This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
08 Jan 2002: Maharaj, Mac
POM. Mac's comments on what Laloo Chiba said.
MM. The first person who was cross-examining him was the advocate for Dave Kitson. Kitson had chosen to go and have his own defence.
POM. That's Zwarenstein.
MM. Zwarenstein. And Zwarenstein in the rankings amongst advocates was more senior than George Bizos at the time and Zwarenstein had quite a reputation behind him, so he was like a senior advocate and George Bizos was still a relatively junior advocate. Zwarenstein got up to cross-examine Lionel Gay on the evidence that the state had led through Lionel Gay. Now that evidence was straightforward dealing with all the things that were in our charges, that we made radio training devices.
POM. The issue of an execution squad wasn't in it?
MM. Wasn't in his evidence, but Zwarenstein when he began to question, cross-examine Lionel Gay and Lionel Gay appeared to be getting to a point where Zwarenstein is cornering him on the accuracy of what he has said, Gay had this technique of slipping out of that potential noose by releasing an irrelevant bit of information, not part of his main testimony, and the rules of law procedure
POM. You must only cross-examine on
MM. You're cross-examining on what he said and he's responding on that. So they would throw in something new and one of the big new things that it threw in was, oh yes, we set up an execution squad, in answering a different question. So Zwarenstein tried to say, "Wait a minute, stick to my question, answer my question", and the Judge said, "No, Mr Zwarenstein, let him go on." So in that situation Zwarenstein just sat down because he realised that with a judge taking this stance we were being opened up to new things.
POM. So all Chiba is saying is that the issue of a squad had been
MM. It had been tabled as an issue.
POM. But it had not been -
MM. So what I am saying in terms of the memory, we then as the accused had to discuss how we manage this problem and the problem had been made worse because at the early stages of planning our defence as the state evidence was going down the line, we thought we would put one or other or more of us into the witness box.
POM. We've covered this.
MM. We said we'd like to put Kitson
POM. Then he said?
MM. He said, "Oh yes."
POM. His statement was that he blew up.
MM. Yes, he put in the execution squad. Wilton Mkwayi, amongst us, said, "To hell with you guys. Nothing like that happened", and he did not want it even discussed because the danger arose
POM. Now he had the same, by the way, intensity and passion when I talked to him in Kingwilliamstown. It was the first time he had kind of because he never got out of his seat because of his walking problem, but this thing jarred him to, "Never under my command would there havebeen an execution squad."I had to go through the words but at the same time he didn't close the door to the possibility that it may have been discussed. What he was, I think, saying to me was that if it had come to a decision, "Never when I was in High Command would I have allowed it." You know what I mean?
MM. Yes, that's the mindset of the problem we were faced with because I have no doubt that if the situation arose where we politically discussed the necessity to hit back that Wilton would do it, make no mistake. And the problem was compounded because in the Rivonia trial one of the bits of evidence that had cropped up from the state was that they produced a copy of a leaflet that we issued shortly after the arrests of the Rivonia trialists. That leaflet had been approved by the Propaganda Committee but the leaflet was headed, "We will not submit, we will fight back an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Our leaders have been arrested and we're going to go on. Now that was issued from the political side. The state when they bring the Rivonia people to trial they say, here, this also establishes that you say you were involved in just sabotage. No, here is a leaflet which says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
POM. Now who wrote that?
MM. It was drafted by Ruth First.
POM. I see.
MM. And it was brought to the Propaganda Committee. We passed it and my section had to print it and we distributed it countrywide. Now the Rivonia trialists, when we realised this was cropping up, endangering the accused, we reiterated our position politically guiding MK that, guys, no operations, not even acts of sabotage. You can carry on preparing but please we are monitoring the effect of the trial and we do not want the people on trial to be put into greater jeopardy than they are already. So we put a moratorium on actions.
POM. This is really the SACP doing this?
MM. No, and the ANC because chaps like Michael Dingake and Wilton were serving also on the ANC Secretariat.
MM. And we had commonly agreed that politically it was not advisable. Now MK is regrouping, the High Command is being reconstituted, Wilton is gathering the forces again together and he's building the capacity and in the meantime up pops another thing, some of our comrades are giving evidence in the Rivonia trial and in various other trials. What do you do about them? So in this environment the issue crops up in MK and High Command, should we not also set up an Execution Committee? Now you don't discuss in MK by saying, now chaps, this item is a political decision, it has got to go to higher.What would Wilton do? What would Laloo Chiba do? They wouldn't say in their minds consciously that we've got to take it to the ANC, we've got to take it to the SACP, but Wilton would say, now this matter I think is premature, but Wilton does not want to agree because of the mindset of the position he took then. It's blocked out, he doesn't want to even say I said shelve this thing, its premature. Because in his mind if we were ever trapped in our trial to say it's premature then you're open to the next question, that when it became mature would you do it? So in his very simple, straight position he has still got this position that he took that time. He said to us, to Kitson, "You say that and I'm going to stand up and contradict you." And the lawyers were baffled because we didn't want to discuss openly in front of the lawyers because you don't make the lawyers privy to some decision that may make it difficult for them. Baffled, what's this? Wilton says, "Listen, I'm telling you, there was nothing like this. I don't want to entertain even talking." So that's why there is this memory gap.
. But Laloo is accurate, that obviously somebody raised the matter in the ad hoc High Command. No decision was taken. It is open to meaning and certainly that would be our mindset that we're not going to decide on this yet. Maybe it can come up some other time so there is no need for a decision which says reject it, because reject it begins to take on a different flavour if you want to reopen it. So that's why the discrepancies.
POM. Laloo has recalled it being in Kitson's statement. He did not recall a row among you and he does not recall Bizos coming and saying, "Listen guys", after you decided to put nobody in the box, Bizos coming and saying, "The state has a 113 page confession or statement from one of you and we're treading on dangerous ground here." Now, why should I go to George Bizos, why do you all say go to George?
MM. You see the point is that your interaction with Counsel was less extensive than your interaction with the instructing Attorney. The Attorney, he never spoke in court but the Attorney was a key liaison in preparing your cases and that included preparing the statements of the accused. All that leg work and paper work is the Attorney's job. In my mind this issue had cropped up, the Prosecutor was the Attorney-General or the Deputy A-G, Masters. Masters was not a flamboyant person like Yutar, he was a fairly methodical, non-flamboyant person, and he was caught. He was of English background so he was always regarded in the legal fraternity as a possible provincial Attorney-General. So in our assessment, not an assessment where we would have sat down remember we were all kept first in separate little cells and we wouldn't be sitting and discussing intensely all these aspects. Often some of these things would be handled on a one-to-one basis and this question was brought, as far as I remember, right in the courtroom during a break where Bizos came over and we were five sitting in the dock and he certainly came over to me as a regular conduit for discussion, whether he came or Joel came, I suspect it was Bizos who when Masters sensed that we were not going into the box, obviously Masters had prepared himself to really now have a great session that who gets into the box from us is he prepared for any eventuality?
. They had now had the experience of the Rivonia trial where Yutar had prepared himself that Accused Number 1, Mandela, would be going into the box, and it was kept a secret and the day the court met and it was the turn of the accused to take their stance, Mandela was called by the defence, he walks into the box, Yutar is itching and when he walks into the box the defence counsel addressed the court and says his client is going to make a statement from the dock. Now that's non cross-examinable. A statement from the dock is not a matter that you can cross-examine. Yes, it has serious implications for the accused because it says, why are you making this statement and you're not prepared to be questioned. It means, what is the value of the credibility of what you're going to say? It cannot be tested. Yutar was so disappointed, almost apoplectic, he stood up and he addressed the court saying, "My Lord, does this accused understand the implications of his statement that it's going to harm him, that his refusal to go under cross-examination is going to make his statement meaningless?" The judge intervened, of course the two counsels were now on their feet, the judge intervened and said to Yutar, "But Mr Yutar, I am sure the accused has been briefed by his counsel about the implications of the stand he's taking." Yutar was apoplectic. Now that was on record.
. Now Masters is sitting with this, briefed by the Security Police who want a political show plus effective prosecution, and he says, "Ah, I'm going to have a great time." But when he picks up that none of us are likely to go into the box he indicates to Bizos that he's very unhappy with that position, that in fact he has a statement I remember in my mind 113 pages. Now when Bizos came and mentioned this, he was happy with the position because when the A-G and the prosecutor is disturbed, don't bother because he's disturbed that he thought he was going to strengthen his case.
POM. But in fact by none of you going into the box he couldn't introduce the 113 page statement.
MM. And that is the problem that I had. So my memory on this one is clear because that led to another debate because nobody amongst the accused when we were charged the first briefing from the attorney, Joel Joffe, when they came to see us after the courtroom, because they didn't get access to us until we were produced in court, so then they made an appointment to come and see us to prepare the case, the case has been remanded and now to come and see us. The first thing in the first session was can each of you prepare a statement of what happened to you? Right, so we're briefing for the lawyers. I was co-ordinating that. Nothing emerged to indicate that any one of the five had broken down or co-operated in detention but when this David Kitson preparation of maybe he'll go into the box threw up issues like the execution squad we began to worry as to what type of evidence, even if we polished it up, what would happen under cross-examination. So we said, "No, too risky to put Kitson in the box."
POM. You decided that among yourselves?
MM. And in consultation with Joel.
MM. Then the question came up, but at least shouldn't we consider putting one of us in the box? So we toyed around, should it be Wilton, should it be Chiba, should it be me, should it be John Matthews? And in the end we said, no, wait a minute, if you go there and take the oath then you are under a different pressure, you have to answer questions honestly and to simply say, when Joel was doing a dress rehearsal with me in case I go in the box, he'd say, "Now, did you attend a meeting at this place at this time?" "Yes." "Was this a meeting of the Communist Party?" "I'm not prepared to answer that question." He says, "No, you have to answer the question." I said, "No, I'm not prepared to answer that question." Then he says, "Was Piet Beyleveld present?" "Yes." "Can you tell me who else was present?" "I'm not prepared to answer that question." So he says, "But you've answered that Piet Beyleveld was present. Why are you not prepared to say who else was present?" I said, "I'm not prepared to give the information that you don't know." He says, "Look, you're a hostile witness, you're not co-operating with the court." So we say, no, wait a minute Joel, we are prepared to confirm where something really happened and the state already knows it but we are not prepared to voluntarily give information against our colleagues. We say that is how Walter handled his cross-examination, that is how Kathrada handled his cross-examination, but he says, "That was handled by them but remember one thing, that it counted against them and it is fortunate that the Rivonia trial judge was not unfavourably disposed because of that answer, but don't think this judge is going behave like that. He's going to hold it against you and one of the worst things is when the judge dismisses your evidence as dishonest evidence." So he said, "In that case, forget about it. Agreed, nobody is going to go in the box." But when this thing crops up I get angry.
POM. We've gone through this, and you wanted to go in.
MM. And I say not to all five, it couldn't be to all give, it would have been either to Wilton or to Laloo Chiba or to George Bizos, that, "You know I'd rather one of us go in the box so that this statement comes out and we know who's made this statement and we get the statement, because to me it's more important that we should know and the rest of the organisation should know what has been divulged so that they can take precautions, than what sentence I'm going to get." But George Bizos or Joel or both were clear, "Listen, you are going to walk into a trap. This desire to find out who's made that statement and what is in the statement is a petty agenda, a small agenda, you've got a bigger problem, you've got to save yourselves from the rope." So it was passed and it was not a matter that was of long debate. It was quick and I am clear that if George brought it my reaction, George dismissed it straight away.
. And we had had a parallel message brought by either George or Joel because Bram Fischer's group was under trial and Bram used to come in to the courtroom but never tried to speak to us accused because he was accused in one courtroom.
POM. He was one of the accused or he was defending somebody?
MM. He was defending and he was an accused, because he got bail to go to UK.
POM. I thought that that was at his trial, that that was later when you were at
MM. No, it was in that trial. He was one of the accused and the defence person I think. But because the defence were having difficulty arguing with us they clearly were briefing Bram and Bram then conveyed a message to say tell the comrades as the accused, this is not the time for heroics. It's important for the movement that you will be quiet, less fanfare, no drama, try and minimise your sentences, this is a long struggle. Our leaders in the Rivonia trial have made the political statement, you don't have to repeat it. And that was necessary because there was a fear in their minds that we want to just emulate the Rivonia leaders' stand. So that was the point.
POM. Sure, the great speech you were going to give, we will live forever in history.
MM. There was going to be a great speech, it would have been a copy of one of the other speeches.
POM. George Bizos, why do you say you've never thrown up his name as somebody I should I should just check with?
MM. Well the only reason why I've thrown up Joel is Joel wrote that book on the Rivonia trial and I thought his memory would be the sharpest. But I think George Bizos is as much competent because he's been writing books now, he wrote that one on his courtroom experiences and I think he's busy with his autobiography at the moment. So, no, sure.
POM. I mean I'll check with both.
MM. Yes, I think you should check with both, check with both.
POM. Is he listed, George?
