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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

27 Oct 2001: Nyanda, Siphiwe

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POM     General Nyanda, perhaps we could begin by you giving me a little bit about your background, where you were born, your parents, where you went to school and your progression from being a child through school to joining the MK. You just start up – that will take about three hours, OK!

SN     Well I was born in Moroka, Soweto at a place called Masakeni which means place of rags, there are no formal houses there, just shacks that the people built. Formerly the place was called White City, Jabavu.  As I said, I was born in 1950, on May 22nd, but we moved. When I became aware we were staying in Mzimhlope, also White City, but a different White City (the word Mzimhlope means White City) in Orlando West and soon when I was about five years old we moved to a place called Dube, named after one of the founders of the ANC. That's where I actually grew up and began to attend school at a place in Orlando West, Ntabiseng Primary School – my primary school was at Orlando West Primary School Extension and I attended my higher primary school at Thula Sizwe Primary School. My secondary school was at Orlando West High and I then went on to matriculate at Orlando High School. After matriculating at Orlando High School I went to the University of Zululand which we used to call our Bush College. It was an ethnic university. Because I am Zulu I had to go to a Zulu university.

POM     So if you were a Xhosa you had to go to a Xhosa university and if you were a Zulu you had to go to a Zulu university?

SN     Yes. If you are Sotho or Tswana or Basotho you had to go to Turfloop in the Northern Province. I was studying there science and maths. During my second year of study there I was expelled from school.

POM     You were expelled from the university because of your involvement?

SN     Yes, my involvement in student activities. There was an incident there where there was a protest over the kind of cups that they were giving us tea in, plastic cups, smelly, we couldn't savour the tea as I do now. Because I was a maths student I had a pair of dividers with a couple of friends of mine, we bore holes into these plastic cups and unfortunately somebody saw me, one of the workers there, and reported me. I was expelled from that from school, the University of Zululand.

POM     You would have been about 20 years of age then?

SN     I was 20 years of age.

POM     Were your parents still living in Soweto?

SN     My parents were living in Dube, Soweto, yes. Following on that I worked a few jobs as a cashier and as an assistant cashier at liquor outlets which were put outside every train station so that when Africans arrive from work they can buy liquor.

POM     And you were doing this in?

SN     My father used to be an Area Supervisor so I also worked there.  He was a supervisor of the liquor outlets of the City Council. Those were City Council outlets.

POM     In Dube?

SN     In the whole of Soweto. So I could work and I went to Orlando, I went to Orlando West. I also worked in Mofolo in a few of the outlets. We could get transferred to any of the outlets. In the end I was variously an assistant of the cashier until I found a job as a reporter with The World newspaper. The World newspaper was the only black daily of the time and it was edited by a black person and the reporters were all black. I worked there until I left the country, until I started working underground for the ANC.

POM     While you were working were you politically involved all this time?

SN     Yes of course I had been politically involved. I was a founder member, one of the people who founded the Union of Black Journalists, so I was active in the journalism circles. I was also active in a way in the Black Consciousness Movement. I attended meetings of the BCM, of SASO, even though I was not at school, I wasn't at university at that time. At university of course I had joined the South African Students' Organisation, SASO, which was led by Steve Biko.

POM     Now were you ever arrested or detained during this period?

SN     No, no.

POM     Were you in Soweto during the uprising of 1976?

SN     No. This is before 1976 when I started working for the ANC recruiting people for uMkhonto weSizwe, round about 1974/75.

POM     So you were approached and you left the country?

SN     While I was still working as a reporter I used to go to take people to Swaziland, who then went for training, but I would come back into the country and I was still working as a journalist but working underground for the ANC, recruiting for the ANC.

POM     Then you left the country yourself in?

SN     I left in February 1976, therefore just before the uprising.

POM     Just before. And you went to?

SN     I went to Tanzania, to Swaziland, Mozambique, Tanzania. From Tanzania I was sent to the German Democratic Republic, GDR, now defunct East Germany. That's where I trained for a year and then came back and went to Angola. I didn't stay for long. The Soweto uprisings of course had taken place and in Angola I met many of the people that I had left behind in SA, the young men and women who were not expected to be outside the country but because of the uprisings they now flooded the camps of the ANC there.

POM     When you came back from the GDR did you come back as a commissioned officer in the MK?

SN     Well we were not commissioned. We didn't commission anybody but I did a platoon commander's course there, I did basic training, I did platoon commander's course, and because of the kind of struggle we were waging we were not training to be like regular soldiers.

POM     Conventional army.

SN     We also did more than just conventional, of course we trained conventionally, we did basic training, we did normal drills that normal recruits would do and then we did a platoon commander's course which is already an officer course. We did other courses like military and combat work which had to do with more sophisticated things that enabled one to operate as an individual, things like photography, things like secret writing, things that helped one to get involved in underground work, things like hiding places, booby trapping, engineering and so on. I also did, a few of us, there were about 30 of us, a few of us who had some mathematics background were then separated from the rest of the group while they were doing some of the other stuff, to do an artillery course.

POM     You did all this in a year?

SN     Yes.

POM     Wow! You must have been working from early morning till late at night.

SN     Of course. We were not going back home to our parents or to our wives, it was all we were doing, training. The recreation was recreation with ourselves. We didn't go on weekend breaks and so on like ordinary soldiers would. We were training right through. And in any case in the ordinary military initial training would take about three/four months depending on the country, three or four months and then you begin to get –

POM     Specialised.

SN     More focused on whatever area people are developing.

POM     So when you came back you said you went to Angola.

SN     Angola. I didn't stay for long. I met many people who had come from Soweto and other areas and then I went to Maputo. In Maputo I was given a mission to go back into the country.

POM     Just into South Africa?

SN     Yes. To go and establish a network there which would enable –

POM     Now this was an MK network?

SN     Yes, an MK network or an ANC underground network.

POM     You would be working with – who was your 'superior'? Who were you operating with?

SN     Well the person who briefed me was Moses Mabida, he was the Secretary/General of the Communist Party at that time and he was also the Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, of which I think Mac Maharaj was a member of that Revolutionary Council. Moses Mabida was the Chairman.

POM     So he was the person who would brief you and assign you the missions that you were to undertake?

SN     Yes. The Revolutionary Council was responsible for all the conduct of political underground work inside SA. For instance the people who had recruited me while I was inside the country, when I began to recruit people for MK (before I left the country) were instructed by the Revolutionary Council. Thabo Mbeki was in Swaziland, Jacob Zuma was in Swaziland, basically doing the work of the Revolutionary Council, trying to establish relations, networks in SA, trying to resuscitate political activity, trying to resuscitate the ANC underground network which had largely or to a great degree been smashed during the days of repression and terror following the banning of the ANC. Chris Hani I think was in Lesotho as part of that effort by that Revolutionary Council which was directing all the activity of the underground work and there were other people in Botswana of course.

