About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

22 Mar 2002: Maharaj, Mac

POM     We're talking about Mac's comments on the Howard Barrell interviews. This is general comments.

MM     Yes, just general comments. I think there are a few matters that would need correction with the dates, etc. but you will see it as you go on. The only thing that I would say is, yes, these were a series of interviews I gave to Howard in 1990 on the basis that one can see that Howard was a part of the ANC underground and was doing this study. I think that one of the things that worried me is how much of those discussions centred around the individuals, who played what role, and quite often they come out not in a very good light, individuals. While this transcript has been filed, Howard didn't even know that it had been filed here, I am a little bit embarrassed at that. About the issues themselves I have no problems but it was too much asking me my role over particular events, where I stood, where who stood, and in that environment one made fairly harsh comments about one's colleagues. I don't know how it would be used but I think that insofar as it tried to recollect crucial documents, crucial strategic tactical decisions, I think that my recollections would stand the test of time. But again you will see from the interviews that Howard was referring to documents, movement documents where neither of us had them in front of us to read them and study them and often I make the caveat that, look, I haven't read – it's a long time since I read them and these are my recollections.

     Otherwise I think it gives a fairly good insight on the issues that we were confronted with as we were developing the struggle both at the military and the political level. The department that I was secretary of was not IRD, it was IPRD, Internal Political and Reconstruction Department. For brevity we began to call it IRD in our discussion. So that's the only comment I wanted to make on that.

     Insofar as it throws light on the issues and where I was located both within the Revolutionary Council, Internal Political, the Political/Military Council, the ANC, I think it gives a good reading, a background to the context situation of some of the events relating to the documents and the fate of the documents. I just wanted to make that comment, otherwise I think you will find it useful.

POM     Just moving from that to the ANC's actions in the last week, a document was issued on AIDS and once again it's a twist in the wind stand on Zimbabwe. We talked about this before, I remember you saying Madiba had come back to attend meetings of the National Working Council, what's happened? In the statement on AIDS to say that Nkosi Johnson was taken away from his natural culture and background, was killed by anti-retrovirals and that Parks had AIDS but it wasn't AIDS that killed him, it was the anti-retrovirals that killed him, I mean these are astonishing statements to say the least.

MM     I'm not at those meetings but I've read the press reports. I think the official statement released does not contain that sort of issue, it indicates that in a debate of a 90-person committee somebody could stand up and express some wild and unscientific ideas like this one of an allegation. They say it is implied, I read the article rapidly today, but (it said that) Parks Mankahlana died because he was on anti-retrovirals and so did Nkosi Johnson. I don't know if anybody made that statement. I think the real issue is that the government keeps on saying that it is moving from the assumption that HIV causes AIDS. While I avoid current political issues, I have responded in one interview on ETV when I was asked live on this question, I said that I think that whatever the debates on the scientific issues, to me HIV does cause AIDS and I think that there is a pandemic in this country and that while medical research proceeds it is imperative that there should be a total mobilisation of our people in every sector so that we combat this disease and that we minimise the loss of life while the search goes on for a cure.

     I think that essentially Madiba has been saying the same thing. What is a bit incomprehensible is that the President in his State of the Nation address this year did speak in a way in which it suggested that there could be a bridging of the gap but at this last meeting of the ANC, as articulated in the decisions to combat this, that there are –

POM     It's going back to square one, it's almost like going back to where you were over two years ago.

MM     And yet one read a statement that when Madiba and the officials of the Working Committee had met and Madiba came out and said that they have one of the best strategies in the world, one assumed from that that there was going to be some forward movement on this question. Presently it seems not and yet last night I saw on TV that Zweli Mkhize the ANC MEC for health in KwaZulu-Natal said that in a few months time there will be a full roll-out of Nevirapine. So I don't know what sense to make of it except that at that meeting between Madiba and the officials the release to the press said that they all acknowledged that the government was communicating very, very badly and once more it seems that the communication is atrocious.

POM     Atrocious! Just, not directly related, just that as it happened in the same week. I know a number of people who went to Zimbabwe as observers and one didn't have to be a genius to know that a free and fair election doesn't begin on the day of an election itself, the fact that the country that put together the – what it has been proud to call the best constitution in the world, could in any way tolerate the tactics and methods used and then give some kind of official sanction to the result is almost an insult to those here who devised your own constitution.

MM     Well I accept – I said that when I retired from politics … my realisation that post-1994 from a freedom fighter one is now a real politician and I said that has been the understanding of myself. I accept that in political life one has to take decisions of expediency but what is disappointing is that the observer missions seem to be so divided and divided almost aligned to the country positions. The SA observer mission seems to have reported with one perception and the SADEC one a different perception and the African observer mission a different perception of the same event and whatever the political experiences of how government acts the crucial issue is that one would like to ensure that observer missions develop a credibility as to what they see. That is a matter of quite a bit of concern. There is a suggestion that is even more disquieting that the observer mission from our country went with a sort of preconceived notion of what would be politically acceptable. Now that's a frightening thought.

     As to government's actions, again there remains at the communication level with the people huge confusion. Whatever manoeuvres government may want to engage in if we are to make the assumption that it is to nudge the Zimbabwe situation into the correct path, the point is that the SA constituency of the government party is becoming confused and the rest of the SA public are becoming confused as to what really is happening. So I think there's a huge problem about how one conducts one's diplomacy. If diplomacy is solely behind closed doors there is a danger that the public that you serve in your country is left in the dark.

     Now if we reflect on our negotiations process I think it is common knowledge that the ANC as a key party to the negotiations process set up a negotiation forum inside its own self and made sure that there were periodic meetings from all the regions, keeping them informed and hearing from them what was the thought on the ground, besides publications that were circulated internally. When it engaged into certain activity, it regularly even breached the media so that people beyond the ranks of the ANC were on board with what was happening. Those were very sensitive negotiations taking place about the very future of this country. Now if one could find that balance between keeping the public informed and engaging in those discussions around negotiations, one keeps wondering why that cannot be done with regards to diplomacy.

     Agreed it is a problematic question about how one gets movement forward in Zimbabwe without the collapse of the total economy of Zimbabwe, but I think the economy - my view is that the economy has collapsed, that the degree to which it has collapsed already the consequences are going to be borne by the southern African states and in particular by the South African state and its economy.I think all round commentators are saying it is a puzzle to understand this record.

POM     Do you not think this whole, call it what you like, debacle is going to further make foreign investors less inclined to invest not just here but in the region? Two, that development plans, Nepad, is a SA initiative, it's going to be looked on with a lot less tolerance than beforehand since one of the principles written into it is that Africa would police itself, would ensure the rule of law, would ensure free and fair elections, would ensure democratic norms, would ensure a whole list of things all of which have been violated left, right and centre in Zimbabwe? Like as the first test.

MM     Politics is very, very fickle, Padraig. It doesn't just apply to the SA situation or even on the world situation. Tomorrow or three months down the line let's just look at a hypothetical situation, for whatever reason Mugabe is now out of the front line, no longer President of Zimbabwe, maybe a government of national unity is created or maybe there's a promise of a transitional mechanism and fresh elections. Suddenly the very people who are concerned will all be jumping on the bandwagon and saying fantastic and they will attribute and credit that not necessarily based on where the facts sit. They might sit there and say that's the victory of the position pursued by the SA government and the whole scenario has changed. But maybe in six months if no change has taken place and greater deterioration takes place and then Nepad is in serious trouble. Currently the papers are reporting that as the commonwealth trio were deliberating in London what to do about Zimbabwe because they had been mandated by the commonwealth, papers are saying that there was lots of pressure from commonwealth states linking what this trio were going to recommend and what they were going to do about Zimbabwe with the fate of Nepad. There are even suggestions that the movement of Nigeria and SA towards a suspension was something that was effected by the desire and reading the signal that Nepad would be in serious trouble. If that is so then it means that issues of how to address this matter correctly had to be balanced against trade-offs of whether Nepad survives or doesn't survive. It makes me say I'm not a born politician.

POM     I talked to Gillian Hutchins this morning, I think she thinks differently.

MM     What does she think? You mean about me or Zimbabwe? What does she think?

POM     We weren't talking about Zimbabwe.

MM     Oh, you were talking about me! So you think I'm a born politician?

POM     She thinks you're one of the best things she's ever seen at being able to balance different alternatives where there are different perspectives for people to find consensus.

