About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

09 Oct 2002: Manning, Claudia

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POM     Claudia, I know that Mac told me that you had been involved in Vula and he mentioned three areas. One, he said you were in the Intelligence Unit in the underground in Johannesburg.

CM     No, in Durban.

POM     In Durban, OK. And then that you were often his driver/companion on long trips that he made, and, three, that he would use you as a courier to have messages delivered to people like Cyril Ramaphosa, Jay Naidoo, Frank Chikane to mention just those three. He probably mentioned more but those are the three that come to my mind. What I would like to do is take you through those three things and preface it with a little bit of background about yourself, where you were born, went to school, how you got involved, how you were recruited and what led up to you getting involved. When you were in the Intelligence underground was that the ANC Intelligence underground?

CM     Yes.

POM     What led to that and what were you doing in that capacity. Then we'll get on to Vula from there. And just talk, if I have a question I'll throw it in.

CM     Do you want me to start with my own background?

POM     With your beginnings.

CM     My beginnings. I come from a family of four children in Durban and I was classified coloured so a fairly conventional coloured family in Durban. Parents were relatively – my father was educated and had been at Roma University in Lesotho, studied medicine at Natal University and therefore had had exposure to quite a lot of political activities during his days. I guess my first exposure to what was happening in SA was when I was about 13 or 14 and one of my father's university friends had been an AZAPO member. AZAPO or PAC, Black Consciousness, Aubrey Mokoapi had been in jail and he and my father had been buddies at university at Medical School and then he'd been arrested and put into jail and he was on the Island for probably about seven or eight years.

POM     Robben Island?

CM     Yes. This would have been in the late seventies, early eighties. I met him, oh I'm not sure, I was about 14 which is about 20 years ago and he had just come out of jail. I remember the very first thing – well in the conversation, I was intrigued, I had never met a man who had been in jail before let alone for political activity. He was a charming, really nice interesting man and he said children in communities like Wentworth, little boys are likely to end up, nine out of ten youngsters will end up unemployed or getting involved in a life of crime because of their circumstances and the one out of ten who makes it is simply because of luck and circumstances being in his favour. That stuck in my mind and I thought that's something worth thinking about and I guess that was the start of my political consciousness. About two or three years later, that would have been in the early seventies I think –

POM     When you were growing up were you growing up in a coloured section of Durban?

CM     In Wentworth, the coloured community.

POM     The coloured community in Durban would be relatively small?

CM     It's a pretty small community. It's pretty impoverished as well and the community I grew up in is one which if famous particularly because of gangsterism. They have had some pretty violent gangs over the years and it's a community of about fifty, sixty thousand people who have never been politically very conscious or active and that was what I did in the eighties –

POM     Your father was a doctor?

CM     My father was a doctor in that community.

POM     And your Mom was just a house Mom or - ?

CM     She at some point had a business which she developed with her sister selling clothes and making clothes for the local community.

POM     Would this be selling within the coloured community?

CM     Within that community.

POM     So the community was tight?

CM     It was a pretty close community. My brother went to university in the Western Cape because he was coloured and therefore you had to go to a prescribed university for coloured people so he had to go all the way from Durban to Cape Town to UWC, or  'Bush' as it was known and he went there and he was there during the 1976 uprisings I believe and I think he was there for a couple years later and he would phone home and talk about the absolute tragedies of the removals of people from Crossroads and bulldozing of communities and Boesak at that time. Allan Boesak was a very prominent activist in the Western Cape.

     So that was already the start of my political consciousness. I actually got involved when I was about 15 or 16. The Natal Medical School had a programme where they provided extra lessons and education for disadvantaged kids. I'm not sure how I found out about it but I got involved with that and then I joined a student organisation called COSAS, the Congress of SA Students, which I'm sad to say still exists and does some less than –

POM     You're sad to say it still exists?

CM     Yes, they get involved in some rather reprehensible marches through town, looting, attacking hawkers and stuff like that, not very nice. But in the seventies and eighties COSAS was a real strength and force to reckon with. I joined them in about 1982/3/4 and I think I was feeling particularly guilty because my parents at that point had managed to get me into a so-called white school, it was a Catholic school which – the Catholics were so sweet about these things and Catholic schools were given special exemption so they could have a quota of non-white kids and I was appalled at the sort of terrible political statement that this made so I think I had other reasons for also wanting to get involved in some sort of anti-apartheid activities that would demonstrate my commitment to the struggle against apartheid despite being in this privileged school.

POM     So that kind of activated you against - ?

CM     No, well it didn't activate it, it was there.

POM     Something that was there.

CM     Yes and I joined COSAS before I got to that school I think. Then I went to university, Natal University 1985 was a hotbed of activity, there were all sorts of activities. I joined the Black Students Society.

POM     It was still divided into two sections was it?

