship of the RC to the NEC: Has it got decision-making powers? And this is the issue that Duma [Nokwe] uses to break the RC. [??] - as far as he is concerned, the revolution is now on track...

As far as who is concerned?

JS [Slovo]. The formation of the RC means the revolution is on track. He hasn't stopped to examine the problems. It's a compromise solution, but it has now objectively removed the marginalisation. Doc [Dadoo] is vice-chairman of the RC. JS is in it. It's now: We're on the high road.

Is JS in it from its inception?

Ja. And he's in the body that actually drafts the "Strategy and Tactics" of Morogoro, with Joe Matthews at the top.

Who else is in that structure?

I don't know who else.

But Joe Matthews and Joe Slovo...?

Joe Matthews and Joe Slovo played a key part on it. They've under-estimated Joe Matthews. He's another blue-eyed boy of the [SA communist] party. But Joe Matthews had already some intellectual competence. And he is now not of a mood that he's anybody's tool; he's flexed his muscles; he's a member of the NEC; he's a member of the central committee; he's secretary of the RC. And he, as far as he's concerned, has imprinted himself. However, he falls flat because he runs away to Botswana.

Is this his drinking problem? He has a drinking problem?

No, the man is in a real jam. He conceives of the problem re the Bantustans that you go to Transkei. And he has received offers. And he's virtually contemplating going to Transkei when the movement's position is anti taking that. And he's - I don't know what makes him lose the stomach. But I don't know him as a person who had any gumption to fight. And the RC position is untenable to all his other ambitions. He's a man of comfort. I don't think he ever did military training - I'd be very surprised if he did undergo military training. However, to return to the point. Now, I'm saying: Here's this marginalisation removed; you haven't examined the relationship; you say it is the body in charge of prosecuting the struggle on the home front. But what's its capacity to make decisions? Duma, unhappy with the developments and the practice that he notices in the RC, pulls the thing and starts emasculating it. JS [Slovo] and them are under pressure now. You've set up the RC to prosecute the home front; you say it's fantastic; well, deliver the goods! Right? This is 1969. We've still got seven years to go before 1976. This is where the lacunae in the training - why is it that comrades like JS [Slovo], all the training that they did is what JM [Modise] in a hilarious moment will call "kitchen training"? They went to flats in Moscow. They did six weeks with generals lecturing to them. They never went out to do what goes with the drill, what goes with the discipline, what goes with the rigours of three, six months of intensive training as a soldier, and learn to know what the army is from its basics. Why? Because they are leaders. But that sort of training doesn't equip you for the sort of problems that you are going to face. So you leap to the, whatever your own penchants, it reinforces those penchants to apply your systematic approach, to apply your sharpness in thinking , to apply your sharpness in planning, to get entrapped into how to send a mission in, how to send a mission in. And that's where it gets locked. And so, from there, you move to Special Ops, which did a tremendous amount of work. But, if you were to go and look at the draft thesis for the last congress of the [SA communist] party and the final thesis, "Path to Power", you will find a devastating critique in those two texts. And if you read that next to the 25th anniversary statement of MK, the characterisation of in the draft thesis of the phases of our struggle is by time and reads backwards to characterise it as a phase - such as the phase of armed propaganda. The final document removes all that. Its treatment of insurrection is like biological classification. And the classification is designed in the draft from the point of view of whether arms are an integral part of insurrection. To prove that arms are not, for example Iran. And therefore provokes a sideline controversy, which should not have been part of our controversy: whether insurrection is, of necessity, armed insurrection or not. The issue that we were facing was that we could see the potential suddenly developing for an insurrection, and the issue therefore was: What do we do at the politico-military level to create the conditions to exploit an insurrectionary moment. The issue was not to debate whether the insurrection will be with or without arms. It's an irrelevant argument. Because you are the first time making a leap. And if you go back to the [SA communist party] programme of 1962, you will see the word insurrection in it.

Yes, I've noticed that...

It's no new discovery. I showed it to Ronnie [Kasrils] on the flight - he couldn't believe me. Because it was again a discovery - it was a loss of perspective, or a continuity of history. Everything, comrades got locked into sudden discoveries. So you can't now - what is this attitude towards Internal Reconstruction [IRD]. They have already gone into a mode that we are doing the job; everybody else must simply serve. That is how JM [Modise] and JS [Slovo] went and selected the first cadres for Central Operations. And he has described it to me. They went through Angola, Soviet Union, etc, to all the camps. And they took a batch of index cards. They thought [?..?] it was a brilliant discovery, that you have holes in it at different points in the card for the different regions. So, they put in each card the name and where you come from and some background, reduced it to a card index, and they put it into a box. And then they said, right, now, we need guys for the Transvaal; right, now, take a knitting needle and push it through this hole. And, yank, you got all the Transvaal. From there, you look around now, you interview all these guys. Which guy impresses you; right, Transvaal command. Yank, Free State. Yank, Eastern Cape. The approach was so mechanical that--. We are going to set the country on fire; it's Operation Mayibuye thinking in another way. You say "protracted struggle", but you work on the basis that, once you start, it's over within a year.

It's the detonator [approach]. I mean Debray runs right through this thing...

Now, you read JS's [Slovo's] articles in "Marxism Today", you read his "No Middle Road"...

And you read his denunciations of Debray in 1968-69

Right, but that's what I say: His practice is...

Both Barrell and Maharaj together: Absolutely Debrayan.


It's from beginning to end.

And when the practice is detonator, where is the place for political work?

So, their view is: OK, we're doing the work; here comes this guy with new-fangled ideas...

No, we need the other one, because our work is not moving. It's not detonating. So we need him to help only on the basis that he's going to help the detonation. But his chap refuses to agree with us.

So what is this chap saying?

This chap is saying: Listen chaps, the only way to grow is if political structures are a prime necessity, it will be a spin-off effect. But, until we can build the political, you can't get the spin-off; it will be a trickle. And you have to make do with the trickle. But we now, as the debate is beginning to go on, and as I am finding myself jammed, look I go to, I say I must make a tour of the forward areas, I must know what's happening...

When is this now?


Late 1978?

Now, straight away, first thing, when the December meeting takes place. I go to London; I come back in JJanuary. I've already had time to think in London: What does this work involve? I've been to the first meeting. I've seen that the reports are a blank file. It has nothing in it. It's just the covers of a file.

Which report is this now, the IRD...?


So Motsabi is doing fuck-all?

Nothing. I say: How do you approach this work? And I've now got a measure of who's on the committee. None of them are equipped. I am shocked at the calibre of the meeting of the 5th to the 12th December.

Can you tell me who is on that committee at that point?

Reg September, John Motsabi, Florence Mophosho, Ray Simons, Tebello Motoponyane. They say Henry Makgothi is on it - he's not at the meeting. Indres Naidoo is on it from Maputo - I don't think he's at the meeting. John Nkadimeng is deputy head, based in Swaziland - he's not at the meeting. And myself. There we are meeting, and I listen to this. And I go back and I think about this problem. And I say: I must go to each forward area with enough time but sufficiently fast. I've got ideas. I'm thinking through them, but I'm leaving them open

[End of Side E]

OK, we've had an interruption on the tape - you say, February you proceed to Botswana?