POM     So the Revolutionary Council would have people in different countries and then they would operate in those different countries going into SA to recruit people and establish underground networks?

SN     Yes. The Revolutionary Council was responsible for all the underground political activity vis-à-vis SA. Of course there were other activities that the political leadership of the ANC was involved in externally, mobilising the international community against SA, against the crime of apartheid and so on but the Revolutionary Council was responsible for internal work of the ANC, political, military, and Moses Mabida was the Chairman of this Revolutionary Council of which there were other members, as I said like Mac Maharaj and Thabo Mbeki and others. But of course this is above me at that time. I know that Moses Mabida is the person who briefs me, you are on a mission to establish – of course as part of this thing with hindsight and also I now know that at the time he was briefing me he was Chairman of the Revolutionary Council and it's their task to create structures in the country that will give the ANC, that will breathe life into the ANC, and also give life to the structures of the ANC in the country that will sustain the revolutionary processes.

     So he briefs me, I go into the country basically to go and set up this network with my limited people that I know. It's not a countrywide network, I come from Soweto, I grew up in Soweto, largely lived in Soweto, not much outside Soweto. Of course as a journalist I used to travel in the Reef, also parts of the country, but my real base is what we now call Gauteng, Pretoria, Johannesburg and its environs, limited in Natal. In any case my brief was Gauteng, Transvaal urban area at that time. I came into the country and I think largely fulfilled the mission that I had been asked to carry out, went back to report but on my arrival in Maputo and after giving my report my mission basically was changed in that I was then appointed Commissar, or Deputy Commander of a structure that was just created.

     What happened then, in short, is that I had gone there to establish this network and I saw many people and so on and I even made proposals about how I can then take people and selected people made proposals to the leadership if I can get these people, these people can go into the country and base and try to work for the furtherance of the organisation's aims, both political and military. But then during my absence or in the intervening period there had been a re-think on how we were going to work by the same Revolutionary Council. It had created a military command which had not existed before. At that time it used to be called, I think, Central Headquarters. They created a Central Headquarters with Joe Modise as its Commander and some other people, I think Joe Slovo was the Commissar, Lennox Lagu (who is now a Major-General in this Defence Force), General Tshali was the Chief of Staff and these people who had been created by the Revolutionary Council, were created with a mandate to create structures, military structures that would prosecute the armed struggle, military structures in areas where this … that the apartheid regime had built had crumbled, like Mozambique, like Zimbabwe. At that time Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia, like Mozambique, like Botswana, like Lesotho, to try to create military structures in all these areas where it was possible so that these structures would then be responsible for prosecuting the military campaign.

POM     They could move from there into the country.

SN     They could prosecute, I will get into how, the modus operandi, but they were responsible, like the structure that I was put in was called the Transvaal Urban Machinery. They were called Machineries. There was another structure called the Natal Urban Machinery. There was a structure called the Transvaal Rural Machinery. I think Edwin Dhlamini, who is a Brigadier General in the Defence Force, was the Commander of the Natal Rural Machinery and so was my brother later on and other people became members of the Natal Urban – but I'm jumping the gun now. I will just explain to you the concept that there was the central headquarters and regional commands called machineries. Transvaal Urban Machinery, it was a regional structure so it deals with the urban areas of the Transvaal. The Transvaal Rural Machinery would be dealing with all the areas of Mpumalanga to Northern Transvaal and so on, but it is a regional machinery, it's called 'machinery' not called 'command', because even the military headquarters are not called military command, it was called Military Headquarters but it was a command. They gave us the orders and they gave us the guidelines and the guidelines were simply that we had to prosecute military struggle, military operations, carry out military operations and direct military operations in our given area of operations. In other words myself and the people of my command, military operations within the Transvaal Urban set and of course we were given clear guidelines as to what it should be like and what it should not be like.

POM     What the targets should be.

SN     And what they should not be, like you had to target the military and its installations and anything that relates to the military, the police installations, anything that relates to the police, informers for the police, informers for the military, turncoats. Those turncoats would be those who turned against their own comrades and gave evidence in court or betrayed their comrades.

POM     Would they be Ascaris?

SN     Say somebody goes with a unit and then they trace this unit and begins to work with them, or even doesn't but betrays them, some turncoats.

POM     Ascaris, the same thing?

SN     Perhaps an Ascari, you can say it of course.

POM     In Ireland we used to call them turncoats.

SN     Turncoats, administrative buildings, the infrastructure, railways, oil pipelines, essential to the economy. No civilians, try to avoid civilian targets, try to avoid civilian casualties. If you carry out, place a bomb say at a Post Office because that's an administrative thing, or at a court or something. Those guys. We had to then have the machinery, be responsible for the communication between ourselves and whatever units we create inside, whatever units we infiltrate. We had to infiltrate units, therefore we had to look for goods wanting to trade hardware. By hardware I mean weaponry. We therefore had to look for ways in which to infiltrate weaponry, hidden, whatever, whether through force or whether people jump –

POM     So you would be bringing people into the country, into the Gauteng area, as well as having people within the area itself?

SN     Yes, as well as the necessary equipment for them to be able to carry out a mission.

POM     Were you located in the country at the time?

SN     We were located in Swaziland and Maputo and we had actually received specific instructions that for the initial period the command structure should not be inside the country so that we had to get people from Angola, those people who had completed their training, initially the commanders, the central headquarters, gave us people like Solomon Mahlangu and said, "Here are these young men, they are ready, they have trained, see how you get them into the country." We then completed reconnaissance of the routes, having established people along the borders of Swaziland or wherever the infiltration routes were, having infiltrated weaponry, reconnoitred everything, organised the transport to the interior because Swaziland, the Reef, I think it was easier for the people who were working in the rural areas because it's just jump the fence and they are there, but we had to traverse all that rural area to be inside. So logistically you had to have more plans how to get there, especially the hardware which is actually contraband. The people were something else because a person can pass a roadblock but you can't pass a roadblock with an AK sitting on –

POM     On your back seat.

SN     So you had to infiltrate these things into the R.S.A. whereas in the rural area you just jump and then you're in your operational area. Of course I'm being simplistic. So that was our brief and this is what we did. We had people from Angola, I sometimes went to interview them, sent them into the country and maintained communication with them, briefed them, sometimes carried out reconnaissance for them with people inside the country, networks inside the country and then enabled them to carry out the operations based on the information that we received and that is in the first few years what the task was.

POM     So what years would that be from? That would be from?

