About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

12 Jul 1989: Jack, Mkhuseli and Matiso, Khaya

Click here for more information on the Interviewee - Jack

Click here for more information on the Interviewee - Matiso

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     I want to talk in general first of your feelings about the situation, whether it is changing or not changing and I want you to talk about how you went on a hunger strike and what the hunger strike achieved and just general questions like that. Maybe you could say who you are so I have it on the tape.

MJ     Mkhuseli Jack.

KM     Khaya Matiso, member of the NECC, National Education Crisis Community.

POM     How many times have you been detained all together?

KM     Seven or eight times. Difficult to count in South Africa because we stay in detention two weeks sometimes, sometimes six months, sometimes a year and so on. But during the state of emergency I was detained once and that happened to be among the group that was involved in that hunger strike, that historic hunger strike.

POM     Can you tell me about the circumstances in which detainees decided to go on hunger strikes?

KM     I think the best way to approach this is to structure this discussion this way; I must say something about the background to the strike itself and then, secondly, I must say something about the motivation, why the hunger strike, and then, thirdly, we must say something about the planning, how it was planned. And fourthly I must say something about the support that we gained outside prison and lastly the outcome of the hunger strike. To start with the background of the hunger strike. In 1985, 1986 the government declared a state of emergency and thousands of anti-apartheid activists were detained, students, kids, school children, ministers, lawyers, doctors, most everybody. And the present population, a range up to 20,000 people, were in detention and there was just overcrowding in most prisons in South Africa. And a few people were released before this hunger strike. Many people, by the time we started this hunger strike many people were still in detention. And in this region, that is the Eastern Cape, and most of the people, anti-apartheid activists in this region, were at St. Albans(?) prison where this hunger strike was organised. And even before this hunger strike, there were some hunger strikes before this one, but they were not well organised and they lasted maybe two or three days and so on.

     It was this first hunger strike that was a really long hunger strike, it lasted for a long period. And there were so many prison cells and there were many more chiefs behind this hunger strike. For instance we wanted to be released unconditionally, and this was the general demand of our people, that there be a release of all prisoners, including long term prisoners and detainees together, almost everybody. But of the major demand, even during this hunger strike, we raised the demand that people must released. There was certainly emphasis that we don't see ourselves as criminal with our political activists. We are opposed to injustice and we are using peaceful methods in opposing apartheid in South Africa, therefore we don't see ourselves as criminals and internally we said, because we were not being charged, there are no charges brought up against us, therefore we are just innocent people, therefore we must be released, we don't see a need of us staying years and years in detention. And at that time some of us had stayed in detention for close to three years, for instance, some two, some one, and so on. And there were also sick people in there, people who got very, very poor health and so on. And these were our main motives for this hunger strike. And then we come to planning now. This hunger strike was very planned in terms of there were so many committees that were formed that will monitor this hunger strike. For instance, we formed a publicity committee that will be responsible for organising publicity outside prison, newspapers, readers and so on. And making contacts outside prison for people to support the hunger strike.

POM     Was that committee formed inside the prison or outside?

KM     Well there were links, there were links between us and people outside prison, there were very, very good links but we formed that committee. It was inside the prison but there were some communication lines and communication methods with each other.

MJ     That was all done behind the backs of the authorities. It should not be known because we are not supposed to even have a newspaper inside the prison.

KM     The second committee was a motivating committee. The main purpose of this committee was to motivate our comrades and motivating them by explaining why there was a hunger strike, by putting much emphasis on the justification for our struggle, justifying for our action and so on. And the committee informed over what was happening, like reading newspapers about the aptitude of the hunger strike, saying something from radio for instance, saying people in London are reacting this way to this hunger strike, people in America, the politicians in America are reacting in this way to the hunger strike and so on, keeping the people well informed as what is happening. Even in parliament, for instance, what happening, how are they discussing our hunger strike in parliament and things like that. And there was also a third committee, this was a Crisis Management Committee. Comrades this is going to be dangerous, some of us will die in the process of this hunger strike and therefore we must always check who is about to collapse and things like. And we were very fortunate that most of us were skilled people, there was a pharmacist, for instance, and there were teachers for instance, and there were many skilled people in detention at the time so people were just utilising their skills, you see them coming together utilising their skills. This Crisis Management Committee was also checking what the doctors in prison are doing because there was a very bad relationship between the doctors in prison and us, doctors approved by the prison authorities, for instance.

