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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
27 Sep 2001: Maharaj, Mac
POM Let me just start there. I have to ask you two questions before I go. First guideline
MM Is that the powerful in this world, it is what they do that will set the tone for what the powerless do. The second guideline is that in the pursuit of justice the powerful must not do things which will leave substantial numbers of people in this global village with the sense that they have suffered an injustice by those who pursued justice. The third proposition, I wouldn't call it a proposition, let me put it differently, the implication of this is that we have got to begin, whatever we do now in the pursuit of justice against terrorism, must be done in such a way that it fits in with a broader strategy of reorganising the world under the leadership of the powerful. This means whether you look at the World Trade Organisation, whether you look at the United Nations, whether you look at the World Bank, whether you look at the IMF, you name the institutions, a space has got to be created institutionally for the powerless to be at the table putting and accepting collectively the agenda that the principle of democracy in a country, correct as it is, needs, number one, to be extended in this century to cover the workers.
Number two, that that principle of democracy must apply also to inter-state relations. Now what Bush is doing is in complete violation of that. Bush in pursuit of justice is actually harnessing the anger and succumbing to that anger because that anger says revenge, retribution. It has no agenda or perspective that these actions that he's planning fit into a restructuring of the world. In fact he is pursuing an agenda which says I am the powerful, I decide who's guilty, I have no obligation to tell you but you fall in line with what I'm going to do otherwise you are also my enemy. Total unilateralism which is an assertion of that super power status to say to the entire world you fall in line with my interests and my understanding, whereas what is needed was to say, while I build this support I am prepared to bring these people to justice and if I can bring them out alive I'll put them at an international court. I will be the investigator, I will pursue those terrorists but I will put them in a collective or international community to try them. He's not allowing that. He's saying: I decide, I know who are the ones and the ones that I say are the ones that are guilty, they are guilty and you must accept it. I will do to them what I choose and you will just have to agree to that. More than that you have to support me because if you don't I will treat you as my enemy. Complete unilateralism, a complete ignoring of even the UN even though the UN is structured in a way that it recognises five powers as having a veto.
So I think that's a very inappropriate leadership response and why I mention the World Trade Organisation, and I say this principle that in the pursuit of justice do not do something that will leave large segments of this world population with the sense that they have been the recipients of injustice, is that in the WTO
POM In the pursuit of justice you create injustice.
MM You create injustice. Now in the WTO if we are to be really bold then those barriers to the products of the developing world, barriers to entry of their products into those markets is what is the major stumbling block. We in SA have been reducing our tariffs to conform to world trade but we can't sell our wine in Europe, we can't sell our sugar in the United States because the protectionist measures that they have taken to protect their economies which are unsustainable subsidies are things that we can't question. But the result is that those markets are blocked to us and how are we to grow our economies if we can't get into those markets? Are we only to allow our markets to be the entry point for their products and we have no outlet for ours so that imbalance is perpetuated? This is one of the major issues of the WTO debates.
It mirrors this thing, my second principle, that is how the powerful act today that sets the tone for how the powerless act because if you don't show that generosity based on a strategic understanding of the shape of the world that you desire for this century then the powerless will say we have no option and continually there will be the terrorism, armed conflict constantly bubbling away.
So it's around these lines that I'm saying that this dilemma arises and what happened to me last night is that I said it would be nice if I could write a letter to George Bush and believe that he would read it, and I said that won't happen. Then I said why not write the letter to Tony Blair? And so I sat down and said: Dear Mr Prime Minister, and got stuck. I said, is that the right thing? Because obviously the tone of what I write must be such that it impacts on him even though he disagrees with what I'm saying because at the current moment he is caught up with completely supporting and he may sit down one to one with me, if he was prepared to discuss with me, and say, "Mac I'm doing that so that I can influence George Bush." But the point is, has he got the same perspective? There are temptations to believe that a Tony Blair and some other leaders in Western Europe could support that longer term vision and yet balk at carrying out the exercise of ensuring that immediate steps are in conformity with that and don't cut across that blocked terrain. [So that's and that's why I couldn't write.]
POM Among my other tasks I'm editing a book that I in fact sent out letters to people over a year ago for ideas. I call it just On War. I said what I would like authors to do was to look back on the 20th century and to review the wars of the 20th century and to see what lessons we have learned or can learn from them as to how we should approach wars in the 21st century. So I have about 15 or 20 people contributing essays. How about if I would get this transcribed for me and you were to do an essay? I'll give you six months. OK?
MM In Reflections in Prison in the introduction my first draft did not deal with the question of multi-culturalism. It said one of the legacies, unfinished business, of the 20thcentury was the question of how to resolve conflicts within countries and between countries without resort to war and I elaborated on that. In my final draft I reduced it just to a sentence and made the issue of diversity the main legacy of resolving that issue.
POM So you have, in a way, a draft.
MM I might have it still on my computer. The point I'm making is, yes, I haven't thought about it from the point of view of looking at the wars of the 20th century, no. I have just started by saying, the other day on a radio programme, that the 20th century was a century of democracy but it was also the century of some of the greatest brutalities and atrocities the world has ever seen. I know why they say Pearl Harbour. Pearl Harbour from the point of view of the psyche of the US citizen that, if you were to look at the scale of the atrocity, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the comparable events because those two bombs were not necessary to get the surrender of Japan. Unquestionable to me. And Hiroshima and Nagasaki in terms of the magnitude of numbers of people and the total wipe out, New York pales into insignificance. So I say the 20th century has been a century of democracy but also a century of some of the worst atrocities, all of them based on the concept of war.
The challenge for leadership now in the 21st century that we inherit is how to resolve those conflicts without war. In resolving the conflicts without war the powerful are a major ingredient in the movement forward. And that applies here, Padraig. Had De Klerk not made the speech of February 2nd, I don't care what anybody says, had he not made that statement we were still going to be trapped until more and more this country was going to go down on its knees. Maybe another moment would have arisen but always to the greater cost of the country and this is what makes De Klerk that he had that boldness to take a step even though he may not have thought out the full consequences of it and even though he may have balked as he went down the line. We dare not rob him from history of that one bold act and that was from the position of power that he was making that statement. We can analyse it and say there were such pressures that they were becoming unbearable on him but he was occupying the seat of the power and he made that move and that enabled the process to begin.
