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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Report of the commission on the cabal


The problems of disunity within the ranks of the MDM due to the manipulating role of certain Indians and Whites regarded as leaders in the struggle, has reached a level of such seriousness that it is clear that we need to address it immediately and decisively.  It is in an attempt to do just this that a commission was mandated to discuss the problem and make recommendations towards its resolution.  We would however like to stress that this document is neither meant for public consumption nor is it intended to serve as a communiqué to be distributed.  It has been prepared to provide guidelines for discussion for this meeting with the hope that we leave here with a clear idea of how we are going to deal with problems and allegations related to disunity and more especially the Cabal.

We firstly discussed the effect of the existence of a Cabal within the UDF and were unanimous in our belief that it manipulates strategy, lacks democratic practices and stifles free and open debate necessary for the growth of organization and for the advance of the struggle.  We also understand the problem to be a serious one both because of the deep suspicion and widespread dissatisfaction within the MDM, and the public disclosure of the problem following the NIC conference.  We are convinced that the Cabal issue is a very real and national problem which needs to be formally addressed by the MDM and the ANC – with a realization that the problem, is it currently exists, seriously hampers our ability to advance closer to our goal of liberation.

We took cognizance of the fact that the problem of the Cabal and factionalism had previously been identified by both the MDM and the ANC.  Preliminary investigations and enquiries by the ANC and the UDF followed up by the talks with those comrades ridiculed, isolated and discredited by the Cabal, has led to the following persons being identified as former or current members or supporters of the Cabal.

Natal: Pravin Gordan, Zac Yacoob, Alf Carrim, Yunus Mohammed, Farouk Meer, Jerry Coovadia, Billy Nair – all members of the NIC.

Blacks under the influence of the NIC namely Diliza Mji, Sikhumbuzo Ngwenya, Curnick Ndlovu.

Transvaal: Ismail Momoniat, Laloo Chiba, Casim Salojee.

Part of the Cabal in the Transvaal is seen as Eric Molobi and Amos Masondo.

Western Cape: Persons identified as members of the Cabal in the Western Cape since the early  eighties are amongst others Jonathan de Vries, Hadley King, Cathy Macrae and Ebrahim Patel.  Dullah Omar is also currently exceeding his vested authority and seems to be part and parcel of the Cabal.

National:  Cabal's influence on a national level is being exerted through members in the UDF NEC namely Azhar Cachalia, Mohammed Valli, Murphy Morobe and Titus Mafolo, while Nair and Seftel have complementary national influence in sectoral politics in the Indian and White areas.  It is hoped that the release of MP and TL will reverse the current situation of misuse of talents and resources within the UDF and reorientate Murphy, Valli, Titus and Azhar to toe the line.

A paper was prepared by the UDF NEC and presented to various regions and affiliates.  Inter alia the paper dealt with the need to rid ourselves of factionalism, disband and caucuses as might exist and give proper effect to questions such as accountability.  It also cited styles of operation or traditional practices that exist within TIC, NIC, JODAC, and NUSAS as inappropriate even if at some stage such practices helped to advance the democratic cause.  This paper however failed to solve the problem of the existence and suspicions surrounding the Cabal.

In our recommendations, this is taken into account.  We isolated several factors which led to the emergence of the Cabal.  Firstly, a phenomenon of so-called advanced activists developed.  People took upon themselves the task of strategizing for all and sundry (the NIC, UDF regional and on a national level via national contacts) and imposing their will on others.  A consequence of this was that those who disagree with such strategies are often labeled as nationalists, mavericks, old guard, etc.

Over a period of time this has led to the ousting of senior activists in the struggle from their leadership positions which were subsequently taken up by members or supporters of the Cabal.  In recent times senior NIC activists like MJ Naidoo, RB Chaudhary, Ramlall Ramesar and Rabbi Bugwandeen were subjected to the manipulating style of Cabal.