POM     Why was there a very bad relationship?

KM     Let me explain that. First, we were not allowed to have our own doctors, it was difficult for us to go to specialists outside, even before the hunger strike, it was very difficult. We wanted to get our own doctor outside prison but it was very difficult, almost impossible, let me say that. To end the hunger strike there was a doctor there at St. Albans and this doctor was saying to us, I'm not prepared to treat you. You better die I don't care for you, the best medicine for you is to eat, go and eat, simple. There is no medicine for you, I'm not going to recommend to the authorities for you to go to hospital, things like that you see. So we have those problems with that doctor and so on. And they are interested, remember there was only one doctor then, they were really careful they were not bringing many doctors and so on. There was only one doctor, this is the doctor who was really totally opposed, not only to the hunger strike, to what we stand for, to the whole tier of our struggle and so on. So this Crisis Management Committee was sort of responsible to co-ordinate all these activities, bringing the messages of our people, communicating with the prison authorities and so on and so on.

     There was also a Disciplinary Committee, a committee that was responsible to discern the question of discipline because we knew that we don't expect our comrades to be perfect, to know everything and to do everything correct all the times. We know there are weaknesses and limitations in some of us and they meant that not all of us were in leadership positions. Some of our people were really less politicised and so on and so on. So we expected some weaknesses and limitations and we got a very disciplined way of dealing with this. We know how to discipline our comrades even before the hunger strike in prison. Generally. We know how to correct our comrades. We know how to develop our comrades, things like that. So we formed the Disciplinary Committee mainly just to check on issues, to continue with the work of the Disciplinary Committee, it wasn't something new anyway. But as far as I remember there were no disciplinary problems. Our comrades were highly motivated, they were highly disciplined. It appears to me that they all just leaders, they were all leaders you see, all good political people who knew what they were doing. That was the whole planning of the hunger strike. So there were many structures in other words, there were many structures formed to monitor the hunger strike. There were many meetings at the same time. Almost every day there were meetings, there were meetings, people who argued different committees you see. They were collecting data, for instance, about the health of our comrades coming from hospitals or what they are testing and everything like that, putting down those statistics and so on and planning how to move forward with the hunger strike.

PAT     Did you have free association within the prison?

POM     How were prisoners able to communicate with each other in the prisons?

MJ     Now we can and we do get out to go for two hours for exercise and we always utilise that time a lot. And we had also a Negotiating Committee which in fact was liaison between the detainees and the authorities there, trying to explain their whole problem of leading to the hunger strike. Strange we did get the sympathies of the authorities of the prison wardens, all of them and the head of the prison pledged to inform his men that they must behave properly and they must not interfere with us because in his opinion our struggle was just at that time. So as a result that was the first hurdle we had crossed and it was a very strong boosting group, exercise that one in terms of the morale and the psychological preparedness of our people. That helped them a lot as far as that is concerned. And, OK, Khaya, we are going to go to the support.

KM     There was a wonderful support for this hunger strike. People throughout the country were forming Hunger Strike Committees and there were many hunger strikes in Johannesburg, in Cape Town in Durban, in Eastern Cape, everywhere, and all kinds of people. And there was just one demand, to be released unconditionally. And there were many delegations also that were sent to the Minister of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok, representing our interests. Even here in the Eastern Cape one delegation was sent to Cape Town to see the Minister. And to our surprise the Minister was prepared to see all these delegations and there were really discussions between delegations representing us and the Minister. But the emphasis, all the delegations emphasised that those people must be released and that no-one should die. Even outside South Africa, for instance, there were wonderful reactions like from America for instance, statements were issued that the people must be released. And the response of the Minister was, he demanded that all hunger strikers must stop the hunger strike, they must start eating before they can be released. We refused to that statement within five or six days of our hunger strike. We continued the hunger strike. We said we must be released even before we end our hunger strike. Anyway we don't trust the government. Those people are not trusted throughout Africa, you see. So we continued the hunger strike up until the eleventh day, I think so. Where there was some indication, even twelve, the comrades, people are getting released and the Minister is really adhering to his promises, he is really releasing some of our people and then we said to that, well even our people, anyway we're coloured over in the Eastern Cape, they were saying, Please you must stop now. Like church people for example. We said, No, you can't stop this kind of strike now. We are going to pressurise the government. We are going to take your struggle into our own hands, we are going to move up and down in demanding your release who will be organising around the region demanding your release, we have been talking to newspapers demanding your release, there have been church services locally and regionally demanding, church services and so on. In other words we were really pleased about the support we got from outside from our people. And they really congratulated all these people inside South Africa and outside South Africa. We got support up to the time we were released.

