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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Aug 1997: Matthews, Joe

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

POM     Let's just begin, Mr Matthews, with what you said that Mr Meyer Kahn the head of South African Breweries has taken over.

JM     He has been brought in at the insistence of the President actually, and the Deputy President, who thought that we need a strong man from the business side with management skills because every time we analyse what's wrong with the service that we are giving to the public we find that a large part of it is either misallocation of resources or maldistribution and it was thought that a man like this would assist to sort out the management aspects, because obviously people in the police service, no matter how long they have been in the service, are not managers. It's not their job to look after 32,000 vehicles and manage that. They have not had the training for it or the skills connected with that whereas business people for them this is ABC. It's an imaginative step. When you look at, for example, logistics in the police service how many police are engaged in looking after the uniforms, seeing that everyone has got a uniform, seeing that everyone has got a pair of boots, how many people are involved in that? Shouldn't they be on the street? Someone else can handle that. It should be out-sourced to the private sector things like that.

POM     How would you explain the reputation the South African Police had for extraordinary efficiency and ruthlessness during the government of apartheid?

JM     Well it was easy, the easiest thing in the world is separation. What management skills do you require to oppress people, to enforce oppressive laws? It needs no skill because here you are with a sledgehammer coming along. Just to give you an example, they had control over movement, you had pass laws which controlled the movement of every black person, so you rushed into a place to check if everybody has got their legal documents and where they were working and all that sort of thing, so you took innocent and guilty alike with the previous government. There was no discrimination in that sense. The thing was indiscriminate. Everything was indiscriminate. The investigating of a case in a township, you arrest 1000 fellows and you start your interrogations. You don't need skill for that, you don't need skill for that. I know people use the word 'efficient', well efficient in suppression, I mean Stalin was terribly efficient at suppression but if you say that the economy of that country was efficiently managed or even that the security services were efficient you would say the thing was a mess. How can you arrest six million people and send them off to Siberia and say you were an efficient security service? That's indiscriminate suppression.

POM     Just to turn back to something that happened last week, and that is Walter Felgate's resignation from the IFP and then the revelation, I think only played up in The Mail & Guardian, that at one time in the early seventies or before that he had been a member or had been associated with the ANC. Now you were at one time a member of the ANC.

JM     I was number two man so I should know a little bit about what happened and I never heard of Felgate. I never heard of him until I got back here in 1991 and then I met him in IFP circles. Before that I had never heard of Felgate so I was a bit surprised too to learn that he was an agent of some kind and I was specially in charge of that sort of aspect.  But of course one never knows. I don't know whom he was - he keeps on speaking of Tambo.

POM     Always safe to speak of the dead.

JM     Safe yes. I have had lots of people who have come to me, I had a coloured fellow who came up to me once and whispered to me conspiratorially, "Actually I worked with Mandela", because I knew that it was not true you see. He hadn't worked with Mandela at all.

POM     Something that I don't think we've ever talked about is why you split with the ANC.

JM     I didn't split with the ANC at all, I didn't split with the ANC.

POM     Why you moved?

JM     You see what people don't understand is first of all I was born in KwaZulu/Natal, that's number one. Secondly, Buthelezi is my lifelong friend. We were at university together. We majored in the same subject, history. He was best man at my wedding. He spent his honeymoon at my house. Every step of the way, even the decision do I or do I not go into the system, whatever it was, do I become a Chief, do I take up my position, when he was still deciding do I go into law or do I take up my hereditary position, I was involved in all those discussions. Therefore, I have been with him all the time. I didn't have to join him, you follow? Even his speeches, the first speech he made which was to Verwoerd, the Verwoerd Indaba, it's called the Verwoerd Indaba in the fifties when Dr Verwoerd came to explain to the Zulu people the policy that he wished to put forward and that was the first time Buthelezi came before the public as a representative of the Zulu people. He was the spokesman. Now we all sat down to work out, to discuss his speech. That's 1955 we had to do that.  So we had to decide what do the people do, for example, when Verwoerd arrives at the indaba. We know what to do when the King arrives but what do you say when Verwoerd arrives because you can't give him the same greeting that is given to the King. All those details were being discussed.

POM     Do you remember what you decided?

JM     We decided then to say " Nkosi ", that was for Verwoerd.

POM     What does that mean?