CM     Oh yes. There was NUSAS which was the white student organisation and there was the Black Student Society, BSS, which was the black students' society and they worked – formally speaking we were an alliance but they were separate organisations, separate systems of mobilising students.

POM     In terms of going to class were the classes - ?

CM     Oh no. This was 1985, classes were joined. I was the first year in 1985, I was the first batch of students, I think – or it might have been 1984, where you were not forced to go to your own ethnic group of university. I had to apply, there was a quota system but I was allowed into this white university. In my brother's day you had to go to a non-white – and if you didn't then you had to have special reasons why you couldn't, that there was a course that you absolutely wanted to do and it wasn't available in your coloured university. In my day the system was a little bit easier and slacker so I was able to get in there.

     In 1984, just before I went to university, when the UDF was formed I joined forces with some people in the local community of Wentworth and we formed something called The United Committee of Concern, the UCC. This was really a vehicle to mobilise coloured people who in Wentworth had serious, real problems. These were people who really bore the brunt of terrible education, terrible housing, low wages. These were really oppressed people. The political consciousness was something completely different. These were not enlightened, politically supportive. They suffered from prejudices that the apartheid system created so many, many aspects of those were quite racist. So the mobilisation of coloured people, which is what this body was formed to do, had to operate within that environment and it meant taking on these prejudices and dealing with them. That was very much what the UDF did in those days, organise communities in their own racial groups and then bring them together to try and see if you could forge a movement.

POM     Did your group become affiliated with the UDF?

CM     We were an affiliate of the UDF. From then it was a matter of time before I was recruited.

POM     Who were the leading people in the UDF who you would have met at that time or associated with?

CM     It was all Durban activists, Yunus Mohammed was one of the big ones, Pravin Gordhan who was NIC at that time, Khetso Gordhan as well. Curnick Ndlovu was the guy who had just been released from Robben Island along with Billy Nair and they, Curnick and Billy were the two – Curnick was a trade unionist who had been arrested and put into jail, onto the Island, I can't remember when, and he and Billy Nair were released in the mid-eighties and so they became the highest profile UDF leaders in the Durban area. I can't remember any of the other names.

POM     My contacts then were in – the people who had set up a lot of the programmes for the young teenagers from Dublin were in Diakonia.

CM     Ah, Paddy Kearney.

POM     I knew Paddy well.

CM     Yes, Paddy was one of the people very much, we used Diakonia Ecumenical Centre as a meeting place for years and years and years. I can't remember, Ela Ramgobin was one of the big Indian leaders. She is Gandhi's granddaughter .

POM     Is she still alive?

CM     She's a parliamentarian, she's an MP at the moment.

POM     Next on the list, the list keeps expanding.

CM     There are lots and lots of people.

POM     Everyone you've mentioned I've interviewed except Khetso and the last person you mentioned.

CM     Curnick Ndlovu. I don't even know if Curnick is still alive.

POM     So her name is?

CM     Ela Ramgobin. She's in parliament. I actually can't remember any of the other prominent people in Durban at the time to be honest. I mean it changed over the eighties. Anyway, while I was at university I was recruited into the ANC.

POM     Recruited by? How were you approached?

CM     I was approached by another student activist called Abba Omar and, my God, this was about 1985 or so, and I was asked to do distribution of pamphlets, it was the political section of the ANC. He then had to escape from SA, he had to go into exile and he went into Zambia for several years, about six months later.

POM     What were you doing now? You were underground, you were going to school still?

CM     I was at university and I was basically meeting with him and he'd give me pamphlets to distribute. It was basically, I was receiving political education and he would give me pamphlets to distribute and we were going to set up a cell and before all of that happened he had to leave the country. He left at the end of 1985. So in 1986 the state of emergency was declared and then many, many people were arrested including my mother who had become involved through my activity. They were arresting every UDF activist that they knew and she was in solitary confinement for about two months or so.

POM     She was in solitary confinement for two months?

CM     Actually she wasn't in solitary, it was a state of emergency detention so it was, it probably was 90 days but she was held for two months. She came out and during that time we were all in hiding for months and months and months. I must have been in hiding for about nine months.

POM     Now where would you hide?

CM     Well there was an area in Durban called Albert Park which was one of these grey areas, like Hillbrow was at the end of the eighties, sort of mixed area, a bit of criminal activity but also landlords who were prepared to rent flats out. It was flatland, many, many apartments, and I had a white friend who rented, Laura who rented a flat for me and I stayed in it for about nine months.

POM     And you were at university?

CM     I was going to university.

POM     Oh you were going to university?

CM     I kept going. I was in hiding. The police had come to my house a couple of times but they weren't, this wasn't, they were looking for me because they were looking for people in the state of emergency. It wasn't anything in particular. Then there was the bomb blast, the Magoo's bomb blast which was driven by Robert McBride who is from Wentworth, from the same neighbourhood as me, and one of the people who worked with him was Greta Appelgrun who was a co-conspirator, as they said.