MJ     What is the first thing about the negotiation process that took place was out of the hunger strike, Adrian Vlok, the Minister of Police in this country, Law and Order, to whom we were in fact sending this message of our damning to death, realised together with his Cabinet the bitter consequences if any one of us could die. As a result of that, for a change, he acted intelligently by listening to the voice of reason for the first time.

MJ     Something that was strange in this country that a government authority will listen and act properly in a situation, in a crisis situation, because normally they have got a history of messing up things at times of crisis. But incidentally he immediately after three or four days of our hunger strike here he sent a number of police officers, the top police officers, to go there and persuade us to eat because the Minister is considering they claimed our release and yes we are considering that. Not as a result of the hunger strike, that was the message we got from their police officers who came there. Then a meeting was requested by the police subsequently that after he requested to know from us who our lawyers are individually and then he said he would contact the lawyers and inform them about the position pertaining to our release. We said, OK, we don't like that. We don't trust that. We have been promised to be released, we want to be released now. And then a meeting was set up between our negotiating team with the police officers who came and promised us in fact that they were doing something about this and they were serious about it and we must abandon this action because it was delaying our release. But we said we could not take it. Our release has been delayed over two and half years and there was no point that, we saw no difference from our point of view and it went on. From delegations that were sent, church leaders to Adrian Vlok in Pretoria, the Bishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Reverend Frank Chicane, who is the Secretary General now of the South Africa Council of Churches, and Dr. Beyers Naude, all of them organised the church around this hunger strike and continued to not give the door of the Minister explaining the dread consequences of action if the Minister doesn't do anything quickly.

     And then after some relented deliberation that we must say that the church has played a leading role if we look at it against the conditions of the time and they came back to us and explained to us the position and they said to us in the light of this and generally after getting the concern of the parents outside and the community saying OK let's try and see the word of the Minister outside South Africa. That is very important to us. Not only in far as the hunger strike was concerned. We are relying with our appeal, the appeal of all liberation struggles. When we are saying, we as peace loving people of South Africa, we are waging a peaceful struggle here inside the country, peaceful struggle against racism and then we are saying in our appeal we have got two most important pillars in this struggle. That is the mass action, pillar number one where we involve the masses of our people, the majority of South Africans, the church people are talking about now, the lawyers, youth, women almost everybody. White, blacks for everybody in South Africa. To us that's very important. The number of people who are really opposed to apartheid, to us, it is very important. We put much emphasis on that pillar.

     The second pillar is the authority. To us I think that is very important in whatever we do, not only in so far as the hunger strike was concerned, in whatever achievement we do. Even here you are, this is involved in a different content. We need the mass support of our people. We need support of the whole world. That is really important because racism, wherever it appears in the whole world, it must be opposed, it must be eliminated not only here in Southern Africa. Throughout the world it must be. And we are saying we are not only opposed to racism in South Africa, wherever it is, whether it is in America, or whether it is in Britain, any form of racism we are totally opposed to it. And that with the whole world, the whole international community, we are saying it must be involved in the struggle against racism. Similarly in, I mean, you remember when the in the 1940s when the world was waging a war against Nazism, because we were involved in that war? Our people were, Africans, were involved, we were waging a war against Nazism. And that is what we are saying to the politicians of the western countries, we are saying come, you must come and help us, we are waging a struggle against racism here. That's why in here in this question of the hunger strike we said it is important for the world to be informed about this hunger strike. And we are also interested to analyse what's happening in America, what's happening in Africa, what's happening in Europe about the hunger strike, what is the reaction of the different politicians to this hunger strike.

POM     You mentioned the pressure of the international community and mass support in South Africa as the two pillars of the liberation movement. What is the role of the armed struggle?