JM     It's meaningless. It just means a chief from the great place or something like that, a chief from a great place. It's a meaningless thing, it has got no status in Zulu culture at all. Nkosi ....

POM     Then you joined the ANC?

JM     No I didn't join the ANC. You see I started in the ANC in 1944 as a 15 year old boy. I was in the Youth League when it started with Tambo and Sisulu and all these people. I was the youngest.

POM     And Mandela, right?

JM     Mandela yes. Before I even met Buthelezi I was in the Youth League. Then he  joined the Youth League at Fort Hare as a student. I was secretary of the Youth League at Fort Hare. So the point I am trying to make is this, there is no - you see in the public mind there is a separation. You have got ANC there and you have got IFP there. That develops very much later. In 1975 you then get the Inkatha Liberation Movement formed but throughout that period the relationship between the ANC and the royal family and so on there had been no separation. Chief Luthuli used to go every year to go and report to the King what the ANC was doing. Some of us moved between all those groupings with ease, we had no difficulty about it. We have no difficulty you see. It's something that is not easily understood because in European politics you've got sharp, you are either a Democrat or a Republican or a Labour Party or Conservative, then you go from the one and you join the other. With us it's not been like that so you will find lots of people who support Buthelezi, you will find a lot of them in the ANC and a lot of people who support the ANC are full up in the IFP. It's a very mixed up situation.

POM     So you were abroad until?

JM     1991.

POM     You were living in Lusaka or London?

JM     London, Botswana, Lusaka, Russia, China, everywhere.

POM     I was going to ask you, how was practising law in China? And you were the number two person in the ANC?

JM     I was second to Tambo really right up to the time that I left to go to Botswana. In 1970 I went to Botswana to help Seretse Khama establish the democracy there, which I did and I worked there for a long time.

POM     You would have heard both versions of this famous meeting in London, I think it was in 1979 between Tambo and Buthelezi. What would each side's version be?

JM     Look there are not two versions, there is one version.

POM     When Tambo came back what did he tell you?

JM     The thing was quite simple. First of all the ANC was faced with a dilemma, several dilemmas at that time. One was what attitude should be adopted to the homeland governments which were emerging at that time and particularly the first one in 1976 which was Transkei, that was the first to emerge, where Tambo came from. Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu, they all come from Transkei. Strategically the issue was what do you do with this situation? Do we work with or in these structures? Do we encourage our people to go and work in them or do we see them as part of the enemy machinery and therefore encourage our people to oppose and to resist these entities? And it's a debate which went on for a considerable time because remember that the policy which established the homelands came into being in 1959 already. The government didn't immediately implement the Act, called the Promotion of Bantu Self Government Act, 1959. At the time in 1959 people thought that even the National Party government didn't actually know what they had in mind. You had had the Tomlinson Commission Report, Professor Tomlinson's report came out on the whole issue of the future of what were then the reserves.

POM     His commission said that they wouldn't be viable.

JM     Well he is the one who first of all coined the expression 'homelands', because these were previously just the 'reserves', the scheduled areas in terms of the 1913 Act. Tomlinson, a very English name but he was a very Afrikaans chap. Professor Tomlinson. Now the Tomlinson Report which is an enormous report, nobody can read those volumes but there is a very good summary which they issued as well, which the commission issued, and he was advancing this idea of 'homelands' for the various groups in South Africa and he envisaged that they could actually ultimately become independent. He was slapped down very sharply by Dr Verwoerd for even suggesting the possibility of any such homelands becoming independent and Tomlinson was very upset at the attitude adopted by the government which rejected the whole idea. Then Africa begins to become independent. Ghana gains independence at the very same time as the Tomlinson Report comes out.

POM     That's 1959?

JM     1957. March 1957. And then after that you start getting, one by one you started getting African states emerging and there is tremendous pressure on the South Africans: what are you going to do? So Verwoerd and company decide to make a beginning by creating self-governing areas, the first one being Transkei. So the Transkei constitution of 1963 is adopted and you get a Chief Minister, Matanzima, to run this entity.

POM     He is related to Mandela, right?