SN     From 1976 to about 1978/79, because in 1980 the structures changed because there were other people working in other areas, I'm just talking about in the Transvaal. 1980 the structures changed because there was a feeling that there was a militarism developing. Maybe? I don't know. Because we were working just as a military structure I think at the political level they decided that there had to be more integration of the efforts. The political and the military, they had to be close, layers, if not more, greater co-operation and integration, and they formed what was called then Quality Military Senior Organ Committees, from the political committee which was responsible for all the political/military things and then they formed one in Botswana, Lesotho, all over where there was a possibility for the existence of these things. Under these political committees there were military committees as well as a political council.  I think in Maputo it was chaired by Joe Slovo, I was in that committee, and there was also a political committee which was also in Maputo, it was chaired by Mr John Nkadimeng. Generally because the politicians were now in this Military Committee they could monitor everything that was happening at the military level and there was more co-ordination because the heads of this Military Committee and the Secretary also belonged to the senior organ, that's what it was called, senior organ. So therefore there was greater co-ordination and the leadership at regional level as well had more overview, better overview of what was happening at the military because they were part of that military planning. But I was still at the same time commander of the Transvaal Urban Machinery but being part of a committee as well that oversaw at other structures.

POM     So you had a job within a job.

SN     Yes. So I would also interrogate and be off with the plans of the Rural Machinery, the Natal Machinery, all of the structures that were operating there. So my job became less hands on on the Transvaal side, on the Transvaal Urban side but I was still the commander of The Transvaal Urban Machinery. Then in 1983 they formed what was called Military Headquarters.

POM     Was this after the formation of the Tricameral Parliament?

SN     You changed the structures again. The Military Headquarters, I think Chris Hani withdrew from Lesotho where he had been working and directing the political/military campaign there. He was withdrawn to Lusaka where he became the Commissar of uMkhonto weSizwe. Factually he became the Commissar and Joe Slovo was the Chief of Staff of MK and they also restructured our command, our machineries and they formed instead of two Transvaal structures they formed one called Transvaal Command and I became Chief of Staff of Transvaal Command. Somebody called Mencheck(??Julius Madiba) became the commander, Keith Mokoape became the commissar, I was the Chief of Staff and there were other members of course. Paul Dikeledi (real name Motau) was in operations and so on. This did not last for long.

POM     In that period were you still in Maputo?

SN     I was still in Maputo. This did not last for long because soon after this there was the Nkomati Accord, there were talks about Samora Machel signing an accord with Botha and we began to re-plan setting up political/military structures that would work in the forward areas. There was a planning session which took place under the chairmanship of Joe Modise but with the attendance of Tambo in Luanda which reviewed the situation and made proposals as to what must happen because there were several alternatives. Either we all retreat because we knew that the Mozambicans were going to require that under the agreement we go back to Tanzania. We go to Tanzania and that the facilities they were prepared to leave open there was just a political office and we had a strong military presence in Mozambique, a huge military presence in Mozambique.

POM     Did you have to withdraw that?

SN     No, and we decided that we would transfer this to Swaziland, a large part of it to Swaziland, to put pressure on Swaziland and our underground capability there because the Swazi authorities, many of them, were not exactly friends of ours and we got to know later that they had actually signed a secret agreement with SA to hunt us down basically, which agreement was now being signed between Mozambique and SA but this was a public affair, a publicised affair, the Nkomati Accord between SA and Mozambique.

POM     But the other one was not.

SN     In Swaziland it was a secret one. But of course we knew. we had no pretences.

POM     So were the Swazis spying on you and reporting to SA?

SN     Of course they were.

POM     But you weren't aware of that at the time, or did you suspect it?

SN     We always knew that the MK people were arrested in Swaziland, deported, arrested and deported, but later on of course we were arrested and kidnapped by South Africans with the connivance of the Swazis.

POM     Did you maintain any presence in Mozambique at all?

SN     Whatever presence we maintained in Mozambique was very, very subtle. It was underground, very quiet because we still had an office there. Of course we used Mozambique and sometimes people used Mozambique for respite. If the situation was very hot in Swaziland they went to Mozambique but even in Mozambique after the Accord they had to hide, they could not be public. It was worse there because the officials knew us because we had been operating quite in the open and they knew us by name and so if we had to be there we had to exercise even greater caution. But the repercussions would not be the same, of course, as we would be arrested in Swaziland, even if the Mozambicans arrested one. But there would be political fallout and I don't think our political representatives there would appreciate it, and of course we were always under surveillance, they knew our activities but they always demanded that we exercise the greatest amount of caution.

POM     So you're now in Swaziland.

SN     Yes, now in Swaziland and operating there, given several missions and in 1985 attended the ANC conference and repression increased and people were getting killed.

POM     This is the Kabwe conference? There was a slight change in who were legitimate targets and who were not. My recollection is that it became more open, that it wasn't as restricted as it was before.

SN     No, I think there was no decision about that, there was a lot of sentiment about it, a lot of talk about it that we were acting with more circumspection, that we were acting with our hands tied by our own policies. We were giving a lot of consideration to civilians, particularly white civilians, not necessarily white but civilians dying in the crossfire and that we should concentrate more on the fighting and if there are people who die in the process it's not that we should target whites as such but take the struggle more into the white areas. A lot of operations - we attacked in Moroka Police Station, and this was my Transvaal Urban Machinery, we attacked to the Orlando Police Station and many of the operations were in black areas, we'd attack councillors, we'd attack this – it was not that we had not attacked like Booysens Police Station or even Sasol, but many of the operations and because of the way that people lived were perceived to be in the townships and of course that was part of a strategy as we will get as much as possible people on your side and drive the fear of God into the Impis, the turncoats and so on, but we wanted now to take the war so that white people - because it seemed as if to us they were quite aloof to what was happening, quite oblivious to the suffering that our people were undergoing, and not even touched by this low intensity war.

POM     It was all going on in black areas.

SN     And we wanted to take it to their areas so that if we blow up a power station it must be in the white area, they must see the things and they must feel – electricity must go out for them. If we blow up a sub-station, if we blow up a railway line the noise must go out for them, and so on. No deliberate targeting of civilians.

POM     Act against white people as such.

SN     A decision taken that we now want to change and target civilians? No, never such a thing. Of course one of the things, Mac Maharaj was 'one bullet one cop', 'one cop one bullet' or something, but of course the policemen were our targets. They were responsible for much of the repression, responsible for much of the assassinations that were going on as is borne out by the TRC findings now and by them rushing to the TRC to go and ask for pardon. But we knew it, but the whites either thought it is not happening or they did not care because it was not happening to them and we wanted them to begin to feel. Therefore we had to put bombs in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court and lure the largely white cops who would have to come there so that when they're on the scene we trigger the mechanism so that white policemen largely and in a white area, in the centre of the commercial capital of the country. Such things – the Pretoria bomb blast. Now you take it to the white areas but you still target their infrastructure in the white areas, you still target their personnel like was happening in Pretoria outside the Air Force base. So I am saying that there was no departure, policy departure. Of course a lot of emotion and a lot of emotional talk about how the policies hamstrung us because they were restricting our operations. As I said in the end leadership prevailed, we were united in the view that our policies were right but that we had to really begin to make an impact on the white establishment. That was 1985.

