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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 Nov 2002: Joseph, Paul
POM Is it OK if I call you Paul?
PJ That's fine.
POM Paul, what I like to do with everybody that I interview is first of all tell me a little bit about themselves, where you were born, your family, how you were brought up, the circumstances you were brought up in, what first made you aware of your family being oppressed, what's led you in the political direction that those feelings of being oppressed took you? So let's start with when you were born.
PJ I was born in Johannesburg, 1 June 1930. I was born in a locality referred to as Ferreirastown but commonly referred to as Malay Camp. Apparently, according to the stories, the term Malay Camp arose when the gold mining industry that had developed in Johannesburg was short of craftsmen and so on, skilled workers, they needed certain kinds of work to be done so they brought from Cape Town the descendants of Malay slaves who were astute and skilled in certain areas of timber work and so forth and so on, and they brought them and settled them in a particular area near the gold mining centre. This was dubbed as Malay Camp and a suburb grew around it, a suburb of black people. This suburb was multiracial in the sense that it had Africans, coloureds, Indians and Maronites, these were the Maronite Christians of the Lebanese community, so we all lived cheek by jowl there and it turned out to be one huge slum. Malay Camp was within the suburb of Ferreirastown and this was like maybe half a mile or three quarters of a mile from the centre of the city. It was a fairly large slum locality.
So I was brought up in this locality. I am one of ten children. My father came from India and my mother was widowed twice so she had to fend for herself and bring up these ten children.
POM She had to bring up ten? Now did they come directly from India?
PJ No, they were all born in South Africa.
POM They were born in SA.
PJ Born in SA. From her first marriage she had five children, the second five children.
POM But her parents were both of your parents' parents were from India?
PJ From South India. They didn't come as indentured labourers, they came the term referred to them was 'passenger Indians'. Then as time went along and the kids grew up
POM How did she take care of the ten of you?
PJ Well by the time my father died my sister must have been about 16, my elder brother was perhaps 13 or so, they went out to go and work and they earned a few shillings a week. My mother somehow managed but I do know that as kids we used to go and pick up coal on the railway tracks, we used to collect wild spinach and we'd go down to the market place and she'd buy boxes of tomatoes and vegetables and so on and sell some of it and retain the rest for household needs.
POM How many rooms were the ten of you living in?
PJ Two rooms. There was an outside toilet, there was an outside tap and they were used by a whole crowd of families so the toilet was always overflowing, the tap was always running, there were queues of people collecting buckets of water and so on. There was no electricity in these old rented premises owned largely by white landlords and eventually my elder sister got a better job, she worked in a laundry for five and a half or six days a week earning five shillings a week.
POM In a laundromat earning five shillings?
PJ Not a laundromat, just a hand wash and ironing, earning five shillings a week, starting like six in the morning till six in the evening. My elder brother went round selling flowers to offices in the city and he brought in some income. My mother retained the second eldest daughter in school and she was very keen to become a teacher. In those days it was frowned upon for young Indian girls to be seen at high school, the view was that young girls should be kept at home and get prepared for marriage, but my sister was adamant that she wanted to become a teacher and my mother kept her in school and sent her to college and she managed to get a teacher's training. So the first regular income was from her which was then about £8 a month. So gradually things improved and many years later of course my brother got married.
POM When we began speaking your voice was much louder, so go back to that I'm a bit deaf, and you'll come over on the tape better so Judy won't be going, what is he saying?
PJ All right. So we lost a number of brothers and sisters in the family due to illnesses, they died and so on. Eventually we moved to Fordsburg.
POM Where in the family did you come?
PJ I was the second youngest. But before we moved to Fordsburg, Ferreirastown, as I recall as a child, there were a number of meetings held there. I discovered many years later of course that the headquarters of the local Communist Party was a couple of blocks away from us so there were always meetings and demonstrations which I really did not have any idea what it was all about but I knew about lots of police raids for what was supposed to have been illicit beer brewing. I knew about the shebeens run by the Maronite sections of the community and there was always a police presence there and there was always quite a bit of violence between the drinkers, prostitutes, the police and so on. It was a typical slum with all the tensions and so on. By a strange set of experiences, and like happened to other families, nobody ever interfered with us. They accepted us and in many cases they even protected us.
Already there was some kind of a political atmosphere which I could detect and determine, I must have been about ten or eleven years old, through most of Fordsburg. In Fordsburg we lived in two rooms and a kitchen, very tiny rooms and kitchen, we had a toilet in the back yard and a tap and we were only three families so life was less stressful there than in Ferreirastown. Fordsburg was predominantly occupied by the white working class people. In its heyday it had it's own MP for the Labour Party. It was a power base for the white Labour Party in that particular area. So the facilities they left behind like tarred roads and pavements, electric lights in the streets and so on, was quite a boon to us.
POM So they began to move out as you began to move in?
PJ They moved out and working class black people started moving in. Of course most of the property was still white owned. On the fringes of Fordsburg there were still some poor white families too poor to move out and on the odd occasion there was a bit a friction between them and us, more between the school kids because one of their schools was right in the heart of Fordsburg and it was called The Good Hope School I think it was and the white kids had to go there so there were always some kind of skirmishes between them and us. But as there were fewer and fewer whites the school had less children. Eventually it was handed over to the Indian community and they sent their kids to that school.
Fordsburg had a history, or was beginning to have a history, of black political awareness. It originally used to have white political awareness in the form of the Labour Party. Now the war was on and there was a lot of activity in the area. Where we lived was a couple of blocks away from what used to be, or is referred to today as Red Square. That used to be a synagogue. I believe it was the second oldest synagogue in Johannesburg and most of the Jewish people by then had moved out and had gone to Doornfontein, Berea and Yeoville so the synagogue was hardly used and it became to an extent disused and it was demolished. That must have been round about 1942 or so. By 1943 the Communist Party came to hold meetings on the site and they dubbed that space the Red Square, so that was the first Red Square in Johannesburg. The other Red Square was in Durban, it was much later. It was called the Red Square I think largely because of the Battle of Stalingrad. So there were lots of political meetings and as kids we used to go off and wander to see what was happening there and we used to hear these guys talking and of course we developed an interest.
POM Would these be African, Indian?
PJ They were mainly Indians and some whites. There were one or two Africans who appeared to be members of the Communist Party but these were largely adults, there were really no young people. Quite often there were a load of dogs and young people listening to the speakers. Most of the adults just walked past. But the party persisted in having these meetings and as events developed more and more people came to the meetings and we got very interested.
In 1943 there was a campaign which we noticed developing in the area, a campaign within the Indian Congress to get Dr Yusuf Dadoo elected as President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, so we were aware of these events because a lot of the kids whose parents were supporting the so-called right wing faction or right wing leadership, their children were in our school.
POM Of the Indian Congress?
PJ Of the Indian community so there were all kinds of little debates going on between the supporters of SM Nana and Yusuf Dadoo. Now for Yusuf Dadoo there was a great deal of popularity, (a) he was a doctor which was very rare in those days in that area, (b) he seemed to have among his supporters all sections of the community and (c) he was described as a communist which was something new to us because we didn't really know what communists were but they seemed to be the kind of people that got on very well with people and that sort of guy we liked. So we were curious and we used to go and listen to these meetings and we went to the rallies where they held them and I don't suppose anybody really paid any attention to us, we were just kids.
But by then I had developed a group of friends, school friends, some of them were neighbourhood friends, and we got interested and the person, or two persons who really caught my attention at the Red Square meetings were Ismail Meer and JN Singh. They spoke at these meetings and of course I would be asking questions and they would respond to these questions and before I knew it I had a group of chaps hovering over me wanting to know where did I get to know about these questions. JN Singh invited me to come to the Johannesburg City Hall steps, the Communist Party had a platform there every Sunday night and he said to me, "Well if you want learn more come to those meetings there", which I did and of course I did learn more and I did get involved by participating in those meetings and listened to the speakers and saw what was referred to as the Grey Shirts and the fascists come and try and bash up these meetings and I saw members of the Communist Party defending the speakers on the platform. That is how actually it drew me into the movement. By 1946 of course the Indian Congress launched it's Passive Resistance Campaign and the volunteers from Natal who broke the ban by entering the province of Transvaal broke the law by coming to squat on the Red Square, so this was a big political impact in our lives in that locality. That's really how I got involved.
POM The Passive Resistance Campaign was the first act, in a way, of resistance against
PJ Racial discrimination.
POM Against racial discrimination, so I have been making the point that in an odd way it was the Indian Congress that provided the impetus for the ANC to get its act together and get slightly more aggressive about the way they went about things.
PJ Now that you say that, the ANC was at its weakest point. They used to meet just annually in Bloemfontein. They had some fine speeches, they had a very fine President, but that's the furthest it went. It was the Indian Congress and the Communist Party that largely militated against the system. It was the Communist Party through the African Mineworkers Union under the legendary leadership of JB Marks who brought about the 1946 Mineworkers strike. It was the Indian Congress that got the whole question of racial discrimination on the agenda at the UN.
POM This was the 1946 Mineworkers strike?
PJ 1946, Mineworkers strike, August.
POM Because there was a Mineworkers strike in but that was in Newcastle in 1930.
PJ Yes, there were earlier strikes. A lot of the earlier strikes were not necessarily union organised, they were sometimes spontaneous, sometimes retaliation by mineworkers against the white miners and so on, but in an organised fashion the first union organised strike was the 1946 strike and as a young person I got involved in that, distributing leaflets and going to solidarity meetings and so on at the Newtown Market Square and we went around gingering up support. We got really no support from the general public, the general public being largely the African workers. The Communist Party, I recall vividly, wanted to call a general strike. The general strike completely flopped because the Communist Party did not have that appeal to the African working class as such and the ANC, as I said, was a very weak organisation, so that was a bit of a disaster in trying to get general support for the strike, the people were quite alienated from the strike. We are talking of workers living under compound conditions who had no contact with the settled workers in the townships, there was no forum, no channel of connection. So that was part of the weakness of that. I think it was perhaps a weak analysis.
POM Why at that time would a person of Indian descent be head of the Mineworkers Union?
PJ J B Marks was African, there was no Indian in the union as such. The last Indian miners were in Natal in the time of Gandhi. There were a few Indian miners on the East Rand, the Reef, who had been working mainly on the surface and doing odd jobs. Adelaide's father, my wife, her father was one of the last Indian miners living in that locality. My brother's father-in-law was another of the miners. There were still a few Indian miners left that worked on the gold mines on the East Rand but they were not unionised as such so the union had no direct connection with Indian workers or the Indian political leadership but they, the African Mineworkers Union, did get financial support in the sense that JB Marks was a recognised person, not only as a leader of the union but of the Communist Party and his standing was very high in the Indian community. He was a very familiar figure so it was not difficult for him to go around and get support from Indians.
