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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Kasrils, Ronnie [Four Brief Interviews: Notes]


Conducted by Howard Barrell,


Interview One: August 1990


1. The Internal Political Committee (IPC) of the PMC was set up in July 1988. It had the perspective of a united, internal integrated leadership. This concept of internal leadership had initially been known as Area Political Military Committees. But the feeling was that this promoted a mechanical division between political and military work in people's minds. It was better to call the ANC leadership inside the country "internal leadership committees". This indicated that leadership must come from the political side; under it would be specialised forces, like military etc.

2. There was never full cooperation with this perspective from the military leadership of the ANC after July 1988. It wanted a direct line to its structures. It was unhappy about working under political control.

3. The ANC had not succeeded, by 1990, is developing internal regional political leaderships to the extent necessary. Successes had been scored in Durban, Border, Cape Town, Pretoria, Northern Transvaal, where leaderships had MK units working under them. But there was still a parallel military underground in many areas.

4. In 1990, the idea was to turn the underground into what was termed an "armed underground".

5. Mac Maharaj was inside the country from late 1987, as was Siphiwe Nyanda (Gebuza). Kasrils entered the country illegally in 1990.

6. After 1986, there was a greater concentration in MK activity on attacking the SADF and SAP. Stadler's figures bear this out - something like 35% of attacks on police, about 11 percent on army [check].

7. Hani, working from Lesotho, had some success in developing APCs and APMCs in the Western Cape and OFS in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

8. Thami Zulu died in November 1989 of Aids. [check]

9. Grosskopf, who allegedly mounted the Wits Command attack, was a "very brave and capable soldier, a true Afrikaner, very stable and sorted-out guy, very good politically, very clear, very committed". His if an "example of the fact that, in the current situation, we are able to attract young whites to MK, in fact we were able to recruit Afrikaners". Grosskopf has "risen in prominence" and "become quite a senior officer in MK".

10. Among MK's heroes were Gordon Webster, McBride. Also Douglas Nyanda, Siphiwe's brother, who was killed in Swaziland in November 1983 when South Africans attacked his home and shot him. He was a capable, outstanding commander, who was involved in numerous operations in Natal from 1976-83.

11. MK's Transvaal urban machinery was known as the Gebuza Machinery. It operated from 1977-87 under Siphiwe Nyanda's command.

12. Special Ops was set up in 1980 under Slovo, at the time that the senior organs were established under the RC. At that time, Special Ops fell under the ANC president. It did not fall under the senior organs or RC. When MHQ was set up in 1983, Special Ops then falls under MHQ, which is where it now remains. Special Ops still exists.

13. Military Combat Work (MCW) is a doctrine developed by the Soviets. People were trained in it from about the mid-1970s.

14. The department of Internal Reconstruction and Development was set up in 1977 or 1978. It gets going properly in about 1980 with the setting up of the "senior organs".

15. In 1967, the ANC set up a special command for Wankie. Modise was the commander. Lennox Lagu was also involved.

16. In 1969, the RC is put in charge of all internal work, military and political: the underground. The military command becomes an administration. Joe Matthews is the first person to become secretary of the RC. He is followed by Mabhida. Cassius Make is one person to become an assistant to Mabhida.

17. In 1976, an operational command of MK is set up commanded by Modise, deputised by Slovo. Head of ordinance is (still) Jacob Masondo. Jackie Molefe is head of communications. Lennox Lagu works with Slovo in the operational command.

18. In 1980, when the senior organs are established, the personnel in the command structure remain much the same.

19. A Military headquarters is established in mid-1983. Modise is commander, Slovo is chief of staff, Hani is commissar, Kasrils is head of Military intelligence, Jackie Molefe is head of communications, Cassius Make is head of ordinance, Lhlonono (or Lihlonolo), alias "A" is head of operations.

20. At Kabwe, there is no change in the command of MK.

21. In 1986, when Slovo becomes general secretary of the SACP, Hani becomes chief of staff, Steve Tshwete becomes MK commissar.

22. In July 1988, when the IPC is set up, Tshwete and Kasrils are given the task of setting it up. Timothy Mokoena takes over as commissar. Keith Mokoape takes over as head of military intelligence. Mokoena was a leader of MK campaigns against Unita in Angola in 1983-84; he was regional commander of MK in Angola, who was badly wounded in a Unita ambush in 1988.

23. In late 1987, Maharaj was given the task of setting up an internal underground leadership on national level.

Interview Two: September 1990


1. Heroes of MK's post-1976 history include a chap known as "Nsizwa" - real name Nelson Mlongwane. He was born in Alexandra township in 1952. He was one of the 1976 generation. He was trained in Angola. He was commander of Soweto and the West Rand. a most brilliant commander. He was responsible for the Booysens and Moroka police station attacks, among others. He died in a car crash in Swaziland in 1986.