     Later on I went also again for training in the Soviet Union, further training in the Soviet Union, the Brigade Commander's Course with Viva (Theophilus Dhlodlo), Charles Nqakula and my present PSO Brigadier General Vusi Sindane.

POM     Sorry, General, you were saying you went to the Soviet Union, a group of you that included yourself –

SN     Charles Nqakula, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (his wife), General Vusi Sindane, my present PSO and Theophilus Dhlodlo who died in Swaziland when attacked by the enemy.

POM     Who was killed in?

SN     Swaziland.  Theophilos Dhlodlo he was one of the people who worked with me.

POM     And he was killed?

SN     Yes. So we went there for training and we came back again and we went our separate ways. I went with Theophilos Dhlodlo to work again in Swaziland. On the day after my departure from Swaziland, when I was recalled in May 1986, I was recalled for Vula, I got a note, I was recalled for Vula, the day after that he and a few other people were in a car, were attacked and he was killed, he and two other people were killed, young people. One was a Swazi woman and another was a young South African who had just graduated from the University of Swaziland as a lawyer. Two escaped injury. I went to Lusaka.

POM     Now when you were recalled to Lusaka you were recalled specifically to become part of Vula?

SN     Yes, I got to know when I got there.

POM     Who briefed you on that?

SN     I was called by President Oliver Tambo to his office and told that I was going to be on a mission, a very sensitive mission and that this mission was known only to a few people, a very few people, and that I would have to see Mac Maharaj and Joe Slovo who would brief me about this mission. I was seen by Mac Maharaj and Joe Slovo. Joe Slovo also told me that Mac Maharaj would deal with the details of the mission and that I would have to be in Lusaka for a while for preparation for this mission and it would also entail my going to East Germany again for a course, an intelligence course, and that Mac Maharaj would attend to most of the details. Mac Maharaj and I then began to work on certain things, because of course Joe Slovo was Chief of Staff of MK at that time and he would then be able to deal with military headquarters because I was a military man and Joe Modise was the Commander … my being present, my having been withdrawn to Lusaka. So it was understood, I think it was indicated that I am withdrawn from Swaziland for my personal safety there because the situation was very volatile there in Swaziland, it was a very dangerous situation, in some cases more dangerous than inside the country. Our people were getting killed there, our people were getting kidnapped and some people preferred to escape into SA from Swaziland. So the legend was quite understandable and many people because they knew I was high profile, the commander of a machinery that was known and recognised by my name in SA, in the press in SA, the Gebhuza machinery and so on. So it was quite a credible explanation.

     But in the meantime Mac Maharaj and his wife Zarina and I got to know some people in London and some people in Holland were planning for me and Mac already had some computer programme that I was put through, computer communications programme. At that time there was no Internet but we were operating, I was learning, being taught to operate these sophisticated communications for that time, sophisticated communications system. Characteristic, most important characteristic, safe communication, encrypted messages sent via the telephone but prepared via a modem to transmit via a telephone basically to London and they were training me for that communication in Lusaka.

POM     Those communications would go to London?

SN     This was still the training. Of course during the training we would communicate with Tim Jenkin who was in London that I know. That was Tim Jenkin, he was going to test the thing so that I could go to a phone in Lusaka or wherever and phone and get messages back and decipher them and so on, basically training me on a tool that we would be able to use when we got to SA in order that we may be able to communicate with the leadership of the operation. We decided that we would call the operation Vula, Mac Maharaj decided that we would call the operation Vula and that we would be able to communicate with the leadership of this Vula through a very safe communication tool so that Oliver Tambo would then be able to know what is happening when we are in the country.

     The basic concept of this thing was very simple. I have cut many things very short, I just ran through the developments of the machineries and so on and the difficulties we had about this remote control. I didn't say some of the things, that some of the meetings that we had with the leadership, some of the demands that we made even before Kabwe, some of the remarks we made at Kabwe about the need for leadership inside the country. By leadership of course we didn't mean that Oliver Tambo be inside the country but levels of leadership, but not excluding of course members of the National Executive. As I said earlier on there had been a deliberate decision that your machineries don't go inside, remember? And we said, no, this thing cannot be and in fact our machinery had begun to negotiate and I actually received a go-ahead that we must be prepared to go inside the country and one of the members of this machinery, Comrade Leonard, who is now Secretary for the Police, George Rasegatla, he was my deputy in the commercial machinery, came into the country as early as 1980, 1979/80, came into the country so that he supervised on the ground and that we don't just –

POM     This was in 1979/1980?

SN     Yes. And he actually had a mandate, his task and mission, to prepare for us, including myself, to go in. Then he was given some money, they were creating structures, buying a house in Soweto, to get engineers. We had one of the friends of Joe Slovo who was an architect in Maputo who gave us a plan that would enable us to construct our base and he is the guy who was actually, I think it's Jose somebody, who designed the tombstone of Joe Slovo, gave us a plan how to work this, to have this underground place where we were going to come now. It was so much easier, we had a lot of practical experience about people having to come outside the country for briefings and so on, to cut the lines of communication. So it is something, and over and over it had been discussed throughout and also at Kabwe, and this concept of a leadership in the country therefore had developments and of course Comrade Mac having been one of the people who had been intimately involved in many of the quests, first of all at the level of the Revolutionary Council itself, in Maputo as a member of the political structures, in Botswana, he was even working in London, wherever he was he was busy with internal work. He had a fair appreciation of the difficulties and was one of the proponents of this idea that we had to as urgently as possible locate a leadership inside SA, not locate their leadership but locate a leadership inside the country so as I said we are able to take decisions there with a member of the National Executive Council, we take decisions and are responsible for those decisions.

     So that was the concept but then this had to be totally political, military, to cater for all. The Revolutionary Council was responsible for inside the country. At that time it was the Political Military Council, that is to take the political decisions in relation to what was happening at the mass level, take the decisions in relation to what was happening at the underground level. Mac Maharaj could talk to the Cyril Ramaphosas, could talk to the Valli Moosas, could talk to the Smangalisos, he could talk to the Harry Gwalas, everybody, unlike say myself or somebody who was dealing with politics at the junior level or at the regional level because Mac was a national leader, he was a member of the National Executive so he could actually talk and even do actions. He could relate to the underground, political underground. He could talk to all the people, political leaders who were leading the underground struggle, he could talk to everyone, not those necessarily who were involved in the legal mass work which was also still dangerous and illegal. He talked to also the political underground. He could talk to the Sydney Mufamadi's who were underground, to the Pravin Gordhan's. He could talk to all of the ANC underground. He could also talk to us, the military. He could talk to the military structures. He was the commander of the situation.