JM     Yes. Now in other words what I'm trying to say is that there was a whole process initiated by the Tomlinson Report, by the Promotion of Bantu Self Government Act of 1959. There was an entire process. So the political movements could not quite decide how to handle this development. There were numerous debates about it but the KwaZulu one was interesting because unlike all the others there had been a state in KwaZulu before the white man came. There was a kingdom with a standing army, with an administration, and the British had tried to smash this state. They had divided it, created 13 little chiefdoms called the kinglets, and British policy was quite clear: never again must you have the kingdom of KwaZulu, never allow the regiments to be restored, that standing army of the Zulus. Don't allow that. And never allow a centralised administration of the Zulus, don't allow it. Then Verwoerd comes along in answer now to the African continent's independence demands and Verwoerd says, "You know you Zulus, you should really have your own homeland." Now to the Zulus this was very interesting because they would be able to have an administration, a single administration. They would be able to unite and hopefully they would be able to restore their King. Right? Now when the matter was debated, obviously I was in the debates, and I said whatever we may think about all the others but this one we mustn't miss, you, Buthelezi, must get in to this one.

     The others, they were never entities. Before the white man came Transkei was a separate, you had many separate entities and so on governed by different Kings and different Paramount Chiefs. They were not single entitles. There was no such place as Transkei when the British arrived there, there was no Transkei but there was a KwaZulu kingdom. And this is the essential difference which prompted some of us to say that maybe this is a chance to achieve a certain mobilisation of the people certainly in this province of Natal, as it was called at that time. That's how the thing was thought of by many people. Now at the time the ANC leader was Chief Luthuli, he was the President of the ANC and also President of the ANC in Natal, and he was a Chief on top of it. So it was not difficult to conceive of a manner of mobilisation by using this instrument and it was anticipated that sooner or later the very white government which was encouraging this would regret that they had ever allowed it to happen when they started to see the Zulus mobilised. That's how it was thought of.

     Now you've got Tambo and company sitting in 1979 in exile and the question was: what do we do about these entities? They would say, but there is one where we can immediately make contact of somebody who was a former member of ours and in an area where there is only one group, one language group, so the possibilities of mobilisation are very easy, you don't have many different groupings, there's only one. And that was the background to having this meeting and the purpose of the meeting was to find out whether you could have a combination of the illegal work of the ANC, which was involved in an armed struggle, and legal activity within South Africa.

POM     Now Inkatha had been formed in 1975?

JM     Yes that was formed in 1975. So we are now talking of 1979 and you had had 1976 as well at that time. So the issue really was, can you have, is it possible to have some kind of tactical relationship between an armed illegal set up and an internal legal entity? Inkatha was not prepared to be the wing, a legal wing of an armed struggle. They didn't agree to that. In other words, should they be the Sinn Fein of the IRA? And the answer was, no, they are not prepared to be the legal voice of the armed struggle. They didn't believe in the armed struggle, they didn't agree with the armed struggle. They were not condemning the armed struggle. I mean those who wished to carry on with the armed struggle were free to do so but they were not prepared to be that voice or to be the legal wing of an armed struggle. And that is what the whole thing was about, that's what the argument was about.

POM     But then you move into the eighties, early eighties and the formation of the UDF which is like an internal wing of the ANC for all practical purposes and you have this war, well it was a war between the UDF and Inkatha.

JM     Yes. You see what the UDF did which was a very serious mistake in a revolutionary movement, what the UDF did and it was aided and abetted by the ANC, was to -

POM     Of which you were a part? You were still - ?

JM     Well I was in Botswana so I wasn't in the leadership at the time. But the mistake was to say, if you don't support the UDF or if you are in what was termed an 'apartheid structure' that you were a collaborator and should be eliminated. Now many movements have faced this problem. What do you do if there are people in your society whom you consider not to be on your side and whom you think are collaborators with the enemy, what do you do? And the biggest mistake is to actually condemn a mass movement as a collaborationist movement because they will resist. You see if it's a mass movement it will resist if you try to punish them on the basis of a political determination that they are collaborating. They will resist. If it's an individual that's different because you can judge an individual and say he has done the following, he has either betrayed us to the police or he has given evidence for the state in a case. Then you target an individual and you are able to show the public that this man is being punished in one way or another because he is siding with the enemy, but to say an entire organisation is an enemy, not from what they have done but simply because they are not supporters, then you've got problems. And this is what happened, because there are too many, they will resist, they will organise, they will fight you. They will even join the enemy to fight against you  because they are not going to sit there with arms folded allowing you to do what was being done by the UDF in all the other places, people were being killed as collaborators, left and right being necklaced and so on. You couldn't do that with Inkatha without retaliation.