As I said that's roughly the way I got involved. By the same token I had brought in a number of other young people with me, my two brothers, Reggie Vandeyar, Barney Desai. Barney died a couple of years ago. He had been with me in the Young Communist League, eventually went to Cape Town, got influenced by the Unity Movement, made his way to India then came back. He seemed to be fairly influenced by the Chinese revolution. Then went to England and met up with Vella Pillay and became heavily influenced by Vella Pillay and then made his way back to SA just before the launching of the Defiance Campaign and established himself as a rising young leader of the Indian Youth Congress. He became a leader of what was called the Coloured People's Congress in the Cape. Barney Desai's parents fell into two categories. His father was an Indian in the Transvaal and his mother had come from the so-called Malay community, so Barney had the dubious position of being an Indian in the Transvaal and a Malay in the Cape so he didn't have to carry a permit. He could filter across the provinces without being restricted. There were some of these advantages.
POM And your other brother?
PJ My two brothers became members that's Daso in south London and Peter who is still in Johannesburg. Daso joined the Young Communist League and my brother later joined the Communist Party and they stayed ever since, right through the period and as you probably know, Mac would have told you, Das was very involved with Mac, and Peter on a different level, more in a social context with Mac and Tim, were able to receive them in their homes and so on. But Peter didn't work directly with Mac and if he did I wouldn't have known. It was a period we never discussed the work relationship for security reasons. There was no point in asking who was doing what. Sometimes perhaps you would stumble onto something and you kept quiet.
That was the first part a rather long answer I must say.
POM That's all right, it's fine.
PJ All right then. So your next question?
POM It's the early 1950s, the Defiance Campaign.
PJ Well I got involved with the movement from then onwards right through.
POM That's with the SACP?
PJ SACP, Indian Congress. I was involved in the trade union movement. I was a leather worker. I was involved in the Leatherworkers Union. Then I worked with other unions, with the comrades involved in those unions. I got to know a lot of the trade unionists. I worked very closely with New Age and Fighting Talk, I was on the editorial board of Fighting Talk. I worked very closely with New Age and especially with Ruth First. We not only sold the paper on a regular basis, which became a very important function for us, we also had to raise money for the paper and assist the paper wherever possible.
POM Now Ruth First's involvement came through her father, was it her father?
PJ Her father was on the Central Committee of the Communist Party at one time. The mother joined the Communist Party. In the old days there was a lot of bickering because they tried to keep the mother out of the party and said she had come from a bourgeois background and that Ruth's father was a factory owner and so on. There was a lot of this kind of rubbish going on in those days, looking for puritans and so on, but as it turned out both her father and mother were assets to the party.
POM Now did you work for - ?
PJ I worked for Julius First.
POM For the father.
PJ For the father in the factory, I worked for him. I became a kind of a supervisor in his factory and very much a PA to him in relationship to the workers. He would consult me on various things for the workers, providing meals for them, various facilities, and I was brought in to take the responsibility of organising that side of it. So I had a good relationship with him but it wasn't based on the political relationship, it was very professional. I used to call him Mr First and I always made sure that I was at work and did my job as a worker. I didn't want to abuse my position because I happened to be a friend of his daughter. I was not employed as a friend of his daughter, I was employed as the need required for him to have somebody to carry out a certain function. So on one occasion when I couldn't come to work, I had to go to a conference, I asked that he deduct my pay and when I got my pay I found my pay wasn't deducted, I went back to him and I said, "But you know I did tell you that I'm taking off these days and they were not for personal reasons but for some work I had to do." He was very annoyed and asked me to leave the office but I felt as a matter of principal that if I was maintaining a professional relationship with him then like all the other workers if I was absent from work I should have my pay deducted. But I think he understood a little bit more than that so I didn't enter into a debate with him but when I was brought up for treason I was able to retain my job with Julius First and whenever the court was in recess I made a point of going to work even if it was for half a day, but I always made a point of reporting for duty. Then in 1960 I was detained for about four or five months and he made sure that my wife got my regular salary so from that point of view he was a very decent employer and I made sure that I carried out my work to the best of my abilities.
POM And he was a member of the Central Committee?
PJ In the early days.
POM The early days, OK. Just to back up, we have the treason trial in 1956 which lasted through, and that dragged on for
PJ That dragged on for a couple of years but by 1958 I was among the first batch to be acquitted and then they reduced the numbers and the trial continued in Pretoria where I was appearing for a while until the first indictment was quashed. The second lot of people were charged, they were re-arrested in court and we were let out so the trial did drag on. What had happened again, by the time the trial dragged on the state of emergency broke out so I was put back into detention where I met all the trialists again.
POM How long were you in detention for?
PJ From the beginning of the state of emergency until the end of the emergency, I think I must have been the last four or five held in Pretoria and then released.
POM For how long would that have been?
PJ From March till about August.
POM Were you held in single cells or were there groups?
PJ No, the first detentions we were held in large groups. We were separated from the African and the white comrades, they had separate cells for the Indians and we were given a separate diet which we didn't take very kindly to but then it was suggested we take the meals that they were going to give us as a diet which was written in the penal code as a result of Gandhi's involvement in the early days of imprisonment, and that we'd ask for facilities to cook Indian food, which we did, and gave it to the African comrades. So in a way it had its value although in principle it was a discriminating thing but the reality was somebody could have some decent food.
POM Gandhi having been in SA and been the founder of the Indian Congress and then when he came to world attention during the war of independence in Indian, how would you judge Gandhi's influence on the Congress and on thinking on the way to resist, the non-violent approach? Was it a major influence? Was it something that was discussed among one of many approaches that was discussed or was he a figure of stature that was looked at as somebody whose teachings, particularly with regard to political resistance, should be followed?
PJ Well Gandhi left the shores of SA in 1914. He made an impact on the community there and he was perhaps among the first black leaders to galvanise people into political action. Now we had the ANC just formed in 1912, we had the African People's Organisation formed in 1906 by Dr Abdurahman but neither of these bodies actually got people into political action. Gandhi was the first and in pioneering terms the Indian Congress was formed in 1894 much earlier and before any others. That was fine, it politicised the Indian community and he developed his weapon of 'satyagrana'. He left SA in 1914, went to India and got involved in the Indian Independence Movement. When he left there was a political vacuum in terms of militant leadership, there was nobody else to take his place and what we had was the emergence of petty bourgeois middle class Indians who believed in making representations to the state through petitions, appeals and so on and in that context it was understandable. The Communist Party and other unions, trade unions, were not really strong enough, sufficient enough to give that kind of leadership. There was a big weakness there even though there was a large Indian working class in Durban.
The next political awakening, in the sense of the word, started developing in 1939. That was just a few years before Dadoo's arrival from Edinburgh as a qualified doctor. Now Dadoo had been involved in the left movement in England and he came to SA fired by the concept of revolution and struggle and he took on the challenge in SA and it was quite an uphill fight to get the leadership of the Indian Congress. Then of course he got involved in the right things. For instance, unlike Gandhi, he saw the prime factor was the liberation of the African people who were the most persecuted in terms of the pass laws, the savagery and so on, and he understood that the freedom of the Indian people would never come on its own without their involvement with the African people for the future of the liberation of SA. He had that foresight and he was able to convince a large number of people that that was the path that the Indian community had to take.
Now whilst that was the path what was the strategy? The Indians were in no position to offer any other kind of resistance but the legacy which Gandhi left them which was passive resistance. Now lots of militants, even in the Communist Party kind of pooh-poohed the idea. I do recall that when Dadoo and Naicker launched the Passive Resistance Campaign there were very few members of the Communist Party from the white side who came and actively supported the struggle and offered to go the prison. A lot of them didn't think that the form of passive resistance was a revolutionary struggle because they were ideologically reared on the whole concept of the revolution in Russia, take to the barrel of the gun. That situation didn't prevail historically in SA so they pooh-poohed the idea. One of the most outstanding Indian Communist leaders, HA Naidoo who was sent to the UN to lobby for support for the Indian cause, himself never volunteered for passive resistance and yet he would go and argue on behalf of the UN. So there was this kind of dilemma set within the ranks of the Communist Party but it was Dadoo, Seedat and Naicker, who was no communist, who understood the complexities of the situation.
POM You said Seedat?
PJ Dawood Seedat. He was imprisoned also for his Anti-Pass Campaign, he was quite a radical and militant in Durban. So Dadoo kind of imbued the people and that's how he built his base so when 1946 came and the time the Passive Resistance Campaign was over some 2000 people actually had courted imprisonment. Now if you take that figure in ratio to the Indian community and the population of that time, and I'm speaking off the top of my head I can't actually recall the actual figure, the population would have been round about 300,000, so when you take 2000 people out of that who are actively involved in some kind of passive resistance, call it whatever you want to, but taking an active measure against racial discrimination, that's a fairly high ratio. That did impact on the Indian community because you could judge from the rallies that were held, thousands of people would turn up. Now we had rallies in Johannesburg and the Indian population at that time in the Transvaal was in the figure of 30,000 plus and you'd have a rally of 7000 people. Now you're talking of very high ratios. You're talking of a high degree of political awareness.
Dr Naicker once in an interview with an English author was asked what was the membership of the Indian Congress. The Indian Congress was based on a membership organisation unlike the Transvaal Indian Congress and Dr Naicker gave the figure of 30,000 members. That's an exceptionally high figure. The Transvaal Indian Congress had an open membership. The constitution said every Indian over the age of 18 is automatically a member of the Indian Congress. We must have been the only political organisation in the world to have that kind of membership.
Again, it set a pace and on the basis of that kind of struggle we were able to continue for very many years to politicise people because then came the next turning point that was the Defiance Campaign. We went through that phase and from the Defiance Campaign when all our attempts at non-violent struggles were being frustrated, you know the history of how we switched over to armed struggle in 1961, that's the phase that we're primarily concerned with, with Mac's arrival.
POM I want to go back a bit to the Indian phase because that has fascinated me in a particular way that such a small minority that really only arrived on the shores of SA well it wasn't even SA, on the African continent in the 19th century almost immediately became in one way or another very highly politicised and in a way were the driving force behind further developments in the SACP and in the ANC.
POM Did you at that point in Johannesburg know Kathy? Was he part of your - ?
PJ Yes he was. We were more or less contemporaries in the Youth Movement. I was in the Young Communist League, Kathy was in the Communist Party.
POM Yes, and then you had the Pahad brothers.
PJ They came much later, of course they are much younger people, they came much later. Pahad's father, Goolam Pahad, and his mother were already veteran leaders of the Indian Congress. The mother had gone to prison in 1946 and Pahad hadn't gone to prison as a passive resister but was taken in as a detainee in 1960. That's Essop and Aziz's father.
POM Essop's father, OK.
PJ Essop and Aziz were involved in the youth section of the Indian Congress. Then after some years they got banned and they left SA. Essop I do know was detained in 1960 and I think was placed in Boksburg Prison. Aziz wasn't detained but both of them had banning orders slapped on them and they took an exit permit and left SA, much to the regret of the Youth Congress because they didn't want them to leave and leaders of the Indian Youth Congress asked me to speak to the Pahad brothers and I tried to talk with Essop to arrange a meeting with him and he always gave me the slip, I couldn't catch him. Eventually I did catch him in the street in Johannesburg and I talked to him and I said, "Well I have this request from the Indian Youth Congress leaders that they value his involvement and his leadership in the Youth Congress and they regret that he has to leave SA." And his response was that, "Well their studies came first." So I said, "Well that's true up to a point but bear in mind that some of our most leading students and leading political figures in SA continued and did their studies very well", and I gave the examples of Joe Slovo, Harold Wolpe, Bob Hepple, Harold Sundrum and various people who studied and continued their political involvement. But Pahad wouldn't accept any form of reasoning and they left on exit permits.