MM     But that's on a principle basis. It's not horse trading for horse trading's sake. That's not what the World Trade Centre was. We had very clear, firm, defendable principles, lots of formulas could be found but one of the fundamental principles was that it should lead to an outcome that brought democracy to this country. So the space to juggle around and the trade offs, yes, provided you didn't sacrifice your principle. Here the problem is what's the principle? Is the principle, which I think is what elections are all about and why we have observer missions, that a democratic election should not have the formality of democracy but the content of it, that it should be free and fair elections and that by the observer missions you would ensure that the ruling power, which itself says it is committed to democracy, adheres to the norms and standards that are required.

     It was interesting that the SADEC observer mission said that the elections were conducted in a way where the norms and standards for a free and fair election were not met. So it's not a question of whether 300 or 700 people died tips it in terms of free and fair. SADEC was saying there are a set of norms and standards that you ought to conform to for free elections and it says those norms and standards were not adhered to.

POM     Can SADEC itself set out those norms and standards?

MM     That would appear to be so. How could it reflect norms and standards if it could not. I haven't seen the full report but I would assume that the report would then be structured by saying that these are the norms and in each case saying which one was not met, which one was not met substantially and which one was just not met but you could bend the rules and say OK, I can live with it. I think that's what strikes me.

     At present one can only say that the decision by the commonwealth to suspend Zimbabwe's membership was a movement forward. Whether it is sufficient movement forward to impact on the conduct of the Mugabe government is an open question and that's where I say I'm not a politician because one would measure by results on this matter and I don't think the results are coming, no sign of results.

POM     Results on his part?

MM     Results for Zimbabwe I'm saying. At the same time I must say that one is frightened by the prospectof sanctions against Zimbabwe. Yes, it would cause real problems, it doesn't solve the issue. So two issues are standing on the table at the moment. Both of them are problematic. The one is that there should be a government of national unity. Whatever one may say about Mugabe and Tsvangarai's position as posturing, the reality is that there is a crucial argument that both parties have put on the table. Mugabe is saying, 'I'm prepared to work with a government of national unity provided the MDC accepts the legitimacy of the elections and the credibility', and the MDC is saying, 'But the elections were not legitimate and credible and we're not prepared to go into a government of national unity.'

     So the line up on that question almost seems unbridgeable and partly it may in hindsight that the SA observer mission which pronounced the elections legitimate has caused that problem because now it has made it even more difficult for the MDC to go into a government of national unity because it is a SA observer mission that said it is legitimate because you, the MDC, took part in the elections. I think that was a very dangerous observation.

POM     That would be counter to saying if you had –

MM     If you don't think it's legitimate you must never stand.

POM     That if you went out in 1994 and took part in an election where the apartheid regime closed down every polling booth, played all kinds of dirty tricks, moving things around, that an observer mission would say, well the ANC supporters came out so therefore it's legitimate.

MM     Or like KwaZulu-Natal, as happened in KZN. So that's one set of issues. The second set of issues that has arisen is a scenario put by the MDC that if given these elections were not free and fair, if Mugabe is sincere about the interests of Zimbabwe as a country and a people, let's join hands, let's have a transitional government and let's arrange a fresh election. Now that's a different solution. These are the only two solutions that are on the table at the moment and it seems to me that the first one, the criticism by the two parties, has locked it. The second one of a transitional government with a fresh election, that Mugabe has not pronounced anything on. The MDC has said it wants it that way. Mugabe by implication is saying no, he's saying I'm elected, finish, klaar. But I don't think he's taken into account what are the alignments taking place within Mugabe's own party. One reads between the lines in the papers, again as a person out of the activist programme, that it is clear that inside ZANU there are all sorts of alignments and realignments taking place. The one that is openly talked about even during the election, during the voting, the ZANU leader from …he is saying there had to be an alignment with MDC outside of having Mugabe. He's quiet at the moment but he has stated his position and that's a clear indicator that inside the ZANU leadership there are differences of opinion. What action by the external forces would precipitate that and in which direction is a matter for the politicians to balance.

POM     There must be a lot of politicians in his party who were looking down the line and saying in the long run this situation is non-sustainable and we don't want to just be found on the wrong side but out of politics for life. If you had to compare the elections there, even though from a distance, with the elections here in 1994 what would you see as, if there are any, comparisons and what are the contrasts?

MM     Well the conduct of the body charged with conducting the elections in Zimbabwe I don't think met the norms that we had set up for ourselves. Its conduct was highly questionable. The fact that it reduced the polling booths in the urban areas, increased them in the rural areas, I mean that's untenable conduct. You normally should publish how many polling booths there are. All the political parties should be in the process of consultation, there should be some agreement. But then factually also the Zimbabwe government pre-election brought in legislation which was stacking the dice in a particular direction. We in SA set up the Independent Media Commission so that the state media were not going to be lopsided. We set up the IEC to conduct the elections. We set up the TEC to ensure that the government did not do anything in that interim phase which would be prejudicial to free and fair elections. So we set up a variety of institutions aimed at saying while the apartheid government was in power these are the mechanisms which would ensure that there is no abuse of that power to stack the dice on its side in the elections.

     In Zimbabwe the issue never seems to have arisen. The government appointed the Electoral Commission, it functioned in a very erratic, inefficient way and, as I said, took decisions at the last minute surrounding the polling booths, but the government itself kept passing legislation where it overruled the courts and created huge uncertainty but also stacked up the issue. I think structurally, therefore, to say that those elections were not conducted in an atmosphere of free and fair elections and that are required for free and fair elections was a legitimate criticism. The rest of it is known, the question of the security forces, the role of the police, etc.

POM     Do you think, to come back to you, one of these things that has been at the back of my head and I think it may have surfaced in one of our conversations, that in one sense Mugabe touched on something when he talked about the re-colonisation of Africa, that the West, whites, were again exerting undue influence, inserting themselves into African affairs, that the imbalances of the wealth, the poverty of Africa was a legacy of colonialism, that the West was still lecturing Africans on how to run their own affairs?

MM     If that argument has any relevancy, I think that the argument can only be advanced in a very, very measured environment because then you must accept that you can't criticise the western democracies for what they do. I don't think that's the way the world is moving. I think the world is moving towards greater and greater exchange both of views, ideas and even programmes. Right now so many countries are at Monterey arguing that the world should commit itself to removal of poverty and in that argument we are saying that the developed countries should be playing a great role in this process. That's an implied criticism of the western powers.

POM     That debate has been going on for years and yet the West listens and in fact cuts back on the total amount of aid when you take out of a percentage of their GDP or whatever.

MM     Except that I don't work on percentages. I'm saying that the argument today is in a different environment. We've got a track record of grants and donor money in the past and what they were used for. What Nepad promises is that we will use it also differently. It doesn't say that you should just give it to military regimes as you gave it in the past to buy arms. No, it's saying that the argument is the removal of poverty in the world and it's saying that even the developed world had better understand that the existence of poverty creates an unstable world. It's unacceptable.

     While I'm making the point, the criticism that Mugabe made of western interferencecan only be made if you desist from criticising the western powers, how they conduct themselves in their own countries. So I think it's an overplayed hand. Even if there are elements of superiority in thinking and the articulating of the style of approach to politics, we are today having to change the rules by which the global world lives and merely shouting and standing up in defiance is not changing things. I think more progress is being made in debating in those work forums and calling for a change of the environment. I'm saying that the democracy that the countries need internally must also be represented in the democracy by which the world arrives at decisions and therefore I would oppose western veto powers, not on the grounds of racism and colonialism, but on grounds of what is necessary and equitable in this current world.

POM     Now if I said I've listened to all your arguments for the need for more aid and more directed aid and how that aid is used and I agree and I look at SA as the most developed country in the southern region and I look at it and say, "What are your expenditure patterns? What are your provincial expenditure patterns?" And I find a consistent pattern of under-expenditure where needs for health, for the most basic causes to alleviate poverty, were not themselves met.

MM     Let's be very, very clear there. From 1994 besides stability and reducing the deficit we as a country from 1994 said we don't need debt relief, we don't belong to that category. We set out about reducing that debt. Secondly, we acknowledged that infrastructure expenditure was almost zilch. We set about freeing resources to spend more on infrastructure developmentto grow the economy. In proportion we are spending higher than the norm of most countries in the world in our education and health budget but the Minister of Finance has himself acknowledged candidly in the current session of parliament during his budget that the capacity to deliver is not there, that money allocated is not being spent. So SA has not been saying donors give money to SA, that's not in its argument. Its argument has been over the third world issue in debt relief for the very highly indebted countries and it's always excluded itself from that argument. Trevor, by identifying the lack of capacity to spend the money as a major problem, is already by identifying the problem saying they are seized with how to solve that problem.