Botswana, ja. I spend a month in Botswana because there is, according to Motsabi a machinery [of IRD] there. I come back from Botswana, but work must start. I have discussed with the Botswana group, looked at the situation, already beginning to put tentative ideas - but refusing to formulate a set. I then proceed in March for Maputo, Swaziland. I get to Maputo. What is the internal? Indres Naidoo. I know him very well. We sit and talk. He has got no idea of what he wants to do. I now send a message to Swaziland: I am coming to Swaziland. Comrades tell me in Maputo that, to enter Swaziland, you need to link up with Stan [Mabizela].


Mabizela. So I send word to Stan to arrange my crossing, and say I am coming. I get word from Stan that things are too hot in the crossing: Don't come. I sit in Maputo for three weeks. And I get, every answer, that says it's too hot. And then I look around at this problem. And I say, this is not the way I want to do work; I am three weeks here. So I make my own arrangements and I cross. And I go to Stan's home. Stan is not internal [IRD]. He's de facto deputy chief rep.

To Mabhida?

To Mabhida. And he's blocked every damn thing. They've got no problem crossing.

So why has he blocked everything?

I subsequently find reports where he calls himself - calls Mabhida Number One and he calls himself "Codename Zero". He has been working with Thabo when Thabo [Mbeki] was there. He thinks that when Thabo - what's the name of this guy who ended up a fucking rubbish in London? From Natal, ex-Robben Islander, had served a sentence of five years or so? Married to Eleanor Khanyile's sister?

I don't know, I'm afraid.

Anyway. Both him and Thabo had to leave - they were arrested. As I learned years later, they had used Stan, who was a teacher, for certain things, and they had left a trunk of material with him. As far as Stan is concerned, nothing must happen in Swaziland without him. And he is in control. I don't know Mabhida's role here.

Is Mabhida also still secretary of the RC at that point?

He's secretary of the RC.

As well as being chief rep in Swaziland?

So I have no problem. I then walk into Swaziland. I meet Stan. We're very pally pally. But I realise he has got no place in the structures - he's not in the structures. And I find what the structures are that are there, and I start working. But he did everything to block my entry into Swaziland. I don't know why - I had never met this guy in my life.

Did you find structures in Swaziland?

Ja. But Stan was working already for JS [Slovo] and them, arranging for shipments of arms to go through to Lesotho, and via Lesotho. So again, he's in the "it" thing.

In the what thing?

The "it" thing - you're doing the work that is really the work. And wherever you go, in whatever sub-department of the military you work, each of them are saying to people from home: I am working in this, this is the most important department.

I.e., military...

I.e. military - you tell me who else you are working with; don't tell anybody you are working with me. Lesotho, when I get there is a little bit of a different kettle of fish. But I am the second person after Nzo to enter Lesotho - that is, flying in.

Since when?

The first was Chris [Hani] and "A" [Lihlonono] overland...

"A" is Lihlonono?

Ja. Nobody else has entered Lesotho. Nzo goes there in 1977-78 on the basis of some conference. And I am the first now to manoeuvre and go to OR [Tambo] and say: There is a UN symposium; invited are the foreign ministers of Angola and Mozambique; put me down as a delegate and put me on the plane with those foreign ministers as safety. And I then get there.

And what do you find in Lesotho?

I find Chris and "A" [Lihlonono]. I find Chris very impressive, but I find him with no systematic approach to work. Enthusiasm there. He's had a hard time in Lesotho. He impresses me as trying but, by the second visit, I find no delivery, no delivery. He's hand you over to somebody under him; he wouldn't do the graft; he's done the talking, he'll tell you he's giving you a fantastic chap, and he gives you a chap who can't do the fucking work; and then nothing happens. When asked to produce what they've got, they can't produce a thing outside of generalities. However, the problem now is that the debate inside the RC - I'm not in the RC - they call for the first report of the internal [IRD]. I write it out. It's discussed. Motsabi takes it...

When is this first report?

Round about April 1978.

And what do you say in it?

I put forward the perspective of how we are going to build. So it's full of that, I think it should be debated before the RC. I then put forward what we have started getting, acquiring at home, and I put forward certain challenges, which were seen as challenges, but were not meant as challenges - they were innocent ones. I question the training that people are undergoing, because I say: Where is the training facility for the political work? Everybody is going for military training, and you are telling me that the cadres for the work will come from the trainees. And from what I see, the training is purely military. There's no political training. I ask that question. Motsabi goes to present that bloody report; he can't fucking defend it; and every night he's running back to me when the sessions are over to ask me for clarification. And he's telling me he's getting a hammering from operations [Central Operational Headquarters]. At a second RC meeting, the same thing happens. This time they go for it. When they see the units, they want now details because they want to suck out the names to take them over. And I don't budge.

When is the second report given?

Probably about two months later. The RC is virtually meeting monthly.

Can I interrupt you at this point? What is the perspective for forward movement that you put forward at the first meeting in 1978?

It's a bit difficult for me to recall honestly what I said there.

Can you remember its main thrusts?

Oh, the perspective of building?


Ja, oh ja, the perspective of building, no, I'm clear about that. I had developed a nutshell of it in London and then when I cam in January, I discussed individually with JM [Modise], not with JS [Slovo] [because] he was in Maputo, Mabhida was in Swaziland, the late Cass [Make] was around; Simon Makana was then the assistant secretary of the RC and was an utter...

Had he then taken over from Thabo [Mbeki]?

Ja, and then Cass [Make] took over a little later. But Simon Makana was of no help. So, mainly if there were any ideas that were bounced off in terms of effect, contributing to my thinking, was JM [Modise]. But I put forward the view - I was pre-occupied with the arrests that had taken place in Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and the Eastern Cape - and what I learnt is that Natal was smashed with some survivors, Transvaal was finished, Cape Town was saved but we didn't know who because of [Elijah] Loza's death. So that he died without having spoken much. Mati was sentenced to eight years, but nobody knew who was who except Mati, and he was on Robben Island. And then I looked at who they used and who Thabo [Mbeki] had used, because I was in prison. And Thabo had used people like Milner Ntgashe [???Spelling].

Can you spell that for me?

Ntgashe - Milner. Very, very bright chap. But broke with the movement, vanished. Good thinker in prison, not a slavish follower of Marxism, but clashed with the Harrys [Harry Gwala]. Because Harry's position was sectarian and splitting the ANC. Milner was "hold all the forces together". He wasn't anti-Marxist. Thabo [Mbeki] had linked up with him, and Thabo had used a German priest to deliver money, who turns out to be an enemy agent.

Deliver money to the...?

Operatives inside.

Is the Gwala trial?

Well, he certainly, no, he delivered to the Mati trialists.

In the Eastern Cape?

Mmm. That's where his name for the first time cropped up. It became clear he was an enemy agent. So I put forward the view that, at I looked at it, the effort to recreate an internal presence by Thabo [Mbeki] was to take very well known people of the movement and entrust the tasks to them. And leave it to them to devise the solutions. I then said: For the first phase, we will not touch the known; we will have to get to another layer that the enemy does not know. That must be the thing. And therefore, we need to compartmentalise even internal work. We need what I called "functional units" - propaganda, etc, etc, etc - completely cut off from each other, not in any relationship with each other on the ground. I saw, to be quite frank, propaganda as a detonator. I never used that word but now, when we talk about detonator theory, I saw propaganda distribution as enabling you to go into the community and probe and listen, who was impressed by it and how they were reacting to it - to guide you to who you could consider for cultivating to recruit. OK, that was the theory of it.