MM. Yes, George Bizos is at the Legal Resources Centre. In fact I'm due to see him one of these days. Mind you, he's very accessible.
POM. OK, that little section goes in the trial section.This is on he said a man Patrick Ntembu also, did you know him?
MM. Yes. Patrick Ntembu was in the group of six that went to China. Patrick Ntembu, personally I didn't meet him in any structure and when he came back, the Rivonia arrests, he gave evidence under a hidden identity, I think he was called a Mr Y or something, but we all knew that it was Patrick who was speaking. In the Rivonia trial Patrick was pretty good, he did not incriminate his colleagues.
POM. Was he a state witness there too?
MM. He was a state witness, from detention he was taken. Now he gave, I can't remember the details of it, what I remember overwhelmingly is that he gave fairly innocuous evidence.
POM. At Rivonia?
MM. At Rivonia. I think he simply said that he was not present and he had to account, where were you, and he said he was in Botswana. What was he doing in Botswana? Some private thing. He never indicated that he had gone for military training, so that was good. When he came into our case he gave a little more information.
POM. Now would he have been in the High Command as one of the Chinese six?
MM. In the Rivonia time
POM. No, not Rivonia, but for the second trial.
MM. No, by that time he had given evidence in the Rivonia case, he was in detention.
POM. OK, sure.
MM. And we know that there's a problem with Patrick. All we didn't know was, has he really, completely broken down or has he broken down partially? My own judgement is that when he came to our case it indicated that each time the police went back to him and showed that they knew something more than what he had previously told them, he would then concede the new information and reveal that. In our case he revealed little more than what he had revealed in Rivonia but in his revelations interestingly he identified Wilton as being in MK, but I think he refused to identify Laloo Chiba whom he knew pre-Rivonia from the Regional Command. He just refused. I think it was him, he was told, "Look at the accused. Is there anybody else you recognise? Look at that one (I think it was Laloo Chiba), wasn't he there? Wasn't he in the group?" And Patrick says, "There was a person, no, but he was a white man." Laloo is fairly light skinned. "It was a white man." "Not that one?" "No." So there was this drama of his revealing incriminating things and then protecting a person and it reinforced in my view that his breakdown was going through stage by stage.
POM. So many people on a more general level who broke down, it would be what you might call partial breakdowns and they got a grip on themselves that they wouldn't reveal any more than they had revealed and some in the least damaging way. You're saying that the police come back to them and say, "We have found something else", and then they confirm it.
MM. Yes, and the police threaten him and, "Now tell us your story again", and he tells it now incorporating what he thinks they know and slowly you break down completely. I think, in my view that's what happened to Patrick, because if in the Rivonia trial he had divulged that he was in the China group it would have featured as a significant bit of information, that before the arrests they were sending people for full scale military training and not just sabotage.
. The Rivonia defence was we had not closed our minds to a further development of the struggle from sabotage to armed struggle but until our arrest we were sticking to sabotage, hoping that through the sabotage the regime would come to its senses but the signs were there that it was not responding and, yes, we were discussing Operation Mayibuye but we had not taken a decision on it and that became a similar bone of contention amongst the Rivonia accused with Walter saying it was not adopted and Govan saying it was adopted. This is where Yutar slipped up because when he had Walter in the box he failed to ask Walter the question, "Did you people discuss Operation Mayibuye? Did you all decide on it?" Had he asked this question under vigorous cross-examination of Walter and of Govan we don't know what the answers would have been because Govan, until his release and even after his release, kept saying it was agreed.
MM. By the High Command.
POM. The Operation Mayibuye was what was Operation Mayibuye? I've slipped up.
MM. Operation Mayibuye was the centrepiece of the Rivonia trial, a document outlining a whole plan to train hundreds of cadres, bring them in by parachute, by sea, etc., and that there would be a huge uprising, that they would lead as trained officers and that it would grow into a huge army and rapidly lead to an overthrow of the SA state with the co-operation of training by the Soviet Union, etc., and China.
POM. So Operation Mayibuye in reality was a total pipe dream.
MM. Mayibuye by all understandings was a very hare-brained scheme. If it was a document that Yutar could establish was accepted by the High Command the charge would havebecome very much different. The avoidance of the death sentence may have been impossible.
POM. Was there any discussion afterwards why he he had the document, right?
MM. The document was captured at Rivonia.
POM. And he failed to question anybody about it?
MM. He got caught up in his histrionics against Walter, trying to prove that Walter was an uneducated buffoon and he took on Walter on the political terrain and Walter just surged. For Walter's cross-examination which lasted, I think, five days, you can read it in Joel's book, they even isolated him from his colleagues, he had no contact for the five days. When it was night time they locked him up alone, lunch time they made him eat alone, they wouldn't let him meet his co-accused. Yutar thought that this person with Standard 4, Standard 6 education, this person whose tie is skew, whose jacket is hanging on him, was a pushover, and he made the mistake of cross-examining Walter on the politics of the country rather than on the technical aspects of the charge and he never asked him the question on Mayibuye. So much so that the difference between Walter and Govan over the status of Operation Mayibuye, was it a document adopted or was it a document under discussion? Walter saying it's under discussion, Govan saying it was adopted, that difference of opinion went through prison and it was only at Govan's death that Walter makes the statement that, "I had my differences, they were bitter differences, but I long ago made my peace with Govan and he has died with us being friends." That was Walter's way of saying, guys you will hear that there were very bitter differences but don't think that those differences ever, in spite of the bitterness, broke our friendship.
POM. Did Govan go into the box?
MM. Govan went into the box, he was never cross-examined. I was saying about Operation Mayibuye, that was the difference that arose. In relation to our case then I'm saying this difference of Operation Mayibuye is very much like the difference over the execution squad with the variation that Wilton, total blockage, not even discussed, Laloo Chiba more accurate, it was raised, was not decided upon and Lionel Gay throwing this thing vicariously into the courtroom and saying it was decided. I wouldn't be surprised that it arose in the High Command in the framework that the Patrick Ntembu's, who had been a member of the previous High Command, were co-operating with the state. What do you do about that?
POM. Collaborators in any struggle would be taken as obvious targets to be taken out. That would be a good incentive not to be a collaborator.
MM. That's the environment in which somebody would say, in the High Command, I think we'd better set up an execution squad for these guys, but it was not decided upon. That's for sure.
POM. Of course giving it the name an 'execution squad' is more ominous than if you said, well we had discussed a policy that perhaps collaborators with the regime, maybe we should hit which is a different thing altogether.
MM. Or we discussed one particular individual who had sold out. The way Gay threw it, it distinguished the charge between the Rivonia accused and our charge because it said to the court the Rivonia people were sentenced to life because they were only engaged in blowing up buildings, avoiding loss of life here deliberately, we were going to kill people. On that basis the court has open hand, now I can say death sentence. And that's why I say Lionel Gay was vicious.
POM. This is fascinating in the sense that here Wilton says, "Well Lionel really said nothing and we're friends. He comes and he visits us here whenever he's in SA."
MM. Lionel Gay, I think I told you
POM. He was the one who came to you in 1994.
MM. I told you that I had this big clash with Joe in Moscow before, it was a Central Committee meeting somewhere around 1984 when outside the meeting one day in one of the tea breaks or so Joe and Dr Dadoo come to me and say, "Mac, Joe wants to draw in Lionel Gay into MK." We were having problems with the detonation device for the car bomb which Special Operations under Joe was beginning to conduct and I think it was after the Church Street bomb when was Church Street? 1983/84? Well the particular problem that arose with the Church Street bomb is that it went off prematurely. It was a remote controlled radio detonation device and that went off prematurely and the comrade who was in the car also died. So we were looking into what went wrong and as I recall the problem was that when you transmit by radio frequency you must be very careful what frequencies you're using because it could converge with other frequencies that could trigger it off. So eventually we resolved the problem, Rashid would know better about this, but we resolved the problem that the actual trigger would have to be a series of signals one after the other and it was the sequence of the signals if correctly done that would finally trigger it. Now that problem technically meant that the person operating it had to press each button in the right sequence and it became several buttons. Now I believe eventually we solved the problem where with one trigger action it would activate the series of signals which taken together in the right order would become the trigger.
. But that was a technical problem to be resolved and Gay had this electronic background. Gay, I think it was in Swansea or Cardiff, had begun to be involved in the Anti-Apartheid Movement and had begun to send books to the Morogoro Solomon Mahlangu School and in this environment Joe Slovo thought that Gay had skills and Gay might have approached him. So Dadoo said, "Well let's ask Mac, he knows Lionel Gay." So they came to me and put this problem and I reacted very, very sharply. I said, "No ways. This is a man you people don't know." Yes, while we were on trial and after our trial the movement helped him to escape. He was due to give evidence in the trial against Nanda Naidoo who is living in Bournemouth now, who was individually charged, but in between our trial and Nanda's trial the movement helped Lionel Gay to escape to Botswana and helped him from Botswana to get to the UK. I believe that he went around, never divulging that he had been state witness, he only divulged that he was in danger of being summoned to be state witness in the Nanda case. So I said to them, "You people, aren't you aware what evidence he gave against us? How he tried to put the rope around - "
POM. Now would he have appeared as Witness X?
MM. Yes, no real name.
POM. No real name, OK. So in a sense if they hadn't followed the trial or cross-checked they wouldn't know who he was.
MM. They wouldn't know what he had done. They would know that he was in the Rivonia group, he was involved in development of the radio before the Rivonia group, etc., and highly skilled, but the picture he had given them that he fled the country with our help because the state wanted to call him as witness, but he didn't say I gave evidence and I was vicious. So I say to them, "Don't you know this?" And I'm assuming that they know this. Joe tries to dismiss that past because in his mind Gay has never given evidence and if he gave evidence it's not been serious evidence because here I am out after 12 years. Joe says, "But he's got skills." I say, "To hell with you, you take that sell-out and I leave. It's as simple as that, Doc", because Doc was chairman of the party. I said, "Doc, that's straight from me. You people take him, I'm out because I will not agree to this thing. That man tried to put the rope against us."
. Now as far as I know the matter closed, "Joe, you can't take Lionel Gay." Comes 1994, we're in government, I'm Minister of Transport and I get a call. "I'm in Cape Town, Lionel Gay, can I come and see you?" I said, "Sure, come and see me. You're welcome." So he comes to see me in my office, we greet each other and out of politeness, "How's life?" OK. He's a lecturer in physics or whatever, in electronics in Cardiff or Swansea University. Good. "Mac, I've been helping with Solomon Mahlangu School." Good. "You know I'm surprised", he says to me, "That you readily agreed to see me." So I said, "Why should I not see you. Ifyou want to see me I'll see you." He said, "Well I'd like to do things to help the country." I said, "Not my province. There there's little I can do but your desire to help the country, if there's a place where you can help the country and you do it, good for you." So we parted on that basis.
. But I presume he did the same thing with others. I don't know if Laloo Chiba says he tried to see Laloo? Well, that's interesting. He saw Wilton and Wilton met him and then he came a second time, third time, telling him, "I've been in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, sorry I had to give evidence", and they have continued to see each other but he never came back to me.
POM. The impression, and this was kind of being I think what Wilton was saying was that he knew a lot more than he gave and he was judging him in those terms. Now what he knew I don't know but that was kind of the framework in which Wilton there was an awful lot more he could have said that he didn't.
MM. Yes, yes and no. Don't judge what a person says in the box as state witness as a totality of what he's told the police. The prosecutor distils from masses of documents that portion of the evidence that he wants to use for his case, unlike Yutar who wants to use anything and everything whether it's significant to getting a conviction or not. In our case we were not denying that the High Command had been reconstituted by Wilton. We were not denying the substance of all the acts of sabotage, did we carry each one out? No, we just said, yes were carrying out sabotage. Which ones? Can't be bothered to go into that. So our defence was not to challenge that sort of thing and therefore unnecessary for Masters to lead intensive evidence on those aspects. Having laid the scene it was not necessary from our side. But in Wilton's memory, after so many years I can understand him just saying, "It's past. We're working with the heads of the Security Branch who also interrogated Lionel Gay, so forget it, it's over." It becomes insignificant to hold any grudge.
. And yet if you ask Wilton another one, it would be very interesting, if you asked Wilton the name Kholisile Mdwayi, now Kholisile Mdwayi gave evidence in our case. He was from PE/East London and he gave vicious evidence against Mkwayi but palpably untrue evidence. For example he said he met Wilton, that Wilton divulged to him that Wilton had trained in China and he explained what he understood by this training. Now the courtroom had a high ceiling, Kholisile says in this courtroom, he says, "Yes, this man has trained in China." "How do you know?" "He told me when he came to PE and do you know, he is so highly trained that this wall here, he can walk up it." That's how patently unbelievable his story was. But was Wilton angry with Kholisile? He was livid.
POM. He knew this man?
MM. Yes he knew the man. And I am saying that because they were close, I think if you ask Wilton about Kholisile you will find Wilton's memory suddenly he will talk about him as a terrible person.
