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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

09 Feb 1999: Kathrada, Ahmed

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POM     First of all Mr Kathrada, since this may officially or formally be the second to last or last time we see each other since I've got to get down to the task of writing and the interviews will be over after the election, is that I would want to put on record your courtesy and your willingness all the time to see me. In fact you were the first person I ever saw from the ANC and it was arranged through the late Ameen Akhalwaya who put me in touch with you.

     Professor Gerwel has everything I wrote for the last nine years. I hand delivered it to him and he said it's taken care of.

AK     He told me that. As I said he was quite surprised.

POM     But I want to thank you for the time you have taken, that you were the first person whom I met in the ANC and I appreciate the attention that you have given to what I have been doing over this last nine years. I suppose what I would like to ask you are in a way a couple of things: one is the end of an era is coming. Mr Mandela, President Mandela will be stepping down in May or whenever, and you all go on to new lives, is it your intention still to go to Michigan State University in Lansing?

AK     No, Michigan State University had made me a very generous offer both academic and non-academic. Non-academic would have been really for the purpose of writing my memoirs but I have given it serious thought. I don't think that if I do write my memoirs it can be written so far away from home. Of course I maintain my close relationship with the university but it won't be for the purpose of writing my memoirs. They are going to publish my Prisoner's Letters hopefully this year, so I am in close touch with them but I won't be going there for any length of time.

POM     I was wondering, it struck me, I said, "Oh Mr Kathrada will be going to Michigan which has winters that are very severely cold." Your government service period is –

AK     Coming to an end.

POM     - and you're looking forward to a new life.

AK     Well it's quite, I should say in a certain way it's a traumatic experience. You know what human beings are, you get used to things and when the final time comes there is so much to do, to wrap up and start something altogether new. I am hoping that I will be doing something that I don't get told I have to do this, that and the other. In other words my time will be my own and that's a new thing altogether for me. So in that sense it will be quite a break.

POM     That's like your time on your own for close to 35 or 40 or more years given the time you've spent actively –

AK     Yes. Well even before that I was full time in the movement and then too I was under the instruction and the discipline of the movement, so virtually all my life because then it was school, virtually all my life I've been tied down to hours, certain hours, though not always as rigid, but it was there always. Now I am looking forward to a time which I hope I will adjust to quite quickly where I am able to do what I really want to do.

POM     That's write your memoirs?

AK     I hope to devote time to writing. I have fortunately been able to do something and then of course to devote more time to Robben Island, to the development of Robben Island, the museum.

POM     But you're still going to make your home here? For a while there I thought you were going to go and go to Michigan State University.

AK     I'll tell you what's happened is that I've been made some offers by an agency in America who is prepared to organise speaking tours for me at several American universities and other institutions. I haven't given much thought to that because anything I do will be after the elections, but this person is coming out next week sometime.

POM     In my mind I couldn't see you living any place permanently other than in SA.

AK     Oh yes, oh yes, I won't like to move from here.

POM     You'll just be back and forth rather than say I'm packing up my bags and I'm moving to Michigan. Michigan is very cold, that's besides everything else.

AK     I've been to Michigan three years running now, 1996, 1997, 1998, always October/November and each time I've just about run away as soon as – although in October of last year when I left Michigan these friends of mine drove me to Chicago and I took the flight from there. I got into a thunderstorm, the flight didn't leave and there were 30 flights before us so by the time I got to New York we had missed the connecting flight to SA.

POM     And you had to wait around all the time?

AK     Well in the plane. We were on the plane, it's a model take-off and then there was this thunderstorm so we stayed in the plane for hours and hours and then when eventually it did take off there were 30 ahead of us so we had to wait until those thirty got clearance.

POM     Oh my God! I've gone through that experience. It's the most awful in the world.

AK     Just waiting and waiting.

POM     29th in line.

AK     Yes. And they keep on announcing you see.