KM     You see we as the UDF, we are talking here as the United Democratic Front, we are waging the struggle here inside South Africa but to be full after that, our own brothers, we are waging a similar struggle out in exile and we fully understand the motivation behind the traditional uMkhonto we Sizwe, the armed struggle of the ANC for instance. What they are doing outside is no different than what we are doing inside the country. It's one struggle. It is the struggle against apartheid. But they are different, they are using different methods, the armed struggle for instance. Whereas here inside the country we have a lonely concern and that is waging our peaceful struggle. To say something more about the armed struggle, one must mention that the armed struggle is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. We believe, strongly believe, that our people in the ranks of the ANC are committed in the creation of a peaceful South Africa. At the end of the day, there must be a peace for this country. The must be an non-racial South Africa. There must a democratic South Africa. And they decided to resort to armed struggle after using all peaceful matters like what we are doing in South Africa, inside the country. All peaceful matters now are being hidden, they are even banned in South Africa. But we have not yet taken a decision to opt for an armed struggle. And they did in the 1960s for instance. So what we are saying is that the armed struggle of the ANC is an important pillar in this fight where the liberation struggle is concerned. But we are saying we are not involved in the armed struggle here as UDF and let me be specific.

POM     I think we have asked a number of people the question about the role of violence, particularly so taken as an example of, say, Northern Ireland where the IRA is able to mount a continuous armed struggle against specific military targets or economic targets. And the IRA are always sheltered in their community. So that even though the police have informers, they don't have sufficient informers. A member of the IRA can, or a unit can, carry out an action and then disappear back into its community and the police will never know who carried it out. So our question has been, why has there not been more activity, military activity, by the ANC? What prevents your community from setting up cells within the townships?

KM     It would be relatively difficult for us to say more about that you see because the ANC is using sophisticated methods to implement it's armed struggle, setting underground structures inside the country, setting cells and so on and so on, but it would be difficult for us to say more about that now. But we know that that is happening.

MJ     But none the less I think if the ANC obviously could be using, judging from what you see now, if the ANC could be using the same tactics more or less as the IRA in terms of being sometimes ruthless in their bombings, you must remember we, the ANC, the uMkhonto we Sizwe, is very much in keeping with the understanding that we have not to spoil this other pillar which we mentioned, the pillar of the international support which we need. And because although we would have loved to have convinced everybody in South Africa about the evilness of the apartheid regime but we haven't done that in the whole of Europe, in the rest of the world. And we have to do that through a process of bringing up issues that people understand best and in a way in which they can see the justification of the real struggle in this country. So there are people who still believe that if I put on a leather jacket like this one and these shoes, as one guy told me that the Russians, you know another very conservative from Britain who said to me, you know when the Russians see you turn around in the township dancing and doing all that they envy your lumber jacket and your nice shoes, instead of knowing actually what we are fighting for. Now there are those kinds of elements which we have to convince, it is in part it is our duty, through our international diplomatic mission to see to it that we win them so that the struggle is justified.

     Why I'm saying, that if we were to use, if the ANC could use brutal methods, hitting soft targets, whereas if you're not the target that is set by uMkhonto we Sizwe would have shifted from the original position they took in the 1960s that they are not hitting government targets and so on and so on. Hard targets. Because, look, all the attacks are related mainly to police stations, military installations etc. And if they were to go on a rampage, bombing just anybody, I mean many people will die obviously, and that will definitely then make people realise that uMkhonto we Sizwe is not as weak as the regime is trying to imply. Because, as I say, on this question of, they are looking for very hard targets. Impossible. I mean look at John Vorster Square, if you go to John Vorster Square, you know how it looks. Look at East London. You go and look at the police station they have been attacking. All of them are not just are not just soft things. And the military bases in Pretoria and everywhere, where they have been hitting. And Koeberg Power station and Sasolburg. Those are highly secured places you know.

