About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

10 Sep 2001: Maharaj, Mac

POM     This is a theory that struck me and I'd like your comments on it. During the hunger strikes in Ireland in 1981 whenever one of the hunger strikers would die of course there would be widespread rioting in the area and in Belfast and whatever, and what the Brits would do is that they would simply cordon off the area and you'd have youngsters who would go out and they would trash their neighbours' cars, their neighbours' houses, in fact you'd be sitting there watching your car being torched and while you had complete sympathy at the pain and were angered by the hunger strikers' deaths you were watching your own property being destroyed by kids next door which left people with a lot of confused feelings. Do you think that the when the horrors of making the townships ungovernable went into effect that the government might have said, you know, this is OK, if they want to destroy their own townships and trash them, run them, do what they want, let them, it doesn't affect white South Africa it just affects them?

MM     On the hunger strikes certainly in African thinking there were different strains but both at the mass level in the fifties when confronted with the illegality of political strikes we resorted to stay at homes. One of the shifts in that was to call a day of prayer as a technique of beating the law, but those were primarily to mobilise the masses who were oppressed in SA to act, to act consciously. Now the Gandhian influence was the first influence that you can say that remained a continuing stream in thinking in the liberation movement but the Gandhian strain was not accepted as a mainstream concept even though we stuck with non-violence in the fifties. The problem is that when we got to prison the idea of hunger strikes had a spontaneous impulse against that brutality and the need to find some mechanism of acting but very quickly a number of people recognised that unless that hunger strike was linked to a mechanism by which we could make the public aware in the country and abroad the instrument of a hunger strike itself was not right. In the Indian struggle there had been hunger strikes in prison and there had been hunger strikes which led to deaths. I think the longest record – how long did Bobby Sands go through, how many days?

POM     A man lasted longer than Bobby Sands. One man went 67 days.

MM     Well there are a number of Indians in the Indian struggle in India who died I think after 117 days. Now this is already in the thirties and forties. A number of them were kept in the Andaman Islands which are off the east coast of India. There's a National Geographic article on the Andaman Islands which is very interesting because the people of the Andaman Islands look like Africans, down to the hair, and nobody can explain how and when that population settled in the Andaman Islands. The British had reserved the Andaman Islands as the prison for hard core Indian terrorists in the struggle and leftists, etc., and I remember one of the names that stands out in my mind is an Indian patriot called Parat Singh. We started this in prison when devising what we needed to do, we began to read and at that time the Irish had not resorted to hunger strikes and there was a strand of comrades in Robben Island who were arguing that we should wage a hunger strike to death but the question kept coming up: if you do that and what you are doing is completely sealed off from the public arena what does it do? So it raised the fact that in the technique of hunger strike you are really appealing to your supporters to gather around in support of you but, secondly, you are using a moral force against your rulers.

     This was the essence of what some of us saw in Gandhi's techniques. Some of us began to discount the applicability of Gandhi's techniques in SA on the grounds that the British rulers of the British Empire were susceptible to pressure within Britain because Britain was a democracy and that Britain had a core of thinking which made it susceptible to moral persuasion. The difference was that in SA the rulers were a minority, whatever they said about their democracy which was already nullified in practice as a democracy, and so you could not get a sizeable constituency in the whites to put pressure on the ruling system, you could mobilise your own people provided they got access to information, you could mobilise the international community to pressure Pretoria and to pressure their own governments, but the idea ended up at that level of discussion.

     I certainly believe that the tactics one uses must have an eye on two issues, even if you resorted to the armed struggle. One, does it expand your own base in the category of people who by objective circumstance are expected to support you and who may not in their thinking and actions as yet come down to understand their oppression. So you need to widen that. But secondly, you have to make an impact on the rulers because that's the end purpose of mobilising. Now in the course of that certain things begin to happen which can be damaging to your own cause as a protestor. In SA very early the rulers of this country sought to taint whatever we were doing. When we waged the Defiance Campaign there were nuns who were killed in the Eastern Cape, the regime immediately portrayed that as our savagery, that we were savages. In Kimberley the then Treasurer/General of the ANC, or the person who became the Treasurer/General, Dr Arthur Letele, was accused of trying to create a Mau-Mau type of terrorist grouping. This was put forward in the Treason Trial and no evidence was found for it but the technique of smearing the liberation movement when it is engaged in a non-violent action is always something that the ruling forces would try to use and they tried to use it to create an image that these are not peaceful demonstrators, these are terrorists who are hiding behind an ostensibly moral cause. That's as far as the hunger strikes go as a technique.

     I think ungovernability has a different element to it.

POM     I want to address how the Brits cleverly cordoned off the areas and said, OK, if they're going to just riot, if they're going to show their protests, what they're going to do is they're going to take it out on their own people.

MM     On their own people. Now I'm coming to ungovernability. I think the parallel doesn't stand in my mind because ungovernability has a different rationale. The rationale of ungovernability, although I don't know whether the ANC ever articulated it as such, is that you start from the premise that any oppressive rule by a minority needs a social force amongst the majority, a little (persuasion) to co-operate with it, to co-operate in running the administration. Britain's colonialism was the famous indirect rule in West Africa. Lord Lugard conceptualised that mechanism, indirect rule. Now in Nigeria he said, "We need to use the Chiefs and the existing rulers in traditional society and appropriate them as partners of colonialism, the colonial force." So he called that 'indirect rule', you ruled through the existing autocracy in the traditional society and if you look at Africa, if you look at SA right up to the Kenya highlands, Walter Sisulu in Reflections in Prison argues that racism was used as the instrument because these areas were amenable to white settlement and so instead of using the local Chiefs as their arm to rule they used the white settler because they could attract the white settler across on the grounds of race to co-opt them into being part of the system so they did not need a base in the indigenous people. That does not mean that the system was pure. Verwoerd and separate development specifically saw the Bantustans as co-opting a stratum of your best people here, African, Indian and coloured by means of the Bantustans, by means of the urban councils, by means of the House of Delegates and the House of Representatives for Coloureds, and the management committees for coloureds and Asians at local government level where they were not given full power but they were given a role to play in administering.

     Now what was happening then in the eighties in SA is that the mass resistance was bumping up against this administrative system and it started off with a call to boycott the Transkei elections. That boycott was a failure, it's one of the issues that both Mandela and Sisulu tackle to say is it a legitimate thing, is it a viable tactic to boycott those elections in the Bantustans? Because what you are witnessing is because of the system of patronage there is a stratum of the African population that is through so-called election gaining power and creating an image that this Bantustan system is a system that meets the needs of self rule and Verwoerd under pressure then agrees that independence for such a Bantustan would come far in the far distant and later on says, "No, we can have it now for Transkei." So he begins to give independence to the Bantustans but we know that that independence was a shallow independence. However, the problem is that he was creating an administration by indirect rule. Now the revolt epicentre was in the urban areas and the instruments were the urban councils and all the adjuncts of that rule, civil servants, police, etc. And of course apartheid began to use the black police as the front shock troops.

     So that is the framework in which ungovernability arose, to say let's render the country ungovernable by making it impossible for the regime to use an indirect mechanism to administer these areas and in that context the ANC came out to say side by side with rendering those institutions ungovernable and the areas ungovernable, which has paralysed those administrative instruments, the second thing is itself creating rudimentary organs of people's power to govern. So take out the governing, destroy the regime's capacity to govern, and in the meantime create a rudimentary structure of the people themselves to regulate their lives in that territory.

