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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
14 Dec 2003: Seedat, Hassim
POM It's a pleasure to meet you. Just before we start something about yourself, where you grew up, your parents, your own personal background so that I can put you in a perspective.
HS Can we leave that out? I'll give you a short background. It'll save a lot of time. It's not as extensive as yours, obviously.
POM I don't mean that. Who are you?
HS All right. Just a slight correction in your introduction that you gave us. I was not in school with Mac, I was born in 1930, Mac was born in 1935. Mac, therefore, was five years my junior and he was in school with a brother of mine in Newcastle.
Brief background: Newcastle, as you know is a mining town, was a mining town.
POM Did you grow up in the same road, on Boundary Road?
HS Yes. We were not in Boundary Road but Newcastle itself was such a small place that we knew everyone simply because of our school connections and family relationships and so on. Now Mac's father was a gentleman by the name of NR Maharaj.
POM How do you spell that?
HS All the details appear in Naidoo's book. You've seen Naidoo's book? Phyllis Naidoo's book, you've seen it?
POM I've got that.
HS All right. If you talk to Phyllis she has actually in her book
POM But she didn't give the names.
HS I think she does. She gives the initials. I wouldn't know because everybody in town knew him as N R, those were his initials.
POM The father?
HS That was the father. He was a big man physically. I remember seeing him at the place that you visited in Newcastle. In the later part of his life he was a big man physically. I recall that he was always seated because he had gone a bit rotund and his ankles were not bearing the strain of his weight. A very flamboyant person.
POM Was he a figure? Was he well known?
HS He was well known for several things. Among other things he was a great gambler.
POM He did the horses.
HS Yes, yes, and he was a repository of the knowledge of all the horse racing. We have a very famous horse race here in Durban called the July Handicap and old NR used to have extensive records of horses that ran and when July came along people used to go to his shop to get bets. He was well known and popular to that extent.
Mac was actually a son of the second marriage. They had two mothers, the first mother died.
POM Let's keep on the father first. The father was a gambler. He didn't have money but he gambled.
HS Well I suppose when we talk about gambling you gamble in the amounts that you can afford.
POM But he would lay out the odds for the community?
HS Everyone came to him for advice: what is the best bet.
POM Would they lay a bet with him?
HS No, no, he was the advisor. There is one very interesting story which needs to be confirmed when you get to Newcastle, and this story I heard a long time ago, as I said it's subject to confirmation. He was a great gambler, a gambler in a sense that he met his friends and they used to play cards.
POM That's Mac's father?
HS That's Mac's father we're talking about. I'm not talking about Mac, Mac is not on the scene at all at this stage. Now the old man apparently had got into a session of gambling with a circus owner who had come to town. At that particular stage you can image we're talking about 60 years ago, 50 or 60 years ago in a little small town and I suppose it happens in Ireland, you hear the beating of drums and suddenly we find ourselves, you know the circus is in town and everybody runs to the circus and the children all rush to it and so on. I suppose it's not unusual that the circus owner himself is a bit of a gambler. So once they met under whatever circumstances, they got down in the evening to gamble. Apparently the circus owner was bled dry so he said, "Well you know I have got no money but I'll put my circus up for the next bet." And Maharaj won the circus. So I understand Maharaj went around with the circus for a short while and said that, "This was not what I was born for", and sold all the animals. Please confirm this because sometimes memories play tricks. But I am quite certain that I heard this story. Now whether the chap who was telling the story was speaking the truth.
But let's start this way, let me just give you a proper introduction to Newcastle. Newcastle is a mining town, coal mining town. When the first indentured Indians arrived in this country in 1860 the mines had not opened up in northern Natal and other parts of the country. When discovery of coal was made in northern Natal they required labour and the indentured Indians were then taken to Newcastle to the coal mines. The agreement between the British government and the South African government at that time in terms of the indentured labour laws was that they were to be farm hands and labourers on the farms, they could be waiters, could be domestic servants and so on, but there was a prohibition on employing the indentured Indians in the mines themselves. Somehow or other the protector of Indian immigrants, the mine owners, they ignored those regulations as a consequence of which two trainloads of Indians were taken to the Newcastle mines. And if I'm not mistaken NR's father was one of them who was taken to the mines in Newcastle. But, as I said, you will establish that, whether his father was a miner.
So we need to weave in the whole question of the indentured Indians and so on because if you want to look at Mac's life we must accept the adventurous nature of the people who had come in as indentured Indians. To leave their country to come across the sea, come to South Africa, is itself a very adventurous move. So one needs to grasp that very sharply in order to understand the antecedents of Maharaj and myself. We were not indentured Indians but the people who were put into the mines at that particular time.
POM Then were you passenger?
HS Yes, we were passenger Indians. We only came in the 1880s, 1890s.
POM What was Mac's?
HS Mac's would have been there I think in the 1870s.
POM Yes, but they would have been passenger, not indentured?
HS No the indentured system carried on until 1915.
POM Yes, but this is very important because
HS That needs to be ascertained. I'm giving a general background of the Indian community as to how they landed themselves.
POM Then you were passenger in your background. Mac's background, given its place in the caste system, he would be more likely to be
HS I want you to just cast your mind back. The possibility, if you get to Newcastle, to find out from the people who you are interviewing, whether Mac's grandfather was an indentured Indian or a passenger Indian, I think that's important to find out. But there's another alternative. The other alternative is that the Indians built the railways from Durban to Newcastle and onwards so there's a possibility that his father may have been an indentured Indian, brought to Newcastle in the employment of the railway people.
POM That's his grandfather.
HS That's his grandfather we're talking about, so that needs to be sorted out. But I think it is important that we try to establish Mac's antecedents in order to place him within a larger
POM When I ask Mac where he comes from I find a certain form of denial. He always says, "I'm black. I'm a black South African." And he denies, he does deny, his Indian background by glossing over it, whereas Shanti goes into it in beautiful detail. I just want you to keep that in mind because one of the things that fascinates me is the question of identity. Where do people of Indian origin regard their identity as coming from? From India or South Africa? But there was no South Africa that existed. The question is what we call identity politics. But I'm branching off. I want to confine you to where did you come from, where did you grow up?
HS I grew up in Newcastle, I was born there. My family came there as traders in the beginning. When they got to Newcastle in the late 1880s, early 1890s, they were just one of three shops, merchants, that used to trade there. I've got quite a lot of extensive material on that aspect of it but that is not relevant.
Now I would then put Mac, as I said we need to be careful, we don't want to make a wrong identification as to whether his grandfather was an indentured Indian or not but the possibility is that he was, and if we accept that possibility that his great-grandfather was an indentured Indian then obviously he would have been employed either as a railway worker or as a miner. Now as we said a little earlier, the mines themselves in Newcastle and the Indians themselves played a major role in Gandhi's final political campaign in this country so one needs to go back to 1914, that this man Mac Maharaj doesn't just come out of a vacuum, that he is firmly embedded in a society that was active and conscious of their political selves and so on. So one needs to understand that aspect of it. That's what I'm talking about.
POM Let me ask you the question. Why would Mac gloss over that completely and say that he came from an apolitical background where ?
HS Well I suppose he's not conscious of that, or he's not aware of the activities that took place.