POM. They talked about another person, Hope? He was a member of the Central Committee I think.
MM. Bartholomew Hlopane.
POM. That could be it. Bartholomew, that's the guy.
MM. We used to call him Bart. What did he say about Hlopane?
POM. He says that he was a person who was going round the country saying all kinds of things about MK and what MK was doing.
MM. Simple, because Bartholomew in the early eighties went to the US, called by Senator Denton on what was called the Denton Enquiries. Senator Denton was an ultra right winger who held a series of enquiries in the US Congress, called witnesses to show that the ANC was a terrorist organisation and a communist organisation. That was his way to try and fend off the pressure that was coming on the States to support the liberation struggle in SA and take an anti-apartheid stance. Bartholomew Hlopane was flown to the US as a star witness and it was widely publicised in the media in SA that Hlopane has given evidence. He says he was a member of the Central Committee, the Central Committee controlled MK, etc., etc., and naming people who were communists. He even said, I think, that Madiba and Walter were communists. Now indeed he was a member of the Central Committee and in Wilton's mind of all the bits of news filtering in Bartholomew would stand out as the most vicious bastard. But the historical record is that, and yes he went from trial after trial giving evidence.
MM. Oh yes, he became the state's show witness. So all this news would have been getting through to prison but in the eighties Patrick Ntembu was killed and some time after that
POM. Was killed?
MM. By MK, and some time after that Hlopane was also killed.
POM. By MK?
MM. By MK.
POM. So the execution squad eventually caught up.
MM. Sure, several people were killed like that by MK. So was Ambrose Makiwane. So Wilton's memory of Hlopane would be very, very clear. This was a terrible person. He turned his back on the struggle and worked for the enemy. But the verification in his mind was because the media so publicised Hlopane's evidence at the Denton Enquiry in the States, it was over the wires around the world and you know, shit, he may have given evidence in this case and that case as Mr X and Mr Y, but Jesus Christ, you go to the US and you give evidence and it's over the wires around the world and front page news, that's it.
POM. And the guy comes back to SA?
MM. Comes back to SA, carries on working for the SA government and obviously now being given money by Senator Denton and them, he's been feted all over and the next thing
POM. But he must know he signed his own death warrant, no?
MM. Oh he must have been living in the world that he's well protected and the struggle is a lost cause.
POM. You raised a point there. Did MK ever make contact with the IRA because the IRA were so proficient at making timers, they were particularly good at timers.
MM. Oh yes they helped us with that and as far as I remember, I don't have first hand evidence, Rashid would know better, but yes, the IRA relationship was developed. Yes, I believe they helped us with the radio detonation device and there was a stage where the IRA also made some of their members available to come and give instruction to our cadres in their training.
POM. Because they had timers down to an art form. There was one I remember in the late eighties, the British used to take the troops out for breaks and there was a bus they got on at Belfast Airport, a group of about 25 - 30 guys, and they were on a bus back to their camp, late at night, just an ordinary country road
MM. I remember that. Remote country road.
POM. And at one point the whole bus went. Perfect.
MM. I did not meet the IRA in that context but I know that efforts to collaborate, to access some of the skills in the IRA up to the point of using some of them as instructors in the early stages of our training post-Soweto did take place for a short period and then the contact was retained if it needed that necessary co-operation, just as the Ulster people were getting co-operation from the SA security forces.
POM. The Ulster people would be the police or the - ?
MM. The Unionist forces. The Unionist armed groups were receiving assistance from the SA security forces even to the point of getting arms for them.
POM. They got very lousy training. The Unionists were never like we'll go down in the history books as being one of the most proficient.
MM. Proficient and even honourable, because I think that the descent of the different factions in that side seemed to very easily get caught up in straightforward criminality and the drug trade. A very tempting thing to get into either drugs to raise funds or in Africa, Angola, illicit diamonds, Sierra Leone.
POM. Northern Ireland was all drugs.
MM. And Afghanistan.
POM. And protection rackets.
MM. And Afghanistan was drugs, drug trafficking. Angola, Sierra Leone, illicit diamonds was a big thing.
POM. OK. That's that additional perspective.
MM. Hlopane and Patrick Ntembu would have been killed by MK in the eighties.
POM. This is just jumping. One last thing and this relates to Robben Island when he was going through the keys and all of that. That's fine. But the question
MM. Oh that one, Laloo made me angry. He phoned me, "Mac, I didn't transcribe the Mandela manuscript. That historical record has got to be corrected." I said, "Who says that?" He said, "Mandela says that and Kathy says that and you implied that. I helped but at that stage I was not in the communications." "Laloo, yes, yes, but I can't remember exactly whether you wrote a page of transcription or not but let's try and recall." "I'm going to correct that record, you know it's very important that it should be corrected."
POM. Yes, because he made a point of saying the history books, books that have been written saying that I did a lot of it, that was all Mac. That's very generous, giving Mac all the credit. Just on Robben Island, what he couldn't recall is how was the radio smuggled in?
MM. The radio was obtained by the late George Naicker from a warder he was part of a group of people in the communal cells who managed to get a warder to supply them with a radio. The first round of the batteries also were supplied by George and company and they smuggled it through from the communal section to our single cells, to me.
POM. Through? Another warder?
MM. Through people smuggling, through people bringing the food, people who would deliver the drums of food. Either people delivering the drums of food or somebody who came in for punishment in the other wing. I think it was more likely through the drums of food. So it was smuggled that way. No, no, it would have been it was too big, it was about that size, so it had to come in, and about that thick, so it had to come in.
POM. Was it a transistor radio?
MM. Transistor radio, battery operated.
POM. Now how did you get batteries re-supplied?
MM. Re-supplies, warders, and I think it's about the time, 1971, I forget the name of the guy, there was a warder, Arthur he had an English surname, Afrikaner background but English surname and he tried to distinguish himself from the others by his English surname, I befriended him and he would have been one of the warders that stands out in my mind as the possible conduit for batteries, without knowing that the batteries were necessarily for a radio.
POM. We had talked about communication with the outside but what we hadn't talked about, and what Laloo talked about, was the message you devised for communication with the inside. Among the things he referred to was your building false bottoms in matchboxes, putting a hole in a tennis ball and throwing it over the wall and on shoes taking out the stitching in shoes.
MM. Yes, the stitching here. Usually the prison shoes had a leather strap like that which was stitched and it had this spine and Laloo would un-stitch these things, slip in the piece of paper and re-stitch it.
POM. He said you did it. Laloo wants to dissociate himself from everything and put it all onto you!
MM. To re-stitch you had to get the needle in the same hole of the old stitch. Laloo's father was a tailor and his brother-in-law was a tailor and Laloo had worked in the tailor's shop. Laloo is a very meticulous worker. Laloo was the expert in the shoe repair. I was not a sewing master. Laloo is too much of a bloody self-effacing bastard.
POM. OK we can move on to I'm seeing Daso Joseph, that's Paul Joseph's brother.
MM. Yes. He goes as Daso Joseph, he goes as Daso Iyer, in Kathy's books it will be Iyer, and then another surname that he uses is Moonsamy.
POM. That's the one he's using today.
MM. But if you read Kathy's book on Robben Island, Letters from Robben Island, one of Kathy's correspondents was Daso Iyer, that's Daso Moonsamy.
POM. So his connection would arise from?
MM. Daso was an old Indian Congress activist in the tradition of his elder brother Paul and Peter. Peter was the man who picked up two of the escapees from Marshall Square and Daso I was introduced to when I came in in 1962 at two levels, Communist Party and MK.
POM. And you worked with him?
POM. In what regards?
MM. He was living in a house in Ophirton. I frequented his house a lot and at the back of his house in the backyard we managed to hire a place where I initially started one of the printing facilities. It's through his and Paul's contacts that I rented a commercial building where I located the linotype machine. It was through the two brothers that I got access to another family who were running stalls, flower stalls, they were flower dealers and they had a stall right here in Jo'burg outside Rissik Street, there used to be an open area with all sorts of stalls, I forget their name now. Then I think it's through one of the two brothers that I got a facility in Jeppe, again a reliable family.
POM. What did you use the flower stalls for?
MM. Flower stalls, these guys had a lot of access I remember my first meeting with Piet Beyleveld was Piet was well known so I went to the flower stall people, put on one of the jackets that they would be wearing
POM. OK, this when you were getting the sulphuric acid and
MM. No, just to meet Piet Beyleveld who was a public figure, well known, President of Congress of Democrats, not known to be a member of the Central Committee but I had to be in touch with him. I said to him the safest way to have a conversation is you walk over to a flower stall, you'll see me at a certain time, I will be behind the stall selling flowers and you come there to my flowers and chat. The flower stall people also had lots of networks to access places. I'm now thinking was it Paul, was it Daso, was it the flower people who then introduced me to a printing company in Fordsburg, the owners were staunch supporters of the NP, they were running a printing establishment and they were doing printing using the latest offset technology. I had access to
POM. Going back to the printing machine, owned by the Nats, or printed for the Nats?
MM. I had been given through the underground two machines, offset machines from Germany, GDR. I could make plates for the offset machine. To make those offset plates there were in those days two techniques. One was a plate that was an aluminium plate and you could by using a typewriter and special ribbons make that plate, put on text, but by that time technology had reached a point where you could make an offset plate through photographic techniques and that required highly specialised equipment. We didn't have it so Brill Brothers were running this printing establishment in Fordsburg and they had this equipment and they had photographic darkroom facilities.
. So through Daso or Paul and the flower sellers somewhere a link was created where I got myself introduced, oh, it could have been through Isubai Bukari(?) with Royal Printers. But one of my legends was, with the linotype machine, that I was doing setting of type on a job lot basis, you give me a leaflet, you want it set, I'll set it for you and I'll charge you for it and then you, the printer, print it. I'm doing this as a single man operation so that way I would grow seeing all the printers and I got an introduction through these guys, or through the flower sellers or Royal Printers, to Brill Brothers and I cultivated a relationship with them. They would boast how they had trained one of their Indian staff to a fairly important technical position and here they saw this chap trying to make a living with a lot of initiative and slowly I wormed my way to say I'd like to see how the photographic technique is used in litho printing, then I'd like to learn it and they allowed me access. They would allow me to come there when I had time and they would spare the time of one of their staff to teach me how it's done. In that way I got to worm my way and made a duplicate key for the factory so that I could steal in at night.
POM. You'd go in there at night? You were using a printing press that was printing stuff for the NP?
MM. That reminds me then I think Paul introduced me to a Frenchman, Paul or Bukari, introduced me to a Frenchman who had a printing establishment in Jeppe and in the same way this meek, down and out Indian began to do now and again some setting for them for a meagre payment and I got friendly with him and he was prepared to help this poor Indian, black person who was trying to make a living. He said, "OK, we'll teach you how to use this machine and how to use that machine." In that way I used to go around.
. So you are asking Daso, yes?
POM. What are the main issues I should raise with him?
MM. Oh just ask him what were his views, his memory may be better on the details. I used to virtually they used to feed me, Sally used to feel sorry for me, always making me a cup of cocoa.
POM. They knew of your involvement?
MM. We were introduced to each other on the basis that I was in the underground, both in the party and MK. So they were there as a resource and they were a very important resource. We became very close, very, very close.
POM. What happened to him?
MM. When we got arrested he fled the country. Did he go to Zambia first and then on to England and settled down in England to evade arrest.
POM. And that was the end of his involvement?
MM. No, he remained in the ANC in London. He did additional training and became a teacher in the UK to support him and his family, remained in the ANC structures, was active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement. They had two children, the son, the elder, is a doctor. The daughter, I don't know what she's doing now, but they are grandparents now, they are retired. They live modestly.
POM. In Springs?
MM. Uh-uh, they are visiting from London their in-laws, his wife's family. They are both retired and I think he has just been to Vietnam for a holiday. Once a year they go to one or other part of the world on holiday and he's pensioned as a teacher in the UK. She's got her pension. She used to work in one of the banks in the UK, in one of the branches, I don't know in what capacity. Their children are married in the UK.
POM. Did you meet him in 1977 when you were in London?
MM. Yes. Oh yes.
POM. OK. Oh yes, one last story that I asked you about yesterday which you said was a long story and that was the story of how you were able to get the newspapers. When you said it was a story, Mac, you must remember that it may be an old story around here but to an American reader it's an entirely new story, they've never heard it before.
MM. It's also because the episode, I've been told by Madiba, Kathy, with a little different details where I disagree with them on the details. My recollection of it is that a warder, fairly oldish, and it turned out a member of I think Seventh Day Adventists or Jehovah's Witnesses, one night he was on night duty and one night he went along to Kathy with a quiz from an Afrikaans paper. I don't remember if the first one was a quiz or a crossword puzzle. So he comes with this to Kathy, it's after we're locked up at night and he asked Kathy to help. I don't know what was going on in Kathy's mind because certainly Kathy is more competent in Afrikaans than I am. He comes from Schweizer-Renecke where he was speaking Afrikaans but I had only studied Afrikaans in prison up to Standard 6. But Kathy sends him along to me. Now Kathy and I were in the Communications Committee, so he sends him along to me and the old man comes to me and asks me if I can please help him to do this puzzle or quiz for a competition. So I take the newspaper, the page on which this thing appears, that's all he gives me, and I do this quiz for him and give it back to him.