Now on a world scale on war it remains the crucial ingredient for the 21st century. That is why I kept toying, do I write to Tony Blair? Then at other times to make it an open letter. Then I said but that's a gimmick an open letter. Or do I write an article raising this issue of the nature of the challenge to leadership that arises in this thing because here we are, we seem to be moving in a direction where Bush is setting the agenda and everybody else is falling in line.
POM I think you should write an article. The constraints are, as you know if you do these opinion pieces or whatever, they say 800 words and you bargain for 900 but in 900 words you really have just the opportunity to state, make a point, not to elaborate and go on. What you want to do is to do the elaboration. So why don't you, I think somebody who would be very interested I was supposed to have done this, I told you, a piece for John Battersby and now I rang Wilmot and will do it, the Argus will run it. Battersby will run it in a minute.
MM I know he would but I didn't want to focus on who would publish it. The barrier last night was
POM You couldn't, I got you, yes.
MM Because you don't want to write so that people will say, "Oh Mac was right", you want to write to influence the problem.
POM Now the other thing is that the paper that I do opinion pieces for, the Boston Globe, and they're usually on Northern Ireland or issues around Northern Ireland, in fact for the last 20 years I've been doing them and I had sent them four ideas, a copy of one that I wrote immediately after Kempton Park when the Brits said we'll give these guys two weeks. I wrote a piece and I sent it to them and I said, "This is the result. This is how everything's going to turn out. If I'm wrong you needn't pay me. If I'm right you have to pay me double." I was right on everything. I didn't take any undue pleasure, I just said I'll take the money. But I could send it on to them because I wrote to them and I got a letter back, I said I wanted to do a piece on AIDS in South Africa and this whole new thing which is very disturbing to me, or the African response being slightly different and the other world's response being slightly different and who is talking about that in the US. I think if you did a piece encapsulating the points that you have said, they would publish it and that gets you to an audience that is read in Washington and in other places.
MM I'll tell you what I'm going to do, although I went no further last night, two things have arisen in this discussion. The one is the book that you are editing. Yes, I'll look at that but my immediate thing is to get over this barrier in myself around the current issues. I want to try and write around it. I don't care at the moment what its length is. I know I can offer it if it's good in content, I can offer it to John Battersby to publish in two parts in two successive weeks. But I am going to focus now that you raise the Boston Globe, I am going to focus my mind by saying who do I want to read this? And I think what this discussion has done, forget about the Tony Blairs and the George Bushes, write it in a tone that is going to reach the population and the bureaucrats in the State Department and in the British Foreign Office and the European Foreign Offices, write it with that tone so it's not going to be condemned. You can't take that position. At the moment the American audience is going to close its ears. There is a segment that is beginning to manifest itself but it's questioning on little nuts and bolts issues: did the CIA do its job? Why didn't it do its job? That sort of issue, and Bush is already counteracting and neutralising all that. He is building this patriotic hysteria. So, with that in mind, with that sort of audience in mind, I will try over this period to write whether it turns out to be 800 words or 2000 words, I won't bother, I will just write.
POM With time, six months, because this book will be out in a year's time, it's intended to be something that will stand not that somebody wrote something today and it's irrelevant, tomorrow it means that they didn't write a good article, they didn't really have anything to say. Over a period of six months you could at your leisure expand on the ideas that you do have and turn it into a longer, more embracive essay that takes into account that these are the things we must be looking at in this century as we approach conflict.
MM I am convinced that that is the issue of the 20th century, 21st century. That one and the diversity issue. But underlying this thing is this whole thing of the inequalities and providing scope for the economies to benefit. I see the debate in Amnesty International about the bill of rights and first generation rights, second generation rights, all of them bring you back because they are trying to manoeuvre in a space because underlying it, if you debate it with them, is that they would accept that poverty is the issue. But I don't believe that we must address poverty by sacrificing democracy. I think that that's a gain of the 20th century that has got to be expanded throughout this world and has got to be deepened in all our countries and it has got to be mirrored in the way the world relations are structured.
The same principle, I was put on the defensive by Cape Talk as a result of this interview that I gave on 702 on the US events, where the Cape Talk interviewer began to straight away debate its statement and I said, "But it's a principle of justice and democracy that in relation to any crime don't be the prosecutor, judge and executioner yourself." Doesn't that principle apply to the world? Or are we saying now on the world that principle, that moral, that safeguard and repository of morality is irrelevant? Bush will be the prosecutor, judge and executioner.
POM Dead or alive!
MM Dead or alive.
POM All west.
MM And the talk show host was having difficulty with this because he could not envisage now. To him already he was seeing the obstacles in the world to this thing, that it's not possible. I'm saying this 21st century needs a dream and what is the nature of that dream? It's not to ignore the 20th century but it's to take out the good things. And the past, what does it teach us? It teaches us primarily what not to do in the present because what we do in the present shapes the future. So you look at the past, not so much to look at the lessons of what to do, in war the lessons tell you what not to do. It's a huge issue and you want to avoid that issue falling into the trap of the potential of ideologies because the potential of ideologies straight away labels you and throws you out.
POM This is what I've got out of this, I've been in touch with my various authors, and I'm going to send them a letter saying to recast their thinking or what they were writing about in this light. You've given me the focus for something else. What I want to see is - I have people from almost every continent - if you can think of people who you think would be valuable contributors, write them down, I'll get in touch with them because I want it to be a world perspective and then pulling it together and saying there is a consensus here.
MM At least what emerges for me is a definition of the issues that constitute the challenge because that's the first job, the first task in methodology is that you look at it, this plethora of facts, and distil from it by consensus a definition of the key issues. Once you can define the key issues and achieve a consensus, yes these are the key issues, then you've opened the process to how do we address them. But if you mix the two processes the argument starts floating and each one is responding ideologically. They are no longer responding rationally and empirically based on what the facts are. That's the challenge.
POM Thank you. You've written my letter to all these guys.
Maybe we should talk about what we're supposed to talk about. You mentioned this chief interrogator, his name was?
POM And he was located at?