POM Or, another alternative, does he not want to?
HS No, what I am saying is that he was not conscious of that. If we relate it and use it as a thread as I am doing now, he will possibly admit that, hey, wait a minute, we were active. The fact is that he may not be aware of that background or, alternatively, he wants to deny that background. I don't know. We will only discover after we read your book.
So that briefly is Mac's background there. You will be seeing his relatives, his brothers and so on, and you may be able to gather the intimate details of his life and background. My association with him, as I said, began when he was about to leave for England and so was I. I had matriculated and I wanted to become a lawyer.
POM YNow were you in the same school?
HS Yes, St Oswalds.
POM Now he says he was the first matriculant from St Oswalds.
HS That's right. We went up to standard eight only at that stage and we came to Durban to matriculate. Just after us I think there were two other periods but at the time that Mac had reached his standard eight the nines and tens had come in. So that is correct, Mac was in fact the first batch of Indian matriculants from St Oswalds.
POM Then you were in the same school?
HS I was in the same school but only up to standard eight because we had only gone up to eight at the time that I had left.
POM Do you remember him at school?
HS I remember seeing him as my brother's friend, my brother who is younger than me.
HS No, not Tony, this is another brother by the name of Kallie. Newcastle has a large Seedat family incidentally and we all grew up in Newcastle. It has a very large family too here in Durban. But my brother and Mac were in the same class and although I never spoke to him as such and I saw him play soccer or whatever the case may be, but they were together with their friends. There was a difference, as I said, of about five years between us. Now that is the Mac of Newcastle.
I had matriculated, then I took up a course in teaching and I started teaching for a few years and then decided that that was not for me and that I would go and become a lawyer. The universities at that time, you are well aware of that we had no admission to law at that particular stage, we need not go into that, and I then decided to go to London to join one of the Inns of Court, which I did.
POM Now Mac says, just to go over this, Mac says in university law was not open but the Registrar or whomever said that if you get five pupils together who want to study law then they would open law.
HS Yes, they would give tuition but not with the whites themselves. We'd have a little class.
POM And that he got five people together and that he was the only one of the five who passed all the examinations so they closed down the examination and said, "Tough luck, we told you five people and Mac, if you passed it really makes no difference."
HS I had no quarrel with that. I think every exam he wrote he passed. He was quite brilliant academically, no problem about that. But if you haven't read Phyllis Naidoo's
POM I have, yes.
HS You've read that?
POM I've talked to her.
HS She records the period in which he was at the University of Natal at Salisbury Island.
POM Very briefly.
HS Very briefly, yes.
POM But doesn't tell what I'm trying to find out is who was Mac? Who was he?
HS I can only tell you who Mac was in terms of my association with him and my experience with him. OK?
POM That's right. That's what I'm interested in.
HS That's what I understand you are here for. I will have to relate our relationship in order to draw conclusions whereafter and what my impressions of him were, or whatever impression he has of me. We then found ourselves in Tottenham at 28 Downhills Park Road.
POM How did you find how did you find yourselves there?
HS We, myself and my cousin Tony Seedat, the one that you mentioned earlier, took a ship to England, Southampton, the Cape Town Castle.
LS What year was that?
HS This was, I must look this up, but say it's the 1957/58 type of period.
POM That's when Manchester United was the best team in the world with Duncan Edwards. That was the year their whole team was slaughtered on taking off from Munich. Duncan Edwards, the man with the nod. Bobby Charlton. Right? The Charlton brothers.
HS We then had a flat in Downhills Park Road, 28 Downhills Park Road, and we found ourselves together, that was myself, Mac, Nandha Naidoo (who you met) and Tony Seedat. Then subsequently two years later we had Kader Asmal with us, this is the chap who is now the Minister of Education for his sins. Anyway, he was there. At that particular time my experience of Mac was that he, unlike what Phyllis Naidoo says, that himself and Nandha Naidoo used to go to some cafeterias or something like that. That is not correct. Actually Mac taught in schools because he had a BA and so on so he was what do they call these teachers?
HS Substitute teachers. They've got another name for it. So what we used to do is we used to go to the Central London Bureau where the teachers were and they would say, "Right, buzz off here, you go there and you go there." And Mac used to teach there, I used to teach there. Nandha Naidoo, I'm not very sure, but Nandha Naidoo is a bit of a timid chap and I don't think he was able to stand the small hooligans there.
POM When you met him as a person, who was Mac back then?
HS You see at that particular stage I found Mac to be completely in control of himself. He had gone through his university days in Durban and so on and he always appeared to be self-confident. We were a little withdrawn, this is a new country, how do we get around.
POM Where did he get that from?
HS He got it from here. For example, Phyllis Naidoo mentions this, that when he came from Newcastle to Durban to join the university and so on, very quickly he was able to assert his authority on everybody.
POM Just again your opinion, this is a boy -
HS Coming from a small town, a one-horse town.
POM From Lennoxton, from Boundary Road, who's never been out of Boundary Road, he bounds from Boundary Road right into the university with this self-confidence. His Dad would appear to have been this very authoritarian figure whom he had to strike out against to assert his own identity. So how did he come from being
HS Can we take it so far? Can we take that so far? You see as an aside you mentioned to me that he talks about his mother all the time because his mother was the second wife of the old man and she obviously lavished all her love on the young man who was feeling the authority of the father so he had to fight back with the assistance of his mother, the motherly support I think. That is the type of background I can visualise.
When I talked to my brother about Mac, he always was the top of the class. OK? There's nobody who could stand for him and he got this characteristic from his father because his father was a powerful person, people respected him. So he got that and I think it is easy to then conclude that his personality, strong personality, comes from his father.
For example, just to illustrate this point, the loss of his eye for example, here is an athletic meeting at Currie's Fountain, athletic meeting at Currie's Fountain. He gets into a scrap with somebody over a political argument I understand it was, and three chaps beat him up and he loses his eye by the stab of the athletic boot which had spikes.
POM I remember that. Football boots.
HS That's how he loses his eye. And he makes light of it, he didn't in my conversations with him, or possibly in your conversations with him, it was just an incident. There was nothing about it. I can't even remember thereafter there being a criminal trial or a hooha about it and so on and things like that. It's part of life, part of life, growing up, get into a scrap, fight it out.
POM That's his Dad? Because you see he'll say the very same thing today. Last night I talked to him. He'd say the same thing. It doesn't surprise you?
HS No. Well having known him and so on it didn't surprise me that he got into a scrap and lost his eye.
POM I'm trying to put that in where he would say today, he will say, "Padraig, that's life."
HS That's it. That was his attitude.
POM As you know him does that come from an embedded self-confidence? Most of us would be scary.
HS Extreme self-confidence. Take the Ngcuka case, for example, he went forward and he said, "You know, I'm going to prove to you that you're a spy." And he blew it simply because he felt threatened. His wife was being threatened. That's exactly what he did. That fits into his character completely.
POM It does.
HS Here's a man, he was prepared to go to the top.
POM Was he always like that?
HS He went to Mbeki and said, "I'm going ahead."
POM I know, I know that. But when you knew him was he like that? When you knew him in London?
POM When he was in London he must have been an intolerable person to live with.