. A few weeks later the old man turns up at my window and he writes on a piece of paper that, look, he's won and what would I like? Would I like something eat? He will bring me perlemoen, which is abalone, home cooked, as his thanks, but he writes it and holds it to the window because he does not want such a conversation to take place in the hearing of other prisoners because to him he's taking a huge risk but he's being generous. So I write a note to him, I say, no thanks, I appreciate it but could he rather do me a favour, bring me a packet of cigarettes. "Oh", he says, and he walks away. He's read the message. He comes back and he brings me the next day a packet of cigarettes.
. In the meantime next day I tell Kathy, I say this is what's happened. So he says, "Why didn't you ask him for the newspaper?" I said, "No, I'm coming to it because I don't want the newspaper once. I think there's a regular supply of newspapers we can get." There may have been a day or two's gap because maybe he offered the food and I didn't accept it but I didn't say no. I consulted Kathy and I consulted Madiba and Walter. Kathy's view was food, dangerous. But when I consulted Walter and Kathy, Walter says, "Take the food." So I said, "No, never." I said, "What will happen one day if I'm caught and my colleagues, fellow prisoners hear that I'm getting food and I'm eating it? I can't do that." So he said, "What do you want to do?" I said, "No, I'm asking for cigarettes." So they start laughing, "Trust you to want cigarettes." I said, "No, no, no, I want the cigarettes because to give me the cigarettes he's got to hold the packet and from his knowledge his fingerprints are there. I don't intend to use it but after the cigarettes my next move is going to be newspaper and if he doesn't co-operate he is aware that I've got his fingerprints on a packet of cigarettes which we are not supposed to have." Walter says, "That's immoral. That's blackmail." I said, "No, guys, I don't intend to blackmail him but I need the threat."
. Anyway, he comes back the following week when he's on duty with the newspaper and he says what has happened is that he has won but he is now short-listed for another round for the main prize and there's another competition. So I say, "OK, bring it here." So when he goes to bring me the page I said to him, "No, bring the whole newspaper." He said, "I'll get into trouble." I said, "Give it to me and I'll give it back to you." So he gave me the whole newspaper, I work out the competition for him, possible answers, I give it to him.
. So I write him a note to say
POM. He goes back and puts up the sign that he's - ?
MM. Yes, we communicate that way. We talk something normal like, "Hello, meneer, how are you?"
POM. He's won again?
MM. No he hasn't won again but I said to him, he's given me a newspaper once which is his newspaper he reads in the office at night, so I say, "Lend me a newspaper." He writes back, "I'll get into trouble." I said, "I'm just going to read the thing and before you go off duty I give it back to you. What's your problem? And you're sitting there at security when inspection is taking place, you know you have to open the door and I'll hide it away." So this way I push him and push him and he began to supply me newspapers. His stint was every fortnight he would work ten consecutive nights and then he would have four days off to go to the mainland and then ten nights. So ten nights per fortnight I would get newspapers from him and I would read the thing and transcribe it and translate it simultaneously, writing very fast and rapidly. Next morning I would give it to Kathy, all those notes. Now to break the link we would then give it to somebody else to transcribe it from my handwriting in the Communications Committee so that it's that handwriting version that would go to a few people to read and then a few days later at work verbally tell the people the news and we ensured that there was a bit of a delay in the news so that people wouldn't see that we were getting today's news today because otherwise they'd start asking, who's getting this thing and how?
. OK, that settled down into a good relationship, the old man used to comfortably give it to me. Then I decided to use the old man to get money from abroad.
POM. This is the £100 you got from ?
MM. The £100, so he brought it in and then I was able to reward him financially. The only difference of opinion again in memory is that somewhere I've seen Kathy say that we had news from this old man from a few months, Madiba for about six months. I say, no, my memory tells me that we had news from this old man which continued for about 18 months because usually warders used to be transferred after six months on our side but that applied to the daytime warders who would take us out to the quarry. But the old man was settled in Cape Town and he managed, because he was waiting for his pension, and he managed to get the prison authorities not to transfer him and he stayed on night duty working in our section as one of the shifts at night for about 18 months to two years. But he became important not just because of the continuing news but also because it is through him that I was able to access hard cash and that became a very important resource to lever with other warders.
POM. You'd then be able to?
MM. Bribe other warders.
POM. To bribe other warders. That would be warders who would be guarding you in your cells or warders on work details?
MM. Any warder that I thought is a potential, I'd suss him out and I misfired.
POM. Yes, I have that.
MM. The warder that I got to know and I thought, well, when I went to Cape Town, took a little bit of money, I thought that I could get him to buy me a newspaper and that I would pay him. The bastard reported me, but he couldn't find the money and when they tried to charge me I said, "Where's the evidence?" But insofar as news is concerned did I approach him for a newspaper? Yes. I didn't bribe him. Asked him for a newspaper and he didn't give it to me. Now is that a crime?
POM. Did you hold on to the packet of cigarettes?
MM. I didn't need to. I smoked the bloody things.
POM. Well I know you smoked them.
MM. I kept the packet for a while. It was never necessary to threaten the old man.
POM. He knew. Do you think he knew or do you think he just didn't even think about it?
MM. I think he just knew that he was doing things that were forbidden and one thing eased his conscience to do another thing and at the back of his mind was this looming thing that he could get in serious trouble and lose his pension. So it never became necessary to even hint to him and many times after that in the relationship he would come and say, "Please, don't you want some food? My wife will cook for you." No. The only time food was when Walter was ill and he was not eating for days and all of us were worried about Walter. One day I went to Walter, there he was lying and I said to him, "What can I get you? Why aren't you eating? What do you feel like?" And he says, "Mac, Russian tea. I feel like Russian tea." So I said, "Old man, for you I'm going to get you Russian tea." Russian tea is just ordinary tea, black but with lemon instead of milk.
. So I contact the old man. I said to the old man, "Walter is not well." He said, "I can see it", because he used to stand at Walter's cell, "How are you feeling?" So I said to him, "Next time you go past have a chat with him. Ask him, so that everybody hear, are you eating? We're worried, he's not eating. Ask him why isn't he eating and then say to him what would he like. Is there something that he would like because he's not eating?" And I said to Walter, "When that happens you must say you would like Russian tea." So I brief Walter the next day that this will happen. The warder goes to talk to Walter, steers the conversation to what would you like and Walter says, "I would like nothing." So the next day I said to Walter, "What the hell is going on with you. I set it up for you to get Russian tea. All you had to say is that you have no appetite but that there is this yearning for Russian tea and the next night he would bring you a flask of Russian tea. And now, old man, you've messed the damn thing up, you tell the chap you don't feel like anything. What the hell is wrong with you?"
POM. So to make maybe an odd comparison but in the same way as if you break down and give a limited amount of information then
MM. You're down a slippery slope.
POM. The same thing was happening to him. He would do one thing for you and then he would do another thing and then suddenly he was on a slope.
MM. He was on a slope. Look, I didn't abuse it. It was news, it was money to be able to corrupt, bribe other warders and that's it. And when Walter said get food for yourself, no. That was my line. I felt it would be too compromising because what happened if we got caught? Here we were now eight, nine years in prison and I am getting fried fish and perlemoen and eating it on my own, unacceptable. To me it was unacceptable and it would be indefensible. If I'm caught I'll be punished. Fine, I'll take the punishment but how will my colleagues see me? And although Walter felt for me, get it, I said no, I wouldn't do that. So Walter thinks that I was a criminal but I think even in my criminal mind there were different gradations of criminality.
POM. Let me ask you, did he read the newspaper?
MM. Oh they did, they loved it.
POM. Oh yes, so you were more than a criminal, you were more than a criminal but, please, could you give me the news?
MM. No, the news would be delivered by others at work but Walter would still come to me privately to repeat the news, because you had to repeat it two, three times, you wanted to hear it, it was so rich. And I became very proficient at translating very rapidly and I began to prescribe which newspapers I wanted because I had the money now to say, here's some money, go and buy the foreign newspapers.
POM. So he would bring you - ?
MM. He would normally have been buying the Afrikaans paper and only one. I said to him, "You're going to be on duty next weekend, can you bring me the Sunday Times? Can you bring me Rapport? Can you bring me Cape Argus? Here's the money, go and buy it." And he'd do it. I used to have so much newspapers I couldn't read it through in the night.
POM. How did you get rid of them?
MM. I had to return them to him.
MM. He comes round about he would come on duty at about six o'clock, allow people to settle down, eight o'clock it's quiet, those who are studying are studying away, the first inspection has taken place. There's going to be another inspection about ten/eleven at night and he knocks off at about twelve. So just after eight o'clock he would come past and slip me the newspaper. There's no danger that somebody is standing at their window and whispering to each other across the corridor. So he would come past, slip me the newspaper through the open panes. I'd start reading and translating and transcribing. Eleven, half past eleven he would come past again, collect the papers and take them away.
POM. Now when they would shut the outside doors, were they shut all the time?
MM. They were always shut. As soon as you were locked up in the afternoon.
POM. The two, the inside grille?
MM. And the wooden door. By the time the day shift knocked off we were locked up.
POM. So to give you the newspaper?
MM. Through the window because the window had four panes and they had sealed the windows so the window couldn't open, the two bottom window panes were on and they had removed the two top panes for ventilation, so through that window he could just pop the newspaper.
POM. OK. I may as well pick up at a point
MM. There was another warder. My memory tells me it was Gregory, this man, the last keeper of Madiba. Gregory was a terrible warder. Madiba, Kathy and I our memories differ sharply. Madiba thinks Gregory was a nice person. I say in his first stint on Robben Island he was a bastard.
POM. Kathy says?
MM. Kathy says he was a bastard.
POM. Two on one, OK.
MM. He ended up working in the letter censorship department and that meant he was very close to the Security Branch. We don't debate that. But Gregory one day walked past my cell and I had done a water painting, a sort of comical water painting of a little boy standing on the edge of a pond and weeing away and in the pond were fish swimming about and you could see the fish all scattering against this urine. Gregory sees this painting and says he wants it. I said, "That's my work, I've put my work into it and I want it to decorate my cell." He says, "No, please give it to me." Now Kathy's memory says that I used to be very argumentative and I used to fight with Gregory. I say that's true but through that painting, which I gave to Gregory, I got him to supply things now and then to me.
POM. He began to supply things to you? So you changed his mind about him.
MM. Still he was a bastard. He never gave me on a continuing basis.
POM. A good starting place might be, moving backwards, I'm really dealing with after you came out of prison and joined the IRD.But before that, after all you guys were arrested and that was the end of the Second Command, High Command structure.
MM. Yes, well let's not call it Second Command, call it the Ad Hoc High Command. The reason for that is that for historical accuracy Madiba was the first commander and the Commander-in-Chief but Madiba gets arrested in 1962, November, therefore there had to be a replacement as the Commander and there were a number of ad hoc temporary changes made. When Madiba got arrested as far as I know Walter became the Commander temporarily and I think they were waiting for the China Group to return and when the China Group returned they had decided that they would make Raymond the Commander but Raymond, before he could assume command, I believe he was sent out on a mission to Algeria.
POM. That's right, we've gone through this.
MM. So again I think Walter continued on an ad hoc basis. Then Raymond comes back from Algeria and is due to take over command, or takes over command and the Rivonia arrests take place. So the composition of the first command as to who was the Commander shifted because of the arrests and these changes. So how that would be one day described in the history books as the first command, the second command, third command, I don't know, but after the Rivonia arrests Wilton was the only one who had come back from China who was surviving and who had been in Rivonia and he then took over the responsibility of assembling a group to try and pull together the structures and that was called the Ad Hoc High Command, meaning a little later we will think through carefully who should be the command structure. So I call it we actually called it the Ad Hoc High Command with Wilton as Commander.
POM. And now most of you guys go. Where does the next High Command emerge from?
MM. It never emerged. By that time we are smashed to smithereens, there is no structure left in SA. Bram Fischer goes underground to try and get the Communist Party revived and he's battling to revive the Communist Party to provide a political base from which any other revival can take place and before he can settle down and do anything he's caught. So you can say of all the senior people left who could have been approached there is nobody with the resources, nobody left with reasonable contact abroad and abroad doesn't know what to do and abroad is saddled with this problem that it has got these several hundred people who it has trained in Odessa and other places and they are living in Congo Camp.
POM. They're living in Tanzania?
MM. Tanzania, in Congo. And abroad is looking, how do we get home?
POM. But there's no-one in charge.
MM. No-one in charge. So abroad begins to look at sending people in to do the revival and every group it sends in before it can settle is caught.
POM. But there's no command?
MM. There's no command inside the country left.
POM. Is there a command structure outside?