     And some of us warned about that. We said you  can't do that, you are going to have a digression, an unnecessary digression which will play into the hands of the Nationalist Party government. They will wreak havoc out of such a conflict. But of course these chaps they are not prepared to listen. Boesak and all these people, the inexperienced people who have got into UDF with no experience, no revolutionary theory, they just went on like this, Jay Naidoo and his people, and of course we are living with the consequences of their huge political mistake which you must never make. The Mau-Mau made that mistake in Kenya. The Mau-Mau in Kenya wiped out a village. The Mau-Mau people who were fighting the British suspected that someone in the village had betrayed them to the security forces so they wiped out the entire village, men, women and children. And of course our very clever British friends said, "There you are, we told you that this was not a liberation movement, this is a bunch of terrorists who are just killing people indiscriminately." And many people joined the British to fight against Mau-Mau arising out of that mistake. You must never do that as a revolutionary movement. Instead of targeting someone whom you can demonstrate is a traitor you just attack indiscriminately a whole lot of people. They will resist.

     Now in Palestine, Irgun, they executed one or two people whom they regarded as traitors but their rule was you don't attack Jews, the movement is only against the British, you don't attack a Jew and therefore they got a lot of passive support even from people who were opposed to their methods, who didn't like the methods they were adopting but people thought, well they are fighting the British, they are fighting to end the mandate. But they didn't make the mistake of attacking, for example, Haganah and other organisations which were not in agreement with the methods of Irgun. They didn't do that. But here in our country there was that terrible tactical and strategic mistake.

POM     That was Begin's organisation right?

JM     Yes. Irgun, his organisation was Irgun and it's something which we are still living with, that you cannot just condemn a mass movement and say this movement is this, that and the other.

POM     So what accounts for the extraordinary still animosity that exists between supporters of the ANC and supporters of Inkatha in KwaZulu/Natal?

JM     It's 14,000 dead, 430 of them chairmen, secretaries and treasurers of the IFP and no other party in South Africa, no other party in South Africa, has had a systematic assassination of its officials on that sort of scale. None of them. You ask the National Party, how many officials did you lose in the last thirty years? How many of your officials, your chairmen, your branch secretaries, how many were killed? Even the UDF/ANC side how many of your officials were killed by Inkatha? You tell us, because they can just refer to random killings by people and so on and all that but here you have got a case of specific systematic killing of officials of an organisation and there is a lot of bitterness about that and it is not yet stopped. It's still continuing, suggesting that the aim is to destroy Inkatha as an organisation. It's not just a case of masses of people fighting over land or fighting over resources. Here is a systematic thing and of course you can't convince an IFP person that it's anybody other than the ANC that's doing it. You can't convince them. They are just not convinced.

POM     On the other hand it would seem to be that in terms of propaganda, propaganda wars, that the ANC has won the propaganda war. It demonised Buthelezi, tagged him with the tag of being a collaborator, that he was co-opted and even before the Truth Commission now you have this investigation into the training of the men at Caprivi.

JM     Look I trained a few thousand people in Russia.

POM     You trained them?

JM     Well I arranged for them to be trained, thousands of them, and then I come along, use those guns to shoot down the members of another organisation and I expect that organisation to just sit like this and wait like sheep before the slaughter. Of course they are going to go to the enemy and say, listen, can't you do something. And they didn't say it secretly. In rally after rally Buthelezi said, "I can't take this killing of my followers." He spoke at the Legislature and made a long speech about it, "I am now going to go to the government of South Africa to get help on this. I can't be attending funerals every weekend and just sit here. And where else must I go? Who must I go to?" So you see there's a problem, we've got a problem here. A little bit of that is coming out even in the TRC, the killings of the Inkatha people before this training of people in Caprivi. And the training of 200, for God's sake! The ANC trained after 1990 thousands of people right here in Uganda and everywhere else. They were being trained. Then you say to another organisation, you lift up your hands in horror and say, Christ, you trained 200 people! And you are tempted to say, f you, Christ why, what must Inkatha do? No, no, no. You can fool the rest of the people, you can even win the propaganda war but you're not going to solve the problem.

POM     You have the TRC which is supposed to bring about this reconciliation.

JM     Oh it's a joke.

POM     Well there's certainly no reconciliation going on in KwaZulu/Natal between black and black.