     Now that was the rationale behind ungovernability so when you take this thing and transpose it to the Irish experience and the British tactic of saying, "Seal off this area", the British were reacting by saying, "Destroy yourselves, alienate your own people." If they had done that as Verwoerd would have done, also would have thought let them kill themselves, but they saw that there was a parallel move coming from the leadership to create those institutions themselves. That's how the Committee of Ten, those were the functions that they began to perform. They didn't just stop and say let the garbage just accumulate. The idea was regulate your life while you made it ungovernable for the apartheid administration, but now begin to regulate your life also.

     Of course other things began to happen, the necklacing came in. It's now established that the necklacing, through the Truth Commission, the first person to be necklaced, that horrendous episode which made Archbishop Tutu threaten to leave the country, where a woman was killed – it's now been established that that was the work of a provocateur from the apartheid side, an apartheid agent who incited the public there to kill this woman. In the meantime the movement, the masses, saw this as part of ungovernability, kill the enemy agent. So the enemy in SA was taking what we were doing and trying to behead it by turning it onto ourselves. It suited them but on the other hand the forces on the ground were reading this action as part of ungovernability. It was a complicated strategy but it certainly had the rationale to say break the connection between the rulers and their administration of our areas where we are confined.

     Now in the British case they were more successful I think, from the little that I know, because I do not recall a political force emerging to link this sealing of the British with saying this is an opportunity where we create our own instruments of governance. So this is the push and pull in a struggle. Sometimes an objective with a clear, solid analytical purpose can be destroyed by the action of the opposing force and leadership amongst the oppressed in SA needed to respond creatively to that move from the other side. You kept on adapting and I'm saying the fundamental adaptation to ungovernability becoming a nihilistic action was the idea that the people should, because they were living in ghettos, should administer their lives in their ghettos themselves.

     A second instrument that arose in SA was the people's courts which people have described as kangaroo courts, but you can understand the people's courts as an initial response to saying, "We govern ourselves. There must be some order and law by a code that is administered by ourselves." But in the meantime some of the people's courts became kangaroo courts. How many of them were manipulated then by the enemy sending in provocateurs who hid behind the emotion of the campaign and distorted its objectives is an open question. Nobody has sat down to study this matter. What has happened is that Fink Haysom has published a pamphlet on the vigilantes to try and understand where the vigilantes in the eighties originated from in the South African struggle.

     What I'm trying to say, Padraig, is that I think to draw a parallel from a reaction in the Irish situation to the hunger strikes and almost an uncontrolled, violent reaction by the public spurred on by the hunger strikes and the British technique of sealing off those areas to allow that emotion to turn itself inwards is a different proposition from the ungovernability concept. The ungovernability concept is rested on breaking the ruling class's administrative power over your area and creating your own instruments in that area, almost a liberated … Where do you find this graphically? Not much has been written about it but you will find it in Vietnam, in the struggle of South Vietnam and in the war with the Americans and pre-dating it in the struggle in Indochina against the French one of the key instruments was not only to mobilise the masses but to create alternative organs of administration and eliminate those who were in the administration created by the colonising power.

POM     I want you to go back to Vula for a bit and we've been through this so you can be very specific. What were the specific terms of reference of Vula in terms of you already had the MK in place, you already had the ungovernability policy in place, you already had the people's organs of power in place and now you have the groundwork laid for a people's war and now you have another structure?

MM     No, the rationale for the type of initiative that Vula expressed was a decision based on the recognition that the leading force of the struggle was the ANC and even our armed struggle was subject to the political leadership of the ANC. UMkhonto was not an autonomous organisation, it was a military wing of the ANC always acting under the political guidance of the ANC. You will find this in the uMkhonto manifesto written more ambiguously but it said we have formed uMkhonto weSizwe which will act under the political guidance of the national liberation movement.

POM     So if uMkhonto was to undertake that they infiltrate three people into the country to carry out an operation that would have to be ultimately authorised by the ANC leadership?

MM     Not the individual operation, the type of operation. For instance, we started uMkhonto saying we will avoid the loss of life.

POM     Hard targets only.

MM     So uMkhonto could not act outside of that mandate. It needed a decision of the ANC to say move on chaps, you can defend yourselves if in the course of a sabotage operation you yourselves were in danger, but it still saw that 'defend yourself against the forces of the enemy, of the state', but later on round about 1985, the Kabwe conference, Oliver Tambo said, "You can't expect us that if in the face of what is happening with the raids in Maseru and Botswana, in Gaborone, an innocent civilian has been killed and in the country people being massacred, you can't expect us to tie our hands that way. So," he said, "You must realise that we will not so harshly constrain ourselves in case civilians got caught in the crossfire."

POM     That was the big debate on whether or not soft targets were -?

MM     That's right.

POM     How did you yourself read it because there has been controversy about it ever since?

MM     Part of the problem was how do you define the enemy? We were running into problems that around the borders all the farmers had been mobilised as part of the commandos so when our cadres came into the country they found that the front line of the state there was the farmer who was organised by radio communications between farms and with the army command.

POM     This is the old problem of the National Management Structure?

MM     Yes, Security Management Structure, and it was part of keeping the farmers there but using the farmer as the first line of defence. Now many ANC comrades in MK or in the political section coming in and out of the country illegally said, "Here's the problem that we are meeting. What do we do? Do we just try and sneak past them or do we also confront them?"

     The second problem with the national conscription for the army and with the commando system, people who had finished their national service were being retained in the commando system, armed by the defence force with radio communication systems provided by the defence force. Now it is said these commandos are living ordinary lives but they come into service at particular times. Is this a soldier of the state under Geneva or is this a civilian? And we began to say this is a soldier of the state, not a civilian. The fact that he's not wearing a uniform doesn't matter, it does not mean that when he's called up for service in the commandos on a weekend that's the only time he becomes a soldier. He is a soldier all the time even though he may be wearing a pin-striped suit working in a bank. The question is that he has been trained and he can be called up and he can trigger up the call-up to any situation and walk out of his bank right now to go off to be in his commando and the bank could do nothing about it. He'd say, "I've been called up by my commando", and the bank would have to carry him as a staff member and his job would be secure.

     Then the next argument that came in, the encouragement that was given to the total white population to say – the encouragement to the total white population to train themselves in the use of firearms, to own a firearm, the creation of even women into pistol clubs. We said now, are they pure civilian or are they an adjunct of the administration?

     So these types of arguments were going on against the background, a number of us put it, I certainly put it, that the rules of this war are changing and the people who are changing the rules of the war are the apartheid regime. I said we can't sit back and try to fight this war with rules defined by our morality but which are being changed in reality by the enemy. I don't think there's a clear answer but that is the framework in which we were moving.

     Now it's against that framework that Operation Vula comes in. The struggle has now reached a point where these different pillars of the struggle which are kept in boxes, mass struggle, armed struggle, underground political struggle and international campaign to isolate SA – now that international campaign is really an international activity but inside the country these three pillars need to work more in sync with each other, the need for security reasons to be isolated from each other so that an enemy penetration here on the armed side does not lead to a destruction of the political side or of the mass side. So whilst that separation is needed in practice there has got to be more effective synchronisation of what they are doing. You can't talk about making a township like KwaMashu ungovernable, that's a mass action, and in the meantime your armed formations are not there to support the creation of people's committees, your armed formations are dealing with Pietermaritzburg or your armed formations are acting still against buildings when the need is to mop up that administration, the old administration. So we needed that co-ordination and we needed to send the leadership with the authority to give that overall leadership with a balance to all sections, authority and the status to interact with the command structures that existed on the military side. We interacted with the mass struggles, UDF leadership, COSATU leadership.