POM Now you first met Ruth First when?
PJ Well I actually met Ruth First entering a building, on approaching a particular building, Kholbad House (that's the house that Kathy lived in, the building). I was selling flowers she would be coming, she was walking down from the Johannesburg Library locality in Market Street and I was carrying bundles of flowers which we were selling on a Saturday on street corners and so on and I looked at this, what I thought was a very, very beautiful woman, unusually on the dark side. I couldn't figure out her background and she gave me a wonderful smile and I responded. The next time I noticed her entering a building in the Indian locality in Market Street and this struck me as a bit unusual. Of course I discovered later on that she was visiting Ismail Meer in the building who was a student at that time. Now Ismail was the guy that I used to hear speak on Sundays and then her name was being mentioned more and more and she was a leader in the Young Communist League and she edited a paper, I think it was called Challenge, the organ of the Young Communist League, and I got to know her very bright, very sharp, very attractive and there was something about her face that struck a high degree of honesty. We got to know each other, we got on exceptionally well and we remained friends for all the years.
POM You later served with her on the Central Committee of the Communist Party?
PJ No I never served with her on the Central Committee of the Communist Party. I was in the membership of the Communist Party I was not on the Central Committee, but I worked with her on various committees and I worked with her on the editorial board of Fighting Talk. We had a very close relationship, working relationship, with her insofar as New Age was concerned. That's where I was coming in to raise money to sell the paper, to set up units to do the door to door sales and so on.
POM Now was she involved in writing for that or was she - ?
PJ She was the Johannesburg editor.
POM The Johannesburg editor?
PJ Editor of New Age. She turned out to be a very talented and very courageous journalist and she often told me that a lot of her experience she gave credit to Henry Khumalo who was one of the Drum correspondents. Drum magazine. There are two ways of spelling it, you can spell it with an X or a K, Khumalo. So she also learnt from various foreign correspondents some of the tricks of the trade and she often told me these things and it shows the value of being in touch with people and a lot of the journalists were very sympathetic, especially the foreign correspondents. Then she got to know some of the SA journalists very well. One of her great friends was Stanley Uys and they got on exceptionally well and she got to know a lot from Stanley about the shenanigans going on in the political area of the NP. He was writing for the Daily Mail at the time. He was an astute political correspondent. I think at the same time he was also a correspondent for The Times of India, I think his stuff appeared in different parts of the world.
POM So that would take us along to where you first met Mac.
PJ Right. Now I met Mac in the Drill Hall in 1957. He was on his way to London and I understood him to come into London to study.
POM So Mac first met you when he was on his way out of the country, he had come from Durban?
PJ Stopped in Johannesburg.
POM How did he know you?
PJ I think he must have known me by various reports in New Age.
POM Of course he worked for New Age in Durban.
PJ So the name would have got around and he came to visit people at the Drill Hall. At that stage he didn't know many people except those from Durban like MP Naicker, Billy Nair, Kista(?) Moonsamy, Dr Naicker, Manny Pillay. Who else was there? There were a couple of Indians from Natal.
POM The Hall is spelt?
PJ Drill Hall Johannesburg. It was a kind of a military premises in the old days. The army carried out certain practices there. It was converted into a courthouse. That's when I met him there. So I didn't have any contact with him after that.
POM So you met him there?
PJ Yes, when he came to the courthouse I was one of the guys he met. I understood he was going to come to England to study. I left it at that.
POM Your next encounter with him?
PJ The next encounter was when Kathrada came to see me and told me that he has a directive from the Communist Party that I was to receive Mac and integrate him into the structures and see to his needs and requirements.
POM This was in 1962 when he came back from the GDR?
PJ That's right.
POM Now you didn't know he had been in the GDR did you?
PJ I didn't know anything of the sort but once I got this directive I knew I had to do the rest of the work. It's when I got to meet him at the house of Reggie Vandeyar. He was one of the chaps who eventually got caught and was put into prison for ten years. Kathy brought him along and we had a quick meeting and Kathy left him in my hands.
POM Kathy at that time was?
PJ He was a party functionary.
POM He was a party functionary. OK.
PJ I'll just make my notes here. So I was asked to set him up, find him accommodation, for him and Tim. I found them a room in the house of an Indian tailor. This room was previously occupied by Adelaide and me and I approached this guy and I told him that my friend needed accommodation. It was in an isolated part of Fordsburg, it was quite suitable then and he stayed there for a short while.
POM Tim was with him at this time?
PJ They both arrived in the country.
POM But he arrived before her.
PJ I suspect when she arrived she must have first gone to Durban.
POM Oh sorry, they came here first and then she had to go to Durban. That's it.
PJ So I got them accommodation and later on I put them in touch with the Naidoos and Amah Naidoo found more spacious accommodation and suitable for the two of them. It was in an older part of Doornfontein. Doornfontein is the suburb you would have heard or read about, the old Jewish quarters, and they moved there. Now Mac had use of a car, he had money which was provided by the organisation and so on.
Now the next thing was to get him to meet people in the structures. In the locality where I was working my locality covered areas like Jeppe, Doornfontein, parts of the city central, Ferreirastown, Vrededorp, Fordsburg and Lenasia. I had been in touch with units of people in those areas over a period of time either for New Age, for MK or for the Indian Youth Congress.
POM Now you had yourself been inducted into the MK?
PJ Yes I was serving in a unit with Isu Chiba, Reggie Vandeyar, Wolfie Kodesh and a couple of other young people.
POM Now how did you get inducted into that?
PJ Well through the party structure. I was approached by a member of the Communist Party who was sent by Joe Slovo to come and talk to me about MK. I seem to recall the person who approached me was Wolfie Kodesh.
POM He just died.
PJ He just died yes. Then we brought in Isu Chiba.
POM That's the brother of Laloo?
PJ Isu, Laloo is the same guy. Isu was from Ishwarlal. Ishwarlal was his Indian name, they shortened it to Isu but Laloo is the name that he was convicted under, Laloo Chiba. He got involved in the movement at the time of the Sharpeville massacre. I was in detention at that time. When I came out with Reggie Vandeyar I worked in the underground with Wolfie Kodesh, with my wife and Moses Kotane and my brother Daso who told me that Chiba had come forward to help and they found him potentially very good material. As I got to know Chiba we drew him into MK, into the party.
POM Was there any military training given at that time?
PJ No. We had various things to read, we went on some exercises. The little training we got came from chaps who had served in the second world war but the training was pretty shabby and it proved a disaster later on especially the making of the bombs, very primitive. We lost a life like that. We nearly lost our lives. But that was the beginning of a movement so you made those kind of mistakes. We improved, we learnt and things got better. The MK unit that I functioned in had to be resourceful as I assume every other unit had to be. We started acquiring arms and grenades, guns, recruits. That was one of my main functions and we had to develop more units. We did some rehearsals, cutting of telephone wires and so on, and then we had to get ready for the launch day, 16 December, the launch of MK, 16 December 1961. That's when we went into action. Our unit and a couple of other units under our direction carried out some of the most spectacular explosions that night. It was largely these young people who did the job. We blew up a couple of Post Offices where they applied severe segregation. We blew up the African court in Newtown where Africans were charged for passes and being jailed. We blew up sections of the Pass Office.
POM All on one night?
PJ All on one night.
POM A good night's work.
PJ A good night's work yes. Then we continued with other acts of sabotage and of course in the course of time we were infiltrated and some of our chaps were caught and badly tortured and imprisoned. Mac arrived at the height of those kind of events.
So I was telling you that the next thing we did was to get Mac into the social framework of the community. When you're running an underground movement you can't actually be isolated all the time because that's when you can be spotted. So the idea was to take him to various families and to get to them socially and so on. He also needed a social life so our house became one of the main focal points for social activity as well as for political activity.
Then I took Mac to, I mentioned that earlier, we took him to meet some of the leading cadres and in the outskirts
PJ Well Issy Dinat, Indres Naidoo. We had these people placed in various parts of Johannesburg, living and working there and they were involved in the Youth Congress. He got to know my brother and what we didn't do was to probe what other work he was doing because he had a series of assignments and he was co-ordinating a lot of these things. As I mentioned earlier sometimes we would stumble into something and discover he was doing something with one of our cadres but we all kept quiet. He was setting up a printing works with one group, doing something else with another group and we now had to find him an identity because him and Tim coming from Natal were in a sense prohibited immigrants. We had to find him documents to legitimise his stay and the best document we could think of at the time was to get a coloured identity, not an Indian identity. So we had to find him some coloured parents which we did. I found him a father, my brother found him a mother. We found these coloured people and we said to them that this chap's having a hard time, he's got no identity document, he doesn't know who his parents are, etc., we really put out a sob story. They were terribly sympathetic. One chap offered to vouch for him, he worked with me, he was a factory worker by the name of Nicholas and the woman that my brother knew was somebody in the neighbourhood, a Mrs. Kubie, she also offered to assist and soon enough there was this Mac Maharaj walking around with a coloured document called Solly Matthews, that was his name now he was coloured. So that enabled him as a coloured man to move around the country. After the Africans were heavily restricted and the pass laws the next most restricted persons were the Indians. The coloureds didn't have the same problem, a coloured document took them anywhere.
So now we've got the documents but if I recall we didn't get a document for Tim Naidoo. Tim's work was working with Mac, it didn't fall in the same category. In fact it made sense for her to retain an Indian identity so she carried on with the name of Tim Naidoo and later on you will discover the value of that itself as I found out afterwards.
POM What was the value of it?
PJ You see when Mac was put into detention and I was put into detention the police were very curious about this Indian woman called Tim Naidoo and they questioned me.
POM This is when now?
PJ In detention in 1964.
POM This is the lead up to the Little Rivonia?
PJ That's right, our trial, yes. I said, "Well this young woman seems to me - "
POM She had been arrested as well, right?
PJ With Mac. I said to them, "I don't know who she really is", in fact I knew who she was, I knew her family background, but I said, "I don't know this young woman, all I know is that she's obsessed with Mac, she's in love with him and she follows him all over. She followed him from university to London, from London to Johannesburg, so I don't even know what their relationship is." And they accepted that. Little did I know Mac gave them the same version that, "This woman is just in love with me and she follows me all over." So when Mac and I match each other's stories he was very pleased because Mac at the back of his mind said to me, well he said he thought about it and he realised that if they were going to use her in court to testify against him he will play the trump card and say, "Well she can't testify, she's my wife", but they didn't know they were husband and wife and as far as we were concerned everybody knew Mac and Tim were just a couple living together. So that was the value of being Tim Naidoo.
The other value was that after Mac was in prison she was at a loose end. She came out of prison and stayed with Adelaide, my wife, whilst I was in detention and she continued to stay with us. Now being a qualified nurse we had to find her a job and she needed a permit to stay on in the country. So what I did was I got hold of Shanti Naidoo to arrange through the Indian Affairs Department for a visitor's permit for Tim just to give her cover so that if she took on a job in Johannesburg if the police said she's an illegal immigrant she would show she's got a visitor's permit. So we did this. Eventually the permit expired, eventually the police found out and she was expelled from the Transvaal but it gave her a few months of earning an income.