HS Absolutely. Well intolerable was that mercifully we only saw one another in the evening because he went to studies and I was studying and so on so we only met really to sit together and talk over the weekends or when we had innumerable seminars with the Communist Party at that particular stage.
POM When you say 'mercifully', what do you mean by mercifully?
HS Well because there was nothing in common between us, if I may put it that way.
HS Simply because whenever an argument or anything took place he took a stand and we took a stand and that was it.
POM Who is we?
HS Myself, Nandha and Tony.
POM So it was three against one?
HS Well we argued and so on and he was quite adamant about it. Of course there was a lot of acceptance of views, Marxist theology, Marxist philosophies and so on, of course we were there. But as to exactly how we were going to bring about the change in the country and so on and things like that, we were all students.
POM So was he more radical?
HS Extremely. We had our penny's worth.
POM Why would he have been again I want to find, again you're putting yourself right in the middle of when he would have been in Durban at the University of Natal for 'non-European' students and then you meeting up in London. What would account for his radicalism since he came from the most unradical background?
HS His radicalism developed in Durban at that university that we are talking about.
HS There was intense political debate at that time, the question of prejudice, the question of not even being allowed in the white section of the university and so on. Phyllis Naidoo is the right person who can really talk to you about the question of his radicalisation at that very, very important period of his life. Rebel, radical, radical to London, Communist Party.
POM When you remember, how do you remember Mac? You said he was intolerable. I think Leanne said to me that he said that people didn't like him. Mac wasn't liked.
HS He wasn't liked because he was assertive. He brooked no dissension. He was right all the time.
POM Why do you think that he - ?
HS As I say, this is his personality, this is his strong personality. My view, one must understand this, that his fearlessness and his thought process at that particular time, his assessment at that time together in discussions with people, his political comrades and so on, gave him that amount of strength to talk openly without any prevarication or anything at all. When I say he is disliked, he was disliked not as a person but simply because of his fighting. He was right, he'd say, "I'm right, you see." So we said, "OK, you're right, you're right, that's the end of the matter." But that doesn't detract from the fact that once he had made up his mind and he had said that he was right, he was now prepared to go to the end for those views that he held and that I find to be the most important characteristic of his personality. If once he had made up his mind that this is the part I'm going to take nothing would get him side-tracked. If you take a look at his political career, his activities in Africa, the ANC camps in Africa for example -
POM Yes, talk about that.
HS And so on, you will find that nowhere in any forum, any forum whatsoever, Mac would now take the lead. For example, if you take the Vula operation who else was there to take on this incredibly brave task of coming back into the country to start an insurrection up once again? Was there anybody in the African community? Was there anybody in the white community? And once he became an intelligence officer in Lusaka when the ANC camps were there and so on, he was heavily involved with the certification of those people who left South Africa to join the ANC.
POM Now when you say that, do you mean the people who came from South Africa into Zambia and they would be interrogated? Now how do you know that?
HS He was one of the intelligence officers.
POM How do you know that?
HS I'll give you a name.
POM Off the record, OK. You'll get a transcript of what we say so you can cross out anything you want.
HS I will give you a name. I will mention the name, it's no problem because he will be prepared to fill in that particular gap. This man is a Dr. Freddy Reddy in Oslo. You haven't heard of him?
POM No. Do you know him?
LS I have heard of him.
HS Now Freddy Reddy is a psychologist, he's based in Norway and during the ANC camps in Lusaka and other places in Africa and so on, he spent two to three months a year attending to those ANC cadres who had psychological problems. So he used to go and attend these camps and he will be able to tell you more about Mac than I can in relation to his activities in Africa.
POM Where is the doctor now?
HS I will give you his e-mail.
POM Thank you.
HS He would be worth visiting. I have got some of his writings here but I'm not happy with the way he deals with the African situation and I've asked him to expand on that. He's quite a fascinating character. This Freddy Reddy came from Durban. I don't know whether he met Mac here in Durban, it's highly unlikely, but he was employed in the King Edward Hospital at that time as a person who removes the cadavers from the various places. I don't know what you call them. He then decided to leave the country and he trekked, he hitch-hiked part of Africa and he then landed up in London at the time. He tells us the fascinating story of him going to Speakers Corner and listening to the Communist Party, Hyde Park.
POM I know it well. The Irish used to have a hang-out there.
HS We all were there together. So after he had heard he waited until the time the speaker went off. He went up to the speaker and he said, "You know, I come from South Africa and I want to join the Communist Party. Who do I see?" So apparently the chap said, "Go to this address." I hear a tap at the door and this young chap is there. "What do you want?" "You're Mr Seedat?" I said, "Yes." "Is Mac Maharaj here?" he says. "Yes." "Well, I've been asked to see you. I want to join the Communist Party." That's our introduction to the man. He then, the Norwegian Party had given scholarships, so he then went off to Oslo to study and he became a psychiatrist. He has got a fascinating story and he will tell you about his experiences with Mac when he came down, when Freddy came down to make assessment of the soldiers.
POM That's not Jele is it? That's not Josiah Jele?
HS No. OK. So when I tell you about Mac's activities it is all hearsay. I've not been to Lusaka except when we went to see the ANC at that particular time when we met Slovo. But that's another matter.
Our relationship with Mac, as I said, is a relationship like all students living together. It may be tempestuous at times, very friendly most of the time. When one has to cook to feed the others and one person doesn't cook, the others
POM Now you're all guys in the same I remember it well.
HS You know the background to the whole thing. Then just briefly about his meeting with Tim. Tim was
POM But, again, he was younger than you. I want to tell you, you age well.
HS What's your age?
POM Well I'm certainly
HS Much younger than I am.
POM But you look younger than I do.
HS Yes, I'm much older than you. It depends on if you reveal what your age is.
POM This is like a trade off. I've learnt from you guys, all I've learnt from you guys is never to reveal anything until I can get an answer to a question. So if you're several years older than Mac you should be my God! You should be in your seventies.
HS I am. 73.
POM I feel ashamed. I'm in my early sixties.
HS No, no, you're not aging well.
POM I'm not aging well. Thank you very much! I come all this way. Make a note that
LS Maybe he can tell you where you're going wrong?
POM Where am I going wrong?
HS The answer lies in your genes. Neither I nor you can say how long we're going to live but we've learned sufficient about science that tells us that this is a genetic process and we live our life span according to the genes that we inherit.
Alright, now the other thing that I can add of interest
POM I still don't get a picture. You guys are in this room, a good room. You're now kind of opposite where Tottenham Spurs play, so you share a fairly large flat. This is where you meet him first? Not the small flat, or do you meet him in the small one? When in London did you first meet him? Mac says
POM Mac says, as I recall, it's a long time since we did this interview, that he was working at Lyons and that one day somebody, you, said, "What are you doing here? You could be a teacher. You have a graduate degree and in post-war Britain if you've a degree."
HS Maybe we did meet but I can't recall that.
POM Then how do you end up, he talks about you sharing a flat and it was a very small flat but you recall it as being
HS No, this was the second flat. He's right. We were in Bayswater if I remember, of all places.
POM OK, yes.
HS And that was one room and three of us shared it.
POM OK, talk about that.
HS That's the Bayswater flat. That was our first introduction.