POM     Why after seven years does that problem remain so basic? The ANC in 1999branded the slogan, "We've done our learning, now we deliver", and yet if one looks particularly (which I just got about a week or so ago) the expenditure at provincial level some of the figures are astonishing. Money for poverty relief is simply not being spent. It's there, it's allocated, it's not spent. Why does this problem persist? What makes it so difficult?

MM     I think in part it is reflected in the debate that's going on in the Municipal Services Bill at the moment before parliament where many municipalities and provinces are claiming that the current bill is putting too much power in the hands of the Ministry of Finance and Finance is saying that is necessary if the money that's allocated to use is going to be spent properly because without those controls it's not working. Those who are opposed to those clauses are saying it's unconstitutional. So partly they are using the constitution either to advance their argument or to block that resolution of that problem but it identifies it. Remember the municipal structure that is now in place has only come in in the last two to three years, in the last two years in fact. The previous municipalities were seized with the problem of integrating the municipalities from the apartheid geographically divided white monopoly disparities to a hybrid that was going to take us towards single municipalities for a single geographical area. That has only come into place post-1999 and now the mechanism to ensure that money allocated is spent for what it is allocated is the crucial problem. That means to say that these structures haven't had a chance to settle down, to grow and have the capacity to spend the money correctly.

     And even now you are reading of some municipalities where the City Manager is earning more than the President of this country. It already indicates a problem there in the constitutional mechanisms and it goes back to the old debate, my own view has been that while there was a debate at the World Trade Centre between federal and unitary state and while we, the ANC, around these negotiations went in with a three-tier structure of government, looking back by the end of my first five years, I think in my interview with you in Cape Town I said as much to you that I think that that provincial kind of structure was a disaster. Delivery is the cities and the town, elected structures, and that the three tier created an inordinate bureaucracy in the system. Now that has now been debated, it can't because people feel it's too radical a change in the constitution but what is clear is that SA ideally needed to move to a centralised system before it went to a federal system to facilitate the translation of delivery and there is a dearth of capacity. We are having managers of cities, and it doesn't matter whether white or black, who don't have the capacity to do that job of managing their budgets which par excellence they are. They are like CEOs of a huge, huge company so I think there's –

POM     Like a CEO of Enron. I knew nothing, I heard nothing.

MM     And no-one can think where the problem is. So I think there's a real problem there and I think that Trevor Manuel by clearly and unequivocally pointing to that as the next challenge is saying there is no hiding place now, this is an issue that has got to be addressed and it's not going to be addressed just by a law. It's a question of training, it's a question of expenditure, evaluation mechanisms and control mechanisms so that what the money is allocated for the money must be spent on that and if it is not who gets punished? Because without those sanctions nothing will happen, nothing will happen.

POM     Just to move backwards, because I've gone to something – well I want to ask you the question at some point so you may as well answer it now: now you're not an active member of the ANC, you're a private citizen, you're an observer, you're looking in like the rest of us, probably with a little more knowledge and whatever, but if you were to compare the ANC of today with the ANC of say 1994 and the ANC you knew in Lusaka, what are the differences?

MM     I think the fundamental difference is that today politics has become a career, a profession and therefore the undiluted commitment that the ANC had throughout its existence of serving the interests of the people is now being addressed in the context of people who are the elected representatives to a large extent also looking at their own careers. Of course they will always say that it is in the interests of the people but what they are doing is they are slipping into the mould of the way politics has been a democracy which was in advance in the western countries has also stripped itself of that level of morality and commitment. The model that you get from the United States is pure professional politics and presently this is an aspect that is manifesting itself very, very strongly.

POM     Here.

MM     Yes. So I think that's one of the problem areas, yet we can't wish away the fact that a dream that there will not be career politicians and professionalisation of politics. So I think what we had in our constitution it's there, it said there was a need for a strong civil society, that element is missing, it's not there.

     You must understand, Padraig, when you're putting these questions to me while I'm saying I'm just an ordinary citizen, there is a constraint in me. Yes I'm an ordinary citizen but I'm not also an ordinary citizen. I'm a person who has been in the struggle from 1953. I still adhere to the view that there is no political force in this country which has the future of this country in its cusp as the ANC and therefore one hopes that all these errors, all these harmful developments, that there will be a capacity within the ANC to overcome them.

POM     That I suppose is the question I'll be getting to. Since for the foreseeable future, whatever that is, the ANC will be the party that will govern the country, is there on issues like AIDS, because the party has so much power, is so assured of its position, that it will lose sight of what the people want and will no longer be serving the people's best interests?

MM     That danger is there. One cannot exclude it but at the same time there is also the hope that the ANC has the capacity to overcome those problems.

POM     Would you think in the case of AIDS, I'm hung up on AIDS OK, that –

MM     I think the current situation that has arisen is not sustainable for long. I think that there is going to be change by the ANC. How it's going to come about is difficult to say because the disquieting signals are so strong and indefensible. For example, today's papers are saying that the Minister of Health has started for some time a quiet enquiry as to who leaked the AIDS Report from the Medical Control Council. Now that's an untenable situation because it was not some secret document involving some high diplomacy in the life of a nation. It was a research document about what is the impact. I can see no reason to worry about who gave it up and I hope that it is not going to become a witch-hunt but if the signals are there that it's a witch-hunt then one hopes that the ANC has the capacity to correct that type of problem but in its correction it should begin to understand that the lid that it has put on movement forward in fighting AIDS is harming not just the country but also harming the ANC. One hopes that that realisation will come and hopefully sooner rather than later. But there is no other hope left at this stage for the country. So what does it say? It says one hopes my leaders in the ANC, in the National Executive, bear enough institutional memory of where the ANC come from and what are its responsibilities to this country, that even in the context of professionalisation of politics that they would be able, as the ANC has done many times in the past, to sit back and take stock and to correct something that clearly is not delivering the results.

POM     Is it in danger of losing its institutional memory?

MM     Too early to say it is already in that danger but enough to say that even if history says we will be returned to power for the next 10 – 15 years it is necessary in the context of professionalisation of politics, which you can't avoid, that the ANC leadership should always conduct itself as if the people will not return it to power, that the ultimate test is always the people and you must never make the assumption that the people will return you always. You must proceed from the premise that the people will return you always if you act correctly in their interest and the AIDS thing, the number of deaths being recorded, makes it indefensible that the current situation should continue.

POM     Do you think that sometimes people, particularly on something like AIDS, don't know what's in their best interests? This is because of the lack or confusing signals coming from government in one way or another?

MM     So, because AIDS is a question of a culture change in sexual behaviour, one of the most difficult things to change and the signals have got to be consistent and the effort to mobilise the people and make them aware and to change their behaviour has got to be consistent, the effort, otherwise it won't work. That's what the message is of successful campaigns today in other parts of the world and I'm saying that from the point of view of the people who are experiencing those things it can't go on that they will say we just forgive you for leaving us rudderless as to how we should fight this pandemic, that we should just passively succumb to it because the signals that are being given as to how we should change our conduct, behaviour, are not consistent. If it is purely as assumption that HIV causes AIDS and yet it is being widely circulated the dissident view on AIDS that HIV does not cause AIDS, that anti-retrovirals actually kill you rather than prolong your life, if that is what is being propagated then why should I change my sexual behaviour because there is no proof?

POM     I have read nowhere, and I've gone through the literature extensively, that there is no medical authority any place in the world that doubts the efficacy of nevirapine, that it will cut mother to child transmission by at least 50%. But this incontrovertible body of scientific evidence, the best minds all over the world, yet this country adheres to a position of, no, we are not going to make it available because sufficient studies have not been done and half a million babies will be born between now and the end of the year, does this government not bear a responsibility for the fact that half of those quarter of a million babies will die that needn't necessarily have died at all?