     But nonetheless the point that I'm making is we want to say to the world tomorrow, at the end of the day, we aren't pessimists because most of the people who have joined the ranks of uMkhonto we Sizwe are people who have felt to themselves, who have satisfied themselves that they are not going to change this government through negotiations and through persuasion as we are doing. And I think that goes the same way with us ourselves, all of us. But I think there is going to come a time when all of us will say I've done everything, like myself. I mean what else would I do? We did consumer boycott, we did boycotts, we did everything, but the last thing, I'm looking now, what else can we do to persuade the regime? And finally at the end of the day, my comrades, when I cross the border and say I'm tired, they will say, we told you in 1976 that you were wasting your time. That is the position. So in other words, what I'm saying is the main thing we are trying to do, we still believe, well history is going to prove us correct or wrong, but I believe, if the foreign governments, especially people like Margaret Thatcher and Kohl of Germany and of course some other countries who are fraternizing with this regime, if they cannot help us in trying to pressurise apartheid as we put the plan to them how to help us, then I have great feelings that once everybody that comes here comes to the conclusion that they don't want sanctions and there is no other way we can go about, then you can see bad things happening here. That is my perception of that part of uMkhonto we Sizwe which I believe in my opinion it is not unsuccessful at all if you look at the this country, geographical position, differences with other countries and all those things. I think that if you combine them together you will know that if the ANC would like to carry out a reign of terror which you might cause to wonder. And we know for a fact that those type of things we know, this guy I'm talking about is highly placed in the British government. He is saying to me our armed struggle has failed. I said to him, he is a young guy, I said to him that you don't know anything here, you didn't follow politics and you are studying it in either Cambridge or Oxford University when we were watching the Zimbabwe struggle. Do you know what changed the Zimbabwe struggle? Something that forced Margaret Thatcher to do something about the Zimbabwe liberation struggle? It was when the deadlock of the Zimbabwean People's revolutionary army of comrade Joshua Nkomo downed some of those, I count, those planes. And then the first one fell, the second one fell, right, a naked act of terror that was, if you may put it that way, right? And then when, before the comrades blew up the oil tanks there, the petrol tanks, and that fire took two weeks, they couldn't extinguish it. And that was the reality of seeing how the international world can play its role. And there came the Lancaster House scheme. Though it was not what we were looking for, or the Zimbabwe people were looking for, they were looking for the total seizure of power through the armed struggle because they had exhausted every other means and they wanted to move straight to Salisbury, Harare today, and raise their flag and hoist it on the ground with their arms in their hands. But when those planes were brought down the truth came from the imperialists. They kind of said let's set up the Lancaster House.

POM     What kind of pressures would you like to see the international community put on the government here?

MJ     Oddly at the present moment, we are saying to the international world, we are finding ourselves in a situation where we are facing a government, a government that does not want to listen to the majority of the people in this country. A government that is keeping us in bondage. And we call upon them in modem societies that they must come forth and help us out because the situation in this country is a very, very sensitive one. A dangerous one, an explosive one, that can create a lot of bloodshed. So we are saying, look there is still a chance that we can avoid that, now the best solution which we could all agree upon, where we put ourselves on the line, is agreed by the majority of the people in this country, true there are representatives who speak for our people because they elected us in the Mass Democratic Movement now, who are saying, apply mandatory economic sanctions against South Africa. And this is going to pay out. And this is proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it does work. The economy has to come to a standstill, it is regressing, no economic growth over the past eight years. Instead now it's going to zero point, zero point, you know, down. No real economic growth has taken place in the country. Now that makes Botha today to go and talk to Nelson Mandela because he is worried now. What has been taking place is just capital outflow, capital running out of the country. Now they want to inject the economy with foreign capital. They can't pay their foreign debt. And we believe that if we keep them there, it is most painful for them, they must come to the truth. I mean where when there's nobody, at the end of the day they will have us all with our buildings, with our beautiful land, saying to the international world once the whole thing has been rectified here, come now back, invest in South Africa in a very stable society, where economic prosperity will be encouraged by all South Africans, will be part and parcel of that economic system. There will be political stability which will be the result of a negotiated acceptable and genuine settlement that will cater for the interests of the inhabitants of this country. And we are saying to them, do what we tell you, how to help us at this point. And we say economic sanctions is the best, isolation of South Africa at every level is important, frustration of the regime and also all forms of quotas with it, cultural, everything, they must be isolated because the whole world, as the International Court declared apartheid was a crime against humanity and there is no point in which people cannot do anything about this trial. The world did against Germany and it was something like this when Germany was around to plague the whole world into a world war.

POM     Did the hunger strikes, since you won, have a big psychological impact on the African community? Did it serve to boost morale, to show that indeed it was possible to make the government back down in some circumstances?

MJ     It was seen like that, exactly like that.

KM     That is why the hunger strike alone was an action, a militant action against apartheid. There were so many comrades throughout this region, I mean throughout this country.

MJ     We had more than 15,000.

KM     Saying, release our people, release our people. They were having rallies throughout the country and in universities in the halls.

POM     So you were able to mobilise new supporters.

KM     It was a mobilising technique in itself.

PAT     How many people were on the hunger strike?

KM     There were a hundred and five here when we started the hunger strike here. That group.

POM     That's in the Eastern Cape?