MM He was located in Johannesburg at the Grays, that was the headquarters of the Security Branch, Grays Building. It's a building that's been destroyed now. He was the most brutal of the torturers and had acquired a reputation which gave him the nickname 'Rooi Russe' in Afrikaans, which in English literally translated means Red Russian. He took pride in that nickname. However, as a torturer he was notorious for his brutality and he looked the part. He was a short, stocky man with a short neck and wore his hair close cropped, you almost got a sense and a very pock-marked, brutal face so you got the impression, the only thing I have is an impression of a chief of a concentration camp under the nazis, totally brutal, nothing refined about him. And he took pride in his brutality. Many lawyers who had been through defending us ended up by saying, "The day I can get Swanepoel in the box I would like to grill him, interrogate him and crush him." It never happened but I have made a statement some time ago that he is one of the Security Branch men that I came to respect and this statement has been misunderstood because I know that other detainees after me who were tortured by Swanepoel were told by Swanepoel that he respected me. This is not a statement about his humanity but it is a statement that beneath that brutality was a certain level of skill and it's a respect for that skill. What do I mean by that? An incident arose in my detention, two months into my detention.
POM Is this when you were detained with ?
MM In 1964.
POM OK, yes.
MM And when I was tortured for about 60 days.
POM Without going into detail, what kind of techniques did they use?
MM I was described in some of the booklets that were published after I went to prison as probably the most tortured detainee of 1964 up to then. I even ended up with a damaged neck and a paralysed arm. But this day what happened is that after a week of no interrogation I am suddenly called in, taken to The Grays, put in a room where three of the walls were lined up with Security Branch officers in plain clothes, all of them were in plain clothes and they began to throw a barrage of questions which I was refusing to answer but I used to absorb the questions to try and work out what do they know and I realised from their questions that suddenly they had acquired an enormous store of information about the underground. I began to work out as they were assaulting me who is it that was the source of their information.
POM That whole group of people, were they assaulting you there?
MM They were assaulting me. At that stage they were playing what they called 'rugby'. You were the rugby ball so you would be hit by a question from this side with such a blow to your body that it would throw you across that side like a ball and the question from the other wall nearest to you would punch you from that side and you would fly to the other wing and they would keep knocking you around. No one person would be just sitting beating you. But in the middle of all that they would be throwing questions and now and then they'd stop, you'd fall on to the ground, they'd leave you for a few minutes, they'd be throwing questions, they'd pick you up, make you stand up and start assaulting you. In the middle of this I'm busy trying to work out what do they know but in particular who is it that is speaking in detention so that I can then see how to handle this interrogation. Swanepoel then walks into the room, and this was his style, he would walk into the middle of an interrogation where you were being tortured, the torture would stop, there would be a great sense of almost drama around his entry and usually if you have not met him before he would then walk up to you, look you in your face and tell you, "Do you know who I am? I am Swanepoel. Do you know now who I am? Do you know what to expect from me?" So his first entry that day, I'd already met him in my torture earlier, was to come in, push me against the wall against which I was made to stand initially.
POM He pushed you against it?
MM Against it and he then says to me, "Now you'd better talk. No more games from you because if I come back into this room and you have not started talking I will personally take over your interrogation." It was to build that sense of fear in you and then he would march out. He marched out, he came back. After a while he comes back, puts me up against the wall, takes out a pistol, puts the pistol to my forehead and he says, "You talk." At that stage psychologically it was the wrong move from his side because I just said to myself if you're going to shoot it's perfectly fine by me, you desperately need me to talk, you kill me you've lost.
POM You can't talk to a dead man.
MM Anyway he pulled the trigger and of course, as far as I'm concerned there's a live bullet in it. Now you've gone through one death and nothing has happened and he looks at me and realises that panic had not set in to me because he expected from that pulling of that trigger that I would collapse in panic but when he saw no panic in me he lost a bit of his control because he then pistol whipped me across the head and marched out. Now I'm saying, ah I've won a battle. He comes back the next time
POM Is this the same day?
MM Same day, this is going on the whole day. He comes back this time and he pulls a trick which actually made me panic because he came with a box of matches and it showed that he had been thinking what to do and he had focused on the fact that I had one eye so he took this box of matches and took out a match and he brought the box next to my good eye and lit the match across my eye. Now that was a frightening experience for me because to me I'm going to be blind and it's going to burn in itself. So definitely, as I recall it, I did get afraid but it was not enough to make me talk.
Now this is the man who previously had devised a torture with me of stripping me naked and holding my penis on a desk and taking a baton, a policeman's baton and whacking it. Now he wouldn't carry on whacking, he would pause, he would throw questions, he'd leave me in agony and then when he sees my agony and pain subsiding he would make me stand against that desk and put the penis there but this time not hit. This time he would pick up his baton and wait for the expectation of pain to capture me before he hit.
It's that sort of technique that he had where he understood, in my view, while I disagree with torture, he understood what torture was supposed to be like. That physical torture was supposed to plant in you a state of mind where before the next application you began to relive mentally the pain so that the expectation of the next pain was what was going to make you break down. The chap who just brutally assaulted you was a loser because invariably you would end up unconscious and that's not the purpose of it. So this is background to him again.
But this day he used the match, fails to get me to talk, leaves the room but he doesn't storm out of the room like he did with the pistol, goes away, still with the threat, "You don't talk, I'm coming back." He returns and what does he do this time? He interrupts the beating that I'm getting.
POM Did the other guys come back or they're still in the room?
MM The other guys are still in the room, all in the room, and they're continuing when he leaves. This time he comes back, pushes me against the wall, barks out questions, "Are you going to talk?" No. Leaves the others to assault me, I think he picks me up from the floor, puts me against the wall again, and I don't know from where he has a sword in his hand. A sword. This time I'm backed up against the wall and he takes that sword and he puts the point of the sword right on my Adam's apple. Now I'm in a state. The first thing is I'm busy conquering my fear and pain and then suddenly it dawns on me that he's handed me a gift. The gift is here is this sharp point on my neck, on my throat, all I have to do is I dive on it and I'm dead but he has to explain my death. Just as that thought went through my head and I'm preparing for that act, in that flash of an instant we are looking at each other eyeball to eyeball, he panics and withdraws the sword and storms out. I see what happened, I just lost a moment, what was wrong with me was I should have dived earlier. And then I said wait a minute, the bastard saw in my eyes what I was planning to do. That was his panic, that was the moment of my respect for him, that he had read my mind by looking into my eye and we both this is not over a second, it's an instant in which I had seen a solution and he understood the solution that I had seen and he panicked and withdrew the sword. And I said, hey, don't underestimate this interrogator. This interrogator is studying me, he is not like the others who are just beating the hell out of me. This man goes back and thinks and asks what type of man am I dealing with? Just as I'm busy asking myself what do they know, what type of man is this?