POM     This is Vula?

MM     Vula. And we interacted with the political underground structures. Where they did not exist we created them and we discussed strategy with the Mass Democratic Movement, individuals. We discussed what the military should be doing and with the underground political we began to create a viable structure with propaganda work, putting people into units and at the same time conducting training on the ground.

POM     Would I be correct in saying that there was a framework, four pillars, but what you needed within that was one organisation that would synchronise the activities of the different pillars and give a coherency to their actions so that they weren't sometimes acting in opposite directions?

MM     In opposite directions or out of timing.

POM     Or out of timing, yes. I want to put that in the context – I told you I have interviewed and interviewed again Hassen Ebrahim and he talks about units that he had in the country and they were political, military, but they were not MK and they had a discretion within a broad framework to carry out operations.

MM     Of a military type.

POM     Of a military type wherever they saw the opportunity. What I am asking you is under whose authority did they come? Did they come under the authority of MK? Did MK know what they were doing? Did they know what MK was doing? Did they know what Vula was doing? Could you have two people in a township, one person a Vula person and one person one of his people being instrumental in setting up and neither one being aware of what the other was doing and wondering what the hell was going on?

MM     What was his answer?

POM     His answer was to the extent that he said we always knew that something else was happening and the ANC was up to something else. There was a bumping kind of the same thing being done twice. It would seem to me to be an unsatisfactory answer.

MM     Hassen's position is derived from his stay in Botswana and before Vula, round about 1981 we took a decision in the Revolutionary Council that political units which were engaging in propaganda could also engage in certain types of armed activity such as hand grenades because we were already engaging in the use of explosives for pamphlet bombs. We gave them authority to extend that to the use of hand grenades. Of course every member of the political underground was being trained militarily also.

POM     That would be trained internally?

MM     In Angola also, even in Angola. They went for six weeks and three months courses.

POM     But they weren't going to East Germany or - ?

MM     Not going to East Germany, just training in Angola and coming back, not trained in all the aspects of warfare.

POM     But just sufficient.

MM     Sufficient to be able to do that with sufficient caution and knowledge of the explosives and knowledge of how to protect yourself and defend yourself. Now that licence was given to them in support of the existing military units that were doing work but they were not put face to face with each other and that was causing problems and how could you stamp your authority of overall political military leadership if you did not send in senior people. Vula was born out of the debate that said we have so far been sending people and trying to create that leadership inside the country using less senior cadres. When they bumped into an MK unit they were unable to assert their authority and sometimes an MK unit began to tell the political what to do but again failing to assert their authority. Vula's rationale was that authority could only be asserted by people from the NEC coming in, combining with the leadership that existed on the ground at the mass level and at any other. That is why in Vula one of the primary thrusts at the mass level was not to go and join the UDM, not to go and sit in the UDF committees but to begin, myself to interact directly one to one with key UDF comrades in the leadership of UDF. They were not to divulge in those committees that they are interacting with me and they are members of the ANC but we discussed the strategy being followed and by discussing the strategy and being aware of what they were doing.

     It didn't come into operation by saying now that we've taken that decision, just unite everything. It said let MK carry on, let MK continue to carry on with its work. As operations like Vula settle in the country and entrench themselves, headquarters from Lusaka would slowly bring the existing units operating in that territorial area into relationship with the Vula commando on the ground. That judgement call would be made, how stable is the Vula leadership in that area, how secure is it, what are its links that it has created itself on the ground? Then the MK units that are operating there, how long have they been operating with what type of security? And then saying, oh, the time has arrived that you should link up, Mac you should link up with so-and-so who is leading an MK unit there. Then slowly that transfer would take place but the idea was not to emasculate what was happening, not to emasculate or shut down anything that was going on.

     We took weapons from Special Operations but Special Operations did not know who they were delivering the weapons to. They were used to delivering the weapons to themselves to carry out their special operations. Suddenly they found they were required to deliver weapons to a certain site and forget about the delivery and they obviously were asking, who's getting this? But as long as Tambo and Slovo were saying it's OK they were not to ask more questions. That's why the Hassens are in the dark.

POM     So those weapons were being accumulated for? Taken from Special Operations and stored for?

MM     One of the things that we had to store weapons for was that we found that in the mass uprisings that were taking place like at the Vaal Triangle it was too late to send in trained cadres with weapons. You had to have the weapons on the ground for that eventuality. Secondly, you did not want just a cadre on knowledge of how to use the weapon, you needed officer material linked to the political leadership to guide them what to do in that situation. I'll give you an example, I'll call it a hypothetical example. Suppose, well as happened, Bheki Langa got killed, the brother of Pius Langa, he was killed by an MK unit. The MK unit believed that Bheki Langa was an enemy agent. In fact Bheki wasn't. The idea that he was an agent was planted by enemy informers into our military unit and the unit carried out the elimination. We had to apologise for it in Lusaka. We had to call the Langa family and explain the circumstances as far as we knew of the death of Bheki Langa, to say, "Colleagues, this was wrong, it was done by our people in the mistaken belief that he was an enemy agent." An MK unit could say it was acting within its mandate. Where would you allow a decision like that to sit because Bheki Langa was not just anybody. He was an activist in the mass movement. Now you could not reach a point of refinement unless your leadership was on the ground and in dynamic contact with Lusaka.

     So, weapons were being stored (a) to create a stable pool of weapons untouched by the enemy or by any other unit.

POM     Were they being stored in specific locations around the country?

MM     The idea was that they would be stored in different parts of the country in such a way as to be available in the future, if that eventuality should arise and if that eventuality did not arise and units wanted it for operations in another area Lusaka could simply contact us and say, "Do you have a cache nearby? Can you disclose the location of that cache? An MK unit needs it badly." And we, Lusaka, were saying, "Release those weapons", and then you would release it.

POM     At the same time you were bringing arms into the country and storing them as well.

MM     Yes. And we were using some of them to train people on the ground in sabotage in order to select who was officer material to be sent out for training now as an officer and who was to remain in the country as just a combatant to be put into the MK structures in that area.

POM     When I was talking to Hassen he said when the instruction came down to suspend the armed struggle that he and many others were disappointed, that they had then sufficient units around the country that if they had been given another year – he didn't say they had been in position to seize fire but he more or less implied that they'd be in a position to mount a mass revolution. Was that a little bit of an exaggeration?

MM     That's a belief, an assessment of a person residing in one little box. The idea of a mass insurrection in SA and a people's war needed a solid political military officer corps on the ground, settled. The idea that you have fifty units who have carried out two or three acts of sabotage and therefore are ready to wage a mass insurrection is a dangerous concept. I was part of the group that advocated the suspension of the armed struggle. I know other Vula type operations that had been started by Lusaka, e.g. in the Western Cape, that was a Chris Hani operation, for Chris Hani to settle down in the country in the Western Cape. Cadres had been sent in, had settled in preparing the ground but Lusaka gave up. Lusaka instructed me to expand Operation Vula to the Western Cape because they found that they were not in dynamic contact with those that they had sent into the ground. They found that the progress being made there was very little relative to the progress we were making and they found that, therefore, that unit was not yet feeding Lusaka with a feeling that they were really integrated on the ground with the people's forces. So they asked me as Vula to expand, extend Vula's mandate to the Western Cape.

     That very decision told a story. It said, in spite of having arms there, in spite of having a number of people sent, MK officers and political officers, dating roughly the same time as Vula started, that area had not risen to the level of activity, mobilisation and organisation that we had, that their level of contact with the union leadership on the ground, with the UDF leadership on the ground, their separation of the functions and their co-ordination had not reached that point. And Chris Hani was not coming in now, he was assigned other tasks and Tambo and Slovo look at the situation and say the only answer to this situation is mandate the Vula leadership that's in the country to now take command of that area.