POM     So he worked with?

CM     He worked with a woman called Greta Appelgrun. She was also jailed for the Magoo's bomb but when the bomb happened, the Security Branch must have had intelligence that there was a woman involved, a coloured woman, and so they came to my house, they thought it was me. This time, they had searched a couple of times and I hadn't been there and they were looking for material, documentation, etc., this time I'm told by my family who were there that they went onto the roof and there were guns all over the show, it was a pretty serious search for me. Later on I realised that they were looking for me because they thought that I was behind the Magoo bomb.

     Then about, it would have been in 1987 sometime, I was at an office, a support group, a labour so-called research organisation but it was really just a front for the UDF, I was visiting somebody while I was in hiding and I had red lipstick on like I have now, which I don't usually wear, or I didn't then, and my hair had been changed, the colour and all of that because I was in hiding. I was in this office and the police did a routine raid, they were just sort of hassling people and with my luck one of the policemen, one of the Security Branch guys, who was part of the raid had been at school with me and he recognised me in this office.

POM     He was at school with you when you were in high school?

CM     In primary school, and he recognised me and they asked me my name and I gave some other name and then they left and I thought they had left and I waited a couple of minutes, and I was slightly nervous but I thought well they don't think it's me, how could they possibly know.

POM     Did you recognise your schoolmate?

CM     I didn't.

POM     You didn't, OK.

CM     And I left the building and as I was leaving they came behind me and they picked me up and they took me to CR Swart and they said, "What's your name?" I stuck to my story, I had library cards with me with my name and I asked to go to the bathroom and I threw it in the bin, so I thought I had a pretty good story and I hadn't realised that this guy was in fact a former schoolmate and I found out later on that's how they'd found out. Anyway eventually they said, "We know who you are so stop this crap." I was then detained under Section 29 and I was in solitary confinement for three months. It was a pretty traumatic thing, I was 20 years old.

POM     When you were in solitary confinement you were allowed no visitors, your family weren't even informed were they?

CM     Well they found out eventually.

POM     They found out but under the law they didn't have to be informed?

CM     Oh no. I can't remember how they found out because no-one knew. My mother had come out of jail, out of detention a year before and the police – there was another state of emergency in 1987 and so the police were still looking for people and harassing people and she had been quite traumatised by this and obviously didn't want to go back to jail so she wasn't living at home either. So the family was pretty disrupted and I was living in this flat on my own and I wasn't sure that anyone would know that I'd been arrested, it could take several days. I don't even know how they found out, I've no idea.  I in fact was fortunate because there was a woman who - after about a month of being completely alone, I saw no-one except the warders, someone who I knew very well from the Natal Organisation of Woman, a woman called Nozizwe Madlala, who is now our Deputy Minister of Defence (she's also got a last name Routledge, Madlala-Routledge). She's the Deputy Minister of Defence now but she was under Section 29 which, as you know, allowed for six months, 180 days, and she was at the end of her six months when she was brought to Westville Prison where I was kept. During the period I was there she was up for her review for six months and the bastards –

POM     She was what?

CM     She was up for review of her six month period and so she had to appear before the Magistrate and the Security Branch would then say if they were releasing her or not. They took her there and she didn't know if she would be released or not and the way the law worked if you appeared at the end 180 days they could impose a new 180 day period. So she went to court while I was there and she came back and there was another 180 days. I don't know how much of that she served because about a month later I was released.

POM     You had done?

CM     I did three months and we were together for about two of those months, together in the sense that we were in cells close to each other, not even adjacent, close by. We could shout at each other, we could talk for a period of time. They would separate us every now and again but for a large part of the time, and I knew her very well and it was an incredible experience to be –

POM     What did you do to occupy your time?

CM     The first month I had to read, I mean the Bible was all I had, so I went slowly, slowly through the Bible. Then, I don't know if Mac knows the story, but I decided this was nonsense and I needed to get something more to do and my mother and others had told me one of the things to do was to get into hospital because the quality of the service is better. So I decided to have a little bit of a tantrum to the Major, Major Kruger, a real cow of a woman. So Major Kruger came one morning, she came once a week and said was everything OK, as if you have a bloody choice. I said, "Actually it's not, I'm sick of it." It wasn't very hard and I cried and I screamed and I had a real tantrum and she said in Afrikaans, "These intellectuals", because I was at university I was considered to be an intellectual, "These intellectuals they go mad when they're held in solitary confinement." So she immediately called the Security Branch and she said, "This one is going mad." And she's just a prison wardress, she's not Security Branch, she just didn't want trouble at her prison. So they brought me books immediately afterwards and it was really funny, I never found the woman, they had obviously raided somebody's house, taken some books, novels, and so I read The Catcher in the Rye in jail. It was fabulous, absolutely wonderful, so I got books eventually. Then the university put pressure on them and eventually after a while they allowed me to receive some of my text books. By the third month, or maybe the middle, I did receive books to read, etc., and by then they'd known who the Magoo's bomb was.

