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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

19 May 2004: Jenkin, Tim

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POM     How are you?

TJ     OK thank you.

POM     I am still working away on Vula.

TJ     It must be a long book now, you must be on Volume 5.

POM     On the appendices. I am trying to figure out, because accounts differ, on exactly how the two and fro of communications went. So I've just a series of questions for you. I've talked to Janet and I'll talk to you and I'll talk to Ivan. I figure between the three of you I'll get a clear picture.

     Now you're sitting with your computer in London or wherever and the screen flashes and a message is coming through. That message would be from Janet?

TJ     Yes.

POM     If it's an external message.

TJ     Yes. It wasn't exactly as simple as that, there was quite a long process before we get to that. This is the 1980s, computers weren't as fancy, there was no Internet or anything, no e-mail, it was just our very funny quirky system that I explained to you. For example, if Janet was in Johannesburg sending a message to me, I'm not going to go right from the start, but she would be at a telephone booth and the message would be on a tape, on a cassette tape. She would have a little cassette recorder and she'd probably have that in her bag or in a pocket and a long lead running to a little speaker in her hand. Then she would dial up a certain number in London, which was one of the numbers in my flat, and at the other end in London would be an answering machine, a regular answering machine. So she would listen to the outgoing message, it'd probably say something very simple like "Please leave a message after the tone", and then she would hold this little speaker onto the mouthpiece and press the play button on the cassette recorder and then the thing would play through to the end. That would be the message and that would go down the phone line onto the remote answering machine in London. When I come home in London there's a light flashing, not on my computer but on the answering machine saying there's a message. OK, then my computer is basically hooked up to that answering machine through a cable and so I've got a special programme on the computer which was probably running anyway and what that programme does is it waits for the message. Then I just simply go to the answering machine and press the play button, the play back button you know, so it plays it back and it plays it back down the cable, through the modem and into the computer. Then the encrypted text appears on the screen and once that's captured onto the computer you press another button to say decipher it and then it deciphers it and it comes up in plain text.

POM     OK. So every message that comes through comes up to you in the end in London in plain text?

TJ     Ultimately yes. Only after it's passed through the programme of course.

POM     Now messages would come from Janet. From anybody else?

TJ     Yes there would be a whole bunch of people who were doing it.

POM     Who were doing it externally, doing it from?

TJ     Well there would be people in Durban and all over. We could never really tell who it was. We just picked up the message on the answering machine. Later we learnt there were a whole lot of people doing it.

     Now the other way round, if they wanted to pick up something

POM     Let's still go through now, so you see the message and then you re-encrypt it or re-code it?

TJ     I decipher it.

POM     You decipher it first, then it comes up in plain text and then you?

TJ     Well whatever action needed to be taken. Often it was for us there, it might be an order for something, it just depends on what it was.

POM     Let's say it's something for Lusaka.

TJ     Then you basically do the reverse process. Say it was going to Lusaka, I would take that plain text, I would maybe strip out some bits that weren't for them, but whatever I'm going to send to them I would then re-encipher. We'd have different keys for Lusaka so they couldn't read the message that came from Jo'burg anyway because I had to re-encipher it. So I would re-encipher and then with Lusaka we didn't need the answering machines because it was a different situation. What they had well it depends on the stage of it, I think in the beginning we did have an answering machine in Lusaka so then I would do the whole thing in reverse. I would dial the number in Lusaka and I would hear the outgoing message there saying "Please leave a message after the tone", and then I would simply press play on the computer. I didn't have to put it onto a tape recorder. The computer would play it directly through the modem all the way to an answering machine in Lusaka.

     Later it was much more sophisticated, we had a computer on standby in Lusaka so it was one computer straight to another computer, so we cut out all the answering machine stuff.

POM     I recall you saying in one interview on one occasion how absolutely delighted you were when up popped on your screen kind of communication between Mandela and OR. Now was there much of that correspondence between the two?

TJ     There wasn't an awful lot. I think most of it tended to be brought by couriers but there was occasionally

POM     It would be brought by couriers directly from?

TJ     Someone would meet Mandela in prison and then it would just go by hand. But if it was more urgent it obviously came through the system.

POM     Now there were two pieces in particular that I'm interested in. The one is the memorandum that Mandela wrote to PW Botha before he met him on 5 July 1989. Now did that come through the system?

TJ     I don't think so. It may have but I don't think so. That became a very public document that, I think that was probably done by hand.

POM     When you say it became a very public document?

TJ     It's even on the ANC's website that document, now. So it may have come through the system. I really can't remember now you know.

POM     It wouldn't have stood out for you in any way if it had?

TJ     It probably would have. I just remember there being quite remarkable documents that came though but I can't say whether it was that particular one or not.

POM     Do you remember the Harare Declaration coming through?

TJ     You mean from Lusaka?

POM     No, Mac says he had to get it in to Mandela to give his observations and comments on it and then get it back to Lusaka all within the space of three or four days, it was all very rushed stuff.

