This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
09 Oct 2000: Maharaj, Mac
MM 24th August 1998.
POM That's right.
MM Page 1 is OK. Page 2.
POM I just have there in the second paragraph, "The period he refers to was the period of the highest casualties." I knock out is that OK?
MM OK. Now wherever your formulations I have not even bothered, I have said they are OK. Where I disagree that's where I draw your attention. So on page 2 from the bottom of the page paragraph 3 which begins, "The strategy is located in the 1978 visit to Vietnam." Now first of all a correction there, the name there is Joe Gqabi (you spelt it Gabi). And yes I was consulted, that's correct, it does say so in the Green Book. It is called the Green Book and it is available on the ANC web site, it's now available.
POM Is that under one of the ANC web sites, the home page?
MM On the web site. ANC web site, the full report is now available, it's on the web site. Then we go to page 3, no problem. I'm still explaining that Green Book.
Page 4, the first problem that arises is from the bottom of the page, paragraph 4. It says, "The G2 operation." The end of the third line has the words 'mine shafts', but shafts is too narrow a usage, I would call it mine dumps. Sometimes they dug the hole themselves. Sometimes they used a shaft.
Then we come to the bottom paragraph of the same page 4, "Part of it was informants. In 1991 one of the Regional Commanders from the G2 Operation", and you've got question marks.
POM Just making sure it came out
MM I just want to say that the person's code name was Leonard. I don't know his real name. And the query you raise about the civilian cadre here, these question marks, yes you are right, that's how I put it. I haven't given his name.
POM OK. "When we checked the political records this civilian cadre", that's Leonard, right?
MM No, no. Leonard was the person who was in touch with that civilian cadre.
POM How do I put that?
MM Just leave it as it is, it's accurate.
POM I just need to cross out and say, "When we checked the political records this civilian cadre in SA revealed to the MK."
MM And we found that he was not doing political work, so we then figured him as an enemy agent.
Now page 5, paragraph 2 from the top, the bottom, there are a lot of queries there. "That incident alone made it clear that it was", and you say "What are you referring to?" "That incident alone made it clear that it had to be kept separate but in a controlled way that created the links." You see I am talking about the structures, the military underground structures, the political structures. Then also there's another body, the intelligence structures. You had to keep these ones separate. If the same people were functioning in the different ones and linkage in one led to casualties in the other, that's the problem that I'm dealing with. That incident alone made it clear that you had to keep the different structures separate.
POM Need to know.
MM Need to know, and then also avoid the inter-linkages which would lead to a casualty in the military structure leading to a casualty in the political structure which could lead to a casualty in the intelligence structure, and everything comes down like a house of cards.
Then same page, paragraph 3 from the bottom, line 3, "The forward area structures" and you've put question marks there. Now the words 'forward areas' is a particular jargon in our thing outside in exile, the forward areas were the neighbouring territories.
POM What I was going to put in was to say, "This is when we replaced the frontline and set up regional organisations." In other words I was just going cut out that phrase altogether.
MM Just say, "We set up structures in the neighbouring territories." And those that I'm referring to are Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe when it became independent.
The next paragraph, the one that starts, "OK, that's 1981", line 3, what interceptions am I talking about? That is interceptions by us of enemy informers and provocateurs that the enemy was sent in to penetrate our ranks.
POM And when I have that underlined there, "it leads next year", I'm just cutting that out.
MM Page 6, paragraph 2 from the bottom. In the middle of that paragraph you've got question marks after 'Matola' and 'Maseru'.
POM Yes, is Matola the right name?
MM Matola, that's the right name, that's the raid that the SA army staged on Matola and then Maseru is the Maseru massacre, and the Matola road.
POM The Maseru massacre took place in?
MM 1984/85. Matola 1981/82.
Now page 7 is all right. Page 8 at the bottom, bottom paragraph is "Broederstroom" and you've got question marks. Broederstroom was the area where a unit had set up a base. It was called the Broederstroom trial when they were arrested. The head of that unit was Damian de Lange. They were arrested at Broederstroom and they were convicted. That was a unit sent in and they were using, of course, the radio communication system which I had rejected.
POM That's the one you had rejected.
MM Page 9, paragraph 4 from the top. The name that appears here is with a question mark, Gebhuza, code name, that's Siphiwe Nyanda and his pseudonym was Gebhuza.
At the bottom of that page 9, the last paragraph, second last sentence, "We suggest that it allowed Tambo", not Tambo but "Thabo to come and visit his father in prison clandestinely so that we could explore this question."
POM Thabo Mbeki.
MM Thabo Mbeki. Next page, page 10, paragraph 2 from the top, first line, "The tea break takes place, I go to OR and say, 'Chief, have you have kept the other thing in your mind?' 'Yes'." 'Put' gets deleted. Meaning have you kept my mission in mind?
Then the next paragraph, one sentence paragraph, "The meeting then decides to send Francis Meli".
Then page 10 still, paragraph 2 from the bottom, that's the Green Book I'm talking about. No, no, this is the dual strategy, we talked about it on the previous occasion. I don't know where to trace it at the moment. Now when you ask how I sent it to prison and Madiba knows I'm in the country
POM "Putting together a scenario for a dual strategy." I am asking you, how did you learn that?
MM I don't know. The dual strategy was written about in ANC publications. Whether it would be the African Communist I don't know. The paper would have landed in the hands of our Intelligence Services in Lusaka but I don't know where to trace it at the moment. All I know is that I was here in the underground and in either communication or literature from abroad there was reference to the dual strategy that the regime was preparing and using as a basis of their activities.
POM So when Mandela was released you saw this as in a way a logical step in the continuation of the dual strategy? The release of Mandela -
MM As a component, yes. It was not inconsistent with the dual strategy. I in fact wrote a report to OR well before Madiba was released to say that he was going to be released, in my own view, and I then outlined the tactics that they would use after his release. I said that they would take the risk of allowing him to be received as a hero, because he would insist on that, but that they would then seek to demystify him by discrediting members of his family, by discrediting members of his family like Winnie, etc.
Now just before we pass on, because this section preceding here
POM You shouldn't use a phrase like 'pass on', Mac, in the middle of a conversation, that could mean before we both just drop dead of strokes or heart attacks or something like that.
MM Before we go on to other pages, OK? This section up to now started off with the Patti Waldmeir quotation and thesis that you put to me. Then I spent a great deal of time about those conflicts between the strugglers and the diplomats. I actually feel very strongly about that, about the inaccuracy in Patti's paradigm and when I read this section I see why I spent so much time and detail, because if she was to name a person belonging to the diplomatic side of the negotiators I would be able to prove that that person was in the know of Operation Vula from its beginning. And if she called a person on the struggle camp I would be able to prove that person was in the know on the diplomatic side. And I've asked myself where did the problem arise because Patti does not disclose her source and she makes some very radical statements. "Vula had never flourished and by July 1990 when Pretoria uncovered the operation and arrested Maharaj and other Vula leaders, it existed more powerfully in Maharaj's mind than in fact." I think even though we know each other as friends, Patti and I, I think that it really annoyed me when I read it. I don't want to defend myself but because she's personalised it so much I am very angry because she said, "It existed more powerfully in Maharaj's mind than in fact." I don't think she even bothered to go and look at the Oliver Tambo Archives because I have correspondence from Tambo and Slovo in relation to the progress that it was making, that they said this is one of our best hopes in the country. So where did Patti get it from? Obviously she got it from ANC comrades and it actually tells me that post-1990 there were a group of individuals in the ANC, in exile, who came here and who were telling her these stories. And I am sure it cannot be anybody in the country. Why? Because the people in the country would know that I was meeting them clandestinely in the country. Whether you talk to Frank Chikane, I was meeting him here, Rev. Smangaliso Mkatshwa I was meeting him here, Cyril Ramaphosa, Sydney Mufamadi, Kgalema Motlanthe who is now Secretary General, Cheryl Carolus, Trevor Manuel, Dullah Omar, Harry Gwala, Billy Nair, Govan Mbeki, I met him in Pretoria in the underground illegally in the country. Now if you look at the spread of people that I was meeting then Vula was very, very operational and her remark that then goes on to build that Mandela was furious, is really something that I think Patti has done an injustice in the light of the reputation that the book has acquired. So I just wanted to say that. She's actually character assassinating me there.
POM She's character assassinating the whole operation.
MM And me! She personalises it on me. She says, "It existed more powerfully in Mac's mind than in fact." And it tells me where she stood on that matter. Right, we were at page 10.
POM Do we get the sense of that sentence? That's where I'm saying, "Now if Madiba knows that I was in the country and I am communicating with him, why would he get furious when I get arrested?" Period. In other words I'm knocking out the rest of the sentence.
POM You don't want it to go further and say - ?