POM     Yes, 28, 27, 26 and you're looking at your watch and saying, "There's ten minutes between every take-off." When you were in the US in those years did anything particularly strike you as different from SA? For example, Detroit is one of the most racially divided cities in America and hasn't dealt with its race problem, where blacks are in a minority. They had a black mayor for years and years but they have never got on top of the problem of inequality and poverty and lack of opportunity and affirmative action despite all those programmes. Do you ever think, oh my God, it's going to take us as long here or do you say, well we are the government so we can make things move quicker?

AK     Well you know I have not concentrated really on the life of the Afro-American people or the American Indians but of course one can't avoid it. Even indirectly you come across this all the time and the significant thing was that I met many, many Afro-Americans who are tending to regard SA as their home and who would like to move here, many of them, and a number of them have visited SA and they felt more at home in SA than in America. Of course we have a lot to learn from the American experiences.

POM     Do you feel when you talk to Afro-Americans that they are talking about a home of their, almost, wished dreams or something they've mythologised in their mind rather than a reality. If they say to you, "Comrade, brother", that they're in a way absorbing the language that was intimate to the people here in the struggle about which they had very little to do in any way, but that they want to embrace something that's larger than themselves?

AK     How I see it, and it may be a simplification, they always talk of going back to their roots. Now the Americans, because it's a huge country, are very ignorant of geography and when they talk of SA they think it's just one big continent, they don't know the various countries and they don't know the size of the continent. When they talk of their roots being in Africa they have no idea what they're talking about geographically. Then I found that the Afro-Americans are in search of a leader, of a spokesperson, one individual in whom they can have the fullest confidence and whom they admire. They have found that in Mandela and with the euphoria of the nineties and leading up to the elections this perception has grown in their minds that this is their messiah who is going to help solve whatever problems they are facing.

POM     He's going to empower them and liberate them.

AK     Yes. They may not express it that way but the way they talk one gets the impression that this is their messiah, they look upon him as the messiah. I don't know what's going to happen after Mandela steps down because all their thinking is linked up with Mandela. SA is also linked up in their minds with Mandela.

POM     When you look back, since you were released from prison, was it 1994?

AK     Released from prison? 1989.

POM     You were released in 1989 and you look through the period that you have gone through, ten years, did you ever think in 1989 that (i) within six years the ANC is going to be the government of the country or did you think it would take longer?

AK     Well the negotiation period started after the release of Mandela, the formal negotiations because informally it had started already from prison. I must say that we didn't expect the negotiations to be completed in such a short time. We thought it would be a bit more prolonged. What we knew of course, while we were in prison even before negotiations, we always knew or we had the confidence that the ANC was going to win one day, whether we were going to sit in parliament ourselves we had no idea at all, we never even thought of it. We just knew that the ANC was going to win. That was the period of the struggle. Then came the negotiation period and I think from both sides, from the government side and from our side, I think it was more or less accepted that negotiations were going to lead to elections and once the elections took place we knew that the ANC was going to win, once there were going to be democratic elections. But, again, I certainly didn't place a time frame to that. We knew it was going to happen, negotiations have a tendency of being long drawn out. So I think things did happen very quickly at Kempton Park.

POM     So you, I won't say, were 'surprised', in quotes, to find yourself, well here I am, sitting in Tuynhuys, my God!

AK     Well it didn't quite happen that way.

POM     But you know what I mean, in terms of –

AK     Yes, it took quite some time to mentally adjust to the situation. Often when I walk from here to parliament just across the way and you see a demonstration outside and you think to yourself, well I should be there, because the mental adjustment hasn't been completed from struggle to governing.

POM     Do you think that's one of the biggest problems that Deputy President Mbeki will face when he becomes President?

AK     I don't think so. I'm speaking personally, my own experience. I am sure that large numbers, the majority of my colleagues, have adjusted. I am finding it difficult to adjust.