     It was a totally stupid, stupid term in jail because all I did was write a statement. They said, "Write a statement", I started it when I was five years old and my first memory and I took days and days and wrote all sorts of crap, all true but completely non-interesting and unimportant stuff. They looked at it, they read it and they had nothing, they arrested me because they could, not because they wanted anything in particular, so it was a complete waste of time. They tried to tell me about how the world – give me some political education and tell me about how I was being misled by these evil communists. It was just a non-event. The interrogation was nothing. There wasn't, unlike others where they were looking for something in particular, with me they were just filling the time.

POM     It was kind of a pro forma - ?

CM     Exactly, there was nothing – by then they didn't think that I had done anything terrible. They said, "Are you a member of the ANC?" and I said, "Of course not and how could I be? I belong to the UDF." Of course I was and I realised quite soon that they didn't know that I was, they sort of thought that I might be but they had no evidence. Then there was a trial I believe, an application by my parents to have me released on the grounds that there was no reason to keep me and the judge said, "Well they say she's a member of the ANC and if she is we have to hold her." So that was rejected and after three months, almost exactly three months they let me out and that was that.

     The irony is that immediately after that the ANC then recruited me into the Intelligence. They figured if I'd managed to survive detention then I ought to be able to help them. So a couple of months after I was released, maybe even weeks, I was approached by Sandy Africa who was at that point involved with the ANC underground as well. She is now in the Intelligence Services in fact, she's working for NIA or one of those. I was involved with the ANC underground. My job was basically to receive information, God knows, I never knew how it was received.

POM     How would you receive it?

CM     Mo Shaik was the boss of that unit, the underground unit, the Intelligence Unit. MO Shaik, and he would get information for me. He had a system obviously where he was paying Security Branch officials who were crooked to give us information and there were reports of UDF and other meetings and I would interpret them, translate them from Afrikaans, I would type them up on the old antique computer that we had and analyse the information and try and figure out who these spooks were, who the spies in the ANC were.

POM     Sorry, trying to find?

CM     Trying to find out – I mean these were reports of meetings that had happened where various people were present, public meetings or private meetings and the idea was to try and find out who the source of this information was and that was the analysis that we needed to do. So a report would come in saying a meeting was held on a certain day, these were the people present and this is what happened at the meeting. And sometimes these were public meetings, sometimes they were small meetings, sometimes I was at those meetings, and the idea was to analyse the information and see if we could figure out who the spy was who was giving this information to the Security Branch and that was the job effectively. Technically we would have to translate it, we'd have to photograph the evidence, create a safe place to keep it and burn the actual reports, do the analysis, all that kind of stuff. I did that for a couple of years until Mac found me.

POM     And were you pretty successful at it?

CM     My job was not high level, I did the fairly low level as an assistant. There were some guys that we thought we knew who they were and what happened with that information I never knew.

POM     Who would you give your analysis to?

CM     To Mo Shaik and he would deal with it. I did that for probably two years or so. Actually more, two, three – more like three or four years, although in the last two I was working more for Mac than I was for Mo.

POM     Would you when you did your analysis say we should look at so-and-so and so-and-so?

CM     That was the idea.

POM     Then they would take it from there and it was out of your hands.

CM     So I did that for a couple of years.

POM     Where were you doing this?

CM     I was studying, I was finishing my BA degree then I was doing my Honours degree and in the last year and a half I was ostensibly registered for a Masters degree which I never did. It was my cover, I never did it. So I did it full time for the last probably 18 months, 1989 and 1990. During that time we used various safe houses which were always an absolute source of terror because I'd have to find it and then – my last house that I used was terrifying, it was a house in a very quiet residential neighbourhood and I'd got it in my name, which I had to do because I had to produce an ID document, etc., all our information was there and we would have the dead letter boxes, secret places where we would keep documents, and I'd work there alone all day and sometimes into the night and the neighbours would see me coming and going at odd times and I had no idea what they thought about what I was doing and if any of them had alerted the police that would have been it.

POM     Was this a white neighbourhood?

CM     It was an Indian neighbourhood. So I felt quite comfortable from that perspective but I clearly wasn't living there. There were people coming and going, Mac would come and go in the last two years, and every morning I went there I was terrified that the police would be waiting for me inside. So it was a fairly hard thing to do but in about - I think it would have been at the end of 1988 I met Mac through Mo Shaik who was obviously part of his network.

POM     Do you remember the circumstances of the meeting?

CM     Yes I remember very well, I think I had come to work, at that point we were working out of Mo Shaik's house in Reservoir Hills in an Indian neighbourhood and I pitched up at work and Mac was hiding in a corner. God knows, was he in a corner? Anyway I was told to come inside and there he was.

POM     This is Mo Shaik's house?