POM     To take command of the Western Cape as well?

MM     As well. What it was doing was over-stretching us but the first thing that I had to do was based on information supplied by Tambo, set up an appointment. I didn't know who and where to find the people that have settled in the Western Cape but they gave me the contacts, they set up the appointment and I drove over to Cape Town and met the appointment and then I found, oh, here is Little John, here is Charles Nqakula, because I knew these comrades and they had come in from outside, and sit down and discuss with them now how far have they gone, what have they done, what can be done. They had already been informed by Lusaka that the person who's coming to see you is going to be part of your leadership now, but I didn't tell them what I was doing in another part of the country because my job was not to guide that Western Cape formation to move in the direction that was part of the strategy of Vula. I don't believe we were ready.

POM     At the time of the suspension of the armed struggle if you had to take a cold, analytical look at your preparedness or your ability to make a major military, a 'people's war', move or whatever you want to call it, that would really shake up the government and the SADF, were you near that point or were you just slowly moving towards it?

MM     The question, and the Hassen proposition is too narrow, it's an assessment of just your forces yet a war is based on an assessment not only of your forces but of the enemy forces. It's also based on an assessment of the alignment internationally because our struggle pre-eminently had an international dimension. So you couldn't base it just on looking at your own forces. You can sometimes defeat the enemy with 1000 people at your disposal while the enemy has 10,000 because you've put them in an ambush situation and you can surprise them. I don't believe that that is the question that has to be posed. The question that we had to pose to ourselves was – this overall balance that had arisen, the United States had moved to begin to impose financial sanctions and partly it did so with great reservations about us, the ANC forces, and even reservations about the armed struggle. You may call it hypocritical reservation but the reality is that the US administration had moved. Secondly, the world scenario was changing. As you know shortly after 1990 the Soviet Union collapsed. Where were your source of arms going to come from? Were you going to rely on capturing arms from the SA forces? If that was your primary supply line you could not sustain a prolonged war. You would have had to set up production capacity. Now you can answer that question by saying, but Romania was selling arms to UNITA and I can answer that by saying UNITA had access to diamonds. You wouldn't find in other situations that ready had a supply of arms. UNITA had SA and America supplying its arms right up to anti-aircraft missiles. I think the Stringer, the Stringer anti-aircraft missile, was supplied to UNITA. We could only get some – the only country to give it to you was the Soviet Union. So that's another factor you built in.

     Take the global issues, the alignment internationally, what was happening in Angola, what was happening in Namibia and our bordering countries, Zimbabwe. None of the independent countries had a capacity, or our neighbouring countries, had a capacity to give us open support. Even Mozambique with all its political heart had to bow down to the Nkomati Accord. The Algerians could wage a war because Tunisia and Morocco gave them sanctuary, their forces could retreat there. We couldn't. So the international alignment.

     Then the internal alignment, what was happening within the ruling forces of apartheid? They were beginning to crack up. Would it have been historically right to allow them to coalesce or was the negotiation move also an apt move which began to create more cracks in them? That's an old argument that if you've two forces standing at a stalemate because you have two forces on each side, if you've got these two forces not to act together then the strength of your two becomes more. Your cohesive two becomes more than these two on the enemy side because the two on the enemy side are not co-ordinated.

POM     In the NP you had severe cracks.

MM     Severe cracks beginning. In the white population doubts began to arise. The opposition party was now saying why not talk to the ANC? It was small but forces inside Afrikanerdom were asking that question. To enforce rule in the country, saying why doesn't the government talk to the ANC? So that was happening. The cohesion of the DRC church was beginning to fracture. Even though they were still not in support of our objectives the fact is that they were no longer that cohesive force and that added to our strength.

POM     They were saying change has to come even though they didn't quite know exactly what form or how that change would come about. They said things can't stay as they are.

MM     They still clung to the desire that they would dictate what that change would be. The fact is they were disagreeing what to do. So that was happening on the enemy side. On the mass side our mass mobilisation under the UDF was picking up but it had taken a battering under the states of emergency.

POM     A battering from?

MM     The states of emergency, one after the other state of emergency. In 1988 30,000 people were in detention, 30,000 were in detention at a given time. That couldn't but affect the leadership of the UDF and drive it into a corner whereas the UDF could only thrive if it had the open space to mobilise. The UDF was being pushed into an underground situation and it needed an atmosphere to be able to mobilise openly and the negotiations, the unbanning, opened that space so De Klerk had to agree to the demonstration and the march by Tutu and Boesak, the march down Cape Town. He had to allow it to take place because he could not reverse the positions that he had taken of unbanning. When you put all those factors into consideration side by side with what our strength was and bear in mind that an assessment of your own strength must not be based that if you have 100 units today they're going to be 100 units tomorrow, the enemy could crack your system as happened at Rivonia. You can have a very false estimation of your strength.

     Finally, the decision to suspend the armed struggle took place in the context of post-February 1990 and post the release of Mandela where now the issue was how to force that negotiations to take a different character and the apartheid state was playing games. We saw at the National Executive that going to the Pretoria meeting on 6 August armed with a National Executive decision to unilaterally suspend, not abandon, the armed struggle as a strategic move which would put us in a stronger moral position and therefore attract all the international forces behind us, even those who were supporting apartheid, enhance the crack in the white side, create a problem for us to bring our forces behind our decision but we believed that we could carry that because for the first time since 1960 Oliver Tambo, the President of the ANC in exile, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu from Robben Island, could impact on the thinking and we had already worked with the UDF on the Harare Declaration. We had had a conference for a democratic future held in the country called by the UDF people where all the mass organisations came together and supported the Harare Declaration. We believed that we could move for forces on our side in spite of the problems that it would present.

POM     This is just a very small side question and it arises from an article I think in the Saturday Star where it had Walter Sisulu sending a letter to his old comrade saying even though they had their differences about the armed struggle and a battle of words that went on while they were in jail, all was forgiven and forgotten. What was that about?

MM     That was a very narrow issue in the Sisulu letter at the Mbeki memorial. It related to the status of Operation Mayibuye. Operation Mayibuye was a plan that had been drafted, Slovo had been taken out to lobby the leadership outside to find out how they felt, but the Rivonia arrests took place and the issue at the Rivonia trial was – what was the status of that plan? Had it been adopted by the organisation or had it still been a document under discussion? Sisulu says in his letter to the memorial that Govan argued that it had been adopted. Sisulu as the Secretary of the ANC argued that it had not yet been adopted. That was a technical argument that impacted on history and the defence line at Rivonia because if it had been adopted then Mandela's defence is wrong, then the death sentence was there too. There is a secondary aspect, a more primary aspect, which Sisulu did not raise which was the nature of that plan. It still does not get debated but it is acknowledged by anybody who had read it that that was a shockingly naïve plan and to believe that the movement had now discussed, that leadership had discussed it and endorsed it, I don't believe it would have survived such a discussion. A solid discussion in the leadership of the movement in the country would have led to a radical change of that plan. Tempers were very high. I think it's very clear that Madiba with his training and his reading when he saw this Operation Mayibuye plan at the Rivonia trial, he found it first of all in content very weak and defective. But that was not the argument to take place amongst the accused. The issue amongst the accused was – what is the status of this? Has it been adopted? If it has been adopted then our duty is to stand up in the box and defend it even though we may have reservations. But if it has not been adopted then the defence line has got to be this is still a matter under discussion. You cannot take something that is under discussion and not adopt it and make it the policy position of the organisation and then hang us for that. That was the difference.