KM     Yes, that's in the Eastern Cape? That group that happens to be type of people who had never been released since their detention in 1986 on the 12th of June. All of them. That's the difference, the seriousness of that matter. And over all the people who were detained in this area, it's a big number all in all.

POM     This is a very politicised area. What do you see happening in the next four or five years?

MJ     Obviously what could happen here, if I may guess, after the sixth, F W de Klerk gets in, correct on his way. Release Nelson Mandela, he might do that; lifting of the state of emergency, he might do that; lifting the restrictions upon us, he might do that; unbanning our organisation, UDF affiliates, he might do that. But that does not mean anything to us except that it means only one thing, that we can see that the little bits we are winning as we are going to the total war, the big tree, overall, not in a literal sense in this case in any way, but what I mean, to the final things we want, it will go step by step as far as we are concerned. The release of Nelson Mandela is a thing that they must do. Mandela called upon us in 1985 in February or January that we must, that his freedom is tied to our freedom, and that if Botha asked him to renounce violence, Botha must renounce violence himself. Then we pledged throughout the country at that time that we will say to each other that we will release Nelson Mandela on our own terms. We will force Botha to release Mandela on our own terms. By that we meant that we are going to intensify our struggle. We are going to intensify our international support for Mandela's release. We are going to continue to frustrate the region whereas Mandela is still in prison. And I think up to this point we are very happy people. We can see the miracle of our hard work, of our struggle, of our organisational capabilities that have forced Botha to come close to the truth. And the fact that there has been such a dramatic break within the ruling block, it shows the intensity and the momentum of the revolution as it goes forth in its attempt to break the too wicked, the ruling politick in this country. And that is clear.

     We believe that obviously, as we said long ago, the regime must come to the table and discuss with us in a respectable manner and discuss the future of this country an integrated future, not a future that is meant for fragmentation of the country. It must be decided on a united basis and the principal for that negotiation will be working toward the united and the non-racial and democratic South Africa. That is the first thing. And secondly we have put up preconditions. Those preconditions are not impossible, they are proper because we believe those preconditions are going to help us to be secure from government dangers in the light of negotiations. Because if we go to the table the security law stands there. The prisons are full of our comrades. And our comrades are in exile. Then at the end, Botha will want to dictate terms on us. We don't want to go to the table on his own terms. We want to go to the table once Botha is prepared, his regime is prepared, to do away with apartheid and is committed to building a non-racial South Africa and a democratic one and a united South Africa. So we are faced as a matter of our preconditions. So seeing Botha that is prepared and serious, these preconditions are to prove the bona fide of Botha that he is prepared to negotiate for a non-racial and a democratic South Africa. We'll see that by lifting the banning on the ANC, return of all political exiles, he must commit himself and do that, he must release Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners and many other preconditions which are familiar, which we have always put forth. If that is done we are convinced that the future of this country can be a safe and a secured one for everybody. And that is not impossible.

POM     If you look at the last four or five years, say since the first emergency, what are the most significant developments do you think which have taken place within the African community?

KM     There were many. After we formed the United Democratic Front in 1983, there was a lot of mobilisation inside the country, not only in the African community alone but all communities, black and white. And we said, from mobilisation we will be moving to organisation. We are going to organise our people, in other words we are going to form thousands of structures, thousands of organisations as part of our mass action against apartheid. Then we said that is very important to us and we wanted to achieve that objective. And I must say, to answer your question specifically, that in the past five or four years we have managed to achieve that objective. Today we are talking about thousands of youth organisations. They are called congresses, but we are talking about thousands of student organisations, we're talking about trade unions, many of them, church organisations, there are special committees like the PE Action Committee.

MJ     So far it's in white areas.

KM     We're talking about white students in white student organisations. We are talking about teachers who form teachers unions which are today coming together to form one national teachers union. All these events have been happening in the past four or five years. In other words we said in 1983 when we formed UDF we are going to achieve that objective. And the masses, it is not a question of propaganda. We have managed to achieve that objective. And, secondly, in the international ladder we said the South African struggle must be popularised throughout the world and our people in exile, they concentrate specifically on that issue. Today we are talking of the ANC having more than 40 offices, for example. That is their programme, that is happening, that is true. We are talking of the ANC for instance having two offices in America, one in Washington, one in New York. We are talking of the ANC popular in Europe, in Arabia, some problems and so on are limitations of finance and everything like that. We are talking of international organisations like the Pan American states for instance. We are talking of OAU for instance, talking of the Non Aligned Movement, Commonwealth, United Nations. Our struggle is there. The ANC is there. Our people are emphasising our programme. They have started fighting our positions. They are going to say our demands there. And one must say if we could really, we are really assessing it, what has been happening for four or five years, we have managed to strengthen the anti-apartheid sect. But we must admit there is a lot of work to be done. There is still a long way to go and we still have to strengthen other forces. But eventually we still have to politicise even more the white community of South Africa. We want the right wing block to get rid of these racist attitudes.