POM Why didn't you talk about that first rather than going to the second one?
HS But then that is where we settled down and that is where we started having our meetings and attending Vella Pillay's soirees and so on and so on and things like that and Joffe's place and you know the Joffes were there and so on and things like that.
POM But the first time you're together is in this first flat. So how were you guys together then? He says, oh, it was just a one-room place, it was like four of us holed up.
HS That wasn't for long. I think it was about six months, four months or so. A shortish period. We were just looking around for something suitable. When we got there we didn't know anyone. There was a friend or two who were there before us but they were very helpful and they sort of said
POM So did you go to Mac or did Mac go to you?
HS I think it was the other way around. I think Mac found us. We were there, myself and Tony were there and Mac then found us. Then Nandha Naidoo I think also came in. I remember a scene in the Newcastle station, I was leaving having said farewell to my family before I boarded the ship, and Mac was at the railway station and we got to talking and he gave us a short, sharp lecture on socialism while I was leaning out of the train. You know what he said to me which I will never forget? He said, "You know, when we get into power we're going to nationalise the railways." And I said, "Damn fine, except that the railways belong to the state." I thought that was funny. I still remember that. Lovely, hey? Absolutely lovely.
Then of course you see Mac, apart from his assertive attitude and so on and his sometimes high pitched laugh, which is not a laugh really, it's just I think relief of tension on his part if I may just say that, was that after he had his glass eye put in if you look at him carefully you find that that glass eye staring at you is very disconcerting. So he then assumed this character of whether he's looking at you or he's not looking at you, he appeared to be ephemeral, this person looking at you with this glass eye, blind eye.
POM How did he do the eye?
HS That stamp.
POM With the foot.
HS The spike in the athletic shoe.
POM And he walked away and said
HS Now let's get to the other point. We settled down, fine. He then Tim who he fell in love with here in Durban then followed him and she got a position as a nurse.
POM He says that, my understanding is that she had applied to go away before him. They had broken up, her family disapproved of the whole thing. No?
HS I'm not really into that family.
POM Neither am I but my understanding is that the family thought he was
HS I think Phyllis mentions this in passing, that she then leaves for England and she joins him in England.
POM Did you know her?
HS Very well.
POM Did you date her?
HS No, no I didn't. She was, no, she was from Durban, we were never close at all. Remember that I only got into Durban after I had come back from England. I was in Newcastle all the time. That is where Mac was obviously. But then Mac and Tim they married. I'm now going to show you some photographs which nobody has seen except Tim and Tim only saw them a few months ago when I persuaded her to come across and have a look at them. As you will recall they were very much younger. Let me just relate the sequence of these photographs for you.
POM These are the photographs we used to have. God, I forget I'm old. The Kodak.
LS Kodak, black and white.
POM Black and white.
HS All right. Briefly I'll just relate the sequence of this. You met this gentleman, you recognise him? That's Nandha Naidoo. That's Tony Seedat grooming Nandha. That's Tony grooming me. OK. What is the occasion? The occasion is the wedding day of Maharaj and Tim. There's Tony coming into our flat with a parcel in his hand and that parcel of course contains the wedding cake. Then we wait patiently for the married couple to come along, they had gone to the Registry Office to get married. So here they arrive.
POM There they are the two of them.
HS The two of them. This is a passer-by. There's him and his wife coming in. They give him a hoorah and a cheer. Smile, smile please.
POM Look at the waistcoat.
HS Yes. He says, smile please, smile, smile. And there they give us a smile.
POM Oh gee. That is so neat.
HS Then we start the dinner, whatever you call it, the wedding dinner and here they are cutting the cake. And there the bride, portrait of the bride is taken.
POM Could I ask you something? Could I borrow these for 24 hours. No?
HS They are the only ones of them.
POM We'll hand deliver tomorrow. OK? They are most beautiful. London, 28
HS Downhills Park Road.
POM Nandha Naidoo being groomed for the occasion of the reception. The post-marriage party of Mac Maharaj and Tim Naidoo at 28 Downhills Park Road, London.
LS Mac used to smoke just as much in those days.
HS We had endless quarrels about his smoking. Ashes all over the place.
LS Really? In the apartment.
POM Was he a leader? What stands out about him? Let me ask you a funny question, I've asked it of Nandha, I asked him the same question: if tomorrow Mac dropped dead and you were invited to speak from the heart what would you say? From the heart, not the head, from the heart what would you say?
HS I have unbounded admiration for his courage and what he did for the country.
POM But where did that come from?
HS I don't know. I know the man and I know his single-mindedness. If he did something he wants to bring it to its conclusion. You know it's amazing if you read the treatment that he was given by the Security Branch and so on to the extent that when they battered him around, Phyllis and them were prepared to believe that he will not be able to get children as a consequence of them having beaten him up around the groin and the penis and things like that. And they were as surprised as anybody else when he eventually had children from his second wife.
POM But let me ask you, because you see I've talked to Phyllis and she talked very strongly about it and I have talked to Tim and I said I'm talking to Tim this evening and in fact she says I'm her first date in 40 years and I said, "Jesus, you're my first date in 40 years too so we actually have something in common." I think I may be the only person who talked to both wives in 24 hours.
HS Well I've never spoken to his second wife.
POM Let me ask you this
HS The only time I saw his second wife was in hospital, unconscious.
POM Where? In London?
LS After her car accident?
HS I was there. We were meeting the ANC at that time and myself, Joe Slovo and one other person, and Joe said, "Let's go and have a look at Zarina." And Mac wasn't there then I think.
POM No, he was here.
HS So we rushed off to the hospital and there was this woman Zarina, we just tiptoed out quietly. That's the only time I've seen her.
POM Who is Joe?
HS Slovo. Joe Slovo. You know Joe Slovo?
POM I interviewed him before he died four times. Now Mac, I gather, like if I gather, pick up on things, he had a love/hate relationship with Joe. Did they?
HS That's not surprising. Who had a love relationship with Mac?
POM Who had a love relationship with Mac? Well obviously Zarina did. Tim loved him.
HS You know what surprises me is that Tim and Mac could have actually fallen in love because to me either they were two people of the same sort of character, Tim is a hard woman, Mac is a hard man, and they got along. Tim is an extremely hard woman.
POM She almost looks like him. She still does.
HS She does and therefore his association with Zarina, for instance, I haven't met her I don't even know her, Zarina must be a pretty tough cookie.
POM She is.
HS That I can assume. Nobody is ever going to get along with Mac.
POM You are right on the button.
HS Right, OK. So that's obvious.
POM But when you met him in London, but you knew her at college, at the University of Natal?
HS No, I wasn't at university. I had gone off to I graduated, as I said I did my Bar at Law.
POM I want to tell you something, can I tell you something? This handwriting. I have an aunt that I never have met in my life, she's 95 years of age, and when she was 16 she went to be nun in Australia and she used to write me all through my growing up. And her handwriting was exactly like that. Beautiful handwriting.
HS You know whose handwriting this is?
LS I'll tell you.
POM Oh, it's Mac's handwriting.
HS This is Mac's letter to me from Robben Island.
POM Can you read it to me? Read it into the tape. Please.
HS You read it.