CM     Yes, and I was just pitching up to do my normal job and there was this guy there and Mac's first question to me was, "Do you recognise me?" And I said, "Of course I recognise you, you're Mac Maharaj." He had a disguise, he thought of course he was looking different but it wasn't very hard – he had a disguise and he thought he looked like somebody else but I recognised pretty immediately who it was. He was well known.

POM     A good start!

CM     That was all I remember about the first meeting.

POM     So you'd never met him?

CM     No. I mean there were pictures of him. I imagine I must have recognised him form pictures because I certainly had never met him before. He was delighted at the fact that he thought he had such a good disguise, which he didn't. Then he said that he needed somebody to drive him to Johannesburg, would I go with him but would I change my appearance like dye my hair. I said, "You must be joking, I'm not going to dye my hair." And he started fussing and tying my hair back and telling me to change my appearance. So I said, "Well I'm not going to dye my hair but I will try and change my appearance."

POM     You didn't say you haven't done such a good job yourself?

CM     I should have. I was still being quite respectful.  Absolutely, this was a big leader after all. Quite soon afterwards we travelled to Johannesburg together and started what has become a really good friendship. He's completely unpretentious. He's an arrogant bastard but he's down to earth, he has no formality about him, doesn't pull rank, charming, so we got along famously. Our first incident, I think on that same trip he was speeding and I kept telling him not to speed. I was nervous. I was driving with a bloody fugitive and if I was arrested I'd be bloody arrested for treason as well thanks to his presence. I wasn't exactly comfortable.

POM     Was he still wearing the same disguise?

CM     No I think at that point he bettered it slightly, he did do some better work on it. So we were driving to Jo'burg and he was speeding and of course we were stopped for speeding and I had my name, God knows what it was, my first name – so I had to give the story and he of course had a false ID document.

POM     Did you have a cover name at that time or a document?

CM     I had a cover name but no documents because I wasn't driving him, I was just his companion on the road. They stopped us and we'd been practising, "How old are you and what is your date of birth?" Because that was a trick question if they wanted to catch you out, the police would say how old are you and then ask your date of birth. You say 25 and they say when were you born, and if it's a lie you'll forget. So we'd been practising all our names and all our covers. So the policeman stopped us and they called him out and asked for his ID document and he was quite confident. I of course was quite nervous at this point so I got out and I went and chatted up the traffic cop, flirted with him, I was desperate to get his attention away from this fugitive. So we chatted and chatted and it worked like a gem, the guy barely paid any attention to his form and was chatting to me and I was saying, "You know, this damn husband", I think I said he was my husband, can't remember, "He always speeds and I don't know what to do about this and you should give him a big fine and he deserves it." And it went on and on and the guy was great so we got out of there and it was such a relief because it was his first run-in with officialdom for Christ's sake, it was quite scary. Then we got to Johannesburg.

POM     Was he impressed by the way you'd handled it?

CM     Thoroughly impressed. I think that's why he got me to drive him on many of his trips, he knew I could bullshit my way out. Then we went and we had to look for some Canadian couple who had come here – that was the first trip, they had come to SA to prepare for him but he hadn't contacted them for like a year or something and they were living in Johannesburg and one of them was a schoolteacher, I don't even remember their names, and one of them worked at Exclusive Books and I had to go and find this Canadian woman. They had a code which they had been given and I had to go and find her in Hillbrow I think where she was working at Exclusive Books and tell her in whatever the code was that he'd finally arrived. Then I think we went and met them at their house and they'd rented an enormous mansion in Hyde Park I think it was. It was a house with no furniture because they were simply living waiting for Mac to arrive and they didn't know what to do. So they were living this sort of existence waiting for their job to actually start. They had a cottage and I think he was going to occupy it, or we were actually going to occupy this little cottage that they had. That was the start of a year and a half of commuting between Jo'burg and Durban and doing these various things for him.

POM     Did the Canadian couple ever turn up?

CM     We found them, oh yes, and they had a cottage and the first few times we stayed at the cottage at their house, or at some point, I don't know if it was the first time, but yes we did. They stayed for a couple of years and I don't actually know what happened to them after Vula ended, I don't know what happened to them.

POM     So when Mac would come into the country his entry point generally would be - ?

CM     Well you have to fly through Jo'burg. I would see him off. A few times I saw him off in Jo'burg and then I would meet him when he comes in. Did I ever meet him? I know I saw him off at least once and with a false passport he managed to get out and come back in, several times. It was nerve-wracking stuff but he did it all the time.

POM     Did he display any – did he enjoy it?

CM     He loved it, he absolutely – he was like a little boy who was playing a game and beating the authorities. He loved it. I am sure there was anxiety, there was anxiety for his family, of course that was all there, but there was an absolute delight that he experienced in just beating these bastards. Without a doubt, I am sure you can see it when he talks about it. It was like we've got them once again and every time there would be any run in, every time he had to do anything official and we could do it, he was thrilled at the success of the operation.