POM     If you had to look at the same question like the last four or five years, what do you think has been the most significant development within the white community?

MJ     Well obviously it is the formation of the progressive forces. You find over the five years you used only to have Black Sash that stood for many years in opposition to racism and apartheid laws. For many years very few organisations, white organisations, had been involved in political opposition of the regime. And you find that today, you have got many, many organisations that have joined the struggle which has formed up besides the Black Sash which is an organisation who are mainly white women who were formed mainly to explain and help and advise people on the laws, the pass laws of this country. But presently we speak in terms of many other organisations that are involved with the struggle, let alone the whites that are involved in the trade union movement, the white people who are involved in organisations which are not affiliated with the United Democratic Front. But at the present moment we speak of JADCPJ, you know JADCPC was the Johannesburg Action Democratic Committee of the People of Johannesburg. Now that organisation and the DSC, the Detainee Support Committee, it was a main racial body, but it was mainly supported by the white democrats.

     Today you've got business, which started 1985, when business felt the threat of sanctions coming and started to shift. You may know that business will never move an inch or act unless something gets close to its profits. So you see that business was very much concerned. You'll find them going to Lusaka for the first time. Heavyweights of South African business going to speak and hear what the ANC is actually saying. All that is the result of the continuous intensification of the internal and external pressure against the regime. And then, at the present moment, I'm speaking of a group of corporate executives who have formed themselves into what they call the Consultative Business Movement which in fact involves the most powerful businesses in this country and they have committed themselves to fight apartheid practically, no more just to be concerned about profits and things like that. If you look at that, that is a great achievement. Obviously you will not be able to shift business very easily over the years as they were benefiting from apartheid as they had very good relationship, co-existence with apartheid over the years. But now they see apartheid lies belly deep and an embarrassment to business advancement. So they have to come to the reality of the pressure of the struggle that has been over the past five years. We have forced them to come to realise that we are all South Africans, now it is high time that we respect and recognise the legitimacy of the South African struggle waged by the oppressed people in this country. And therefore now they find themselves wanting to be part and parcel of the solution. No matter, never mind about their ulterior motives, but our understanding is that the mere fact that they have shifted from their position shows us at least we have made progress.

POM     Do you think there has been a shift in the average white persons attitude? That they have moved from a position of saying no change ever, to one of subconsciously knowing great change has got to come but they are slow to accept the reality of it?

MJ     You must remember that this regime has boxed itself to a corner where over the years it has got its support on the basis of pushing racial hatred at the expense of truth and fairness. Now they have spoiled a big number of Afrikaner people, bribing them, giving them benefits which they do not deserve in order to stay in power. Now the reality is that that group now is a problem to them. Now they want to shift. It is difficult. They fear now the Frankenstein of their own Frankenstein monster of their own creation. So what is taking place now is that there is a group of rising intellectuals, white people, who realise that from a realistic point of view apartheid is just dragging the country down in every way, in every aspect, it cannot be justified today. They want it done away with as soon as possible. So this group now is growing. The number of whites getting into our struggle is growing. It is not diminishing. That is what is interesting. If you member in the earlier years we had only about five known opponents of apartheid, today we speak of thousands. And because the state today is under, what is this thing, security, State Security Council, and the Joint Management Council, which are the military intelligence and the security organs, the police organs, who are deciding the policies of the country. Now this has caused disillusionment within the white people who are voters in terms of knowing that now. Decisions are no more taken by the people they have voted into power in the Cabinet. But they are taken by the military men.

KM     Within the ruling party.

MJ     Even within the ruling party. There is great division. So in a way this power block is crumbling slowly and slowly and slowly. So that is what the position is.

POM     Were either of you beaten or tortured when you were detained?

MJ     No detainee can escape torture. One of the worst ... But I will tell you that during this last detention of 1986 they didn't concentrate mainly on what they call the officials of the organisations this time, or their leadership. But the previous year their concentration was in torturing us. They tortured us then. They paid particular attention to that. But this time, they did that with the younger comrades. They tortured them. The little kids.