MM It tells the story, just that question. Why would he get furious? Then the next paragraph there, paragraph 3 on page 11 where it starts with me saying, "Out of prison first", etc. Gebhuza again, not only the spelling here but Gebhuza should not leave the country, not 'won't' leave the country should not leave the country. That was a decision that Madiba and I arrived at. And it's simply to clarify that because if Madiba was furious, would he say Ronnie and I must go out and come back quickly, legally but Gebhuza must stay behind? He wanted the two of us who were members of the NEC to be at the NEC meeting but he wanted the rest of the comrades to remain in the country illegally and stay at their posts which was at the posts in the Vula operation. If he was furious he would say dismantle the whole thing, all of you get out of the country.
POM So in one sense, just to backtrack a little, De Klerk got Vula all wrong.
MM I'll come to that. We'll come to that because you're coming to him. Now page 12, second paragraph from the top, "By July 22nd I realise I'm under 24 hour surveillance." You've got a set of questions here. What does this mean? How about, "I should remain active, in the open ANC office, I will take whatever precautionary measuresaround the country but if they touch me I must make sure that they arrest me in the public limelight."You see the issue we faced was that I now say to Madiba, I'm now legally in the country, I've attended the NEC meeting and I say my information tells me that FW has taken a decision that three leading members of the ANC are to be arrested and I say I'm under surveillance. Already from the start of the arrests I'm taking measures to break the links so that the arrests don't go beyond that and they don't find the arms, I'm clearing up this, but I am also aware that they are following me. Once I'm under 24 hour surveillance I say it's going to be very difficult to slip them. What do we do? Do I disappear from the country? I might get caught trying to escape. So we decide, stay at your overt legal post which is working at the ANC office, Sauer Street, part of the Organising Department. Simultaneously make sure that no further arrests take place, secure whatever you've got by whatever means, taking all the precautions, but thirdly I say to Madiba, "I think I must just stay like this, I must just make sure that if they come to arrest me they arrest me in broad daylight where there are witnesses so that it gets published. And once it gets published that I'm arrested the structures in Cape Town that I can't reach in Durban, in Jo'burg that I can't reach, will hear it and they will realise that they must take cover, they must secure their own safety." That's in fact what happened. Cape Town, nobody got arrested because the Cape Town comrades fled to the Transkei immediately and Bantu Holomisa was in power there, so they took refuge in Transkei. That's what I'm trying to explain.
POM Would Bantu, again I've been interviewing him since 1989, was he an informal part of the ANC, protective of - ?
MM No, no. If you look at Madiba's autobiography you will find that Bantu in staging his coup did consult Madiba in prison. Madiba was in prison and he consulted Madiba.
POM How was he able to do that?
MM I think he sent emissaries to visit Madiba and they spoke in guarded language, etc., but that is referred to.And Bantu began to increasingly start off from taking a neutral stance vis-à-vis apartheid and the liberation struggle and then post-1990 people like Chris Hani went to visit him in Umtata and he began to give more and more support to us. Chris took refuge there too after my arrest but so did Charles Nqakula and so did others. They fled to the Transkei, being safer there from being arrested. So that's all I'm saying.
The last paragraph, you say the tape goes fuzzy here, there's no pick up, elucidate. I don't think it needs elucidation because I've made this point that the ANC official statements were made in support of Vula. There was an NEC statement when I was detained, National Executive Committee statement issued by the ANC head office supporting me and the Vula comrades and demanding our release. So that was an official statement and people put out the story that I was unhappy with my detention. I say that's an insult to me when people in the know know that I had announced this long before my detention that I would be detained. I don't have a grievance about my detention, for people to make out that I was unhappy about my detention they are completely wrong.
POM It's a bit like saying you spent your whole life on the run, moving from here to there, avoiding arrest, operating underground, and suddenly you're supposed to be unhappy about your detention. It's out of character.
MM I'm taking a risk with my life here, consciously, and they are implying that, oh, I gotdetained and I was unhappy about being detained.
POM But you'd arranged for your own detention by staying in Sauer Street.
MM And they put this story that I was unhappy about my detention. I had accepted that I would be detained. I was not worried about that.
Page 13, "A different line of debate was taking place" to develop a response to the violence that enveloped the townships in the Vaal Triangle in September 1990.
POM I put that in. Is that correct?
MM Yes, I'm referring to that. Yes, the trains and the rest of the violence, hostels. That's when the SDUs were created and that was an NEC resolution to create the SDUs post the Peace conference in 1991. Now is this the one where we have no we don't have FW here. We will come to FW later.
POM Let me tell you what I intend to do, is I intend to use you and your story in your words told to me as a way of moving forward to the negotiations and in a way of moving backwards into what was going on and to show how it wasn't all as simple as sometimes it was portrayed. You came back into the country just as negotiations began but at the same time all the operations that had been planned beforehand, you were always looking for, insisting on a fallback position. You were always saying if negotiations fail, if this happens what do we have in place so we're not caught out?
MM And also even more while the negotiations go around the table, how do you mobilise the mass of the people so that you do not demobilise them? Because one of the features in the SA situation that carried the negotiations was the mass consciousness and support of the ANC. Without that support De Klerk would have told us to go to hell, he wouldn't have listened to us.
POM You had to have mechanism in place to keep that moving all the time.Now, while we're just between breaks, what's the difference between what would be called an MK structure and the underground political structures that you were organising, which cross over between Intelligence, MK and
MM An MK structure would be concerned with sabotage and the back-up structures to facilitate the unit to carry on with its sabotage and armed activity. The political structure is that the ANC is first and foremost a political organisation. There are people who would belong to political organisation who may be in the armed struggle but there are people who may not in the armed struggle, but you have to raise political issues with them. What do they do about the grievances that they have? Do they simply say don't worry about our grievances, the armed struggle will solve it when it triumphs, or do they start resisting that treatment right now in their mass formations. The political structure was supposed to guide them in that direction, activity.
POM But you've an underground structure.
MM Illegal structure because the movement was illegal.
POM Now the movement becomes legal.
MM Now the movement becomes legal and the problem is it is going to open its door to anybody and everybody. Where are your hard core people? Do you straight away demobilise them and leave them and just say go into the mass organisations? They have got used to working in a particular way, know who to rely on and who not to, know who to go to for consulting, for guidance, what's the right thing to do. Do they now say that becomes irrelevant? They're going to feel lost. You've got to manage that process so that the ANC structures that are now coming up as legal structures are able to fulfil that task.
POM But do you still need to maintain underground as distinct from illegal structures that when your people come back into the country and you open up you can't say, for example, I won't say mass meetings, but meetings where there are a lot of people whom you're not really very familiar with, they're coming in and you say they're here as government agents.
MM Who's going to give them the political education?
POM They're here as government agents, they're training and trying to find out. You've got to keep
MM And you've got to have a corps of people who then you could rely on to do political education, to raise their consciousness and their understanding.
We then turn to the typescript of November 29th 1999.
POM We've done Pretoria, right? November 1999, yes.
MM Page 1 OK, page 2 no problem, page 3 no problems, page 4 no problems. Page 5 paragraph 2 from the top, one that says, "De Klerk signed on 25th and 23rd of April. He then brought it to the new cabinet to say this is done and I objected, saying 'You have acted outside of your powers.' Yes the elections took place on 27th April but his actions were in conflict" not outside the powers "were in conflict with the powers of the TEC."
Now the bottom half of that page is concerned with a quote that you give me from De Klerk. The key point he makes is that on 26th July he asked Mandela to come and see him urgently and he confronted Mandela with the evidence that the security forces had acquired. The implication of that is that he heard about Operation Vula and brought it to the attention of Madiba on 26th and he says Madiba was surprised by that. I say that's nonsense. I'd been meeting Madiba. I'd been in correspondence before that when Madiba was in jail. Then Madiba comes out and I'm in meetings with him. I discuss with Madiba what to do, which way to go and then I meet Madiba to tell him the arrests have begun and then Madiba picks up the phone, that is the morning of 19th July when I brief Madiba that arrests have taken place in Natal and Madiba picks up the phone and sets up an appointment with De Klerk to go and tell De Klerk that he's arresting people who are from outside and who are involved in the underground structures and he must handle it carefully because it is part of the ANC that he is tackling there. Why should he be surprised?
POM My question I suppose would be, did he feign surprise? In other words did he not want De Klerk to know that I've known what's been going on all the time but do you think I'm going to tell you that?'
MM I think the issue was different. What I was told by Madiba in his visits to me at Sandton Police cells on 7 August and his visit to me in the St Aidan's Hospital in Durban somewhere around September/October, that FW was saying he cannot release me because I am guilty of murders and that he has evidence that I have committed murders. I think when he says Mandela was surprised, I think on 26 July, remember I was already detained, one of the things that he'd prepared, when Madiba says, "Release these men, release Mac, you've just arrested him", he says, "Mandela, I've got charges of murder, I've got evidence of murders carried out by these people." I think he included, "They were planning to murder you."
POM Had we discussed this in one of the documents produced by Colonel Maria Daniel or whatever
MM That's the incident that FW takes and he twists it that Madiba was surprised, Madiba was surprised that Vula existed. Madiba would have been prepared for that. When he saw me on these two incidents in detention, particularly in Durban, he said that De Klerk says he's got murder charges against you. And I said, "Very convenient, let him try and charge me. He will not make one murder charge stick against me." And the old man was satisfied. He didn't even ask me why I was so confident.