POM     Now did you have a part of using the communication system?

CM     I had to, the one job I used to hate doing because I used to get so irritated, I used to type for him. So he'd type messages which were all coded so I never knew what the hell was in it. My role was never intellectual, as he told you, the bastard, it was simply to do things for him, to type things up or help encrypt it or drive him or find a safe house. I was his dogsbody rather than his great aide.

POM     You were his what?

CM     A dogsbody, I did all his sort of –

POM     What did you call it again? A dog?

CM     A dogsbody. It's a slave.

POM     Particularly South African?

CM     Dogsbody, I don't know. I was a sort of slave for him.

POM     You were a slave? He clicked his fingers and you jumped.

CM     I would have to drive him at short notice, I would have to find him a safe house. There were times I even shopped for his bloody supper. I would type for him, I would pass messages for  him, deliver things for him. I was his slave. Fortunately I got along very well with him and liked the master but that was my relationship. I've never told him that but that's exactly what I was. So I would type things for him and I would get really irritable about how he talked because he would be slow or he would be too fast and so I'd be typing and I'd say, "Do your own fucking typing, don't ask me to do it for you." We had an antique car phone that we would go to Zoo Lake, I live right next to the lake now, but we'd go to Zoo Lake and this was 1989 or something, this was prior cell phone technology and try and send some of the stuff off and it would be a big pain and a big schlep and we wouldn't be able to get it done and it would fail and we'd have to go to a call box, to a phone booth and try and do it there. Then he would send and deliver disks with an air hostess. I'm sure he told you about that.

POM     Antoinette?

CM     That's right, who I met recently in fact for the first time.

POM     You did?

CM     Afterwards. I met her because I would meet her, I was her point of contact. When she arrived we'd drive to Jo'burg to meet her, that was the primary point of coming to Jo'burg other than to talk to people like Cyril, etc. So we'd come to Jo'burg and we'd meet her and I'd collect her and we'd be like friends who were meeting up at the airport and we'd drive to a hotel close by and I think Mac would rent a room for the hour that she was there and we would go and exchange - she'd give him something, he'd give her some document, disks.

POM     These were the encoded, encrypted disks?

CM     Yes. Then she'd go off again. I'd take her to do some shopping at Eastgate and she'd go off back to Holland, I assume that's where she was. About four years ago Mac found her somehow when she was passing through Jo'burg, she's a KLM attendant, and we met her. She still is.

POM     She still is?

CM     Yes. I don't know if she does the SA route any more but she was a key part of his communication success.

POM     I've got her second name, he couldn't remember it and then one morning as he was driving in he said, he looked at something – the Nightingale he used to call her.

CM     That's it, Nightingale. I don't even remember what she called me at that time.

POM     What is her name? I have it down here.

CM     She still flies through here I think.

POM     She does? How would I establish that?

CM     Phone KLM, phone their SA office and ask them. She's a purser so she's quite senior, they should know her.

POM     In the network here that he would deliver messages to, would he meet with Cyril, did you know Cyril at the time?

CM     No I didn't know Cyril but I met him then. In fact I met him, for months I'd see him and I was called Susan, so I'd call him up and say, "Susan."

POM     Sorry, you?

CM     Susan was my code name with Cyril so I would go to his office at NUM, National Union of Mineworkers, and I would call him and say, "It's Susan here, I want to come and see you", and I would meet him and take him to Mac, wherever Mac was. I'd fetch him from his office and drive him to Mac so they would meet every now and again. I actually don't remember if I would pass messages on as well, I don't remember. I met him half a dozen times in his office in town.

POM     And would take him to?

CM     Not all the time. I don't remember what I did the other times, maybe passed on messages, I don't know.

POM     When you say 'passed on' that is deliver something to him or say something to him verbally?

CM     I can't remember, to be honest. I don't remember what I said. That's the part I clearly block.

POM     Cyril will be highly impressed when I talk to him and say, you know Susan –

CM     I bet you he will still remember me as Susan. I've met him only once or twice later and I don't think he ever registered what my own name is, so fortunately he doesn't know who I am so he won't be too worried about it. I really can't remember, they were very brief interactions so I don't think I drove him very often because I would have remembered talking to him a lot more if we were driving alone in the car. It might have  been that Mac was waiting in the car and he'd come, I don't know, I don't remember.

POM     So it would be Cyril, you mentioned Frank Chikane?

CM     I don't remember Frank at all. Momo, Ismail Momoniat, was one of the guys who was a functionary who I also didn't know, I was delivering documents to or talking to but I would fetch somebody and – oh I'd go to a car park, that's what happened. Ah, that's probably what Frank's was. They'd meet in a car park and I would drive Mac there.

POM     This would be Mac would go, you'd drive Mac to a car park.