KM     I stayed for five months in solitary confinement. Yes at John Vorster Square before I joined the comrades at St Albans.

POM     You were locked up 24 hours a day?

KM     Yes, solitary confinement.

POM     You were allowed no reading material?

MJ     No reading material.

KM     No reading material, nothing. Just a bible, they encourage you to read a bible.

POM     What did you do? How did you handle that?

KM     Oh I was just singing the whole day and half of the night you see, singing freedom songs alone. And sometimes just talking to other comrades next door, next to my cell. There were some policemen that were more or less lenient you see. Some would bring some magazines and so on so that you can check that there are some divisions even within them. Some they are saying these people they are right in what they are doing, they think that you see. But other than that you just keep yourself in physical training, you see, singing freedom songs, keeping yourself motivated and so on and so on. And sometimes they just say they've noticed that for you for four or six weeks, the security guard, if there were some confrontation, there were some pressures between you and the security guards during your interrogations, they would say you won't get visitors for three or four weeks, they would say that, so you would sit there alone for six or seven weeks with no visitors, no communication at all. They will come and take your food and then leave.

PAT     How are you restricted now?

KM     You mean now, after release? We are heavily restricted. Like now I am always checking my time now. I have to go to the police station now before six o'clock and report to them. And at six o'clock I must be inside my premises, inside my house.

PAT     You have a curfew?

KM     Curfew, yes, six o'clock, both of us.

POM     You have to go to the police station every day?

KM     Every day.

MJ     I must go twice to the police station, in the morning between six and eight, in the evening between four and six. And at six o'clock I must be at my home. And we are also not supposed to speak to more than four, we must be four.

POM     Four people at a time?

MJ     And we must not speak to journalists, we must not help anybody to compile anything, we must not attend meetings. We must not get out of the Port of Elizabeth ministerial district without a permit.

PAT     You are not supposed to get close to the factories because of the trade unions that are there?

MJ     We will create problems there, yes. And we must not participate in the activities of various organisations.

POM     These restrictions apply to every detainee who has been released?

MJ     Yes but they differ in just in terms of times and so on, but more or less they are the same.

KM     I think that it will be important for us to analysis the whole issue we are dealing with now. Like getting to know why there are restrictions anyway. And if we are touching that issue we will be forced by what we have said earlier, that in the past four or five years we have managed to mobilise and organise our people. Today we are talking of thousands people, it is important to re-emphasise that. We are talking of thousands of people, thousands, there is a lot of leadership throughout the country. So this is really a threat to the government of South Africa. And again today we are talking of thousands of whites, we have said here, thousands of whites in the struggle. Like even here in PE there is restriction, Janet Chant(?) who is working for IDASA, you know IDASA? Janet Chant is working there, she is restricted, she is a young lady. She is a white. She is restricted. That is just one example. In other words the state is really feeling that tide, and today there are many people, it is going to be difficult to monitor these people, therefore there must be restrictions to make it easier for the security guys to monitor the activities of those people so that they can come at our houses at night and decide on what to do.

PAT     Now are they really hard-headed about enforcing these restrictions or can you get away with playing games with them? I remember somebody told us, I think it was in Pakistan when we were there under the state of emergency, that he was restricted, they had come out of prison, and what he did is he was only allowed to have one visitor at a time, so in a large warehouse his comrades drew on the floor a square, a fairly large square, the size of a room like this, and they said this was his room and so he could have one person in there. But other people could stand around the square. So he was only meeting with one person in his room but the whole political organisation was in the warehouse in the building and so you know they were sort of taking literally the term of the restriction placed on him. But I get the feeling talking to you guys that these guys don't mess around. This isn't fun and games that we are having here. When they say you only meet four people they mean it and if you violate it you're in trouble.

MJ     Yes, you will get into trouble. But last night they allowed me to go and address a meeting of the Consultative Business Movement and they refused me on Saturday to go and address a IDASA conference in Johannesburg. You know they fear now, they are trying to pull the strings, you know trying to say, hey you can go this direction, you cannot go that way. They look, but one thing they know, they wouldn't like us to speak to our constituents. It will take a long time before they can allow or tolerate that. That is going to be a very bitter pill to swallow for them to go and stand in front of our people and allow us to speak to our constituents.

POM     Thank you very much.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.