POM I'm just asking this for fact, Nyanda and you were separate he was detained in Newcastle was it?
MM No, he was detained in Durban.
POM And you were detained in?
POM You were never in contact with each other during that period?
MM During the detention or before?
POM During the detention.
MM During the detention no but up to the day before he disappears I was in touch with him.
POM I'm asking that, I tell you why, because I've interviewed a man named Christo Davidson.
MM Yes, Davidson, ex-Security Branch from Natal? One time Newcastle?
POM That's right. Now Davidson says he was the person who conducted the interrogation of Nyanda after Vula. He says he and Nyanda got on quite well, that he used to know the Nyanda family in Newcastle and they were quite friendly with each other. Is that possible?
MM Yes, Nyanda's father had opened a bottle store in the township which was created post-1973 under apartheid for the African population of that area. Nyanda's father was a leading businessman. He was not politically active and if there is any political inclination he had he was more towards the PAC. So the relations between Nyanda and his father were not a healthy relationship. The real relationship was between Nyanda and his mother. The police used to go, the Security Branch, to all businesses, doing them little bits of favours to make the people their pals. Remember the Nyanda's two sons were out in exile, one of them had been killed by the security forces in Swaziland in 1985. De Kock killed him. The father would talk to them nicely because he wanted his business to survive but deep down you know this is a father who has lost his son at the hands of the security forces, so do you think that they were getting on well?
POM What I want to get now, I know a woman, and you may know her, well now she's in Mozambique, her name is Thabi in fact she's at an amnesty hearing this week in connection with some hearing being connected in terms of Vula, but she works for a friend of mine who's head of the National Democratic Institute in Mozambique, she heads up their operation and she and Nyanda are very close and she gave me his cell phone number and said, "Ring him and tell him I said to ring him." I've been getting the run-around through the official sources, I hate to dig up somebody's cell phone, it's a private thing, you only use it as a last resort, but what I want to talk to him about, since I have interviewed Davidson, is I want to Davidson told me about the way he interrogated him and the way they got on and they went to court and all that and I would just like to get Nyanda's version of the same event, parallel them and show how -
MM Did Davidson tell you that they put him in a straitjacket?
MM Did he tell you that they first assaulted Nyanda?
POM No. It was like a friendly conversation where we were sitting and saying I know your family and now that we've got you we're going to have to charge you and let's do it all in a very friendly way.
MM De Kock at one time when he was arrested and charged, De Kock said that he and Nyanda were friends. And he claimed that Nyanda was working with him? He claimed he had met Nyanda in Newcastle? All he was trying to do was to shake my confidence in Nyanda. I know one thing that Nyanda did make a statement in detention, to them, but the basis was that he made that statement on the assumption that I had got indemnity and that by telling them about me I would still be invulnerable.
POM Do you mind if I get in touch with him?
MM Not at all.
POM Because I would love to just compare what Nyanda has to say with what Davidson had to say. I take everybody and I say OK that's one version, what's the other person's version? And what's the game in between?'
MM You should have asked Davidson about me. I met him too.
POM I will be seeing him again.
MM He interrogated me in Durban, and of course he claimed that he knew my family. That's how I know he is from Newcastle.
POM Now when he interrogated you how did he interrogate you?
MM By the time they took me to C R Swart in Durban their attempt to interrogate me lasted only about 24 hours because within 24 hours I had seen the District Surgeon and got the District Surgeon to hospitalise me, so I was out of their hands.
POM You were entitled to do that under Section 29 is it?
MM They made a very big mistake. When we arrived at C R Swart in Durban (Swart - that's the building, it's named after one of the Ministers of Justice who became President of SA C R Swart, that's the head office of the Security Branch in Durban). So we left Jo'burg, we stayed at Piet Retief police station and then we went off to Durban and they took me to the head office of the Security Branch and they started interrogating me and of course they started by saying they had spoke to Nyanda and Nyanda was speaking, etc., etc., and the game's up. And I said, "I'm in terrible pain, my neck. You guys know you damaged my neck in 1964 in detention and my neck is giving me inordinate trouble. Plus you assaulted me in Jo'burg, you slammed my head against a wall and my neck is caput. I need a doctor." They said, "Right we'll take you to the District Surgeon." I went to the District Surgeon escorted by the Security Branch and I'm taken into the District Surgeon's office. They sent two youngsters as members of the Security Branch to escort me. I walk in there, I look at the nameplate, District Surgeon Dr Malga(?), he's an Indian chap, Moslem. Don't know him from a bar of soap. When I get into his surgery to be examined the policemen are here, two of them. I say, "Doctor, I want to see you, it's medical. Are these guys supposed to be here while you examine me?" It's the District Surgeon. He says, "Please gentlemen, will you wait in the anteroom", so they leave the room. There secure, District Surgeon appointed by the government, he says, "What's your problem?" I said, "I've been assaulted and tortured. Write it down. I want you to enter the report that I've come to see you with a medical condition arising from the assaults and tortures that they have conducted." He says, "What's wrong?" I said, "My neck", and I tell him how it was damaged in 1964, and of course he knows who I am, it's been in the papers. He says, "I have to send you to an orthopaedic specialist." I said, "Fine. Who's the specialist?" Now I know that the leading orthopaedic specialist in Natal is a Coloured doctor, Dr Domingo, and the second leading orthopaedic specialist is an Indian doctor. So I say, "You will have to send me to a top specialist." He says, "Sure. What about Domingo?" I said, "It's your choice." He picks up the phone, calls for Domingo, is told that Domingo is out of the country. He says to me, "Domingo is out of the country." So I say, "Well, who else?" He says, "Well the next top specialist here is Dr Naidoo. Are you happy with him?" I said, "Fine." He writes out a slip and says, "I want you to be taken immediately." He calls the cops in and says, "The patient's explained his problems, I want him to be seen by a specialist and I've made an appointment at his surgery three o'clock." This is about one o'clock.
The cops take me back to C R Swart to the interrogation room. They report to the Colonel in charge and the Colonel comes storming into room. He says, "I knew it! You fucking Indians. I'm not sending you to a specialist, I'm taking you back to Pretoria Prison and put you in the prison hospital." I say, "You do that, transport me to Pretoria. You take responsibility for any deterioration in my health because there's the District Surgeon saying I be taken immediately to a specialist. You transport me and my condition deteriorates, you take the rap." He storms out.
Half past two, the same two cops come to escort me to the doctor's surgery, to the Indian specialist. As I arrive at the Indian specialist in the anteroom, reception room, the receptionist, a lady, don't know her, yes, takes down the particulars, yes the appointment, just wait. Tells me to wait, take a seat. Then she calls me, "Please come into the room here, behind the screen." She tells the cops to just wait there, we're just going to do some preliminary checks before he goes to the doctor. When I go behind the screen who is there? Another Indian woman, who is that? Pravin Gordhan, Commissioner of Revenue Services, his wife, because in the interim she phoned downstairs and Pravin's wife is an X-ray specialist, a radiologist. She tells her that Mac is here and she comes through the back staircase into the surgery and says, "Bring him here to see me." She greets me, we hug each other, she says, "What's happening?" Her husband is also in detention. I said, "Simple, do you know the doctor?" She says, "Yes." "Tell him he's got to hospitalise me." She said, "OK, OK", and disappears. The doctor comes, I've returned to the waiting room, doctor comes and he calls for me and he tells the two policemen, "Come along gentlemen." Takes me into his consulting room, "Do you mind if the police are here." I realise, wait a minute, this is a different ball game so I say, "No, I have no problem." I tell him the same story, assaulted, etc., etc., neck, in the presence of the policemen. Takes it down, makes notes and says, "Come into my consulting cubicle", examines me. I don't say a word, the policemen are sitting in the other room, leave the door open. The doctor sits at his desk and he says, "Well, I need to have X-rays taken of you, I need to do certain tests on you and I think you should be hospitalised immediately." He turns to the policemen, "Is it OK if I put him in St Aidan's hospital?" What can the policemen say? He says to me, "Is it OK?" I say, "Well it's OK with me. Is that the hospital where you work?" He says, "Yes." I say OK. He turns to the policemen, "Do you want a private ward for him or do you want a communal ward?" The policeman doesn't know what to say. He says, "Oh there's also a two bed ward." So the policeman says, "Two bed." I say, "Excuse me, you know in a two bed ward I'll talk to the patient." "No, no, private ward." Then the doctor says, "Now I want you to take him immediately." He picks up the phone, phones St Aidan's, "Have a bed ready, private ward, for Mac Maharaj." Tells the cops, "Is it OK?" "Yes." He says, "Well the ward is now waiting, can we take him immediately?" They say, "We can't take him immediately, we've got to back to C R Swart." He says, "Well take him there but please by five o'clock have him in his ward. I will be there, I've sent instructions for X-rays, etc." They take me to C R Swart, they report to the Colonel. The Colonel blows his top. So Davidson and them didn't have a chance.Let's go on.
POM It's a great story.