POM     That in an odd way leads me back to Vula and to General Nyanda. You had left the country and he was your second in command. He had all the computer disks, access to the communication systems, all the things he needed to have. You said you came back and found that (i) you had emphasised from the beginning that an integral part of Vula was that person A would not know what person B was doing so that they could never pass on information if they were apprehended and yet that he had put people in contact with each other, and (ii) you said it emerged that he had unencrypted the computer disks.

MM     And he had not re-encrypted them.

POM     And not re-encrypted them and that the communication system was not being used in the way it had been –

MM     Conceptualised.

POM     Even in, I don't know whether you've looked at it, The Days of the Generals, a book that's come out, they salute Vula, they say it was the most sophisticated communication systems they ever came across, the SADF had ever come across. Did you ask Nyanda why he had broken down, not disobeyed but breached the rules on three different levels?

MM     I asked him as soon as I re-entered the country because I had passed it on to him because I was exiting for a while so he had to take over and become the acting commander so he needed access to the background. He knew the communication system and he knew its effectiveness but when I re-entered and I made contact in Johannesburg the night I re-entered and I was just getting a report where things are standing and I was told by Janet Love that she was now heading for the Western Cape, she was due to fly off in a day or two, I said, "Why?" That is when I found out that they were going over to hand over the communication system to some people in the Cape and I said, "That's not acceptable. And who's going to the Cape?" She said she was going, somebody else had already arrived there, a third person had gone to the Western Cape and Nyanda was on his way to the Western Cape. Now immediately I communicated with him and I said, "Cancel all those moves, don't go to the Cape. Don't take the communication system", and then I met him to discuss this and explained to him why not. That is all that I knew. I did not know at this stage that the disks that I had left with him had been decrypted and not re-encrypted. That I only found out when I got arrested.

POM     So when he was arrested and the disks were seized in fact the police just had to put them in their computer and roll them out?

MM     When I arrived at C R Swart in Durban under police escort in detention I found that they were just still punching out reams and reams of reports and I realised from the questions that they were throwing at me that they had this material because they could quote from reports and tried to interrogate me. That is when I became aware that this had happened. When we came up for trial and I looked at the evidence that the state had, exhibits that it had put, it became clear –

POM     Did you ever get a chance to talk to Nyanda between the time you were arrested and moved to hospital?

MM     No, I only spoke to him when I became an awaiting trial prisoner.

POM     Were you in the same prison?

MM     No, when we were put on trial.

POM     You were in the same cell?

MM     Yes, now we were together.

POM     Did you ever ask him why the hell did you - ?

MM     Sure I asked him that and he acknowledged that he had left it at one of his safe houses in charge of another comrade who was working as his secretary and these disks, unencrypted, were in her possession when she was arrested. And I said, "But why did you do that?" He had no explanation. Of course he had found the reports intriguing, very interesting material. He found all the reports that I had sent to Lusaka intriguing and interesting and it seems an over-confidence had taken over, an over-confidence that, hey, we are so well established in the country that this secret hideout will never be found. It was sheer over-confidence.

POM     There are two factors, it's the over-confidence factor but there's also the whole –

MM     The whole breach of the discipline.

POM     - the whole idea of having the encoding or encrypting system is that materials remain always in that form and unless there's absolute necessity to unencrypt them you do not do so and if you do so you re-encrypt them immediately.

MM     That was not an issue for us to discuss or for me to reprimand him while we are standing on trial. At the moment on trial the critical issue is to understand what happened and to map out your defence and to contain the damage. Now the damage had been contained because one thing the police didn't tumble on is that the method of encryption did not allow them to penetrate future use of the system and did not allow them to be able to decipher anything that they found that was encrypted.

POM     So they could?

MM     They could only read what was decrypted.

POM     OK, so everything had not been decrypted.

MM     Other things which had not been decrypted they could not read, nor could they read anything that would be in future decrypted because the system worked, the encryption system worked on – have you heard of the book Encryption System – The Page?

POM     The page?

MM     Simply put you use a book to provide you with your key for encryption but the moment you have encrypted something using pages 20 – 30 of a book that is available to the person outside, that when he receives this message he uses pages 20 – 30 of this novel, this edition, to decipher, but the moment that has been used that leaf of the book is wiped out, the book ceases to be used. The next one switches to another system. Now we used random encryption but based on a system where London had the counterpart of my message 91 that I used for encryption, it had that on a disk. The moment I sent it through and they deciphered it the computer wiped out the random numbers automatically. London could not revert to that page again and it had no basis to know what page was used.

POM     So if they lost the unencrypted message that was it.

MM     Once you deciphered it once it was over, it was a wipe-out on the computer systems and they could not use the same pages to come back to, they had to use another page to come back to. So it was wiping out the encryption code with each transmission so if they found disks, as I have up to now, I can't decipher some of the material that I've got.

POM     Have you forgotten or - ?

MM     There's no way I can remember. It was all random so I've got disks sitting which I can't decipher and I've been saying to people, the chaps who were in Lusaka, "Guys do you remember what books we used so I can hunt?" They say, "We can't remember because you were changing the books every damn month." So the issue did not arise in that sharp form, because having just found out the mistakes made to understand the amount of damage one had to say now how do you hold your horses together and defend ourselves as a movement.

POM     I was to have an appointment with General Nyanda set up and Judy is doing that and I was to have interviewed Christo Davidson last Wednesday but he had – his daughter gave premature birth.

MM     Where is he based now?

POM     He has a private firm.

MM     But which town? Is he in Jo'burg?

POM     In Pretoria.

MM     Not with AIM?

POM     I don't think so. He wasn't the last time - when I talked to him last year he had his own business.

MM     Intelligence agency.

POM     Whatever. They're all in the same business.

MM     Together with Maritz Spaarwater probably, Fanie's number two at CODESA. Fanie van der Merwe's number two. Fanie van der Merwe was a Secretary with me and number two to Fanie was a chap called Maritz Spaarwater from National Intelligence.

POM     How do you spell his name?

MM     Maritz Spaarwater.

POM     What happened to him?

MM     He left the National Intelligence Services, he was retrenched and he went and set up a private agency and he joined Roelf Meyer's UDM.

POM     Oh. That's interesting. I conducted this interview over a year ago before the whole question – before I had interviewed you, but Davidson had talked about going back to Newcastle, that he interrogated Nyanda and he said he was a very easy interrogation, that whether or not Nyanda said, "You have all the documents, you have Mac Maharaj, there's no point in putting me through a lot of pain", but they took documents to him and said, "Here there's a reference to Janie, what does Janie mean?" And he said, "Oh Janie means Johannesburg, Jan Smuts Airport." So in fact he was co-operating and he was going beyond saying, "OK you've got the documents and I admit you've got the documents but I'm not answering any questions about the documents." Did he point out where safe houses were? When they were able to seize arms were they, I assume all those arms were stored at places that had code names, somebody had to give them the names of what the actual location of, i.e. a place called Boris, there's something at Boris, where is Boris?I know this is sensitive.

MM     OK, it's a very tough question. You will have to speak to him but I'll answer as far as I can take it.

POM     I will ask him directly.

MM     My issue is that I did not raise that matter with him while we were awaiting trial, I've given the reasons why, but I had to come to certain conclusions. I believe that the mindset that he had when he was arrested was a shock to his system. He was arrested on 10 or 11 July. If I remember accurately it was a Thursday because I got a message through the underground communication indicating that very evening that he had been arrested.