POM Did she talk about the way she had been treated in detention?
PJ She talked a great deal to Adelaide whilst I was still in detention and when she was released she came to Adelaide because there was nowhere else to go and Adelaide accepted her for a number of reasons. Number one, she was very attached to Tanya, that's the godchild. Number two, Zoya
POM Now Tanya was born in Johannesburg.
PJ Johannesburg. She was in fact there at the time when Tanya was born. Zoya was already about six or seven years old and Zoya got on like a house on fire with Mac. As I told you earlier the closeness they had and she used to go into hysterics because he'd come looking for her and she'd be hiding and he'd pretend he couldn't find her and she'd be hiding under the table or behind the cupboard and he'd go around searching for her and when he found her she'd go into hysterics and so on. She loved that and she'd run away when she'd see them arriving and she'd go and hide and he'd go and find her and he used to take the kids out for drives and so on. She simply adored him and she said, she told me the other day that Mac made such an impact on her life that it actually made her part of who she is. She was a very aware girl because she knew what was happening. She saw the activists and the political leaders coming in and out of the house. She knew her Uncle Nelson, her Uncle Mac, Auntie Winnie. As you probably know in our culture anybody who is senior kids never call them by their first names, they call them Aunt and Uncle. So everybody who appeared to be an adult was an uncle. So there's Uncle Mosey, Uncle Herbie, Uncle Charlie, Auntie Winnie and so on.
So we had these leaders trotting in and out and our house was a kind of stopping off point for some of the African families, political families whose mothers and so on would come and do their shopping at the Newtown Market to buy their vegetables and their meat and so on and our place was a stopping off point because they'd leave the kids there and Adelaide would take care of the kids, the mothers would go shopping, come back, have a meal with us, she'd prepare a meal, and then collect their kids and take them back to the township. Quite often the African leaders who were a mile or half a mile away from us would come over to our house for a meal and for a break. Nelson would arrange for meetings in our house, he'd arrive through the back door and so on, and he would give Adelaide some money to go to the butcher which was across the road and prepare a meal whilst they were having a meeting.
So Zoya was witness to all this and Nelson would take Zoya out and her brother, her twin brother Anand. He was a child confined into a cot, he had suffered cerebral damage at the time of birth. So our comrades were very, very sympathetic to the kind of problems we had. You could see the kind of problems we had, not only did we have to keep the family going, we had to do our political work, we had this child who was ill for 24 hours, he needed attention, but we got through that, under great difficulties. So Zoya understood all this but as far as her relationship with particular individuals like her Uncle Mac or Uncle Mosey and so on, was very, very close, exceptionally close. As I said to you she feels it's part of her life now, it can't be written out.
That was the first part of the question you asked.
POM You had introduced him to the people in the
PJ Outside and to our family and so on. Then he got to know my mother, my sisters, my brother and his wife and their children. So there were different places he could go to so we associated and fraternised and one evening I talked to him about his ability to swim. He said he couldn't swim. He told me that. And I said, "What the hell. They train this guy in everything but swimming." So I said, "All right, I'm going to teach you to swim." So I took him to Bram Fischer's house and I told Comrade Bram, "I'm bringing this guy but we're going to have to swim at night for security reasons." So I took Mac and there we were swimming in the semi-darkness and it was very difficult to get him to learn to do a simple stroke, so it wasn't possible in one session to teach this guy. After we swam we dried ourselves, Bram Fischer appeared and engaged us in conversation. Mac asked Bram some advice on something that had to be done illegally. I turned to Mac, I said, "Mac, how can you ask Comrade Bram advice how to do something illegally? You're embarrassing this man. Why don't you go and break the bloody law, then come back and Bram will assist you?" So Mac went away and he got 12 years. But Bram wasn't around, it was Joel Joffe to the defence. Bram always thought it was terribly amusing.
POM That's funny. Now when Rivonia happened - ?
PJ When Rivonia happened we were right up to our teeth in campaigning by which time the regular printers didn't want to print our stuff, they got terribly scared. But through the network Mac got hold of a guy who was running a little printing firm called West End Printers and we knew this guy. Somehow he was persuaded and he printed stickers for us in defence of the Rivonia trialists and we plastered the city with these stickers. We were also aware of the fact that if they caught on to this guy we would still need our own printing facilities. That was an area which I didn't dabble with, that was Mac's responsibility, and I knew something had been set up and I knew a couple of people had been working there. I never ever asked him. The only way I knew about it I had stumbled onto the fact that Tim needed medical attention, she had hurt herself in a printing exercise so we had to get medical attention for her. That's when I was aware that something already transpired. But again for security reasons it wasn't my function to find out but stumbling on to some bits of information
POM How long was Tim in Johannesburg?
PJ For the duration of from the time she arrived with Mac until well after Mac was imprisoned and then for a few months after that she worked in Johannesburg and went to Durban.
POM Was she working here as - ?
PJ Previously she trained in London as a nurse.
POM So when she came to Johannesburg?
PJ She didn't take on a job as such because she was working with Mac in these various enterprises.
PJ So she was like keeping house sort of thing.
POM So she would go to your house with him and they would socialise together.
PJ Oh yes, socialise, and we'd go to their place and she'd prepare a meal and Adelaide would prepare a meal. We did those sort of things. What we also did was we arranged for Mac and Tim, Adelaide and I and our three children, that's the twin boy Anand, to go for a weekend to Barberton in the area which is now called Mpumalanga, the Eastern Transvaal, to Adelaide's home town where her parents were and aunts and cousins and uncles and we spent a very nice weekend there. I would say a very memorable weekend. We got the use of Bram Fischer's Volkswagen and we drove up there and there were two incidents that I seem to recall apart from the warm reception we got from the families in that little town, it's a very beautiful town, I don't know if you've ever been there? No? On our way back we stopped at a farmhouse to buy some fruit and a little Afrikaner girl came out and spoke to me in Afrikaans very politely and with a great respect, she called me Uncle in Afrikaans and wanted to know what did I want. I told her we wanted to buy some fruit. She said would I please wait, she'd go and call her father. She called her father who was exceptionally polite. We bought the fruit and she said goodbye to me again as Uncle. This was the first time I was ever addressed as Uncle by a white child, an Afrikaner child, and it's customary among Afrikaners to address their elders with respect. I said to Mac, "What a sad thing, one day this child is going to grow up and perhaps hold a rifle against us. I hope that day never comes." I just made that comment and drove off, well Mac was actually driving.
What happened was we returned to Johannesburg that Sunday night, Mac and I washed the car and cleaned the car and so on and we took it to the petrol station to fill it with petrol to return the car to Bram Fischer and on our way back we saw an incident. It appeared that there were two men assaulting another man. We stopped, we saw these two Indians beating up an African, the one man was whipping this African across the mouth with the end knob of a cane. We stopped the car and got out and we found this African bleeding profusely. We asked what had happened and he told us that he had gone to the corner shop to buy a loaf of bread and when he got the bread he took it back to his back room and he found the bread was stale, so he went back and asked them to either give him a fresh loaf of bread or refund his money. They didn't take very kindly to the request and they assaulted him with this cane. We asked him whether he would like to lay a charge against these guys and he seemed fairly frightened and he said he didn't want to. So we said he should go home then and we then escorted these two Indians, a father and son, back to their shop and we gave them a dressing down that what they had done was a very, very dangerous thing because this is the kind of thing that feeds into the differences between Indians and Africans and I reminded them of the 1949 riots in Durban, if you will recall that. They said no word of regret or remorse and just kept quiet. We left them with a serious warning that if they tried anything of this sort again we would deal with them.
Of course we were limited in the sense that I couldn't get Mac too embroiled in these kind of exercises because here's an undercover man he had other jobs to do. We left the shop fairly outraged that we were in a helpless situation. Under normal circumstances I would have gone further a beat the shit out of those guys or done something to terrify them. I did that before, but now with Mac I had to know my limitations. So those are the two incidents that I recall from that visit we had that weekend. That's the closeness we had with Mac and Tim and our family.
The other thing was that I introduced Mac, I told you about this coloured man Nicholas who stood for Mac as his father. This guy also worked with me but in this factory I was working at
POM Is this Ruth First's father's factory?
PJ Ruth's father's factory. I met a coloured chap that I had known when he was a kid in our neighbourhood and over the years he had moved out and gone with his family to an area called Grasmere, a suburb in the rural part of Johannesburg in the southern part of Johannesburg. The next time I heard of this guy was there was a train derailment in which a number of people were killed. The train had derailed in some part of Orlando Township going towards a station called New Canada. This happened in the early forties, round about then. There were four brothers, three of the brothers died in this disaster. This guy that survived was my friend. His name was Harold Kingsman and he grew up and became a cabinet maker. One of the places he came to seek employment was the firm where I was working.
POM The furniture factory.
PJ Right. He got a job there and it was a great reunion for me and him. I got talking to him on various things and I watched his work and I found the guy was an exceptional craftsman. Not only was he a craftsman he was something which was very rare, in fact unique in the coloured community, he was an restorer of antique furniture, an occupation which only whites did. He had architectural experience and he had the potential of political development. So I watched him carefully and worked with him. Then I told Mac about this guy but in between I saw Julius First and I recommended to Julius First that the cabinet shop needed a foreman and the best craftsman and the best foreman would be Harold Kingsman. He accepted my recommendation and Harold became the foreman but Harold also became a political ally.
Now we didn't draw him formally into the Communist Party or to MK, we still had to keep our options careful. To get a coloured man involved in the political work, the kind of work we were doing was very, very rare. There were very few coloureds who were politicised or politically interested, certainly in Johannesburg, so we had to nurse him and nurture him very, very carefully. I think he twigged on that we were wanting him to do other things so we got to his house and Mac surveyed his place. Trust Mac to work out all the potential how this man's house could be put into use. Mac had an idea we could physically build an underground press in his back garden.
POM His back garden?
PJ Yes, he probably got the idea from Lenin's paper Iskra. But as I say, trust Mac to work on those kind of bloody ideas. I looked at the area, he did have a potential and Harold was now going to be working on plans of how to draw up this underground printing chamber. So that was another assignment which I didn't get involved in. My only involvement was to introduce Mac to Harold and I had now the political contact with Harold and at one stage I was able to call a meeting in his house and get some of the coloured men around the area this must have been the first political meeting ever held in that area, it was at our initiative because we had no coloured people. So that was another contact we had in that area. Later on the police got to find out about Harold Kingsman but fortunately he wasn't detained. Harold was shrewd enough to say and not to deny that he knew me and Mac.
POM He said that he did know you?
PJ He didn't deny knowing me and Mac.
POM He didn't.
PJ Because what the police found in Mac's house were some business cards Mac had printed for Harold Kingsman and they produced this card and Harold was smart enough to say yes he asked him to produce this card because he's a businessman, he does contracts and that he worked with me and his only work with me was that I was the supervisor in the factory. He didn't let on anything else beyond that. But once Harold was questioned I kept a distance from Harold. I didn't in any way want to go anywhere near him, again for security reasons, and I didn't want the police to wait for us, an opportunity that if I made contact they would interpret it as a political contact so I stayed away from Harold. But that was one of the mistakes that Mac had made, he had retained this guy's card in his house, he had produced some business cards for him so the police got to know about Harold.