Now, you've mentioned "functional units", and you were implying there would be another kind of unit?

No, all would be functional.

All would be functional?

But different functions. There would be propaganda - at this stage distribution - there would be people who were in charge of reception and border crossing...

Reception of what?

Reception of cadres.

Political or military?

Political. There would be border crossing - because I couldn't get help from the Operations side [Central Operational Headquarters].


There would be mass workers, but held separate. Reception, crossing, mass work. Trade Unions, I argue separate. Well, JS [Slovo] and them destroyed me there by taking it into the [SA communist] party, and raising the question of the need for an industrial subcommittee, which confused everything. Then there were six categories. And I said these must be drawn - now, this is where we take the middle-level cadre that are being generated at home - and you take them in , put them in these structures, get them to do what I call, what I now call the propaganda detonator job. And then we will be able to move. And then, I said, the first phase will therefore provide a basis for some infrastructure such that, when we now began to draw in the known figures, they would be drawn into an infrastructure that can protect them - it can withstand. We never reached that. We never reached that because there were now other changes.

What were the other changes?

A) we were under pressure from military [Central Operational Headquarters] - we were not giving them anything, which was a repeated song in every meeting.

What did they want you to give them?

They wanted you to house their cadres, transport their cadres, feed their cadres, and what they called "be the eyes and ears", but they meant nothing. Because it was the Tokyo syndrome [Mosima Sexwale]. Tokyo and them clashed with Joe Gqabi...

This is Sexwale you are talking about?

Ja, clashed with the guys in Transvaal because they came in and said: We are trained, we give the orders. The guys at home said: no, no, no, there's a political framework you react to. And they said: No, your job is to serve us. And that was a bust-up there.

OK. Your were saying that was one factor - there were changes.

Right. Secondly, JS [Slovo] and them kept changing the format in the RC. They kept on demanding - their next demand was that, because Motsabi can't answer, I must be brought there to answer. So, I remember being called to sit at the table with Motsabi here, and I am sitting on a chair behind him. And they are all sitting there. And all the questions are being asked of Motsabi, and all have to be answered by me. Well, they gave up that fiction.


They gave up that fiction.

How did they give up that fiction? What happened? Your chair was moved...

My chair was moved to the table, and then I was immediately put into RC headquarters.

When does that happen?

1978, again, late 1978. But they are changing the format in the sense that they are always coming with a restructuring proposal, and the restructuring is always aimed at how to make sure that what is done in internal reconstruction [IRD] is put openly on the table. And I am saying: Put your military units openly on the table, put the names on the table, and we will put the internal political on the table. That they won't do. They want internal to put its names on the table, and I say, No, I don't understand that to be underground work. And, whenever they are discovered, they are pinching out guys. And, of course, you meet a cadre from home; he is drawn to us; we have brought him out; we are working on him; next time he comes you bump into him and you offer him military work and a gun; and he's finished, gone.

Is this the kind of romance of armed...?

It's the romance of the arms. In fact, we had to devise a training course which was quite hilarious in what happened in the exercise. However, that's 1978. Now, what JS [Slovo] and them are doing. They try the Botswana experiment...

What Botswana experiment?

Of setting up a clandestine political committee, spying on us.

When is that set up?

That is set up in 1978, early 1978.

So, about the time you take over?

About the time that I take over. Keith Mokoape, that's where he starts.

Keith Mokoape?

Ja. Keith is Central Operations [Central Operational Headquarters], stationed in Botswana, and I don't know it. And he said to JM [Modise] and JS [Slovo]: I was instructed by you guys to do it - when I catch him pants down. JS denies it; says he was in Maputo. JM is caught pants down. And I say, I am not interested in all that; I just want an order from you guys: Tell this man to close that unit. That's all I want. And they have to say: Close.

So when do they close it?

They never closed it.

OK now, if we are in October 1978, JM [Modise], JS [Slovo], OR [Tambo], Thabo [Mbeki], Mabhida - I think it's those five - go on this trip to Vietnam.

And Cass [Make]...

Does Cass go as well?

Cass [Make] becomes now assistant secretary of the RC.

But does he go on that trip?

He goes.

He does, does he?


Now, when they come back from that trip, what I know is that JS [Slovo] pens a report - it's about five pages long - in which he says that we have actually been working arse about face - we've been applying armed struggle as the major means to reconstruct a political base, I don't think this is correct, we need to go in for political organisation by political means, and we need to look at the formation of a front. And this is derived from the Vietnamese visit, where we have found that the Vietnamese were continually re-assessing military struggle in terms of the progress of the political struggle, making it clearly subject to political imperatives. Then there is this extended RC-NEC meeting in Luanda over Christmas-New Year, 1978-79...

But, before that, Mabhida starts setting up the National Federation of Workers. It's supposed to be a trade union movement. He locates it in the northern Transvaal [error] because he happens to know one or two guys. Their job is to set up a trade union movement whose only task is to recruit for MK. That's how he interprets a front.

When does he do this?

After Vietnam.

Late 1978 or early 1979?

I don't know exactly when now, when I cast my mind back. But it's at a time when they have already, as I discover later on when I'm grappling with the problems of Fosatu and what was the other body? the independent unions, SAAWU and etc - pre-Cosatu formation. I meet Joe Foster in Geneva...

When was this?

Jele and I - that's RC time - 1983.

We are running way ahead now.

We are running way ahead but what I learned - because Fosatu is formed in 1978 I think - Joe Foster claims that, look, we started Fosatu on the instructions of the movement. And I know, in the [SA communist] party records, that the party issues a PB [politburo] resolution supporting Fosatu. I'm in the central committee - I am not in the PB - the meeting takes place in Lusaka at a venue that I have arranged. Immediately, the meeting is over, the material is brought to me because I'm supposed to be [SA communist] party internal, and I say: I disagree with this resolution.

When is this resolution?

1978-79. I say: Wrong. Because Fosatu is economistic in its approach. The reason why they support that is that Mabhida has been instrumental in telling Alec Erwin to form Fosatu. And they form it, and then they get no guidance. And they move it on their own in an economistic strain because the concept of a front is affecting Mabhida - that the federation must not get involved in politics. Because he's got an agenda that, if you don't get involved in politics, you can get it for recruitment. So he encourages an economistic trend. It's taken up by the Alec's because it suits their economistic thinking. And then he moves in the PB [politburo] for support for Fosatu.

So, what you are saying - as I understand you - you are saying that Mabhida sees the economism of Fosatu as handy cover to use Fosatu as a recruiting base for MK and for military training?


Is that what you are saying? Is it as simple as that?

Yes, it's as simple as that. But he finds that Fosatu is unamenable to that. So he sets up the NFW [National Federation of Workers]. And the NFW is a disaster. Nobody knows who formed it. We [IRD], working politically in northern Natal, bump into the existence of NFW.

You said, I think earlier, that it was formed in the northern Transvaal...

No, I'm wrong, northern Natal.


But we bump into this problem. And I think it is formed after Fosatu.

So, why does Mabhida then go for a second lost?