POM     How did they get to him?

MM     They got to him – it starts with the arrest of Mbuso Tshabalala and Charles Ndaba, both of them were killed. Charles Ndaba and Mbuso Tshabalala are arrested around 8 July 1990.

POM     Did the Security Branch know they were members of - ?

MM     At that stage they did not know. What happened was that an Askari travelling in a police vehicle spotted Charles Ndaba in a public place in Durban. He spotted Charles, recognised him as a cadre whom he knew from outside the country in the MK camps and he immediately arrested Charles Ndaba. The story becomes unclear because even at the TRC I believe the police have been lying because these two were killed and their bodies disposed of and never found. They've just got indemnity for these two killings. Now one version says that Charles Ndaba now arrested as an MK cadre who had been infiltrated into the country was tortured and he then disclosed that he was going to be meeting a person near the Greyville Racecourse. Having disclosed that he had that appointment they made him keep that appointment. He kept the appointment and at the appointment they arrested Mbuso.

     Now they had two of these chaps who were under torture and it would appear that through that torture they came to the information about a particular safe house in Durban. They monitored that safe house, they arrested a few more people around the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Nyanda was travelling to one of the hideouts which were known to him, myself and three others. That was a place that was being used by Nyanda and myself, not to live in but to work from. It was a flat. As he was travelling to that spot in the suburb on the main road the police arrested him. So it means that they had got an identification of the car, which car to watch for. It means that they had knowledge of who the driver was in spite of his disguise. They arrested him there and took him to C R Swart. Certainly he had indicated to me that he had been put into a straitjacket and he had been tortured. How they got the information of the third house where Nyanda was storing the disks I don't know. Certainly they would have found some keys in Nyanda's possession and one of those keys would be for that house. They hit that house a few days later.

POM     But having a key and finding a house takes a lot of deductions to get from a key to where the house is.

MM     Yes, you've got to torture. Because that house was not known to anybody who got detained except one person and she got detained later. So between Nyanda and the woman cadre who was in charge of that accommodation and was his secretary, somewhere through that detention and torture they went to that house. They discovered the material in that house and they began to try to read the disks and lo and behold they found a stack of disks that were able to come out on the printer because they had not been encrypted. That would have taken them a few days because Nyanda is arrested on 11 July, I am arrested on 25 July, that's 14 days, but I do know that when I am arrested on 25th I am interrogated in Johannesburg at Sandton Police Station on 25th going past the 6 August. Somewhere in the course of that interrogation they suddenly bundled me into a car and they said, "You don't want to talk, you still don't believe that we know everything." They take me to a block of flats in Berea and they say, "Do you recognise this place?" I keep quiet. They take me up the block of flats and they take me directly to a flat and they say, "This place, do you recognise it?" And they end up saying, "We know, we know that this is a place - "

POM     But you didn't answer them.

MM     No. They say, "This is a place that you use for certain meetings." I keep quiet, get in the car and they say, "Let's go to Parkhurst", a suburb. They go there and they take me and they say, "Do you recognise this house?" I say, "No, I can't." "Let's go in." We go in and they say, "You can't tell us you don't know this house." They're trying to shock me with information. They said, "This house you know. This is a house also that you use. This is a house where you have been building a basement hiding cache for arms." Now these two places were known to a very limited number of people. They certainly were not known to Nyanda's secretary but their location with a code name would have been left by me when I had exited the country with Nyanda, encrypted, and certainly he and I had been to the place in Berea and we had been to the place in Parkhurst. He knew the location of both. What is interesting is they confronted me with that information on the day they decided that next morning they were taking me now to Durban. As it turns out the day I was travelling to Durban, taken by the police, was the day that Nyanda was being brought to Johannesburg to identify the places. So they had found the places.

     How they found it, through Nyanda talking or through the decrypted material I can't say but I can talk about Nyanda's mindset. I think the shock of his arrest and the shock of what they had captured must be put in the context of what was happening politically. On 20 May I had left Durban after the Sunday Times had published a list of people indemnified to come into the country. My name was in that list and Nyanda and I had discussed the matter that I needed to get to Jo'burg to speak to Madiba now for guidance. When I met Madiba he said I should exit the country illegally and come back legally and Ronnie Kasrils should exit the country and come back legally. Nyanda and the others were to lie low. So I sent a message to him to say this is what has to happen. In the meantime we carried on working and I left the country at the end of May. When I returned I made contact with him, took up this issue of the linkage they were making with the Western Cape and said don't do that, and other issues, and now began to map out how we would function with me and Ronnie being legal and he being illegal.

POM     Could he give you – what explanation did he give you for breaching the fundamental rule?

MM     His mindset, no he didn't, his mindset was Mac and Ronnie have got indemnity so with all these documents in the possession of the police what is the harm in mentioning that Mac and Ronnie are in the country? They have got indemnity, they are safe. And his mindset was that he would get indemnity also. So I think again that's the nearest that I can come to explain how after an initial torture he felt there was no need to conceal what the police already had.

POM     But prior to that when you came back to the country and found that he had breached what I would call the cell rule, what explanation did he put forward that was fundamental - ?

MM     His explanation was that I had linked him to the Western Cape but I had left now and he was not sure how things were going to move.

POM     You had linked who?

MM     I had linked Nyanda to the Western Cape.

POM     Nyanda to the Western Cape, yes.

MM     But now that I had left and was coming back legally he felt that he needed to establish direct contact with them and for this reason he was going over to make that direct contact and share a communications method with them, and I said, "But don't you realise how valuable that communications method is? You don't put it in anybody's hands." That communication method was reserved for us and head office not for us to be using with every unit and structure in the country. He considered the point. Whether he mentally accepted that it was a wrong thing or a right thing I can't say.

POM     There's a quote you gave which I will quote to him, that he, Davidson, this is before our conversation about this at all, Davidson went on, "He's a clever man." When he went to Kobie Coetsee, Kobie Coetsee said you must only charge – didn't believe what was going on and said just charge him with possession of firearms, and he said, "No, Mr Nyanda was a very clever man. If you look at the articles he wrote, and I know his parents, he comes from a good background, strict norms in their house, his father was a real gentleman, his mother also. I have great respect. His father died, his mother is still alive. We came to a stage once after some time that we worked very well together. He said to me, "Listen you've got everything, you've got the computers, you've got the documents from the computers, you've got Maharaj, you've got everything. I am Vula, I was Vula, I can just as well co-operate with you." The way he co-operated is we would get a document from the computer where they said, for argument's sake, make arrangements for a pick up at Boris. OK, Boris is a code name. We would say where is Boris, and he would say, "Oh, Boris is Botswana", so they had code names for Durban and Jo'burg. I think Jo'burg's code name was Jessie. Essentially what he's saying is that whenever they presented him with a name he said that stands for such and such. What's the difference between co-operation and collaboration?

MM     It's a question that you'll have to put to him but as I say I can only speculate that his belief that we had got indemnity, Ronnie and I, and I don't know when that questioning is because they might have told him that they've arrested me long before they arrested me, because that's a technique of interrogation, they know I'm in the country, they say well we've arrested him. He says, "Oh, so you've arrested him", but he knows I've got indemnity. What's going on in his mind? In his mind is it that now Mac becomes a protection or Mac is now a victim like him? He probably saw me as a protection because they could not deal with him differently from the way they dealt with me and to deal with me they had to confront the issue of my indemnity. As it happened they paid no regard to the indemnity. They had to make an assessment and a judgement call and they said we're arresting Mac.