POM So Harold's name was on the business card?
PJ Yes, as a furniture cabinet maker and the various sorts of things he was doing. Now Mac had offered to produce these cards which he did but he naively kept some cards in his house which was then raided the day he was arrested. He didn't quite cover his tracks there. As I said, fortunately Harold was not imprisoned and there was nothing they could use, any information found against us.
POM So you were arrested at the same time as Mac?
PJ Well more or less the same time. I was arrested first, he was arrested later. But coming to the arrest thing was that the day I was arrested little did I know that my brother Daso was standing diagonally opposite the house watching the scene of arrest taking place. Daso did not venture to come anywhere near me or the police, he just stood and watched and clearly he understood that if he had come closer to me the possibility was they would have arrested him. Now he was Mac's other man working on other assignments. But when I was being interrogated and hearing snippets of conversation between the Security Branch men, they mentioned things like printing works, they mentioned a locality which was the area called Ophirton in the southern part of Johannesburg and that's where my brother was living and it appeared that they had tagged onto something. I did not know at that stage that Piet Beyleveld had divulged a set of information, one of which covered that area where meetings were held at my brother's house. I had a notion it was his house because he was now the political activist in that area at the time. So I smuggled out a message to him to say they've tagged on to him and I did this because I thought if they found the press and various other things that would blow another part of our operations. So Adelaide managed to get a message to him and he fled the country. But by the same token I managed to get messages to other people.
What happened was this. When I got picked up that morning I was fairly outraged because I had been put under house arrest and so on
POM You had been put under house arrest?
PJ Before the arrest I was put under house arrest and so on, a very severe banning order and the police said they're taking me away and I must pack a bag which I did. (Break in recording)
As I said, I was going to go on a hunger strike and so on and she's not to bring me any food. I went into the cell, got locked up in the police station called Mondeor.
POM You were locked up in?
POM Where is that?
PJ That's in the southern suburbs of Johannesburg. That day I didn't eat anything, I just drank a bit of water with a pinch of salt. Somehow the next day Adelaide managed to get a visit to me on the basis that she's having financial difficulties. I had been in the meantime selling clothes from door to door for a factory and most of the items I sold were on credit and Adelaide wanted to continue the work but she needed to know certain details and so on and also she was advised to get a Power of Attorney from me. In fact it was really a pretext for a contact visit because Adelaide had a shrewd idea of what I was doing and also of the nature of the work I was selling clothes from door to door.
She then said to me that Zoya didn't want me to go on a hunger strike, that Zoya our daughter would like me to eat the food they send. And she said her Uncle Chotabhai feels the same way. Chotabhai, Chota is Mac's Indian name, and the way she said it, the movement of her eyes, her facial expression, I knew it was a directive and I said, "Fine, I will not go on a hunger strike." So she would bring me food and clothes and instinctively Adelaide knew something that I would leave some food over to give to our dog Druzhbar. So before she fed Druzhbar the leftovers she went through the food. There were messages there. Then she would take my dirty linen and clothes and I managed to get some messages into the clothes and in this way I was able to alert a number of people because from the kind of interrogation that I was undergoing, the conversations, and sometimes the police blundered without realising I was present and I gave the impression I didn't understand Afrikaans at all. They thought it was most unusual, somebody from Johannesburg couldn't speak Afrikaans. I understood the language but I wasn't fluent in it at all so I made out I was actually really a dumb Indian but I knew what they were talking about. So I picked up on this and I sent messages out. One of the messages was to Adelaide to get her to clear a house that had our arms in it, guns, a rifle, grenade, manuals and so on.
POM Now were you working with Wilton Mkwayi at that time?
PJ That's right. I was in MK but I didn't have direct contact with Wilton, there was a chain, a level of chain command. So I realised the police were getting closer to our supplies, our storage. Adelaide in her entire life had never seen a gun, never touched a piece of dynamite or anything of the sort. She was a good churchgoing woman. So she went along to Comrade Bram and told him what was happening so Bram arranged for Ilse Fischer, Adelaide and Issy Dinat to go and shift the stuff. When the police eventually found this place all they could find was a load of books and pamphlets and magazines, the stuff was spirited away.
So in that way I was able to alert some the comrades and I have no doubt others did likewise because when I eventually met Mac he was also sending out messages but at no stage did we ask each other what kind of messages we were sending because we wouldn't know what was going to go wrong in prison again.
POM Were you physically tortured?
PJ I was kept for hours on end standing, being interrogated overnight again and again and again. I was shoved around, I was questioned by up to seven blokes at a time firing, bombarding me with questions threatening to lock up Adelaide, threatening to take Adelaide away from the children and so on. I came under the control of Swanepoel. He was an absolute bastard and a Major Brits. Major Brits had the reputation, he told me, of being the man responsible for having deported Clements Kadalie from the Industrial & Commercial Workers' Union, the leader of those days. He shoved his face in front of my face and said, "Do you know who I am? I am the man that got Clements Kadalie deported." Swanepoel was described as 'the beast of Belsen' and he was a vicious bastard. This went on for a considerable period of time. They got me to make a statement and I refused to sign the statement. When I saw Mac I told him and he said, "Listen, they'll kill you."
POM Where is the first time you saw Mac after - ?
PJ What happened one day they brought Mac in to verify some information they had extracted from him with me.
POM So they got some information from him about you?
PJ About me having passed on some printing equipment to somebody else. Mac had just taken a shot in the blue and I knew he had taken a shot in the blue but there was no way I could tell where this printing equipment was and they couldn't believe me and they wanted to know who was the last person I saw at that particular locality and I named the guy I saw. They went to his house, they didn't find any equipment but they put him in detention. That was Billy Nana.
So I realised that the police were using one against the other and putting us under considerable pressure. From police snippets I gathered various people were being picked up and by the time we were charged and the day I was charged Adelaide came with Joel Joffe to Mondeor Police Station, no Booysens, this was Booysens Police Station, to tell me that I've been charged and so on but I wouldn't be able to come out on bail. Joel Joffe then told me about Piet Beyleveld and a number of other people who were going to testify against us.
POM Who else was going to testify? There was Beyleveld, there was
PJ Beyleveld, there was a chap called Bartholomew Hlapane.
POM I didn't hear of him. Bartholomew?
PJ Hlapane. Mac didn't ever tell you about him? I'll see if I've got a picture here. That's him there.
POM So he was in the treason trial.
PJ Yes. And according to Mac, Mac had met him after he was released from detention and Mac described him to me as a man who didn't speak, who was as hard as nails.
POM How do you spell his second name?
PJ HLAPANE. Bartholomew Hlapane.
POM And he was a member of?
PJ The Party, of MK. At the time I was also a member of the Johannesburg District of the Communist Party, the same District Committee this guy was serving on and I learnt to my horror that Piet Beyleveld and Hlapane were going to testify. I was on the same committee with Piet Beyleveld. But the most astonishing thing that happened was eventually the charges against me were withdrawn and I couldn't understand why they were withdrawn because they had these two guys who could confirm my meeting with them in various places and discussing various issues. I still up to this day couldn't fathom why they didn't bring these chaps against me.
POM But now you're awaiting trial, right?
PJ Now we're awaiting trial, yes.
POM So were you all in the same prison?
PJ When we were awaiting trial we were put together at Johannesburg Fort. We were given single cells. Now these single cells were like virtual cages so that they were like three feet by six feet and they were steel units with a thick wire mesh above us so we could talk to each other and during exercise period we could see each other in the courtyard and go for showers and so on. We were able to communicate then.
POM So that was the first time you saw Mac since he had been picked up?
PJ I'd seen him once in interrogation.
POM Yes, when he came in
PJ But what happened was this, this is the other interesting thing that developed, we were taken to Pretoria separately and I was taken into this cell and locked up. The following morning a warder came to unlock me and said we must each stand in front of our cell door, which I did, and then he went along and unlocked all the other cells and that's when I was able to see Mac, Chiba, Steve Naidoo. Then there was one guy that came out there, walked with a bit of a shuffle. We were horrified, this huge man turned out to be Wilton Mkwayi. The warder said to us we were to turn around, walk in single file, not talk to each other, not look around and just march into the yard for exercise. We got out and I was behind Wilton, I was able to utter a few words to him. He was walking with a limp. Now we were totally shocked and bowled over because this was the last guy we would ever dream would have been picked up. It turned out the limp he was walking with was the result of a bullet wound. He had been caught in a crossfire of gang warfare in Soweto and these guys fired a bullet into his thigh. It wasn't intended for him. Wilton could not go to the hospital with a bullet in his body and they'd have to say how he got this bullet. So he then crawled and made his way to the house of a woman he knew by the name of Irene Khumalo. She was a nurse at Baragwanath Hospital and there he just flopped into a bed. The police found him there, again by sheer accident.
What had happened, they had stumbled onto a chap connected with MK, an African chap, who worked with me in the same factory. I knew he was in MK, I don't believe he knew I was in MK. The only way I knew he was in MK was because he had gone to ask one of the cabinet makers for a supply of glycerine. This cabinet maker had a shop not far from the area where we were working and he said to me, "Why does this chap want glycerine in the kind of quantities he wants?" So I said, "Well maybe he wants to make medicine, I don't know, you know what these Africans are, they make all kinds of medicines." I fobbed it off. But I knew Alfred was a political guy and my discussions with him were always very, very limited, again for security reasons. Somehow the police got on to Alfred and I was given to understand by Wilton they beat the shit out of him and they were looking for Sixpence, Breebree and Umfudsi (the African word for priest) those were the underground names of Wilton Mkwayi, those were some of his nicknames. They knew there was such a woman so Swanepoel and his gang went there in anticipation to find this nurse. They didn't find her, they found Wilton there. Well what better scoop could they have had, what bigger fish? And alongside him on the side table is Wilton's pistol so he didn't even have a chance to draw his pistol. So they took the poor bugger. They first interrogated him for 15 hours with a bullet in his thigh and after they were finished with him they then took him to hospital and had the bullet removed.
Now nobody except us knew this guy is in jail so you can imagine how shocked. What the police were trying to do in the meantime, they were trying to soften me up so they wanted to get me separated from the lads, they wanted me to become a state witness. So I said, "Well I can't become a state witness, I've got to talk to my wife." They said, "Why?" So I said, "You know I'm under these circumstances, it's not an easy thing for me to deal with. I can't do this." So they said they'd arrange a visit from my wife, so Adelaide came. What I said to the cops, I said, "Look, I haven't seen my wife for all these months, would you mind if I embraced her and kissed her?" And I pleaded with this guy and he said, "Well you know I don't mind but I can't, I've got to go and check with my seniors." I said, "Please go and ask them. You see I haven't seen my wife, I haven't been able to touch her and so on." I gave him all this bullshit. So the guy went off and I said to Adelaide, "Listen, Wilton has been caught, he's been shot in the thigh. He's OK now, he's in detention. Get the word out." So when the guy came back he said, "I'm sorry they've refused." So I said, "Well I'm sorry, I'm also refusing." So they marched me off to the cell.