POM     Your colleagues, but have large numbers of Africans adjusted? On one side for years while you were in jail or before that they were so used to being - the line was make the townships ungovernable, don't do this, don't do that, don't assist government, look down on government, look down on law and authority, look down on every policeman you see, look at them with suspicion, and it will take a longer period of time for those attitudes to change than might have been anticipated, that it doesn't happen overnight, you don't change people's behaviour or attitudes overnight, it takes time to re-educate them and get them comfortable with the new set of arrangements. I am saying that, again in a funny way, because the context of Northern Ireland where one of the biggest tasks in front of them now is to restructure the police force which has been 93% Protestant and 7% Catholic. Chris Patten who used to serve as a minister there and was the last Governor in Hong Kong, he's in charge of the commission and it's like he's got two tasks: (i) he's got to come up with a way to make it more completely fair on paper, 50% of this, 50% of that and we will have this and that and it's all fair on paper, but the Catholic mind is, we don't join the police, we just don't join the police. Somehow you're a sell-out and that will last for years. Do you think on a larger scale across a broader board this country has to face that kind of problem which it didn't anticipate before we came to power?

AK     We are still experiencing the effects of our own campaigns to make the country ungovernable, not to pay rent, to boycott rates and all that. We are facing those problems. Coming with that is also this culture that has set in of entitlement: we were oppressed and because we were oppressed we should be entitled to this, that and the other regardless of whether we have got the necessary capability for that. I shouldn't generalise but we do come across that and it's a problem. It is a problem that we have to face. The expectations have been there, delivery. The public out there doesn't think in terms of budgets and all those constraints and practicalities. As far as the public out there is concerned you are in government and you've got the resources, you've got the means to deliver everything. So we do experience that.

     But what we do also find is a different experience when you go to the poorest of the poor and a different experience when you go to the middle classes and the upper classes across the board. The middle class and the upper class are a whinging class, they are never satisfied with anything. Now the transformation that started with the new government has not really impacted so much on the middle classes. They've had everything. The black middle classes did not have the vote and they did suffer from a lot of the laws but by and large as far as the quality of life was concerned your basics, your house, your electricity, your schools, your television, your motor cars, your microwaves, they had it. The poorest of the poor didn't have water and lights and school feeding and free hospitalisation. So you have the different experience. When you go to the poorest of the poor they show the gratitude and appreciation for what has happened because there has been a dramatic change of the quality of life for them.

     Naturally we have a long way to go. Even there we do have complaints. It's not as if everyone is satisfied but invariably when you meet the business classes it's just complaints, whinging from beginning to end. Opportunities have opened up for them too, for the black middle classes which were never there, but they seem to forget that. Then of course there are the universal complaints about crime, about unemployment, that's universal. When it comes to crime we can't go to them with statistics, statistics tell us that crime is coming down but when you go to the person whose immediate neighbour or brother or sister has been kidnapped, hijacked, murdered, statistics don't help.

POM     Just on that, maybe a continual whinging in the media is just precisely the point that you've made that the government doesn't understand that it's not statistics, it's perceptions and the perceptions among people are still that crime is growing not falling and when the government comes out with a set of statistics people dismiss the statistics because their perceptions or their knowledge of their next door neighbour or their brother or nephew or whatever is different, they have somebody they know who has been affected by crime and that's what sticks in their mind, not a set of statistics saying murder has come down from 28.8 per 100,000 people to 27.

AK     Fortunately now if you compare the opening address of President Mandela last year to this one of last week you will find that while he has given some statistics he has significantly emphasised also that we have not got on top of it, we haven't got on top of the crime situation. To me that's been a significant departure, if I may say, from what he said last year. Last year he didn't sufficiently –

POM     Statistics, bang, bang, bang.

AK     - also give the problems that we are facing. This year he has. Also for the last year or two he has also taken head on this thing of entitlement that I've been talking about. Even when we were in America, far away from here, he brought up the question at one meeting of the students at a predominantly black university who rioted and littered the campus.

POM     That was Venda.

AK     It was Venda because they didn't have half a million to buy booze. So he has taken those things head on now and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, speaking at a conference, also said that we're not going to tolerate drunken teachers and all that.

POM     Very strong.

AK     Very strong and at the Communist Party conference they've said it. So that is a healthy emphasis now.

