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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 Feb 2002: Memela, Totsie
POM Totsie, perhaps you could spend a couple of minutes telling me about your own background, where you were born, your parents, your schooling and what ultimately let you to get involved in the liberation movement.
TM I was a student in Soweto in 1976.
POM Were you born in Soweto?
TM I was born in Alexandra Township but grew up in Diepkloof, Soweto. My parents left Alexandra when I was two years old, I was born in 1958 but they left Alexandra in 1960 when there were removals of people from Alexandra to Soweto. I was born from parents my mother was a domestic worker and my father was a clerk. We were a huge, a very big family, a family of nine. I have a twin sister, still have. Of the nine kids eight are still alive. My father has since passed on but my mother is still alive. She is now 77 years old, a wonderful woman.
POM Where is she living?
TM She's still living in Soweto with my elder brother and my elder sister, both who have since become handicapped. My brother was beaten up by people a long time ago and he became disabled so he now lives with my mother, and my sister, my elder sister had sugar diabetes and she was amputated. She now lives with my mother too, so my mother is looking after two of her eldest kids which is not very easy for her but the rest of us, because we are all employed, we always try to help whichever we can.
So I grew up in Soweto, like I said, that we came to Soweto when I was still very young. I grew up in Soweto, went to school there, went to school initially when I was young at a Roman Catholic school because my mother believed the education was better there because it was not pure Bantu education, if you may call it that, because the Catholics continued to try and fight Bantu education in their schools but with time it sort of got diluted because they believed that the education that previously existed before Bantu education was introduced was good enough and they tried. What it therefore meant was that the education if you went to a Roman Catholic school was slightly more expensive than it was if you went to a government school. So my mother felt that even though she had very little means education was important so that she had to try and make sure that with whatever she could afford she got us the best education. So we all went to a Roman Catholic school.
I suppose I was always a renegade, if you may want to call it that, because after Standard 6 what used to happen in this Roman Catholic school is that we always wore the same uniform from Grade 0 right up till we finished school and it was horrible to be kept in tunic which was tunic and tunic and tunic, there was no difference whether the child was doing Grade 1 or Grade same colour, same shape, same everything. And when I finished my Standard 6
POM We both went to Catholic schools.
TM So you can relate! So after my Standard 6 I decided to go to the school that was next door, Diepkloof Junior Secondary School, which was a state school which had a nice uniform. I think more than anything else the uniform was what interested me. They had nice navy blue gym dress and I thought it was a nicer uniform. I didn't even tell my parents and went and registered in the next school and my mother had no choice because I had already taken the transfer report, but to make sure that she buys me the uniform for the other school. So that's how I went to a state school. The rest of my brothers and sisters finished their schooling in a Roman Catholic school, Holy Cross-Imaculata, because they chose to stay there. I chose to leave.
I suppose that's how I then got exposed more to what was going on around the country because if I remember, well I can't even remember as to whether the 50% English, 50% Afrikaans as a medium of instruction was introduced in the Roman Catholic school but in the school that I went to it was introduced in 1975 that we were forced to do 50% of the subjects in Afrikaans and 50% in English. So I had to do history in Afrikaans, I had to do Maths in Afrikaans and it was a battle. It was an extreme, extreme battle.
POM What age were you then?
TM I was when I was doing Form 2 I must have been about 15, about 15 at the time. So when I went to do what we called JC (Grade 11) at the time, which is I don't know what they call it in terms of grades, that's when we felt as students that this was enough, because it was difficult, it was impossible. We had done Afrikaans only as a language and now we were forced to do it as a medium of instruction. It was quite a bit of a battle. So other students in deeper Soweto had already established what they called the Soweto Representative Council and they came to introduce the concept to our school that there is no way we're going to be able to cope and pass our exams as students if they continue to use Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, it's going to be difficult for us and we need to register this to government that we just can't do that but we can only do it in numbers, not as selected schools only.
So some of the students who were already part of the SRC that was established came to our school, introduced the concept to us, nominating some of the students that would represent us in the SRC. We then had a student body meeting in our school and I was then selected as one of the students to represent the school in the SRC. They had to select two people. We selected three, it was myself, it was Peter and there was also another young woman, Lindiwe, so that we could have an alternate just in case the other person couldn't go. Not that we understood much other than the fact that we did not want Afrikaans. We didn't understand much about what the system of apartheid entailed other than the fact that it impacted on us and our education at the time. So it was not issues that were bigger than that, the focus was just on education, the educational system.
POM Now you wanted to be, instead of Afrikaans being the medium of instruction?
TM We had always done everything in English so now we're forced to do 50% of the subjects in Afrikaans and 50% in English and it was going to be difficult. Then we started going to the meetings because what we needed to do was to make sure that whatever voice we had was the same voice. So we would go to the meetings, discuss with the rest of the other representatives and the leaders of the SRC, Soweto Representative Council, at the time and then get a directive in terms of what needed to be done and we would then go back to our school and brief the student body as a whole. That was just before 16 June 1976 and then on 16 June we all went and marched as it had been co-ordinated and agreed with all the other students.
The number of schools that were represented in the part of the Soweto that I was in were not as many as there were in deep Soweto. So even though there was some activity going on in Diepkloof it was not as much as was happening within deeper Soweto which is where everybody came from because what we did, we did our marching just from around the area but because there weren't many schools that were involved it was not as involved as the other areas, we were dispersed easily and quickly.
PAT What part of Soweto were you in?
TM I was in Diepkloof. Most of the activities were in deep Soweto, Orlando High, Orlando West, from Moroka, hence they actually marched to Moroka Police Station and to Orlando Police Station. We were in a quiet part of Soweto at the time, but still we joined in and marched but there wasn't as much violence that affected us as there was in deeper Soweto. So, yes, the police came, we started throwing stones but we dispersed quicker than they did in deep Soweto because the numbers were much bigger in the deeper Soweto where Hector Peterson was killed and a number of students injured and arrested.
POM Did the police fire on you?
TM With us they didn't. They only fired teargas. They did not fire live bullets like it was because the bigger crowd was actually the one that was in deep Soweto where quite a number of students died. Where I was there was nobody that died. Yes, we were all affected by teargas but nobody died.
OK. And then after that I had to continue and go to the different meetings. The challenge I had was the fact that I didn't understand much in terms of what was going on in the bigger SA and for me I felt and each time I tried to speak to my parents nobody was able or willing to speak about what exactly was going on beyond just the Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. My mother said, "Forget politics, focus on your education, make sure that you go to school because it's the only way you can become a better person and get out of the poverty that we are part of." For me I felt that there was something that was bigger than that. Anyway, we continued to go to the meetings, give feedback to
POM When you found out that other students had been killed, did this - ?
TM What happened was when we went back to the meetings, and some of the things that we were reading from the newspapers we then found that a number of children had died in the deeper Soweto and that's when we had to come with a bigger plan as a student body of what needed to be done. It became clear that we couldn't only continue to fight with stones, that we needed to understand more and that's when people started whispering about the fact that, no, we could maybe get in touch with the ANC, we could get in touch with the PAC, and that was the first time that I heard about some of these movements. That's when we started sharing information about books that were in the underground, some of the people had books. That's when we started reading about Mandela. For me I had never been exposed to that kind of information but within the student body that's when we started sharing books. Yes we were reading the books secretly because we knew that they were banned books. One started to understand as to what was going on beyond just the student politics.
POM But at home politics were like don't talk about it?
TM No, we did not talk politics. We just never spoke much politics at home. My father came from a Roman Catholic background and he said, "Yes I understand that there may be discrimination within the system but the only way we can make sure that we get you out of this system is by making sure that you go to school and do the best that you can under the circumstances." And my mother was an ordinary working class woman. Yes, she had been involved in the early sixties during the Alexandra bus boycott but she felt that it wouldn't help for us to get involved in politics because at the end of the day we would go to jail and nothing would come of it. Because they had done something in the sixties but those people that did something were sitting in jail so it wouldn't help us in any way.
In any case after the different cells now started within the student body, within the SRC, we now started developing pamphlets and learning where and how to
POM When you talk about cells what do you mean?
TM By cells I mean starting to develop little units whereby we could read together and have discussions of the things that we were reading about. We're now reading about the history of Nelson Mandela, we're now reading about the ANC and reading about the differences in terms of the different movements that had existed and reading about the history of the ANC and how people had stood up against the government in the past. That's when one actually got exposed to that information because one had never been exposed to the fact that there were marches, the 1955 Defiance Campaign. That's the first time that I got exposed to that information. I had not known anything about it because even with my mother, even though she knew about the Alexandra bus boycott she had never said anything about it prior to that. So as I was reading about these things now the challenge was I couldn't go and discuss it at home that this is what I've read. So we started reading in different cells as little groups within the SRC just so that we could all have a bigger understanding in terms of what was going on in the country and what struggles had been waged before.
Came the end of the year I, together with Peter, were representing our school and had to convince the student body not to write exams and we were doing our JC, (Grade 11, Standard 9) at the time which was an external examination because in the past when you got to JC you wrote an external examination which meant that it was an examination that was set by government and all the students that were at that level wrote the same exam.
POM Just to go back one little bit, before 1976 did you have any contact with white people?
TM I did, I had. I actually used to work part time during the school holidays. I used to work actually here in town in Johannesburg for a little coffee shop where I used to work during school holidays. My sister worked close to that place and they wanted a student to come during the school holidays to work and assist in terms of selling in the shop. So I got very close to that family because it was a family business, a small business where they sold cups and cutlery and basically kitchenware. The old lady that used to take care of the shop had grown up in the Transkei and she spoke very, very good Xhosa. When she spoke from the other side you would think that it was an African woman speaking. Her Xhosa was absolutely fluent. In terms of the contact that I had had with her I had not experienced any kind of racism per se. Actually I used to find it very, very funny because each time you'd find that people would come into the shop and I remember once one man came in and he was saying he was busy trying to get he got some stuff that he wanted to buy and as he came to the counter he came together with another white woman, so they were approaching the counter to come and pay and then this man said in Zulu, "Oh I approached the counter first but because I'm black this old woman is not serving me, she is serving the white person." And the old lady just turned and said, "But that's not true", and said it in Xhosa. "That's not true. The Madam is the one that came first and not you." The man went quiet and couldn't say anything. And sometimes you'd find that the husband, because she was quite old, the husband was not able to come and pick her up from the shop and because she couldn't walk in the street on her own I would walk down with her so she would hold on to my arm because her flat was close to where I used to take the taxis and the buses going home. So she would hold on to my arm and you'd hear all sorts of comments in the streets from people.
I remember once this man was saying, "Why don't you just push this old woman away", and she would just turn and say, "You will get old too one day", and say it in pure Xhosa and it always disarmed people. So I had never experienced, it's not like I had had contact with many white people. I worked for this family and they were the only people that I had had contact with. As time went on I started working in records because the son, the shop was taken care of by the old lady, the son was a manager in one of the record companies. They actually distributed records to different shops and it was mostly records, they produced records of black music so I used to work sometimes when they needed a hand at the record shop, I would go and work in the factory. And I had never really experienced anything horrible.