So it's in that context that I make the statement that I have respect for him. I don't respect him for his brutality, I don't condone it but I respect him for that ability and he has killed many people in detention and therefore conducted the interrogation wrongly because he failed to achieve his objective, but with me that act of reading that flash of a thought, I said wait a minute, don't underestimate this bastard. Then I think he realised this too so when he told other detainees that he was torturing that he respected me it's that sense that he was dealing with somebody that he had not got on top of.
POM He hadn't broken you. Did he continue to participate in your interrogation? Did he change his modus operandi in any way?
MM He never after that played a prominent part in my torture. He was around, he would question, he would supervise but he was never the same man with me. He never was able to pull out another trick that took me to the point where the expectation of pain, like the penis beating, it had reached a stage where all he had to do was to strip me naked and put my penis on the table and I tell you the first time this happened to me I felt as if I was pouring with blood, my nose was dripping with blood and I had to look what's falling and it was just perspiration. He is the guy - on the penis he went further and having beaten me with the baton and found no results coming, in desperation as it went on into the night he took a piece of plank, a piece of wood, think plank, and he took rusted nails and in front of me hammered these nails through that thin plank so that they stuck out and he took the plank and put it over my penis with the nails into my penis and began to press, but never to the point that he would press it through. Press it so that you could feel the prick and you could feel, Good Lord, this is sinking into my penis.
I believe that that was when I look back things that threw me into a panic, there was that, the penis treatment, and the second one that threw me into a panic was the one where he used the match across my eye.
POM He didn't catch on to the one across the eye?
MM No he didn't, he didn't. But the point I realise is that this is 1964, the full refinement of their battery of torture techniques had not yet come into play. They had begun to experiment with electric torture, they had been using the standing trick, they began to use the broomstick one where they handcuffed you and swung you by a stick, manacled you and swung you on a stick, put a sack over you and you were hanging on a stick and then they would start beating you.
POM You'd be hanging by your they handcuffed you to the broomstick?
MM They handcuffed you around the broomstick and your legs were handcuffed also so here you are hanging like this in the air, swinging with a hood over your head and then they beat the hell out of you and you're swinging like a swing as they hit you.Now all those techniques, what I am saying is brutal as they were those are the ones that gave me some insight into torture and how these torturers work, and I don't concede that torture is ever successful because under that pain you will tell any lie and you will confess to anything that they suggest to you to try and stop that pain. So I don't believe that torture gives you the truth, you still have an enormous job of cross-referencing and correlating that information from others to see how it fits but the more you talk, even if it's a lie, the more they've got something to find discrepancies in your story and another one's story and another one's story and to keep coming back to you and where somehow or the other something corroborated emerges that gives them a fresh bit of information. It's a long process to do it that way. I believe that Swanepoel had some understanding of that process despite the many killings that he carried out. I believe that if I had spoken there and not agreed to go to the next stage, and that is to become a collaborator with him, then my function had been served and therefore to kill me was immaterial. It was not an important thing to bring me to court at that time. They had already arrested and sentenced Mandela at the Rivonia trial. It would be no great coup to say here's another one we're sentencing to life, but to get me to talk would have been the achievement and he understood that he had failed to get that.
So that's the context in which I made that statement. Many people don't understand it but it comes back to what Mandela had said in our discussions in prison, to the prison authorities. He said to the General in charge of the prisons, "General, you need to think how you treat us because even after one or other of us have vanquished the other in battle, as Generals from the opposite side we will have to sit down even to negotiate a truce. If in the process of how you treat us now we lose respect for each other to that extent when we negotiate the truce we will be negotiating without respect for each other. So you'd better be careful how you treat us. Think carefully how you want to treat us." But the opposite side of it in that debate was he was also saying, "Guys, there's going to be a point where in this conflict we will reach a point of negotiations and it will be two enemies. The crucial thing is that the commanders of the two sides of the battle line may disagree with each other totally but they do develop a respect." After all what did the allies think of Rommel? They thought Rommel was the Desert Fox. Why? Did it mean they agreed with him? No. But it meant they respected his skills as a military General and that's all that I will say. Nothing more. I have no sympathy for Swanepoel. My dream was, of course, one day to escape and capture Swanepoel because I believed that I would make him talk without physical torture.
POM You would have given him enough cigarettes over a 24 hour period so he would have developed lung cancer.
MM I think the secret of his torture would have been no brutality and kindness because that's a paradigm that he never understood, but it was my dream.
POM Paradigm that never -
MM Occurred to him. It's something that was beyond his experience and even comprehension and when we were planning our escape while we were awaiting trial we said we won't leave the country and that's when I said we capture Swanepoel or Percy Yutar, the prosecutor because I said if we take one of these guys in the hills and we have our radio transmitter I will make him confess on tape and play it over the radio where he is saying, "Not me, I was following orders, I didn't mean to do this, I'm sorry." I believe that that would have been demoralising for the security forces to hear a man like Swanepoel confessing on the radio. Those were wild dreams.
POM Wild dreams keep you alive.
MM Oh yes they kept me alive.
POM The importance of them.
MM Kept you up to planning all the time.
POM This is a thing and you touched on it one day and it's always fascinated me. Here you had these guys from the Security Branch, they would come in and they would spend their day torturing people, kicking them around, inflicting all kinds of pain, and then they'd go home in the evening and they'd say to the wife, "How did the kids do at school today?" Turn on the television, sit down, discipline one of the kids for not doing its homework and say, "Do your homework before you go out and play." Go to bed, come in the following day and spend the day torturing people. These are ordinary human beings, there's not some super pre-selection process going on. What happens?
MM I think they become brutalised. I think that's part of the reason why you will find in South African society such an element of brutality. It's not a brutality just it's a property of one racial group, in the white community a tremendous amount of brutality. Even in the posh suburb that I'm living in, which was an exclusive white suburb, behind those closed doors
POM That's where?
MM Hyde Park. Behind the closed doors and behind those walls, yards, I believe there is a lot of wife beating and child beating and child abuse. Forget the gentle exterior. It's a brutalised people.