POM     What struck me when the Deputy President made that speech was that it was such a hard-hitting speech in terms of we will not tolerate this, this is out. It struck me, well if a white leader, God knows what stature, but if a white leader had said that it would have been condemned out of hand as being, you can't say that. In a way free speech still doesn't work as full free speech because the racial divide hasn't been crossed where a white person can say with full conviction, we can't tolerate this or this is not good for the country, whereas sometimes the ANC reacts by saying, "Oh you're just a racist, you don't know, it's the legacy of apartheid and you must get beyond that point on to a point of saying we all agree, there are certain priorities, across the board about which there is no complaint, no anything."

AK     Even there if you notice several ANC leaders, including the President, has said that while apartheid, and I think he said in his address last week, while apartheid has been responsible for a lot of our problems of today we mustn't keep on harping on that. We've also created our own problems. When he talked about corruption and he was very, very strong there and he said, "While we've inherited all this from apartheid, we ourselves have been guilty, the cadres of the movement have gone into positions and are corrupt, perhaps more than their predecessors."

POM     Just again moving a little bit backwards, when you look at your tenure in government what do you see as just the highlights and the things that have given you most sustenance and a sense of we're getting there, it may take time but we're getting there, and what things have most disappointed you where you've said, oh, that's a setback, needs more attention, we have to do a lot more work?

AK     I would start off with the negative. Although one understands the problems faced at one time I underestimated the problems. Crime is very near to me also, my sister was shot, not killed fortunately. Her grandson was shot at the same time, also not killed, and robbed. Four of my nephews were hijacked, they lost their cars, hijacked in Lenasia, Johannesburg. One of my nephews had his car stolen. So crime is very near to us and in Lenasia where I lived for a long time it's a very closed community so that when somebody is murdered or robbed or raped in one part of Lenasia the whole of Lenasia knows and reacts with sympathy. So, as I say, although I know the problems we are facing I keep on asking now, if these police were so efficient when they arrested us how come they can't get on top of this situation? But then you analyse it, these police were not trained to combat crime, they were trained to combat political dissidents.

POM     So when your sister, that shocks me, and your nephew and your other four relatives –

AK     Four nephews.

POM     - when they went through that did they ever come back to you and say you're a senior person in the ANC -

AK     It happens all the time.

POM     - you were close to Mandela and why isn't something being done about this?

AK     It happens all the time. When I go to that community and I was there two weeks ago again, it's not only my own immediate family but the community there, they keep on asking the same thing. It needs a lot of explanation. When we get away from there one doesn't know whether we have managed to convince them because next year when I go back it's going to be the same thing. With these breakthroughs that we are now making, high profile breakthroughs, let's hope that perceptions will start changing and also we've now got a Detective Academy which we've never had all the years and we've got experts from America.

POM     That's being helped by America and by Britain.

AK     Yes. Let's hope that that will make a difference. But we have got that, but on the whole –

POM     And high points, what is major?

AK     Well I can't identify one high point. Again we're coming down to statistics but those are important to me and in my experience when I go to those areas and you see the gratitude, the appreciation that the people show, the poorer people, those are general high points. Also changes of attitudes. Although the NP and the Freedom Front sit in parliament and the DP attack us very day, but the fact is that they are sitting with us in parliament and doing it, General Viljoen is sitting with us in parliament and doing it, not organising an uprising.

POM     That's a very important point. When you see those parties now, the New National Party, I thought it ironic that when the TRC report came out they said, "It is nothing to do with us because we were never even around at that time. It was the old order, we're the new order." Do you see a difference with them that they have a commitment to democracy but they still don't understand what, since they never were in opposition, they haven't quite yet learned what a real opposition party does?

AK     They still hanker after the old days, they do, by and large the DP, the lot.

POM     The Democratic Party?

AK     Oh yes certainly, perhaps more so than the others. They haven't quite adjusted to the change where there is no more white privilege. Oh no they do, but the important thing is to me that they are sitting in parliament and they are shouting and criticising and condemning in parliament and, of course, in their constituencies. But among ordinary whites, when President Mandela went to the Dutch Reformed Church on Sunday, as he's been doing every year at the opening of parliament –

POM     Which church?