POM All those people who were under colonial rule always learnt
HS You see, Mac says in his Reflections in Prison, in that book of his where he introduces, he says that the first thing that they learnt in Robben Island was to be able to write in as small handwriting as possible in order that they could fill in the one page that was given to them to write letters to people outside Robben Island. I also have copies of letters of Nelson Mandela which were written to us in my office, tiny, tiny handwriting. I have to look at it very closely.
POM Would Mac sneak the letters out?
HS He's the one, yes. He's the one. Now this is a very personal letter but a very, very interesting letter. It's dated 16 April 1968, it is from Robben Island and Mac's number was 9/65, that was his number. It is written on foolscap paper, very closely handwritten and you will now read it to us. It's quite fascinating.
POM Did this get through the censors?
HS Yes. You will see the signature.
LS It's been censored but there's nothing that's been removed.
HS By this time they knew exactly what would be censored and what would not be so they avoided any problem.
POM The date was?
LS 16 April 1968.
"Dear Hassim, I have been very heartened by your ready response to my request via Tim. Unfortunately, I have to ration my letters. I hope, therefore, that Themba and Evie will understand why, at least for the present, I am unable to write to them. In any event I have certain problems in relation to which I want, if possible, to enlist your aid. I trust that you will treat this aspect of my letter in strict confidence.
"Since Tim's visit in January I have been very worried about her health. In fact I have been so disturbed that I sought permission in writing from the prison authorities to send her some cash from the funds that she sent for my current year's studies, etc., in order to pressure her into seeing a specialist and sending me a copy of his report. I am still hoping to pursue the matter with the Prison Department as I am hard put to understand their refusal."
POM Was that with regard to her hysterectomy? Or was that code?
HS Let her finish.
LS "Recent indications are that her health is much improved, but you know Tim, she would certainly try to allay my anxiety and would prefer to stoically endure privations to ensure that I am adequately provided with funds. I feel also that it is all too easy to neglect her health until it is too late. This is all (the handwriting is really small) so I understand her difficulties are due to mental rather than physical factors.
"The effects of detention, her present lonely hermit-like life due to our enforced separation and all the burdens that she has had to shoulder on her own since my arrest can easily have a cumulative effect that would seriously impair her health. Since my arrest she has not managed to settle down. Her circle of friends are all scattered and I gather that she leads a pretty lonely life. I feel she must break out of her hermit life and build a stable circle of friends.
It is here that I want to enlist your aid in asking you and your wife to find a way to draw her closer to you. I have not had the pleasure of meeting your wife but from what Tim tells me I gather that the prospects are there for a stable friendship between her and Tim. This may all sound simple but I know it is not an easy thing to do. Friendships don't just sprout up like that overnight. Besides Tim has been in a defensive frame of mind since my arrest, very wary of charity and all that. I hope, therefore, that you will do all you can in this regard.
"Secondly, I have a more easily met request to make, one that (unsure of the word) at the same time not put Tim's guard up. I normally write all my letters via Tim and I am sure she will be wondering why I have chosen to write direct to you. May 17th is our anniversary and May 27th is her birthday. Would you be so kind as to buy a small token gift for her on my behalf? The surprise element should be enough to make her understand why I have written direct to you. I have in my mind a cheap Penguin book that would do very well as a present, namely, Scarlet and Black by Stendahl or something similar. Please give it to her as a combined anniversary/birthday gift from me. Sorry to impose on you in this fashion.
That I have been moved to write to you in relation to the above matters is indication enough of the degree of my anxiety. One does not and cannot foresee all the consequences of one's actions. I have no cause for regret. It would, however, be a source of much pain to me if the consequences were such as to induce the impairment of Tim's health. She has shown a degree of courage that few can measure and has stood by me and without complaining accepted both before and after my arrest a mode of existence that can hardly be the envy of any woman.
"What can I tell you about myself? Perhaps I can best explain prison and what it has meant to me by means of an analogy which you, being something of an artist, will readily grasp. Prison is like a miniature, be it a painting, a sculpture or even a Coca-Cola bottle. In a miniature all the lesser details of the other disappear through a process of reduction until the main contours are all that are left. In philosophy a similar process is utilised in order to understand the phenomena, method of abstraction. In either case this method enables a comprehension of the quintessence of the object phenomena, the essential qualities emerge in sharp relief, and prison I find is a miniature of the society within which it exists.
But prison has meant more than this to me. It allows me to detach myself from the press and heat of events. This confined effect has been to enrich and deepen my optimism but I hasten to add that this is the optimism of a case-hardened realist and not an idealist. Idealists, of course, will find the atmosphere conducive to wild flights of imagination. I guess I was made to come to prison. I have neither lost nor gained weight. I reckon I remain the same in spirit, perhaps more optimistic and certainly the wiser.
"What of yourself and your wife? Do you still maintain an interest in painting? I hope you have seen John Burgess' book on Picasso as a painter, Penguin. If you haven't, do obtain a copy. You will find it stimulating.
"Do you still keep in touch with Raji's monthly notes, etc? I have taken up so much space that I have little left to ask of the many friends that I should like to hear of.
My very best regards to your Dad, Uncle and Kallie. The same goes for Evie, Themba. Does he remain the eligible bachelor who played brinkmanship with marriage? And others. Do you hear from Steve, etc? Is your sister in with you and how far is your wife with her studies? God damn it, what is her name? When you reply I hope you will find the space to tell me about them. Oh yes, also give my regards to Radi and her husband. Please head your reply, 'Reply to letter in lieu of March 1968 visit.' As to Evie and Themba's query as to why I don't want to write, well I'd like it and hope to create the opportunity one day. In the meantime rest assured that I do often think of you folks.
"Well, old chap, there is little else to say for now. Tim can tell you all about my progress and problems about studies, etc. Prison is no easy place to live in. I keep chafing at my inactivity. I always want to be up and about and hate routine. I always feel like a robot, but never fear, I always am searching and finding ways to pinch myself to make sure I am alive and not an automaton.
"Please write soon and at length. I all but anxiously await to hear from you.
Fondest regards, Mac."
POM How did you guys get so close?
HS That's the character of him. If you reproduce that in full you've got it.
POM It's code.
HS So it's decoded.
POM Can you remember?
HS Now as you will notice I corresponded with him and I think that there was an interchange of at least three to four letters. I can't lay my hands on the others, to my eternal regret. But I have a sneaking suspicion that they are somewhere in this library. As you will notice, under the table there are boxes and boxes of papers. It's only after I spoke to you that I looked around to say I'd better find it and I just found the one letter. And the photographs I had actually taken to my chambers and I asked Tim to come and have a look at it. One would have anticipated that if somebody said to you, "I have got your wedding photographs here. Would you like to come to see it?" And before I could put the phone down the person will be there. One would imagine that. She wasn't interested. It's only on the third occasion that I reminded her, I said, "Tim, you know I've got those photographs." "Oh yes, yes, I forgot, I'll come and have a look."
POM You knew them. Did they get along?
POM I have a date this evening, OK.
HS You'd better ask her.
POM Well I'm looking for advice here, OK.