Because Fosatu is not delivering the goods. Fosatu is genuinely moving, under Alec Erwin and company, into an economist position. And he [Mabhida] just dumps them.

This would seem to indicate an extraordinary naivety?

Yes. JS [Slovo] comes back, writes this report. Everybody hears the word "front" - each one has their own meaning. And JS assumes that everybody understands the meaning that he wants.


This is the old story of the ANC....

This is the old story...

Everybody has got a different version of...

Different version. And nothing gets carried through. Because that report is not given to the internal [IRD]. It's going to be another mechanism that they are going to devise to build a front.

What is going to be another mechanism?

They are looking for another way to build it.

Right, now can we just stay with my knowledge here. JS [Slovo] writes four- or five-page report. My understanding is that it stimulates some kind of debate, which results in this decision, or this meeting which takes place in Luanda of Christmas 1978-New Year 1979, where this decision is taken formally to set up this Politico-Military Strategy Commission...

The paper is not the catalyst of that decision.

Is it not? What is the catalyst?

The catalyst of that decision - now I was at that meeting but I left early...

That's the Luanda meeting?

The Luanda meeting. Because it took place over Christmas-New Year, and I argued that Christmas-New Year was, for our work at home, we need to be in the forward areas. That's the time when people have got reasons, excuses and have also naturally come over to the forward areas. So I specially asked, because I had appointments lined up to be released. And I attended up to the time when we take the decision to set up the [Politico-Military] Strategy Commission. And I then leave. Now, the debate about that was an indictment of the IRD and our political work: Why have we made no progress?

So, in other words, what you are saying is that the motivation for the setting up of the commission is to hit at the IRD?


Not? Well then what is?

The motivation is an examination in the context of saying IRD is not delivering the goods - a debate which says: But gentlemen, the RC is just military, and you cannot talk about setting up political work on a viable basis if your training is military, if your structure, [if] of the 10 departments of the RC only one is political, we have no access to camps. I have never visited a camp up to that stage. JS [Slovo] says to me privately: Go to the camps and get people. I say: No, I don't want those people; they are not the people I am looking for. And I don't believe in just going and putting - this is when I am told about how they went and collected...

[laughter] Using the knitting needle...

I say that's not the way I'm going to collect people, you see. Then the debate goes on. The other element that comes into the debate: I give an illustration - communications - what is communications? Who does it serve? You're talking about fucking military communications: field telephones and radios, and you haven't setting up one radio station. You can't even fucking communicate between Luanda and Lusaka. And you are telling me that communications under the RC, or with Jackie [Molefe] at its head, will serve us. It's not serving us. It did nothing. Jackie didn't even have a code book, didn't have a code pad.

Is this Jackie Molefe we're talking about?

Molefe. I'm friendly with her. But I know she's got nothing - no fucking imagination, no work capacity, dedicated in another way, in the sense of loyal.

[End of Side F]

Then I remember Thabo's [Thabo Mbeki's] contribution to this debate. And it was a fantastic contribution. Everybody listens with open mouths. He says: When I was working in the RC on the home front; every person we met from Swaziland, a minute was made - I remember the name Collins Ramusi, of Lebowa, minister, blah-blah-blah, he goes on, and then he says: And I don't know what happens to our movement; they all vanish in the sand; they were all there when I left the RC, and I don't know what happens. So I listen to this fucking speech, and I get up and I say to the meeting: I am very pleased with what Thabo [Mbeki] says, but let me tell this meeting what was given to me - an empty folder - it didn't even have blank paper in it, just an empty folder, and I would like to know: Where's Thabo's reports? Silence. Because Thabo has got a nack - you can't catch him at a meeting to answer a question. I go to him after the meeting. I say: Thabo, you said this; where's the stuff? He says: It's in a trunk that I gave to Stanley Mabizela. I never got the trunk.

Never ever?

Never ever. When I went to Stanley Mabizela, he said: Sure, I've got the trunk. I said: I need it. He said: I'll give it to you. Next time I went to Swaziland I went to Thabo: Thabo, I think I have located the trunk; I'm going to collect it from Stanley. No problem, he says. I go to Stanley. Stanley says he hasn't got the trunk. When I say: You told me you have it, he says: You know, that's Thabo's stuff; unless I have specific authorization from Thabo I can't give it. I go back; I bump into Thabo after three months; I say he needs authorization. What authorization? [says Thabo]. I say: Nonetheless, Thabo, will you solve the problem and send the authorization? Next time I got to Stan, he says: I haven't received authorization. And you never get the fucking trunk. But, at the meeting, in this debate, what is becoming clear is that, by Jove, we've got to have a shake-up in our approach. Of course, there's another issue that arose there in that debate...

Now this is the Luanda meeting?

This is the Luanda meeting. The debate was the total ineffectiveness of the RC and therefore the recognition that the RC failed to combine political and military work.

Now, who introduces this point?

This point came from two sides. It came from JM's [Modise] and Js's [Slovo] views about Vietnam. And it came from my criticisms of Operations [Central Operational Headquarters] and the RC. So there was a sort of convergence at that point. And here comes the idea of a strategy commission. The strategy commission is appointed. It sits down and, if you have read the Green Book [Report of the Politico-Military Strategy Commission], there is no reference to Vietnam there, as far as my memory goes.

Ja, I think the reference - I am not sure that you are correct on that, but certainly in the document that is produced by JS [Slovo] prior to the Luanda meeting, there is definitely reference to Vietnam. But I must concede the point.

Nor is the report that he says he did after the Vietnam visit even an appendix to that commission report [Report of the Politico-Military Strategy Commission].

No, it's a precursor to it.

Ja. But, as a precursor, as an important document, because I was invited as a consultant to the...

To the what?

To the [Politico-Military] Strategy Commission. Because I said: I am proceeding to other places; I have got appointments. There was a proposal that I be in the Strategy Commission.

Why on earth are you not?

I say: No, I am very sorry; I have got appointments and I am proceeding. And the Strategy Commission is going to sit for between three to six weeks. I say: I am proceeding right now; I have got appointments at home. Two, chief [Tambo] has got a problem.

Chief being Tambo?

Ja. I've got a problem about [Joe] Gqabi. Madiba had sent a message that Joe Gqabi is trouble.

Can you be more explicit?

[Laughter]. Man, he's dead.

I know he's dead. But there were all sort of - as you well know - there were all sorts of stories that came at the time, whether they were ratfucking stories after his [Gqabi] death, but there were stories, which I spoke to you about. I mean - and I don't know if it's that kind of trouble [Reference to a British Intelligence leak to South African journalists based in Zimbabwe shortly after Joe Gqabi's assassination in Zimbabwe in July 1981 that they had heard from South African NIS that the latter was terribly upset that SA Military Intelligence had assassinated Gqabi, because Gqabi was NIS's best agent in ANC; Barrell had discussed this with Maharaj contemporaneously]

Two guys came out of the isolation section of prison, working totally to destroy Nelson [Mandela]: [Andrew] Masondo and Gqabi. And, while Gqabi was in the country, Madiba [Mandela] made the mistake of passing the message through Winnie [Mandela] - he'd already given me a briefing, but the understanding was that I would only brief if OR [Tambo] asked me. Subsequently, OR did ask me and I briefed him. But Winnie gets the message that Madiba does not trust Gqabi...