2. Another hero was Rev Mandla Msibi, alias "Blackman", who operated in Durban. He was trained in 1978 in the GDR. He died of a heart attack in Swaziland in 1981.

3. Another hero was Cassius Make - real name Job Thlabane. Also Paul Dikeledi - real name Sello Motau. Both killed together by SA forces in Swaziland.

4. Another hero was "Douglas" - real name Zweli Nyanda, Gebuza's brother. Assassinated in Swaziland in November 1983. Was key person in Natal machinery of MK.

5. Another hero was Theophilus Dlodlo (alias Viva). He served in Gebuza machinery. He was assassinated in Swaziland in May 1987. He was gunned down.

6. A heroine was Thandi Modise.

Third Interview: September 1990


1. Another hero was Marion Sparg, responsible for John Vorster Square bomb; Shirley Gunn, in the Western Cape, arrested in 1990; Damien de Lange.

2. Another hero was Desmond Brown (?), coloured comrade killed in Durban refinery shootout; died with two other special ops heroes. He was from Port Elizabeth, a schoolteacher.

3. Another hero was Mjongwe - a reverend's son from Cradock. Died in an Eastern Cape shootout (see Dawn). Also two Indian comrades blown up at Johannesburg railway station about November 1989 (there was a recent memorial service in Lenasia).

4. Another hero, Ahmed Timol, killed in detention in 1971.

5. Another two heroes were David Skosana and Guinea - both of 1976 generation, murdered in Maseru massacre. Also Ashley Kriel, murdered in Cape Town in 1988.

6. Also Kadugu Molokwane, a Dobsonville schoolteacher killed in September 1977 seige.

7. Also Gordon Dikebu, "lion of Chiawelo" killed in Soweto seige in 1980.

8. Also "Nsizwe", commander of Reef operational unit under Gebuza, most active 1978-84. Died in Swazi car crash in 1986.

9. Roland Malapa - died with female guerilla "Zoya" in Vosloosrus shootout in 1986 after his unit had eliminated one dozen police and councillors in Benoni-Daveyton area over a three-week period.

10. Paul Dikeledi and Cassius Make - assassinated in Manzini in 1986.

11. Morris Seabelo - from the Sowetan generation, murdered in Maseru at Christmas, 1984.

13. Back on December 15 1961, reason why Durban command hit Ordinance Road post office a day early is because it was a Friday or Saturday night and reconnaissance showed that the guards indulged in drinking alcohol on that night, so Natal command thought it could take advantage of this to get inside the building.

14. Back in the Sixties, both pepper and curry powder were used by MK cadres to throw off tracker dogs.

15. By the time MK formed, NCL had carried out a couple of minor operations in around July of 1961. ARM was formed later, probably in 1962.

16. Vuyisili Mini was a key chap in MK in the Eastern Cape. Elias Motsoaledi and Jack Hodgson, a World War Two veteran and communist, and a gritty former leader of the Springbok legion, were key figures in MK in the Transvaal.

17. The size of MK's initial core of founder members was about 250 people.

18. Joe Slovo's statement in the Dawn Souvenir issue that not a single founding member of MK had a pistol is incorrect. I had one. When I left SA in October 1963, I gave it to Wilton Mkwayi. I had been involved in a shootout in Durban in May 1961.

19. In late 1962, the Durban command succeeded in cutting Durban's electricity supply by felling three pylons simultaneously.

20. The Operation Mayibuye document was not "a major working paper", as you call it, since it was never discussed; it was just a draft, but certainly provides an insight into the way people were thinking.

21. The way in which Poqo carried out a few indiscriminate attacks on whites led MK to stress the need for disciplined and organised acts of violence.

22. One of our most serious errors in the early 1960s was to assume that comrades arrested under the 90-day provision would somehow manage to resist interrogation. In fact, many broke under torture (whether physical or mental) and provided the police with information that led to a domino effect of arrests.

23. In the early 1960s, I got very vague answers to a question I put to the key leaders at the time: How did we envisage transforming the sabotage actions into guerilla war? I distinctly remember feeling that this had not been worked out.

24. In 1965, in exile, the ANC had between 800 and 1,000 guerilla trainees. They were based at camps in Tanzania at Kongwa and Morogoro (not Mbeya and Bagamoyo). Others also underwent courses in Czechoslovakia, Odessa in the USSR and in China until the Sino-Soviet split.

25. The MK members who deserted in the period before Wankie were only a few and they went mainly to Kenya, the UK, USA, Sweden. A few also went back to SA as informers - but in this last case, that was after Wankie.

26. In the Sipolilo campaign specifically, there were some furious battles in which MK lost, amongst others, Michael Phooe, one of the original saboteurs of 1961 and Patrick Molai, who had been head of the ANC Youth League in the late 1950s.

27. In the Rhodesian campaigns, MK relied heavily on Zapu's knowledge and contacts. But unfortunately, we found that these were weak.