MM Page 8, the bottom of page 8. You say, "I don't get this, needs re-wording, you are saying, 'Now that's the mindset, he knows they are coming he knows where they are coming from and makes him extremely sceptical of the allegations that they make regarding Vula'." That's about Mandela again.
POM So how should it go?Are you saying, "Now that's the mindset he knows they are coming from?" Who is the 'he' here?
MM That's FW.
POM "Knows they are coming from and makes him extremely sceptical of the allegations they are making." Makes him - who's who?
MM Because Mandela had met FW on 19th July at Madiba's request and met him again and on 26th, the day after my arrest I know that as I was being transported in the prison van the headlines were "Red Joe" Joe Slovo. FW was demanding that Joe Slovo not be in the delegation to the Pretoria Minute.
POM You could see that from?
MM The banner, the posters.
POM OK, I've got that some place else, yes.
MM I am just simply giving you all the facts to repudiate that statement of FW that Mandela was surprised.
POM What's interesting to me is that he never mentions in his autobiography, he never mentions the meeting of the 19th, he gives the inference that the first time that he was informed and the first meeting he had with Mandela was - in fact the first contact about Vula was on the 26th.
MM He did not mention the demand he put to Mandela is that Mandela drop Joe Slovo from the delegation. That was the banner headline, 'FW Demands Mandela Drop Joe Slovo'.
Page 9, paragraph 4 from the top. There's a statement there that begins "They certainly sold it but the point I am making is that it was for internal consumption and legitimately that was a problem for them." You say, "Why legitimately?" You're asking why legitimately and what does that refer to, the 'it' or the internal consumption? I'm talking about their own constituency in the country in SA, South Africans and the white constituency. The sold the anti-communist line, the terrorist line and the monster line so I'm only using 'legitimately' from their standpoint. From their standpoint the picture that they had to paint and sell to the white constituency, their voters, was the banner of anti-communism, anti-God and these fearsome terrorists who have got no legitimate grievances, who are simply agitators using the passive, happy black people to agitate them to stand up.
In the next paragraph you say, "Shifted to where?" You're using shifted, when the western powers shifted, having shifted position from being active supporters of the apartheid regime to passive supporters, anti-ANC, to accepting the legitimacy of the ANC's case for majority rule and democracy. That shift that's going on and when they find the ANC is prepared to negotiate and is engaged in negotiation and the negotiations break down, by that time the western powers have shifted to a position which says, but wait a minute, the ANC is not being unreasonable, you guys are now being unreasonable, you've got to move, FW.
POM The west had moved itself into an irreversible position. Do you credit anybody in the west among western leaders who was leading the charge for a change or did it simply arise out of pragmatic post cold war politics?
MM No. I have mentioned to you earlier that I didn't give a name, I said that there was an occasion when I passed through New York when a gentleman from Washington flew over to see me to give me a message that there would be overtures coming from Pretoria and that we should take it seriously. That was a gentleman by the name of Ashley Wills. I had met Ashley Wills by sheer accident when I was released, when I was house arrested to Durban and confined near the Wentworth region. I could only travel to the white zones of Durban but not the black zones. My efforts to get a job under house arrest were being refused all the time by the minister. I eventually got a job as a house handyman to repair and paint a house in the region of Howard College, a white suburb, very posh white suburb. It was a house owned by a woman who was a supporter of the Black Sash, a Mrs Rautenbach. So in sympathy for me she gave me this handyman job. The house was empty and I had to do little bits of repairs and touching up painting and roof repairs and she said she would give me a salary to keep me sane. As it turned out the house was being repaired for occupation by Ashley Wills of the US Embassy and Ashley and his wife Gina moved in while I was still doing handyman's repairs there. Then I met them and we got to know each other and then of course the next thing is I disappeared.
Now when I'm passing through Washington in 1986 I get a message in my hotel room, I had just arrived in New York, the message says," 'Ashley Wills, Washington, called. Please call him back at this number." So I call him back. He says, "I want to come and see you. I've got to see you." Clearly they had had a discussion in the State Department and he had told them that he knows me and they had read about where I am now, etc. So they said, "Ashley go and see him. Do you have a friendly relationship with him?" So he came to see me on the shuttle from Washington, flew into New York, we had breakfast together and that is where he raised the matter. His message to me at the end was that they had reason to believe that Pretoria will be making overtures and that he has come to appeal to me to say that should we receive those overtures we must think carefully and respond positively.
POM Now were they the overtures that they were then making to Mandela?
MM These were the overtures that they were going to make to the ANC outside.
POM Outside, OK, for the second time.
MM That indicates that Washington was also interacting with Pretoria, not to the point of saying agree with the ANC, but Washington was saying: there's an impasse here and, Pretoria, you've got to get past this impasse. Pretoria was saying: we are prepared to talk to the ANC but to the good people in the ANC and our problem is that we think they are all monsters. The State Department were saying that they're not all monsters, there are good people there. And Pretoria was saying but they won't listen to us. So Washington must have been saying, "Try to talk to them, not with a view that you succumb to our demands but with a view that you co-opt us." And that's what Ashley came to see me about. That's 1986. He didn't show any knowledge that Mandela was meeting the SA government but he certainly indicated that there were talks going on and pressure from the western powers, particularly the United States, on Pretoria to resolve the SA crisis by some form of talks. That's why Washington was involved, different elements in Washington. Remember this is about the end of the Crocker era, the constructive engagement. But if you were to follow the paradigm of Crocker based on Namibia's constructive engagement, how could you have constructive engagement if you did not involve the ANC in that engagement? The ANC was recognised by the OAU, the ANC was at the United Nations and you could not say constructive engagement excludes any discussion with the ANC, so I think Washington was playing a position.
POM Do you think Crocker was a positive influence on the direction - ?
MM I think Crocker was a positive influence on Pretoria because he made them feel reassured that the solutions that he was looking for were not necessarily to succumb to the ANC and he would have been arguing that through engagement they would neutralise some of our positions and Crocker would have been arguing that the communist bloc was no longer the sole framework in which we should read the solutions.
POM 'We' being?
MM The powers in Pretoria. OK?Now page 9 from the bottom, paragraph 2, you've got a set of questions there. I say the word there is 'instilled a whole sense of fear in the white community'.
POM We were on page 9, you had just finished the word 'fear'.
MM Page 10, first paragraph from the top, last sentence.
POM I've got what UN conference are you referring to?
MM Oh it was some human rights conference, I can't remember.
POM The name isn't important, OK.
MM It was 1978. Now at the end of that paragraph you say, "Where is 'here' and where did the black students come from?" They came from SA and that sentence, "That's the extent of the propaganda and indoctrination carried out here", meaning in SA.
Which then takes us to the next paragraph, "Which raid are you referring to?" I'm referring to the Gaborone raid.
POM There were two. There was one that PW carried out during the Eminent Persons Group meeting when he scuttled the whole thing.
MM That's right. And that's when he briefed Van Zyl Slabbert.
POM That's when he did it.
MM Yes. He said to him, "Here's our information, it was a house of a bunch of terrorists planning attacks on SA and we've had to attack them", and Van Zyl Slabbert took that information as being honest and correct and after the raid it transpired that they had killed a number of civilians and women and children.
Page 11, OK. Page 12, paragraph 4 from the bottom.
POM I have at the top - what precisely Mandela said I don't know, but I know that from the I was going to change that.
MM From the administration side, from the administration of CODESA.
POM From CODESA's administration.
MM The message that Working Group 2 had collapsed did not come as a problem for Mandela.
POM He was expecting it. He was expecting it or he just kind of accepted it?
MM It was a setback of a nature that he did not see it as something insurmountable.
POM Just a temporary break in the words that CODESA had reached arrangements and agreements in other things and if there had to be a halt till Group 2 was resolved that was fine?
MM No. That the positions that Delport and the government had taken were such that they would not be able to sustain those positions. Then here, "De Klerk was in a buoyant mood", and I ask the question why would he be in a buoyant mood that CODESA had collapsed? This is the picture that is presented by Patti Waldmeir.
POM Now this is my words, "He misread the Cyril manoeuvre." Can I put that word in? "He thought we would be painted as the bad guys. He misread the Cyril manoeuvre." That's how I changed it, the ambiguous line.
MM That's OK, but in answer to the question "Why would he be in a buoyant mood?" It gives me a problem when Patti says she found De Klerk in a buoyant mood. It means that if De Klerk was saying, as he says to Patti Waldmeir, De Klerk was confident he could get 51% of the popular vote by leading an anti-ANC alliance. The deadlock breaking mechanism that Cyril proposed was that if there is a deadlock in that government and after six months the deadlock continues then there shall be a referendum and a 51% vote. If De Klerk was confident that he would get 51% then it means that the Delport position of rejecting that deadlock breaking mechanism should not have been rejected, it should have been accepted. It's not consistent with the facts. If De Klerk said, "Oh, it's collapsed, I'm not worried", surely De Klerk should have been saying, "Hey Delport, why didn't you accept it? Because we will get 51%."
POM So why would he be buoyant?
MM He was buoyant because he was already planning, you've got to check the dates, he was planning the referendum.