MM. Yes, sure. Joe Modise is made the head and different people, I think there was a big tussle outside between Joe Modise and Ambrose Makiwane as to who should be the overall commander and in the end Joe is reaffirmed as the overall commander. Then from time to time they tried to set up this team.
POM. Is there ever a High Command set up as envisaged - ?
MM. By the time I get out in 1977 the military command structure is simply called Central Operations. Later on it is called - the military headquarters is called Headquarters. In that one, by the time we call it Military Headquarters Joe Modise is Commander, Joe Slovo is Chief of Staff, Chris Hani is Commissar, Cassius Make is Chief of Logistics, Jackie Molefe is Communications Chief, Mzwai Piliso is ANC Intelligence head. There was a Dr Pule, Chief of Intelligence, and then it keeps changing. Later on Steve Tshwete becomes Commissar, Chris Hani becomes Chief of Staff.
POM. I've gone through the Howard Barrell interviews and they pose a number of questions. They were interviews where you were speaking enormously frankly and often not with too much sympathy for some of your colleagues. But let's get one thing first and that is the relationship, and I went to look last night for Reflections, and a number of books have disappeared in the move and some of them are not in book stores.
MM. I'll give you a copy of Reflections.
POM. That's available but some other books, I have Mandela Speaks, I have another one too I don't know, I had them all in one box marked, a special box that I need to put my hands on right away. Anyway, I don't know who the hell someone took my cell phone, somebody else took something else. There's someone out there who's really interested in this job.
. But the relationship between Black Consciousness and the ANC, as you related it to Howard, it suggests that Steve Biko had had meetings with some ANC members and that he himself was moving from the direction of 'psychological' liberation to the understanding that something more was necessary to complement that, that that in itself was not sufficient.
MM. I can go a little further. I say he had moved to the position where I believe he had seen the need for the armed struggle and that he was looking at how should that be arranged. He had carved out a space that the Black Consciousness was not set up as a rival to the ANC or the PAC, that it was filling a void, that it was not taking sides between PAC and ANC. That's the space that it carved out in the beginning.
. I think if you meet Eric Molobi you will find that Eric was sent out as part of a delegation of Black Consciousness to meet the ANC in Botswana and Eric arrived in Robben Island as I was leaving. My memory tells me that when we communicated with him and got reports he told us that he had been in that delegation of Black Consciousness that went to Botswana and I think that they had a meeting, amongst others, with Thabo Mbeki. They had put a proposal, their objective was as a delegation, could the ANC facilitate the training of their people, military training. The issue that arose there was that they wanted to develop a separate army, they wanted us to enable their training to take place and after training they would live in this same area but maintain a separate command structure, a separate army. As I understand it Thabo took them through the discussion and showed the unworkability of the idea.
POM. This would be in an area you'd have ANC - ?
MM. Like in Tanzania.
POM. You'd have two competing
MM. Command structures in one camp.
POM. And also looking for members.
MM. So Thabo took them through this thing, this idea, welcoming the idea that now it's needed to provide people for the armed struggle but showed them the unworkability of their concept and therefore was saying that the way forward is bring your troops but they will go into MK. The BC delegation split on this question.
. Molobi was convinced by the ANC arguments. Other members of his delegation were unconvinced and they came back divided in their report. That was the mission that Eric went in so I am saying there were discussions and that's 1975/76/early 1977. No, no, not 1977 1976 because he arrived in Robben Island I think in August/September 1977 and I remember it very well because he had arrived quite injured and in pain because in detention he had sustained a fractured rib at least. But I say, talk to Eric.
. There are also indications that from the Swaziland side there were overtures from the ANC, and this would be Thabo, Max Sisulu, who would have got to Swaziland somewhere round 1974/75. I see in the Sisulu book that the first delegation to Swaziland to meet the Swazi King included Thabo and Max Sisulu, OR didn't go, to get permission to have some capacity in Swaziland. And in there there's a reference that they also met a SASO delegation, South African Students Organisation.
POM. In Swaziland?
MM. Yes. So dialogue was going on with different people, not directly with Steve. Then I think that there was a conference called the Black Renaissance Conference held in Hammanskraal in 1975. I have reason to believe that the Black Renaissance Conference was shaped partly by discussions between the ANC and BC people in the country. ANC outside and I would say that would have been conducted by people like Thabo under the guidance of Moses Mabida. So I think that the Black Renaissance Conference was in a significant way shaped by those early talks.
POM. You say you have reasons to believe?
MM. I don't have records but when I studied the content of the Black Renaissance Conference and I studied the positions that our movement was taking and while the file that I inherited had no reports in it, I became Secretary, I came to the conclusion that those contacts were going on. Similarly the file was empty but we now know that the ANC was in interaction with Buthelezi over the formation of Inkatha. So there were these contacts going on. Now I think that Steve by 1976/77
POM. He was dead in 1976.
MM. No he died in 1977 October/November because I spoke at his funeral in St Paul's Cathedral in London, at his memorial. Steve, of course I was monitoring now what was happening and trying to assess how each one is thinking, but I told you about the Craig Williamson saga, the Newman correspondence?
POM. No. You spoke about Williamson in relation to the correspondence that came from Madiba.
MM. No, besides Madiba I mentioned to you that London had said that they had a unit that they were servicing.
MM. That was Craig Williamson's unit but under the code name Newman and they had not told me that it is Craig.
POM. OK, yes.
MM. But through that correspondence I could see that the IUEF was the primary funder of the Ginsberg Foundation, the scholarships and resources. Now the Ginsberg Foundation was a foundation that was funding BC and Steve was involved in the Ginsberg Foundation. I cannot say I was explicitly told but certainly OR indicated to me that there was in the offing a meeting with Steve Biko because I was of the position that it was easy to work with BC. You can see it from Madiba's essay but it coincided with the ANC's analysis of the BCM which I read abroad. So the issue in discussion with OR would have been from my side saying it's necessary that we reach out to BC and come into political relationships with them and in this framework in one of the discussions Oliver indicated that there was a possibility of a meeting with Biko and that the meeting was due in Botswana. The question was timing and the security arrangements and that he would be going over for that meeting. It was going to be him and Biko meeting.
. I similarly, without being able to pinpoint each of the correspondents and sequence, came to the view that Biko was now travelling through the country consulting, without saying that he's going out to meet OR. He was consulting the different strands, and BC was not a tight organisation, consulting the different strands and individuals to get an understanding and clarify so that when he discusses with OR he's got a good assessment of who's who and what they're thinking. That is when he got arrested because he was on his way from Cape Town and I know, again I can't say where's my evidence, that he was meeting disparate groups including, because I know he met Neville Alexander, now Neville was not BC. So I assume that these are the discussions that he was having preparing himself for the discussion with OR.
. Now there's a little bit of a leap in my reconstruction but I am fairly firm in my view that the intermediary who was probably arranging the meeting was Craig Williamson and that when his superiors got firm indications that the meeting was on, that the issue of the meeting was the way forward, how they should work together with BC and ANC, that this was going to be the agenda. That is when they decided they had to arrest Biko and I believe that I can't arrive at a conclusion that they deliberately set out to kill him but I think that they were berserk when they arrested him.
POM. Now if Williamson was the intermediary between OR and
MM. No, through you see his person, Karl Edwards or somebody on the ground was the conduit for IUEF money to Ginsberg Foundation and Biko's facilities to travel were that way. I think that through that they won his confidence and I think that the communication channels
POM. They being?
MM. The SA security forces, Craig Williamson and company.
POM. OK. Who gained whose confidence?
MM. Craig Williamson and his team because Craig Williamson was in the IUEF in Geneva providing the funding and he was passing the funding through people like Karl Edwards so Karl Edwards and them were saying we've got a secure way to support you, here's money flowing in.
POM. Through the Ginsberg Foundation. I will give the money to the Ginsberg Foundation, they're giving it to you.
MM. And to other BC sources. And you want a car to travel, you want to go somewhere, they would assist. You want to communicate with the IUEF, we've got our man in the IUEF. That man is in touch with the ANC. ANC is indicating now, Craig was working with a group in London, they were reporting to OR, Thabo, and there the idea came up can OR and Biko meet? Can you pass a message to Biko saying we'd like such a meeting to take place? And Biko responding, "I'm keen to have the meeting, how do we do it?" And through that communication channel it was agreed that the meeting would take place in southern Botswana, that Biko would slip over the border into Botswana, not go to Gaborone, not go anywhere public, and go to some clandestine venue where the meeting would take place. All this was passing through Newman's hands and Newman was telling his superiors what is happening. So I think that the meeting was known all along to the South Africans and that it is on the eve of such a meeting while Biko is preparing himself that he gets detained.
POM. Why would they not allow the meeting to take place, they know the location and they could take out both OR and Biko?
MM. Yes, there is a possibility that that was the agenda, that the detention was either an aberrant act or a detention to capture him and to hope to get information of who he was seeing.
POM. Wouldn't they know through Williamson?
MM. No. Biko would not be saying I've been to Cape Town, I'm seeing Alexander, I'm seeing this one OR because I'm preparing to meet you. No he wouldn't do that. He's not a member of the ANC. He's there in his own right. He's not going to be reporting on his detailed movements and preparations. Those things will crop up when he discusses but he's preparing himself. The SA state security is seeing facilities are being provided and this man is travelling through the country and is meeting clandestinely different kinds of people. Some, they realise, oh he's been to see Padraig, but in other cases he slipped away at night. Who has he met? Then they see, oh, maybe he's met Alexander, maybe he's met this one. None of that is sitting in their knowledge because that's not passing in the correspondence. What's passing in the correspondence is meeting, roughly when, where, how it's going to happen, and I think that it is in the course of this
POM. With OR?
MM. Not directly with OR. I have a feeling that that was passing through the London unit.
POM. That he was going to meet with OR?
MM. Well OR is travelling around the world.
POM. OK, so the security forces here wouldn't know who he's going to meet?
MM. No, they would know.
POM. They would know?
MM. Through Craig they would know that the meeting is suddenly they would realise that the meeting is with OR.
POM. This is my question, why wouldn't they say this is a great chance?
MM. They could have said it, they could have said it, Padraig. There are many things that in the ideal would work out but somewhere along the line one or other section of the Security Branch at that road block arrested him on the eve of his departure and that led to his death. Somewhere along the line generalised talk and assessments would have been continually being made by the security intelligence section - where is BC standing? Because when it started the regime saw it as a tolerable development. It appeared to be aligned to apartheid thinking. Then they found it problematic because it suddenly grew up into active resistance. Now the question was, post-Soweto what direction is it going to move in? Is it going to stay as its own structure and if its own structure is it going to move to the armed struggle or not and if it was not going to stay as its own structure was it going to go into an alliance, with whom? With the ANC or with the PAC? And if it was going to move in the alliance what form would that alliance take?
. Those assessments would have had to be made by the security headquarters but parts of those assessments would be involving discussing with Security Branch people in different sectors. And while the different centres would not know what is the analysis at the centre, they would know Biko is targeted as a key enemy, if not enemy number one. In that situation even the PE security could have autonomously arrested him because there was no word that goes out saying don't touch this man. The instructions are to smash these people. Right? So they detain him and within day one or day two in detention he's injured very seriously and there is a version of that injury that says he was of course also aggressive, arrogant if not aggressive with them, and they say that there was a scuffle and they say that in the scuffle he fell and the back of his head was injured but it led to brain damage. That's their version. I don't know the truth but I cannot come to the conclusion that necessarily what they were doing was torturing him and that as part of a planned torturing to extract information, because torture is to extract information, that in that extraction of information they overdid the torture and he got injured. Or that they just lost their cool and whacked the hell out of him and in that process injured him.
. By that time this matter is out of control. It's like an operation that happened accidentally but now has spun out of control. All those possibilities are there but if I was sitting at head office I would have been saying, Craig, can you suggest that the meeting should not be in Gaborone, it should be in the south in a little village in a remote house, because if you can we will mount a kidnap squad and we will capture OR and Biko. That would have been the ultimate call and maybe we will not just capture OR but we will capture him with some of his key lieutenants. But then also you had to know, has OR been making arrangements with the Botswana government? Maybe the Botswana government is going to give him protection so any kidnapping operation would have to get into confrontation with the Botswana Defence Force which is not inconceivable because Botswana used to be playing a delicate act but it was giving us support. So all those things would have to be estimated. Could you afford at that stage to get into a fight, send in, and on the basis of deniability, a group of ten people wearing balaclavas to go and kidnap OR and them when suddenly the information is that the Botswana Defence Force platoon will be protecting OR and they are in a fire fight with them and maybe there will be three bodies there of their kidnapping team and that would be proof that SA has violated Botswana territory. All those things are possible in the argument.