I knew that my mother had worked as a domestic worker and she had this particular family that she was very close to. I remember she called them the Matthews and they are still alive. Each time they come through to Johannesburg, they live in Durban or Cape Town, but whenever they come through to Johannesburg they will go and check on my mother because they had that close relationship. She brought up their children over a number of years and she hadn't had a horrible experience with them. She always spoke very well of them. Fine, she may have not had a lot of money, she may not have earned a lot of money for her to be able to do all the things that she wanted to do for us but she was treated with dignity by that particular family and they took her as part of the family. The little holidays that my mother knew were the holidays that she knew when she was going with the family, when she was going to look after the kids. When they went to Durban they would take her with, when they went to Cape Town they would take her with. So that's how she got to see some parts of SA when she was going to look after the kids. She managed to see the beach in Cape Town and in Durban.
So I had never had horrible experience per se as an individual. Yes, I may not have had much. I may have had a poor background but I had not experienced racism per se as an individual. The few contacts that I had had with whites were not horrible contacts. They had their own life, I had my own life. All I could relate to was the little life that I had. Hence for me reading all this literature sort of opened my understanding in terms of what was actually going on in SA, young as I was, yes I was 15 at the time, that's when I got exposed to the reality of what was going on in SA. I suppose at the time it wasn't the time like my parents experienced, a situation whereby they couldn't walk on the pavement. Apartheid was not as bad as it had been in the sixties when I was growing up. I started working for this family when I was doing Form 1 and by the time the student unrest started I had been involved with this family for three years. They were the only people that I had had contact with really. I had not had much contact with whites.
I remember that in 1976 as I was still working with the student body of course I couldn't tell this family, I couldn't even tell my family about what it was that I was involved in. I remember they asked me to come and spend Christmas with them. Of course I couldn't.
POM This is the white family?
TM Yes. They asked me to come and spend Christmas with them so I had to make an excuse as to why I couldn't come and spend Christmas with them but for me it was like I think I'll be selling out if I go and spend Christmas with these people in spite of the fact that they haven't treated me badly at all, I can't do that. I felt like I would have been selling out particularly because we had agreed that that Christmas was going to be a 'black Christmas' which therefore means that we were not supposed to have any kind of luxuries because of what had happened during the June uprising, we called it Black Christmas. So I didn't go.
Then it was in 1977 that I decided to leave the country. I didn't jump the fence. I left legally and I left because I wanted to have a better understanding and I felt that with this sneaking around trying to get little books somewhere, that it was not going to be easy for me to have a better understanding of what was going on and besides I wanted a better education because I really felt that I wanted to get out of this cycle of poverty that one was in. My eyes had become a little open, if you may want to call it that. I left and I went to Swaziland.
POM Did you tell your parents?
TM I actually it was with my parents' permission that I went to look for a school in Swaziland and the agreement with my parents was that I am going to look for a school in Swaziland because Swaziland was close by and I could come home because I didn't leave illegally. I had a passport, I went to apply for a passport, left the country and went to Swaziland, went to look for a school. At the time when I got to Swaziland the Swazi government did not want to accept South African students in their schools because they felt that we were going to badly influence their students. So I couldn't find a formal school, particularly because it's not like I had lots of money to be able to go to the Waterfords which were schools that were enabling for children from anywhere to be able to come there because it was a private school and I couldn't go to schools like St Marks because they were boarding schools and they were more expensive and my mother just could not afford it. So I had to find a government school and it became impossible. I looked for a school until about March/April and I realised that it will be the end of the year and I will still not be studying.
POM You were about 18 years of age now?
TM Yes 18 years of age, because I had gone to Swaziland with my mother's friend Ma-Khumalo who had relatives in Swaziland so I was going around trying each school and each school to see if they can accept me.
POM But you were staying with your mother's friend?
TM No! She had relatives in Swaziland so I was staying with her relatives. Ultimately I found myself in Manzini because I started in the rural areas in Nhlangano and came down trying to find a school, just could not find anything, and ultimately Ma-Khumalo left me with family of hers in Manzini. Manzini is one of the towns in Swaziland. Mbabane is the capital town but Manzini is like the next biggest like sister city which is also just as big. So ultimately she left me with a cousin of hers, Sis-Ntombu, Mrs Maseko, in Manzini. What was interesting was that this cousin of hers was married to a policeman, a Swazi policeman. I continued to look for a school. After not finding a school that would accept me that was reasonable in terms of cost I then decided to go and enrol with a school something like Damelin where you didn't have to go to class every day, a correspondence school which was also between Manzini and Mbabane and was in Ezulwini, there's an area they call Ezulwini in Swaziland between those two towns. Ezulwini means heaven. That area was called heaven. It's a beautiful area in between the two towns, beautiful, beautiful place. There was a correspondence school called Emlalatini Development Centre there so I ultimately enrolled with that correspondence school because I realised that it will be the end of the year before I know what's going on and I will not have gone to school.
I then studied my JC through correspondence. To some extent their education was not too different even though the Swazi education was more advanced because it was not based on Bantu education, it was actually based on the Cambridge system. As a result when I wrote I didn't write my matric which was with SA JMB (Joint Matriculation Board), I actually wrote what we called O levels because their education was based on the British education system so then I went through that, but in terms of the way they called their system for JC, it was JC just like they called it in SA. But then they did not write matric, they wrote O levels and I then wrote my O levels.
Interestingly Lindiwe Sisulu who is now the Minister of Intelligence used to teach part time in that school. There is also Dikgang who is now the Ambassador I think in Nigeria. His real name is George Nene, we called him Dikgang, he's alias or nom-de-guerre was Dikgang, his name is George Nene. He used to be the one that helped me with Zulu because he had been a Zulu teacher so he helped me with my Zulu. It's interesting how things happen. So I went to the school, stayed with this policeman, didn't have much. All my mother could send me when I was there was R40-00 a month because she just didn't have anything more, and enrolled with a school which was not very expensive. But then I stayed with this family. It therefore meant that I had to be like a domestic assistant within the homestead, help them by cleaning the house, doing the washing just so that I could have a roof over my head and be able to study.
During the day I would sometimes go to the library because that's where we used to meet. There were a number of students at the time that had left the country so we kept on meeting there in the Manzini Library in town and there was this particular place where all of us used to meet at the library. So I would tell the family that I was staying with that I was going to the library to study and that's where we would meet just to check in who has done what, who has joined what movement, who has read what and we would sit, meet there and discuss about what was going on at home and how we were going to make a difference, who's going to the army, who's going to school, who's joined the PAC, who's joined the ANC. So it would be like some kind of catch up whilst also trying to read at the same time and having discussions there. It was a very, very interesting time I suppose of our lives. I was 16 at the time.
But then I stayed with this horrible, horrible policeman whose sole purpose was to deport South Africans back to SA that supposedly did not behave themselves. He was horrible, he was well known, he was notorious in Swaziland. He was called Maseko and that's the family I lived with. He was a notorious policeman that was known. He unwittingly did the job for the South African security forces.
POM Was he nice to you?
TM Well he wasn't necessarily nice to me but the wife was wonderful to me. She always protected me. What was interesting the wife was like 20 years younger than he was, the wife had lots and lots of boyfriends in town. My role was to write letters to the boyfriends and go and deliver them. So she had to protect me because she was not educated at all so I had to do the writing of the letters. But we had a very close relationship with her. Even today I still regard her as my second or third mother. Throughout my life I've had different mothers in terms of people that have supported me through difficult times and she was my second mother at the time because she was the first person that I came across that really supported me and then later on there was somebody else that I lived with for a number of years who was like a sister and mother to me, that guided me, that provided me with the support and made sure that I was able to achieve my objectives Toto Ndziba, now Mrs Dikgole.
So I stayed with the Maseko family for a year and then by the end of the year Maseko was not happy with me and informed the Home Affairs that I was illegal. Of course at that time, by the end of the year I was no longer living with him, I was living with another family Sis-Lettie. Again, a very, very poor family, Sis-Lettie, I mean I continue to feel very warmly about her but I don't know what happened to her. I had never seen such poverty combined with so much warmth from a person with little means I got to know her through another South African that I knew in town, Sis-Mantombi, because we all knew each other as South Africans. We used to call each other umtan'sekhaya (a child from home), because we were a small community so we all knew each other.
POM And you were all about the same age?
TM No, no, other people were people that would be much older working and having come to Swaziland a long time ago so you would find a group of young people that even if we didn't know because we could tell each other just from speaking, you could tell this was a South African because we spoke slightly different from the way the local Swazi people speak. There would be particular dialects that we use like we would say 'mara' which is like a typical Afrikaans word used in the townships. So some of the words were words that were foreign to Swazis because they speak basically one language and all of them speak the same language and you can tell from the language. But for us to be able to continue to adjust to the community we had to learn the Swazi language. As a result when I came home it was difficult for me to speak Zulu for a long time for me to be able to make sure that I'm protected. I had to make sure that I cannot be detected to be South African when I was amongst the Swazis. I learnt the language with time and I was very fluent in Siswati.
Anyway I then later on came across ANC people and after having discussed with both people that had joined the ANC and people that had joined the PAC I decided to join the ANC. I had never experienced racism so I was not anti-white, I didn't hate whites, I didn't feel that South African white people should be driven into the sea as the PAC used to say, because they had not treated me badly personally. I found the philosophy of the ANC very appealing saying SA belongs to all who live in it, both black and white. That's how I then decided to join the ANC. I wasn't clear then at the time as to what exactly it was that I wanted to do but the philosophy that I found appealing was the philosophy of the ANC because I had not been treated badly and I didn't see why anybody should be driven out of SA if they had grown up and were born in SA, that it belongs to all of us.
I met one chap of the ANC, Dan, that was trying to recruit. Then subsequently, after he had recruited me and had taken me through the basics in terms of what the ANC philosophy was, what it stood for, what it was trying to achieve, he was going to take me to Mozambique for an initial induction. He was arrested by the Swazis and ultimately died in prison. He was apparently asthmatic and they did not give him medication and he died in prison.
POM In Swaziland?
TM In Swaziland, yes. So that was how I initially got disconnected because that was in 1977 when I met him, I didn't have contact even though there were people that I knew and knew that they were ANC I couldn't just walk across to them and say, can I join the ANC, because then people would be suspicious. So unless people came and approached you, you couldn't just go to them and say can I please join you guys, unless you were clear on what you wanted to do.
It was in 1978 when I was hitch-hiking back, going to collect my school results in Swaziland because I then went and enrolled at school and then started studying through correspondence and when I was hit at the time I was staying with yet another family, a different third family because I kept on staying with different families just so that I could be able to ensure that I get my education. I was staying at the time with Toto Ndziba who was also a South African actually her family had been with the PAC. Her father had died a long time ago in Swaziland.