MM     Let's just address the question in far less emotional terms. The simple fact that current scientific knowledge says that nevirapine will reduce the mother to child transmission by 50%, let's change that argument, will reduce the transmission by 25%. In the current state of scientific knowledge I find it difficult to defend that we should not act on that scientific knowledge. Even if tomorrow there is a disproof within science in the present policy that we have, we ought to be using, given the fact that thousands are dying, we should be using that to reduce the transmission as much as we can with a consistent message of awareness and a change of behaviour. And that change of behaviour can only be motivated if you say current scientific knowledge is that HIV causes AIDS, I must believe that to change my sexual behaviour. But if you're telling me that it is not proven that HIV causes AIDS then why should I change my behaviour because I'm not addressing the cause. So I am saying it is necessary that current scientific knowledge should be used to its maximum to attack this problem and if that scientific knowledge is amplified, modified or changed by subsequent scientific development then change, but I find it indefensible to say don't do it now.

POM     But could you not divide it into two parts, saying on the one hand you have HIV causes AIDS, that's current scientific knowledge that says so, park this here; (b) the use of nevirapine cuts mother to child transmission by two injections, let's just say a quarter or whatever, therefore as long as that is true and apparent and statistics show it let's use it.

MM     That's the point I'm making. Use it but also your awareness has got to be persuasive that, listen, you've got to change your sexual behaviour because HIV causes AIDS.

POM     We're coming round in a circle. The point is would the great tragedy of SA be because of this doubt over whether something is a theory or whether it's a fact, that more lives are lost as a result of government policy than were lost throughout the entire era of apartheid?

MM     Look Padraig, you don't have to persuade me. Even in the period of struggle we often debated means and tactics and often changed our positions if we thought that there was a reasonable probability that our actions would lead to loss of life of innocent people, we would change our positions because we said we're not just reckless here. Our approach is not come what may let everybody die in this war, it doesn't matter. It mattered to us. In prison we sat and debated action and often we said we can't take this form of action because it would lead to a huge assault on the body of prisoners, physical assault. Now chaps be careful, you can't resort to that action unless you consciously have decided to pay the price. And we would desist from that action.

     So I am saying even at that stage on an issue where no science could guide you, you were guided by the need to preserve life and here in the face of the statistics of the day I say it's unsustainable the current position and I find it difficult to believe that the leadership of my organisation would not come to a different position. I don't think that what the papers are reporting, Mandela defeated, is the end of the story.

POM     No, neither do I.

MM     I don't think so because the reality is that the hope of this country is sitting in the ANC. That is where the hope is sitting and therefore I cannot believe that the leadership of my organisation will fail to respond. That it is failing at the moment on HIV/AIDS, in my view, is incontrovertible. The signals are mixed and it does not lead to a mobilisation that's necessary, but I have a faith at the moment that it will change. But then I'm a born optimist.

POM     You've said that four times.

MM     I have to because I'm just not an ordinary citizen, I have to be measured in what I'm saying. I can't just stand up and say, oh, they are not doing it therefore nothing can be done. I don't believe that. But I do say that my leadership should, while it is assured of being returned by the polls, should conduct itself using the touchstone, the assumption that it will not be returned.

POM     Part of the reason we have conversations like this, as distinct about the past or whatever, is because what you say on these things today are part of, or a reflection of, who you are.

MM     And where I come from.

POM     Do you understand? That therefore a book centred on you is about your thought, the development of your thinking, the evolution of your thinking and that you still have positions that you hold dear to the heart and will always hold dear to the heart.

MM     Except that I have to articulate my views with a sense of responsibility recognising that I joined the struggle in 1953.

POM     Yes, I understand that.

MM     I must speak with measured tone and that I have retired because the other challenge is that I must become an activist, put your money where your mouth is.

POM     Maybe you're aching to do that again.

MM     No, no, no. Definitely not.

POM     I'm just going to finish going through, since we nearly have the last day, but there are some controversial statements that Jenkin makes and I want to get your record on them. I will be seeing him next week, I'm going to Cape Town, I think I'm seeing him on Tuesday evening in fact.

     We've gone through, which you've explained in great detail, how you used to use even though you would develop a number of methods –

MM     Not necessarily use that book cover.

POM     So we had stopped at that. After that, I'm just moving on to – he says:-

     "After returning from one of her regular trips to Johannesburg Antoinette reported that Mac had seemed very stressed and looked tired and overworked. That message had been conveyed through the messages too but it was never possible to tell with Mac. He always appeared to have boundless energy and kept us all on our toes with his demands. His messages often came through in the middle of the night giving the impression that he may never even stop to sleep. But after a while it became clear that the stress of the situation was beginning to take its toll and the Lusaka leadership suggested that Mac should come out for a rest. On top of this the word was getting around that he had been sent into SA and was not in the Soviet Union waiting for a kidney transplant as everybody had been told. It was essential for the continuation of Vula that this legend be shored up. In London we looked for a ticket for Mac to fly to India via Mauritius, getting yet another disguise and false identity. Mac was able to make his way to New Delhi and then to Moscow. All the time we were in contact with him through voice mail. After a couple of weeks in Moscow Mac returned to London where we were able to discuss the question of communications."

     Did you come out? That's the way he recalls it.

MM     No. They may have discussed that I needed a break but that's not the way the matter was presented to me. One, my wife had met the accident and the extent of her injuries I didn't know and I was worried about her and the children. It certainly added to the stress of the job and the strain. But I received a message where President Tambo asked me to meet him urgently in Moscow for a face to face debriefing and he gave a date by which I should be in Moscow. Now I had entered the country on foot. I was not equipped nor was I provided by the organisation with any mechanism to travel in and out of the country but in the light of OR's straight statement to me, "I need to see you in Moscow by a certain date", left me with no option but to get out by that date and be in Moscow because I know his movement doesn't allow him to just say he will overnight appear in Moscow. Number two he had made it clear that I must exit in such a way that I'm going to get back so I couldn't just recklessly exit and as soon as I reach a free country start waving my hands. So the conditions for my exit were clearly spelt out by OR, "Come out, I need consultation." And the consultation I believed was necessitated by what OR told me in Moscow. There was talk that there are talks going on with the regime and Madiba. There were large rumours circulating that Madiba was selling out.

POM     He was telling you that?

MM     No, no, in Moscow he tells me. I had sent out the Madiba text of the Madiba letter to PW to OR. That letter had unconsciously been circulated to other people inside the country who were all reading it wrong and saying it proves as a sell-out. I had sent this letter out to OR. He had not given it to the National Executive yet because I did an analysis of the text to show that there is no sell-out, these rumours of a sell-out are wrong.

     Now when I meet him in Moscow in the course of the debriefing, what's happening at home, he says to me, "I have a problem. I need to put the Mandela letter to PW before the National Executive. Now you have read that letter carefully, you have analysed it and you know (what it means). I need you to be present at the National Executive meeting inLusaka and I need in the discussion that you should find a way to stand up and analyse that letter so that people understand it properly." He says, "For that reason I want you to come to Lusaka. There is scheduled an NEC meeting." So I say, "But how do I get to Lusaka? What excuse do I make?" He says, and Slovo was there, the agreement then was that I have taken such a battering of treatment that the specialists are saying that I need relief from the drug treatment and the therapy that I'm undergoing. So I'm just taking a rest from drug therapy and for that reason I will be in Lusaka and because I will be in Lusaka during the duration of the NEC meeting I will attend the NEC meeting.

     Now I thought that that indicated one of the urgent needs why he wanted me out and indeed that's how it happened except with this difference, that OR left Moscow while my disguise was prepared and I didn't have to rush to Lusaka, I had to prepare how to get there. While that is happening and waiting for the NEC meeting which was already scheduled OR leaves me in Moscow, returns to Africa and has a stroke. So he has this stroke and he's incapacitated and flown to London. I in the meantime am proceeding on the same basis that I'm needed in Lusaka, because Slovo knew. So I proceeded via London and I went and saw OR in the clinic. While he was down with this stroke I asked his wife permission to visit him in the clinic and she stayed out of the room when I went to see him. I am assuming that he had indicated, even though he was unable to speak, he had indicated that he wanted to see me alone when he was told that Mac is here. So when I walked into the hospital ward, it was a private ward, Adelaide Tambo, after ushering me into the room, left the room and there it was clear that she could hear what he was saying, his impairment was the capacity to speak and communicate and his arm had been paralysed. I then said to him, "As per our understanding I am proceeding to Lusaka", and he nodded and said, "Good." And I said, "After that I am proceeding home." He said, "Very good."