     So this was total leadership and on the ground. That was the concept and, as I said, I began to prepare for it. Communication was one of the things and later on I went for this training in the GDR to hone my skills in intelligence. I'd never been an intelligence operative, I'd never been an intelligence worker, but it was essential and it was very valuable. After that training I went to Holland, again as I said Mac had planned for me with the Dutch Anti-Apartheid Movement - Conny Braam who also had organised a network of hers, an elaborate network of hers with theatre personnel, all sorts of actors so that we would be able to try to disguise ourselves from detection, hide ourselves from detection from the powers that be that we were confronted with, and it was very useful. Many disguises, many of them I didn't use, but brilliant ideas.

POM     Like? Can you give me one that you used?

SN     The one that I liked most is when I looked like a magnate, greying hair and a beard, a full beard and then a full moustache but I could take off the beard and diminish the moustache and have this very rich greying hair. I remember going into a shop in Durban and somebody saying, "What do you do? You look like a magnate." They did not know I'm a poor man. Anyway, it is just an ordinary week and I could cut my hair, I could shave my moustache and look like a young Coloured, because in the end I would even leave my hair, try to grow my hair and make it look like actually that image on one of my IDs and passports. It was less troublesome because I wouldn't have to take it off. The others I had to take them off whenever I came into the house and when people knock I had to put them back, and the moustache, and open the door. So I went for that as well as the training course especially.

POM     Special what?

SN     And to create the impression that I've a big tummy.

POM     Oh, OK.

SN     Special shoes that would create, perhaps lift the soles and it affected your walk and so on. Special teeth that are put on my teeth which would change the shape of my mouth. To that extent it was very good. When I was actually coming into the country, flying from Kenya into Swaziland I was served by one of my best friends on Swazi Airways. She didn't recognise me.

POM     He didn't recognise you.

SN     And there was one of the Swazi security police who stood at the entrance of the aircraft when I was disembarking.

POM     Walked right by.

SN     Yes. It was very good. I had about four or five of these disguises and four or five passports. One of them I used from Moscow to Amsterdam, destroyed it in the airport, put another image from Amsterdam to Kenya and then from Kenya to Swaziland, basically the same one. So I went on to Holland, as I said I went to the GDR for training, Holland for these disguises, came back and one of the other things I had to do was to go and prepare for our own arsenal, stock of arms. At that time I was aware that there was a project by our Central Logistics Department headed by Cassius Make who was then Chief of Logistics. He died in an attack in Swaziland. We were infiltrating hardware in large numbers into SA but as long as we had been working in Swaziland we had not received anything from our Central Logistics stock and we didn't know what was going to happen. We felt that it would be better to use our own resources to try to create a storage so that when we are in the country we will be able to fetch it from our own resources. So I went to Botswana for a while with a group of people, set up stocks there and created depots.

POM     In Botswana?

SN     Yes, created depots there, stocked them with hardware, as much as we would need until such time as Central Logistics was able to support our mission. That was successful and so we had that, we were ready now.

POM     So now you're at Vula. Mac is in the country.

SN     Mac is not in the country. We go, Mac and I go to the Soviet Union for the final preparations and then we come the way that I've just described. I go ahead to Amsterdam, supposed to fly to Kenya. In Kenya I go back. In Sudan people are shooting at aircraft and so on so we end up landing not in Kenya but in Cairo.

POM     You're landing in Cairo?

SN     This moustache of mine has been there for about – it's supposed to last for a certain number of hours and now there's going to be a delay in Cairo and people are going to go out of the aircraft and it's hot. I'm worried every time I'm looking at the mirror if it's still there, until of course we're allowed to be in transit because the next time we're going to fly is ages away, a few hours away, so we go to this hotel, they take me to a hotel where we have a meal and it is ready to drop into the soup. Fortunately I realise it. We come into Kenya, Swaziland. In Swaziland we rendezvous again with – oh I rendezvous in Kenya with Mac Maharaj. In the aircraft he is there sitting just a seat in front of me. When we get to Swaziland we rendezvous and the plans change because the people that he was going to arrange to come and pick us up there's a problem but Mac knows more about that than me but he informs me and then we were supposed to stay a few days more but then Mac Maharaj decides, no, we have to move. Of course he does consult me and I say yes. We organise people there, another network in Swaziland and instead of the people coming from inside the country to pick us up he decides that people from Swaziland are going to take us in. That was not the original plan because he doesn't know what is happening and what can be the problem so he decided let's go. So these people go on another road and we jump the fence and they collect us and of course we just keep the secret and they pick us up. When they pick us up they tell us there's a roadblock ahead, make a U-turn, do a roundabout turn to Nongoma and so on and Newcastle until we arrive in Johannesburg. We stay for a few days in Johannesburg. A few contacts and we're still trying to sort out this Durban thing because we must go to Durban. We stay in one or two places in Johannesburg. While we were there at one point we stayed at the Johannesburger Hotel. Some of these MK monkeys decide that they're going to place a bomb just 100 meters away from us at an army base.

POM     From the hotel?

SN     Anyway we are safe, but we moved to another hotel. Moved to Hyde Park, stayed in Hyde Park for a little while. We then arrange that I'm fetched and I'm taken to Durban and he links up with me later.

POM     You were in Durban? Now Mac leaves the country for a period and you're in charge and then he comes back and let's get to where you were arrested.

SN     That was after about two years.

POM     Yes, you're here, things are working.

SN     And then he goes out of the country, comes back again, we work. Ronnie Kasrils comes into the country. In fact Mac Maharaj leaves and Ronnie comes into the country, I receive Ronnie Kasrils. Mandela is released at that time. I think that's some of the things that we were supposed to be going to do. Anyway on the 8 February – Mandela was released in February. March, April, June or July –

POM     June.

SN     Some other people come in. We had increased our network here. Originally it was myself, Mac Maharaj and Janet Love and our structures. Later on we brought in from the Cape, we brought in Comrade "Bricks", John Manye, they were brought in, and then we got for Natal, as commander of Natal we got Charles, can't remember his surname. Charles Ndaba. I'll remember soon enough. But Charles was supposed to handle the military aspects of the Natal thing because I'm overall. Charles works with Mbuso Tshabalala who I trained.

POM     When I get the transcript back to you you'll be able to fill in the blanks.

SN     He works with Mbuso Tshabalala, his internal base there, he's a brother of one of our comrades. So they are supposed to work on the military thing in Natal and already we have established some possibilities of potential for training of people and they must carry out this programme, Charles and Mbuso. Later on, just a few weeks before that there is Raymond Lalla who is now responsible for Criminal Intelligence, Commissioner Raymond Lalla, he just came into the country too but he was sent on another mission but I asked him to link with us and we were deciding that he must be an integral part of this mission. He stays some place (Kenville) – I live in Avoca Hills, he lives in Kenville.  He arrives early June or late May and at that time the ANC is unbanned and there are talks between them and the government, there is this agreement.