JM     We discussed this in cabinet, the TRC bill, all that business was discussed and we said it will be a farce, it will not result in reconciliation. It will create a  blackmailer's paradise. We said that.

POM     This is the IFP members?

JM     Yes. We said that. We passed resolutions in the IFP National Council predicting what was going to happen and of course now we are sitting there saying we were right all along, this is just going to be an absolute political thing. We suggested the British method. We said the British have never apologised to anybody in the world for the atrocities that they committed during their empire days. They never did it.

POM     They've a lot of apologise for.

JM     They never did, and they just passed Indemnity Acts and said all acts committed between such and such a date and such and such a date and they wiped it out. They are not very unpopular for doing that. They just wiped the slate clean whether it was India or what. They just said right, that was the past, that was history, finished. But guess who opposed that in the negotiations, who didn't want the indemnity method? The National Party.

POM     Now why?

JM     Because you see they were just like the ANC. They were thinking to themselves they are going to come up with all the files showing that atrocities occurred in Angola and atrocities occurred here and there, these are terrorists. They looked at it politically, party politically, and they are now paying the price for that. Because the ANC was prepared to agree to the indemnity thing, they actually were prepared to agree to it but the National Party opposed it.

POM     Was that Kobie Coetsee?

JM     All those chaps, Kobie Coetsee, Roelf Meyer, Dr Delport, the whole team, all these chaps, they were against an Indemnity Act which would wipe out the slate clean once and for all.

POM     But wouldn't that get them all off the hook?

JM     It would get everybody off the hook but it would get off National Party, ANC, everybody would be off the hook. They didn't want to get the ANC off the hook you see. They thought, quite wrongly, that they would come out of the propaganda, because they were thinking of it in terms of propaganda, and they thought that they would be able to, because they had all the information in the files that their secret service, and they were thinking that once all these things come out about what happened in Quattro camp, what happened, this and that, they would smear the ANC as a terrorist organisation. You see that's how they were thinking.

POM     They didn't realise at that time that the ANC would be in government and have access to all the files.

JM     No, but not only that, they didn't realise that their activities would be exposed. They thought that their activities would remain hidden and they would be able to castigate the ANC.

POM     How could they have been so stupid?

JM     I know. I ask myself every day. How could people have been so utterly stupid? But they did. So then the suggestion was made of some sort of Truth & Reconciliation something and somebody talked about Chile and someone talked about Argentina, someone talked of - you see some sort of a commission. This was Kader Asmal's pet project and he said in Chile the thing was run perfectly impartially by scholars and so on involved and the people were representative of all the political groupings. Pinochet still remains the Commander in Chief of the Chilean army. It never became a witch-hunt. That's different. But here we said if you construct it like this it's going to be such a mess and if you think that your report is going to influence history you don't know historians. Historians are not bluffed by some bloody report produced by a government commission. They will dig and dig and dig and they are going to come out with the real history.

POM     So in your view and in the view of the IFP the TRC is in fact not just not leading to reconciliation between black and white but even more so as far as KwaZulu/Natal is concerned it's leading to greater cleavages between black and white than before.

JM     Well cleavages between black and black.

POM     Sorry, black and black, yes.

JM     Because the TRC is not even touching the issue of the killings of IFP people. They are not even investigating it. They are holding these big hearings about 200 people being trained in Caprivi which we have heard from the Goldstone Commission, from the Malan trial, so this broken record is being played over and over again. It's a propaganda thing. What other utility has it got, because the training of people in Caprivi in any case was not illegal. Training of people was not illegal so it's only what they did after the training. That's another matter. But the training itself was not an illegal act and it was requested by a legitimate government of KwaZulu. It wasn't even requested by the Inkatha Freedom Party but  by the government of KwaZulu of which Buthelezi was Minister of Police. So you see the propaganda works and I regret to say I was one of the people who built up the ANC propaganda machine but it doesn't mean it's true, it doesn't mean it's true.

POM     Now when you came back were you still a member of the ANC until you came back to South Africa?

JM     Yes. I came back to South Africa in the normal way. I joined the branch where I was staying and then I went to a conference in 1991, the first conference of the ANC, national conference.

POM     Was this the consultative conference?