POM What was the name of the family?
TM Ndziba. The parents had been with the PAC. The mother had been deported by the Swazi government to Tanzania. The father had passed away but the kids were there so Toto was looking after her brothers and sisters and she then took me in and then I lived with her. I also met her through another friend who was sympathetic to South Africans, she was a Swazi woman Sis-Gap, Nomsa Mlotsa, who was sympathetic to South Africans. She had taken both of us, myself and a friend of mine Pinky Ntsibande. We were both studying at Mlalatini wanting to get education and find a place to stay. So she took us in and then this is how Toto met me and then she invited me to come and stay with her and her brothers and I lived with her for a long time and to date we've continued to be like family. She subsequently joined the ANC, we subsequently both married ANC cadres, though separated when we came back home. We actually consider each other as sisters to date. Our husbands have also become friends.
I met Babu Nzima when I was hitch-hiking because what I used to do, I used to come home because I was legal, I used to come home with my passport and go back to school. In 1978 as I was hitch-hiking from Mbabane going to Ezulwini to get my results, my JC results, I got a lift from this man. He had 12 fingers. I thought, wow! This is a funny man, 12 fingers! He was driving a cream white Peugeot and he was eating Russian and chips. So I come into the car, I greet, he greets me. In Swaziland it's normal when you meet as Africans the first thing you do is to ask each other what your surnames are. So he asked me what was my surname, I said Memela. He said, "Wow! That's funny, that's a South African surname. I don't know any Memela's in Swaziland." I said I come from SA. Little did I know that he was one of the senior members of the ANC in Swaziland. His surname was Nzima, he was subsequently killed by the SA Security. He was raided by SA forces and bombed in one of the flats at Matsapa in Swaziland. He was killed.
He's the one that actually brought me into the ANC formally because as we started talking I said, "Yes I am South African." He said, "Oh that's interesting", and he started telling me about the ANC. For me it was like a blessing in disguise that even though I had believed in the philosophy of the ANC I was not a member of the ANC because I didn't know how to connect and join the movement. The first contact I had had, I had lost that contact.
We started discussing with Babu Nzima and then he left me at the school gate and we made arrangements of where he could contact me, so I gave him the phone number, Toto's phone number in terms of where I was and we made an arrangement that in two days time we would meet in town. We arranged where exactly because I said I would like to know more about the ANC. He was also very keen because he then understood that I can actually go home. He was seeing new contact, I can go home and I'm a South African, back and forth, this is what I could do. I didn't know what he was thinking. I just thought we are meeting so that he can tell me more about ANC.
We met two days later and interestingly he came with another cadre of the ANC that was Archie Abrahams whom I later on worked with for years and years. Babu Nzima came, they picked me up from Mbabane, from town because they said they don't want to come to where I was living with Toto, if we can meet in town. We agreed to meet at the Plaza at the OK, they picked me up from there and interestingly we drove to the grave site in Manzini and that's where we had the initial discussions. Then the recruitment process started and they told me about the process, that I have to write my biography, they will have to check as to whether what I was saying is actually true "because this is how the enemy operates, infiltrates the ANC through agents. In certain instances we get infiltrated", da-da-da.
We went through the process and then I started working with them and my initial role was to come into the country to bring messages because I was legal. Messages which would be little letters yes, messages. Initially I was linked to there was a women's movement that had been established in the country, they called it the Women's Federation. Interestingly there was a woman that stays not very far from home who stayed in Diepkloof, Amanda Kwadi was one of the leaders of the Woman's Federation. Amanda Kwadi. She is the person that I used to be sent to because when they explained who she was I was able to know where she lived because she lived, interestingly, in the same township where I came from. So when I came home my mother would think I'm just visiting home and I'd be coming to do ANC work. I would then go and give letters to her because she stayed close by. It would be like because I'm part of the members of the community I'm just going there to visit and we would know that I'm actually going there to do ANC work and we would have discussions and then I would give her letters even to other people that she knew and then she would know how to deliver the letters. With time I got trained a bit and then in certain instances when I came in
POM When you say you got trained a bit you mean?
TM Got trained on basic military intelligence or what are the basic things that you need to know if you are involved in the underground in terms of checking if you are being followed, in terms of not actually giving letters to people directly, delivering them in DLBs and things like those.
POM DLBs are?
TM Dead letter boxes. I got the basic training which was through Archie and Nzima.
POM That was done in Swaziland.
TM Swaziland. Amanda was the only person that I gave things and documentation to directly because she was close by and I could explain why I was in her home, yet with the other people (i) I was not supposed to know who else was part of the network and (ii) it would have been dangerous, so I would be dropping letters in different either come in with the letters with them being on my body, I would come and post them, or I would go and deliver them in particular DLBs. For example in certain instances I would come to people's employment places like here, go and leave a letter at the entrance and the person works there, I don't see the person, the person doesn't see me but because of the system within the work environment people would pick it up there. So there were different letters that
POM Were you ever searched when you were crossing the border?
TM At those particular times I wasn't, in the initial stages. With time one got exposed and the security forces knew that one was part of the ANC and then it became more and more difficult so one had to be doubly careful. But I was never searched and, again I suppose I was never searched, it's the advantage of being young, secondly of being a woman and with the security forces undermining the fact that women could also be part of the struggle. So I would come in, bring whatever I had to bring and then in certain instances I would have to bring books but I would also tie them on my body so that if they searched my bags searching was normal within the borders but I had never been searched on my body. After having gotten exposed I made sure that I used either a forged ID document, like at some point I started using a Swazi document which some sympathetic family got it for me so I was like a Swazi, nobody would suspect that I was a South African so I never got searched, and in certain instances I was using more the illegal border crossing which therefore means that nobody would know that I'm in SA.
POM So you were using Swazi documentation.
TM Yes, and sometimes
POM Did you have a Swazi passport?
TM Yes and sometimes I used South African forged documents. It went on and after having been recruited by Nzima to be part of the ANC, I don't know what they checked or how they checked. I was told that they were going to check as to whether I was clean or not. I assumed that they did check as to whether I was clean or not. I'm not sure if the system was as neat as they made it look like because I just thought, Jeez, they know everything that's going on in the security forces so you can't take chances, you must make sure that you speak the truth.
Anyway, initially I started by, again, being a courier, infiltrating little things like documents, books, letters to different areas and different people. Then after that I went to university, I went to school and university and my other responsibility was over and above being a courier, this was in 1980 when I went to the university after having finished my O levels.
POM In Swaziland?
TM In Swaziland, yes. I went to university and my responsibility was now not only when I come home to bring stuff inside the country but to also recruit people that I thought could be reliable inside the country and also to build a cell or a network within the university of people who could also do exactly what I was doing.
I got trained in terms of what's the process, how do you ensure that you don't get uncovered, how do you detect as to whether a person is a person that's committed to the SA struggle. Fine, you never knew whether people were part of the enemy forces or not but you had to just go by your gut and also try (break in recording)
When who was writing what book? There's a woman called Conny Braam who is from the Dutch Anti-Apartheid who was writing a book about who? A book about Operation Vula in general I think.
POM Conny Braam. OK, yes, that names strikes a bell with me.
TM She actually was very, very instrumental in the Vula Operation. But I think what she wrote was in Dutch, it was not translated into English. She wrote a book, I can't even remember what because it was never translated into English. She was responsible for the network in The Netherlands because she was part of the Dutch Anti-Apartheid and in terms of setting up the network for training us on how to use disguises and actually doing the disguises for us the network was created by her. They used some of the artists that were involved with the Anti-Apartheid that helped for us. For example, Mac went there also for his disguise and Gebhuza went there for his disguise. Ivan and myself also went there for disguises.
POM Is she still in The Netherlands?
TM Yes she still is in The Netherlands. I've got her telephone number from a long time ago. Ivan gave me her telephone number.
POM So he would have it, OK.
TM Yes Ivan would have it. I can imagine how difficult it is for those people that committed and dedicated their lives completely to the ANC at the time that when everything was finished, what then? What happened to their lives? Conny is one person that, much as I haven't been in touch with her, I constantly think about and wonder what happened to her because I'm sure she doesn't even have a pension that she had saved because she had spent all her life with the ANC. I feel very strongly about those people. I feel that they are people that we shouldn't have forgotten and many of us have forgotten them because they lived for the ANC, they lived for this country which was not their country.
POM Well we will go and I'll get from Ivan her telephone number and on one of my ways back go through Holland on my way back to Boston.
TM She was very, very instrumental, also even in terms of helping us with some of the network of people that actually came and lived in countries like Swaziland and were part of the network, came and had a theoretically normal life but were actually working with the underground and some of the people came to SA and worked in SA as part of the Vula operation but having come from different countries like The Netherlands, some of them came from The Netherlands. I know one that I worked with, I in particular worked with in Swaziland. I can't even remember what his name was, who worked in one of the sports shops in Swaziland. He was a Dutchman that came and settled in Swaziland but was actually working for the ANC. So there are lots of those people and many of them did it for the love of humanity rather than anything else.
POM Back to yourself.
TM Where was I?
POM You were now beginning to recruit people.
TM OK. And then when I got to university I then set up a cell of four women. I recruited Philisiwe Twala, Itumeleng Mokati and Mbali Mncadi, we became one cell of four women. I recruited those four ladies and we became like a team of people that did different work for the ANC and became a cell and we all worked with Archie Abrahams as our commander. With time each one of us had other responsibilities and some of the four women recruited other people within the university so we had a network of different other people but we worked as a team and it didn't matter who because my responsibility was to this immediate team but this team also recruited other people that set up different cells and were all responsible to different people because there were different structures within the ANC. There were political structures, there were military structures but we fell under the political wing of the ANC when we were working from the University of Swaziland. All of us continued to be responsible for recruiting other people and for being couriers and in certain instances we would be working together as a team and in other instances we would be going as individuals.
POM Now when you were recruiting somebody would you ask them to do the same thing, to reconnoitre ?
Tm Yes because I couldn't verify whether the information in their biography was true or not. I would then give it to my commander and my commander would follow through. Archie was my commander for a long time. I worked with him for a long time.
So I went through university, grew in terms of the structures of the ANC, started being involved in some of the committees which were now outside the university. For example we worked a hell of a lot with Ibrahim, we called him Agmat, who was later on kidnapped in Swaziland and brought into the country. I worked a lot with him.
POM The name was?
TM Ibi, we called him Ibi.
POM But his full name was?
TM What was Ibi's full surname? I can't remember. I can't remember what Ibi's surname was. You can check with Ivan he would remember.
POM How do you spell his first name? Ibi?