Black comrades in Natal who suffered at the hands of the Cabal as far back as 1985 were amongst others, Ian Mkhize, Samson Nkozi, Kwenza Mlaba,  Nozizwe Madlala, Russel Mapanga and Pius Langa.  At the recent ANC meeting in Paris, Pius was purposefully excluded from closed MDM/ANC meetings due to the influence of Valli and Cachalia, labeling him as not "being part of the MDM".

The Cabal also slandered and diminished the role of stalwarts in the Transvaal.  Amongst others Essop Jassat, Ismail Mohammed, Aubrey Mokoena, Curtis Nkondo, Thozamile Gqweta and Sam Kikine were isolated and diminished as leaders in the struggle.  We believe that it is important for us all to appreciate and understand that even the ANC doe not impose its will on mass democratic organizations.  In exercising its vanguard role, the movement advances its ideas on the understanding that they be discussed openly and in a comradely spirit.  It was also felt that the State of Emergency and the fact that some comrades had to operate underground has on too many an occasion been misused to undermine democratic procedures.  At the same time individuals identified as the core of the Cabal – with access to resources, reading material and skill – that during the State of Emergency many experienced activists have been detained and often replaced by inexperienced activists who have neither a knowledge of the Cabal problem or the experience to deal with the question.

One area of concern is that the existence of the Cabal does leave a gap pin the MDM which the State could exploit to our detriment and even demise, specifically as regards our different positions and motives towards negotiation.  We identified current initiatives which have the intention of solving the problem of the Cabal.  The first is the 4-person UDF Commission of which Samson Ndlovu is part.  Secondly, the SAYCO NEC is consulting broadly to seek advice on how best to deal with the Cabal.  SAYCO also intends to directly confront all those identified as Cabal members.  In addition SAYCO also wants to fight against all cliques.  This they want to do within the UDF so as to defend and consolidate the UDF.  Finally, Cde's Govan Mbeki and Ahmed Kathrada have been informed of the problem and have in the process of further investigating it already spoken to ousted NIC members, namely MJ, RR, Rabbi and RB.

It is against this background that we have made recommendations.  Firstly, we believe it is important that all  initiatives aimed at resolving the Cabal problem be consolidated into a single initiative.  We suggest that a commission comprising BN, FC and CD be set up to do the following:

(a). Consultation, as soon as possible, with all organizations in this problem and in particular those (NIC, TIC, JODAC, NUSAS) which have already strongly expressed the belief that Cabal exists.

(b). Set up a meeting between themselves, Cabal and those who believe that a Cabal exists with a view of confronting the Cabal in order to resolve the problem.

(c). Set up a meeting between the Cabal, the accusers and the ANC so as to put a seal on the problem.  This we believe is in keeping with our commitment to the leadership of the ANC who in this situation need to exercise that leadership.

Parts c and b should not be conditional on each other.  (We suggest BN, FC and CD because of the need for the commission to consist of people who are deemed to be clearly above the problems and who command the necessary respect required by the commission.)

Bearing in mind the "ethnic" composition of the Cabal, their vested interests as well as their perceived power base, it would be naïve to think our consultations with the Cabal would have a real impact on them as regards their cooperation within broad democratic structures.  Notwithstanding the possibility of certain commitments on their side we must therefore embark on a strategy which should be aimed at isolating certain individuals and at the same time undermining their power base.  Our aim should be to make them feel comfortable in their positions while we prepare to finally rid our structures of them.  We suggest that a further commission comprising of Popo, Terror and Peter Mokaba be set up to work on this strategy.  JN should be excluded from our activities.

We also stress that the problem of the Cabal is an aspect of broader problems relating to our organizations.  This includes lack of democracy, the dependency on sectoral organization, weak structures, etc.  These problems need to be constantly addressed and the question of forums for regular meetings between different sectors should also be treated with a sense of urgency.  Through these structures, we hope, problems of a serious nature can be addressed in the future.  However, as a result of our present experience we also realized that there may be a need for a structure to exist consisting of universally


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