28. I dispute the statement that Soviet training for the Wankie Campaign was inappropriate. We did receive training in platoons and as guerilla detachments. We trained for guerilla conditions. The instructors, who were selfless World War Two veterans, stressed the experience of Soviet partisans and experiences elsewhere. It is unfair to blame them for the weaknesses in our activities in Rhodesia. They always stressed the importance of political preparation and mobilisation of the peo0ple. They didn't know South African conditions and emphasised our need to master our own conditions and apply our training accordingly. This has always been the case with Soviet, GDR and Cuban instructors. Our shortcomings resulted from our own weaknesses and lack of preparation, not shortcomings of those internationalists who trained us.

29. The Cubans relied heavily on the underground. Debray's "Cuban model" crudified Cuban reality.

30. The number of people who sat on the RC, set up at Morogoro, constantly increased, by cooption, to number about a score people.

31. The boat used in the unsuccessful attempt in the early 1970s to mount a seaborne landing of guerillas in South Africa was called the Aventura.

32. Justice Mpanza, who was infiltrated in the early 1970s and captured by the enemy had fought in the Wankie Campaign and was also an original saboteur from the early 1960s in Durban.

33. Special Ops was developed in 1980, when the senior organs were created. It was under Slovo, directly responsible to Tambo.

34. It is more appropriate to talk of regional OU "machineries" or "ops machineries" being set up post 1976 than to talk of regional OU commands.

35. IRD was formed in about 1977. It had political committees in the forward areas parallel to the military machineries of OU. These were totally divorced from each other - there was no common work, which was much-criticised by the functionaries. John Motshabi chaired IRD. He was a veteran and RC member.

36. On MK heroes, you must take a look at an article in the AC called "Four who were communists". There was a lawyer from Durban, a commander called "Inkululeko". His surname was Mdu. He commanded the Natal urban machinery from Swaziland. He was murdered in the 1981 Maputo raid.

37. Mokgabudi was more with Special Ops. Guebuza was more with OU.

38. The 122mm rocket launcher used in the attack on Voortrekkerhoogte would have been smuggled through Swaziland, not Zimbabwe.

39. Among those who died in the Maseru raid was a chap who used the pseudonym David Skosana. He had been ordinance chief in Angola. There was another person called "guinea", who was an SACP and MK cadre.

40. The first person to be secretary of the PMC in 1983 was Joe Nhlanhla. He was succeeded by Joe Jele.

41. Military headquarters under the new PMC was known as MHQ.

42. The key figures on the Political Committee were Maharaj, Jele and Zuma.

43. When the PMC was set up, other officials in MHQ included Bob Tati as head of logistics, Cassius Make as head of ordinance, Lhlonono (spelling?), alias Cde "A", as head of operations, Kasrils as head of Military Intelligence, Jackie Molefe as head of communications, and Lennox Lagu as administrative secretary.

44. It is noteworthy, in assessing MHQ's awkwardness about political decisions directly mediating all military activities, that "PC members were all militarily trained".

45. The December 1983 meeting of the PMC planning committee occurred in Luanda.

46. I don't think it's correct for you to say there were "no" receiving structures for the MK cadres who were hastily infiltrated into South Africa from Mozambique via Swaziland just after the Nkomati Accord. There were few internal receiving structures.

47. MK activity shortly after Nkomati played an important role in pre-empting a mood of pessimism and defeatism. But so too did propaganda activity by underground structures; it was relatively intense.

48. The main issue in the Angolan mutiny in MK in 1984 was cadres' involvement in actions against Unita. This was definitely manipulated by agent provocateurs who then took up other grievances.

Fourth Interview, October 1990


1. Zweli, alias Douglas Nyanda, did not head MK in Natal. He was an important member of MK in Natal.

2. In the camps in Angola, Saturday nights always saw cultural evenings.

3. I am pretty sure the head of operations on MHQ post-1983 was Lhlonono, and that that is the correct spelling.

4. The 1983 December meeting in Luanda was essentially an enlarged MHQ meeting. But, if JS says it was a PMC planning committee meeting, then that's what it was.

5. Key MK figures in Swaziland post-Nkomati were Siphiwe Nyanda and a recently arrived Thami Zulu, who had been commander of one of the camps in Angola. Zulu arrived to head the Natal MK machinery. Cadres crossing into Swaziland from Mozambique did not do so in trucks, although it is correct that truckloads of weaponry crossed.

6. Kasrils was also involved in Operation Vula. He entered the country permanently in 1990, to join Maharaj and Nyanda.

7. I believe that some of those MK people you refer to as passive deserters were in fact lying low waiting for more favourable conditions.

8. Operation Vula was set up in 1987 by decision of the NEC. It was placed under direct control of the president who then contacted and involved selected members of the leadership. It was, hence, not under the direct control of the NEC. In 1990, the decision to continue with operation Vula was thus taken by the appropriate structure.

[End of notes of four interviews]

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