HS The one or two occasions that I spoke to her, and this was not under normal circumstances I met her in Smith Street in Durban once going off to play bingo or some such thing, and we were walking down the street and we were speaking. Only on two occasions that I had her like you are sitting across from me and I was on the other side. But we generally met on the street, "Hi Tim, how are you?" So-and-so, and the opportunity arises.
POM Was that before or after?
HS Now, for quite a few years now. And I usually ask her, "Mac is in the news again, is he?" So she will say, "Yes", she was defensive, she was not derogatory or anything. She said, "No, no, he's fine", and that type of thing. I didn't gather that there were any antagonistic feelings she harboured as a consequence of what happened. So when you speak to her I think you will
POM I have talked to her.
HS You will find that she's not going to change her attitude towards him.
POM She says, "Oh that bastard!"
HS But she still likes him.
POM Yes. I know that. That's apparent. She does almost the same thing with a cigarette. Did anybody ever know who Mac was?
HS You'll have to ask the individuals. That answer you can only get from the person who you're talking to.
POM Do you know who he is? If you look back and you've known him from when you were in your 20s and now he's approaching 70 and you look like a young man.
HS We may possibly get a glimpse of the answer or just a hint of the answer in his letter to me when he says that prison life, although it is boring and so on, things like that, he's enjoying it. So what? Whatever the situation is as long as you accept it you must live with it. Nowhere does he show any sense of sorrow or hurt.
HS To say what have these people done? They've thrown me in jail. What he is saying to me is please don't fret about me, I'm quite well, although my liberty is restricted somewhat I'm settling down quite well and so on. Give my wife Stendahl's book and so on.
POM This is what my conclusion is the very same. I've interviewed him, I've done 200 hours, and when we deal with Robben Island what distinguishes what he says about Robben Island and what others have written
HS Before I forget, I think the Robben Island experience you come to the conclusion, which I have come to, is that much of the prisoners well-being, much of the prisoners' well-being, mental and otherwise, if it was not for Mac with all sorts of tricks that he went, Robben Island would not have been the same.
POM It would have been boring.
HS No. Everybody was listless, what the hell to do, we're going to die in jail. He goes and gets them to write essays. I want it next day, I want to smuggle it out. He gets Mandela to write that damn book. Mandela would have never written it. OK? So if you want to hear about Robben Island and the success of Robben Island in engendering all the time the power and the moral authority and so on, Mac was the man. Even Kathy Kathrada, for example, you've met him, you've spoken to him and so on, he's a soft soul. Those are the best words I can describe. He's a soft soul. He didn't strike me as a man of great initiative and so on at all from my conversation with him. But if you look at Mac, he told Mandela, "You do this, you do that. I'll do this, I'll do that. Let's get educated." You see what he says? "What the hell are you doing? Come on, study." Orders the Economists, now the communists are making money out of that. "Read it, let's have a debate. Let's go ahead. Life hasn't come to an end."
POM So where did it come from?
HS What I'm saying, it came from
POM His father?
HS His father and, well if one wants to go even further one would like to know what his grandfather was.
POM His grandfather was a real character.
HS I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere in India they were mass raiders of villages. What I'm saying is that you cannot pick up a chap from the unknown. In genealogy you have a look at it, you pick it up.
POM So he was in London with you and you are sharing this small flat with him, what are you saying? Are you hanging out together? What did you guys do together?
HS You see, as I said, one needs to understand the situation.
POM But you're in a flat. I love it because I've lived in a flat with guys. I came from Dublin and I used to live in a flat with guys from the country. Five guys, the same space, nobody had ever washed a thing in their life, and by the way there are no washing machines in Dublin so you've got to do it yourself. So you talk about food, we didn't have fridges.
HS No we didn't have one. Well you know what we do, we scrounge around for food at the Inns and so on. We had India House for instance.
POM Did you look out for girls? No girl friends?
HS Girl friends over the weekend. All the weekend we had girl friends. All we did was during the day when I was at the Inns of Court or whatever the case may be, fortunately there was India House there and my eternal thanks to them because they gave you a nice meal for about a shilling. But it was cheap. The students used to go there and we should love it. And of course we ate enough that we could let supper pass by. We lived a very frugal life. If you have a look in the photographs you will get a sense of our living standards and things like that. Damn it, we couldn't afford to go to a barber. Damn it, we couldn't even set up a table for the wedding thing. We've got a milk bottle we stuck flowers in. Just having a look at these. And coup de grâce, the wedding cake, it's an ordinary sponge cake. Look at it. The cheapest on the market. Look at it! And who the hell's typewriter is that?
POM I hate to tell you, it reminds me of where I grew up.
HS Then of course we get this bumptious bastard who came in, a chap by the name of Kader Asmal, the Minister of Education, and he scrounged on us for at least a year and a half, the bastard.
POM Was Kader the same then as he is now? I knew him in Dublin. I knew him for years in Dublin.
HS You knew him?
POM Oh yes, I know Kader inside out.
HS Bumptious. I must tell you this about Kader. I come home one evening, tired and so on, now Kader had no girl friends at all. He was shy, shy, and if a girl looked at him he would look down. That was the type of chap. Now we suddenly find that Kader, who is now in the London School of Economics doing his LLB or something like that, unusually he came home a little later than usual. What's happening to this chap? Must be something happening. We didn't ask him. When we asked him, "Why are you a bit late?" he used to giggle and stay shy and look away or something like that. Then one day, one evening I walk up the stairs, our flat was on the top and the landlord and landlady stayed at the bottom. I go up the stairs and if I'm not mistaken the scene we're looking at, that was our lounge, and the stairway let up to this scene and then we had three bedrooms, a kitchen. I got there, it's darkish and I looked and I saw the most amazing sight. Kader Asmal with a girl on his lap. I nearly fell backwards. I composed myself and looked and they suddenly saw me and she leapt out of his lap.
POM She was an Irish girl.
HS Yes, Irish. She jumped off.
POM Committing a sin right there being on a guy's lap.
HS Kader was red as a beetroot. "Hello, hello, sorry to disturb you", I said. No introductions at all and I shot off into my bedroom and waited till she departed. That weekend he says, "Hassim I must talk to you about something." So I said, "Yes?" He says, "This is a serious matter." "Yes, Kader, what's happening? Come on." He says, "You know we all came to London to educate ourselves, advance our knowledge, etc., etc., and so on, and all I expected was to get back home and participate in the liberation struggle." I said, "Yes, that's true." He said, "You know what? I feel very, very sad. I want to marry."
POM He wanted to marry an Irish girl.
HS "Oh", I said, "You want our permission?" Renegade bastard, he'd come to help us to liberate the country. So I said to him, "Look man, Kader, there are two types of liberations. You can fight for it and you can also support it from outside and we need outside support as much as we need internal support." He married her.
POM And he spent 30 years in Dublin.
HS I said to him, "You can contribute very greatly from outside South Africa. This is the reason why we are here partly, to gain support from the rest of the world." He did well, formed the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement and so on.
LS A lovely story.
POM I like that. I'll probably maybe ring you up, I'm not going to keep you much longer and thank you for your time. Like I said, if Mac dropped dead tomorrow and you were invited to say five minutes about Mac, you were just called from wherever, five minutes, who's Mac, and forget the bullshit that he's a great person and gave more for our country and, you know leave out all the bullshit. What in your mind will you take with you? No matter what happened to Mac. What would you take?