     That picture that Davidson is giving is too glib a picture. It shows a person from day one co-operating fully. I wouldn't be surprised if the truth is a little more complicated. It is that they extracted that type of co-operation in little dribs and drabs as they confronted him with more and more information and more and more the shock to his system was coming through and I think he became over-confident in the belief that now that Mandela was out, I was under indemnity, he believed that the movement would find a way to protect him and the others and therefore he chose a particular path of responding. It's not unknown in a detention situation that when you co-operate on one thing that looks very innocent it lays the basis in your mind to co-operate on another thing that still looks innocent until at the end you are beginning to talk and talk and talk and now cannot stop yourself because you have so compromised yourself in talking that it's too late to draw the line. I wouldn't be surprised about that but I'd leave it an open question.

POM     You'd take those issues up with Davidson and Nyanda?

MM     Where I don't buy Davidson is I don't know what he then says about me.

POM     He says nothing about you.

MM     He interrogated me. He was one of my interrogators and he used the same old standard technique. He walked into the interrogation room and he said, "The game is up. We've got everything on you, everything on Operation Vula. Now talk, co-operate." I said, "No way. If you've got everything that's fine, you've got it. Why do you want me to talk? No way I'm crossing the line to talk." That day in Durban they resorted to very rudimentary assaults but I immediately –

POM     Very rudimentary?

MM     Punching and slapping and the very first thing I did was to say, "Guys, you know I have a neck injury from 1964 committed by your chaps. I have told you about this in Johannesburg and I am in very severe pain, I need medical treatment."

POM     I have that story. I read that to people and they laugh.

MM     And they took me to the District Surgeon who turned out to be an Indian doctor and I told him I'd been tortured. So I got out of their clutches but the getting out of the clutches was a search for an escape route and to do damage control and to enter an environment where I could communicate with the organisation. So Davidson was part of the interrogators with me.

POM     Did Davidson beat you?

MM     I wouldn't know whether, I can't remember whether Davidson beat me or the chap who's now – the names are eluding me at the moment but certainly Davidson I remember because he told me he knew me and he said, "I've been a traffic policeman in Newcastle." That's how I knew that Davidson is from Newcastle, not based on any reading. I don't think there's a book that's published that mentions a Davidson who entered the Security Branch via the Traffic Police. There's no book or publication that mentions the background of Davidson. I know that he was a traffic policeman in Newcastle which is my home town. It's not Nyanda's home town. His parents settled there from Johannesburg.

POM     Just to drop Vula or leave it for the moment. In one document, and this is a book which you're familiar with and we've talked about it before by Stadler, he mentions that a message they decoded –

MM     Intercepted, that said that we were planning to assassinate Madiba. I've always said that one day I will tell that story because I was hoping to hook them at the TRC Amnesty hearings in Durban. They slipped out of my trap because that's a misreading. There is a communication that I sent from Johannesburg to Nyanda in Durban. I think it's a communication that I sent before 20th May. They got that communication deciphered, it was unencrypted. It had been encrypted and sent to Nyanda but he had decoded it and he had not re-encrypted it. They don't know what went on before or after that communication and they had the job of deciphering the code names. They had deciphered the code names wrongly and they had interpreted that there was a target to hit Madiba. That wasn't so, it was nothing like Madiba. The truth is far more interesting but it makes me far more devilish.

POM     Far more what?

MM     Devilish.

POM     Devilish? You're known for that.

MM     It makes me far more devilish. The issue is that I had got access to a -

POM     We were talking about page 96 of Stadler's book.

MM     What it's saying here, and interestingly this date is questionable to me, 24 June, but it is saying their interpretation of this is that we have had a word from Cleo, code name for London, that Donald, code name for Chris Dhlamini, that Donald was a sniper, specially trained sniper that had entered the country and settled here. For some time I knew his identity but I had not-

POM     It wasn't Chris Dhlamini?

MM     No not Chris Dhlamini, this is a sniper, Chris had never received military training. Chris was a trade union leader. This is a sniper trained in sniping who had entered the country and settled here and was living safely. He was coming into the country around the end of June. Wrong! He had been in the country for more than two years. The equipment that he already had, it appears that Ndaba is currently required to store two pieces, that is firearms, which were in the hands of the enemy group planning Madiba's assassination – this is a genuine enemy group, this is a security forces group who turned to us and said, "Listen, we were assigned to eliminate Madiba."

POM     They came to you and told you that?

MM     They came not to me, to somebody else. That person came to me.

POM     So the group was security forces that came to - ?

MM     Yes, and they were saying, "Here are the weapons that we've been given with optical sights." When I heard about this I said, "Give me those weapons, I'll store them. I will use them one day in an operation where it will look like the enemy, that's the security forces, have shot their own man because the weapon is their own weapon and a sniper who can use this weapon correctly is available, so I will take storage." And it's not June, it's before May 28th because I am meeting the person underground. So they have misunderstood this and they think that this word from the description that Ndaba gave me, one of the pieces seems to have an optical sight and given the internecine - that's within the security forces they are fighting each other. I am saying we will eliminate one of the security force officers and make it look like that the other security force officer has killed him. They have completely misread this thing.

POM     Just that I'm reading it correctly. Within the security forces a group approached somebody in Lusaka and conveyed to them the information that they had been assigned the task –

MM     Of eliminating Madiba.

POM     - of getting rid of Madiba.

MM     And they said, "We don't want to do it",and our person from abroad said, "Where's your proof?" They said, "Here are the weapons", and they are so sensitive the person from Lusaka says, "Give it to me." They say, "Yes, to show our bona fides here are the weapons."

POM     Did they say who had given that order?

MM     That was between them and the Lusaka man. My interest was the Lusaka man says, "What do I do with these two weapons? Where do I store them?" I said, "Give them to me, I'll store them." He knows I've got the capacity to store them.

POM     So in the end you were going to use their weapons against themselves?

MM     Against themselves and use that as a decoy because I was aware of the tensions within the Security Branch where two very high senior officers were constantly undermining each other.

POM     One being? Wanting the process to move forward?

MM     No, no. They were vying each other because of the system of corruption that existed. They would have false informants and for every informant and information they would collect money so they would have an informant A and for every report that informant gave they would allow themselves to pay that informant money. In the meantime they put it in their pockets. But the one officer was constantly putting in reports that looked like he had a gold nugget in an informant. In the meantime I knew that he had a diamond, a rare informant, well placed. In the meantime I knew the informant was not connected with the movement but was just cooking up stories because I could see the actual reports. But now the second officer feeling overshadowed by this one tried to recruit this informant for his own outfit, so they would constantly fight each other that way. And I said who is the critical officer here, which is the bright one? Is it possible that we can look at eliminating the one, making it look like the other has done it and force them to forget to look at the real security issues and look at themselves because the weapon that would be used would be their weapon. Now that was the idea I had in mind and that was the idea that I was discussing with Nyanda. Hey, look, this is a tactic that we've been discussing for some time that we could employ to force the enemy security forces to turn inwards and self-destruct provided we didn't hit them. I'd been in many a situation where they had found a safe house, in Durban the police had started watching it and Nyanda would say, "Let's eliminate them, ambush them", and I would say, "No, no, no, don't ambush them because if we ambush them the question will arise: who did it and how did the people who did it know that the security forces were there?" I said, "Let's just disappear, melt away. But now", I said, "If we could remove them by making it look that their quarrels and rivalry has reached a point where they are eliminating each other then we make them begin to look inwards."