TJ     Yes, probably the comments would have come back through our system but not the actual document. Mac would probably have got that from somebody else in the country.

POM     Now if you had to just recollect, can you recall the substance of the correspondence between OR and Mandela?

TJ     No I can't really, I don't think we ever kept any samples of that stuff. You're talking about 14 years ago. I just remember being absolutely bowled over with that stuff and there was just so much stuff going on at the time. It was deal the moment, there was always stuff about what was going on at the moment. I can't really identify whether it was this document or that was a subject or anything.

POM     Have you any indication that you can recall that Mandela would have been aware that Thabo was also conducting talks with members of the NIS in England and in Zurich?

TJ     No I don't recall anything like that, but I may be wrong. I just really can't remember the substance of these things.

POM     So you had no idea who was picking up the messages at the other end?

TJ     At Lusaka end? Well it would have been the person the operative was Lucia.

POM     That's Lucia who works for Gerald Kraak now.

TJ     Yes, that's the one. Lucia Raadschelders.

POM     Was Zarina involved in that at all?

TJ     Zarina, no not really, no.

POM     OK. What was the role of Conny Braam?

TJ     Yes.

POM     What role did she play in it?

TJ     Well she wasn't in direct communication. We had a similar system. You know in what way she was involved in providing all the disguises. She had a link, we had a link going between Amsterdam and London. London was sort of a hub and there were these spokes going to various places. We had Ivan's brother in Canada, we had some folks transcribing documents in, I can't remember where it was, somewhere in the north of England, Luton or somewhere.

POM     Were they all using the same system?

TJ     No, obviously we could use a more advanced system in Europe. We were using proper e-mail. There wasn't Internet but there was a sort of e-mail service.

POM     So kind of the hub for all ANC communications, they were being routed through London and from London to various places in terms of replies coming?

TJ     Yes.

POM     So in Holland if messages were coming through, would there be messages from within South Africa, from Vula coming to Conny in Amsterdam?

TJ     Yes definitely as far as Mac wants to have something set up. Like if someone is coming out for a disguise or they needed some equipment or whatever, it would all come through London and it would be routed through London and then go to Conny and then she'd send a reply back through me and I would send it back to wherever.

POM     So Conny would send it to you and you would send it to - ?

TJ     Either Lusaka or South Africa depending on who it concerned.

POM     Now would she decipher the message before she would she unencrypt it?

TJ     It was pretty much exactly the same, it was just the carrier that was different. She would type it in plain text, encipher it, send it through the e-mail. We'd pick up the e-mail, decipher it and then decide what to do with it.

POM     Would any messages from, well this would really be up to Mac I suppose, would any messages from Mandela to OR be routed through?

TJ     No, I don't know, no.

POM     Mac has said that he routed them all directly to you.

TJ     Yes, they would all have gone straight on to Lusaka. You know often there was so much going on that we hardly even had time to read them. We just often had to just say, "Where does this go? OK, send it on." We didn't have time to concentrate. All I can remember is the stuff from Mandela that suddenly one day there it was, quite a long thing.

POM     Quite a long thing.

TJ     Well the first one I just remember was quite long, yes. You know our system was quite good at that stage and was improving and the messages were getting longer and longer.

POM     But by July of that's why I'm interested in that because when I talked to Janet Love she recalled that the longest one she sent through was Madiba's memorandum.

TJ     Yes, I think at that stage we weren't even using this quirky answering machine, we used e-mail. We were just using plain old I think we were using Compuserve, you know that American -

POM     What I'm saying is that if you were looking at a long document, and she remembers this as being the longest document, this could very well have been the document because she said most of the other communications were rather short.

TJ     Yes, the original stuff. That was right towards the end.

POM     OK. I think that kind of fixes me up pretty well. Do you still remember, once you said that you had old Vula stuff sitting around the house in piles?

TJ     Yes, well we printed out a lot of the documents. I think Mac had copies of most of those.

POM     He lost all his stuff. He has nothing. When they moved house or fled Yeoville or whatever. Would it be possible if I went to you that I could have somebody copy those?

TJ     I suppose so. I don't know if I need to check with Mac what's the status of them. I've just been holding on to them.

POM     Oh Mac would be fine. I will ask him and have him call you if you like.

TJ     OK, if he would.

POM     I'll have him do that.  OK. How are you keeping?

TJ     Not too bad.

POM     Are you still creating I was asking Janet where is all this equipment? It should be in a museum. There should be a way people are taken through step by step and shown how this stuff was done.

TJ     I know. I did give it to the Robben Island Museum, Mayibuye Centre, but they've never really put it out.

POM     Listen, they've got all my tapes and after three years I won't tell you where they are. OK, well I'll have Mac give you a call and then I will get in touch with you about copying the stuff if he's agreeable. OK? Terrific.

TJ     OK. Alright.

POM     Thanks Tim, bye-bye.

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