. All I am saying is that somehow or the other I believe they knew. For whatever reason that arrest took place and in the end it became, right, let's make the best of a worst case, we prevent the meeting taking place. The reality is that that meeting didn't take place but that Biko was coming with what mindset. I am saying that the mindset was alliance with the ANC but he would be sensitive that whatever form it took it could not be a publicly disclosed one because otherwise automatically they are in danger here and (b) he would keep explaining it in such a way that it should not appear to be solely aligned to the ANC because he would be disturbing the emergence of more and more forces. Young people would be coming up with whatever their perception. Your real aim was bring them into the freedom army and when they are in the freedom army bring them into the armed struggle and when they are moved that way bring them into MK. Not right at the beginning debate whether you should be PAC or ANC, APLA or MK. No, that would be divisive of the environment.
. So that's all I am saying and I am saying that at the Ruth First TRC hearing I went and Craig was there and I went and specifically alleged this issue and during the break I said that we had outmanoeuvred Craig, we had intercepted and understood that he was enemy and that he broke cover because he panicked that we got on top of him. I then said that in relation to this, I think I specifically said, "I believe that he was also the person who enabled the South Africans to get wind of the Biko meeting."
POM. This is on the TRC records?
MM. TRC records, I don't know exactly but we can check it. But what I am saying is that during the break when I had finished Craig Williamson came to me in the courtyard and said, "Mac, you are right. Your version is right." And I said, "Why don't you say it there?" because he had been cross-examined already. We parted there because I went to George Bizos.
POM. You didn't get an answer from him?
MM. No, but he was doing like he was breaking down, crying. And I went to George Bizos who was handling the Slovo family case, one of the key cross-examiners of Craig, and I said, "George, this is what's happened." So he was interested and I said to him, "I think that this thing needs a different shot." He said, "What are you getting at?" I said, "I believe he is ripe for saying", because it was over amnesty for Craig Williamson, I said, "He is ripe for an approach to be made to say hand over entire records that you have concealed as a basis for your amnesty." George was uncertain what I was getting at because, remember, George was representing the Slovo and the Schoon families to oppose amnesty for Craig. I was now coming with a spin to say, "Craig has stolen and stored records for his own safety, let's get those records as part of his telling the truth. They will have more things than what we know about."
. I didn't pursue the matter, I was already in government and I had my government tasks and I've only seen Craig once after that, a few months ago in Hyde Park where I hadn't even noticed him, he was in a grey T-shirt, fat as ever, and I walked into a lift and as I turned round, hadn't looked at the people in the lift carefully, I just focused on pressing the button, and as we got out I heard somebody greet me and I looked and it was Craig. I greeted him back.
POM. This is three or four months ago?
MM. Here, three, four months ago. I have my own reasons for having thought that way. It's not just over the killings in SA, it's about the fact that the third member of his team, Asmussen, emerged after those London episodes in the seventies, emerged as the Security Adviser to the President of Seychelles.
POM. Yes, you told me about him.
MM. I told you about him. And I have my own reasons about what was Craig's network now and now his involvement with the Angolan economy.
POM. He's involved with Angola?
MM. Yes. He's a trader, sells in bulk all sorts of goods that are exported to Angola, from groceries to the lot.
POM. What would his point be in going to you at the break where you had made a number of very serious allegations, what his point be in going to you and saying, "Mac, you're right", knowing that it could possibly open a whole Pandora's Box that he hadn't told the whole truth about all the things he was involved in, creating new grounds for opposing amnesty?
MM. I think it was an overture made on the spot having experienced his cross-examination and having heard me give my evidence and being cross-examined by his lawyers and having come to that judgement that I had been very persuasive and that what I was putting could be material to the TRC refusing him amnesty because I had argued that the killing of Jenny Schoon and Katryn was unjustified and was a deliberate act, that the killing of Ruth First was not accidental, it was not Joe Slovo, they had targeted Ruth First. And their argument was Katryn and Jenny died from a parcel bomb that was intended for Marius Schoon. It so happened she opened the parcel. Ruth First, yes there were people who intercepted the correspondence and inserted the letter bomb into that envelope and it went on but he could not remember to whom it was addressed but he thinks it was addressed to Joe Slovo. That was his sort of defence coming through, saying, "True, I was implicated but it was not intended to kill her and not intended to kill the other two, including the child." I was saying this is how I stitch it together and say it was deliberate.
. Now at that moment I am finished and I am going to be leaving. He sees me standing in the courtyard having a smoke, he is alone. The only other people in the courtyard were my two bodyguards and I'm not standing with my bodyguards, I am walking about, and he decides, let me go over to this guy. He comes over to me, my bodyguards want to come and I say, "Go." And he comes, tries to converse. Whether that conversation opened by my saying, "Craig, what shit you're talking", or whether it was autonomously from him but he made this statement and his face was contorted like he's going to cry, voice was breaking, and he says, "You know, we did what we had to do." I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "If I didn't do what I did I would have been killed", meaning by his own people.
POM. So he also says this to you in the courtyard?
MM. Yes. And I just say, "That's OK but why don't you go and talk the truth there? All this you're telling me here, why don't you talk there?" And I left him, because going through my mind are all these other issues and I am saying how does this proceed, how do we take it forward? Taking it into that room of the TRC is not going to resolve these problems. That TRC hearing is on a singular problem - amnesty application for the death of Ruth First, amnesty application for the death of Katryn and Jenny Schoon. Marius is there opposing amnesty for him. George Bizos is there opposing amnesty for him for Ruth First's killing. And that's why I say when I think back, it went through my mind, shouldn't I take the initiative and see Craig? But I said to myself this is something that needs specialised attention, and it disappeared from the horizon.
. I am saying all this in the context of, the assertion that that operation of the meeting between OR and Steve Biko had been penetrated by the SA security forces and the person who penetrated it was Craig Williamson.
POM. Well he more or less said you were right.
MM. Yes, no, but I'm saying there is no record of that.
POM. How does one get in touch with this guy?
MM. I don't know where to find him but one or other journalist will tell you.
POM. He lives in Hyde Park too?
MM. No, I think he lives in Bryanston.
POM. If I were him I'd be going round looking over my shoulder all the time.
MM. Yes I think so.
POM. I wouldn't be going round in a T-shirt saying, if I saw you in an elevator I would have said
MM. No, the ANC, I was not privy to all those things, post-1990 I believe he went to Shell House, I think he saw some people in the ANC Intelligence. It could be possible that he's even gone to NIA and spoken to some people there. I believe he's such an arrogant crook but I think he stole money from his superiors, lots of money, and he also decided that there was a wave that he was going to ride, so he rode that way. But a person who rides waves like that by pulling resources, it would be his way of life. He won't give it up. I believe he drives one of the 7-series BMWs and I have great sympathy for him because he wouldn't fit into any other car.
POM. I must tell you, I don't even know what a 7-series what is it called?
MM. I owned one.
POM. That was when you were rich.
MM. When I left government, six months before I left BMW offered me as a second-hand, what they said was a cheap price, a car that was owned by the MD of BMW and he was being transferred to Germany and he had had the car for six months as a company car but he had bought it for himself on company allowances so he said to sell it to me at a cheap price. So I bought that and I used it for about 2½ years.
POM. That was the end of the Volkswagen?
MM. Yes that was the end of the VW, well, no, VW was my personal car when I came into government and I used it as my ministerial car. Then when I found that the government allowance system was weighted against you using your own car, it was financially more rewarding to use a government car than your own car, then when all the ministers agreed with my proposal that I would negotiate with BMW for a cheaper deal for buying for everybody, I bought myself from government funds for my use as minister a BMW 5-series and I had been negotiating with Mercedes and BMW that if we agreed to buy just one type of car for all ministers it's an advertisement for you and why don't you give it to us at a cheaper price. But my colleagues in cabinet were aghast at that proposal because each one wanted to have a car of his or her choice. I said it will be cheaper, they said, "To hell with cheaper, this guy is coming with a proposal where he's going to make us all drive in the same colour cars and the same model." And somebody came with an argument that security-wise it's a bad move because then any right wing group would know, just look for a car, all of them are black, all of them are 5-series and all of them are BMWs.
POM. Put the entire population of people driving Mercedes, they're under risk.
MM. I failed dismally.
POM. OK, I want to go back to let me give you my overall conclusion at the end of going through Howard. If you like I'll give them to you to go through them tonight.
MM. I've got no time to read that. I'm just focused on your stuff.
POM. Number one, oh that's right, forget him altogether, I forget you've another task. When you arrived in Lusaka to take up your position as Secretary to the IRD you asked for the files, you got a blank piece of paper.
MM. I got a folder.
POM. A folder with a blank piece of paper in it.
MM. Not even a blank piece of paper, not a sheet inside.
POM. This is the file. You had a chairman who you described as being incompetent, factionalist and tribalist of the worst kind, that the entire attention in Lusaka was focused on the promotion of the armed struggle.
MM. Or the advancement of the armed struggle.
POM. The advancement of the armed struggle and that no attention at all was being paid to the development of
MM. Political mobilisation.
POM. - or a political underground. So in a way you were being given a task where they were saying we are going to do our best to make sure that you don't successfully carry it out.
MM. No, no, that's a conclusion.
POM. We are going to put obstacles in
MM. No it's a wrong conclusion. I was given a task which was being recognised as a neglected area and being told that this is a big challenge, it needs to be done and please do it, otherwise they would wasting their time, that would make them not just sceptics, it would make them cynical manipulators of saying here's a chap who's come out of prison, let's just give him something to silence him and to make him feel he's busy.
POM. OK, we will go through with that. Before I do that one thing struck me and it was a remark you had made that when the MK was being set up that Mandela had insisted that the majority of the members of the High Command be African.
MM. No, that doesn't feature anywhere. It never arose. What he insisted on was that it would be the manifesto said under the overall political guidance of the national liberation movement. In practice he has acknowledged in records and it's been taken a little further in the formulation, that it was under the political guidance of the ANC and the Communist Party.
POM. I'll find that statement and I'll mark it. Was there a concern, it arises here that after the first command, or whatever you want to call it, had collapsed that the subsequent command, the people around with experience were SACP people, a lot of them were white and that the command of the MK would be predominantly white in terms of influence and that the white people would see things in the conduct of the struggle, the MK, in different terms than Africans?
MM. Possibly I might have made that statement, yes. That would not be inconsistent with my reading of the strengths and weaknesses of different elements.
POM. Would you elaborate on that because I think that's an important point?
MM. If you look at Reflections you will see that already by 1975/76 in prison we in our debates were already conceptualising the development of the armed struggle along the concept of the people's war. We were already trying to study the Vietnamese experience and it was reinforcing this picture, people's war.
POM. It was reinforced in?
MM. All our reading of Vietnam was reinforcing our picture that the debate should not be classical guerrilla war a la Mao Zedong, rural to surrounding the cities, that the debate was, should be, political mobilisation, political organisation and involvement of the people in an all round people's war.
POM. What kind of literature were you getting into?
MM. One of the ones that instantly comes to mind is a book on the Vietnamese struggle by this American author
POM. Not an American General was he?
MM. No, no, to get into prison you couldn't give a book by a General. But the linguistic philosopher, US based?
POM. The guy at MIT, Howard Zinn?
MM. No, he's a linguistic philosopher. I'll get his name.
POM. Is he at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology?
MM. Possible but he's been a year or two ago he was on a visit to SA, I saw him in the newspapers. Anyway, it was that sort of literature that tangentially came to it but would for instance deal with Saigon, etc. But I am saying in Reflections, you will see it in Walter's essay in particular, he even ends it up with a reference to the Vietnamese struggle. So the concept 'people's war' was there in our thinking in prison.
. Now even if you were to go to classical guerrilla warfare a la Mao Zedong, where Mao says your biggest, your ocean is the people. In order to develop the armed struggle whether classically or people's war your terrain of survival was amongst your people and the overwhelming majority of the people in this country are Africans. It was necessary and remains necessary in the SA situation that the substantial section of your leadership should be drawn from the African people, that slipping into the technical expertise that is required which rests first and foremost in the whites because they had the advantage of education, etc., and training, would distance you from that scene and there would be a great danger that the political judgement would be put into the hands of a majority of people who were good comrades but who were in the leading positions because of technical expertise, whereas
POM. And who also would have no knowledge of the indigenous population.
MM. And who could not live as fishermen.
POM. They didn't understand the township.
MM. Couldn't speak the lingo, don't know the customs, who would therefore be commanding from outside the terrain and outside that experience. Who did I meet? I have the greatest respect for the political background and immersion that the Rusty Bernsteins and the Joe Slovos had in political in the Communist Party and therefore interacting with even black workers. But post-Rivonia who were the technicians coming through? Who knew, who had served in an army and knew even how to dissemble and assemble a weapon, to make a bomb? Who had the chemical engineering training that equipped them how to look at, to read a manual on how to manufacture a bomb and do it? Primarily those skills were sitting on the white side and in the denuding of the leadership, which included whites who were thoroughly grounded politically in organising of the workers and therefore black workers as well, you are now coming to a crop of people who are outside of that experience but who are purely technically competent. A classic example is Lionel Gay. Is there anything in his background that says he had been involved in deep interaction and mobilisation with black people, be they workers or anything? No. He came from an intellectual position as a university man and a lecturer into the ARM and from the ARM into MK and from there into MK, into the technical unit and from there, because he could manufacture a radio transmitter, to Rivonia. And post-Rivonia arrest into the High Command. What political judgement is he bringing outside of a theoretical, intellectual support? Highly dangerous situation, highly dangerous if the leadership was going to be populated like that.