     I then went to Lusaka. I did two things, helped my wife and children who were already in London to settle in Brighton and secondly attended that NEC meeting. Indeed at that NEC meeting Slovo and Alfred Nzo now, acting in place of Tambo, tabled the Madiba letter. It was clear that people had not read it and many of the colleagues at that item got up criticising Mandela, expressing the fear that he was selling out and as the discussion went on I got up quite late in the discussion and said, "Comrades, while we have been discussing this matter I have been sitting and reading this letter. I find what is in this letter is different from what people are saying. Can I take us through this letter? What exactly is it saying? It's a letter by Mandela to PW Botha." And I went through it. The very comrades who were criticising Mandela, making the assumption that he's selling out, once I made that explanation by referring to the text and succinctly summarising what he was saying –

POM     Can you remember what the – now?

MM     Yes, the issues were that Mandela was saying –

POM     What was the difference between how it was being perceived by the NEC and - ?

MM     A copy of the letter was simply circulated, as documents of the meeting, but it was not to be known in public so it was just distributed at the meeting. People didn't even have time to read it but the discussion started and the comrades got up, not arguing from what was given to them to read but arguing from their perception – what is Mandela doing? He is selling out. Speaker after speaker said that. Then I get up and I say, "Can we go through this letter?" And I say the first point he's making is that he is urging the regime to negotiate with the ANC, not with him. He's making it clear – I am not negotiating, I am urging you, the government, to negotiate with the ANC because the country is in crisis and the only two forces capable of rescuing this country are the existing government and the ANC provided they talk. So he says that's what I'm addressing you, PW, on. And he says, I know you, PW Botha, and your party and your government have certain concerns and suspicions about the ANC as to why you will not speak to the ANC. Let me deal with those issues. Number one, you say you will not talk to the ANC because it is committed to violence. Now on that question he goes on for pages showing how the ANC has never wanted violence as the mechanism to solve the problem, showing how its entire record even when it turned to violence was to hold out the possibility of talking. And he says, we didn't do this because we are committed to violence, we did it because you left us with no option. So it is wrong for you to say you will not talk to the ANC unless it renounces violence. You cannot talk in that way.

     Then the second argument he takes up is the argument that the ANC has an alliance with the Communist Party and he goes through the history of that relationship and says the party became our ally in the worst days of the struggle. You cannot put a condition that I should dump my ally for the sake of talking to you. Then he goes back to the second world war how the west formed an alliance with Stalin and he says what sort of organisation would we be if we were to abandon our friend in the trenches because you say so? He says you can't put those sorts of conditions. That is inhibiting you from fulfilling your historic responsibility of resolving this crisis by negotiation with the ANC.

     The third thing he tackles is the question of the principle direction of the solution. He says, you have to balance two things. The third issue that he tackles in that letter, he says, how are we going to solve this thing? SA is being reduced to ashes, unnecessary loss of lives and no end to this violence. He says the issue we will have to address in resolving it when you discuss with the ANC is the issue of the principle of democracy, one person one vote, and that issue will have to be balanced against the fear – he says that's the principle and that principle will have to be balanced by the concerns and fears of the minorities, the white minority. He says you will have to reconcile this, a principle and concerns and fears.

     Later on he comes back to this point when he says that you must understand one thing, that without the principle of equality there will be no basis for enduring peace. You may paper over the issues if you do not adopt a principle of equality so you may get a short term respite but if you want to remove the root you must understand that without equality of all our citizens there is a systemic fault there. He says this is what you will have to address in your negotiations.

     Now when I outlined this, and then of course he defended the violence, the part that we had taken, he defended the alliance with the Communist Party. Now when I outlined this to the meeting and I said I have seldom read such a brilliant defence of our resort to armed struggle and I know, I've been in detention, I've been in prison and I know how difficult it is to explain to your captors with such forthrightness, here is this forthright defence. Secondly, I said to the meeting, with the same background I have seldom seen a person defend the alliance with the Communist Party as Madiba has defended it from the position of the prisoner. I said we as free people when we go to New York and the Americans attack us for our alliance with the Communist Party seldom do we defend that alliance with the vigour with which he has done.

     Then when I outlined this principle of democracy and concerns and fears and the principle of equality I said this is a magnificent thing, he's not even negotiating. What he is talking is to force the regime to talk to the ANC and he makes it very clear the ANC he is talking about is the ANC that you must talk to which is led by Oliver Tambo with its head office in Lusaka.

     When I finished the very people who were saying he's selling out now began to stand up and demand to speak and began to say, "This is fantastic, this is amazing, he's doing the right thing." So OR was grappling with this problem that rumours are circulating, no structured discussion is taking place and no discussion is taking place on an informed basis as to what's happening. And OR did not want to disclose that in the meantime there were other members of his leadership who with his agreement were talking to the regime in England and in Zurich. So as the President of the organisation he wanted a structured discussion.

POM     Now were you through Vula able to get a copy of PW's letter?

MM     No, Madiba's letter to PW.

POM     Madiba's letter to PW through OR, so he had the letter.

MM     He had the letter.

POM     But he had not - ?

MM     Had not disclosed it to anybody. But he didn't want to disclose it and leave it like that. He wanted to disclose it in the context of a structured discussion at the NEC and in the context that he was preparing the Harare Declaration as a draft for the frontline states. That's the context in which I understood why he wanted me out. That's why he said to me, "I want you to come to Lusaka", at the great risk of my legend being endangered but he combined it when I said, "But can I see my wife and children?" He said, "Yes, also see them and help them, they are going through a bad time." He didn't say anything, presumably because he knew me, he didn't say anything like you need a rest because if he said to me I need a rest then Lusaka and London were not going to be a rest for me. If he needed to give me a rest he would tell me to go off to the Crimea or to Yalta and tell me that my wife and children are coming to join me so that we can relax and still not have the tension that I'm breaking my legend.

     So, I can't say that Tim is wrong but if that was a factor in their thinking then I am saying the events that I went through told me that I had no reason to suspect that OR had a genuine political reason besides a face to face debrief and a discussion about the situation at home. Secondly, a need for me to be present at the NEC. And given that he had the stroke JS and Nzo followed the same agenda that when the item came up they tabled it and discussion went on and it was against what Madiba was doing and then I made the intervention by what I call a textual analysis of the letter and the meeting then shifted its position to supporting what Mandela was doing.

POM     Now this NEC meeting would have been in 1989 right?

MM     1989, second half of 1989. That's the long background to this link. About my coming out now, Padraig, I then to meet that time frame examined how do I go out and back and I found a way to get a passport from Pretoria and I sent a message to London that I will travel under a secret name that I've got now in a passport I will get here to Delhi. Can London arrange under the name of another passport which they should have at the Soviet Embassy in Delhi which I had left behind in Moscow, can they arrange for that passport to be with the Soviet Mission and can they arrange for a ticket under another name so that the name that exited from Jo'burg and arrived in Bombay has no connection to the name that travelled from Delhi to Moscow. Now that's all I asked for, I didn't ask for a ticket on elsewhere because the rest of it arose as a result of the discussion with OR, that's how it happened.

     It is quite remarkable that Tim makes no reference to my wife and my children's circumstance.

POM     None at all.I have to talk to Janet about this. It just talks about you coming back.

MM     Have you met her?

POM     Janet? I've talked to her for about three hours.

MM     How's the discussion going there?

POM     Well any discussion that lasts three hours is going some place, or no place!

MM     You find her interesting?

POM     Oh sure, yes, very intelligent.

MM     Very dynamic person.

POM     The intelligence just shines through.

MM     Very special. Don't you find that the people that you're meeting in Vula are a different calibre?

POM     Again, it's her considered replies. She's one of these people who, Albie Sachs is one, Albie speaks in paragraphs – when Judy transcribes Albie she doesn't have to worry about where to put a comma, it's just there and that's the end of the paragraph. It's automatic.

MM     So Judy will be laughing herself sick.

POM     She enjoyed doing Vuso, I think I did four or five hours with him. I said I'll drop Mac's book and just do yours.

MM     But they are very interesting people.

POM     Oh yes, the fascinating thing that they were special.

MM     Most of them were exceptional calibre.

POM     I forgot so I may as well address it because I forgot the last time, before I move on and this goes back to Ronnie Kasrils. After Vula you moved on to different functions in the negotiating process. He becomes Deputy Minister of Defence and there was a list of names published of cadres who had –

MM     Oh demobbed, demobilisation, yes.