AK     Dutch Reformed Church, the Groote Kerk here in Cape Town, he's been going there each year just before parliament opens and he's been going to the DR Church in Pretoria and all over. You see changes, you see changes of attitude. By and large even though whites have accepted that this is a democratically elected government the only way you can bring about changes is within the democratic process. I think that's very important.

POM     Do you think that people who belong to the DP in a way have a deeper psychological problem because many of them for years thought that they were anti-apartheid and they got used to a situation that they were the leaders, many of them were leaders of anti-apartheid movements and were used to giving orders, telling people?

AK     When you consider where the DP comes from and its predecessor, the Progressive Party and so forth, they come from a strata of society where they were from big business and the middle class white, when they underwent a change of thinking, to me a large number of them were not Helen Suzmans. Helen Suzman is a genuine human rights person, genuine. I won't say that about many of the DP leaders. For them it was a practical thing. To most of them, I don't want to individualise people, to most of them it was economic necessity that had to bring about changes. It was economic necessity that made even the previous government abolish job reservation, influx control to an extent. They needed that skilled labour because whites were not enough to provide that. So I would say that the DP, most of them, but I always single out Helen Suzman as the exception and there are a few with her, genuine human rights people. I wouldn't say that the present leadership of the DP is really over-concerned about human rights, they are more concerned about preserving the status quo as far as their practical needs are concerned.

POM     I heard, just a little anecdote, about change. As you know I also have a number of families that I interview all the time and I had one family up in Zeerust which was to the right of the right wing and they were all going to take up arms. The children were 14, 13, 12 down to 6, they were all going to fight to the last white man for the preservation of their freedom. They had owned a hotel and they said no black person will ever walk in here. I was up there at the weekend and the manager of the hotel is now a black person, they bought another restaurant in town and the daughter who is running it was talking about employees and said something that she'd never have said six years ago, "Well we get people coming here from black and white and they're looking for jobs. White people generally last a day and when they're told the part of the job of training to be a waiter is that you've got to clean up and clean up toilets and clean up this and clean up that, they say 'Ugh' and walk out. And the people who stay are the black people." Six years ago she would have said blacks are lazy and they will just last a day and walk out, whites are always so – and there was a subtle – and they were all going to then emigrate and they've all now accepted they're going to live in SA. Some of them went abroad and said, "I want to go home." There's been in one way a sea field of change but the psychology is more important than, in a way, the economics, they're important, and crime and things like that, but the sense of belonging, where is home and home is here.

AK     So those are very important changes, change of attitudes, the acceptance that there is a democratically elected government, a constitution. They don't like it, not all of them do, but more and more of them are beginning to defend it. I was surprised in Reunion, I was there in December, I was surprised to see a car with a SA flag on it, the sticker. Now whites and blacks are proud of this flag. It also enhances the spirit of patriotism, loyalty to the country, and of course that comes out very much in sport.

POM     In fact sport has turned out to be the biggest nation-building mechanism.

AK     We still have our reservations about cricket and rugby but yet after everything is said and done they are a South African team.

POM     I know you have another appointment and I was late and I've got just two last questions. One is on the TRC, the findings of the TRC. I was back in the States when the report came out and I may be one of the few people in the world who in the 'jargon' of information technology downloaded the whole thing, 3500 pages or more and I had to do it at night at the university because people were wondering where all the paper was gone to, and I'm halfway through but I've marked it and talked about it. Was it a mistake on the part of the ANC to go to court in the sense that it deflected attention from the findings of the report and not enough attention was concentrated on that, more attention was concentrated on De Klerk going to court and then the ANC going to court?

AK     I personally, of course, have not followed the TRC process as closely as all that, neither the report, but I would say that the timing was an error of judgement on the part of the ANC, the official who did that. It did deflect from the main message of the TRC report at the time that they came out with this thing. Also one may have reservations about the manner in which this was done. When we speak to ANC officials, of course, they do have a very plausible case but personally I don't accept that the timing was correct.