     That's the background to this thing. I'm still being cagey, still being cagey refusing to identify because the issue here is where does Stadler get all these communications? That's police property. Nobody has charged them for stealing this property and I wanted at the amnesty hearing – I deliberately went to give evidence because I knew it was the amnesty application for Charles and Mbuso and I hid them this way and I was waiting for them to pose this question because if they posed the question by putting this book, this paragraph in front of me, I would have turned to the presiding officer and said, "Presiding Officer, I am not prepared to answer an assertion made in a book even though it's in quotes. I first want the authenticity of this quote to be established so can I get an exhibit of the actual report?" Can they produce it? Now of course he can't say I haven't got it and when he says, "Yes, we've got it", through his lawyers, I said, "Table it here as an exhibit." The moment he tables it as an exhibit then I will say, "Presiding Officer I have a second question, how do we establish that this report itself is authentic? Can the informant say to us under oath that this is the report in the hands of the police which he has taken and made it his private property?" The moment he says that I said, "Presiding Officer I would like you to charge this man and investigate him for stealing state property."

POM     So you're still waiting for the opportunity?

MM     But I have no doubt that FW went to Madiba and said, "Madiba, we have got Mac for very serious offences, you won't believe me but he was planning to eliminate you."

POM     That's when he says in his book that when he told him about Vula Mandela expressed surprise.

MM     And shock.

POM     Anybody would express surprise if they were told that one of their closest friends was planning to eliminate them.

MM     Sure. In the meantime Madiba was visiting in detention and we have remained friends.

POM     They were operating and continued to operate on the assumption, or did they find out from the Vula papers that in fact – they knew you were in touch with Madiba but they did not know that Madiba knew about Vula. They didn't know that from the captured documents. OK. So they assumed that he didn't know anything about Vula but that Vula was something that was being set up in fact to get him.

MM     Similarly they misread the code name Joe. For a long time they believed that Joe was Joe Slovo, in the meantime Joe was a code name for Gebhuza.

POM     Yes. That leads me to – then I will let you go because I know my time is up today and I want to keep on schedule for you because I could go on all day, as you know.

     That brings me to Tongaat, that's where the Joe name first surfaced. The SACP were having a consultative conference and the minutes of that were seized and the name Joe was here and there and they assumed it was Joe Slovo, but it was a conference that from the minutes, if one reviews them, at least as I have and as were published at the time, it was kind of a revolutionary meeting. They talked about importing arms, the necessity to keep the armed structures.

MM     That's one paper. The purpose of Tongaat - was it was a meeting of the Communist Party underground mandated by the Central Committee in Lusaka? They had sent me an instruction. The ANC had launched itself after the unbanning on February 2nd by appointing an interim leadership group to take charge of the leadership of the ANC in the country. Now the Communist Party comes to me and says a month or two later, "Will you now set up an interim leadership corps of the Communist Party to operate openly?" And they sent a list of proposals, names of people in the country. And I said, "Wrong way." The ANC had to do it as an emergency decision, now learn from the mistakes and the positive lessons of that move. In order to select the people who should go into the leadership I am saying let's have a conference in the underground and let's discuss this with 20 key communists in the country, that is to discuss the strategy of how to legalise the Communist Party, that's the issue. But in order to discuss that issue I made provision for Joe Slovo to come in and be present at the meeting. At the end he couldn't come in. I devised an agenda together with the comrades in the country that first said let's discuss where is this country sitting and let's discuss negotiations and allow all views. In that context Gebhuza presented a paper of his view that people's war can triumph as a discussion paper.

     I opened the meeting with a statement of my own, on behalf of the Central Committee, and said, "This is the purpose now, let's discuss it. There are papers so that we have a structured two-day conference and we understand exactly and come to a common meeting of minds on the potential for negotiation, what is likely to happen, how do we ensure that these negotiations succeed." It was not going to be just put down from the top that this is the decision. You are the core forces which ought to be part of the Central Committee which has existed in exile.

     What they have done is they've presented Gebhuza's paper as an authoritative paper of the positions of the meeting. The decisions of the meeting were to give full support to negotiations, that the party legalise itself, that in the process of legalising it should set up an interim leadership corps which would be made up of people from outside and inside, it made recommendations of names from within the country who should be in that corps and it took a decision that the party will be legally launched on the anniversary of the formation of the party on 29 July 1990.

POM     What was the difference between being unbanned and becoming legal?

MM     Unbanned says you're no longer illegal. Now how do you take up that legal space? How do you occupy that legal space? Who emerges in the leaders? They have been existing in little, little cells. There has been a Central Committee outside made up of people who have been in exile. There have been comrades on the ground who have been in the front line of battle. How do you integrate these two leaderships?

POM     So you're not so much talking about legalisation as having been legalised how do we take these disparate elements from all over the place that have been there and pull them together and turn them into a working internal organisation, the structure, administration, building.

MM     That's why you will see that I go out of the country on 20 May, I come back on the 15 June and I think somewhere between 15 and 20 June Joe Slovo and I hold a press conference which is carried in Business Day with a photograph of myself and Joe and we say the Communist Party has decided it will emerge into the public arena, it will announce who are its leaders at a rally to be held at the Orlando Stadium on 29 July informed by these decisions. We don't say informed by these decisions, but ensuring that when we announced it we knew that our forces on the ground in the country who did not know each other would have been part of that consultative process because one of the criticisms of the ANC launching itself was people said – who's this, who's that that is in the leadership? What's his background? And there was a bit of divisiveness. You will remember that Kgalema Motlanthe was made the first Secretary General. He was made Secretary of the Gauteng Province, or Transvaal Province. He was the Assistant Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers.

POM     Oh sure! I've interviewed him all the time. I just get the names.

MM     When we were legalised he was put in the interim leadership group, then he was elected Provincial Secretary for Transvaal of the ANC and then he retired back to the union and he only came back at this last conference as Secretary General. People were saying, "Who is he?" So the ANC creation of that local leadership has caused rumblings within the ANC forces and I did not want the party to be launched with rumblings within its leadership. That was the purpose of Tongaat.

POM     So they had, when they got the minutes of that meeting, they got other documents too and they chose only to release that specific portion.

MM     And it's a 300-page report.

POM     And no reporter has –

MM     Challenged it.

POM     No-one has ever gone back and tried to say where is it?

MM     Where is it? Because I gave a full copy, one I transmitted that very night, the full transcript. You won't believe our technical resources. It's the first meeting in this country that was recorded, typed as people were speaking and it was transmitted to Lusaka, the whole 300-pages verbatim report was in Lusaka's hands Sunday 20th evening, it was in their hands. And by Sunday that evening I had a printed and bound version which on coming to Johannesburg I handed over to Jeremy Cronin and said, "You, Jeremy, are the editor of Inkululeko", which is published as one of the party publications, "Here is the conference record so that you can print something without mentioning names." But of course by 25 July I am arrested and the arrests had started and people destroyed copies. Jeremy tells me he destroyed his copy. Lusaka says the moment I got arrested Joe Slovo said to destroy all records in Lusaka.

POM     There's no record. I could go on but I will not. I will leave you with two questions so you have them in mind that I want to talk about the next time. One was you had mentioned that when you had gone to Madiba about Northern Ireland and he had asked for the letter from Reed, at the time that he said – I remember you saying to me that you and he had kind of reminisced for a while on what were the turning points in the movement.

MM     South Africa, the irreversibility issue.

POM     Yes, so I want to talk about that. That must have been fascinating. I would love to have been a fly on the wall. The other one I have forgotten that quickly, but I know it was important. I will remember when I walk out the door.

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.