     Mandela had been released. There was great euphoria and to an extent a relaxation of our guard also because what happens is Mbuso Tshabalala (that's the name) and Charles Ndaba apparently get arrested or get arrested according to what we now hear in the TRC. They get arrested and now both these people – Charles Ndaba was living with Raymond Lalla in a house, No. 48 The Knoll in Kenville and Charles Ndaba disappears as far as we are concerned. Charles Ndaba, Mbuso Tshabalala are not seen for one or two days and then we have a meeting of what was then the Political Committee, the Pravin Gordhans, ourselves, the political leadership. Mbuso Tshabalala has not been seen for a day or two and Charles Ndaba as well and Charles Ndaba knows this place (The Knoll) but these people were supposed to go to the Midlands, they have a programme of theirs where they trained other people, the underground structures, and perhaps while they are doing that - but it's a concern that they have not communicated and they are not there but we will monitor it for a day or two and indeed a day or two passes and they are not there and we begin to worry. I then am tasked to try to find out what has happened, because localising the failure means removing Raymond Lalla from No. 48 The Knoll. And indeed on this morning I go, I inform Raymond Lalla, "Raymond there is a problem like this. This man has disappeared and we don't know what is happening and so prepare. I'm going to have to remove you from this place." And as I leave, I'm going to Pravin Gordhan's place, to rendezvous with Pravin Gordhan, and as I hit Umgeni Road just outside The Knoll, just outside that area, Umgeni Road, I realise that I have a tail. When I turn into Brickhill Road they close me up and police, guns and so on and they tie my arms and so on. I'm arrested.

POM     When they arrested you did they make you get on the ground, head down and hands out?

SN     Yes, searched of course, bundled into their car, blindfolded. I come to at CR Swart headquarters in Durban, Police HQ, it's the equivalent of what was then John Vorster Square and of course there were very big celebrations there at the CR Swart and every policeman wants to see me, all the security policeman. "He's the one, he's the one. Hey! You're a lucky bastard."

POM     Did they start abusing you?

SN     No, no, no, but they take me, apparently they have to register me, the name and so on. Off they go with me to, again blindfolded, to The Knoll. Who is there in this house we come to? No. 48 The Knoll. Who is in here? I say, "No, there's only one person, Raymond Lalla." What is there in the house? There is nothing, but of course there were weapons there, a few AKs. We go in there, they knock, he opens, gets arrested.

POM     Raymond is there? He's arrested?

SN     Yes. They search, the find the weapons there, the computer is there as well.

POM     So did they find the computers?

SN     The weapons. I think they didn't find the computers there. I think they found one of the computers at our office as well.

POM     When they searched your car they didn't find anything?

SN     They didn't find anything in my car.

POM     So where did they get the computer tapes from?

SN     The computer tapes they got from our office. We had an office where we used to work from. I can't remember whether there was a computer at my house where I lived in Avoca. So they find these weapons there and because they find weapons they start saying that I lied to them. "You said there were no weapons." They thought I was setting them up for Raymond Lalla to shoot them. And they start putting pressure on me now and they put masks on my face and torture, they ask me where is Mac Maharaj, Ronnie Kasrils. I can't remember what other names they were asking.

POM     Now were they just interrogating you?

SN     Yes.

POM     But they're not physically – but you're blindfolded and - ?

SN     They put rubber –

POM     A rubber mask?

SN     They are actually torturing me. They're depriving me of breath.

POM     Without breath, OK.

SN     And at intervals they remove this thing. In any case I later complained, subsequently, but nothing happened about that because at some stage my lawyer said it is my word against these guys. Then after that we went again to the police station.

POM     C R Swart?

SN     C R Swart Police Station and from what I hear they laid an ambush there in this house where later on they arrested one of the people who was working in the office. A few people were arrested, more escaped arrest there. They arrested Catherine Mvelase, they arrested Dipak Patel who had also come there. I can't remember who else but those two. I think they also went then to raid, because Charles Ndaba also rented a house in Overport. Where I was arrested was Brickhill Road in Overport because I was going to this other flat in Overport where Pravin Gordhan waited for me but apparently Pravin Gordhan had already also been arrested there at this place. Basically they found our computers in our office. I think also where Pravin Gordhan was arrested and where Susan was also arrested, Susan Tshabalala who was staying with me in Avoca but I think there was no computer there.

POM     Now were you taken to Newcastle?

SN     I was taken to Newcastle but not home. I was taken to the Newcastle Police Station. On my way, but it was the interrogating officer came from Newcastle.

POM     Yes.

SN     A Mr Davidson, he came from Newcastle. He was also trying to chat me up about my father and how he had helped in the building of my father's house and so on.

POM     Was your father living in Newcastle?

SN     Yes, my father ran a business in Newcastle.

POM     So he moved from Dube to Newcastle.

SN     Yes, the same year that I had left, 1976 he had begun to move. I knew that he was going to move but I left before the move. I did not know that place in Newcastle but my younger brother grew up in Newcastle. So this man, I think we were going to Johannesburg, on the way to Johannesburg he then stopped in Newcastle at the police station there but I had not gone to Newcastle. He was there, he had gone there to do his own thing because he was based in Newcastle. He was a security policeman based in Newcastle. He was put in charge of my case because I think he handled my case profile from the security cops even before then. I don't know, perhaps, I don't know how they worked but the Security Police told me there was a security policeman specially for each particular individual character and so on.

POM     So he conducted your interrogation. How long did that last?

SN     The initial interrogation, because the people then found all these disks and computers and quite a lot of information, some of them they could not decipher. They got a lot of information on these disks and they were basically following up leads from the disks which led, for instance, to things like our connections in Johannesburg, a connection with Johannesburg. And that took - they were working feverishly putting these documents in tomes and every time they would refer to me to try to confirm from me what this meant and so on. It was mostly in codes and those I had to decipher. Who is this, who is this? So I think I was deprived of sleep for about three or four days. On the Thursday they arrested me, if I can remember, I was only allowed to sleep after I made a complaint and also after – on the Monday having been arrested on the Thursday and transferred to a police station. But of course the interrogations continued - in other words my interrogation from my arrest was done in the offices at CR Swart and I was only transferred to a police station, to a cell where I could wash –

POM     That was in Newcastle?

SN     No, in a place called Queensburgh just outside Durban. At the Queensburgh Police Station, that's where I was kept for the period through which I think they were preparing the docket and preparing to charge me.

POM     So when they took you to Newcastle - did they take you to Newcastle after that?

SN     Yes.

POM     What I'm trying to find out is when you were at Newcastle and Davidson was interrogating you were you abused at Newcastle?

SN     No.

POM     You weren't tortured?

SN     No I wasn't.

POM     So how did he conduct his interrogation?

SN     The torture was in the initial few days.