JM     No, the first national conference was in 1991 in Durban at Durban Westville University, it was not a consultative conference. It was the conference. I happened to be in Durban, of course being a Durbanite I was in Durban. So I decided with a group of my friends, ANC friends, in fact Indian chaps, MJ Naidoo and MD Naidoo who were friends of mine and were ANC people, one has just died. So I went to this conference absolutely innocently. I get to the conference and of course it was a closed conference so I asked somebody who is in charge of the credentials and they tell me a chap called Jele who is now the government representative in the United Nations, he is now the Ambassador Jele at the United Nations. I knew Jele very well so I sent a message to Jele that I am here and I would like to come into the conference. They had a category in the conference of veterans so after some time, quite a long time, and by this time I'm getting irritated, Jele comes out, he comes and so I say to him, "What's happening?" So Jele tells me, because everyone is now denying this, but he then says to me, "No the platform has decided that the category of veterans, we had decided on 55 people to represent veterans and we have already reached the maximum quota and so the platform has decided that you must not be admitted because that would be exceeding the quota." So I just said, "To hell with you guys." That's how it happened. I said, "To hell with you. With my contribution to the ANC" - and I even showed him my membership card which I can show you as well, I will. I said, "To hell with you, I've been working in this country too long to be bluffed by that kind of thing." So I said this is a political thing, it must be something political. I don't know what it is but if it's political then I think those people on that platform, because I said to him that I am not going to argue with him, the man is talking absolute bunk.

POM     And this is somebody you knew, Jele, and you had worked with him?

JM     He was just a junior, just a pip-squeak. Where the hell is this thing? I saw it the other day. I was surprised to see it in my bag, really. I was quite surprised to see that I still had this old membership card for which I paid my money and I arrived and I didn't have any money but I still said to myself, well I've got to pay my dues. And I said gee whiz, these guys they think that I need to beg people for a political role and I really don't need to do that, I will just go to another political role, that's all, no problem. And I did that.

POM     What do you think was behind it?

JM     Well I haven't even bothered to ask, I'm telling you. I just thought to myself it's their problem, I am not going to bitch. Why can't I find this? I had it here the other day when I didn't want it. I tell you I was astounded to hear this but I want to show you because I want you to see.

POM     Have you ever reflected that I've been in since the 1940's to 1990, it's close to 40 years of my life serving this organisation in one capacity or another at the top leadership -

JM     Not just serving the organisation.

POM     Serving South Africa.

JM     Yes, serving my own people, including all the others who opposed the ANC. If you go to PAC people, you go to some PAC people and ask what do you think of Joe Matthews, ask them.

POM     And there it is. I'm looking at the ANC, African National Congress issued on 12th June 1991. The number is 1021269, Joe Matthews. Yes indeed.

JM     Just after I arrived. I arrived in March and this was in June.

POM     And the conference was in July or August in Durban?

JM     Now I don't know whether some people thought because I had been in Botswana, I had been in Canada, I had been all over and I had not been really with the leadership. You see what happened, I must fill you in on this part of it, when I went to Botswana - by the way I am a Botswana so you must understand I was going to my own place in Botswana, I was not born there but our people come from Botswana and Seretse Khama is our Chief, he is our immediate Chief.

POM     What's his name?

JM     Seretse Khama, the former President of Botswana who died of course, Sir Seretse Khama, he was our Chief. Now when Botswana became independent in 1966 he then appointed my father as Ambassador to Washington and to New York, he held both jobs, but he died in Washington in 1968. Now after his death Seretse Khama then said, "Look I've got a lack of people, I need more people, you are a Botswana you must come and help me." So I raised the issue in the ANC leadership and said here is a situation here, and at the time the big problem was how do we get a route for guerrillas to go through to South Africa, how do we establish a link? So everybody unanimously, and there are many people alive who were at that meeting, Nzo was there at that meeting, Modise was there at that meeting, and it was decided if you go to that country and maybe you can influence the policies in such a way that we would be able to get easier co-operation from the Botswana authorities. But then I said, "But look I can't go there and work as an underground operative, I can't serve two masters because Seretse is my own Chief so I am not going to do anything to undermine him or his authority. You will have to understand it will mean that I am loyal to him, but I don't anticipate that there will be conflicts of interest between the ANC and Botswana in general terms, all of us are for liberation but if there does occur anything like that obviously I have got to side with the head of state of Botswana, so I'm not going to play a double game." I made that very clear, I am playing no double game.