POM The referendum would have been over then.
MM So that's the question I'm asking, why was De Klerk buoyant? It's not consistent with Delport rejecting the deadlock breaking mechanism and what it says is that there was something that was making De Klerk feel extremely confident. If it is after the referendum then the referendum results had given him an exaggerated sense of his power. If the referendum hadn't taken place
POM Well the referendum had.
MM Then that referendum had given them a wrong reading of the country and therefore he rejected the deadlock breaker at 50% because he thought he could get an even better deal and he would have been confident of getting a better deal.
POM He was confident the ANC would come around to ?
MM The ANC would have to back off.
POM So was he misreading in some fundamental way, during CODESA was he misreading the dynamics of what was really going on in the country, in his head?
MM And in his advisors.
POM He was kind of living in fantasy land?
MM To me this demonstrates it because if he was sure he could get 51% in a referendum, why not accept the deal? 75% vote for an amendment to the Bill of Rights, 662/3% for any other element of the constitution and if there's a deadlock then a referendum and he didn't accept it. Having rejected it what were the grounds for being so confident unless you are misreading the situation completely?
POM 'Falange', I have this word 'falange'
POM OK, phalanx.
MM Page 13, all your alterations, no problem but I have paragraph 3, this word here 'jump'.
POM What do you mean by 'jump'?
MM In terms of the NP positions they felt that the parties around the table, given that they were predominantly NP sponsored Bantustan parties, that the only parties who were hard core liberation were the ANC, the Indian Congress, the PAC and SACP, four out of nineteen parties. If there was need for a majority around the table the NP would get its majority, that's how they saw it. So it was in that sense as a simple majority in favour of the NP positions.
POM But wasn't there an understanding that sufficient consensus, if the NP and the ANC didn't agree on something then there wasn't sufficient consensus?
MM Yes, the fleshing out of that simple sufficient consensus in practice was a problem. I think if De Klerk was told that sufficient consensus means the NP and the ANC must agree, his idea was, yes, but provided I am more than the NP, I've got 15 parties on my side and when the ANC is holding out I would pressure them by saying you are the odd man out to make that sufficient consensus, so I will paint you in the public arena as the minority who is holding up things to force you to conform to my sufficient consensus. That's it.
Now, this paragraph.
POM This is the one that begins, "Second, the Record of Understanding was very clear on the question of black on black violence, on the role of the hostels, the question of carrying arms in public" page 13.
MM I talk too much you see, because your original question had been based on the question of the IFP and I've gone round explaining too many details about the Record of Understanding. This paragraph sets it out very clearly. We did not go into the Record of Understanding saying we want to drive a wedge between the IFP and the NP. We had said let's take the issues, violence, constitution making, let's move them on those issues so that we can resume negotiations.
POM Let's move the NP on those positions?
MM But when we moved them and got the draft done I knew the implications of that was there was going to be a wedge. That's a bonus, that's the position.
POM It was like saying once we secure agreement between ourselves and the NP on these positions the inevitable consequence of that is going to be a wedge between the NP and IFP but that's their problem. We didn't set out to create that.
MM That's their problem. That's a bonus for us. Page 14, no problem. Page 15, no problem.
POM As far as I've got, December 6th.
MM I realise why I've been wordy, because in the course of answering your questions part of my wordiness is that your questions are making me think through and create a framework derived from those experiences for myself, so I am more reasoning it for myself to establish that framework.
We are now on 6th December 1999 and we are talking about page 1, paragraph 3 from the bottom, "If you look at the negotiating process."
POM What did it consider inevitable?
MM It's inevitable that they should engage in negotiations which would involve us because the entire world scenario, their allies in the world are saying you can't go on like this. Maggie Thatcher is saying Buthelezi is the man and she's saying, "De Klerk you've got to resolve matters with Buthelezi as the key factor." The Americans are saying, "You can't go on like this, you've got to do some talking, you've got to have constructive engagement and find a solution." In the meantime the ANC is not disappearing from the scene, its power is growing in the international forums and internally the revolt is continuing, showing no signs of collapsing, and whatever repression you are bringing, states of emergency, 30,000 people detained, it's not working. In fact what is happening now is suddenly the image of the Mandelas has emerged from the screen of silence and nonentity to in fact a world figure.
POM They were saying it's inevitable that there would be negotiations?
MM It's inevitable that we should negotiate.
Page 2, paragraph I'm talking about that stage rather than that stage. Next paragraph, second sentence from the bottom, there's a word I think the correct word is 'repudiate'.
POM That's the word, I should have been able to come up with it myself.
MM The rest is OK. When you read it against your questions and you look at the rest of the text it all fits in with the answers.Page 3, "Are you talking about the ANC and the NP?" and I say, "Yes, you're right." Your question is actually a rhetorical question because that's the sense that it makes to you.
Page 4, right here, sentence fifth line on what the ANC's response was going to be. Not going to be, what the ANC response was. We consulted our structures. We didn't say this is what we're going to respond, before we do so tell us what you think. We responded, briefed our structures, we briefed the media, time was of the essence and we posted and delivered the response at the same time but we briefed our members this is what we have replied. So it's not what it's going to be so that you can it's done.
Page 5 no problems, page 6 no problems, page 7 no problems. Page 8 this top paragraph, "IFP presumed and we therefore knew that we were positioning ourselves differently from the way the NP was." Yes, correct. Yes, IFP and Viljoen, we were talking to them separately.
POM Now you must tell me, as you finish up, which I haven't asked you is about yourself. I can read the official biography, what's given out, but where were you born, how many children, your father and mother, how did you become involved, when did you realise that injustice was being done to you, to Africans, to coloureds, that moves the whole direction of your life for the better part of 40 years in a direction of engaging in continuous struggle, never losing hope? Who is Mac?
MM OK, let's try. I was born on 22nd April 1935 in a village called Newcastle which is in the province of Natal but on the border of the then province of the Transvaal near an historic Anglo/Boer war site known as the Majubas where the Boer forces conducted an operation which was one of the defeats of the British Army.
My paternal grandparents' side, paternal grandfather had come from India as an indentured labourer on the sugar cane fields and when he finished his term he then opted to become a labourer in building the railway line, the continuation of the Durban/Pietermaritzburg railway line from PMB to Johannesburg. He met my paternal grandmother in a compound of Indian workers in PMB and married her. She had no memory of where she came from in India, she came as a very young girl. He had memories of where he came from. Having built the railway line which passed through Newcastle, which is in the coal mining area, when the railway line reached Jeppe in Johannesburg he returned to Newcastle and set himself up as a businessman, opened a butcher shop, opened a general dealer's and a brickyard. A self-made man but he died in 1906.
My grandmother was illiterate and my father was seven years old when his father died. He was then brought up by friends, a Moslem family although I am from a Hindu background, who had been shipmates with my grandfather and they were running a farm and a shop about 15 - 20 miles outside Newcastle. My grandmother then appealed to this family to help bring up her son, her only child, and they agreed to run her shop because she did not feel that she could run it. My father then went on to work in various jobs amongst which was
POM Were you poor or what would be called in Ireland, maybe 'genteel poverty'?
MM It was really brought up on charity since the Moslem family supported my grandmother and son, brought him up, but on the basis that they ran the shop and they made sure that she was fed and the child was brought up. My father when he came of age went out and worked in a dairy but married when he was still a youngster, I think 1913 at the age of 14, an arranged marriage. He worked in a dairy and had about six children from that marriage. In 1932 his wife died at childbirth. The depression had hit, 1929, he had become unemployed. The Moslem family that was running the shop, you couldn't take it back.
POM He couldn't take the shop back?
MM Yes. It was not the custom, he had given it to them to run, it would be depriving them. He remarried in 1932, unemployed, my mother from whom he had three more children and while still unemployed he met an accident in which he broke his ankle and his hip. He was a very powerfully built person so he became crippled for the rest of his life. My mother brought us up, she did sewing, she sold coal, she shovelled coal from the coal mines, they brought it in trucks and she would sell it by drums.
POM Where were you living now?
MM We were living in Newcastle in one of the plots where there was a tin shanty, a tin house built of galvanised iron. All my brothers, older than me, as soon as they finished Standard 6 school at the age of 13 went to work in the local motor fuelling station, the petrol station selling as bowser boys handling those pumps. All three of my brothers went on to do that with only Standard 6 education. My mother kept the family going. She looked after the house, she sold coal, she sold firewood.
But in 1941 in the middle of the war the family running the shop went bankrupt and they said, "Well, the shop is bankrupt." My father was crippled and he said, "Well if it is bankrupt give it back to me", and they said, "Yes you can have it." So he took over the shop and began to run the shop selling sugar and small things. But literally he sat in the shop, my mother ran the house. We now moved into the house attached to the shop which was brick built. My brothers worked at the petrol station and they contributed to the household income. My father and mother ran the shop. Whenever a customer came in he would shout for her, she would come and serve the customer and if a customer came at the back for coal she would rush out and shovel the coal, if they came for firewood she would rush out and sell him the firewood and in the meantime cook, clean the house, run the house.