CM     I would drive to a car park, there would be a car there. I would just sit in my car and not see who – Mac would slip out of the car, go into the other car, talk to the other person and then come back to me. So I never saw most of who these people were. I never saw any of them in fact because it was dark and I didn't want to see anyway.

POM     So you'd do it at night?

CM     We would do it at night and I have no idea where it was. It was in Jo'burg but at this point I lived in Durban so I didn't know Jo'burg very well.

POM     Would he have to direct you to where - ?

CM     Absolutely. He knew Jo'burg, he remembered it from when he used to be here and I haven't got a clue where we used to go except for Zoo Lake and Hyde Park and Hillbrow which we'd visit often. I don't know anywhere of the places that he took me to. I don't even remember where we stayed a lot of the time. So I can't tell you about any of the others other than Cyril.

POM     He was in contact with key people in the UDF giving messages to them.

CM     Oh yes. One of the people who he was in regular contact with was Valli Moosa because I remember having meetings with both of them, sending messages to them. Once I came up to Jo'burg, I seem to think even alone, and had to give a message to Valli Moosa to give to Walter Sisulu.

POM     Walter was out then, right?

CM     Yes, Walter had come out, probably not very long, just a couple of months and Valli was in contact with him. I don't remember – I think it was just before Mac got arrested, not even sure about that.

POM     So when Nyanda got arrested – now did you ever know that Nyanda was part of Vula?

CM     Yes. He used to come to my safe house where I was doing my intelligence work because he would occasionally meet people there as well, so I knew him, I knew him vaguely. I never did anything with him directly but we'd met and I knew who he was. I didn't have much contact with him, I knew him and I met him and I knew what he was doing and I knew that he was part of Vula but we had very little contact.

POM     So when he was arrested?

CM     Yes, when he was arrested I actually went to the court appearance. I can't remember why. I was asked to go and he looked haggard, it wasn't clear what had happened. He'd been tortured I understood and we understood that a whole lot of disks had been found, there had been a Communist Party workshop meeting in Shaka's Rock on the North Coast of KZN, Tongaat. It seems as if all our names were there.

POM     These were unencrypted disks?

CM     Which their codes were available for I thought. They managed to unencrypt them or decrypt them so I understood that they had all the information. I don't know if that's true or not but my understanding was that when they found the disks they were able to get in and read them. Is that true?

POM     My understanding is that they found a large number of tapes that had been unencrypted and had not been recrypted, someone screwed up.

CM     Yes that's exactly what I heard. So they were able to read it.

POM     Just read it straight out.

CM     So all our names apparently had been there and Yunus Mohammed who had been acting for him said that we must assume that they know everything, is what the message was, and so be careful. This was August or so of 1990 and I think he was arrested around July/August and I had, when Mac was arrested, decided to go and study in the UK and so I left in September.

POM     He was then in jail?

CM     He was in jail at that point.

POM     And you had secured a scholarship in?

CM     I secured a scholarship in about July of that year.

POM     For somebody who didn't go to class at all you were doing pretty good.

CM     I did do rather well in English, interestingly enough, through sheer luck I think, I got a first but that was because I read a lot rather than because I was studying very hard, and so I got into a Development Studies course at Sussex University and I got a scholarship on the back of an anti-apartheid history, Canon Collins scholarship. I applied in June or July, I got the scholarship, I think I was only informed in August that I got it and the ANC, Mo Shaik, was trying to persuade me not to go, that it was disloyal, that I should stay and I felt terribly guilty and eventually –

POM     They all got arrested.

CM     They were all in jail for one thing and the cops knew of my existence and knew what I'd been up to and I thought I'm not going to hang around here and go to jail again and this time it would be for a long time. So I went to the UK in September 1990. In fact in 1990 I had, just in January, been sent to the Soviet Union for training. I forgot about that, I was sent to Moscow for training in intelligence in December of 1989. In fact I was in Moscow when Mandela was released in February, I was there for three months and Mac was there. I met Mac as well in Moscow, it was just weird, he just sort of pitched up and I had no idea he was there. He'd probably arranged it all. I went and basically received intelligence training, not of a particularly great standard I should say, but nevertheless it was a lot of stuff that we already knew and lots of stuff that I would never use like how to make a false passport, which I've forgotten how to do but I learnt.

     I had been there for three months, came back, carried on.

POM     What was Moscow like?

CM     Horrendous. It was cold, it was midwinter, we were cooped up in a flat. It was at the time when Yeltsin was just about to take power so there were marches through the streets. We were under strict instructions to stay away from all public places so we were holed up in a horrible KGB flat for three months in midwinter with the only highlight being when Mac pitched up we all went out and drank lots of vodka with the KGB.

POM     When he turned up you all went out and had a bottle of vodka with the KGB?

CM     Many, many bottles of vodka and lots of toasts to everyone's struggle and grannies and all sorts of things. So that's what we did for three months and he was there for probably just a couple of days. It was great having him there but the training was a complete waste of our time, we could have been much more useful here.