. And I won't be surprised if the execution squad idea was raised by him because the very fact that the idea was raised but never taken forward says the rest of the High Command just by their understanding of the dynamics in the bulk of the oppressed population felt not yet, because that action would have diverted us from the primary task of regrouping and conducting the war against the enemy to a secondary war front of now taking deserters in your ranks and there would be a danger that you would end up that way, you would end up where terrorism per se would become your focus. You could just get caught up that way. I am not saying that no black person would have thought that way but I am saying where the technical route was coming from within the people who were objectively part of the ruling system, you were in great danger. I am not saying that no white person could not shift and think the way the objective realities required us to do.
. The argument applies to Indians too. One of the big quarrels I had with Paul Joseph in detention was when I learnt that he was consulted to advise who should serve as the alternate member in the Ad Hoc High Command in place of Laloo Chiba and he recommended a chap that I knew, a chap called Ahmed Bhaba, a Moslem chap from Roodepoort. He was a teacher, I had met him, he came from a middle class background but when I asked Paul, "Why did you recommend this chap?" he says, "No, you know it was very difficult in my view for meetings to take place and I thought that if we got a person who was fair skinned and looked white he could easily have meetings in the white suburbs and attend meetings of the High Command." So this was an additional credential by him in his criteria. Of course he motivated politically and said this chap is committed to the struggle, etc., supports the movement, has been recruited into a unit, etc. I said, "Paul, this is crap, this is absolute crap because this comrade, I have met him not in a political relationship, but I don't see him as a strong man and you're telling me that one of the factors was the shade of lightness of his skin so that he could attend meetings in the white suburbs."
POM. What about all the black people who had to go into the white suburbs?
MM. It was a very rough it was no time to debate calmly and I was extremely rough with Paul, "How dare you think like that?" There I was right because that chap just collapsed in detention, he couldn't even clean his own toilet pail because he'd never done it in his life. We in detention in Pretoria when we were put in the courtyard to clean our sanitary pails, and the warder was sitting on us to shine the bottom of that shit encrusted pail. To save Ahmed, Paul Joseph took his pail and gave him his clean one and began to clean it. He's the chap who when I walked into Pretoria Central jail when I was taken there on admission he was in front of me in the queue and it was midwinter and they just said, "Strip, and into that courtyard shower", cold shower, and they slapped a lump of liquid soap on your head. What did he do? He had never stripped in public so there he gingerly takes off his shirt and he's got a vest with sleeves and he keeps the vest on and he gingerly takes off his pants and he's got a pair of long johns and the warders are screaming, "Under that damn shower!" And he goes under the shower in his long johns and they say, "Get the fucking thing off."
. So I am saying that's the background he came from, a middle class Indian background in a patriarchal society where he never even made a cup of tea for himself. And I'm saying, serve in the High Command? Do you expect him to have the political sensitivities that would go with commanding those forces the bulk of whom were African? Not possible. Do you expect him to come with the political judgement which is grounded and takes the African experience as the core basis of your way forward? No. That he accidentally might be good, too much accident to that, too much accident.
POM. You could ask the same questions of Joe Slovo.
MM. Sure, with this difference. At the age of 11 he was a hawker. At the age of 13 he was a factory worker. He went through the trade unions. By the age of 17 he went into the army, second world war, as a communist. He came out of that war, got a scholarship as a demob to go to Wits without even a matric, with a Standard 7 or 8 education and became a lawyer. But even in that process he continued organising in the unions, in the Communist Party, going to rallies, going to meetings all over, debating and challenged by African leadership like the Mandelas on the issue of communism, on the issue of unity, on the issue of unity of action and won his spurs there. That he then became an advocate and married Ruth First who was wealthy was an accident in his path of growth, it was not natural to his background. And coming as a refugee from Lithuania as an eight year old, father a hawker here, that's a different life experience.
POM. Is that African life experience?
MM. Not an African life experience but I am saying different experience and that record of participation from the late thirties to 1960 is what shaped his way of thinking. Eli Weinberg, 1930s, as a kid grows to politics organising unions, organising unions of workers, not just white workers, so you're hearing an experience and your political commitment is being tested over and over again, not just by the state but by the rising ANC and by the increasing members in the Communist Party like Moses Kotane, J B Marks, Africans, Dan Thloome. You are in regular interaction, it's becoming part of your life experience.
. So I am saying there's a difference there and that's why I argued in the GDR that you could not say that it was wrong to start MK with Nelson Mandela because your argument is he's well known, you were doomed to be caught. I said, "Were we supposed to start MK with an unknown person with no political record?" Because once you see that you could do it with no political record what were you saying? That the masses could follow anybody? And of course you can turn round and show me Castro, he came from a middle class background but again Castro led the wildest of expeditions to attack the Moncada Barracks and was tried and sentenced.
POM. But in an odd way you're arguing against yourself in this sense, that when you came to organise the political underground here you eschewed all the people who were known and you went for the unknowns.
MM. No sir. Why was Billy Nair in it? Who was Mpho Scott? Who was Pravin Gordhan? Who was Jabu Sithole? Already tried and tested comrades on the battle lines in the country. No sir, I didn't take unknowns.
POM. OK, I'll get the quote.
MM. I looked for unknowns in a different category. Billy Nair was one of the rare people from the old guard that I allowed into that overall committee, very rare.
POM. When you said you looked for unknown people?
MM. In the eyes of the Security Branch.
POM. OK, well Pravin?
MM. Pravin was already
MM. You said that I'm arguing with myself, I'd said we must get unknowns.
POM. Yes, and you pointed to Billy Nair.
MM. In the Barrel Report I said that when I got to Lusaka and I was given this job I looked at the casualties at home in 1975 and I said the flaw here is that the key people were from the known people. I then advocated we build with relatively unknown people but when I come into Vula
POM. But I'm not talking about Vula, I'm just talking about
MM. Pravin is Vula.
POM. No, but I'm not talking about Vula that's exactly what I'm talking about, what you said now.
MM. But I'm giving you the experience. One's practical methods are shaped by experience too.
POM. But when you came in in 1978 to
MM. To the ANC position.
POM. - the IRD position, you just said you looked at the 1975 experience that these were all known people, "When I go about political organisation I tend to find unknown people of potential, cultivate them, people who are not known to the security forces."
MM. Not known in the sense not standing out. So I wouldn't go for the so-called COSAS folk. Let's say there was a committee like the Detainee Parents' Support Group, or the trade union leadership, avoid that, the people who are in the leadership. Try and look for the lower core, look for the shop steward. Yes he's active, he's in battle, he's a key functionary but there are 20,000 shop stewards in the country so he is not in the top radar screen.
POM. I am more debating the point than anything else that about Madiba is that Madiba was a known figure.
MM. Was known. I argued with the GDR you had to have a known person to start it.
POM. This is when you were in the GDR, you were in communications about - ?
MM. This is after I'm Secretary of the IRD.
POM. OK.Anyway, that is a debating point.
MM. Just to give you an example when I come in in Vula, you saw the list, I mean Jay Naidoo, Cyril, Frank Chikane, I didn't put them in a structure in the leadership of the underground dealing with underground people. The maximum I did with them was when I sensed that Mandela is going to be released I set up a committee bringing together Sydney, Cyril, Smangi, Chikane, I said, "Guys, you four, you four who are leadership in the top overt structures, will you constitute yourselves now? I will liase with you, let us work together to prepare for the release of Mandela, and you will advise me politically and strategically when the underground is doing things wrong."
POM. Was that why Cyril was chairman of the Reception Committee?
MM. Yes, partly.
POM. Did the Reception Committee come out of your liasing?
MM. In part yes, but obviously they would be liasing with a broader number of people and not saying Mac is saying this, but they would say it's necessary that we come together, we need to prepare for this eventuality and Cyril, because he took an initiative in that direction, then the question comes up, oh, if the release is coming we now need a Reception Committee, you just change the name and call that committee Reception. You don't know who should be on it and they say Sister Bernard Ngube, yes let her join. And then the committee say, who should be the chair? Cyril, you be the chair.
. But I am saying I also asked them that whenever they detected on the ground that the underground was acting or doing things that were harmful, they should feel free to come and tell because you are my political interface, because I also want you to think in your area of work, which is overt mass mobilisation, I want you to think of the struggle in an all round way. But I didn't say to the underground committee here that the following four people are serving in this type of committee. I simply reported to Lusaka, to OR, that these four tried and tested comrades, "Have you got any other names that you want added on? But I have taken the following step to bring these four together and this is the responsibility that I've asked them to undertake and they've agreed." If they were picked up the only thing they could say if they cracked up is that, yes, we talked to Mac. But the rest of the underground including the Leadership Committee in Jo'burg did not know that they existed. So I needed that experience.
. Then I found you can't just build in a vacuum, so in the District Committee of the Communist Party, who was there from this forum? Sydney, Sydney Mufamadi, Assistant General Secretary of COSATU was there but the other four didn't know he was there.
POM. Didn't know he was?
MM. Didn't know he was in the District Committee of the Communist Party. And there was another function that I gave to Sydney, it's slipped my mind at the moment.
POM. So what function did you give to him?
MM. District Committee of the Communist Party.
POM. Oh I know, he was in there.
MM. I'm saying that there was another function, a sensitive operation. Sydney picked up as a result of my bringing him together with Cyril that I may have other links with Cyril and in the District Committee of the Communist Party in Jo'burg the issue was raised, "We're unhappy that you're working with Cyril." I said, "Why?" They said, "Because he's problematic."
POM. In the sense of?
MM. By problematic it was a sort of omnibus term to say we question whether his loyalty is to the ANC and the party and we think there are problems. Because, remember, Cyril came into the General Secretary of NUM at a time when Sydney was General Secretary of the SA Mineworkers Union.
POM. He was General Secretary?
MM. Yes, and the Mineworkers Union had started at the initiative of SACTU from Lusaka and was regarded as closer to us and Cyril was regarded as having come from Black Consciousness and on the ground when I came in SAMWU was still in existence.
POM. So did he challenge Sydney for the position?
MM. No, no, no, they were two rival unions in the mineworkers side.
POM. Oh, OK, yes.
MM. In that debate I decided to reveal something to them, to the District Committee. I said, "Chaps, we are printing Umsabenzi, the Communist Party newsletter, you, the entire District Committee with all your units, how many copies are you distributing and to which segments of the population? We've got the figures, distributing broadly 1000 copies and you're distributing to an inchoate audience. You cannot say to me it is focused on the working class. Now I want to tell you people something. In 1986 we produced a pamphlet by Rusty Bernstein on the mineworkers' strike, after the mineworkers' strike led by Cyril, giving the experience of the 1946 mineworkers' strike. We produced that as a pamphlet. How many copies did you guys distribute? 200, 300 copies?." I said, "Now, I want to tell you how many copies Cyril distributed and I want to tell you that the copies that he distributed went directly to the mineworkers and he distributed 10,000 copies and you are telling me that I must sit down on these final distinctions that arise from an historically inherited position where, yes, in the absence of anything in the mineworkers we try to get those South African mineworkers' unions, SAMWU, but it made less progress than NUM, and yes NUM's revival had a mixture of BC, PAC and all sorts of people, and in that process Cyril came in. But now we are faced with the reality that NUM has captured the ground and the issue is no longer whether two unions should exist in this field fighting each other, you can justify two political organisations on differences of political ideology and strategy and perspectives but you can't justify two unions in the same industry. What is their difference? Because their primary task is to bring all the workers in that industry into one structure to struggle collectively first to fight their working conditions and it does not matter what differences they have at other levels." So I said, "I buy you people's argument", but the reason why I divulged that information was to sharply remind them that they should not be trapped by history or by small differences that have arisen at the inter-personal level. And yes, I left them with the thinking that I am interacting with Cyril and there is no way that I am going to bow down to their objection. If their objection was to be sustained it will have to be sustained by the Central Committee.
POM. So would you attend meetings of the various underground structures of the SACP?
MM. Yes in my capacity as a Politburo member. I didn't tell them that I'm a Politburo member but I had a mandate from the Politburo.
POM. But then they all knew you were in the country too?
MM. Yes. Lots of people knew I was in the country, lots of people. Why not? You can't work amongst the masses with the key people not knowing that you are interacting. How are they going to respect an anonymous person?
POM. When I say the District Committee, this is all the members ?
MM. Four persons.
POM. Oh, OK, OK. I was thinking of something more extended.
MM. No 50-person committee.
POM. No 50-person committees.
MM. The largest meeting that I attended was the Tongaat conference with about 22 25 people.
POM. You were legal then?
MM. No, I was still in Vula.
POM. No, they were legal, you weren't.
MM. The bulk of them were legal. Siphiwe Nyanda was there, he was illegal. Only the two of us were illegal.