POM So what do you see as a psychological process of a man who can do this during the day, go home and almost behave normally? Now you mentioned to me one time when he stops having nightmares, that there's a period you think that when he starts out -
MM I've seen it in fellow prisoners who were the subject of torture. I've seen how in the single cells there was one comrade who night after night, because there was this steel grille and then the wooden door on the outer side, you would hear this guy screaming, trying to climb the grille doors, battling the grille doors, living through his torture. But in the same way I believe that their nightmares visited them, those who carried out those brutalities. I don't think you can take a human life through a process of torture without yourself finding yourself changing and leading this split life of supposedly caring parent and husband and brutal torturer. That would begin to rub off in the relationship and it could rub off by brutality towards the family or it could rub off in a sense of that brutality expressing itself in trauma inside the person. So I think either way it comes out.
Many, many white parents I met when I was in the underground would tell me how their sons had changed as a result of doing army service. They would say, "My son has come back from army service a different person." What do you mean by different? Different in the sense that he's become independent? They'd say, "No, that's something we've seen but what he has come back is with an authoritarian streak." And I believe that that authoritarian streak is a manifestation of that brutalisation. Anyway, be that as it may
POM Mac's coughing is the result of his 1,200,042 cigarette, let it be recorded! As he's putting one out he's about to light another one up.
MM So, I think that's a field that has not been studied in this country. I think that the Centre for Trauma & Violence at Wits University has been doing a lot of good work.
POM This is the Graham Simpson's one?
MM What's her name? There's a lady there. But the point is that I think that they would readily agree.
POM Centre for Trauma & Violence?
MM Centre for Trauma & Violence or Centre for Violence Studies.
POM This is within Wits itself, it's not Graham Simpson's NGO?
MM No. I thought it was a Centre at Wits. But the point I'm making is that a discussion with them would say that our society, black and white, is a deeply brutalised society and that the manifestations of that are not just the surface manifestations of criminality but they go to the authoritarian personality, abuse of women, child abuse, violence against women, violence against children, you name it, as manifestations of that brutalisation.
POM Now how would this have emerged in the black community?
MM In the black community from a disrespect for bad law to a disrespect for all law so that the disjuncture between law and morality and fairness arose. Number two, living daily with violence brutalised our people both at the level of violence against each other. I said at the Dakar meeting in 1985/86 to the delegation of whites that came, by that time our children were fighting the police and army with sticks and stones, kids, and I was saying yes, we see them as freedom fighters but don't think we glory in that because it's really we have to ask ourselves the question that to have our children having to do the fighting while it is good to say that they are fighting, on the other hand we have to ask what is it doing to their psyche because they will have to live in a law ordered society tomorrow.
POM Do you think, it crossed my mind in going through well one of the things going through my mind for maybe years that you hear about the comrades, the children taking over the townships. Now number one, they are children, number two they begin to exercise power and number three, they begin to enforce that power.
MM And they see power only in its manifestation of brutal experiences.
POM OK so they use force to exercise power. That would in a way give them a sense of - at one level relieve them of their sense of oppression because now they have become powerful but in alleviating their own sense of oppression they are oppressing the already oppressed, they're inflicting in a way more you know what I mean?
MM They are developing that authoritarian personality and framework which tells them that I am important because of power and they understand power only as force. I agree today, a powerful businessman, very big businessman has got power but they don't understand the exercise of that power by physical force and you would have to interrogate them to make them understand that they are vested with a sense of power, that at a stroke of a pen they are affecting the lives of thousands of people. And you would see at the bottom of it a whole grappling to come to terms with what does it mean, power mean, and many of them cannot abandon the sense that they have a special quality of what they think is right is right for everybody. But that's a different thing, manifestation of power. Power has all these dimensions and physical force is one manifestation and if a personality grows up to understand power only as physical force then that person is brutalised.
Whether it is possible to treat such a person is another question but I have admitted in 1977 on a radio broadcast interview on BBC when I came out of prison that I felt that I am brutalised and I have been deeply aware of it. It's not something that I'm ready to admit, it was an off the cuff interview, but it is with a sense of pain that one recognises that in the pursuit of the struggle and in doing what I believe still was necessary to be done and was right to be done, in that process I became brutalised. I gave the example when Graham Mytton, the BBC interviewer, asked me, "What do you mean you are brutalised?" An hour long interview and he asked me, "What do you mean?" and he somehow or the other had got me in a talking and reflective mood. I said to him, Graham Mytton of the BBC, I said I went to prison a hot-headed young man. I could conceive of the possibility that I could kill a human being in anger, meaning provocation, etc., reaction, but I've come out of prison and I cannot conceive of myself killing anyone. And he pushed me into a corner and I had to admit that when I looked at myself, yes, I could kill but now it would be no longer in anger, it would be calculated, cold-blooded and I said that's brutalisation. There is a difference between that killing in anger and that killing in a cold-blooded way. I think in looking at those two scenarios there is a process of brutalisation that's taken place.
POM One of the questions I've asked over and over again to a number of people is on this whole question of the level of violence in SA and you get the usual explanations of poverty and competition for scarce resources and that, but I say there are other countries that are poorer than SA where there's not the same level of violence but there's something else to the violence here, there's an edge to it that makes it different, like the level of gang rape. It's nothing to do with sex.
MM They call themselves Jack Rollers amongst the black community in Soweto where a gang of young men would kidnap a young girl and all of them would take turns raping her. Can you conceive of that?
POM No. That is in a way, if one were to extrapolate, and I don't want to do it in any kind of scientific way, but from what you're talking about of where brutalisation in its many different manifestations, whether inflicted by the regime or the people upon whom it is inflicted becoming desensitised and then inflicting it on other members of their own community, that what emerges out of it is a community where acts of violence take place without thought. There's no value to human life.
MM They take place as if it's normal behaviour. In the Northern Province recently, a few months ago, a few young white people belonging to a rugby club killed an African, two Africans one they beat up and the other one they killed and later on the body vanished and they found it in the dam. They have been charged. Now they belong to a rugby club. So far the analysis says, oh they belong to that violent sport called rugby. No, those young men, they were 19 20 year olds, whites, were conducting themselves in a framework of their own brutalisation by the system in which they held power and what they did to that African tomorrow they would do to their own kind in a different situation. Maybe their justification is the next time when they kill a young white that they disagree with is to say that they were drunk. So I think that we need to look beyond the rugby.
POM It's like you were talking about within those gated communities in Hyde Park and other places, what takes place behind the closed doors.