     Well of course I worked in Botswana with the head of state. I used to go to OAU meetings, I used to go to Commonwealth meetings and so on accompanying the President of Botswana and some people say I had a marked influence on the policies of the country. It became easier, ANC people could come into the country, they were able to travel freely. They were not allowed to come into the country bearing arms but of course what really basically happened was that the authorities turned a blind eye to whatever was happening. I can tell you a lot of things about what the ANC was doing because I was Assistant Attorney General where we just didn't bother and had to take all the flak from the South African government over it, including eventually attacks on Gaborone. As I say that was the sort of background.

     So I come back to the country and of course in the normal way I join a branch where I am living. My chairman was Mrs Mandela, I think she was the chairman of that branch, and I started attending meetings and riding them around, but this incident at that conference convinced me that there was something, it was not the first indication that there was some sort of attitude but I said to myself I am not going to spend a lot of time speculating on this, if the guys don't want me to work in the ANC organisation I will go to an organisation where they appreciate my activities and efforts, which is what I did without hesitation. You are talking about long history, this and that, you see I'm a politician. Organisations are not a wife. I have got no sentimental - a political party is an instrument of political action, it's not a wife where your heart is going to suffer and cry tears for. Here we are talking politics and if politicians don't want you to operate you go where you can function, where you can operate and of course I operated.

POM     Did anyone from the ANC ever come and - ?

JM     But always junior people have come and asked me this and that and so on. In fact I do what I've done to you, I say to them look this is what happened. You must ask your leaders, but that's what I experienced and I am not going to take it from anybody, that kind of thing. If someone had come to me and said we have got a complaint or this or that but if I get this sort of thing I am not even going to ask what it's all about. I will just say well I will go and work elsewhere and that's what I did. And despite every effort of theirs they found me back in parliament, back in the cabinet. You can't treat politicians, experienced politicians in that way, you can't do it. But that's what happened. It was something, in fact, wait a minute I've forgotten it, my wife was also there, she was with me. But then she was just accompanying us and in fact she was busy knitting whilst we were having these negotiations and so on. I'm not sure if it wasn't her birthday, July, and I wanted to go and hear it but I thought no, these guys are crazy. Now remember that I worked for ANC but I also worked with Buthelezi. All these years I was getting every single scrap of paper, every speech, everything. I was well informed about what was happening in KwaZulu/Natal, of course which is my province, from Buthelezi. He would phone, he would send people to me and I would say you people can go and get wisdom from my friend. One time he sent his entire cabinet to come and speak to me.

POM     To Botswana?

JM     To Botswana.  The entire cabinet on two planes. They arrived and they stayed at the Holiday Inn there at the time, it was the Holiday Inn before it became Gaborone ...

POM     The ANC would have been aware of that right?

JM     Well I don't know. They would be aware of the fact that I was in constant contact with Buthelezi, not only Buthelezi but even others, Matanzima, all these people whom of course I know very well, and sometimes ANC people who had deaths in Transkei would come to me and say can you help us to get a travel document or whatever so as to enable me to slip in to go and attend a funeral of my relative in Transkei, and I would facilitate that and help them. But I just thought that I am not prepared to take nonsense from the current leadership of the ANC. Unfortunately, of course, all the people I worked with of course have died, almost all of them. Tambo of course wasn't there, he was also at that time very ill and so on. But I said, "Look chaps I come from this country, I have worked in the Eastern Cape, I have worked in KwaZulu/Natal, I have worked in North West and so on, if you don't like me here I will go to another place and I will organise because I know the people and I can work."

POM     What I would like to do - can I do another session with you some time in the next month or so?

JM     Yes, sure.

POM     OK I'll arrange it.

JM     No problem.

POM     I love talking to you.

JM     I enjoy it. I enjoy talking and of course there are so few of us left who can cover the fifty year span, there are not many. And then I've got total recall.

POM     You do get the transcripts right?

JM     Yes.

POM     Good, OK.

JM     For correction and so on, but generally I don't because I feel that what you have said in conversation shouldn't really alter. We are allowed to do that in parliament, we are actually allowed to edit, to actually put it right because you have sentences that are not complete and so on and you get when you are speaking even your sentence construction is not always perfect.

POM     I will take care of all of that, that kind of editing, to make sure because when people are talking they are using their hands, their eyes, their face, they are using eight or nine different things, it's not just their mouths they are using.

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.