POM. Here's the quote, you, we're going back to Madiba, "Nelson's departure deprived us of a very important influence." This is Howard. "You mean his arrest we are talking about now?" And you say, "Ja. Nelson has been accused of being nationalistic in his thinking. In a sense they are right when they say that. Nelson had no problems about JS but the John Matthews were the majority component. When Nelson goes this consciousness of the practical level begins to diminish because, of course, you were casting around, who's available, who's got the skills?"
MM. My better example should have been
POM. "Nelson was very forceful that the African component should be the majority component."
MM. Yes, there I'm talking in a very broad term now, not just MK. Nelson had raised the argument also we're talking about leadership here and leadership not just of MK.
POM. Well ANC was all Africans.
MM. Communist Party.
POM. The Communist Party, that the majority should be African?
POM. The Rusty Bernsteins, the Slovos, the
MM. It was an ongoing debate and by 1971 the majority of the Central Committee members had become black and they would not have become a black majority if it was not consciously driven.
POM. Not African?
MM. I'm saying black African.
POM. So the African component would outnumber the whites plus the Indians?
MM. Yes. One of the debates was a vigorous debate between Nelson and Joe Slovo when they used to go to the treason trial. They were debating and saying about the struggle that by this time they were pretty close to the Communist Party and Nelson challenged them. He said, "The Central Committee, isn't it primarily white? When will it become primarily African?"
POM. When was that alliance formed between the SACP and the ANC?
MM. It was built in the underground years post-1953. It is very difficult to pinpoint.
POM. OK, it took Nelson until 1951 to accept that Indians should be a component.
MM. And his reason for that is very clear again. He said, "I feared that they had superior access to skills and resources and they would dominate."
POM. Would he not fear the same thing about an alliance with the SACP?
MM. Yes, he feared that too. That is why he opposed, he was one of the people supporting the expulsion of communists from the ANC in 1950. He was defeated. At an ANC conference he supported the proposal that African members of the ANC who were communist should be expelled.
POM. So when did he begin to rethink his position on the involvement of communists where the Central Committee would have been at that point and up to the 1960s and maybe through, mostly either, I say, Indian and white?
MM. Yes. I have argued that those who say Nelson is just a nationalist, I say up to a point they are right but I am also saying up to a point they are wrong, that he had a valid point that you've got to strive and make the African leadership the majority in the leadership.
POM. But that's a peculiar use of the word nationalist because it means African nationalist rather than South African nationalist.
POM. Today if we talk about nationalists
MM. There was no such thing as a South African nationalist before 1994. You could not speak of a South African nationalist. Which South Africa were you talking about when you said South African nationalist? Until 1994 you could not speak of SA as embracing all the racial groups so, yes, we were forced to think in terms of who is the majority and the majority was African and part of their evolution and development politically was to think in terms first of African unity, that was the ANC in 1912. Then to think of an alliance with other racial groups who may be oppressed too and to think of whites who are democrats who are from the ruling forces, say maybe we should work together.
POM. That's also racial thinking.
MM. Oh yes. I don't deny it. You can't simply ignore a reality and say you're going to rise above that reality and be clean.
POM. No, I'm saying that in the same way as whites were thinking racially, Africans were thinking racially too.
MM. I told OR when I was coming on Operation Vula, I think I told you, when OR came to my home to formally brief Siphiwe and myself and to say goodbye to us, he was a man of certain style and ceremony, and he then came to the two of us in my lounge and he said, "Now, I've come here to wish you guys goodbye on your mission and to give you your battle orders." And he briefly outlined out mandate and he said, "I wish you all the best, the only failure that I would expect is the failure that you return alive." Those are the words he used. My response as the commander, "Chief, we're going to do everything to carry out your instructions. If we fail it will not be because we did not try might and main to carry out your instructions." OK, you're dismissed. I say, "Is it over?" He says, "Yes." I said, "Now can I see you alone?" He said, "Yes, what's it?" I said, "Chief, I have one problem, your mandate to me includes Transvaal and Natal. Natal has a very sensitive political problem. I don't want you to answer this question, I just want you to think about it when I'm gone. Why is it that from a National Executive of 30 people, 25 of whom are African, you have chosen me an Indian to go into Natal to give political leadership? Think about it." And I left it because I was saying you should have found one person from the 25 Africans, that you have not found one is something that you'd better think about because it is necessary to reach that stage.
POM. He was saying I've picked the best person for the job and the best person happened to be you.
MM. And I was saying you are saddling me with resolving a political problem on the ground where I am at a disadvantage. I have the potential to succeed less than a Jacob Zuma has to succeed in Natal. And I was not being personal about it, I was merely saying this has mirrored a political problem. I would have been happier, for example, if he had said today at the party, here is Jacob Zuma, he is the overall commander and Mac, you are the deputy and you both go home as a team, because it would have accorded with the best potential for success.
. So I put it to him the way I've explained and I said to him it's not a question that I expect an answer and by saying I don't expect an answer I was saying, I am not raising something as a criticism, I'm raising something as something that you've got to strive for. That's my view. And it stands up to day. I don't think SA is ripe for the President of the ANC to be a non-African.
POM. Well it's not going to happen.
MM. But I say even in other circles, I don't think it's ripe, I don't think the time is ready for it.
POM. I agree but it's also a fact that it's not going to happen because of the composition of the NEC itself.
MM. That's a side remark. Even with the Communist Party Central Committee now being primarily black, we elected Slovo as the General Secretary. That could happen. But I am saying it would be wrong in SA at the moment for the President of the ANC or the President of the country to be anybody but African. So that was the question that I was posing to him in relation to Operation Vula once the mandate encompassed the province of Natal and given the IFP/ANC problem, the UDF/Inkatha problem, the UDF/COSATU problem, given that Jay Naidoo was General Secretary of COSATU, given that there were so many people from the other racial groups occupying leading positions, you had to tilt the balance and strive to put at the head of that machinery for Natal a person who instantly comes to mind, somebody like Jacob Zuma. And that is why when the government was constituted Jacob Zuma had to serve in the provincial structure as the leader of ANC Natal rather than come into the national cabinet. It makes political sense. So that's how I see the problem. And if you say that's thinking in racial compartments I say yes because you could not think it through in any other way.
POM. That's the tragedy of SA.
MM. A tragedy and a strength because it says you cannot resolve the racial past without having to use those same categories provided you are striving at the same time to put that message down that it's non-racialism that you are building. That message has got to be consistent.
POM. Do you think that message comes across to people?
MM. I think that the voting pattern at the NEC shows that the overwhelming majority of the delegates were not thinking in racial categories, they were taking into account racial categories as individual voters but they were guided by non-racialism.
POM. Well voting patterns certainly don't reflect that.
MM. They do.
POM. They do?
MM. They reflect a non-racialism. Go and see how many non-Africans are elected to that executive?
POM. No, I'm not talking about the NEC, I said voting patterns in the country in elections.
MM. That one I have a difference, I've written a note for you on your picture, for instance, of Indian thinking. I've put a note there that you are extrapolating into the past from the present. Wrong. You used the statement that the militant leadership of Dadoo/Naicker was not seen as representative by the Indian community. You used the words, 'not representative', I said I disagree with this formulation and I tried subsequently when I saw a repetition of it, to those three, four paragraphs I think I said let's discuss, I think this thing needs reformulation, I've said under Gandhi the key issue was the Indians being British subjects and coming here under a contract with the promise of certain rights, the first movement, initiative, was to use that contract and the British subject position to say give us our rights as agreed in that contract. Now it was in the interests of all Indians, merchant, trader and indentured labourer. Wrong to then say it was just representing the merchants and the traders.
. After that Gandhi in relation to the African population says now this is Indians fighting for their rights, their freedom. Gandhi says now in the Anglo-Boer war, and especially in the Bambata Rebellion, I want to set up an Ambulance Brigade to serve both sides of the war. So he is saying those quarrels, we're just humanitarian. How does that relate to our future? Only that we are good people. Post-Gandhi a leadership emerges, let's talk to the British government, let's have round-table conferences raising this question that you're supposed to give us these rights, you took them away. That leadership is described as moderate, Dadoo appears on the scene, Naicker appears on the scene, militant programme, stand up and fight, have mass action, you a moderate leadership, too much talking, talking only in terms of Indians. They say we want to act as Indian, and by 1947, NIC, can we stand together? Our future is inter-linked, our freedom as Indians is linked to your freedom as Africans. At that time it wages the Passive Resistance Campaign, it rejects the Pegging Act and makes it unworkable, unimplementable, it didn't even take off, overwhelming support of the Indian community. When 2000 people go to jail voluntarily from the population it means it had a support of, multiply that 2000 by ten, overwhelming.
POM. But the NIC was in front of the ANC, the ANC didn't -
MM. Yes. I'm not comparing ANC at the moment, I'm talking about in the dynamics of the Indian. Were they representative at that time? Dadoo was a communist, he denied it. I said the Indian community accepted him as representative of them. You say they were not representative because many were communists. The Indian community didn't bother to say Dadoo, you're a communist.
POM. I don't know what I said so I'll go back and have a look.
MM. But then I say subsequently in the period of the reign of terror that opened up in the 1960s with the bannings, the arrests and almost the silencing of any opposition, simultaneously the Nats came with their programme Indians, you should have your own religion, we'll encourage, you should have your own culture. Africans you should be studying your own language, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, etc. It took a normal thing that people would welcome and used a collaborator group to push that message down and into that message the seed that you are hostile to each other's interests, that when you're climbing the ladder the way to climb that ladder is to pull somebody else down.
. That atmosphere and more openings for economic empowerment of the Indians, what happened is we end up in a situation in 1990 where that fear of the Africans has now taken hold. Those voting patterns today are partly the result of the Nationalists actions and partly the results of our inattention to that problem.
POM. Of whose inattention?
MM. Ours, the movement.
MM. Because it remains an open question whether we were wrong or right to disband the UDF so quickly, whether we are wrong or right to disband the Indian Congresses so quickly because the life experiences of these communities was so isolated from each other that the concrete manifestations of oppression took on different parts of the shoe pinching the feet of the different communities. And you could only start your mobilisation by taking a community sitting in a shoe and saying where is that shoe pinching? It's on the toe. Now that problem of the toe is the starting point for your mobilisation and that in another community their shoe is hurting them on the bunion. That specific grievance should be the starting point for your mobilisation and it so happens that under apartheid the life experience and the isolation of communities had reached a point, and the inculcation of fear had reached a point where our voice was tolerated in the Indian community but we were neglecting, in the interests of emphasising the unity of the struggle, we were neglecting the specificity of the grievances.
. It was a debate that took place over and over in our country. In the UDF there were the white elections and the question came up, what do you do? Oh, we oppose the elections, it's a sham. Yes, good, no problem, agreed. Now here is a white organisation, part of the UDF, what are they supposed to say to the white community? Are they supposed to say don't vote? Fine, we don't vote. Why shouldn't I vote? So sit down in your home, do nothing. Or were they supposed to say, vote but vote for who? Progressive Party or National Party or Conservative Party? No, all are bad. Well then who must I vote for? I don't know what to tell you. Otherwise should you put up candidates? Then others in the UDF say, no, no, no, how can we say we reject these elections and yet you are going to put up candidates?
POM. Then you give them legitimacy.
MM. You give them legitimacy. Big debates. What should be the correct tactic? It is a mirror of a debate that took place in 1960.
POM. On the Transkei.
MM. Yes, and it took place in 1960 over the Republic. When Verwoerd said he's going for a Republic came the question of the election of the State President, we said, white comrades in the Congress alliance said, "Let's put up Piet Beyleveld as a candidate", President of Congress of Democrats. We said, "But it's so sham." They said, "But how do we mobilise people in the whites? So let's put up a known President of Congress of Democrats, supporter, and his organisation is part of the Freedom Charter, let's give them an alternative." We disagreed amongst each other but in the end somebody nominated Piet and he stood.
POM. He stood?
MM. He stood! But I am saying the same tactical question which derived from the different experiences of the different races in the form in which our non-democracy and our oppression was manifesting itself.
POM. On a much smaller, minute level, Sinn Fein emasculated themselves on that question for like 50 years. But they would stand on the programme - but if elected we will not serve.
MM. You want it both ways.
POM. Now the Unionists are doing that.
MM. You want both worlds. That debate takes place because you say, how do we reach the people that we want to mobilise? That's the real issue and right now the problem remains how does your political formation get down to the grassroots? You can't just go to the grassroots and only talk to them about national politics.
POM. You certainly can't.
MM. You can't. You've got to go and talk about their taps, their education, their park, their streets, their lights, their water. You've got to talk about those basic things. Then in the meantime you go into Hyde Park and you say let's talk about the water is too expensive. What are you talking about? Piss off man. But then you go and tell them, now we want your membership fee to the Resident's Association. What? I'm broke, how dare you think that just because I'm living in a good house I can pay the membership fee? That's a life experience. Then they say, no, we want to talk about enclosures. Ha! We even toyi-toyi with a 4 X 4.