POM     The other part of that is in a way just what you said, I haven't had time to follow – when I talk to whites, no matter what position, I haven't found a single white person who can tell me the first thing about the findings of the TRC, they haven't read it. I don't know whether a condensed version came out but they haven't bought it. They have written it out of their lives. It's like if they're at a cocktail party or a dinner they will say, oh wasn't it awful what Eugene de Kock did? And they all say, oh that was awful, and then let's talk about cricket, let's talk about rugby.

AK     That's right. I think the Deputy President has made those very remarks.

POM     So it hasn't brought about reconciliation, I'm distinguishing between reconciliation between individuals, like you and me, say, where I was a perpetrator and you were a victim and we confront each other in court and you forgive me and I truly express sorrow and that's very moving. I've been there and it's been extraordinarily moving. That's quite different than reconciliation among groups of people, that whites still have not in any real way, to me, come to grips with the damage, the hurt, the loss, the grievances they inflicted collectively or actions done on their behalf.

AK     Well I wouldn't generalise and say all whites, one can't quantify a thing like that. You find whites one comes across who think that it's now a closed chapter, nothing else has to be done towards reconciliation. But you do find other whites who publicly say that a lot more has to be done. De Klerk in the last two statements has said as much, that the whites have to do a lot more towards nation-building, but he himself has recognised that not enough has been done. He agreed with Deputy President Thabo Mbeki's 'Two Nations' thing.

POM     The very last thing, two very quick things: (i) an evaluation of President Mandela's presidency. What has he done extremely well and what perhaps could he have done better?

AK     I think when you talk of President Mandela's contribution you don't judge it by electricity and water and so forth. Those are part of it. It's this tremendous confidence that he has built among people, the contribution towards nation-building, towards reconciliation, the perceptions that have changed throughout the world about what SA is and continues to change. I think those are among the things, the whole idea of forgiveness. Now what I didn't tell you, for instance, last year I personally received three delegations from Ireland of political prisoners, former political prisoners. The first ones I met I didn't know who they were. One takes for granted they are IRA but I didn't ask because they were not talking to us about internal problems, political problems in Ireland. They had come to us to learn of our experiences as fellow political prisoners, ex-prisoners, and how we are grappling with this whole idea of reconciliation. It's afterwards I found out that they were Loyalists. Then I met a group of IRA people, then I met another group of Loyalists, they left that for me, this –

POM     Oh yes. I even know this sign.

AK     What I am saying is that people from different, especially Ireland, and they're coming back next week, in fact there's a three-day conference on Robben Island, so more and more people –

POM     The prisoners are coming back?

AK     Yes, the groups are coming back here and there's a conference. We haven't organised it but we have been asked to take part in that. What I have put to them, just to think, it was a definite proposal, is let's think of having an international body of ex-political prisoners. But what I am saying is that that is the type of thing which is identified with Mandela. Here is a man who has served 27 years in prison and he's talking about reconciliation, forgiveness and so on, and that's what they come to learn. So I'm just giving you one example of the impact that he as an individual has made in this country and abroad.

POM     I'm very proud of that because I'd been working for five years to set up a conference in Arniston and that was the one that began to make people over there realise that in fact they had something to learn and the fact that Loyalist prisoners would come to you and behave as human beings (you say oh, they must be IRA) is to me a breakthrough on two sides because it's about people, not about ideology, it's about what people go through.

     The last thing, and it may not even be relevant at this point because it may end up in the courts, why do you think after the Portfolio Committee and the caucus of the ANC okayed a number of valid forms of IDs for the elections that the National Working Commission said no, it's got to be bar-coded IDs.

AK     The caucus never ever said that it should be.

POM     It was the Portfolio Committee.

AK     No, not even a Portfolio Committee. As far as I know one member, Jannie Momberg, said in parliament, but I can't remember the Portfolio Committee ever saying that. You may be right but I've never heard it. There may be some difference of opinion among individuals.

POM     What's your own personal opinion?

AK     I can say it's a great advantage because we have come with a baggage of so many different identities, the Bantustans and all of them have different identities. It's also let to a lot of fraud and corruption and so forth, we don't know who is an illegal immigrant because a lot of identities in the previous years, especially in the Bantustans, came about fraudulently. So there is great need for a uniform identity document. It may happen that we have rushed it, I don't know. We will see by the time the elections come. But the idea is a good one. It was necessary.