Trust as in, what, political security terms?

Is he working for the enemy, ja.

Oh, really.

Is he cooperating with the enemy. From prison experience. Winnie takes the thing and spreads it. It gets back to prison, with Govan [Mbeki] in the line-up with Gqabi raising the matter in prison. And Madiba [Mandela] is forced to send a letter retracting that charge. Chief [Tambo] is caught between these two positions. One, having asked me for a briefing, I have given him; Madiba's message through Winnie; now Madiba's retraction, and the comrades in prison, in the head committee, insist that Madiba smuggle out a letter dictated by that committee and, to their satisfaction, repudiating his claims about Gqabi. And he does it. So the fucking thing arrives through me, and I have to go and give it to chief. It's not revealed to the rest. Chief doesn't know what to make of it. But Thabo in the meantime, when Gqabi comes out, gets close to Gqabi - he tried to get close to me; maybe it was a mistake, I am just that type of man; Zanele [Mbeki's wife] came and offered me free accommodation and all that in their flat...

Who's Zanele? His wife, Thabo's wife?

Wife. And I refused it. But Thabo [Mbeki] and Gqabis hit up, they grow close - as happened with Dilinga...

Can we just...

[Break in Tape]

Now, when it comes to the whole question of what happens to Gqabi, by the time of that extended RC meeting, Gqabi is a hell of a rising star. And, no doubt, Gqabi was an articulate guy. And I think, up to a certain point - up to a certain point - so he is in the strategy commission also. And there, I detect, chief [Tambo] is clear: he's got to put Gqabi. And I pull back because I don't want to be in a fight with Gqabi because we have had our fights in prison, and I don't want to perpetuate the thing.

What is Joe's [Gqabi] portfolio at that point? Is he heading any portfolio?

No, he's not heading a portfolio, but he's deployed on the home front - unstated portfolio. And I think immediately after that he's put in the intelligence directorate.

At what point is he put in the intelligence directorate?

That's the strategy commission at the end of 1978; it's 1979 strategy commission; it sits round about March...

It reports in March, I think.

It reports in about March. And Gqabi is in the directorate by about June.

So, is his home-based work before that overlapping with your home-based work [IRD]?


So it's parallel home-based work?

Parallel. And who is he meeting? He's meeting Unity Movement. Because in prison he formed an alliance with Neville Alexander. However, be that as it may, JS [Slovo] and them are reluctant to have me anywhere, because I have confronted him on the [SA communist] party. When finally he acknowledges, when he becomes embarrassed and they call me to a [SA communist] party meeting, I say to him: No thank you, I don't want to come. I want to work through the party structures again. Don't tell me: Because I am central committee, I am invited. It's too late to tell me that shit. And I go into the regional committee of Lusaka.

Regional [SA communist] party?

Ja. And then, through the regional party committee, I go to an extended meeting of the central committee. And I am in two minds, because I remember on my way to that extended meeting of the party - I stop in Maputo, I'm taking the flight from Maputo, and I am in a state. Zarina [Maharaj's wife] asks me: What's wrong? And I say to her: I have made up my mind that a principled way of acting is that I will not accept any position at the level of leadership unless it is elected position. And she asks me why. And I said: Because I think the movement is going desperately wrong because of this cooption procedure. However, I then go to the extended meeting, tossing and turning over whether election via an extended meeting is a satisfactory procedure. Because who is invited to an extended meeting is at the behest of the central committee.

When is this meeting?



Or is it late 1978? No, I think it is 1979. Early 1979. Early 1979. And I am in a real state, because this is what leads me to discuss the problem with Zarina. Because she provokes it, keeps on asking me: What's the problem? Ja, it has to be 1979, I think, early 1979. And I say: This is a question for me of how the movement is to develop; procedures that look like elections are not real elections. And I say: What I am afraid about is that I am going to be elected. And by agreeing that I go to an extended meeting, means I have agreed, I have already got caught up into this process where I can't refuse to stand. And I am tossing around with rejecting standing, and what do I say when I am nominated. Well, as the fucking thing happens, I'm elected and I accept.

Onto the central committee?

Mmm. Now, there had been a standing resolution that those who are members of the central committee before we went to jail retained their positions. But JS [Slovo] didn't bring me back on that basis. And I said: He's the man that knows. But it took Dilinga, who arrived a few months earlier than me...

Who's Dilinga?

Masondo. In the central committee, who had never been a member of the party. And I said this made it, for me, a problem really. But it already leads to some sort of, not clashes at that stage, but some unhappiness. And it coincides with a debate on tactics to be used in bantustans. At this stage, the movement - through JS [Slovo] and them - is totally against working in the bantustans. But the situation has arisen by 1978, and I have come from prison saying: Comrades, we have made no headway in creating anything in the bantustans; this puritanical attitude must go; we should be able to tackle the bantustans by opposing the bantustans, but if necessary even working within them to get a foothold. JS [Slovo] opposes it; that's 1978. Late 1978, he writes a thesis: Attack the bantustans from within and without. I pass through Maputo; he's just drafting it; he gives it to me to read. I read the thing, I say: Fantastic Joe. But I can't resist saying: But you were fighting against this.


So we have a bit of a brush over it. And I am beginning to see this problem of JS: that, when he stakes a position, it must be regarded as "new" - it never existed before. And I then say to him: This I don't understand. But his thesis comes out just at the time of, it's out in the [SA communist] party. And the ANC-Inkatha meeting runs into a clash. So the atmosphere evaporates of talking of working within and without. And his thesis he hides away. It vanishes. And I say: hey, hey, hey, hey. And at that time I am able to discuss this thing with JS [Slovo]: JS, explain, explain; I don't understand this thing; even if Gatsha's thing has misfired, it still doesn't make the thesis wrong. At the Strategy Commission, 1979, the matter is revived. And I am called into the Strategy Commission for those sessions. And I argue for the "within and without". And it becomes part of that thesis. In fact, I think the [Green] Book says I attended those sessions. These are the sort of things, Howard, that begin to make me wonder: Is your thesis correct? To study just the theory?

No, I can't just study the theory. I have to look at theory against practice, and I am trying to do that.

And the problem with the practice is that the practice side is totally hidden.

But in my book [MK: The ANC's Armed Struggle"], I mean I think it's the strength of my book, that I'm saying that whatever these fuckers - sorry, excuse me - whatever these guys are saying, they are doing this all the time. They take a decision on kind of semi-integrated machineries or something, and they do the exact opposite.

But you see what I am saying is: The "turn to the masses" question which is a central thesis is presented as a turn to the masses without this question of the structural problems that are arising.

No, I don't think - I think the structural problems come through quite clearly in what I say.

You don't notice that, in the RC, the IRD is one among 10 departments.

Well, what I try to point out is that it's - I skirt around that kind of thing, although I have that kind of information from previous interviews - all I say is that there is a bunch of innovative strategist, there's one innovative political strategist who comes out and starts fighting against this military emphasis, and decided to leave it at that. I have got 70 pages for 30 years - it's a bit difficult.

No, I accept all that.

Mac, what you're saying I wouldn't argue against what you are saying. This is the whole point: the practice is always different.

