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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Zarina's accident

Comms re Zarina's accident and injuries October 1988 to 2000.

Mac unfairly believed that Joe Slovo had withheld news of Zarina's accident from him and the severity of her injuries. The comms suggest that Mac was incorrect on the first count but correct on the second. Most likely is that Slovo might have believed that if Mac knew the full severity of her injuries, he would have either found his way back to Lusaka or be too distracted to fully concentrate on Vula. Ultimately, what counted for more was when he learned from Zarina of how Slovo dithered over paying her way to Harare for proper hospitalization. See [] maharaj/family/ correspondence/ Mac & Zarina  1989

Sent Sun 9th Oct 1988

Comrade Richard:  Robin asked me to try to contact Adam to let him know that Gemma was involved in a car accident.  She is OK but will be in hospital for a few days.  She has a broken arm and maybe a cracked rib.  The car is a bit of a write-off.  The accident was her fault and no other cars were involved.  I have been reassured that she is OK and will be back home in a day or two.  Please let Adam know as soon as possible, but tell him there is nothing to worry about.  Will also let him know if he gets in contact via TS.  Please let me know as soon as you get this. Ciao.

Sent Wed 12th Oct 1988

Ken to Paul

Running out of funds this end.  Phone bills and trips to Holland costing a lot.  Can you arrange top-up?

Don't think Adam knows about Gemma yet as he's in Solly's.  Richard knows.  Any more news re her?

Sent Sun 16th Oct 1988

I don't know if Richard informed you: Gemma was involved in a car accident on Friday 7th Oct.  She is OK but as far as I know still in hospital.  She has broken arm and maybe a cracked rib.  Robin says she is fine so you must please not worry.  The car is a write-off.  No one else was involved.  Apparently she fell asleep at the wheel.

Received Thurs 20th Oct 1988

Ken to Richard:

Sorry balls ups yesterday but no need for you to contact me before sending.  Just send any time; one after another.

Oscar to Ben:

1.. Received one book for Gemma.

2.. Gemma's condition is improving.  Gone to Harare for orthopedic treatment.

3.. Gemma's brother-in-law gone to Moscow for treatment.

Sent Thurs 20th Oct 1988

ADAM: 17 Oct:

Stunned and shocked re news about Gemma.  Heard about it for first time last night from Momo (advise Robin he arrived safely).  Hope you guys shooting straight re her condition.  Convey my deepest love and concern.  Thousands of questions I'd like to ask re Gemma, family etc but will wait till I hear from her.

Sent Sun 23rd Oct 1988 (1)

Robin to Ben:

"I'm astonished that news of Gemma only reached you via Momo.  I personally phoned Ken next day to convey all to you after I'd seen Gemma.  Typically she did no even want me to worry you with the news.  Perhaps Ken can explain at end of this message why there was a delay in telling you.  I saw G every day and she seemed to be steadily on mend.  She was to go home after a week.  We however talked her into accepting her employer's offer to go to Harare for more up to date check.  We await full report but it appears that broken arm has to be set and dislocated shoulder attended to.  Otherwise G was in good spirits and her wonderful brave self.  She was more concerned about not worrying you than about herself.  I am not trying to make you feel easier when I say that, all in all, she will undoubtedly have a complete recovery.  The kids are great.  I've made a point of seeing them and your relative is wonderful with them.  Trip which was arranged for her husband (in terms of our discussion) has eased whole situation.  I hope they manage to do something for his condition.  Ivan is in Harare and I will ask him to convey your love and concern to G and to phone Ken with the latest news on her progress.  I apologise deeply on behalf of all of us for failure to reach you immediately."

(Ken: as you now know I let Richard know about G immediately but neither of us were able to contact you at Solly's.  Should think about getting TB for when you're there.)

Received Sat 12th Nov 1988

3.. Advise if Gemma is back and condition, etc

Received Sun 13th Nov 1988

From Ken

2.. Please send report on Gemma.  Adam getting desperate for news.  Either send report to me via TC or TK.  Get Gemma to write letter which you can send to me for enciphering with TK or you can use TK yourself using book Adam sent specially for purpose of communicating with Gemma.

Sent Sat 19th Nov 1988

From Ken to Paul

Please send report on Gemma for Ben.  Think we should find new name for Gemma as it's been used too much (how about Jimmy or Karen?).

Sent Mon 21st Nov 1988

Ken received your letter of 14th and MK Elementary Explosives handbook.  Is book what Adam's been asking for?

7.. Have informed Adam re Gemma.

Received Thurs 24th Nov 1988

From Paul to Ken

3.. Gemma will be in Harare until late December.  Children and aunt have now joined her. All injuries almost healed except for left arm.  Still in pain.  Very limited movement presently.  Reggie and Robin will see her this weekend.

Sent Thurs 24th Nov 1988

From Ben:

4.. Many thanks re new Gemma.  Please keep me informed and send her my love

Part one of two:

From Gemma:  Harare 4 Dec 1988, sent as 2nd message on 7/12/88.

Dearest Adam,  This message will have to reach you through TC as I am experiencing some difficulty in undoing TK.  I felt a compromise through TC would be a good idea.  As you know, I have been very much out of my stride since the 7th October when I was admitted to UTH after a road accident.  I was subsequently flown to Harare for surgery.  Fortunately the ribs have all healed and so has the shoulder blade, and the pain I my arm and shoulder has at last begun to lift, making me quite optimistic about the surgeon's prediction.  He says that one I have the last two operations (on Dec 13 and June 1989) to remove the screws from shoulder blade and arm and collar bone, I will regain most of the mobility in that region.  Robin assures me that you will be kept informed through a copy of the surgeon's report, which Reggie has already seen.  The good thing is that I will overcome the limitations in current mobility in my left arm through physiotherapy – also it is my left arm and not my right one, thank goodness.  As you can imagine this has been a trauma and a severe blow to the strides I was making in my PTA job.  Suffice it to say for now:  Once I presented Bax with the technical evaluation of the system developed by Geneva, and explained that on professional and political principles, and even under threat of being sacked, I had refused in Geneva to install that system, he put all his trust and confidence in me. Together with Mengustu, my direct boss, Bax assigned me the task of redeveloping the entire system from scratch for installation by the same deadline as originally planned, viz June 1989, for fear of losing face to the member states.

Sent Thurs 8th Dec 1988

Part two and last:  Now I have lost 3 months and do not feel up to the same intense momentum.  I understand that Geneva promised them an alternative consultant but they said they preferred to wait for me.  That was in November, though, when they expected me back in Lusaka for a couple of weeks.  So I do now know whether it is fair to the PTA not to advise them to get a new consultant, even though I will be returning to Lusaka in January.  The good news is that the children are here with me now.  Milou had apparently taken the accident badly, withdrawing into a shell.  But now he is as chatty, buoyant and provocative as ever.  Joey is as usual full of bounce and excitement and they never stop talking about you.  Needless to say, we miss you very much indeed, and hope you remain safe to return to us in one piece.    Next time I will let you know of the details of how things deteriorated.  But L was a fiercely negative force in all this.  I really look forward to undoing your message and hearing from you again.  All our love.  Gemma and the kids.

Sent Mon 12 Dec 1988


1.. Thanks for Gemma letter.

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