POM     Before you got – it was in CR Swart where they put the mask on you?

SN     And also I was put on another mask and put in a straitjacket in CR Swart Police Station. I think it was on the Saturday or the Sunday but during the initial days of the interrogation.

POM     They put you in a straitjacket so you had a straitjacket and a rubber mask?

SN     Yes.

POM     So when you were in Newcastle the interrogation took more of a form of – what?

SN     No, no, in Newcastle I was not interrogated. Newcastle is half way to Johannesburg, half way between Durban and Johannesburg and we were going to Johannesburg and he was basically going via his place, maybe to see his wife for a while and also see his colleagues in Newcastle at the police station. We were really in transit, really en route to Johannesburg.

POM     Where were you charged formally? Where were you - ?

SN     In Durban, it was still part of the interrogation and then we came back to Durban and in Durban I was then taken back to Queensburgh and I was then charged, made a bail application and then refused bail and taken to Westville Prison.

POM     Did you meet Mac during any of this time?

SN     No, no. Just my lawyers, I had occasion to meet the lawyers who then prepared for the bail application but I think the bail application was just, it was rather an unfortunate thing because it was just a ruse by the establishment, by the system, just to make political gain, to try to portray the whole Vula operation as an attempt by the SA Communist Party to derail the negotiation process because in the document they also discovered minutes of a meeting.

POM     This is the computer documents?

SN     Minutes of a meeting that had taken place of members of the Communist Party.

POM     That's at Tongaat?

SN     The Tongaat meeting where basically people were saying that we needed to preserve the underground which was quite reasonable bearing in mind that the negotiations were not yet on and that the negotiations had not yet done anything – that it was still talks about talks and that there was no way in which we wanted to dissolve the underground. There was no way in which any reasonable person would do that before a successful conclusion of negotiations. There is no way in which the ANC, not just the Communist Party, there was no way in which people in the camps wanted to give the enemy our weapons just because they had now released Mandela and that they were setting the stage for negotiations. But they wanted to use that, selective things from the documents that they had received in order to create an impression that there was an element within the ANC which was not for negotiations, which was false, and they knew this because in some of the documents the support for the negotiations was clear. They had documents that related to, that in fact showed that from Operation Vula we were in the forefront of the process of creating the opportunity for negotiations to take place, that we were in contact with Madiba and that he was very supportive of negotiations and they used the fact of the trial and application for bail in order to create again this impression that these people cannot be trusted.

     So it was really not necessarily the SA government of De Klerk but of course the securocrats and of course we also knew they would use that because they also still thought that they could drive a wedge or create divisions within the liberation movement.  But while the securocrats were still at war then as is evidenced by the fact that, and it was proved later, that they killed Mbuso Tshabalala even at that time, while we were busy negotiating with them they were still carrying out murders in the SA Police. For instance we were very lucky, I don't know, perhaps they, because of the profiles it was very difficult for them to eliminate us. In fact I think they would have wanted to do that. So they were very selective because they still had an agenda, this third force, it was rampant.

POM     When the Revolutionary Council or the ANC discovered documents that the government was actually following a dual strategy, that on the one hand negotiate with the ANC and on the other hand undermine them and try to destroy them but weaken them in the townships, use the third force – ?

SN     I have no knowledge of that.

POM     Did you go to trial eventually?

SN     Yes, I was put on trial. That was the first time that I appeared in court on trial. Later I was put on trial with the rest of the people in Vula, Mac Maharaj, I was part of the group.

POM     All of you went on trial?

SN     All of us went on trial, all of us and we were then all put together because we had been separated. Pravin Gordhan was in the Free State, Mac Maharaj was in Johannesburg and then we were, all of us, brought down to Durban for trial.

POM     To Westville.

SN     Yes. And we could at least then meet and begin to strategise. And of course when I appeared the second time they then laid other charges of weapons, they put extra charges, apparently they had arrested somebody who told them that in my car there was a secret compartment and they opened it and found two rifles with silencers, two – not revolvers, two automatic weapons with silencers.

POM     But they didn't find that till way afterwards?

SN     Yes they found it when I was on trial, already on trial, so they added to the charge sheet. It was very good that they searched the car but they didn't find them, but they found them later. This person thought that they had discovered them when he was arrested. Actually he was the person who had created this, a panel beater, and he thought that perhaps I might have indicated to them where it was but I hadn't.

POM     Then you were all - ?

SN     We were then all charged and appeared once and we got bail under stringent, strict conditions in our individual places, areas of residence. I went to Newcastle because my parents were there and it was the only address I could give. The others went to their places but the cases were dropped and we got indemnity in 1991.

POM     You got indemnity for everything?

SN     For that particular thing – the case was basically dropped.

POM     What happened to Vula after that?

SN     Well there were still people who were sought after in Vula. Ronnie Kasrils and them (Janet Love, Mo Shaik, Solly Shoke, "Bricks" Manye) were never arrested and after the indemnity they also emerged out of their hiding, that group. Of course what weapons were there with other people, those who never got arrested like Mo Shaik, that had to await an ANC decision because the ANC was in discussions with the regime. While we were under arrest of course there was the Groote Schuur Minute which was signed which committed, and later on the Pretoria Minute, but basically the leadership said that we suspend the armed struggle but didn't say that we give up armed action. They said we suspend armed action and therefore it meant that wherever we heard that there was, it could possibly be used to prosecute armed action, wherever, we lifted the suspension.

POM     So in case negotiations failed you still had caches of arms that you could draw on if you had to remount the armed struggle?

SN     Yes, and following on the other negotiations which we got into and I was involved in at the military level because there was a whole process at the World Trade Centre at the political level trying to hammer out a new constitution. Of course we contributed to that as well but we also had to have our own negotiations at the security level, new structures for the new security situation and the new defence force. One of the things that was looked into in those negotiations was what happens to the weapons that we had and after 1994 when we were sure we had an agreement there was a new government and we had to begin the process of collecting and destroying all these weapons for ourselves.

POM     Now did you do that?

SN     Yes we did it.

POM     Just as the IRA did the other day.

SN     Yes we did that but we had to be sure that there is a political agreement.

POM     So you were working alongside while the political negotiations were going on, you had parallel negotiations going on with the military regarding setting up new military structures.

SN     Setting up new military structures, what kind of defence force, what is the basic ethos.

POM     Did you ever get the impression that before De Klerk made a final decision on something that he cleared it with the military?

SN     Oh yes he did.

POM     He would always – I suppose there was always a possibility in your mind during negotiations that the military might step in and say no.