     So by the time September came I was ready to leave and get out of all of this world and I was terrified. I had got married in September and left immediately afterwards.

POM     You got married in September and left in September?

CM     I got married and I left in September and wasn't – we were in hiding. Once he was arrested we were all terrified that –

POM     Was your husband involved too?

CM     He was involved as well. He was involved in something else but not directly, he was working closely with Billy Nair who was also involved with Vula obviously but in a different capacity. But I had been exposed to this Tongaat conference and the lawyer had said they know.

POM     You had been at Tongaat?

CM     I was there. I don't know what I was doing, I can't remember to be honest. I wasn't playing a very important role, I was just there.

POM     Were you a member of the SACP?

CM     I was yes.

POM     When did you join? Did you join that prior to joining the ANC?

CM     It was about the same time I think. I think the ANC recruitment and SACP were pretty much at the same time because the fact is that the organisations were pretty much entwined but there was a different group of people and I did almost nothing for the SACP. I joined and then I did nothing and it was really just a membership in name.

POM     Nyanda was at that meeting in Tongaat.

CM     He was there as well, yes.

POM     That was his code name, that's the Joe and they mistook that for Joe Slovo.

CM     Is that so? I didn't realise that.

POM     When they got that documentation they thought it was Joe Slovo so De Klerk went to Mandela and, this is coming up to the Groote Schuur Minute, the one in Cape Town, the first meeting between the government and the ANC.

CM     Groote Schuur.

POM     Yes. So De Klerk came to him and said that Slovo couldn't be on his team because they had information that he had been involved in a conference that was planning the overthrow of the government.

CM     Oh because Gebhuza, which is what Nyanda's name was, was also called Joe wasn't he.

POM     Yes, that's right. So Mandela said no and Slovo said, "I can show that I was out of the country", and he showed Mandela his passport that showed he was in Tanzania or some place on the day he was supposed to be in Tongaat.

CM     I know Slovo was definitely not in Tongaat, that I would have remembered.

POM     So Mandela stood De Klerk down on the issue and Slovo attended it. But what was Tongaat about?

CM     This is a part that I've completely forgotten. I have no memory of it other than more or less where the place was. I have no idea what I was there for. There were a group of us from Intelligence and I'm embarrassed to say I don't know what we were doing there. I'm sure we had some very important role to play.

POM     That is the best quality an intelligence agent can have is a memory like a sieve.

CM     I guess that it was sort of a deliberate thing to hear no evil and do no evil but I genuinely don't remember what it was. It was some kind of policy discussion but God knows what was actually happening. I certainly wasn't in the room for any of the discussions. I think I was there as an intelligence agent as a security, to make sure – see what was happening on the outside. Other than that I don't know why we were there. It's an incredible black hole in my memory which I'm delighted about because then I have nothing to lie about.

     I unfortunately have another five minutes and then I must go.

POM     OK, so you went to the UK.

CM     Then I went to the UK and I got on the plane just having got married and wasn't sure if I was going to – when the plane took off it was such a feeling of relief because I wasn't sure if I was going to be arrested. It was that close because people were being arrested, everyone was being arrested and Mo Shaik was arrested, Dipak Patel who was one of the guys who worked with Mac as well was arrested, and they were all going so it was terrifying. This time they were genuinely looking for people that they wanted to beat up and this was going to be a serious detention, this was not going to be like my first encounter. So I went off to the UK and spent two years and came back and worked for a bit and then did a PhD, again also in the UK partly and partly in SA.

POM     At?

CM     At Sussex, and came back and joined the Development Bank and I have become a sort of investment banker for the DBSA, so the world is slightly different now.

POM     OK. I know you have to run. I'll get this transcribed and then I'll come back to you with the transcription.

CM     There's nothing else that you want to know?

POM     Maybe but you have to run now.

CM     I've got another five minutes if you want.

POM     Nothing immediately comes to my head but when I go through the transcript I'll send it to you. Do you have an e-mail address?

CM     An e-mail address. Let me give you my card.  (break in recording)

     We were driving in the midlands from Jo'burg to Durban and we were having a really loud argument about something and then I think he fell asleep. I don't know what it was but at some point –

POM     In the middle of the argument?

CM     No, no, I think he was sulking and he fell asleep and then we ran out of petrol. I suddenly realised that I had forgotten to stop to fill up and I said, "Oh my God! We have no petrol." And he sort of was smug because now I had erred and made a mistake and he said, "Yes, you see we're going to get into trouble because of you", and it was a dreadful incident. I was terrified because we were going to get lost in the middle of nowhere. Anyway we managed to find a petrol station.

POM     He didn't mind did he?

CM     He was quite smug about it because I had made a mistake and so he could say to me, "You see how useless you are." So he remembers this story better than I do. I've blocked this one off but he behaved badly as he often did.

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