What Adelaide did, I discovered when I came out, was she went to Winnie Mandela. Now the SA press couldn't report any incident of that kind because they would find the source but Winnie was smart enough to send a message to London. The message was received by comrades here and then, I think it was Phyllis Altman who was working at Defence & Aid, she was the secretary for the Defence & Aid Fund, she then suggested somebody goes and sees Colin Legum. They went with a story to Colin Legum (he was The Observer man there) to say the Deputy Commander of MK he had it put into The Observer. Once it appeared in The Observer the SA morning papers had a basis for reporting the capture of Wilton Mkwayi. The whole idea was that if the public knew and the press knew then there was less of a danger of Wilton undergoing further physical torture because nobody else but us would have known of his imprisonment. So when it was published they were astonished how it got out. Of course they never knew, the source was me passing information, Adelaide to Winnie, Winnie to London and London to Colin, Colin into The Observer and back into the SA papers. I think, and I've said this to many people, to a large extent we owe gratitude to Colin Legum because indirectly he may have helped save this man's life.
POM You recounted the incident of where your daughter saw Mac at the holding centre. Were you released before the trial?
PJ No I was still inside.
POM So you were awaiting trial?
PJ I was awaiting trial with Mac, our trials were now being separated.
POM Oh your trials were separated?
PJ What happened initially we were all charged together. Then they took John Matthews, Laloo Chiba, Wilton Mkwayi and Mac Maharaj on various charges, acts of sabotage, carrying out illegal activities of the ANC, furthering the aims of the ANC and the Communist Party and so forth and so on. They separated the charges and so we would appear it was just me and Steve Naidoo now. Eventually they separated Steve from me and I went separately to court. But for a period we were appearing together and then what happened, one incident was whenever we went to court, we had made numerous appearances in court, the warders, the white warders under the jurisdiction of course of the white warders, the African warders would strip and search us and they found some pleasure in trying to humiliate us. This happened regularly by which time we got pretty steamed up. One day they asked us to strip, we refused and they insisted and Chiba said we're not going to strip, and the white warder was himself a big guy, probably even taller than Wilton, was going to go into action so the African warder raised his knob-stick, his kerrie, to bring it down on us so Chiba said to him, "You hit us with that I'll break your fucking neck." Mac, Wilton, myself and Steve Naidoo made a move forward and the police, because by which time we were quite outraged, the warders realised there was going to develop something here and the chap dropped the stick. From that day we were no longer strip searched. But Chiba who doesn't boil so easily was outraged and I've known Chiba could use his hands. In his young days he was involved with a gang of thugs. I think the police realised too that they were dealing with a different kettle of fish here because we were not the normal run of prisoners they were smashing around. We were political guys and social offenders knew us as political people and they respected us and regarded us were very courteous to us and the warders saw this so clearly it wouldn't have been in their interests. Besides, how are they going to explain in court a couple of bashed up guys appearing there? What could have happened to them? And our lawyers would have moved in. So that was the kind of arrangement.
Then of course once we were charged we had to find ways of using up some useful time so in these single cells which were alongside each other we decided to have political discussions. Each evening someone would undertake a talk on some subject or another and that's how we kept ourselves going.
POM Did Kitson get involved in that?
PJ Dave Kitson and John Matthews and Lionel Gay, Lionel had become a state witness so he was locked up with them. Who was the other guy? There were a couple of other people involved but Steve and John Matthews were the main props. Dave Kitson got 20 years and I think John, if I remember, got 15 years, John Matthews. He was already at the age of 50 plus when he went in. He went in for a long period and so did Dave Kitson. Then of course you know the story about Mac getting his 12 years and Wilton life, Chiba 20 years. I was acquitted then Steve was acquitted.
POM But you were charged separately?
PJ We were charged separately. Now I was charged for furthering the aims of a banned organisation, the Communist Party, the CP. Steve was charged with furthering the aims, I think, of uMkhonto weSizwe and the state witness was Lionel Gay and Steve had developed a Morse code instrument and so on. He was going to be our communications man. Now I had only heard of Steve, I'd never ever met him. The first time I met him was in Pretoria in detention. So there was a problem, what had happened was that Steve had made a number of appearances. In the meantime Lionel Gay got out of the country and he was sitting at the borders of Botswana and SA, the actual border where he was sitting was between Botswana and Zimbabwe and Zambia, that area there, near the Caprivi Strip. I got somewhat concerned because I knew that as long as he would be sitting there there's a possibility of police coming to take him back which was what they were doing with various people they were searching for, that they would put him back into detention and lock him up and so on and get him to testify against Steve. There was a possibility of Steve getting a minimum of at least 10 or 12 years. So in desperation I sent messages to London and asked London to expedite Lionel Gay's moving to England and I think something got done and Lionel Gay was shifted into England. So the State's case against Steve now fell flat because there was no-one there to corroborate the evidence they had supposed to have had. So he was acquitted and immediately put under house arrest and so on and sent back to Durban. That's how Steve was saved from that kind of situation.
POM Now no explanation was ever given to you why the charges were dropped?
PJ No, what happened was that it was Christmas Eve, I was brought to court and I found that the Prosecutor and his agents were very drunk and Adelaide had apparently appeared there and couldn't find the court, the court was in session. So in panic she went to contact Joel Joffe and Joel said if he's not back within two hours time she should come back to him. So the police brought me to the Prosecutor's office and they sat and looked at me for a while, giggling and laughing and so on as I stood and waited, and they said to me, "We're going to let you go now but it's not going to be for long, we're coming back for you." I couldn't understand this.
So they let me out. I walked out, went down a side street and headed to a friend of mine who was in the flower business selling flowers. He saw me and was quite shocked, what am I doing there? I said, "I've just been released." So I said to him I wanted some flowers, would he mind, I didn't have a penny on me. Of course being a friend he gave me loads and loads of flowers and I made up various bouquets of flowers. I took a bunch of flowers to Chiba's wife, a bunch of flowers to Babla Saloojee's wife, a bunch of flowers for Tim and a bunch of flowers for Adelaide. In the meantime she had been running herself flat looking for me and when she got home and I came up with the flowers she was astonished. I thought it was important that I look after the wives of these people. She said, "We've been bloody fretting our lives out and you come up with these flowers." Anyhow that was all said in jest.
POM So then Tim, Mac was sent off to
PJ To Robben Island, Tim came to stay with Adelaide and she stayed on and she shared the same rooms with us. We had a stretcher which she used in the room and Adelaide and I had a bed, we had two cots. We had a lovely woman who worked for us, a woman called Ruth Matsilane, and we had her because of our disabled child. There was no way Adelaide could have managed with the child with me being under those conditions, having to work and then under house arrest and so on. It became a financial strain.
But Mac one day well before I was actually in prison, Mac came up to me and gave me some money and I said, "What's this money for?" And he said, "Look, this is going to be a regular grant, it's from the party." So I said, "No, I don't want any money Mac." Well Mac got so bloody annoyed with me, he said, "The Party has to take care of its cadres." So I said, "I think I can still earn a living", and so on, I didn't want them to part with their funds for me. Well the way Mac addressed me was like another directive, "You accept this or else." So I had to take the money but it helped in a way because it supplemented my income from selling clothes, it meant we could keep Rosie with us to help Adelaide. Rosie herself was a very sickly woman so more times than enough we had to spend time looking after her as well.
But she turned out to be a dear old darling because she was able to keep observation for us, for meetings we held. She knew the police, typical of white police when they see an African domestic servant they look through them but the servant sees a lot more in them. She knew who these guys were, what they were and when they were scouting around she would come and tip us off. Whenever I had to meet Winnie or any of the other people in the underground movement I would ask Rose to take Anand, our son, and sit out in the evening in front of the door at the back of the house, the side street, and relax with him. She knew it was her job now to keep observation.
We also had a group of kids living in the neighbourhood and the moment they saw Winnie arriving at our house they would take observation posts to look out for the Security Branch. Winnie never knew we had this thing set up with the kids. They all felt they wanted to be involved and there's nothing like giving young people a sense of participation. That's how I got drawn into the movement.
POM Mac tells a story about you, this was about Ruth First and that she had noticed the kind of dire conditions he lived in on Pearce Street and she had a cabinet, imbuia, and she offered it to Mac and he said, "No, no, no." So the way Mac tells it is that she went to you to tell you to say that she had won it at a raffle for five shillings and she was prepared to sell it to the first person who was prepared to pay the price that she had paid for it.
PJ Well Mac was what I would call a hard-boiled communist of the Molotov type when I met him. You dare not say you saw one of the James Bond films, he would shoot you down in flames. He seemed to have been trained like that which was somewhat different to some of us in SA and he was very critical of people reading certain things and seeing certain kinds of movies. He carried this with him for a long, long time actually, now that you mention this. What had happened was that Tim eventually came into exile and Tim wanted to come for some time and she would discuss this with Mac and Mac apparently had refused. So she wrote to her sister in London who was very close to us, Suri the other sister, she's still alive and she's in Durban. Suri came to see me and asked me, because she knew I was in correspondence with Mac, whether I could persuade Mac to let Tim leave SA. I told her that that is something I cannot interfere in, that is a matter for Mac and Tim. It is wholly incorrect for me to take that kind of decision, Tim must decide what she wants to do. So what I did was I wrote to Mac in a very coded form and said to him there is this friend of mine, Chotabhai's wife Pupli who is having problems and Pupli wants to go abroad and do various things and Chotabhai doesn't want her to go and they're having these kind of problems and Suri, the sister, had come to see me and I'm in a bit of a dilemma and I've explained to them that the problems of Chotabhai and Pupli must be resolved by Chotabhai and Pupli. Well Mac knew immediately who I was talking about.
Eventually Tim came to London whenever the decision was taken so we received her here. She got a job and she immediately set about buying a little house in East Finchley. She bought this house and when Mac came he took exception to it. This is the Bolshevik coming out of Mac now.
POM This is in 1976/77?
PJ Round about there, yes.
POM When he got released.
PJ And the sister came to tell me that Mac was giving Tim a hard time for having bought this house. He had told her, I can't authenticate it because I'm going by what the sister told me, that he didn't believe in private property, that part of it I definitely believe of Mac of those days, and that in any event his future was in SA not here and so on. So eventually Tim sold the property, she was quite frustrated.
POM While Mac was still here?
PJ Mac was here. She had bought the property in anticipation of when he comes, they will live together, which they did live for a short period until that marriage broke up. So you can see Tim had a whole series of problems in her own life with Mac.
POM Mac was intent on going back to SA.
PJ That's what he had told her and that's what the sister told me because now Tim at no stage came to me directly and said, listen I've got a problem, can you do something? She never did that, but the sister would come and confide in me. Now the sister had two children, a daughter and a son who were very, very close to Mac when Mac was living in London. One of the saddest parts of that episode is that the daughter died in a car crash, Mac never contacted or sent a word of sympathy to the sister. These were now his, so to speak, his niece and nephew. That had happened and the sister bitterly complained to me that Mac had shown no concern for the family. Some years later the son drops dead from a heart attack, he was an activist in the ANC here, and again Mac hadn't contacted the family or sent word of sympathy and again the sister complained bitterly to me. In fact at the son's funeral I was asked to speak on behalf of the family. This lad, he was then 47 years old, both the children, his sister and him, had idolised Mac. When I was in SA and Tim was with us the nephew had written to his Auntie Tim wanting to become a member of MK, he had been so inspired by the events in SA. By the time I got here they were active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
So that was the other side of Mac which none of us could fathom, as to why he didn't keep at least a PR with these families.