POM     A highlight of your years in government?

AK     I can't point to one highlight. As I said just now that I am very happy about the change of attitudes that are taking place and that continue to take place.

POM     And your prison letters are going to be published?

AK     They're going to be published.

POM     By which university?

AK     Well it's going to be done jointly by Michigan State University and Mayibuye Centre. There are going to be two versions, the one version will be a complete set of letters, which will of course be available to universities and archives and so forth, those who are interested because the general public won't be interested. But then there's a selection which will be for more popular distribution.

POM     That's Michigan State University?

AK     MSU yes.

POM     And will they be out this year?

AK     Yes they have said that they're going to bring them out this year. We are now insisting that they should bring them out this year because they've had them for six years now.

POM     Oh my God! They're even slower than I am. And your memoirs?

AK     That I'm now busy with, I think the person who's waiting to see me hopes to help me with that.

POM     Are you doing that with an African writer?

AK     No what I am doing is – I find that I have to write it myself, I just have to. This idea of tape recorders with me it doesn't work because I find all the things I've been telling you today if I had to sit down and answer those questions I would have added a lot more things which don't just come up. With me when I start writing and I have to write with a pen, I can't write with –

POM     Your mind works as you write.

AK     Yes, and as I write something comes up. I take another piece of paper, I remind myself. It doesn't happen by talking. What I have done is – if you get Sharon to send you that article.

POM     I must ask you again, I don't know where I put that piece of paper, if you wouldn't mind just writing it down again. I'm sorry, it's here but which pouch did I put it in? I understand completely what you say because when I write I find that I begin a sentence and then my mind starts working in all different directions that would never happen if I was talking to somebody. I can't tape record at all, I think that's an awful way to do something, to tape record that I remember this or whatever, hand it over to somebody else and say give me back a transcript and I will write it out. It's such a personal thing and the way the mind works is that as you write your mind is collecting detail and its subconscious and it's coming back in a different way.

AK     That's right, yes, that's what I find. Now if you get hold of Sharon to send you that article, which she definitely will. If you're lucky she may even have the printed version.

POM     You just gave me her number didn't you? I've mislaid it, if you could just give it to me. Sorry, I have it right here.

AK     When you read that you will see that it's anecdotes, a lot of anecdotes about Mandela. That's what I'm doing now. I am writing anecdotes because I can't write a book. I've made about thirty or forty little headings of anecdotes that I want to put together and then of course there has to be continuity, then of course an editor will have to do that and put it together. That's how I hope to do it. I've started writing anecdotes, I've written quite a few already.

POM     That's terrific. I will see you again.

AK     Oh yes, you're always welcome. After elections I won't be in this office.

POM     I will find you. I feel that our relationship has been transformed into one from me coming to interview you to where I see you as a friend. It's very different.

AK     Yes and I'm very happy you say that. And I hope to see you in the States.

POM     I'll be back before the elections and for the elections.

AK     And I will see you on your home ground.

POM     And you'll see me in my home ground and I'll take you to Ireland.

AK     I'm also engaged in the Mandela Library project, the Presidential Library, and when I was in Boston in 1996 I went to the Kennedy Library.

POM     Yes you were there at my university, we were right beside each other. You gave a talk there with Barbara Hogan.

AK     Why I'm bringing this up is because when we start into the details of the Mandela Library I have go get back to Kennedy because they promised to give us assistance, expertise and so forth. So I will be coming back to Boston.

POM     I may come back with a counter-proposal from our university, because the Kennedy Library gets everything and nobody else gets anything, not even water and electricity. It's the Kennedys – bump! You know.

AK     Well they certainly have got a very impressive institution there.

POM     They have and we do lots of conferences and we work together on many things. You might put in the back of your mind that it would always be good to work with a university because they have an independence. Even presidential libraries -   So I will not say goodbye, I will be back to see you before the elections for more reflections and we're friends.

AK     Good, as I say we will be having a Robben Island Office.

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.