MM I think there is a brutalisation that is deeply embedded here and it's already in the stars with the disjuncture between law and normality, that's its source. That's why I believe, how do you tackle this problem? You have all post-trauma treatment facilities, etc., counselling services, your educational system, your educators need to be sensitive, but I think every law that we make in this country, in a democracy, needs to be explained not just in terms of the necessity of that law but has to be explained in terms of the fairness of that law and the morality behind that law so that from every angle we are reviving something that is unconsciously present in society. It's just in the atmosphere. Why is it in another country of abject poverty you don't have this level of robbing with violence. Why? I really believe all sides of the South African society have been traumatised into violence.
POM I've been looking for somebody here in the country who can address this in some kind of clinical psychological way, is there anybody that comes to your mind?
MM I'm not aware of anything like that because even in prison when we used to talk about these things I smuggled in a book because I had read of the chap who headed the bank robberies of the Bolsheviks in Russia, I had read of an incident which triggered it off and tracked it down and I was intrigued by this personality. The Second International, there had been a bank robbery in Petrograd and the currency found its way into Europe and eventually in the executive of the Second International Lenin was called to book with proof being presented that it was people in his network who were responsible for that robbery. The Second International was addressing the matter purely as if it was a moral issue detached from the realities of society and Lenin confessed to this and had to produce the remaining notes and the executive burnt those notes after censoring Lenin and Lenin giving an undertaking that his group of Bolsheviks would not carry out as members of the Second International any more robberies. What was intriguing was that there is in Lenin's notebooks a note that he sent to Stalin who was in Russia to say that we've been forced to eat humble pie and make this undertaking but you, through that particular individual, need to carry on because we need the resources to mount this revolution. So the question was, who is this character? And I found a biographical note of him in a book by Eric Hobbs called Primitive Rebels. I got that book into prison.
POM You got it into prison?
MM Yes. And there's a chapter on this particular individual, I forget his name now, he had been the head of those robbers.
POM Primitive Rebels?
MM Primitive Rebels by Eric Hobbs.
POM I always like small books. Too much in them to absorb.
MM Now in Hobbs' book what transpires is that this guy was the head of those robbers who provided resources to the Bolsheviks and he was in touch with Stalin and would carry out these robberies to finance the Bolsheviks and he was repeatedly arrested by the Tsar's, tortured and imprisoned and released and back he went to his profession. And I used to say to my colleagues in prison, look at this guy, I see something of myself in this guy, this is what's happening to me and I can't believe that this man who was a dedicated Bolshevik would ever be able to live in a society governed by law. When I read Hobbs - what transpired is that in 1918 after the revolution he was riding a bicycle in either the then Leningrad or Moscow and he was knocked by a horse carriage and died and I said that's poetic justice because I don't believe this guy could have ever become a law abiding citizen. I don't know, but the point is that his entire life was governed by a sense of moral values derived from something different from the question of how society is ordered, how you interact with each other. It was guided by just serving that cause and any means was legitimate to him and he held true to that faith. How now when the Bolsheviks took power and were establishing an ordered society would he find himself living?As history would have it Stalin was his controller, or handler as they would say in intelligence jargon, counter-intelligence, and we know the story of Stalin.
POM To go back, I said last time I had two questions I would start with, but always as I'm walking out the door you say something and I say ah-ha! You have this habit. One was you had mentioned the evening you had gone over to see Mandela, this is before John Reed sent his fax or whatever to Mandela. You still have Reed's fax right?
MM I should have it here.
POM OK. And you said the two of you got to reminiscing of what were the turning points in the movement. Can you recall what you said?
MM Was that over the issue of irreversibility, point of irreversibility?
POM It might have been.
MM And the Record of Understanding.
POM Just the conversation that you got into.
MM That probably is the one that I was referring to. I think it was probably because he is busy writing his memoirs at the moment and the issue of characterising the negotiation process and what were the critical moments and where did the point of irreversibility arise has been an issue that we've been bouncing around where I've been just throwing out my ideas, but they remain that I think the turning point was the Record of Understanding.
I think between 2 February 1990 and December 1991, the launch of CODESA 1, it would appear when you look at events that De Klerk was running with the ball and he had a sense that he was dictating the pace and that he was going to dictate the outcome. I think the apex of that process is the 1992 referendum which he called unilaterally. The outcome of that referendum entrenched in his mind an over-confidence that he was in charge of the process and that the outcome would be shaped by him and from that moment the balance begins to shift, a new phase opens. That phase has certain moments. One, the fracas between De Klerk and Madiba at CODESA.
POM That's in December?
MM Not in December, that's CODESA 2.
POM What happened there?
MM Where De Klerk accused the ANC of being unreliable and untrustworthy negotiators and Madiba demanded the right to speak again and attacked De Klerk as a representative of the illegitimate, discredited, morally bankrupt regime.
POM This would be in May?
MM Around May 1991.
POM I thought it was in December at the opening.
MM Not at the opening.
POM Because Mandela attacked him, it was at that point.
MM It's CODESA 2.
POM Remember in December 1991 when De Klerk made his speech and he accused the ANC of not living up to its obligations under the D F Malan Accord and Mandela went right to the
MM But to get the time sequence right. December 1991 is the launch of CODESA and the adoption of the Declaration of Intent at Holiday Inn. Now the CODESA process is launched, the working groups start functioning and then CODESA 2 takes place and I think it's at CODESA 2 that this fight takes place. What date I don't know, I'd have to check. Now until then De Klerk thinks he's making the running. The democratic forces are doubtful about whether negotiations would succeed. They have no faith in it. It's Mandela who was pushing and people are beginning to say, look at the violence, what are you gaining for us? You are going to be taken for a ride by De Klerk. Even in the ANC there's huge doubting of feasibility of negotiations. But then comes this fight and the townships are jubilant. What are they jubilant about? They are jubilant that, ah, Mandela and the ANC are not selling out, they are committed to coming out with a dignified resolution. So the first time now the public perception amongst the democratic forces begins to shift, not to say that we believe in negotiations but to say that we still have faith in the ANC and Mandela.
A process starts there and then comes Boipatong, and the talks break down. The channel is set up while mass struggle is on the upsurge and the war of memoranda takes place where we put up about 25 30 virtually non-negotiable demands on De Klerk. Then as the channel process is moving ahead Mandela publicly reduces those 25 demands to about five or six demands and he justifies it by putting them into categories, but what he has done is he's taken 25 30 demands which were almost non-negotiable now in the public arena, reduced them and therefore made them manageable and then you have the Record of Understanding signed and with that signing
POM Now, just to interrupt because we've talked so much about space, in reducing that 25 to five was he saying well now I'm allowing De Klerk to say I somehow was able to convince them to take those 25 down to five?