SN     From very early on, and I think this is what also gave confidence to a degree to the political process because from the time the military – there wasn't very long a period of discussion at the military level. Even at the political level if you look at the processes they didn't take very long. 1991 at the ANC conference it was decided we are going to negotiate, that was in August. 1992 negotiations have really begun in earnest. Most of the leadership of the ANC and the members of the ANC are coming back into the country. Of course we have to have our strategy for negotiations as well. The ANC set up its structures, the ANC appoints people in areas of concentration, economics and so on. Those people would have to look at the military aspects, those people would have to look at the trade aspects, those people would have to look at the legal aspects and so on, constitutional aspects. The Valli Moosas would do the constitutional aspect and so on, the Trevor Manuels the economics, Cyril Ramaphosa and Thabo Mbeki the broad political constitutional, Valli Moosa the constitution. So we began to lay the foundations of the negotiations and strengthen the teams, the negotiating teams along these areas. That's 1992.

     And 1992 is when negotiations – and of course there are certain things that happen. There's a dynamic process. There is war in KwaZulu-Natal, there is the right wing clamour for a reversal of the gains so these things happen in a dynamic situation. There are Boipatongs, the massacre, events that really seek to derail this process and then there are gasps for breath at some of these shocking events.

POM     Do you think Boipatong was a turning point because that's when the ANC actually broke off negotiations?

SN     Yes and that's why I'm saying there were gasps of shock at such terrible events and there's a break in negotiations and so on. It's a major event, I don't want to say cataclysmic. There's the assassination of Chris Hani. This actually impelled the negotiations, the assassination catapults the process because it was a dangerous thing and the fact that the third force did not succeed in derailing the negotiations at that time can be attributed to astuteness, a maturity, a resoluteness of the leadership at that time, particularly of Mandela because people were saying, "Look, no, enough is enough, this is it", and this actually spurred the negotiations. There are those things but it's very little time really and people have got to negotiate such a wide variety of things.

POM     I'm going back, do you think that De Klerk before he made a final decision on something would go to the Generals and say, "This is what I'm doing"?

SN     Yes and no, yes and no. My sense is that the military when they get to that point, which I was actually getting to, of April 1993 –

POM     That's when Chris Hani was killed.

SN     Yes, and we actually also begin with the negotiations. We began with the negotiations at the military level after that, or just before that. But we begin to – there is a sounding, I think it was just before, a sounding of the then military commander of the SADF and our commander Joe Modise getting together just to sound one another out because there are mutual suspicions. There are suspicions on both sides. But when we began to talk and as we began to realise what their fears were and then they began to realise what our thinking was about the future of the military, I think most of the fear dissipated, disappeared, and we began to talk really about the second time we were together. Of course I am not saying that everything just went –

POM     Hunky dory.

SN     And even today not everything … but we were confident that we were dealing with people who were accepting what was going to happen, that there was going to be change and that this change largely, according to them, most possibly even according to them, was going to be a change that would result in an ANC government and that they wanted to be assured that the ANC government would not just kick everything away and that there was a responsible way in which that ANC government wanted to address important matters, whether it's of the constitution, of the economy, but as far as they were concerned of the military. As soon as we were assured of that we knew that there was, for instance, no prospect, I had no doubt in my mind that there was any intention on the part of the military to launch a coup, very early, very early. But if there was such a thing it would really depend upon the conjuncture of circumstances and because I knew, I was also a member of the NEC and I knew what our strategy was, I was a member of the NEC of the ANC, I knew what our intentions were about the change and how the ANC wanted reconciliation, the ANC wanted the things - so I had no doubt that there would be …

     But as far as De Klerk, of course he would do things that related to the military, he would consult and I am sure he would consult through his minister. The military after all was very strong, very influential, it was in the most important decision making structures, the National Security Council and so on, so most of the decisions were taken where the military was also present. So, yes, they were consulted on every step and yes they also tried to influence what should happen.

POM     They tried to influence what was going to be the outcome? Just lastly, and thank you for the time, you've given me more than I thought, when did the brass, the Afrikaner brass, Georg Meiring, those people, did they treat you as an equal? Did you feel they treated you, when you came into the army, with the respect that you were due or did they look down on you and say, well we are the best army in Africa and we have to take in – ?

SN     Well I think of course naturally they would be – we from MK were a guerrilla army. I've just explained to you how we used to operate. These are people that we had stalemated at the strategic level, military level, and they had a lot of respect for the ANC and our strategy and the fact that we in any event had arrived at a point where we were in government and they were basically serving the government of the ANC. There would of course be those attitudes that this was a political army and it is why people thought that there would be a problem, wanted to write things like we should be apolitical and so on, and we said no, no, there is no such thing as apolitical. We will always be political, everybody is political but we have to be non-partisan. So even during the negotiation process we taught them a few things. We learnt a few things from them and we understood their fears. They were a conventional army and we were not going to make the SANDF, the new defence force, into some guerrilla army and therefore we had to take in many of the things that the old SADF did but it was going through a lot of transformation and we are still busy with it even up to today in the mindsets of the old military things that we are trying to change to conform to new ways of thinking. In fact more than ways of thinking because one of the things you must not forget is that the SADF was isolated from many of the militaries and it was definitely not a military in a democracy and therefore needed to be changed. Of course many of the people there who had this attitude that you spoke about, that it is a political army and so on, but they had to take the reality of the politics into account and the fact that these are people who though they were willing, as well to acknowledge that they were not a conventional force and to adapt to being commanders of a conventional force. Many of our people, excellent guerrilla leaders and commanders, have had to undergo training and we had agreed upon it when we were negotiating that people would undergo this training in order to be able to reorient them to the new democratic ethos. But then on the other side too we are still busy with those programmes as well. We are busy at all camps today, leadership command and management principles, systems, so we are busy retraining largely the old SADF as well.

POM     Just given that you're considering, or that troops are going into Burundi, what kind of army, defence force, do you envisage SA having? Do you see it being prepared for threats against enemies or being ready to defend itself or do you see its role as one that will play a major part in peace-keeping operations in other parts of Africa where there's conflict, that you will orient training to that?  Is that a long question?

SN     No, no, all our policies are contained in the white paper of the Defence Act. We're saying that we don't perceive a threat at the present moment, in the foreseeable future, and that we will have a defensive posture, maintain a defensive posture but of course that we have a right for self defence. My duty is to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country, to defend SA against any aggression which we say is years away and other people say it's not there, it's not going to be there. We also say that there are threat scenarios, threat perceptions these days, threat situations, poverty and so on and that the security of the country is not mainly undermined or does not face threats only from militaries or military threats but also these threats which can have an impact on the security of the country, poverty whether it is internal or outside. That is why the African Renaissance and the idea that we can isolate ourselves is anathema to our concept of operations because we think that it is possible and it can manifest even today that Zimbabwe can have a problem and there can be a flood of people into the country and therefore we need to be concerned with what is happening in Zimbabwe. We need to be concerned with what is happening in the DRC because it has spill-off effects and in any event we are also not an island economically. We depend so much on the resources or we could do with the resources of other countries.

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.