POM     Demobilisation and that people who were demobilised from the MK were getting some small compensation or whatever and that when that list was published you looked and you saw that none of the Vula –

MM     I received phone calls that the Vula people were not included.

POM     Were not included, and you rang him.

MM     I lost my cool. Who told you about that?

POM     You.

MM     Yes, I lost my cool, I said, "You bastard, you put your name on. You bloody sod, you put your own name and you forgot your cadres." He was embarrassed and I had to put up a fight for a good number of them to receive demob.

POM     Could he give an explanation? But you said you wanted your name on because you wanted your children to know.

MM     I've still got letters from people coming in saying, "I'm not on the list. Why?" And I had to keep intervening but they said the list is closed. I had to do the same thing for special pensions for people. I have letters in my briefcase. And I put that question to Ronnie and I put it to Siphiwe, I said, "But surely it was your obligation to carry your troops with you and to fight for them?"

POM     Again, going back to Siphiwe and I don't want to make him sound like a bad guy, OK, why wouldn't he, having been second-in-command in Vula - ?

MM     I think they were so overwhelmed by the change that they never stopped to think and I say that in that failure to think is a huge, unpleasant story about the calibre of a person as a leader. I was brought up in the struggle –

POM     But the calibre of a person?

MM     As a leader. I was brought up in the struggle with the precept that if you're a leader in any position your first duty is the safety of your troops. When your troops are in danger you stand in the front and when your troops have scored a victory you stand guard so that they can celebrate. That's how I was brought up and I just found it incomprehensible. So you're asking me now how I feel, I feel thoroughly let down by the calibre of a man like Ronnie. I feel he failed a major test and I cannot count him as my friend. He's not my enemy but I don't even envisage the remote possibility that I would sit down and share a meal with him, not because of anything he's done to me, it's because I just don't think that's the conduct of a leader. And there's no way, there's no way he's going to win my respect unless he does something dramatic. But that's a separate issue.

     I keep saying my life has given me a huge privilege. What I've gone through, I can count at least five people who I know in any danger situation would lay down their lives to save me. I think that's a huge privilege.

POM     Not too many people can say that.

MM     I can. I can say that with certainty because of the events that I have shared with them. It's not like casual in ordinary society you become friends and you say this is trustworthy and then years later you are let down. I can say with certainty, as I used to say outside, you tell me to go in the country, you tell me to pick five people that I will go in with –

POM     Sorry, you were just saying.

MM     I can count five people that I could get into the country with in the days of the struggle knowing that these five will give their lives to save my life. I think that's a privilege. So I don't have to focus on the people that have been disappointments, they don't shape my life. What shapes me is the knowledge that I've had the privilege of knowing five people like that. That's enough for me. The rest, the disappointments, they happen all the time. All it means is that certain people are unable, history gives them the chance to become leaders, whether you become a leader or not you've got to go through that testing process and I think he failed the test for me. I could give many examples but this was the last, that now we are free with democracy, he's holding a portfolio where he's directly in charge of that process, he doesn't help the cadres who were sitting in the country fighting to save his life.

POM     My question would be, because I always have another question on a question, how could he with that list in front of him, these were people that he worked closely with, whose lives he had shared -

MM     It tells me what he thinks of them, the ranks of people who failed to measure up.

POM     This is a continuation of my conversation with Mac Maharaj on 22nd March 2002. You were saying that?

MM     I'm saying those disappointments of people who failed to measure up, yes they are huge disappointments but I don't know, you are interviewing so many people from Vula, if you ask them about him it would be interesting because I've never discussed him. What I'm telling you guys and Howard was issues that I was speaking in a private environment, I'm saying I'm giving you information that will make you understand, but if you speak whether to Janet or anybody, Catherine, Vuso, and you ask them this question about him I think, I am almost certain, that 90% of them in spite of their inhibitions will end up in such a way that you could search them, they don't have respect for him.They've seen the way he is, you can't in battle not have seen through him. It's an unusual environment, there is no hiding place. They say television today is a medium where you cannot lie in front of that camera. When you're going through detention, you're going through battle, you're living underground, it's not possible not to see through it. It's fine if you just said I have talked to a meeting and walk away, but when you have to walk into battle it's a different kettle of fish. You can see where the person looks at his own interests or whether he worries about people he's in command of. It's too easily seen and I don't think it's something that people do in a calculated way. You just rise up to the occasion or you don't and when you rise up you don't say, "Hey, I'm going to eat first." No, the instinct is, "Hey, this is my comrade, he's my soldier, he's my brother, she's my sister, here, you eat." They notice that you do things to care for them because obviously if you're in command of the underground the success or failure of your mission depends on the forces that you command, you can't do it alone, you can't do the things. You need them and you've got to take care of them.

     That's why I still say the ANC has the hope in this country because too many of the people, even those in the current leadership, have gone through that process where I believe that it becomes in-built that you care for your people and if your career vests your mind with your own selfish interests first and foremost and ignores the ones that you have to care for then you have fallen into the trap of careerism for career's sake. Maybe I was too afraid that I will slip into that and that's why I retired.

POM     Just on that it would seem strange to me, again going back to AIDS where there must be a lot of division, that not a single minister would stand up and say I disagree with the policy of the government, therefore I will resign. I still am a member of the ANC, I still hold to its principles.

MM     But I cannot agree with this, it's a dividing line and I resign my post here.

POM     It's a dividing line. Not a single person.

MM     That happened – you know in the history of the Communist Party of Britain, I keep saying how I've been brought up, in 1939 Harry Pollit was the General Secretary of the British Communist Party. He opposed participation in the war in Britain. In 1941 the Hitler/Stalin Pact is signed and now the Soviet Union is at war. The communist parties throughout the world changed their position, they now said this is a people's war and they now began to participate in the war. Harry Pollit stood up and said to the Communist Party conference, "Comrades, you have taken this resolution that this war has changed from an imperialist war to a people's war. I don't agree with you but I'm a member of the Communist Party, I will abide by your decision. The only thing I ask you is relieve me of the job of General Secretary because I cannot lead you when I don't believe deep down the policy." So he took that stand and the congress of the Communist Party of Britain accepted that and I think that was a measure of their greatness because they said, "We understand your position so, yes, we will relieve you of the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party but we are happy to keep you as a member."

POM     Why is it that in this government there's not a single person?

MM     The fact that it hasn't happened now doesn't mean it won't happen tomorrow, Padraig. But it does, it does raise questions.

POM     I know people that I've interviewed for years and I would still not believe because of their principle that they are still in government. It's become kind of an issue because I keep going back to it.

MM     Sure, I understand what you're saying.

POM     OK, we can wind up Tim since he's winding up Vula.He says: –

     "1990 was a momentous year for the ANC. It was the year that the illegitimate apartheid regime unbanned the organisation and released its leaders from prison. Although this should have been accepted with jubilation as it was in fact a sign of capitulation by the regime, most of us were extremely sceptical and carried on as if nothing had happened. It was too difficult to trust a regime that had always acted with such duplicity. This was just another trick. Certainly there was no slowing down of the activities relating to Operation Vula until much later in the year, well after negotiations between the ANC and the regime had got under way."

MM     Now there I have to put a qualification. Once the ANC is unbanned and Mandela is released two things start to happen, (a) I have Mandela and Sisulu to report to here and consult and be guided by, (b) periodically Joe Slovo is coming into the country and therefore I have the opportunity for clandestine meetings separately with Joe Slovo and collectively with Joe Slovo, Mandela and Sisulu. Now my communications content is changing. I am no longer having to write the reports of my reading of what we are doing to Tim Jenkin and them to go to Lusaka because I'm reporting here. Tim Jenkin and them don't know about that. There is no communication landing in Tim's hands saying on this day I met Madiba and discussed A, B and C and that we have decided to do D, F, G. That he is closed to, doesn't know it's coming, doesn't even know it's happening. What he is still seeing is the technical requests are still pouring in and passing through his hands. So when he says there's no let-up he has no understanding, he's not privy to the discussions that we've had, what should we be doing now as Vula? So to him the statement 'we carried on with no let-up' has got to be qualified with the fact that the mandate may be changing but he's not aware that the mandate is changing because the leadership to which I'm accounting and getting instructions from is here in the country.

POM     So the conduit of communication is changing.