MM No he's not telling De Klerk that.
POM No, but he's allowing De Klerk to say that to his people.
MM Yes, because if he kept saying here are my 25 demands, they were in my memo and I'm making a check which ones have you fulfilled, well you'd never reach a point of completion because it virtually says you've got to give up power. But by reducing it to five categories of demands he has now created a space for a fulfilment to be measured in a different way.
POM But does he also create the space where De Klerk can go to his cabinet and say that this man began on 25 demands and because of my efforts, because of what I am I've made him reduce them to five so we have won. We have gone from 25 to five.
MM We have not retreated, he has retreated.
POM OK. That's what I wanted to get at because that comes back to the decommissioning issue.
MM That's why you need to get Hassen Ebrahim's book, The Soul of a Nation.
POM I've read it.
MM The point is that these memoranda are there.
POM OK, yes.
MM Copies of the memoranda, it's the appendix that's important.
POM The book is really very short.
MM So you'll find the memoranda and you will see how they get reduced and the effect of that reduction is to create the space for a resuscitation of the negotiations but it's only creating the space. It's at the Record of Understanding that De Klerk has to cave in because what he signs at the Record of Understanding is, one, an affirmation that the final constitution will be determined by a Constitutional Assembly of elected representatives. Yes there will be an interim phase but it will be a fully democratically elected, one person one vote, body that writes the final constitution. That's a hell of a commitment because it has now made the democratic ideal of one person one vote realisable. No matter what space you have to traverse before you reach that point you will have to reach that point. So any compromises for the interim can be justified as bringing proper democracy. The second was a bunch of demands around fencing the hostels, carrying of arms, searching the hostels and containing the violence from the hostels. They were not important simply for themselves, they were important because they changed the meaning of sufficient consensus. Until then De Klerk acted on the basis that sufficient consensus meant that the ANC, the IFP and the NP had to agree, but the hostels were the centres from which the IFP was launching violence. The IFP had been given the right by De Klerk to carry arms at public gatherings. His commitment to revoke that law now meant that here were the ANC and the NP agreeing to resume negotiations on the basis of this Record of Understanding.
Now, what happened there is that sufficient consensus now was subtly redefined to say there would be sufficient consensus as long as the parties agreeing to it were such that they were sufficient to keep the process going forward. It now meant an objection of the IFP was not a pre-condition to move it forward. So it split this alliance that De Klerk and Buthelezi were looking for. It enabled the negotiations to resume. We put the IFP into the Management Committee and the Secretariat. We didn't call it CODESA, the IFP objected, they wanted the process to start afresh. We call it The Multiparty Negotiating Process because we hadn't agreed on a name yet. We said we will find a name as we go down the road, and as it happened we never bothered to find another name. But everything that happened up to particular points in CODESA were brought back into that process and taken forward.
POM Who was the IFP's person?
MM In the Secretariat? Ben Ngubane.
POM Ben, good. You got the best person.
MM Yes we had Ben there. Ben, Fanie and I, and then the IFP would walk out, then stay away and we would constantly fax them everything that was emanating from our Management Committee and the Council and they would constantly be shouting in the public arena, "We're not there, we're not party to it." OK.
POM The second thing was you had said if the NP had played their cards right they could have gotten a much better deal, or a better deal.
MM Yes. Not a better deal, they would have been in a better position from the point of view of a political future. They might have got a better deal here and there on little points but they could not have staved off full democracy. But I think their political future could have been different because having taken those initiatives of February 2nd De Klerk had cast himself and located himself on a platform where it was conceivable that he could have made inroads into the black community, but he wasn't capable of doing that because he was too trapped by the security of his white constituents and the need to keep that intact.
POM By the?
MM By the need to keep his white constituency intact. So he never could move forward after that without a hesitant step towards reaching to say I speak for South Africans.
POM He was speaking for a constituency.
MM He kept on speaking for white South Africans, Afrikaner South Africans and then virtually the civil servants.
POM I'm now beginning, I've gone through transcripts of 1989, I'm now doing 1990 and a very prominent black who is still very prominent in black circles here, made the argument to me that at that time, this was probably conducted just after the violence broke out first in Port Elizabeth and then came to the Transvaal, so it was around July/August 1990, and he then saw it as IFP/ANC more or less as black on black violence and he was saying that this was really hurting De Klerk. He was saying De Klerk is trying to hold on to his white constituency, he's already having trouble with the Conservative Party and the more whites see black on black violence the more whites are going to say, yes, now we see the future, this is the kind of future we're going to have, there are going to be more defections to the right, it's going to undermine De Klerk's base of support within his own community and in fact the by-elections that happened after that bore that out. De Klerk was losing support rapidly. He was saying what the violence was doing was reinforcing the white stereotype that 'this is Africa, this is the way Africans behave'. So that rather than suiting, being something that would have been to his advantage, it would have been to his disadvantage.
POM What would you say to that argument?
MM I never supported that view. It has a certain plausibility to it but if you dig a little deeper I think it's not sustainable. Firstly, that violence, that wave of violence broke out in August 1990 while I was in detention and I repeat that General Basie Smit told me that you had seen nothing like the violence that's going to hit this country. And I was in detention so I had no access to the news.
POM This is after violent incidents took place? After the violence broke out he came to you and said?
MM No, no, before the violence broke out.
POM Before it broke out?
MM I'm talking about 6 August, I was detained on 25 July and between 25 July and 6 August Basie Smit tells me this because he has found in my briefcase our negotiating position for 6 August in Pretoria where our delegation was going to go and announce that it is unilaterally suspending the armed struggle. Basie Smit believed that by having pre-empted that, by getting foreknowledge of it, the strategic moment had arrived for them to unleash this violence. They were planning it. The evidence as it kept coming out was of at ABSA Bank, the head of security at ABSA was supplying arms for the train violence. You will find it in the newspapers of 1992/93/94. So there was the train violence, the township violence. The IFP was clearly the political vehicle mobilising that violence. Was it IFP as a formal decision? I don't know but certainly key IFP people who subsequently were revealed to have been military intelligence agents, like this chap who died who was an MP
POM Themba Khoza.