HS I can't stretch it to five minutes. I would say what I would deal about is his fearlessness irrespective of the consequences. That is something that I feel is his prominent characteristic, his fearlessness. He brooked no opposition whatsoever. It could be anybody and he would take them on. As I said, and if our assessment is quite correct, even at this particular stage while we are talking, this whole question of the Ngcuka enquiry and so on, he's defiant. "I am right and that is the end of the matter." That I think is the overriding impression I will have and I will try to communicate.
POM So if you had to put that in terms of a human being brought into being at a particular point of your history, I don't want to put words in your mouth, was that an enormous source of strength and also an enormous source of weakness?
HS You see everybody you have spoken to about him, as I hear it from your remarks occasionally and things like that, is Mac lives for the moment. His interest is an imminent, static period where he is interested in. If that interest shifts to something else he completely eliminates his past. I think this is one of the things that people will tell you who are close to Mac and he suddenly disappears. We never found him. OK. So as he described it so well in this letter to me, that you look around you, what are your interests at that particular time and exploit that, it may be a person, it may be whatever, but it doesn't last. I don't think he has ever had a lasting friendly relationship with anyone, but that I think is not a wise statement to make simply because we all are the same. If you shift somewhere you can phone your friends the first Monday or Tuesday and after that of course you are with your crowd so that's not a fair statement at all to make. But what I am saying is that if, for example, he comes to Durban there would be nothing wrong for him to pick up the phone and say, "How's your family?" That type of thing. I think he has segmented his life into distinct periods and for the type of work that he did and the type of responsibilities he took, that is in his favour.
For example, when he was in Durban conducting Operation Vula, he tells me a story. He says he entered a café to have a meal in Gardiner Street, just opposite the Post Office, and he saw somebody like me and he says he looked at me and he didn't want to be identified. He says he froze because he was afraid that I recognised him I would have gone and met him and if I had met him then he would have a possible source of exposure. I may speak to somebody and they may link it. And he got a fright when he saw me. Then to make matters worse he says, "You then turned and walked to the door and there was a policeman standing on the pavement and you were speaking to the policeman or a guard or somebody." He says he was terrified. He says as he stood for a little longer, "Then you (meaning this other person) you then came in and walked towards him and walked past", and then he suddenly said, "No, this is not Hassim." Very interesting, a little incident he related to me. He didn't want to be known by anybody and he kept to that part of Durban where none of his friends were acquainted or would frequent.
POM So who is he?
HS We will never find out I'm afraid. Well hopefully what I have said is of some use to you.
POM Oh it is, enormously. Do you feel you were close to him, or is anybody ever close to Mac?
HS Nobody. No never, I would never, never assume that he was close to me.
HS For that matter I don't think anybody else, there may be someone else. How are his children? I don't know them. Have you met them?
POM Joey is doing fine. She's in India at the moment.
HS What is she doing?
POM She's at Wits doing honours in literature. The boy is 22 or 23. It's like one of these things, the chapter that I'm wrestling with is when Mac quit, retired from the ANC just after Mandela got out and why he quit again when Mandela got him back in, then he quit again, then he was brought back in. But he says a lot about his family Zarina had this awful accident and he wasn't there and for the first time he had two children and he actually wanted family and nobody ever believed him. They said, no, it's not about family, must have been about something else. Nobody quits when you're just on the moment of having all you wanted in life achieved. You've given 35 years of your life to achieve a goal and there is the goal right there staring at you. The old man, the only person you revere in life, and Sisulu, they're both free and you say, "I quit." You're on the verge of everything you want and you say "I quit."
HS That is actually the dilemma of the Indians in this country. Let's get down to this discussion for a while. That is the dilemma of the Indians in this country. It's a serious problem, a very, very serious problem. The first government, free government, in this country had five Indian ministers and so on. This was in recognition of the important role that they had played in the liberation struggle. If you have a look at the liberation struggle itself you will find that the Indians played a role greater than their numbers in the country, a tiny minority, 1.2 million. As we said, it then goes back to the time of the indentured Indians and their resistance towards their indenture, the arrival of Gandhi and organised politics.
Do you know that the Natal Indian Congress which was created in 1894 was the first political body of its kind in the world? So our roots go back a very long while. If you have a look at the intensification of political struggle the ANC was nowhere in the picture. Gandhi started in 1914, the passive resistance campaign and so on and the Natal Indian Congress carried on. That was the only active party that was anti-government and also claimed concessions for the Indians themselves.
Then the campaign, the defiance campaign and so forth, it is from the defiance campaign itself, and as you will see Nelson Mandela says in his Long Walk to Freedom that he was amazed at the sight of Indian women offering resistance to unjust laws and going to jail and so on. That then struck him that this is the type of organisation that we should be creating and proceed further. Then of course the ANC, he became the leader of the ANC Youth Brigade and the rest is history.
So somewhere along the line throughout this very important period of liberation, the Indian was not very far off, Yusuf Dadoo, Naicker and so on. Mac then goes to Robben Island, he has a unique personality, shapes Robben Island prisoners and so on. He comes out and amazingly here you are, he comes back into the country with Operation Vula and so on. The thrust, as I feel, is predominantly an Indian thrust, if you're talking thrusts. And that when eventually change took place and in the euphoria they appoint the Indians as cabinet ministers and things like that, then by the attrition of time, once the actual soldiers in war have done their duty, it is over. They then give way to the others in the country. OK? I think it's even better.
And as these liberation warriors now are gone then the people within the country themselves who take over, the usual type, and the anti-Indian sentiment again begins to proliferate. You find now, the situation I'm faced with, here I was at a wedding two Sundays ago and normally you get people to say a few words at a function like that, as you said if Mac had died and I was there to say something. You can't only talk about Mac, you have to send a message across, you see. So amongst the things that I said, I said, "Look, you all are aware that the Broederbonders and the trial that is taking place, had planned for the mass ejectment of Indians and they would take the N3 and they would march them down to Durban and from Durban they're going to put them aboard ships and take them wherever." I said, "That is being said by the Broederbonders but I warn you that this is not a figment of my imagination or anybody's imagination, but if the Indians in this country are not prepared to change their attitude towards Africans that scenario is going to come true." I said, "Don't be mistaken. If you think that you are living in Africa and living as you would in India then you must be blind."
There are 1.2 million Indians in this part of the world. OK, let me give you the Durban scenario. We've got Tamil, Hindus, we've got Calcutta Hindus and various shades in between. Amongst the Bania Indians, for example, we have a tailor class, we have a shoemaker class, we have a grocery class and goddamn whatever classes, and the families would not meet. It's riven with distinctions themselves. How on earth do you expect them to be on friendly terms and so on with Africans that are a totally alien factor?
I'm telling them, I said, "For heaven's sake, I'm not expecting you people to go and embrace every African that you see but treat them with respect, treat them as your equal. Don't exploit them." Exploitation in the sense that you have got a master/servant relationship, long hours of work, paltry pay or whatever the case may be.