TM I B I. We called him Agmat, the Indian name that he had was Agmat. He was one of the leaders who worked from Swaziland and so with time I started being involved with other structures just beyond the immediate structures that I was involved in and in certain instances had to go to Mozambique for briefings and come back and start getting involved in other bigger strategies than just what I was involved in and worked with Jacob Zuma who is now the Deputy President, worked with Sue Rabkin, worked with very closely with Zuma.
POM Sorry, with Sue?
TM Rabkin, who worked very closely with Zuma. Sometimes during holidays I would go to Maputo, either go for a briefing, stay in the underground in Mozambique, either go for a briefing or go for training or go for discussions there.
POM What kind of training would you be doing when you were working with Jacob Zuma?
TM With Jacob Zuma it would be more briefing than training. Training would be done by other people, for example Rashid trained me on some aspect of engineering.
POM But the training would be in?
TM The training would be more in underground work, how do you operate, what are the things that you need to watch for, what are the things that you shouldn't do, how do you ensure that the people that you train are also able to do what they are supposed to do when they are inside the country. It would be more military intelligence than anything else, theoretical training, not military training because military training was not done in Mozambique, it was done in Angola. As a team, as the four girls, we went for military training in 1981/82, the four of us during the school holidays, all four of us together with Sue. Actually at the same time we were training with Thengiwe Mthiaso, now Deputy Secretary General of the ANC. We were in training around the same time when I went for military training in Angola. We had to go to Angola so we went through Mozambique and went to Angola and then came back to school like nothing had happened. So the assumption was that we had come home during the school holidays yet in actual fact we had gone for training in Angola.
POM What kind of military training did you go through in 1981?
TM We would do political philosophy, history of the ANC, what are the principles of Marxism, you would do what they called it's more like topography but in terms of how to get your bearings when you are in the bush or if you are lost, in terms of how to read the campus, how to get your bearings in a forest, how to understand your roots, where to move from point A to point B if you get lost within an area which is not an urban area. We would do how to shoot firearms, we would go to the shooting range and would be taught basic different types of guns, how to use those guns, machine guns, AK, the pistol. Also even in terms of explosives you'd get, which we called engineering, you'd get basic training in engineering, how to mount explosives, how do they work, what to do and what not to do. So it was for three months.
POM How many months?
TM Three months, because it was only during the school holidays. It was a crash course.
POM You learned a lot in three months.
TM It was for three months. There was a friend of ours, Ayanda Dlodlo 'Mable', who had stayed in Angola for over a year doing all sorts of training and she always teased us and said, "Hm! What can you tell me? You are instant soldiers." So I vowed that as soon as I finished my degree at university I was going to go and do proper training, hence I went to Cuba for proper training later on after I had finished my first degree because I said I will not be called an instant soldier, 'kits soldier'.
It was not too in depth, it was more just so that you could understand the basics and what needs to be done under any circumstances so it was not in depth because three months was a short while, hence this friend of ours called us kits soldiers, instant soldiers. So later on when I had the time after having finished my first degree, and it became difficult for me to continue to stay in Swaziland so I went to Cuba and did training there for a year.
POM So you finished your degree in 1985?
TM I left Swaziland in 1986 but I finished my degree in 1985 and then worked just for the ANC and did not do anything else because even though I was
POM Were you still going back and forth between - ?
TM But at the time I was not using the border because after I had gone for training in Angola there was suspicion that the enemy forces knew that I had gone for training so I came home in 1982, I was pregnant so I came home to give birth to my son Lebogang, left him with his grandparents and never came home legally after that. I continued to come home but I would come home illegally. I would either use false passports or I would use the illegal border crossing whenever I came home. I became very experienced in terms of understanding the border networks. It became my speciality with time understanding different border areas, setting up networks in those different border areas and being able to infiltrate not only little pieces of paper but human beings and arms and getting people inside the country and bringing people outside the country. That's when I worked with Sue and Zuma. Later on Archie and other comrades left Swaziland and, for example, Nzima was killed in Swaziland and I joined other structures so I worked directly with what they called the PMC, the Political Military Committee which was based in Mozambique, reporting through to Mozambique and would get briefings from Mozambique and I would do the work in Swaziland either leave Swaziland and come to SA and get people to come and take people outside the country whose lives were in danger or in certain instances bring people inside the country or in certain instances bring guns inside the country. That's how I got to be linked to Operation Vula because of the expertise I had.
POM At the border.
TM At the border.
POM Now who were you responsible to in Mozambique?
TM I was responsible to Jacob Zuma through Sue Rabkin. Yes, I was reporting into what they call the PMC. Sue is the one that was like the executive link in terms of who was doing what within the structure we were in. Particularly I was people worked with different structures. I worked with Transvaal Political so other people would be working with Natal Political, other people would be working with Transvaal Military. For example my late husband was part of Transvaal Military. I was Transvaal Political. There were different structures within Swaziland that worked in different areas inside the country.
POM Now you met your late husband in?
TM I met him in Swaziland.
POM While you were at the university?
TM No, no, he was one of the ANC commanders working in the underground and I was at the university. I actually met him in Toto's home. It was very interesting because Archie who was my commander used to come and visit me where I was staying with Toto Netzibe so he met Toto and he ultimately got married with Toto.
POM He got married to Toto?
TM Yes, to Toto, the one that I was living with. And then Toto was working with my husband so my husband used to come to visit Toto on ANC work and that's how we met and we subsequently got married.
PAT Who was your husband?
TM Christopher Manje, Bricks, he was called Little John nom de guerre/code name.
POM You said you had a child?
TM Yes we have two kids actually. Lebogang is now 20 and Lesedi is now 11.
POM Were they born in Swaziland?
TM Lebogang was born in SA, Lesedi was born in Zimbabwe. Later on I went to Zimbabwe. Life in Swaziland became very, very difficult so I went to Zimbabwe.
POM Was it the Swazi authorities who had their eye on you?
TM It was the Swazi authorities that worked with the SA security forces.
POM So the Swazis weren't really very sympathetic.
TM They weren't. I wouldn't say the Swazis as a whole but the Swazi security forces worked hand in hand with the SA security forces.
POM You have now left college.
TM I've left college, worked for a year, established myself. When I finished college, because now I was working specially for the ANC and not going to school at all, I then focused on developing those networks in the border areas. I worked with an old man, how can I forget him? Ivan would remember him Babu Ntsibande.
POM I'll be giving you a transcript of this so you can go through it and anything that you remember
TM That I remember, yes. How can I forget him? He was an old man that had sugar diabetes and had stayed in Swaziland for many, many years, so he's the one that introduced me to different communities over and above the structures that I set up myself he also helped me open certain routes by introducing me to people that he knew that lived close to the border in different areas.
POM So you would develop a network of different trails into SA.
TM Yes, into SA and what was important was to get contacts of people that stayed close to the border and made sure that those people also open contacts on the other side because you had to ensure that after having gotten to the Swazi border you are able to infiltrate people and they can get a quick network on the other side. In certain instances you couldn't infiltrate people and they come straight to SA, you had to make sure that you had links in SA, in Swaziland close to the border and in SA close to the border and it had to be people that you could rely on, that were not going to hand people over to the security forces.
POM So on the Swazi side of the border would it be Swazis or - ?
TM It would be Swazis, it actually would be Swazis.
POM On the other side of the border you'd have?
TM You'd have South Africans. The border is basically a fence that separates people but these communities are communities that have lived and in certain instances you find that on the Swazi side there's no shop and these people have always shopped in SA. To them it was just a fence that they used to cross and go to the other side and shop. For example, the family you remember earlier on I spoke about the lady that I lived with in Manzini who was married to a policeman? She had a family that stayed close to the border that became one of my key areas for infiltration because it was so close to the SA border, the SA border was 500m from the house and they shopped on the other side. There was a shop next to a farm, there was a school there so the children in Swaziland couldn't go to the school in Swaziland because it was too far. The school on the other side of the border was the school that was closer than anywhere else.
POM And there was no policing?
TM Well there was policing.
POM All along the border? Yet a Swazi child could just go over and go to a South African school?
TM In the past they used to be able to but because of the involvement of the ANC they have stopped that because I mean in the past when the SA government had less fear that the ANC combatants were getting infiltrated, prior to 1976, because in 1976 that's when the activity became much more, you could find that but after 1976 there was no way that kids could go to the other side. You'd find in most instances that it's closer to go to the school that's on the other side than go to the Swazi school but because of the patrolling of the border areas the children could not do that any more. Those are some of the routes that one used. For example that's the very route that I used to infiltrate Mac and Gebhuza, the route where the shop was which was actually quite close. It was less than 2 kms to the main road of SA, quite close, very, very close. It didn't even take 15 minutes for us to move from the house which was on the Swazi side to the main road which was in SA, but you needed to make sure that at the time that you do that that there's no patrolling of the borders. You needed to make sure that it's safe therefore you needed to monitor, to check the area all the time but it was easy because I had a family that was close they could watch what was happening on the border 24 hours without a problem.
PAT Did they do that because they were politically sympathetic?
TM Yes, yes, they did that because they were politically sensitive. They were people that I had recruited because I had lived with them and I knew the connections they had with the rural areas and what networks they had, we actually built a house which we used as a safe house. If you can look at the video that was done during the local government elections, there was a video that was done on Mac, if you can just check with him.
POM I will get that from him. I'm sure he has a copy.
TM Because I don't even have a copy of that video, I'd love to have one. There was a video that was done by I can't even remember her, but one white woman here in SA that did a video on Mac. We actually went to Swaziland and took shots of the house which I had used to infiltrate Mac and Gebhuza. We even went close to the border because I went with Gebhuza, went quite close to the border and took pictures at the border fence and we met some soldiers there and we went round through the border gate, came to the other side.
POM This is for the video?
TM Yes we did it for the video.
POM I thought you were doing that when you were infiltrating them!
TM No, no, no, gee! No.
POM Mpumalanga or on the KwaZulu border?
TM It's in between, it's more on the Mpumalanga side because it's between what's this town? Piet Retief, it's after Piet Retief and then on the Swazi side it's in Nhlangano so we had to use the Mahamba Border Gate. We actually interviewed one of the daughters of the old lady there in the house, Gladys Maseko who was at the time of taking footage staying at home.
POM I'll get a copy of that, I'm sure he has it.
TM I'd love a copy because I don't know what happened to my copy.
POM Well I will get a copy and get you a copy. So then you went to Cuba?
TM Yes I went to Cuba for training.
POM In 1987?
TM 1987. 1986 I had to leave Swaziland, they were really closing in because, for example, Agmat that I was talking about, had been kidnapped by the SA forces from Swaziland. There was also another comrade that we worked with who we called September, he was also kidnapped. He came to SA he worked with the SA forces for a long time, subsequently died after 1994. There's a belief that he was poisoned by the security forces. He was one of the commanders of the ANC that was kidnapped from jail in Swaziland, brought in and he started working with the enemy, 'Askaris'. There was Priscilla who was Gebhuza's wife who was also kidnapped from Swaziland. She was also kidnapped from Swaziland.