MM Themba Khoza, who was involved also in the hostel violence, who received arms from the security forces, the Eugene de Kock's and others.
POM He was working for the security forces and he was working for the IFP.
MM And he was a leader of the IFP but he was military intelligence earlier. Now these chaps were running that violence. De Klerk, where did he stand? Politically he believed that his counterweight in the negotiations was an alliance with the IFP and convergence of an agenda which said a federation of states and a neutralisation of the power of the ANC, that political agenda, because De Klerk couldn't deal with the ANC alone because the ANC's constituency was in the black community, and De Klerk could not put a foot into that constituency. For him tacitly to let the IFP play the role of stealing away the ANC's constituency was part of the political agenda. It suited him.
So, it is in this framework that that violence breaks out. De Klerk had to close down but acknowledge that the people who were trained in Caprivi, the IFP people who were trained by the SADF and returned and put into the police forces of the KwaZulu Police remember the Mail & Guardian exposure? That's an event of 1992/91. That was when that training took place. Now De Klerk may say he did not know of the specific acts of collaboration of that violence but I am saying that the political agenda was still the same. The effect which your commentator is talking about was, yes, there was a drift in the white community who distrusted De Klerk's just agreeing to talk, to become stronger and stronger because they were attacking De Klerk for saying, "You are agreeing to negotiate", and they were moving towards a more right wing position of Afrikaner power.
It is that process that certainly weakened De Klerk but it is where he pulled out one more of his rabbits. You know De Klerk had acquired the image of a President who pulls rabbits from a hat? He pulled February 2nd, well the next major rabbit and the last one was the white referendum where he triumphed and he treated that as full licence, but towards us at the World Trade Centre his team began to behave super confident because he thought he had regained that.
POM He had eliminated the threat of the right and now was a free agent.
MM In the meantime the violence that's going on, it had been damaging but now he says, "I've got past that hurdle in my constituency." So the referendum made him feel over-confident. I suspect your commentator was John Mavuso.
POM No. I'll tell you who it was. John Mavuso is who?
MM A member of the NP, former ANC, former IFP.
POM No I'll tell you who it was, it was Aggrey Klaaste.
MM Oh I see. OK. Aggrey. Aggrey's background was sympathetic to the PAC from 1960, then moving around, floating, but his deepest sympathies lay with that PAC Africanist tendency. Aggrey is into the concept, he's gone into the Sowetan by the way.
POM He was editor when I interviewed him.
MM And he's come out with a nation building concept which ostensibly has no political agenda. Nation building, Sowetan sorry. Aggrey has gone through the eighties on the ground having seen the rise of vigilantism around the issue of AZAPO and the Charterists. But at that stage he had no basis to support our viewpoint that the vigilantes that started in the mid-eighties were actually sponsored by the security forces, because there was a Reverend who surfaced in Port Elizabeth who was an enemy agent, Reverend Maquina. He was at the start of that vigilantism so the hand of the security forces was there. The idea of a third force, behind the so-called black on black violence, had been raised already in the late eighties. It was not a phenomenon raised in the nineties. The third force concept was raised already as a possibility in much of the political discussion around what was happening in this country both from exile point of view and internal point of view, the UDF as a problem. And the third force definition was that this is a force outside of the existing security forces of the state but supported by the security forces, but with a black front, with black foot soldiers. So Aggrey has not yet bought into that understanding.
POM Well this is, as I said, in 1990.
MM Yes well it's the background of the eighties that's influencing him. He is not yet convinced that there is a third force. What he sees is the violence between black and black, AZAPO versus ANC, and now when it comes out as the hostels and the train violence he still does not see the state behind it and that's what colours his analysis. That's how I see his statement.
Why I guessed that it's Mavuso is that Mavuso had been in the ANC in the sixties. After 1964 and a period of silence he went into business. He had spoken in detention. Then he moved, surfaced in the seventies in the IFP and became a leader of the IFP and then by the eighties when the provinces are re-structured by the Nats he's made a Provincial Executive Member of the NP in the Transvaal and from there he moves into the NP division. But he is a person who lived through those three changes in a way where we never stood up to fight him and criticise him and attack him. We realised he was a spent force so even when I went into parliament in 1994 John Mavuso was the NP representative in the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and he had the deepest respect for me because I had never exposed him. I knew that he was a member of the Communist Party in 1964 when I was arrested, as well as of the ANC leadership. I never raised it. I always said in the Transport Portfolio Committee, "Here is the law that I want, this is the reason for it and this is what have you. Let's debate." And he would always end up by saying, "I agree with you."
POM We're at influencing enemies and making friends.
MM He always said - he stood up and made speeches which embarrassed the NP.
POM That would embarrass the NP?
MM Yes. When my farewell took place in parliament and I made my farewell speech over one of my transport bills, John Mavuso spoke on behalf of the NP and paid tribute to me. Some of the enemies plant a kiss of death on me but what's the problem? I can't stop them from kissing me.
POM Vula, and I will leave you alone today after this because I know I've taken up your time. You've got to earn a living, right? I can leave it to the next time.
MM A few minutes.
POM It was just going to be on how was the existence of Vula communicated to Mandela when he was in Victor Verster?
MM The existence of Vula at Victor Verster did not have to be divulged to him as a specific operation. What was divulged to him is that I was living in the country as part of the underground. Sufficient.
POM So he didn't know that an operation called Vula existed?
MM He becomes aware that I am heading an operation, it's still not named Vula, when I meet him in the underground after his release because I then give him a briefing. I tell him what I'm doing in the country and we agree, continue with your work. Then the committee of the leaders from Robben Island, who were now all free, and the underground represented by me and Joe Slovo and Alfred Nzo, Madiba, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki would meet clandestinely in Jo'burg to discuss not the details of what we are doing in the underground but what is the strategic perspective of the underground's action, what role should it be playing? And I would then take that matter into the underground structures. It was not called Vula but I am representing the underground formations and I am invited there to those meetings together with Joe Slovo and Alfred Nzo because OR was now ill and I am the one that's talking from the ground. That is how it was agreed that when the ANC has its National Executive meeting in June I would return legally to the country and I would be put into the Organising Committee of the NEC to give me space to do my underground work and to create that relationship between the overt structures of the ANC that were being created and the covert structures.
POM OK, we'll hold it there.