POM But you're saying you didn't see then Mac left and went back to SA or he went to Zambia?
PJ Lusaka. But in the meantime he had formed a liaison with Zarina. Now this is the other funny side of him, I say 'funny' in some respects. Mac, Tim and Zarina would come and visit us here.
POM Mac and Zarina would come here?
PJ And Tim.
POM Zarina was married to?
PJ She was married to Chiba's young brother.
POM That's right.
PJ Laloo Chiba's young brother. You see I knew Zarina in SA as a young girl, I knew her entire family. I knew her parents, her brothers, I even knew her grandmother. Her grandmother comes from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the same church which Adelaide belongs to, and the grandmother had baked our wedding cake. Now I knew this family in Johannesburg and they had belonged to the elitist section of the community. They were not politically involved. Like many communities they felt the impact of racial discrimination and their wish was to get out of the country, which they got out on passports and so on. The only person in that family who showed any political inclination was her young brother, Enver Carim, who is living in London now. Actually the Muslim name would be Anwar (like Sadat), in SA everything gets changed. Now I knew his parents, I knew his brothers, I knew his uncles, I knew one of his aunts and so on. One aunt was actually a regular reader of New Age so I used to call on her every weekend to deliver and talk to her about the situation in SA. When I met Zarina here I knew she was already married to Laloo's young brother.
POM Was he here?
PJ He was here too, they lived as husband and wife. One of the factors that brought them closer to us was their friend Billy Nana who was a contemporary of Chiba's young brother who when he arrived in England stayed with us initially, so there was a social basis of meeting and gradually she got involved in the Solidarity Movement here. So politically she was never involved in SA, she got involved here in England.
Now what had happened was Mac in the course of his social swing in London after his arrival here where he was received with great celebration had been going out with Zarina and Tim and so on and one of our houses was a house they would frequent. Now we didn't mix socially with certain sections of the political movement, one of the reasons being that neither Adelaide nor I were into drinking alcohol and so on so we didn't want to spoil people's fun, let people do what they think is appealing for them. But there were these groups of people they'd go around and when they came we did provide them with drinks, that was part of the social etiquette.
One day Mac phones and speaks to Adelaide and he says he's coming for lunch. Then he says he's bringing somebody, so Ad said, without questioning, "OK, yes." She put the phone down and she turns to me, and the girls were at home, and she says, "Well your Uncle Mac is coming and he says he's coming with somebody. That somebody he didn't say is Auntie Tim." So she prepares the lunch, Mac arrives here with Zarina and they sit down, we chat and so on. Eventually he says, "Well you know, we're going to get married." So of course we're quite stunned. For a few moments we sat not saying a word. He says to us, "Well aren't you going to congratulate us?" So we jumped up and wished them but of course we had this delayed shock. When they left Tanya turns round to us, Mac's god-daughter, and she says, "Now I've got two godmothers." When we spoke to our other friends they said, "But didn't you know? Mac and Zarina have teamed up." We said, "We don't know what the hell is going on. All we know is they come and eat in our house, talk, drink and chat and they bugger off. We've got no idea." I think we were the last to know. I think Mac himself was shocked we didn't know.
POM Had Tim and Mac grown apart during his years in jail?
PJ I think, one can only speculate, in those 12 years of isolation I think she was very loyal (unlike a lot of other women and men who found other partners) I think she was very loyal because she stuck to Mac. I think she was very loyal in many senses when you think that this woman from Durban to London, London to SA, was put into detention, came out, bought a house and so on, that must give a great measure of loyalty. In terms of the personal relationship I don't know whatever went wrong or whatever went right. We had no basis to raise that kind of question because we had no idea, there could have been anything wrong. Some things you don't discuss with people or they don't tell you and you don't probe so we just assumed. I think on looking back Zarina might have had something which Tim didn't have, whether it's looks or intellect or whatever else I still don't know. I haven't got a clue and I can't comment I don't wish to comment on Zarina's intellect or level of understanding or whatever it is. She may have been the kind of social element Mac was wanting which may, I'm saying 'may' very cautiously, may have been lacking in Tim. I know Tim could sometimes be very abrasive, I know that sometimes she couldn't control her drink. I've seen it happen. She was beginning to get rather a bit aggressive. It may have to do with the swelling of this kind of problem but that's only looking at it with hindsight, I can't say I was aware of it at that stage so it would be wrong of me to make an actual judgement and I don't wish to sit in moral judgement about people's lives on this basis, on marriage basis and so on.
Yes, ask me for political opinion or review I can offer that but what goes wrong in life I don't know. Of course as comrades it's important sometimes when you have problems you discuss with your comrades or you assist and advise your comrades, which is what Nelson did in our case, myself and Adelaide. He had heard that our marriage had broken up. Somebody had gone to tell him a tale. He actually came out of hiding to come and find out but he didn't tell us this, it was Wolfie Kodesh who took us to a certain place saying, "Somebody wants to see you", and when we arrived there we found Nelson. Of course we were delighted and so on but when we left I said to Adelaide, I said, "A total meaningless exercise. A guy coming out of hiding to come and see us, just say hello to us, how are we and so on."
POM Was this when he was on the run?
PJ When he was on the run, when he was still the Black Pimpernel. Ad and I were both puzzled. Of course years later we arrive in London Wolfie tells us why he did it. He was told by Kathrada who apparently told Nelson that a report had been received that our marriage was breaking up and Nelson, who was very close to Ad and I, was most upset. Well after he saw us and he saw us holding hands and so on, walking in, walking out, he probably went back and gave those guys a bollocking and I thought, Jeez! What if the poor bugger was caught for this kind of bloody crap. But as a comrade I think it was correct for him if something went wrong to make that kind of intervention. I feel the same way about my friends and comrades. If we can help save a situation why not? There is no point standing back and saying it's not my business. When does it become your business?
It's like Amien Cajee, Doha. Two things happened, Desmond Francis was one of the cadres Mac and I had sent abroad to London for training and things went wrong and he eventually got caught and so on. He got out of the country. But what he did was he took a decision he wanted to come back into the country, let's say illegally, to take care of the wives of those in prison. Then Amien Cajee tells me, this Doha, that he had talked to some people and he was going to hire a house and take the wives of the detainees and put them in one house and he'd keep them there and look after them. It's amazing how two people independently could express those kind of feelings. I was very touched by this that this is the way our comrades can react, it was a good feeling of support and encouragement.
POM So after you got out and you got your bouquets of flowers and went round and presented them, did you not say, I'd better get out of South Africa?
PJ No I didn't say that, no. We had a problem, first I got back into house arrest. What had happened was that because of our son's condition we couldn't get any medical treatment in SA for him at all and when we did try to get some kind of assistance it was through a white journalist who had a brother with a similar condition and they found facilities, well white people had all these facilities, but the father was a medical specialist and this woman wrote an article in the Sunday Express about our child and she did some investigation and found there were similar kids and that African kids were in a worse off condition. If I recall the story it was that some parents would tie their children to a table and leave a mug of water and a plate of porridge and go to work and come back in the evening and untie the children and see to them. There was no-one else to care for a kid like that. So after some publicity and so on the government agreed to set up an institution on a public subscription and government support on a pound to pound basis. They set up an institution like that in Orlando Township but of course our child couldn't be accepted because he was Indian, this was an African township so there's no way we could get any assistance.
In the meantime I'd been in touch with Vella Pillay and various people to make enquiries of any facilities, possibilities in England and there were these Cheshire Homes, Group Captain Cheshire set up these homes, and enquiries were made then. Apparently they got a sympathetic listening to from one of these organisations and they said they would be prepared to take the child in provided one of the parents was resident in England. It was not possible at that stage. Enquiries on behalf of our child went as far as India and even in Zimbabwe. Eventually through the ANC and the party an approach was made to the government of the GDR and they agreed to take our child. So what we did was to apply for passports and I knew that any name smacking near of Paul Joseph or anything of the sort wasn't a possibility, but like the Irish who have a string of different names, the Indians have more names than the Irish. There's one for the tax man, one for the police, as we say there's always one for the white man. So I have a series of Indian names and we applied on one of those names. Adelaide applied and applied for the children and she went for an interview, they questioned her, asked about communism and so on. She said, What are you talking about?" Completely dumb Indian woman, all she did was wanting to go abroad. They gave her a passport.
Now next stage was when we got the passports was to hide the passports, so who did we give the passports to for safe keeping? To Mac Maharaj. So one day we go and visit Mac and the bloody passports are standing there in the bookcase, exposed.
POM Now where is Mac?
PJ Mac is now in his safe house, he's under cover in Doornfontein.
POM OK. When is this now?
PJ 1964. So I said, "What are you doing? There's no bloody thing of you putting it away." I took the passports away but of course not long afterwards Mac was bloody raided. I took these passports and gave them to a chap running a bookshop in the city whom I had developed a very close relationship with and he put it in his safe. Now the police didn't know about these travel documents. It was made in the name of Zoya, Tanya, the disabled child's passport appeared on the mother's name. So we hid these passports and I got the passports just in case it was necessary for the two girls. I had no plans of leaving, the idea was that Adelaide would take our disabled child to the GDR and having placed him there would come back to join the family.
So plans were being made and when we were now being charged Adelaide indicated to me there was some progress on the question of the child's hospitalisation and I told Mac that and I felt it was necessary to tell him that because we had considered him part of our family. Discussions were at a fairly progressive stage at this time. After Mac was charged and convicted and sent away I then later was released. When I came out I was told that the comrades were waiting for my release for a decision in Johannesburg. The guy who finally took the decision and made the arrangements for Adelaide to get tickets, money for the tickets to leave SA with the child, was Bram Fischer. When he found out that there was going to be a stopover of several hours he decided they would pay the extra money because Adelaide couldn't be sitting with a disabled child at a stopover for an unknown period on the way from SA and then London. So he arranged for a direct flight, got the money for that, directly to London and then our friends who were holding the passports for us through them and my brother and so on eventually we managed to get things done and Adelaide was out of the country.
The police didn't know this for about three months. When they knew about it they came storming there, demanding the whereabouts of Adelaide. Of course there was no point in withholding the information because she's out with the child and there's nothing more they can do. She hadn't done anything illegal. They said, "When is she coming back?" So I said, "Well you see that child there, that's Tanya, that child drinks on her mother so Adelaide will have to come back at some stage and feed this child." They accepted that.
Whilst this was happening the government amended the 90 day laws for 180 day detention. Now there was a possibility of me being re-arrested and testifying against other people the police were either holding already or potentially being arrested. There were no structures left now in the country and I managed to get word to one or two of the comrades. So I arranged a meeting with Bram Fischer and Yusuf Cachalia. We discussed it and Bram's view was that in the light of the impending changes and the fact that Piet Beyleveld and Hlapane didn't testify against me, as well as all the other possibilities, it seemed like there was a chance I would be re-arrested and kept in detention until they felt they had had enough use of me. He then advised that I leave the country.