POM She was very powerful.
MM She was a very powerful woman, influence in my life, my great attachment. She came from a family who were also descendants of Indian indentured labourers but they don't know where they came from. Her grandparents were part of two Indian families that became workers on an Afrikaner farm in the Free State province in the 1860s. They were the only two Indian families that have rights to be in the Free State province because the Free State Republic was the first Republic that passed laws which prohibited people of Indian origin to live there. But my Mum's grandparents had worked for this farmer and both sides of the family had died in a fire, her father's parents and her mother's parents. Both my mother's grandparents had died in a fire and the only survivors were my mother's mother and my mother's father who were kids on this farmer's land and the farmer brought them up and got them married in Bethlehem and they lived and worked on that farm and had children there and all of them acquired Free State rights. But somewhere in the late twenties her parents then moved away from the farm to the Natal side and bought a small farm, helped by the farmer, and then began to farm in their own right with about 13 children.
She then, as one of the daughter's in that family, married my father, his second marriage. Also illiterate but very powerful, very small my father was six foot two, my mother was four foot ten, but a very powerful bulwark of a family. The family survived on that shop but in fairly dire straits because even our clothes, my trousers, shirts, were made, all of us, were made by my mother. We couldn't afford to buy them. She bought what was called German print which was the cheapest cloth and she would cut it up and make our trousers and our shirts and everything. In fact I went through high school without long pants, I had short pants. My first long pants was when I finished matric.
Newcastle had a particular ambience about it in history. Not only was it this coal mining town in the building of the railway but what had happened was that when Gandhi came to SA as a lawyer representing merchants and suffered the racial humiliation, Gandhi started the Natal Indian Congress in 1894 to organise the Indian community to resist the erosion of their rights.
POM That began in Newcastle?
MM No. In Natal. And then was formed the Transvaal Indian Congress, but the first organised campaign that Gandhi organised was a mass resistance by the Indians in Natal who would physically walk over the border to the Transvaal to defy the Transvaal laws which prohibited us from living there. The gathering point for that march was Newcastle. From Newcastle they gathered from all the small towns in Natal, camped at Newcastle and from Newcastle set out on foot as a group to cross into the border of the Transvaal and be arrested there. So there's a huge memory of that 1906 revolt, that defiance.
There were other acts subsequently where Newcastle was the focal point. 1930 the coal miners were both African and Indian in the coal mines underground. The mines went on strike. The owners saw the Indian worker as the inciter and they passed a law prohibiting Indian labourers from working below the surface hoping thereby, by having only Africans underground, they would not have to face another strike. That strike was organised from Newcastle and there were people when I grew up who still had memories of those strikes.
POM So there were two memories coming through to you of that strike, of Gandhi and the march.
MM And we would talk, my parents, the old people in the community would talk with great pride. Then in 1946 when the two Indian Congresses launched a mass campaign of resistance called the Passive Resistance Campaign in which 2000 Indians voluntarily went to prison by defying the law. This was before the Defiance Campaign, 1946. People who went to prison, many of them were made to serve their sentences in the Newcastle Prison and I can remember then in 1946 as a kid these Indian men working on the roadside with shovels and picks, cleaning the road edges, wearing prison garb.
POM Now were they still fighting and protesting for the erosion of Indian rights?
MM They were now beginning to fight by 1946 straight after passive resistance, they signed the Dadoo/Xuma/Naicker pact. Xuma was the President of the ANC, Dadoo was the President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, Naicker was the President of the Natal Indian Congress and the three of them signed a pact of joint struggle in 1947. So the 1947 pact sealed the decision that African Indians must fight side by side with the Africans. But I am saying my memory is of prisoners working at the roadside and I know one of the prisoners was distantly related to me because he was one of the key people who was a friend of Mandela as a student at Wits University, J M Singh who just died last year. But if you read Mandela's autobiography you will see constant references to Ismail Meer and J M Singh at Flat 13 in Johannesburg. Now JM was by marriage and other relationships like a nephew to me, although much older than me, and he was a lawyer and he went to prison in 1946. So not only seeing prisoners but knowing and talked about in the family that JM was serving and this one was serving and this one was in prison and these were known names to me. But there was no Indian Congress viable branch in Newcastle but I also had memories at high school of mass meetings being called in Newcastle by the Dr Dadoos and the Dr Naickers, coming to mobilise the community.
POM Did you go to an allIndian school?
MM I went to an Indian school which was only up to Standard 6 when my brothers went to school. It went to Standard 8 when my sister went to school, the one that's just older than me, and when my turn came and I had finished Standard 8 the next year they opened Standard 9 so I managed to go to Standard 9 otherwise I would have become a petrol attendant. Then when I finished Standard 9 they opened Standard 10 which was the final matric year so I did my matric and by that time I had developed ambitions of what I wanted to do. They differed radically with my father. I wanted to become a lawyer. He thought that the entire family should contribute to make me train as a teacher, he thought it would be the ultimate achievement if a member of the family became a teacher. I resented teaching and we clashed and he said that no son of his was going to become a lawyer because lawyers are by nature liars. A very stubborn man. And I left home. He said, "Well if you leave home you get nothing from me, I will not help you. Your brothers would help you, I would help you if you went to Teacher Training College." And I said, "Thank you very much, I'm leaving home", and I went to Durban on my own. I got a job in Durban and started studying at Natal University as a part-time student. I finished my BA at Natal University, I then petitioned for the Law Faculty. They said produce five students, it was a black section of the university away from the white campus of the University of Natal. My group boycotted the graduation ceremony of 1956, the first group of black students.
POM Were you active during the years you were there?
MM I became active in 1953 at university and I became very active in student affairs, faced expulsion two or three times. The first time I faced expulsion was in 1953, my first year because 41 students were defying the university authorities so they threatened to expel us.
POM And you were still going part-time?
MM I was part-time. I was working for a lawyer. I was selling the newspaper New Age on weekends from door to door and the New Age newspaper gave me a commission of one penny per newspaper. That added to my income and I began to write for the newspaper as a volunteer journalist and at university I became a member of the Student Representative Council. I became editor of a newspaper of the students which we published illegally.
POM These would be the black students?
MM Black students, which we published illegally because the university banned it but in defiance we continued to publish it. We agitated for a law faculty. The university said we can only grant a law faculty for you blacks if you produce five graduate students to do the LLB. I produced five students, including myself. They opened the faculty. We did the first year, there were five subjects in the first year, but the rules of LLB said that you could only move to second year if you passed all five. LLB, Bachelor of Law, but it was a post-graduate degree. So five of us wrote the exam the first year. I was the only one that passed all five subjects. I was a part-time student. When I went to register for the second year they said, "Sorry, we've closed the faculty, we can't run a second year course with just one student." So I said, "Register me for B.Com then", because I was working for a lawyer as a clerk and the Registrar said, "Don't you get the message? We don't want you back here."
POM Was this a white registrar?
MM White registrar. By this time I had become active in the Natal Indian Congress, I had become more absorbed in the newspaper as a volunteer worker and seller, I was working for the lawyer part-time for income and I was a student. So, the treason arrests had taken place in December 1956, the Manager of the Durban office of the newspaper, New Age, was amongst the Treason trialists so I was amongst the people who went and opened the Indian Congress offices, the ANC offices.
POM But when you asked to register for B.Com?
MM They said, "No thank you. Thank you very much, we don't want you here." So I then applied to Wits University, I applied to Cape Town, they were prepared to admit me but I couldn't get a permit because I'm of Indian origin and people of Indian origin required a permit to live in the Transvaal or in the Cape Province. So I couldn't go to Cape Town or Wits. In the meantime the treason arrests took place. I began to organise the Stand By Our Leaders Campaign, then I get a message from New Age Head Office in Johannesburg to say will I take over as manager of the Durban office. I said I would do it for free. They said, "Not good enough, you must get a wage." I said, "No, but I get my income from also selling the newspaper door to door at weekends. I will run the office, I will be the reporter but I don't want a wage." They came down and they said, "No, it's the principle, you have to take a wage."
POM Why did you say you wouldn't take a wage?
MM I was an idealistic young man by now fully absorbed in the idea of the struggle and they said, "You've got to take a wage otherwise we can't instruct you." So I said, "Look chaps, the real reason is I can't go to Wits, I can't get a permit. I can't go to Cape Town, I can't get a permit. I can't study at Natal to become a lawyer. I finished my BA.LLB first year, I've got two more years to qualify as a lawyer. I've worked for a pittance as a part-time job for a lawyer in lieu of apprenticeship fees and now I can't complete my studies and the only thing that's left is that I want to leave the country and go and study abroad." They said, "You'll never get a passport. You're too well known to the Security Police." I said, "I've got some contacts who are saying that they can arrange a passport semi-clandestinely for me." So we arrived at a deal. I worked for the New Age office, I would be the manager for a salary of £10 a month but on condition, I said, that the moment I get my passport I am leaving the country and I don't have to give you notice because it will be a clandestinely arranged passport.