POM Was she in jail?
TM She was kidnapped and she was kept in jail here. No she was not in jail, she was picked up from one of the houses that actually I had lived in and when I decided to move out of that house they decided to take the house and she was kidnapped from that house.
POM And taken back to SA?
TM Yes brought back to SA.
POM What happened to her in SA?
TM She was taken to jail here.
POM Is she still alive?
TM She actually works for the Ministry of National Intelligence, no she is still alive, she's still very much alive. After that it was time to come home anyway so she was released and she's still alive. She was one of those that were lucky and is still alive.
POM So you then went to Mozambique did you?
TM Yes I went through to Mozambique and then to Zambia. I stayed in Zambia for about nine months and then after that I was sent through to Cuba to go for training. I went to Cuba for training for a year.
POM In Zambia you did what kind of work were you doing?
TM No in Zambia it was not much work really because if you came from the front and you had worked in the underground when I was in Zambia most of the time it was more us trying to unpack what had happened because a number of people got hot at home which therefore meant that they had to leave the country. For example my twin sister whom I had also recruited had had to leave the country because one of the people that we had worked closely with inside the country vanished, Ignatius Mathebule "Gab". We still don't know what happened to him even today, Igi, Ignatius Mathebula, we don't know what happened to him but we suspect that he was arrested. He vanished inside the country so most of the people that we worked with, who worked together with him, had to leave the country so it was trying to ensure that people were safe, get people outside the country and make sure that they were safe.
POM When was the first time when you were in Zambia did you meet Mac when you were there?
TM Well I knew Mac because I was part of PMC structures in the front Swaziland and he was in the leadership. I knew Mac but I had never worked closely with Mac. I knew him through
TM Yes, because he was part of that command, the PMC Command, that even though I reported through to Sue Rabkin who looked after the Political Machineries in Swaziland, Mac was part of the command which was in Mozambique and then when it became difficult for them to continue to stay in Mozambique they left, they went to Lusaka. I didn't have direct dealings with Mac, I just knew him as one of the leaders because most of the people that worked with him were people that worked in the Natal area and I worked in the Transvaal. Zuma was more in charge of the political, including Transvaal, than Mac was. Mac was in charge of Natal (from my own understanding at the time). When I went to Lusaka I was still in the underground so I continued to work more closely with Sue to make sure that we could clean up as much as we could on the people that were affected by Igi's "disappearance".
After that it was to ensure that some of the people that were in Swaziland and were in danger had to get out of Swaziland and there were a number of people that it became evident that some of the people that we had worked with were actually working with the enemy forces and there was a lot of trying to unpack what happened, who was doing what, interviews with different people. The ANC were trying to clean up what had happened in Swaziland because a number of people had died. For example Zweli who was Gebhuza's brother had also died, had been killed in Swaziland. Other people had been kidnapped in Swaziland, so it was trying to piece the pieces as to what actually happened, what was going on there.
Later on I then went for training in Cuba, through to Angola, because you couldn't go straight to Cuba, you had to go through Angola.
POM So you went through Angola and you went to Cuba?
TM I went to Cuba, spent a year in Cuba. We were supposed to go there for six months. It was a very interesting time because what would happen is you would we called it hitch-hiking on a plane because we would get a lift on a Russian plane taking Cubans back home. The idea was that we would hitch-hike back because we didn't have tickets. It was an army plane that was taking soldiers back home to Cuba and the idea was that we would come back with them. But during the same time there were changes in the Soviet Union and we couldn't come home because there was nothing to hitch-hike from. This is 1987, during the time of perestroika, the changes in the Soviet Union. That's how we got stuck. We got stuck in Cuba and couldn't come home. We were missing Africa like crazy.
POM In Cuba were you at a military base?
TM No we were not at a military base, we were actually in town in Havana. We were doing training in the house. The focus in terms of the training was we had gone for training on "berretins" underground constructions, so we were being taught how to hide things on the wall, how to hide things in housing, how to hide things in a dead letter box and how to build a clinic underground that basically was the focus of the training. But six months later after the training was finished and we were still there they then did a special training on military intelligence. We then did a three months course on military intelligence. We finished the course on military intelligence, we still couldn't come home.
POM Was this done in Spanish?
TM We had an interpreter called Margrita. I still continue to think very fondly of her. I wish I knew who she was, who she really was because we all used noms-de-guerre. I got very close to her, I never knew where she lived, I never knew who she was and now that we are in SA I've always thought of her.
POM Were you free to move around?
TM Yes we were saying to people we are Namibians, we were free to move around but we were not supposed to be South Africans, we were Namibians.
POM You were Namibians?
POM So, so far you've been a Swazi, you've been a South African, you've been a Namibian. Do you get confused sometimes as to who you really are?
TM We were supposed to be Namibians. In the group that we were in how many were we in the house? We were staying in a big house in town which looked like an ordinary house where there were students that were staying there. We were not students because we were doing the training right inside the house and in certain instances if we had to go to the field they would come and collect us with a little kombi and then we'd go to the field and do training in the field. Most of the training, particularly because it's things that we had to build. Some of the training was theoretical. In terms of the practical work we would do it in the house and we would, for example, in terms of construction, in terms of mixing things, you would do models of things, not the actual building underneath but you would actually go and look at structures, actual structures that existed so that you could get a feel of the dynamics in terms of how the construction was supposed to happen. There was an understanding that because you're not a person who's in construction you would have to employ people that are in construction and guide them in terms of what they were supposed to do. But in terms of how to hide guns on the wall you would go through that so you would know as to how you would go about with the construction, how to hide a gun inside a bible. So all those things we had to do them practically so that we could understand what we were talking about.
POM Did you move around Havana?
TM We moved around because we were supposed to be students. During the course of the day, we started most of the time at nine o'clock and we finished the class at five. The instructors would come into the house, train us, if we had to go they would take us in a car and we would go wherever we were supposed to go and during weekends weekends were our time. We all lived in that house and we got trained in that house so they would bring us food in the morning and they could come and drop food lunch time, they would come and drop food supper time. We just had to make sure that the house is clean but the food was delivered. We never cooked, it was delivered and they would come and pick up the pots. I remember we used to get 100 pesos as a stipend once a month so after we received our 100 pesos we would then go out, there was a little restaurant where you were only allowed to buy two beers and have a decent meal, mostly chicken and chips, outside the house and it was very interesting because I mean for me it was the first time that I got exposed to what was referred to as a socialist state.
There used to be some ANC students that were at Party School, unlike us we were doing underground training, and they used to go and buy liquor from party shops and they bought liquor cheaper.
POM From a party shop? The ANC - ?
TM The Communist Party shop.
POM OK, yes.
TM So they were able to buy Havana Club a vodka, for seven pesos and we bought it for 21 pesos. So whenever we got paid we used to go to Party School and give them money because they had their party cards, to go and buy liquor for us cheaper. Because they were comrades we knew that they were at Party School, just buy a bottle for us, please. We didn't have dollars, we just relied on the pesos that we got once a month and we stayed there for about a year, so end of the year we hitch-hiked in a plane that was bringing people from I don't know what army it was because again we were not talking to each other, but they were very tall these people so I suspect that they were from Burundi or one of those countries. So we got a lift from that plane and we came home. We went to Angola, from Angola it was easy for us to go back to Lusaka but it took a year instead of six months.
When I got back to Lusaka that's when I was then recruited to be part of Operation Vula, that was in 1988. I didn't know that there were all these discussions about setting up this network so I got back to Lusaka at around February because I stayed in Angola. Yes in 1988. I stayed in Angola for about a month before I could get back to Lusaka. When we got back to Lusaka then Zuma came to me.
POM Where did you go in Lusaka? Where did you stay when you were in Zambia?
TM Do I remember? Whether in Chilenje where I can't even remember where I stayed but we stayed together, I stayed together with my husband, we stayed with one of the ANC comrades there. I can't remember what township it was. (First I stayed in Keith Mnkoape and McGirly Sexwale's house. We later moved and stayed with other comrades. We stayed with Ntali Mampuru's girlfriend at some point.)
POM Did your husband go to Cuba?
TM We had gone together to Cuba.
POM Oh you had, that's good.
TM We went to Cuba together so when we came back we came back together again and then we lived with one of the ANC families in Lusaka. In Angola we stayed at a residence, there used to be different ANC residences, we stayed at the residence and they then re-routed us back to Lusaka. We stayed with this family in Lusaka for about the nine months that I spent there. I didn't know that Bricks was being recruited to be part of the structure, he didn't know that I was also recruited.
POM Part of Vula.
TM Part of Vula.
POM So you each didn't know that the other was part, and you were told not to
TM Not to discuss with the other one. What happened was Zuma came to me and said to me they were requesting that I assist in this structure that was being established to make sure that we infiltrate the leadership into the country because it had become evident that you can't leave junior cadres only on their own, they need leadership inside the country. He was basically coming to say to me I should be agreeable, that because I was reporting into his structure so he had to transfer me in theoretical terms. He had to say, "You can assist this structure", because it was a different structure because I reported through the structure that was led by him.
POM So you had been reporting to the structure headed by Zuma and he was transferring you now to a structure led by - ?
TM I didn't know who was in that structure. So he said to me Joe Slovo would come and talk to me because they wanted me to do something for them. He basically told me about the theory behind what they were trying to do, not that I was going to work with that structure he thought because you know the networks you can assist them. So he came, discussed that with me and then Ivan then came to me and said I should go to Zimbabwe and set myself up in Zimbabwe. It was not Mac that came to me, it was not JS that came to me, but Jacob Zuma had told me that the structure was linked to JS and OR.
POM That's Joe Slovo.
TM That's Joe Slovo, that it was linked to JS. So it's not JS that came to me, it was Ivan that came to me to say I needed to go down to Zimbabwe and set myself up in Zimbabwe. So that was the brief that I had, that I needed to go create a legend and set myself up in Zimbabwe. I then left Lusaka, went to Zimbabwe, went to find a house, looked for a school in Zimbabwe.
POM Where did you go to in Zimbabwe?
TM I went to Harare. I then set myself up in Zimbabwe. I stayed in a hotel for about three months which was paid through ANC structures, Raphael, that is Jabu Moleketi who was responsible for Moleketi who is now the MEC for Finance in Gauteng. Then set myself up, enrolled with the university in Zimbabwe because I needed to have a legend. At the time the Zimbabwean security forces were not very supportive of the ANC because they were very close to the PAC so you needed to ensure that you were very careful if you were an ANC person. A number of ANC people had been arrested in Zimbabwe in certain instances and deported back to Zambia because the ZANU PF was working very closely with the PAC. So it was after those things had happened when I went that was in 1986/87 when some comrades had been arrested in Zimbabwe. I went there in 1988.