Now Adelaide wasn't aware of this decision and there was no way now I was able to communicate with her and tell her, "Look, I'm leaving." So what I had to do now was to arrange for the two children, Zoya and Tanya, to be spirited out of the country. My brother found somebody who was going to England for a holiday and he went to this guy and said, "Will you do us a favour? You know these kids, they're crying for their mother, she's in London and it would be nice if they can join her. Would you mind accompanying them?" This poor guy said, "Yes." He turned out to be quite a nice, decent guy, an active member of the Catholic Church as well. So some Catholics
POM No difference between Catholicism and good communism, they're the same type. They switch -
PJ So this guy took the kids out. My brother arranged for everything else and again the people at the bookshop were very helpful and they found an air hostess who would protect the children, got a discount on the air flights and so on and they were wonderful people these. And we got the kids out and Adelaide met them in London. Then a week or two later, the police didn't know the kids had gone out, I noticed now the surveillance had increased. I was reporting to the police station once a week, I was being followed the Monday in the city. Then they were coming again and knocking at the door. I had, rightly or wrongly, the distinct feeling that they were wanting to take me in again. So one evening on impulse they came banging at the door and my niece was there and I told her, "Give me five minutes", and after five minutes she will answer the door.
POM After five minutes?
PJ She should answer the door. And I slipped out of the back and disappeared into the dark and made my way to some place, a safe house where the people took care of me and the police came and found I wasn't there and went out, got a search party and searched the house and around the area, interrogated my mother and my sisters and they didn't tell them anything and they were fretting what had happened to me. Well two weeks later I was in Botswana and the first person I informed, not my mother or my brother, was to phone Winnie Mandela to tell her I was in Botswana. She then came with a message to my mother and brother to say that they are not to worry, I am safe out of the country. Then after three months hanging about in Botswana and the border, on the banks of the River Zambezi I eventually got permission to cross over and make my way to London.
POM Permission from?
PJ From the governments. In fact what had happened was that Canon Collins made an intervention, appealed to President Kaunda.
POM Who? Who made the intervention?
PJ Canon Collins from the Defence & Aid Fund.
POM OK, yes.
PJ And Kaunda asked immigration officials to expedite my departure because there was a possibility the police would come and take me back. Then on this side Adelaide had been in touch with Dick Taverne who was a Member of the Privy Council, he was then a senior man in the Labour Party, and appealed to him to secure my asylum here.
POM What was his name again?
PJ Dick Taverne. And he did that for me, by which time I had already been an adoptee of Amnesty International and Dick Taverne was the patron of the Lincoln Group of Amnesty International, so not only did I pay a courtesy call with Amnesty in Fleet Street where they had their offices but I also went up to Lincoln for Human Rights Day on December 10th and addressed them there on SA and they were very, very supportive. Ever since I've always supported and helped Amnesty International. I'm maybe one of the few South Africans who's still a member of Amnesty International.
POM Do you know what I would like to do, I'm coming back here again at the beginning of (break in recording)
PJ Precisely my perspective on this question when I'm talking about a friend and whilst I expressed to you earlier that I was annoyed and upset and so on and sometimes it's a good thing to get it off your chest, it's also good for your friends to know how you feel about them.
POM I'm glad Mac called you.
PJ Yes, and Mac knows if he thinks Adelaide is blunt, I may not be as blunt as that but he knows us well enough, he knows me to speak my mind, to make criticism. One day in a restaurant with Issy Dinat we were discussing differences of the ANC, the problems and so forth and so on and he called me anti-ANC and I said to him clearly he didn't know me well enough.
POM This was when?
PJ This was after the opening of the country when I went on a visit to SA.
POM You went back to SA?
PJ Yes after 1990. I'm just giving you an example of what happened. So he started raising his voice and when people raise their voices you know they're beginning to lose an argument. So I said to him, "This discussion is intended for us, not for the people in the restaurant, so why are you shouting?" And then he said I'm anti-ANC and so on which I knew was a lot of bloody bullshit. He said to me, "Why are you being so difficult?" I said, "You know why I'm being difficult? The Communist Party and the ANC asked me to be difficult. They had asked me and taught me to ask questions. I am asking the questions back at you guys, what you taught me." I said, "If you never raise a question you'll never get an answer and why shouldn't we be asking questions?" And I did this now with the luncheon I had with Mac, I talked to him about AIDS and I told him how they were screwing up the whole bloody thing.
POM About AIDS?
PJ Yes, and one of the worst features is that not a single MP in the ANC can get up and say, you guys are bloody screwing up the damn thing.
POM That's right. Destroying the country.
PJ I said to him, "Do you know how difficult it is for us to explain to people here? I mean we spent years building up a solidarity movement and you guys go and screw it up.' I talked to him about the corruption and so on. And I got the feeling there that a lot of them thought I was correct but they were too bloody frightened to say so and if they made admissions it was very half-hearted because they were frightened of being quoted and I said there's a lack of debate in the ANC and you are continuing to have problems. This has happened in every bloody movement and if you don't check it now it's going to get worse. Of course the evidence is there.
I see in yesterday's Guardian Pahad wrote a letter in defence of Thabo, Essop Pahad. Chris McGreal did a scathing report on AIDS in SA this week earlier.
POM Who did?
PJ Chris McGreal, he did a scathing report on Thabo Mbeki and the government on AIDS.
POM On AIDS, yes, well deserved. What paper?
PJ The Guardian. It was very factual, not hysterical, quoting the facts and quoting Tutu and everybody else.
POM That's earlier this week?
PJ I think Monday or Tuesday. I'm sorry I should have saved it. Pahad wrote a reply, like a kid replying. Pahad is not the best of pressmen. I don't know if you know him?
POM I've interviewed him twelve times.
PJ Well I shouldn't tell you about him, he's a first class bullshitter. That's my view and because I happen to know him. He came here last year to talk to what they call the activists. Standing with me was Shula Marks and so on, a number of academics and a lot of experienced people, and he talked to us like a bunch of kids. She said to me, "Why is he talking to us like this, like we don't know the situation?" He forgets who he is talking to. I mean these guys, we taught them about the movement, they were youngsters in the movement. I'm not saying we hold the franchise to what we know but you cannot talk to experienced people as if they know nothing and he knows that these are highly experienced people. How do you go and talk to Shula Marks and tell her what to do? So we felt terribly embarrassed and there's a woman here called Ann Darnborough, her husband is Bruce Page, he used to be the editor of the New Statesman, and she told me she went to Pahad and told him, "Essop, what you need here and there is somebody who can deal with the press properly, who can come up with an explanation." Well the way he shouted at her she said she just slunk. This woman is an experienced journalist, you don't treat people like that. You don't treat them like that at all.
POM So the article, again, in the Guardian was by?
PJ Chris McGreal.
POM McGreal, I'll remember that.
PJ He was the correspondent in SA, he's now in Israel but he still does a lot of stories on Africa but he was their accredited correspondent in SA.
POM And he did it this week?
PJ Yes, Monday or Tuesday.
POM I'll get a copy.
PJ You know what? I might have it. Hang on. (break in recording)
hardship families have. Now I would question this. Nor did they resent our involvement.
POM For white children?
POM I know but
PJ In comparison to white Now what Gillian did was a typical white middle class reaction, she questioned her parents. Not only did she question her parents, she went to pursue the guys who slept with her mother. That's no child does that sort of thing about the parents. This our kids find very, very hard to accept. So as I say there are different perspectives about children. It has to do with upbringing, with a kind of a culture, with a kind of understanding and a lot of parents, and I know it's done here by some ANC chaps here and in Lusaka, if they could afford to fob off their children through the ANC they wouldn't hesitate, but a lot of those kids have come out damaged. MD Naidoo's children came out damaged. So sometimes it's an easy way out for parents to have sent their children through, so to speak, to continue the struggle.
My position and that of my brothers and my friends that I know, our responsibility was to our family as well as to the movement. We had to understand where to keep the balance. We could not palm our children onto the movement and say you take care of them, because the process of growing up is the most sensitive process. If you damage that you damage them for the rest of their lives. This is what's happened to some of our friends. It's very difficult, it's not easy and every family can only speak for themselves.
We were offered an opportunity for our entire family to live in the GDR to get the best of houses, the best of schools. A member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party approached me and we flatly turned it down, we refused. Our kids took the view, and I asked them first how did they feel about it, they said, "Look, you're working here, we're living here, there's nothing wrong with the schools here, we're not suffering, if the GDR wants to offer places they must offer to people who need it, not to us." And on reflection our kids have done better here than they would have done in the GDR because they would have had cultural problems as well as ideological problems if they were brought up there.
And they tell me that today and I think they're right because every family we know the kids have been messed up. Either they got distorted education, incompetent education or they were misled into doing all the wrong things. Billy Nair's sister in the GDR, she's got two kids, and the father was a hardened communist, the boy made three attempts to escape over the wall, the third time they got him and they locked him up and both parents are hardened communists. Because you see if you ram anything down children's throats you are doing the wrong thing. They couldn't get the balance right. So we know from experience what happens.
Our kids say they are pleased the way we've brought them up with that understanding. Whatever hardships they had was part of the process of what our family went through in order to carry out our commitment. That we have no regrets because if a comrade can look after his family he will help look after other families. There's a saying, I heard this not so long ago, 'Please take care of yourself so that you will have the strength to take care of others', and there's logic in that. The kind of cheap martyrdom you don't want because if something went wrong we can say, oh that's for the movement, we suffered, look at it, we're all buggered up now. But we were not compelled, we had a choice. So we take the choice and you have to do the best you can. I am sure you know this from the way the Irish people struggled.
PJ And sometimes you actually come through better. You may not have all the material things but spiritually you feel much more strengthened and you feel a sense of achievement because what you believe in is not for yourself but for a wider you talk about war, how we can prevent it, it's not because you want to be saved because there's nothing much left in our lives now, it's for our children and their children and for the man next door. It's a complex situation.
POM So your wife is back on the 30th?
PJ She'll be back on the 30th, it's a Saturday and then 1st December is Sunday. So you'll be here on the 5th?
POM I'll be here until the 5th. I'm leaving Boston on Thursday 28th and I arrive here on 29th and I have Pillay Vella Pillay as soon as I arrive. He's not giving me much time with time loss. In fact I'll be able to ring you back I'll ring you from Boston.
PJ OK, so what I would say tentatively, if you can do it the Monday or the Wednesday that will suit me fine because in between I work for Oxfam, I do a lot of Oxfam work.
POM OK, because I'm going to see Joel Joffe in Swindon on the 2nd.
PJ Oh right, yes! Several weeks ago we spent with him, we see him quite often. He's a great guy. Have you met him before?
POM I haven't, no. I look forward to it.
PJ He's a marvellous man.
PJ In Stephen Kleinman's book on the biography of Bram Fischer have you read that?
POM I've just bought it, I haven't read it yet.
PJ There's a reference to where I'm taking some Indian guy for a swim. That's Chotabhai. You must ask him.