My passport came through in July 1957 and when my contact in the police informed me that I've got my passport but I'd better clear out quickly, I was on my way back to my room.
POM So this is a contact with whom you had made friends and he had warned you that if you didn't move quickly you were going to be caught.
MM What he did was he put in another report. He put all the other reports against me at the bottom of the tray and put the top report as favourable, granting a passport. So they granted the passport and then he was going to let the other reports come through.
POM Was he a white?
MM No, he was a black person. In fact the man who played a role was my so-called nephew, J M Singh who was a lawyer in Durban. He gave me that contact with the police. Anyway I was on my way to my room, the whole community knew me and I had a room there and I was on my way towards the room at about six o'clock in the evening, six or seven, it was getting dusk, and little kids were stationed at different points by the community to warn me that the Security Police were waiting for me outside my room. And here some kids intercepted me, youngsters, six, seven-year olds, to say, "Uncle, don't go home, the police are waiting for you." So I say, "What do I do?" They said, "Don't worry, don't worry, come with me to my parents' place." So I go to a family, the old lady says to me, "Look, we've seen a car from Ladysmith, we have spoken to the driver of the car. He's prepared to give you a lift for nothing to Ladysmith. We have gone into your room from the back door of the main flat and we found nothing there besides your books but in a bag we have packed your blanket and your shirt and your spare trousers and we think you'd better run." So I said, "Thank you very much."
I got the lift that night, I went to Ladysmith, the lift dropped me in Ladysmith. I hitch-hiked to Johannesburg. I went to Springs to my younger sister's place, she's the sister who was from my previous mother. She was the last born and at birth her mother had died. My father couldn't afford to support her and bring her up so he had given her to friends in another town as an adopted child. We never met each other until 1952 and she was by then married in Springs. So I go to Springs and I tell my sister, "I'm in trouble, can you accommodate me?" She says, "Yes." From there I sent out word, friends at the university collected money for me, other friends collected money and I sent word to my brothers, they borrowed £50 and I collected £115 to pay for a small airline ticket, there was a charter airline that had just started and the fare was £115. I had managed to collect £120 and I booked a flight and flew out from here to London. I arrived in London with £5 in my pocket.
In London I slept on the railway stations, got a job at the Corner House cafes. There used to be a chain of Corner House cafes near the underground tube stations called Lyons Corner House, of the Tate & Lyle Group, self-service restaurants. Got a job there as a garbage porter, took it because it gave me breakfast and lunch and high tea. Bumped into a group of South Africans. They were already in London, they had rented a room. They invited me to join them, so I started working at Lyons Corner House and began to save money to start at the LSE.
Then a passer-by one day, seeing me cleaning the windows and as a garbage porter, comes past and says to me, "Aren't you so-and-so?" I said, "Yes." He says, "Aren't you a graduate?" I said, "Yes." He says, "So why are you doing this job, cleaning windows. You are a graduate aren't you?" I said, "Yes." He says, "Well a graduate is a qualified teacher in Britain, a war time regulation." I said, "Is that so?" He says, "Yes, you'll get better pay." So I ask him where do I go, he tells me. So I became a teacher.
POM Did you drop your father a note and say I'm a teacher after all?
MM It's an irony. I began to teach in London. At the end of the first year saved enough money to join the London School of Economics. I was in my second year at the LSE when I was approached by the movement.
POM You're now doing B.Com?
MM LLB, London LLB. I started again from scratch, did the first year, did the second year, and I was in my second year when Sharpeville had taken place. I was by that time in London very active, a member of the Organisation of South African Groupings, of African Groupings, of the National Union of Teachers, of the Movement for Colonial Freedom, of the South Africa Freedom Association, of the New Age Support Committee, of the British Communist Party under a different name. I was then approached from home whether I would go for training. I thought it would take a year before they'd arrange the training. I'd asked, "Does it take me back home?" They said, "Yes." "Does it take me back full time?" They said, "Yes." So I said I'm game. They said, "Don't you want to know what training?" I said, "It doesn't matter as long as I'm full time in the struggle I'll come." As it happened five days later the comrade turns up and says, "Here's your ticket, you're flying tomorrow." So I flew off to Czechoslovakia, ended up in the German Democratic Republic, did my training in printing and sabotage in Germany, returned to Johannesburg in 1962 in May.
POM When you were in the GDR were you in 'boarding school' or what?
MM I had gone there on the basis that the arrangements were made that I would train. I should not be in a town where I would mix with anybody from SA or from the British colonies around the world. So the Germans gave me a document, a student pass under the name of Das Gupta purporting to be an Indian from India, purporting to be studying printing and put me in a village called Bischofswerda where nobody spoke even English and they had never seen a black man in the flesh.
POM What was the name of the village again?
MM Bischofswerda, outside Dresden, about 32 km away from Dresden. That's where I did my printing course and then I did my sabotage training in Berlin. It was an 11-month course. I came back and re-entered the country on 2 May 1962. 1962 Mandela gets arrested in October, around October I think, sentenced to five years. The Rivonia arrests take place 1963. I am living in Johannesburg illegally, part of the underground, and I get arrested in July 1964.
POM You were arrested on what charges?
MM There were two Acts at that time, it was the Sabotage Act and the Suppression of Communism Act. I was charged with two acts under the Sabotage Act, two counts, and two counts under Suppression. The charge sheet read a group of us, led by Wilton Mkwayi, were alleged to have committed about 177 acts of sabotage which they attributed to us. We did not defend ourselves. When asked to plead we said we do not regard ourselves as morally guilty of any crime. The court didn't like that plea, it said you should plead either guilty or not guilty. We repeated, "We regard ourselves as morally not guilty." The court entered in the records that we pleaded not guilty. The trial went on. We did not go into the box to give evidence and we were found guilty and sentenced. I was sentenced to 12 years, spent 12 years on Robben Island, came out, I was house-arrested for five years in Durban to a room in my brother's flat, my younger brother who is now deceased, and then the arrangements were with Mandela and Sisulu that I would leave the country in six months illegally, so I broke my house arrest orders and crossed the border and went off to Zambia. Amongst other things I smuggled out the Mandela autobiography. I was given six months to transcribe that, transcribed it and then the ANC made me secretary of the ANC underground and that was in December 1977. I was called to Lusaka, I was told that I was now made secretary of the underground and that's a post that I took up, joined the Revolutionary Council, 1985 got elected to the National Executive when they allowed non-Africans and from my position as secretary of the underground eventually I was selected by Tambo and Slovo to head Operation Vula, to come back into the country. The rest you know.
POM When in all of this did you meet Zarina? When did you have time to meet anybody?
MM I had a former marriage. I had fallen in love with a fellow student at Natal University, Tim Naidoo. She came from a family - her second eldest brother had become very active in the struggle in the early forties in the Indian Congress, Communist Party and trade unions. He had been a passive resister and he was a student at Natal University and he had gone in a delegation in 1948 to the UN to put the case of South Africans at the UN. He stayed behind in London. His other brother was active in student politics. She was a student and active, met her there, fell in love. When I left for Britain she subsequently came over to Britain a few months later and went to study nursing at Aylesbury outside London, about 100 miles out of London. We saw each other, we resumed our relationship, we got married in London. We were actually planning to stay together after she finished her nursing course, she was going to move to London. I was going to do my final year law, she was going to study midwifery in London and it is at that point that I was approached to go for training. So literally she arrived in London in March for us to live together no end of February, and on 5 March I left London to go for my training. I came back to SA in the underground. She worked, she trained as a midwife, she saved and then she paid her fare to come to SA. She too was with Natal rights of Indian origin so she lived with me in the Transvaal illegally and not allowed to take up a job.
POM That is here in Johannesburg?
MM Here in Johannesburg when I was in the underground. Then we decided to register her with the Nursing Council from Natal as if she was living in Natal. We found that she had interrupted her work for so long that the NursingCouncil insisted that she do a nurses' refresher course, so she went and did it at St Aidan's Hospital in Natal. I had actually gone to collect her after her refresher course for her to join me clandestinely in the Transvaal, collected her in Natal. We arrived back in Johannesburg on 5 July and that evening both of us were arrested. So she was in detention with me. I was charged, she wasn't charged. She was kept in detention for about six months. After I was sentenced
POM Was she in solitary confinement?
MM She was in solitary also.
POM How long were you kept in solitary before you were charged?
MM Six months.
POM Before you were charged and brought to trial?
MM Six months.
POM Were you interrogated, tortured during that period?
MM Oh yes. I was regarded as one of the most tortured prisoners of that time until then. Documents say that I was the most tortured prisoner of that time. Anyway, after my trial she took up a job in the Transvaal. The Security Police found out that she was nursing in the Transvaal and they again revoked her permit, deported her to Natal while I was on Robben Island. She then took up a job at Somerset Hospital in Cape Town to be able to visit me. The Security Police found out about that six months later so they arrested her and deported her to Natal. She got a job in Pietermaritzburg at a hospital and she was detained again and her brother, the eldest brother, had to return from abroad. He was arrested and he was sentenced to five years and brought to Robben Island. She was released. She then went to nurse in my home town, Newcastle, in the African township. Then back in Durban nursing, and then in 1973 she wrote to me and said she couldn't cope with the harassment and she was taking an exit permit and leaving the country to go to Britain. She came and saw me in prison in 1973 and said goodbye. We didn't know what was going to happen to our lives.