MM     Is changing and I'm now directly communicating and what I'm communicating still outside is around technical things, arms, when is this courier coming, when is that happening, when are you sending this and when are you sending that.

POM     He does have a remark about Ronnie.

MM     What does he say?

POM     "Ronnie Kasrils entered SA on 23 March. Under heavy disguise and false documents he made his way through passport control at Johannesburg, it was no problem. He was able to inform us from the airport of his successful passage. As far as communications were concerned Ronnie's entry marked the changeover to a far more sophisticated communication system. He brought in with him the soft and hardware required to allow the comrades to use proper electronic mail via an international service provider."

MM     He's wrong. Oh, the international service provider, yes we were already using a service provider called Saponet, South African Postal Office Network. So no, his memory is wrong there but we did switch over to an international service provider but the technique was already used.

POM     I'll find that remark where he said Ronnie had been one of his pupils but not necessarily one of his best!

MM     Well you can see a breach of security there already. He says from the airport Ronnie sent a message of his safe arrival. You don't do things like that. You don't walk past immigration and send a message but he made those arrangements.It means he didn't have confidence in us. He certainly didn't conduct himself as if we were a viable mechanism existing here for two years. No. He still saw his own security and his own communication, and I believe he set up, without my knowledge, communication with his wife.

POM     With his wife?

MM     Yes. I never did that because I couldn't sacrifice the organisation to that risk.

POM     This comes down to some of his conclusions. He says: -

     "The flow of arms into SA during the first month of the ANC's unbanning also did not decrease despite the changed political order. On the contrary the number of contacts increased as the months passed. There was a great debate on the role of the underground in the new SA. If negotiations with the apartheid regime did not work out the ANC needed an insurance policy and this would be provided by the underground. There had to be a strong underground, not one that had no weapons on hand."

MM     Yes, he's not privy to the discussion that took place in Johannesburg. The debate was a meeting – Mandela, Slovo, Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, I think Alfred Nzo and myself. Ronnie was in Durban and I had sent a message to them in Durban to say I would like Ronnie and Siphiwe's input, we are going to this meeting and one of the issues at this meeting will be what should be the role of the underground. Ronnie sent me a note which he may have copied to Tim to say that we need to maintain the underground as an insurance policy. I put that view to the meeting but I also wrote to Ronnie and them and said I disagree with that view. I put a different viewpoint. I said that we need to conduct ourselves in the negotiations, certainly in a way that makes the National Party and the apartheid government believe that we are genuine. There must be no reason for them by our conduct to suspect us. But at the same time they accepted that the regime was not going to be our protector and we needed the capacity to protect ourselves, so I did not see the underground as an insurance policy.

POM     That's not just the ANC but the broader community.

MM     The broader community. I said there's no protection for the people so we need to fulfil that role and the underground is made up of the schooled members, tested members of the ANC. How do we make them play a role without exposing them to the limelight of the regime?

     Now I say, learning from Madiba's meeting in Durban, Madiba held a rally in Durban shortly after coming out of prison.

POM     This is when he was booed?

MM     When he said throw your pangas into the sea.The question that we had to address was how to protect Madiba in Natal in the context of UDF/IFP violence plus the regime's dirty tricks. Using the UDF structures we from the underground, because of our contacts with them we got comrades to agree in the UDF structures that they would drill the marshals for this rally and I think we put on over 1000 marshals but we made arrangements through the UDF that the marshals should assemble I think at least 48 hours before to be drilled on site and we used a number of comrades in the underground who were living in the country legally to go and do the drilling and take over the organisation of the marshals. They did that very successfully. To have used the marshal structure overtly, visible to the enemy, drilling for 48 hours in situ how they would ensure that the crowds were under control but at the same time ensure Madiba's security. I know that some of us who were illegal went that night and did inspections guided by our people who were in these platoons to detect where would be, for example, the possible sites from which a sniper could take a shot at Madiba. For those we didn't even entrust the platoons with that security aspect. Those, our people from the underground who were in the platoons were pulled together with an additional mandate to ensure that those potential sniper sites were covered, had anybody taken positions in those sniper sites they would be detected.

     Now using that experience I argued that the underground should surface but still not be visible and that the correct place that it should locate itself was the mobilisation and organisation of the marshals on the ground, that the marshal structure was a structure that the mass organisations were using to protect those rallies and to protect the people at those rallies. It was not an offensive force and on the grounds that we could not trust the regime's police forces to protect them. Now I said there we will be well camouflaged, we will be giving leadership to schooling the marshals and putting them into proper formation, detecting those to be made officer type material and yet be existing with a sense of cohesion amongst ourselves, that we could call some of those within this marshal structure to act in a disciplined way. And I said if that underground is detected and Madiba is confronted by the regime he has an answer for it, that I'm not trying to pull wool over anybody's eyes but I'm doing it to protect my people. And I said we can put that on the card if we are caught.

     So I said I don't agree with the insurance policy concept. The insurance policy is saying I'll start from the premise that negotiations may fail, I therefore maintain a hidden formation whose mandate as to what to do only arises when negotiations fail. You cannot maintain an underground in inactivity. An underground must always be active. It's not enough to say there are plenty of us who are part of the underground, we never meet, we've got no concrete work to do, we will become a gossip … and then when you say suddenly 'Action!' you've lost your discipline. I said this is what's needed. So eliminate the word 'insurance'.

POM     That's part of the problem that Gerry Adams had to face, he's got this structure that's active and suddenly they're inactive. What happens?

MM     The equation is gone. You can't maintain an underground outside of activity and I said you've got to redirect the activity into the marshal structure. You're no longer an underground carrying on activity to sabotage or to do this or do that, you are an underground busy organising the marshals and the marshal formation lends you to more wider, larger scale military type formation which involves drill, which involves breaking them down into platoons, each one with a proper function which involves communications, which involves an officer corps in charge. So it's bringing into almost a more regimented formation but buried in that, still hidden, are the actual MK cadres so that the enemy doesn't know who it is, so that if the enemy were to renege we're still hiding, it has to arrest every damn marshal. In Durban, as I say, at the rally of Madiba we put over 1000 marshals. Now here's a fantastic development where you can exist ostensibly legally and you are maintaining your cohesion because the rally is over but you're going to keep drilling them because tomorrow there will be another rally, tomorrow there will be a smaller, a local rally, and this force has got to go around drilling and practising on site and doing their job.

     Now there I felt you would get a cohesive force. That was agreed to by the meeting and I sent a note, a report, to them to say your argument was put, my argument was put, the debate took place and this was the decision. That didn't pass through to Tim because there was no need to communicate that to anybody in Lusaka.

POM     "Nelson Mandela was released on 11 February. The following month he was in Sweden to meet the ailing President of the ANC, Oliver Tambo. His release stirred up activity on all fronts and for a month or two meetings got diverted from Vula. Key comrades became scattered or were spending their time in meetings debating the way forward. Instead of keeping the comrades at home informed little information on the movement's responses to the unbanning and releases reached them. The only news they ever got was from the local media and from press statements. The minutes of meetings did begin to be sent. When minutes of the meetings did begin to be sent in this only aroused the ire of the comrades for it appeared that important decisions relating to internal matters were being taken without consulting them. Most of those attending these meetings were ill-informed about internal conditions yet it appeared as if their decisions were having major influences. Other internal structures that had not been operating underground also appeared to have undue influence. Despite repeated criticism from Mac and others the view of the Vula comrades was largely ignored. Part of the problem was that no-one was supposed to know that they were in the country, making it difficult for those in the know to give much weight to the views emanating from the underground. This so frustrated Mac that on 24th February he announced his resignation and asked the structures to arrange his ex-filtration. This shocked everyone greatly. Eventually he was spoken to by Mandela and at the beginning of April he retracted his resignation."

MM     I didn't think it was 24 February. It was before the release of Mandela. Mandela is released on one date –

POM     On 11 February.

MM     My resignation is before the release of Mandela, it's January, it's the last week of January. His memory that this is after the release and Mandela has been to Sweden and all, no, because as soon as Mandela is released I met him. I'd been meeting Walter from earlier and Kathy, I've met Govan. I had not met Raymond Mhlaba. My decision to retire was before the release of Nelson. It was really over the launch of the ANC internal leadership.

POM     The ANC internal leadership group?