Yes, and this is where, unfortunately, I have to say to you that amongst the best comrades are JS [Slovo]; amongst the best comrades is Ronnie [Kasrils]. And I have the same problem with Ronnie. I have the same problem but in a different way. Because, when the Senior Organs are set up, right, still under the RC, we bring Ronnie to Maputo...

For political work...

For political work. And Ronnie [Kasrils] then refuses to look into the past of our work and carry forward from there. In fact [he] sets about to block RC headquarters, which meant me. He announces that now starts the work. He takes every unit at home. He takes the cadres that I have been sending home in and out, and treats them as suspect. He takes PG and them's unit [Pravin Gordham] and calls them a bunch of academics.

Sorry, PG?

Pravin Gordham. A bunch of academics. Whereas my report is absolutely clear about their weaknesses, their strengths and their background - from Zuma and them's time. He simply dismisses them in the minutes that I give to Lusaka as a bunch of intellectuals, academics. Right. So they wouldn't ask a simple thing like: Comrades, please brief us. They block you. They address technical arguments: You can't meet the structure in Maputo; you have to go through the secretary and the chairman. And you are coming as the head of the fucking department [IRD]. You have to ask permission. And, when you ask permission, they can't refuse you; but then they refuse to be present. Because they cannot be seen with the other committee members in a learning situation because they have got the answers. Eventually, I catch Ronnie [Kasrils] at one meeting, and it is graphic in my mind of the theoretical weaknesses. I had a tendency of descending on these structures, and I would walk into houses and I would call the comrades together, or just bump into them and say: OK, I am here tonight, we can have a bit of a session, just a brainstorming session. And I catch Ronnie there. And, in those brainstormings, I would start off by saying: Comrades, ask questions and we'll isolate from your questions something to discuss. So they ask questions, and that day he turns round to, it leads to ANC-Sactu-Party. Now, I know who Ronnie is; Ronnie [Kasrils] knows who I am. I finally answer such that I eventually pose a practical question to the meeting. I say: Suppose you are in Swaziland and a comrade arrives from home, a cadre you don't know but you've worked to recruit him and you are told by others this is a good person; what are you supposed to do if he is a worker? You are ANC internal [IRD]. He [Kasrils] says: No, you hand him over to Sactu.

This is Ronnie [Kasrils] speaking?

Ronnie. So I say: If you hand him over to Sactu, what is the ANC's responsibility to the working class? Is the ANC's membership supposed to be only peasants and petit-bourgeois? He's stuck. He reverts then to an argument by going to the past and saying: In Durban, when I was there, this was the position. And I say: But Ronnie, let's not argue about that; let's get to the central question: The [SA communist] party as a party, has a responsibility to the working class; the ANC as ANC has a responsibility to the working class; and you cannot say to me now because you are not mentioning the party, you cannot say to me when you meet a worker funnel him to Sactu; because Sactu was de facto being treated as a [SA communist] party front. So we have this embarrassing argument because all the cadres when I put this example see it patently that it is wrong. But Ronnie [Kasrils] is arguing: No. Of course, years later, he is different. But it's an imprint of how he argues in compartments, and then will prove by means of past experience, which others in the room don't know. This is his MCW [the Soviet doctrine of military and combat work] argument too, and we have had it many times over and over. But the underlying tension there was a different one. The sense of grievance by Ronnie that JS [Slovo] blocked him from coming to Africa, and that he came via Mazwai [Piliso] to Angola, all the years. And the sense that Ronnie is a person who has a certain strength of honesty that if you caught him then alone, say in a British pub, and confronted him, he would apologise, as if the slates are clean. But, later on, if you look at Ronnie, the sting is still in his heart, and the bitterness is there. And I think that's where Ronnie goes off - a desperate search to get into print at the level of theory, whereas I have never felt that that is an important issue. In a sense, I have over-tilted myself in my resistance to get into print. Things that have got into print about me are things like I've done a Radio Freedom interview. And it's taken as a transcript - I don't know who takes the fucking transcript - and then uses it. Because, to me, the most important thing was: Who do we want to reach at home at the moment? Do we want an esoteric debate, or do we want to first talk to the people and activists at home.

Now, OK, that Politico-Military Strategy Commission reports. Now, I know the gist of the kind of theoretical side, at the level of ideas. There is talk of the united front having to be the major strategic task before the underground inside South Africa, that armed struggle, well that organisation of people at a legal and semi-legal level by political means is the main direction, that henceforth the role of armed propaganda for the foreseeable future anyway is to reinforce this political work. Now this must surely have come to you at that time - on paper - as a major advance?

Major advance.

It did?

In that, what I consider to be standard movement positions are now put on paper, and therefore I do not have to fight with these guys.

So you've won the position?

A position has been taken now by the movement that I can refer to as a recent position. I no longer have to argue that it's wrong to say: Only the armed struggle. That debate is over. But there's a gap there.

Right, now tell me the gap.

We have argued for, at that stage, the big word was "coordination" of military and political structures. I am arguing for "integration".

Now, what do you mean by integration at that point?

I mean that the overall command, the directives, have got to come from a political structure. And I give the example, further, that you have MK structures with a commissar - that's national commissar. National commissar is on the NEC - that time it was Dilinga [Andrew Masondo]. He's not in the RC - no, he's in the RC, too. Fine, that's right at the top. What is the position in the forward area? Totally separate from the political. What is the position inside the country? The unit has a political commissar, but he has no relationship with the underground - totally separate. And I say that's bullshit now. Because that I don't understand. But they want a commissar there who will take the information from the internal underground and simply pass on. And I say: But that's not the work. And they have defined the commissar's work as virtually a welfare officer and delivering political lectures. It has nothing to do [with] the unit's armed activity must derive from the political problems of the area - nothing to do with that. The term "armed propaganda" is brought from Vietnam. If you look at the writings pre- that period, there is no such word as armed propaganda.

The idea is contained in the writings before that.

Ja. But it's not called armed propaganda.

I agree with you.

Because, in Vietnam, when you go there and read the Vietnamese experience, an armed propaganda unit would go into a village, it would be armed, it would address the people, and it would vanish on, leaving somebody behind to do political work, because you have triggered this thing. This was the basis of my attitude in the IRD of the propaganda as a detonator.

Now, can you stay with this business of structures? So, am I correct in understanding you, that when you say you are arguing for integration - I have got various formulations of the same thing in my little book ["MK: The ANC's Armed Struggle"] - but are you arguing that there has to be a hands-on political leadership which is coordinating all specialised implementation machineries under an integrated plan. Is that what you are saying?


So that formulation would...

And the plan is not devised by each structure having its own plan, then sending it in so that you just match it and marry it. No. You analyse the political situation, what are the needs and imperatives of the political situation, from that the specialised agencies take it and derive their sub-plans. Right?


The RC up to then was functioning the other way. Each arm comes with their plans, and you just sit down and marry [them].

Just marry them, right. OK. Understood.

But then the problems of what that meant structurally was that, in the Green Book [Report of the Politico-Military Strategy Commission Report], and what destroyed the Green Book - and what I warned JS [Slovo] about in Maputo repeatedly as the commission was meeting, we discussed it informally - we came up with the idea of a central organ. And, if I remember correctly, it was an 11-person central organ. It had to be small. It had to be full-time, hands-on. and it would structure itself as a headquarters. It looked good.

Headquarters of what?