I then enrolled with the university because I needed a reason to stay in Zimbabwe, then enrolled for a Masters in Public Administration. The ANC asked me to find a house, I found a house, stayed in the house and then later on Bricks came and joined me and the house that I stayed in was like the house that Ivan and them whenever they came from Zambia they would come to so we provided a safe house. Then I became part of the ANC infrastructure within Zimbabwe. For example I was in a party structure in Zimbabwe where I was in one of the cells but in terms of line authority I reported through to Ivan who was in Zambia at the time. I was supposed to set up the infrastructure, and then Geraldine, who is now the Minister of Civil Service and Jabu were part of the network, part of the party network. Most of the people that worked for Operation Vula in Zimbabwe were people that were in the party structures.
POM Did they know what they were part of?
TM Well I didn't know what I was part of. I knew that I was part of something big but I didn't know what it was. I knew that the ultimate goal was to set up communication structures between home and the outside and also to set up structures for people to go home. So I knew the broader strategy but I didn't know who was involved in what way. Geraldine Fraser and Raphael (Jabu Moleketi) I was involved with them Raphael specifically, it was only later on that he became part of the network. I knew that he was involved in party structures so I was involved with him initially in relation to the party structures because we were in the same structure. Raphael is Jabu Moleketi. That was his nom-de-guerre.
PAT When you say party you mean the Communist Party?
TM I mean the Communist Party. Then later on Geraldine she left much, much later when people were beginning to come home, she left much, much later and then I worked more closely with Jabu but Jabu worked with me much later after Mac and them had been infiltrated. For example I worked with Jabu on the infiltration of Jabu Shoke. Gebhuza's infiltration was done by me and Ivan. Jabu Moleketi came in later in the network, the infiltration network, because I went down I went to Swaziland with Jabu Moleketi to infiltrate Bricks, that's my husband, and to infiltrate Jabu Shoke who was called Solly. Which one is his real name, Jabu Shoke?
POM I've got Solly Shoke.
TM Solly Shoke, sometimes I get confused what is the real name, what is the nom-de-guerre.
POM So you had a house in Harare, you were going to school in Harare?
TM I was going to university in Harare.
POM You'd get a message to say
TM Ivan would come and give me a briefing to say go down to Swaziland, go and set up, at some point there will be people that will come down.
POM Will come down, and your function is to - ?
TM Make sure that they get home.
POM Get them across. But you still didn't know that you were part of something called Operation Vula?
TM I didn't know that was part of it I only got to know about Operation Vula when it was time to infiltrate Mac because initially I started with lower and middle level of leadership / junior cadres. There's Mina that I infiltrated first, with her I took her down to Swaziland, I made arrangements for her to get a Swazi passport and she came home. I arranged this whilst staying with a former university colleague Thoko Maseko whom we called Plum.
TM Mina, whose real name is Dipuo Mvelase. She previously worked for the Johannesburg City Council and now works for the Ministry of Communications with Dr Ivy Matsepe-Caseburi. I believe she is a Director.
POM When you get the transcript
TM Whenever I see her I still call her Mina So Mina was amongst the first to be infiltrated. She was part of the network that was with Gebhuza in Natal, together with Susannah when he got arrested.
POM When you, when was the first time you learned that you were part of something called Operation Vula?
TM When it was time to infiltrate Mac. That's the first time that I knew that I was part of this.
POM And he told you that your function in Vula, the people you would be infiltrating would be people who were part of the Vula operation?
TM Yes, it's this structure that I'm responsible for so that I could understand the sensitivities around the mission as a whole.
POM We had gotten as far as you had infiltrated a number of lower/junior level leadership into SA, knowing your knowledge of the border, and then you were sent down there and you met Mac.
TM I met Mac and Gebhuza, but just basically myself together with Ivan. We spent six weeks before we could infiltrate. Then I stayed in Swaziland for the whole duration.
POM You were in Swaziland?
TM I was in Swaziland for six weeks before the infiltration actually happened because we had to make sure that it was properly done, that we understand exactly what's going on. I think I actually was in Swaziland for three or four weeks before I actually met Mac. For the first two to three weeks Ivan was not there, I was on my own because I needed to look at all the different areas that I knew to check what was going on, check to see if my structures were still in place, see if everybody was still there, see if the network worked between SA and Swaziland. Ivan came down when I was about two to three weeks in Swaziland, he came down and then we started linking up with different other people in Swaziland that we worked with. For example there was this Dutchman that we worked with, there was another man from Ireland that I used to stay with, even Jabu Moleketi also stayed with him when we did some of the infiltration.
POM What was his name?
TM Oh I can't remember.
POM I'm from Ireland.
TM Ivan would remember. I can't remember his name. So there was an Irishman that we worked with and the Dutchman, so I had to make sure that I activated many of the contacts before Ivan came in. Ivan came then we had to plan on what was going to happen. At the time Ivan didn't tell me who it was that we were infiltrating. All I knew was that we were supposed to 'sift' the area and clear the place and make sure that by the time whatever happened everything was clean, we were clear on what was going on within the different border areas and which area we were going to use when the time came for us to actually do the infiltration.
I did that work through the process yet worked with Ivan most of the time when he was there, driving around. He could hire a car, driving around, checking the different places and working with the old man Babu Ntsibande. He was the old man that actually helped me with other areas that I did not know in terms of opening some of those border areas. He had been involved since the sixties so he had quite an extensive knowledge of border areas and people around those areas. But because he was too old and his health was not very good it was important for him to hand over, give me some of his contacts. So during those weeks when I was there I would come through, go to different areas. For instance we walk through the process, walk right up to the SA road just to check and measure and see as to which route we would have to use. I spent about six weeks before the actual infiltration happened.
Just before it was time to do the infiltration Ivan came to pick me up because I stayed with a family that was linked to the Maseko family. The lady that I stayed with, Ma-Nkosi who was a nurse at Mbabane Hospital, when I first came to Swaziland, there was a brother of hers, Moses Khumalo, that stayed in Mbabane and worked in the hospital so I stayed with him in the hospital. It pains me that his wife Ma-Nkosi subsequently died. I didn't even know that she had died, I heard a few months ago that she died not a very long time ago, some time last year, because she had been very, very helpful in terms of providing me with accommodation whenever I came to Swaziland. So I was staying with them at the Mbabane government hospital because they worked in the hospital.
POM Which hospital?
TM Mbabane government hospital. I stayed with them and then Ivan stayed somewhere in Manzini. I don't know where Ivan stayed because each time Ivan would come and check me in Mbabane so we would then go through the plan but I didn't know who the plan involved. This one evening Ivan came to pick me up and said that there was somebody that I was supposed to meet. I didn't know who this person was that I was going to meet. We drove with Ivan. We go west to Ezulwini. We picked up this old man next to the road. I don't know who this old man is. I'm sitting on the front seat next to Ivan. Ivan is talking to him, the voice sounds slightly familiar. So this man is sitting here at the back just behind Ivan, I am too scared to look. Anyway we drive, they had rented one of the chalets in Ezulwini. I can't remember the name of the place, Mountain Inn or something but it was interesting it was right opposite the school that I used to go to, Ephesus-Emlalatini Development Centre, the correspondence school that I used to go to. So we go there, park the car, we get into the chalet. This man looks slightly like Mac. I don't know who it is but the voice sold him out, then I realised who is that voice, it is Mac Maharaj's voice. Then I got scared. Are these the people we are talking about? I'm too small to take this responsibility. This is just too big a responsibility. These are the people that I'm supposed to be infiltrating and I'm really scared because if anything goes wrong then I'm in trouble with the ANC.
We then had a meeting and then Mac briefed me about what Vula was trying to achieve, what I was supposed to do in terms of ensuring that they have a safe route. We met Gebhuza actually in the hotel. He seemed to be having difficulty with his disguise. I found Gebhuza there and then I realised that in actual fact I think it was three or four weeks down the line when I met Mac and Gebhuza. So we were going through the plan in terms of what my thinking was together with Ivan, what have we looked at, what were the possible areas we thought could be used, went through the whole plan, worked through the night. Then we later on left with Ivan, Ivan went and dropped me, he went his way. We continued to check the different areas and he was reporting back to Mac because I was not seeing Mac all the time. Ivan was the one that was a link with them. I would go down to the rural areas, continue to do the checking, report back and we were now developing the plan in terms of how they were supposed to go in. The part of the plan that I knew was the part that involved me and some people came from home and some Indian comrades, I don't even remember who they were, Ivan would know, they came into Swaziland. We went through the plan because they were the ones who were supposed to pick up Mac and Gebhuza.
POM On the other side.
TM Yes on the other side. As time went one, like six weeks down the line, we were called hastily in a meeting. Myself and Ivan went, had a discussion with Mac and Gebhuza, it was discovered that the people who were supposed to pick them up inside had been arrested. So it was time to make a decision on whether Mac and Gebhuza should come in or whether they should go back just in case these people get beaten and tortured and they talk. Mac said, "We do it now. We go in now before they start talking. By the time they are broken we should be inside the country."
So now myself and Ivan had to make a quick plan to make sure that we can get other alternative people to make sure that they get dropped from inside the country. That's how we then went back to the Dutchman and to the Irishman, they are the ones so we had to do a plan, within two days they had to go in. We had to rush, we had to make a quick decision in terms of which area we were going to use for the infiltration, decided on the place where I had built this little home, decided that that was the area that we are going to use, we don't care what happens. That's the area because it's close, we can monitor it closely. So I went down, indicated to the lady I called Make-Mom to say she must watch that place 24 hours and report back to me in terms of what was going on the next day when I came in. So I checked what was going on, went back to Ivan quickly and said to Ivan, "I think we can do it, they are not there." It was the end of the month, because we knew that towards the end of the month the soldiers would leave the border because they would go and get paid. So they would go in shifts, they would take turns in shifts and leave the border, go to the bank, post their money and then come back. Just at that time Mac said there is nothing we can do, as soon as they are not there we're going to move in.
So Ivan went there, came back, picked up Mac and them. He had sorted out as to who was going to meet at which area. For example the Dutchman was going to come from the Leshoek border gate side down and the Irishman was supposed to come up from the Natal side border gate, so we had to decide as to which one was going to pick them up, but they would have cleaned both areas so the Dutchman when he came through would know that it's clean on that side, that there are no road blocks. So they were going to come from two sides, fill up the area, clear that clean and then we decided that we would decide in the middle as to which side are they going to go. Are they going to go the Natal route or go to the Johannesburg route which would be the Transvaal route. We decided, no, they would go the Johannesburg route, they would not go to Natal because Natal was the place where the other Indian comrades had been arrested so we decided they must go to Johannesburg first then go to Natal and not go to Natal straight away. So the Irishman came from that side, the Dutchman came down, I was already on the road. He stopped, it was like I was hitch-hiking, he indicated that it was clear from his side. There were no cell phones at the time, we couldn't use cell phones to tell each other what was going on. So he came down, it was like hitch-hiking and this man tried to give me a lift but he was not going to where I was going so he left, he gave me the message that it was clear, he passed. Then the Dutchman came and then I went back to the shop because there was a shop close by. Ivan and Mac and Gebhuza were now coming up, they were wearing overalls and for Mac it was more difficult because of his hair. There were no workers who were Indian in that part of the country so he was wearing a copper head hat just so that he could hide his hair. Everything was timed. The Dutchman came earlier, passed on and then went back down to the fence, went to the other side, told them one side was clear so we will wait for the Irishman. By then I picked up Mac, it was two o'clock in the afternoon. I picked up Mac and Gebhuza and we then walked to the road.