I got released in December 1976. I left the country in July 1977, got to Lusaka. Oliver Tambo agreed that I should go to London to write the autobiography, transcribe it. I met Tim in London. We tried to rebuild our lives, we had now been married 20 years and we had a discussion and she asked me what happens now. I said, "Well you know my situation, I'm a member of MK and I'm dependent on what they say. I have to go wherever they say." She said, "Do you go back home illegally?" I said, "Yes if they say so. They are likely to say I must go back home." Next day when we discussed the matter she produced an exercise book and she said, "Look, there's a real problem here. What does this mean for us this life? You're going to leave again. You're heading for Zambia, you're heading for home. What happens to our life? We've been married now 20 years and I've calculated every day that we've seen each other." She said, "Here are the dates, we've seen each other for a day or a weekend or a week. In the course of 20 years it totals 18 months out of 20 years." So, we agreed to part. We divorced in 1978.
I was in Zambia, she was now teaching at the ANC school in Mazumbu in Tanzania, hoping to rejoin me but by that time life had really separated us. While there I met Zarina at University of Maputo, she had separated from her husband. Her husband, it so happened, was the brother of one of the co-accused with me, so I knew of her existence from letters that he used to get. She had grown up in the UK. I met her in Mozambique, we fell in love and when her contact expired in Mozambique she shifted to Zambia. We married officially in 1981 and she got a job at Zambia University in the Zambian Ministry of Education. She became a Technical Co-operation Officer for the British Council and she became the supporter of the family there. We used to see each other about one weekend every month, whenever I came to Zambia. Two children were born there. Then I came into the country in Operation Vula with her support. She stayed behind and she was in Zambia working, bringing up the children and working there and she was part of the communications team of Vula and then while I was here she met a major car accident in 1988, October 7th, 19 fractures. She left Zambia to be near medical treatment in Britain. She went back to studies and did another Masters at Sussex University while receiving medical treatment. I surfaced from the country in 1990, passed through London, went to Brighton and saw her and the kids and then they thought that I would come home and they would come and rejoin me as soon as possible. They eventually were due to come on 27th July but I got arrested on the 26th, so they got a phone call to say
POM You have a habit of getting arrested at crucial moments in your relationships.
MM So Valli phoned them to say don't come, you are likely to get arrested too. So she didn't come and then in December 1991 when I had come out on bail in my Vula trial she and the children came over for a holiday. The children said they don't know SA, they don't know me, so they came for a holiday and at the end of the holiday the children said, "Mum, we're not going back to Brighton. You go and pack up in Brighton, we're coming to settle down here." So we settled down here. She's better now. She works as a columnist, writes a column and this year she's gone into private business, so she's going to be the breadwinner again while I loaf.
POM Is that the reason why before Vula you had said I'm getting out of politics after this, that you must have a family life, a real life?
MM My plan was that my family would join me here, I would reunite with them. My first marriage had ended up where life had just separated us. I didn't want that to happen with me and my wife and children.I did officially retire for six months, then there was pressure to come back to the movement. I was re-elected in Durban at the conference in 1991 to the National Executive and then I kept on feeling that it's time, I must retire. Finally in 1999 I said, "I've retired, that's it."
Now I have 50% of my time, I cook their breakfast every Sunday morning and the kids are saying, "How come the breakfast is the same bloody breakfast every Sunday? Don't you know how to cook something else?"
POM And I know where you shop. You shop in Woolworths in Hyde Park. How do I know that?
MM I don't know. Who told you that?
POM People see you go round and they tell me Mac's shopping with guess what?
MM We live around the corner there.
POM That's a great story. It's full of pain and you tell it so dispassionately but it must be an awful lot of
MM As I said when we had that meeting in Dakar, we were asked to introduce ourselves, that meeting with the South Africans, Van Zyl Slabbert and the others. Van and them got to this platform and went to the microphone and introduced themselves in a few sentences, said who they were. Then the ANC delegation went up to introduce themselves and Thabo went up and said, "I'm an Afrikaner." My turn, before Thabo
POM Thabo got up and said he was an Afrikaner?
MM When my turn came I went up there and in Afrikaans I said, "My naam is Mac Maharaj", in Zulu I said it too, I was born in Newcastle. Then I said, like in a prison form or immigration form, there's a question that says 'employment'. I said, "Employment, never been gainfully employed." And then I said, "Last fixed permanent address for the past five years", where you have lived for more than five years, "Robben Island Prison."
POM Now Thabo said he was an Afrikaner or an African?
MM No, when Thabo's turn came, because the delegation was made up of Afrikaners, so I came at M for Maharaj, so I came before Thabo, so I got quite alarmed but not many of them knew Zulu. So when Thabo's turn came he went up there and he said, "I am Thabo Mbeki, I am an Afrikaner."
POM I bet that got a laugh.
MM It got a great laugh.
POM Thank God I'm not catching my flight, I would have missed it.
MM Well we are scheduled to finish at two.
POM I will get all of this stuff back to you. There were about ten more pages that I sent on to you by e-mail so now that we know what we mean when we do our different marking all you would have to do is run it off and if you just send the corrections back, yes, no just as we did today, just say what's wrong and what's not wrong. If you send that on to me
MM There's a tailpiece. My son was born in 1982. For the nine months of the pregnancy I was away for six months in Swaziland, the last six months of the pregnancy I didn't see my family, didn't see my wife. She flew off to London to have the child because of medical facilities at her age, so my son was born in London and we named him Amilcar.
POM Which means?
MM Which was the first name of Anil Kakabral the Cape Verde leader who was assassinated after they came to power, but it's also the General who was the father of Hannibal, the Carthaginian who crossed the Alps, his mother was Hamilcar.
POM OK, yes.
MM My daughter was born in a hospital in Harare after Zimbabwe's independence, again for medical facility reasons, but it was possible to be present at her birth and we named her Sekai which is the Shona name for smile, we call her Joey, Sekai-Jo.But the name Sekai helped me a lot when I travelled from Zambia to Zimbabwe because whenever they tried to search my car at the border post for illegal stuff and weapons, I would just walk out and show my daughter's passport and they would see Sekai, born in Harare "Oh? Is she Shona?" I said, "Yes."
POM Have you told your daughter how you made use of her?
MM All the time, I tell her all the time.
POM That the real reason she was born was to facilitate the revolution.
MM OK, and I will try hopefully tomorrow or day after tomorrow to send off the stuff to you.
POM And you must put me at some time in touch with Zarina on the AIDS
MM Yes. She's very, very busy at the moment.
POM Well this conference won't happen until or the two conferences won't happen until next February or March with proper planning and getting the right people. But on the economics end I would like to already invite her to be a participant.
MM She may be useful on the methodology because she studied at Leicester and Nottingham in Britain where she did an MSc Mathematics and Computers. She was then a Research Officer for General Electric. She has the paper to her name in mathematics where she found the technique, the methodology of irreverse corrections in satellite communications. She left GEC to join Xerox and she was the Systems Analyst who developed the prototype of the fax machine. Xerox were then promoting her to Palo Alto to become a second level executive. She got fed up with that job, she thought they were making her a window dressing and taking her out of the research team and she applied to Mozambique when it became independent so she applied to become a barefoot teacher in Mozambique.
POM A teacher of?
MM Of mathematics and computers and that's how I met her. But when she landed in Mozambique the Mozambicans had employed her to become a teacher in the bush, they were happy to do that. When she arrived in Mozambique they had now seen her qualifications, so when they met her at the airport they said, "Sorry, you're not going out into the bush, we want you to work for the University of Maputo." Then she was seconded to look at the computerisation of the presidency under Samora Michel and then I entered her life and disrupted that.
POM One of the things I'm really interested in, that I've learnt, I think I've told you, is that there are all these different models and they all give different projections so that in essence nobody these modellers haven't talked to each other and it's like saying one model will say it will peak at 12% or 13%, another says it will peak at 26%.
MM Which is basically mathematical techniques.
POM But then you're saying we don't know the extent of the problem. How can we ever develop a policy if we don't know. I need to get all the people who do the modelling together with somebody who says the common base of how we get a grasp on what the extent of the problem is and how we can project and make projections in a meaningful way.
MM The only problem with her is that she turned her back on mathematics and computers after she left Xerox. So in 1988 after the accident when she was in Brighton, she chose Brighton for her medical treatment and to live with the kids in order to study at Sussex. By that time she had become a convinced feminist so she went and did a Masters in Gender and Development at Sussex. So at the moment she doesn't want to see computers, she doesn't want to see mathematics, she only wants gender and development and women's power.
POM That's why you make breakfast on Sunday and do the shopping.
MM Not only do I make breakfast on Sunday, she tells me it's her time, she's going to do her thing, she has served the family, it's time I served the family and she did her thing.
POM That's good.