Of the entire home front. And it would have executive authority, although a subsidiary of the NEC. JS then sticks into that "composed of talented comrades". The idea that you were going to have an organ now that was virtually executive in its powers - subject to review and at that time the NEC would meet once in six months - [which] would know what is happening at home, would be in control of it, now rubbed the NEC the wrong way.

Why? The NEC sees this as the creation of another centre, do they?

The NEC sees this as an extremely powerful centre, more powerful than the NEC.

Can you hold on one second? I just want to change this.

[End of Side G]

More powerful than the bloody, the potential of being more powerful than the NEC. And JS [slovo] compounds the problem that, in arguing pre the NEC meeting of Dar es Salaam, where the Green Book [Report of the Politico-Military Strategy Commission] now appeared for approval, meets, for example Thomas Nkobi in Lusaka, and he has an argument with Nkobi, [which he] refers to even up to now. They are debating this whole thing, and discussing and talking. And JS says: But listen, you guys in the NEC, what the hell do you know about home? You guys know nothing. He says: We can put any fucking report and you'll have to agree with it. That's all you are. So Nkobi says: You mean we are a rubber stamp? And he says: Ja, that's all you are. You know nothing. So there's a convergence of forces at the NEC. It is not interested in the thesis; it's only going for the central organ, the structural question. The Motsabis, Nkobis, all gang up, and they shoot that fucking thing down.

Ja, so in other words what you are saying is that the creation of a high-powered central organ, which would have been capable of exercising hands-on control and comprising the best and most talented comrades, was shot down because the NEC saw this as a threat to its own power?


So then, what we have then is a reversion to the old RC structure, with some changes?

With the mollification that we will have senior organs.

Now, how is that a mollification?

It mollifies it on the basis that the senior organs are supposed to satisfy the term of "integrated leadership".

I see. I see. So, integration is supposed to be taken care of at the regional level of the senior organ?


So does the character, or the balance, post-, in terms of these decisions of the NEC, in considering the PMSC report, does the balance of political and military on the RC change?


So you still have...

No change at the RC level. I'm IRD secretary...

And you're on the RC?

I'm on the RC.

Motsabi? Is he still chairing it [IRD].

Still chairing it.

And Nkadimeng? Is he still deputy chair?

He's deputy, but he's in Swazi - he's now senior organ chairman in Maputo. First based in Swaziland, travelling; and then, within months, in Maputo.

But nominally a member of the RC as well?

Of the RC. But member of the RC in his own right - not as via the IRD. And now a representative in the RC of the senior organ.

OK. now, what is the other political - OK, you've got two people - we've mentioned at least two people who are regularly sitting as IRD reps on the RC. Is there anybody else from the IRD who's sitting on the RC?

[Maharaj shakes head, indicating: No]

Not. So, after this great leap forward, as I have called it, perhaps wrongly, you've still only got two...

Structurally, you've solved one problem at the regional level [with] the senior organ; you've tried to man them with greater care, eg Zuma is made secretary of the senior organ, Nkadimeng the chairman...

This is in Maputo?

In Maputo. Both Zuma and Nkadimeng are members of the political committee...

Of the, the...?

Of the senior organ. But what happens is that they then deny the authority of the IRD to reach them.

How do they do that?

They say: No. We are a senior organ of the RC. And the RC now sends a roulette of who goes to supervise them.

Which does not include you?

No. Imagine sending Jackie Molefe to brief them. The late Mavele [spelling?], ordinance man.

Mavele? I don't know the name?

Jacob Masondo. Or JM [Modise]. They have no interest in the political work side.

So, in other words what you are saying is that Zuma and ...

Oh, there is another person: Reg September.

He's sitting on the RC, and he's IRD is he?


Ja. Now, I just want to clarify this. What you are saying is that Nkadimeng and Zuma, although part of the IRD see their first duty, or their first line of responsibility as being to the maintenance of this senior organ in Maputo?

Ja. And carving it as independent - as having autonomy from the RC.

An autonomy from the RC or an autonomy from IRD?

From RC, because JS [Slovo] is in Maputo. He's heading the military side. They have an autonomy. No problem, because he's military headquarters [Central Operational Headquarters]. And he has a division of labour understanding with JM [Modise]. They can decide on that. Zuma - not so much Nkadimeng - Zuma, secretary of the senior organ, secretary of the political committee, with Ronnie [Kasrils] there, decide between the two of them, they are going to run the political committee, but they want the same space for themselves. So the senior organ structure had nothing in the RC headquarters except that the RC headquarters in name was supposed to be integrated but its composition never matched up to the political work that had to be done. But, of course there was an advance in the sense that the RC headquarters was now weekly seized with political issues. But, when you had to go and brief now, it became sometimes a meaningless briefing when you sent Jackie Molefe.

Sure. I can understand that. Now, at this time, as I understand it, you also have begun to develop people who might, a group of young kind of - they are now sort of middle-senior cadres in the ANC or the party as well, I think - who emerge as actually quite outstanding activists. Have you been attempting in the intervening year or so to identify these people consciously?

My strategy for building the IRD was that it is not my job to meet the people from home. It is my job, first, to build the committees in the forward areas who will be capable of handling the people from home. So, whenever I met the people from home I would make sure that the committee is drawn in, or members of the committee. And therefore it took time to go and train on the job the committees. And that is where this crop comes from.

Now, I would like to mention some names - and I don't think it's anything confidential - but the people I am thinking of are Ivan Pillay, Archie Abrams, Garth Strachan. They are three people who come to mind as being quite gifted individuals who, at one time or another over this period, worked closely with you or in IRD. Would that be basically...

Ja, that is correct.

Would you agree that they were good...?

No, I think that Garth had his - I brought him from London to be the administrative secretary at headquarters. I think his growth was there. Well, we worked very closely. But Garth had a zig-zag in his career, because he was in a [SA communist] party unit with Josiah Jele. And when Garth left Lusaka to go to party school [Lenin Party School, Moscow], he left at total war with me.

Oh, really.

And it's only in Harare when he comes back - and his deployment to Harare is manipulated by Mabhida and Jele - but it's when he is in Harare that he now sees through some of the machinations of Jele, and reports to Ronnie. And then I go down, and I see him. He has suddenly withdrawn into a position where he is refusing to give a written report. And I go down to persuade him to make a written report. And once more we discuss the matter politically and he agrees. He then does the written report to the [SA communist] party, which enables the Jele inquiry. And then it is possible for me to say to him: Garth, now, look back what happened in Lusaka. Tell me honestly wasn't Jele feeding you with stories? And he then says: Yes. Archie is a disappointment. It took me to come here to discover what I believe is an accurate assessment that Archie cannot control his fear. And he is dead scared. And his retreat in the process, when he's gripped with fear, is liquor.

Ja, I know, I've noticed it recently; it's really bad.

Right, now, Archie is at heart a coward. How he fooled me, I have explanations for it. But we saw it from here [during Operation Vula] and I was stunned. Gebuza [Siphiwe Nyanda] helped me to see the problem. Because, what I saw of him in Swaziland did not enable me to see this part of him. Because, when I said: We go to the border, I went to the border. When I went to the border and he came with me, there was no sign of this. But it's when I am not around that he's just got clay feet then, and he's paralysed by fear. And Archie is a Mr Promise. He's full of promises, but he can't deliver the goods. Ivan [Pillay] is a different kettle of fish.