That day we then find that the road is busy. What we didn't realise was it was the day of there used to be some kind of auction, the farmer at the shop would sell old clothes so there will be ladies from different areas that would come and buy so the street was very busy. We hadn't expected it, it was very busy. Anyway we walked up, they were there but they didn't think anything because people would be walking around in any case so there were lots of people around. We walked through, went to the road. Gebhuza and Mac, the Irishman came. They got into the car, gave me their guns because they didn't want to go with guns, but Gebhuza was not prepared to walk between the fence and out to the street without a gun. So he had to take the gun and then as soon as they got into the car I had to take the gun with me.
POM And you walked back.
TM And then I walked back and then we went with Ivan, we got into the car, said goodbye to the family, Make Ntombi Khumalo, and then we went to Mbabane and we went to celebrate. We had a wonderful dinner that day and then Ivan went to drop me in Mbabane. By the next day around twelve Ivan came to tell me that they had not made contact, that is Mac and Gebhuza.
POM That which?
TM That Mac and Gebhuza had not made contact and we didn't know what had happened. I was terrified because I thought something had gone wrong. It was only a day later that we found out that they were safely at home in SA. By then my nerves were finished. It took one and a half days before we knew that they were safe. I was finished. Then after we knew that they were safe we started making arrangements to retreat, go back to Zimbabwe.
POM How did you get the message that they were OK?
TM The Irishman came back, only when he came back did we know that they were OK. They didn't phone or anything and Ivan was waiting in the Irishman's house for the Irishman to phone. He didn't phone, so it was only when he got back that we found out that they were safely dropped and safely in Johannesburg, he had left them in Johannesburg. It was only then, because the infiltration had happened the previous day, they went that evening, the whole day we didn't know, he only came home in the evening. So it was the whole day of not knowing what had happened. My nerves were finished. After that we made arrangements to go back to Zimbabwe. So we went back to Zimbabwe, mission accomplished.
POM Now did you continue to infiltrate people after that?
TM Yes I continued after that. After that I didn't work with Ivan, I worked with Raphael, Jabu Moleketi. The next infiltration I did was the infiltration of Jabu Shoke, he is with the army now. Solly Shoke. I did the infiltration of Solly and I also did the infiltration of my husband, Bricks. I was supposed to do Ronnie's (Kasrils) infiltration but alternative arrangements were made for him. So in terms of infiltrations that were linked to Operation Vula, those were the ones that I did. I can't remember who came in with Jabu Shoke. There were two of them. I can't remember who the second person was. And then Mina's infiltration was the first actually even before I did Mac.
POM Did you infiltrate arms too or was it just people?
TM No, I had infiltrated arms before, not during Operation Vula. During Operation Vula it was simply people. That was my focus. I didn't even do any other infiltrations.
POM So you kept that up until?
TM I kept that up until because the arrests happened when?
POM In July of 1990.
TM July 1990. I think I kept up the infiltrations until 1989. I did it for about a year. When people started coming home then myself and Ivan needed to clear up, to make sure that the computers go to Lusaka, when people started coming home, because I think by the time when Mac and Gebhuza got arrested the talks about talks had already started. Yes. So when the talks about talks started it therefore meant that other structures could be created inside home because other people were 'cleared', like JS and them were cleared. So the idea was that they could find other means to get to Mac and them without necessarily us. And Geraldine, for example, and Raphael Raphael had come home also. I came home much, much later. I came home end of 1991. Some of the people were coming home so it was my responsibility with Ivan to clear up the assets, make sure that the computers get back to Lusaka.
POM What computers were you using?
TM We had to set up a communication structure which we had in Raphael's house. Raphael and Geraldine came in but I remained so I needed to make sure that the communication structures between London and Zimbabwe and home continued to be activated.
POM OK. So were these encrypted?
TM Encrypted messages. Sometimes people would phone in, sometimes people would send through electronic messages and then I would have to make sure that Ivan got the messages. When everybody was coming home Ivan had to come home too.
POM Who trained you in the use of the communications?
TM It was Ivan who trained me but in terms of the set-up, infrastructure computers, the set-up was in Raphael's house because Geraldine worked for an NGO, she worked for one of the churches and she was legal in Zimbabwe so the house was used as some kind of spare house for the communication network. So Ivan then came down to pick up, collect the computers and also for me to account for all the money because it was clear that we were not going to be infiltrating people using that method.
POM But Ivan was the person who was familiar with how the communication system worked?
TM Oh yes definitely, he was the one who was familiar. With me I was doing what I was supposed to do without understanding what linked to who and where.
POM You were just told to take X into A to B.
TM Yes. But it means that I didn't know.
PAT How would you move from Harare to get to Swaziland? Through Mozambique?
TM I'd fly.
PAT You flew?
TM I flew straight to Swaziland, they wouldn't know any better, I was using a false passport. They wouldn't know that I'm Totsie, I would fly. I remember when we were flying back to Zimbabwe with Ivan we got thoroughly drunk in the plane. It was such an achievement. I used to get this thrill each time I crossed the border, particularly when I knew that the security forces were there, it was like I'm on a high. It was a funny feeling, I haven't had that feeling for a long time. I don't know if it's rush of adrenaline but I used to have that kind of excitement like I was on a high. The fear but excitement that I'm beating them at their own game but I'm scared that if they get me I'm in serious trouble.
PAT Were they tough to beat or were you surprised at how lackadaisical they were?
TM It wasn't lax, it was just a question of knowing what was going on at what time. I wouldn't say they were tough or not tough to beat. I wouldn't have done it without those rural communities that lived close to the border. On my own I don't think I would have managed to keep safe and do safe infiltrations for such a long time.
POM You'd fly from Harare to - ?
TM To Masapa and then I would go and live with different people either in Mbabane or in Manzini and then work my way down to the different areas.
POM Down to the border areas. And then at the border areas you would be told
TM I would link in with different people. They would then indicate as to what the status quo was, where were the soldiers, were they there, what activity.
POM Did you even know the names of the people that you were going to escort in?
TM No I wouldn't know in most cases.
POM You'd just meet two people or three people and get them across and you wouldn't know.
TM It depended. For example, even though I had not been told beforehand about Solly Shoke but because I knew him, I mean he had worked with my husband for a long time, because I knew him of course before the time comes we would then sit down together because there was no point in just crossing people when they didn't know what was going on. So a few days beforehand I needed to give them a briefing on what was going on, which possible areas we were going to use before they actually go in. Oh! The one of Jabu Shoke we got arrested with Raphael when we came back! We got arrested by the Swazis when we came back. We had to bribe them and give them one thousands rands. We were arrested by the police when we came back that were patrolling on the Swazi side because we went to infiltrate Jabu, I can't remember who the comrade was that he went in with, and Jabu was falling all over the place. I don't know whether it was the fear or what it was. We handed them over to the people that were picking them up from the road, we came back with Jabu, Raphael, walking back, crossed the fence, fine, and as we were walking to the place which we were using where we were staying we got arrested by the Swazi police that were patrolling and we bribed them and they let us go. It was an interesting time.
POM How many people do you think you took across?
TM Over the years I don't know, I really don't know, because in certain instances I took people across as groups because you'd find that those people were wanted by security forces at home, like sometimes people that were coming from Natal during the violence in Natal I would take students to go either to school or to go to the army. Later on the ANC was not using Angola, it was using Uganda. So over the five years that I was specialising in this
POM No, for Vula.
TM For Vula, the people that I remember would be Mac and Gebhuza which were the first people I took across, Bricks, that was my husband I took across, Jabu and I can't remember who he came in with and I took across Mina, so at least six people.
POM And Solly.
TM Solly, Jabu Shoke. But at least six people that I knew.
POM It's quite a remarkable story.
TM It's a very interesting story. I always thought that but my children, I have never gotten the time to tell my children about this.
POM Well I'll give you a copy of the tape so you can play the tape for them, or have it all written out for you anyway, transcribed. When you came back here, to live here, did you remain active in the ANC?
TM When I came back initially I actually worked for the ANC and I went to work for Cyril Ramaphosa in Shell House. I worked for Cyril when I initially came back because what happened was when people were coming back home I then took responsibility there was a structure or there was a funding unit of the Department of Manpower & Development in Zimbabwe that was responsible because now at that time when people came out, it's not like people stopped coming out after 1990 because even though there were now talks about talks violence was still going on in Natal particularly so young people were still coming out. At the time we were encouraging them not to go to the army because there weren't too many places to go to anyway because most ANC structures were coming back home so what would happen is when they came to Zimbabwe I would then have to find schools for them, for them to go and do basic skills development like carpentry, like to do steel work and things like that. My responsibility in Zimbabwe was now to set up structures for the students, for the young people when they came in so that I could take them to school, so that I could make sure that they had a home to live in. That's what I took responsibility for immediately after Vula had folded up and I did that work for about two years. I didn't want to come home when I didn't have a job, so in the meantime I'd go through the newspapers and apply for jobs at home and now I had a passport so I could come home, because I applied for the passport from the SA Embassy in Zimbabwe. I came home, came for interviews, because I had a job in Zimbabwe where even though it was an ANC project I was getting paid so I was able now, because there was no ANC underground that could pay for my accommodation and all this, I needed to find a little flat that I would pay for from the salary that I got from the project because we used to get I mean I had to account for the donor funding that came through for that project. There was no underground that supported us at the time so fortunately I was lucky that I had this job which was, yes, an ANC job but the funding came through donors specifically for the project. I had to account to the donors which at the time the project was funded by the Danish so Thami Bonga, who is in Cape Town now, I reported to him in terms of what was going on in the business. The project fell under the Department of Manpower & Development. I would report to Thami, the donors would come in to check the books, I would report on what was going on, I would make sure that each time students came in I would set them up, check actually whether they were OK, they were settling down in the different schools that I set them up in, and then I would come home for different interviews. Ultimately I found the job in Shell House and I went to work in Shell House in the Secretary General's Office.
POM With Cyril?
TM With Cyril Ramaphosa.