So to me personally at this juncture, after all our liberation struggle and so on and things like that, us going to jail and things like that, but if we are not going to change our attitudes towards the Africans, then we have a death wish. People don't talk about this but what's happening in Zimbabwe? Millions have fled. Malawi, Kenya, Tanganyika. Those who have now stayed behind are with the African free trade and so on, they've become part of the economy with the Africans. Mac knows that there is a lot of anti-Indianism amongst the parliamentarians and people who support them and Mac cannot stand that because he can tell them - you don't come to me, I've done my duty.
POM My advice to him is, I talked to him last night, is to concede nothing. My advice to him is that things have gotten confused and that the fact is that, and I know Bulelani from way back, the fact is he was investigated by ANC Intelligence. The fact is that their conclusion was that he was probably a spy in 1989. That was accepted by the ANC. That's a fact, an historical fact. Nothing can change that and that it's got confused because Mbeki changed the terms of reference into saying prove that he was a spy. What the hell are you supposed to do nearly 20 years later to come back and prove that he was a spy? It wasn't a corporate boardroom where they said this is the guy's CV, do you think he's a spy or do you not think he's a spy? They had to make decisions.
HS Well I have got no concrete evidence to prove that but I am quite certain that Mac would not have gone to the extent he did unless he was reasonably satisfied that Ngcuka was a spy. Because Mac, as I said, himself was part of the system in Lusaka, he himself was. He was the interrogator and so on himself.
POM Sorry, he interrogated people?
HS Those who left the country. He wanted to know where they came from, what are your credentials, because there were quite a lot of spies.
POM But nobody ever fingered him?
HS No, no, nobody fingered him. But what I am saying is that he knew how the thing worked.
POM He knew how to interrogate people. So in 1989 they reached a conclusion, that is an historical fact. Right? And why has it gotten down to this?
HS Was there any way in which evidence that is now available or is there is not being used? There must be some evidence. There must be minutes of that meeting that took place when he was interrogated. What has happened to that?
Just a question in passing. I understand that you are going to interview the prosecutor in Mac's case in Maritzburg. What is his name?
LS Peter Blomkamp in the Vula trial.
HS Blomkamp. He was the Vula trial chap, yes. Maybe you should get hold of the transcript.
POM I'm trying to.
HS I picked up the Vula operation, not the whole file, but the Operation Vula part. These were the documents that they had seized and you get all your classic Marxist, the South African working class and the national democratic revolution, Joe Slovo, all the theoretical stuff here. The Novotsky Press Agency of course, perestroika and so on. "Pravin, this is our chap who is I hope you are well and not I apologise for not being in contact with you in recent I have a problem with I require your assistance. The Security Branch will be returned a lot of furniture, etc., which was seized when we were detained. Will you be able to offer some storage space? Please let me " Bread and butter things like that. So somehow or the other Comrade Pravin wore the of Mac.
LS Where did you obtain these?
HS These were, as I say, they were just internal communications between the comrades at that particular time and when they closed the office they came and left them here in boxes. This is why I have concealed them. I don't know if they are of any value and so on but these are interesting little details.
LS So when they closed the office ?
HS Political prisoner Section 29. Ah, a lovely letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Lubbers, as you know he was from The Netherlands. "Dear Mr Lubbers and government", they were writing letters to him, and it is signed by Section 29 detainees, families of political prisoners. Mr Radue and McBride lawyers for human rights. Interesting.
POM Sean McBride.
HS Adriaan Vlok, Minister of Law & Order sends a reply. At some stage somebody must come and write a total Vula dossier. Very interesting chapter.
POM I'm supposed to be doing that. I guess I'm not. Oh we'll have to come back and raid the house I guess. What did you know about Vula?
HS As I said, the Vula operators were particularly careful not to bring any of their other comrades within it. They had a totally separate existence and wisely so, simply because if there was any connection between the Natal Indian Congress and the Vula thing, if they picked up somebody from the Congress under torture they would have revealed everything. So it was useless. They did the right thing in a way. As I said, Mac saw to it that although he was in Durban, he was under disguise and so on, he obviously kept totally outside any area that he may possibly be recognised.
POM Does Mac love or is Mac a cause? Can Mac love or is Mac a cause? Is it that his causes kind of take total possession of him, the cause that he is rather than the person, that causes come before people?
HS Yes and yes again. No doubt.
POM No doubt.
HS You can see it from that letter. That letter defines his whole loss of his youth.
POM He's the same today.
HS I haven't met him.
POM He's the same tonight.
HS Is he? I haven't met him. The last I saw him was possibly the launch of that book of his.
HS Yes, the Reflections, if I recall it, but I'm just wondering where I got the book from. Why the hell didn't I get his autograph? The possibility is that I may not have met him, but I think he was there. He was moving around and I couldn't get hold of him. But Mac did a good piece of work by the way for which there is no acknowledgement at all. In his book the section where they talk about the history, the struggle and so on, I believe Mac altered that. You are aware of that?
HS He says that the delay in the book was because Mac was a bit tardy in polishing.
POM Polishing the prose?
HS No, no, the facts.
POM I wish he would do the same with me.
HS You send that across, you're going to send me that across and then we can look through it and see what you'd like to use.
POM I will send you on the draft but I will also send you on the section, a chapter that I did on the Indian community in South Africa. I've sent it on to Phyllis and it's different. It's different because I try to see it from the Indian point of view, which is not done. It's that this whole thing about black
HS If you have a look at that section from there to there, that's the net amount of work that is done on the Indians.
POM Oh my God! Don't pull me back, say come back here.
HS Because I know, and as I said I think earlier, that the role of the Indians is going to be totally out of the history of this country. And I said to myself that if I don't start collecting works on Indians it will be very unwise because I want to have this, any reference, and I am so glad that you mentioned it and I would urge you that if you have anything else that is written on Indians in South Africa or in Africa, I would be very grateful if you can let me know where it is.
POM I love the way - Naipaul has been one of my favourites since I have been young, a favourite author of mine.
HS I have read Shiva Naipaul's book, I read it at least once a year. You saw some of the comments that I made are very similar to Shiva Naipaul's book about the Indian's inability to recognise in what dangerous situation they are in. They just go living on as if nothing is going to happen. Shiva Naipaul says that again and again. Why are we so blind?
POM I come from here asking the same question. I turn that thing around. I'll be damned but that's OK. This is a marriage, we're used to being damned. We even claim, this is my little footnote to you before I go, one of the first people I got in touch with here was Ameen Akhalwaya, the man who was the editor of The Indicator, he had been in Dublin and our first great murder case in Dublin was a student who was going to the Royal College of Surgeons, chopped up the girl. And I said to Ameen, "Do you know who that is?" He had no idea. So in 1989 he ran a story on the guy.
HS And the chap was in the tricameral parliament.
POM That's right.
HS This mass murderer.
POM And Ameen got the story and ran with it. Are you talking about the same guy? I said, yes. Oh my God.
HS He chopped her fine. Do Irish women chop quite easily?
POM What? Do Irishwomen chop quite easily?
HS Sorry, I couldn't resist that.
POM Thank you ever so much. You've been terrific. I will probably get back to you.
Sorry, Joe Slovo. Who are Joe and Mac? Did Mac envy Joe?
HS I wouldn't know what their relationship was simply because I wasn't around to see what their reactions were. But that I think Mac possibly can tell you and those people who were there.