He's amazing, I think.

Totally different kettle of fish. Ivan [Pillay] is a man who knows how to control his fear and overcome it. Secondly, when I met him, I actually for a while, while working with him in Swaziland, hesitated as to what was his agenda: I thought he was a survivor. I still think he's a bit of a survivor. But the recent reports indicate where he has now reached the point where perhaps, harmfully to his future, he's becoming disappointed with the way things are turning out. And he's now suddenly seeing through people in a way which destroys his confidence in the people. But Ivan thinks through problem and Ivan has patience to work with people. And he goes through it slowly and, what is his special knack, is he doesn't come across as arrogant. So he is able to work with people and be their teacher without them realising that they are teaching them. Now that is a very strong quality of Ivan.

Absolutely. Well, I worked with him for a very short time, and I think he is one of the all-time outstanding people I've every come across.

Ja. Now, there have been others. There have been others. But their growth has been impeded by the other cross currents. They have been there in Swaziland, in Botswana - not in Harare, not in Harare. In Harare, I think matters were compounded by the fact that we had just opened the Harare front; Jele came in in the political side; I took him and I introduced them to him; and then he took over and I think he destroyed them, he destroyed their potential. And then Ivan and them's luck is that they were in an area that Jele and them never travelled to.

Now, how, in terms of this new structuring, the forward areas are supposed to solve, or provide some degree of integration - forward areas, senior organs. In the ideal are those senior organs supposed to work - in the ideal?

In the ideal, the senior organ would receive the annual perspective from the RC. Each senior organ should sit down and carve in relation to the area its looking at, use that overall perspective as well as the January 8 statement to develop their own politico-military plans, gradually developing to the point where, before the end of each year, in time for the January 8 statement, in time for full-scale RC review, would make an input on what should go into the overall plans, by focusing on the regions. That the detailed regional plans would then evolve from that position. It never reached that point.

Now, what was the line of communication in the ideal supposed to be from RC headquarters to a senior organ?

RC secretary to senior organ...


Secretary. RC had chairpersons - OR [Tambo] and Doc [Dadoo]. They were not daily hands-on chairpersons. But you had a chairperson, such as Nkadimeng in Maputo, and therefore in Maputo, from the point of view of authority, the authority of the chairman was higher than the authority of the secretary. And so it was a jumble.

But the ideal was that there was one line of communication from the RC secretary to the senior member of the local senior organ?


And then that directive or command would then be passed on to the military or political specialisation?

No. Ja, ja. Ja, if it was a directive. But, at the planning part, it would then go as a perspective to the senior organ. The senior organ would look at it for its region and, having looked at it, amplify that political directive and perspective and then, having amplified it, hand it over to its specialities.

I see.

And they would bring it back to the senior organ so that it would exercise all the time control without worrying about the detail.


And therefore the line should have run from secretary to secretary.

Now, in practice, I can appreciate there must have been regional variation, but how did it work?

In practice, it worked atrociously because you did not look at the manning of the RC. Those who were in the RC remained in the RC. And so you had a comrade like Cass [Make], a go-getter, but he had great lacunae in his approach, great great lacunae. His background was military training, radio in...

Was Cass the secretary at this point?

Assistant secretary, but virtually secretary. Worked, I think in Libya, worked on the radio under Duma [Nokwe], went off abroad to something, and then when the camps were opened, taken as chief rep in Luanda. And then brought as RC assistant secretary. No real experience of political work. Military training - never been deployed at an operational level. Thrust into this position, and one of the youngest in the RC. Put on with a burden where he felt he had to prove that he was in charge. He did not structure the RC to say, this is the secretary and, for example, let's say the different specialities are now headed by secretaries; so that, give him a chance to say, I need to attend to this problem in Maputo, of the senior organ, therefore what I need to take with me, if I am going, is the secretary of that speciality. He now felt that he had to prove he is a specialist secretary for everything and anything. So, I said the problem was no Cass. The problem was no look was given to the RC composition and structuring.

Now, you were in favour of this idea of just having something like an 11-person...

Oh yes.

Central headquarters.

I actually viewed that as the only way forward.

Now, what was the make-up that you suggested for this 11-person...



Almost a cabinet-type responsibility.

Break them down for me.

I think at that time we had: labour mobilisation, we had mass work beyond labour, we had propaganda, we had operations, we had logistics, we thought of communications but communications to serve all arms and therefore not answerable to a military structure, I think intelligence was there, not as military [intelligence] but just intelligence.

Did you bring intelligence and security together?

Ja, well no. Security I felt was a problem at that time that should have been kept separate from intelligence, structurally separate. Because security at that time was security to keep the movement from being infiltrated outside. That's the main burden of security at that time. So I felt that it should be kept separate. And, by burdening intelligence and security into one directorate, I felt you distorted the emphasis.

Now did you have any specific portfolio for underground work, per se, as distinct from mass work, as distinct from union work?

I think we had worked on 11 for the reason that we would have a full-time chairperson, a full-time secretary and then nine secretaries of specialities, with a cabinet-type structure. Now, I cannot remember for the moment - if I think about it, I will probably come up with the nine that we were sort of thinking. But there's a danger that when I think backwards, because it was never put down on paper, because I thought that the 11 would devise it.

Did you make these recommendations to the PMSC when it was sitting?

No, I did not attend. I was called in as a consultant on the strategy and tactics vis a vis dummy institutions. I wasn't there for this.

When you say "dummy institutions", just explain.

All institutions created by the regime - bantustans, SAIC [South African Indian Council], etc. My input at the structural level was sort of discussions with JS - most intensive - some discussions with OR [Tambo]. And some with Thabo [Mbeki].

Now I need to leap forward. There is something I don't want to miss. And that is that - right, you are developing units inside the country. I need to jump forward please, and I am sure you will understand why. When we get to 1982-83, this perspective of the united front has been put forward in 1979. Ok, it has encountered a whole lot of setbacks. Does it ever leave your mind as something that you are working for? Are you consciously working for the establishment of a united front? Are you trying to put together the components for this development? You now as secretary of IRD?


You're not.

What I am working for is the revival of any and every possible mass organisation that could carve a space for legal existence - whether its NIC [Natal Indian Congress], whether it's a civic - the importance for me - and that's where I, I think you're right you are right about us 1984 to 85. But I think there is a period which was the heyday of the movement which you miss [in your book MK: The ANC's Armed Struggle]. The heyday of the movement was 1981.



Well, I see that as an extremely important...

By sheer accident, despite the military's wishes, for the first time, military work was a complement to political work. The regime handed it to us on a plate by making it a month-long celebration, and visibly through the media, the matter became presented as a unified thing: that military action was complementing political action, and political action facilitating military action. It is that period that leads to the extended RC meeting, debate, in September 1981, which formulates the APC document.

Right, now this is where we take off. How much longer have we got tonight?

We'll have to come another night. But I can just round that point there. It is wrong to say: failure of the APCs [in your book, MK: The ANC's Armed Struggle]. The APCs, as conceived in that document, were never implemented.

Right, now I need to know why. And it's going to be structural, I am quite sure.


Not structural?


OK, that's where I want to...

[End of Interview]

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