TM So I worked in Shell House for about 1½ years and I felt that I had done my bit and I went to the commercial environment, I worked for Nedcor for five years and then after that in different areas focusing basically in housing. I worked on the affordable housing side for two years and then later on I worked for another division of Nedcor which was People's Bank responsible for a Front/Delivery network in Pretoria, Mpumalanga and Northern Province. Then I left in 1998, went to work in the Land Bank, the Land & Agricultural Bank of SA. I had wonderful opportunities to be able to make a difference in terms of providing finance to black farmers that had never had access to funding for a long time. There were changes in the bank and I left when the MD of the bank came in. I took responsibility as acting MD of the Land Bank for about eight months. The job was advertised. I applied for the job, didn't get the job. I suppose I had been on the wrong side of the politics of the ANC and didn't get the job. I stayed three months after the person that was appointed came in and decided it was time to move on. That's why I'm here with the First Rand Group. I am excited about the change and establishing myself whilst finding my niche and where I can best add value.
POM You met Mac really on the one occasion when you took him across the border?
TM Yes, I met him only at the end and then it was only after I had come back that we at the time, when we came back home Bricks, my husband, had a serious, serious health problem. I didn't understand what was going on, so Mac was in Shell House at the time and I asked to go and see him because I just wanted to understand what was actually going on and for him to give me input, to advise me on what exactly it was because I realised that Bricks was now an alcoholic. I then went to speak to Mac. He sort of explained to me what had happened at the conference in Natal because there had been the ANC conference and Bricks had gone to that conference and Mac was at that conference because they were part of the same infrastructure. He worked with Charles Nqakula covering both the Eastern Cape and Cape Town. What had happened was once Bricks was inside the country they became, before the talks about talks, the system understood that they were inside the country, himself and Ronnie and Janet Love, it was advertised on TV, they were said to be dangerous and armed, so his life became very, very difficult inside the country. That was before Mac and them got arrested. I think because he had to go under underground and I think because of the fear for his life he started drinking and by the time people had to resurface he had become an alcoholic. When I came home I found a man that I didn't know, so I was trying to get input from Mac in terms of what I needed to do because this man was now a foreigner, I found this man that was very, very different from what I knew. I was just trying to understand what had happened. Then I had a meeting with Mac in Shell House. It was after the conference that happened. He sort of explained what had happened, the fact that Bricks collapsed at the ANC conference and then they took him to the doctor with some of the comrades that were in Natal who were in the medical field and they did tests and they found that he was actually an alcoholic. This had been brought on by the (stress) and fear of political arrest or being tailed by security forces.
So now I had to face that here it is, I had a husband that was an alcoholic. I encouraged him to leave the country and rather come to Zimbabwe because I was still working in Zimbabwe, come to Zimbabwe, try and clean up and maybe go to school because there was an opportunity that he could go to school if he wanted to, he could go and do a marketing course or whatever. He came out but it just didn't work, it just got worse and worse. I think he just didn't know how to adjust to the new environment and the fact that other people managed to get jobs in the ANC and he didn't manage to get a job, he was unemployed. And the fact that I was working as a woman and he wasn't working, I think it did a hell of a lot in terms of affecting his self esteem. It was difficult for him, it was difficult for all of us and we decided that maybe he should come home and maybe he will find something to do. He came to Zimbabwe, stayed with me for a few months but it just got worse and worse. The situation deteriorated for all of us because by then I had a small child, I had a baby. I fell pregnant before I infiltrated him. It was a very interesting infiltration!
What happened here is that Raphael, Jabu Moleketi was new to the infiltration process through Swaziland. He doesn't know the routes, he doesn't know what exactly is going on. I had been working on this for over eight years. I know Swaziland like the back of my hand, I know what's going on. Now we are coming down, we're going to infiltrate Bricks. So we decided on a different route that I haven't used because the other routes were 'hot' (patrolled by security forces). We had checked this route for quite a while and now we're agreed that this is the route that we're going to use, we think this one is clear. Even though it was Bricks that we were infiltrating I wasn't staying with him in Swaziland. Yes I was pregnant, I had left him in Harare. I came to Swaziland to check the routes, he came and stayed in a different area. I was staying with the Irishman. I don't know, how can I forget his name? We are staying at his house so we go, pick up Bricks, because Bricks should not know where we are staying and we shouldn't know where he's staying in Swaziland. So we go, we pick him up at an arranged place. Now we are taking him through. When we get to the border area we discover that actually the security forces are patrolling. What was interesting is if you stay quite close to the border you know when they've walked that way. So as they walk that way, when you know they've already passed, you can quickly pass through, but it means when you are walking back you should know which direction they are. So if you don't have people constantly on the border it can be dangerous. You must have a very, very good network to be safe.
What happened is that when we got to the house where Bricks is going to be infiltrated the old man tells us that the security forces are actually there, they're at the border, the security forces are patrolling. What do we do now? Now we have a caucus, myself and Raphael. Raphael says, "No, I'll go alone with the old man." He will take the old man that stays in the house with because he doesn't know the route because if anything happens I am going to get arrested, Bricks is going to get arrested and I'm pregnant. I said, "So what has that got to do with anything? Why are you now suddenly looking at me as Bricks' wife and pregnant? It's got nothing to do with it." "No but it means the whole family will be arrested." But it's got nothing to do with family, it's got to do with the fact that I know how to do the job and the job has to be done. We ultimately agreed that we will both go with Raphael because the idea was that since I was pregnant I needed to introduce him to most of the routes so that if the work continues he can do it without me. Ultimately we did it together. It was not like you are the wife, it had nothing to do with wife and husband, it had to do with me infiltrating a comrade. That was a very interesting infiltration, very interesting.
Early in the morning we were so tired, the route was long, we had to take a longer route now, so we walked Bricks across, we left him at the house on the other side and then we had to come back. I didn't drive at the time. Now we are driving back and Raphael is tired and he's falling asleep on the steering and I can't even drive for him. That was a very interesting infiltration. We got back, we slept the whole day and then two days later we flew back to Zimbabwe. Those two were the most interesting ones. The one of Jabu as well, he was falling all over the place. And when we got arrested, when we got back and gave a bribe to the police.
POM Eventually what happened to Bricks?
TM He died of disillusionment, not being able to cope with the new situation and alcohol abuse.
POM Of alcoholism?
TM We separated. By the time he died we had been separated for three years. He died in 1995.
POM So he never recovered at all?
TM He never recovered at all. I think he just couldn't adjust to the new life.
POM Did the ANC take care of him?
TM I think what hurt him most was the fact that he felt that other people had been taken care of and he hadn't been. I think that's what hurt him most because I mean I feel strongly about his contribution over the years and some of the people that did not do half the work that he did fared better than him when we came back and I think that's what he couldn't cope with. Later on, fine, he was assimilated in the armed forces but even the rank that he got was a lower rank I mean he deserved more than that. He really deserved more and I think what broke his heart was when he saw people that were junior to him and that did much less than he did, doing better, he couldn't cope. I think he couldn't cope.
POM Did you have any problems adjusting when you came back or had you normalised yourself in Zimbabwe beforehand?
TM I think I was one of the most fortunate people. I still regard myself today as having been very lucky when one looks at the fact that life for other people has continued to be very difficult. I was lucky because whilst being involved in the underground I also went to school because when I was in Swaziland I did my degree being Social Science. When I went to Zimbabwe to try and normalise my situation I did my Masters in Public Administration and when people came back I thought I might as well finish this degree. When I got back into the country I realised that I didn't have business skills and I didn't want to go and work for government for the rest of my life, or work for the ANC for the rest of my life. So I asked Cyril for the ANC to fund me to go to Business School to do a Business Diploma so I did a Management Advanced Programme at Wits. I continued to try and improve my skills wherever I have been and in that way I've been lucky. Not many comrades had any particular education.
PAT It's what your mother and Dad wanted. It's exactly what they wanted you to do.
POM When you were in Zimbabwe where were the children?
TM The first born, Lebogang, the older one, in his earlier years he lived with Bricks' parents. When he was six years, when he started going to school, he then went to live with my mother and my twin sister Ntsiki who is a Brigadier General in the army, and then subsequently my twin sister also left the country so he then stayed on with my mother. It was only when he was nine years old that he came to Zimbabwe to live with me. It was very, very difficult for Lebogang. It just shows you that sometimes you take things for granted in terms of what children can cope with and what they can't cope with because when we came back he came to live with me, when I was now working in the DMD programme and then subsequent to that we came home and when we came home I was not staying together with his father so he had never known a normal life with both of us and when we stayed together in Zimbabwe during the time when I thought maybe Bricks could go to school he was having this problem, he was an alcoholic so we were fighting all the time. When we got back to the country I thought I can't let my children go through that, I should help Bricks sort himself out in terms of his health. I tried, when I joined Nedcor I had a medical aid and I tried to take him to go and clean up but he just couldn't it was on and off and on and off, so we didn't live together. For Lebogang I had left him when he was six weeks old. He didn't know both of us and then the next thing when he was just beginning to know us we separated and then we went our separate ways so on weekends he would go and visit his father and during the week he stayed with, both of them, him and Lesedi, were staying with me and my mother because I lived with my mother for about two years. They would go and visit him and see their father drinking and they would see their father's life continue to deteriorate and subsequently he died and Lebogang just couldn't cope.
Then I met Cyril Khembule later on. I am married now to a wonderful, wonderful man who has really done the best that he can to try and be a father to my two boys but for Lebogang it was very difficult because he was a teenager and he started smoking marijuana. It was only then when he started abusing drugs that I discovered what a difficult time it had been for him because he felt that we had abandoned him when we left and then the next thing when he was beginning to get to know us then we separated, then his father died, then there's this man in my life. For two years it was just three of us, we lived together just the three of us. So for him he felt he was there to protect me and suddenly there's this man that's taking his place. It was very traumatic for him but we worked through the process. He used to go visit (with his counsellor) young kids in jail and speak about his experience, how he broke the cycle of substance abuse. He also ran a few workshops which he enjoyed a great deal. We went for counselling, he stopped smoking and he's 20 now and he's doing art and he goes to college, he's doing media now. Last year he was doing various art programmes, photography, technical drawing and media and he liked the media so now he's specialising in media. I can only hope that he's recovered. He is a very special child. He has been through a difficult childhood and has managed to bounce back.
POM And the other boy?
TM Lesedi was lucky in a sense that after I had had given birth to him it was at the time when there were beginning to be talks about talks. Yes, he didn't know Bricks because when Bricks left I was three months pregnant, the next time Bricks saw Lesedi, Lesedi was nine months old. When he left I was three months pregnant, the next time he saw me the child had been born and was already walking but because he had started with the drinking problem Lesedi didn't really know both of us living together at all. I can only hope that with the love that both myself and Cyril have given him that he will be OK. He seems a very happy and intelligent child. It was difficult for Lebogang. I always hope that he is stronger now. He's a 20 year old, that he's stronger, but he did have a difficult time.
POM Thank you for a wonderful chat. I'll have this transcribed for you and I'll give you a copy that will be for yourself. I am part of a project now that involves the Robben Island Museum.