MM     No, then he's right. 24 February, it would be right. The ANC is unbanned on 2 February, Madiba is released a few days later. Lusaka announced the appointment from Lusaka, I think on 10 February, of the leadership group that would take charge of establishing the ANC in the country. That was a catalyst in my thinking because it was very clear that they had paid no regard to my long-standing communications alerting them that the unbannings were coming and that we need to surface in a proper way and establish ourselves in this country as the ANC. The announcement was made by Alfred Nzo and it was published in the papers here and I said, "Chaps, have you taken any account of the people who are even in the leadership of the UDF and the overt and the unions who are disciplined members of the ANC? You've entrusted this task to a group of people without regard to which ones –

POM     So the people they were going to send in would be outside?

MM     No they didn't send them from outside. They appointed a group of people who were living in the country and said the following people are now the leadership of the ANC and it did not take into account the need to put some of the people who were living in the country but were in a disciplined relationship with us. My view was not that the underground people should be the leadership. My view was of those who were legally living in SA at least a few of the people linked to the underground should be in that leadership, and I had written to this effect because I said otherwise we are in an impossible situation, the underground. Here it is a leadership of the ANC who have announced, here we are operating and now in the same areas there are two authorities speaking and who should listen to which authority? You've put us into a rival situation. And indeed that happened, it happened in Natal where a person appointed to the interim leadership came to Natal and he sensed that there was an underground there and he just told people, "Forget about those people."' I had to force a meeting with him, with Sisulu. I said, "But what are you doing?" I said, "I'm here, I'm meeting you, I'm illegal in the country and what you are saying is I'm nobody, nobody must listen to me."

POM     This person of course would not even have been a member of the National Executive?

MM     He wasn't even a member of the National Executive. I'm a member of the National Executive but because he's in the list announced by Lusaka as the interim leadership of the ANC inside the country he tells me, "You go to hell." I said, "Under those circumstances you've made a huge boob in Lusaka." And I accused Joe Slovo and Nzo. I said, "You are the two people who are privy to this, surely there's a way for you to handle this problem but if you can't handle the problem then I have no capacity to defend with the people I'm commanding.' But I had sent representations to them alerting them to this possible problem arising and the fact that they announced the decision in the newspaper and didn't bother to inform me, I said, "Guys, you've put me in an untenable position. Thank you very much, I've served my purpose, I retire."

POM     That sounds very un-Slovo-like.

MM     It was my criticism of Slovo and the Groote Schuur Minute also. I met him in a bitter discussion in Johannesburg. I was in Cape Town, Madiba had asked me to be around the facility of Groote Schuur, I am still underground. I go there and I send a message to Madiba, "You can now reach me through this line. You told me to be in and around Cape Town. I am here living safely, unknown to the enemy. If you need me here is the person that you raise." The meeting takes place, it finishes at about six o'clock in the evening or five, eight o'clock in the evening in my hideout I get a person coming to me who says, "Madiba says too risky to meet you, can you rush to Johannesburg", he wants to meet me at seven in the morning. I had to break all speed records to get here because I get the message at eight at night. I come here and I meet him. Then that evening I meet Slovo and now I see the text of the Groote Schuur Minute. I say, "Slovo, what did you do?" He says, "What do you mean?" I said, "In all this statement you have not said one word about the safety and security of your illegal cadres living in the country. This was the time when you should have inserted that into the Groote Schuur record. You should have told De Klerk without disclosures, you know we are committing ourselves to negotiations, you know that the movement has got people that it has infiltrated over the years living here illegally, I won't disclose how many or who they are, but I do want you to give an undertaking that their safety will be assured." Slovo says to me, "I assumed that it's there." I said, "No, let's read it." So we read. He says it's implied. I said, "Bullshit, show me where's the implication here. De Klerk is not going to protect us by implication. Show me where you've put it?"

     The debate was so personal and heated because I said to him, "Joe, you were in that delegation as the man who knows the army, the MK and the underground political and knows of this mission. It was your job to advise our delegation and Madiba that we need this phrase stuck in and you didn't do it." So we had a very, very bitter discussion. I was already, I had said I'm retired. Madiba had come and seen me and twisted my arm to withdraw my retirement and I said, "This is what you've done. We are meeting, I can't quarrel with Madiba, he's the leader of the delegation and what he is doing is he's discussing and he's saying to you and Thabo, go in the next room with two people from the regime side and draft what may be a statement, keep on debating a draft. That is where the debate should have taken place so that when you come to the text both sides present the same text, a copy to De Klerk and a copy to Madiba to say our drafting teams have agreed on the following text." I said, "Did you raise the matter?" And he became very embarrassed and I accused him, I said, "Things went to your head. All the caution that you were warning against you forgot in practice. How do I then say that I can put the life of the underground cadre in your hands?"

     Now that was the background to the issue that in constituting the leadership of the ANC Lusaka announced it over the media, they announced the names and they made no provision for inclusion in that leadership corps some of the people who had a direct relationship to us in the underground so that in that forum it could be discussed within proper security. Guys, there are underground cadres here. They are operating and we don't want conflict between our overt structure and our underground structure. I said, "The step you've taken is to create a situation of conflict and rather than to get into conflict I retire." So that was my retirement. I never announced it, I said I will not give that reason publicly, I will simply quietly retire, you can give whatever explanation you want but just arrange for me to exit the country, I'm ready to go and join my wife and children in Brighton and live a quiet life. I've done my job and we are into a new ball game, because basically I have lost confidence in you. By that action and by the Groote Schuur I lost confidence.

POM     Did you regain the confidence? That one day is going to be another conversation, that in all the interviews we've done you have mentioned Joe Slovo on about twelve occasions.

MM     No, that conflict I never, never really regained – between Slovo and I the relationship was deeply scarred after that. It was a very bitter discussion. I had no problem of interacting with Nelson, even Madiba made arrangements as late as June to tell Winnie to stop her activities in MK and rather let her contacts come to me and unknown to her that -

POM     Sorry to let her contacts?

MM     Her contacts to contact me and she must resist any involvement in MK because he said, "Mac is here, that is his function." So Madiba had that understanding. As I say the meeting of Madiba, Walter, Govan, Raymond Mhlaba, Slovo and myself and Nzo had confirmed now the changed mandate of the underground. The difference was that after I returned to the country in June I was overtly ANC but I was doing the overt job of organiser and that provided also a cover for me to supposedly do the covert work. I didn't have a problem about that but I had a serious problem about –

POM     So during the six months you were in Brighton you were out of touch with - ?

MM     No I was in touch. I never got to Brighton, it didn't come to pass. It didn't happen.

POM     Oh it didn't happen, OK. You were so frustrated that – ?

MM     Madiba persuaded me to withdraw.

POM     "In March he announced his resignation." In April you were back in.

MM     Yes, Madiba came and begged me again and persuaded me to withdraw my resignation.

POM     I'm saying that because I remember again, the way the records stick in my head, that at that point the SDUs were being set up.

MM     The SDUs, the decision to establish the SDUs was taken some time then and the responsibility got given to Chris, Siphiwe and Ronnie.

POM     Some of them were getting out of control.

MM     No, no, no, sorry, the SDU decision was taken in 1991.

POM     My recollection from what you said before was that Nyanda was in charge.

MM     Nyanda, Ronnie and Chris.

POM     Some of them, because I remember Chris later complained about how some of them had gotten out of hand and that you complained to Madiba and he said –

MM     I was not around.

POM     You were not around.

MM     Because what happens now, I announce to Lusaka that I'm retired, Madiba persuades me to withdraw that. I withdraw it on the basis that, "Madiba, I will stay on for six months and then I will retire. I will help you to bridge this period." The period expires in December 1990, a conference is held at Nazrec and the papers remark that I'm not present. I was not present because I said my six months had expired. I'd done my job of helping to bridge this period. I've had my quarrels with Joe Slovo and I said, "No, Joe, I don't (go to Nazrec)."So I'm definitely retired. Come December, the conference, I don't go. I don't say anything to the media. The media speculates and is fed by certain NEC people that I've left because I'm disgruntled about my treatment in detention, which is not true. The ANC does issue a statement that Vula is ANC.

     Effectively then in December 1990 when I don't go to the Nazrec conference I make it clear that I have retired, not resigned. I've retired. I then have pressure from the membership for the next six months which I sit in Jo'burg looking after my kids and when the ANC conference takes place in July 1991 in Durban, comrades in the ANC have come and lobbied me and insisted that I should accept nomination for the NEC and I accept nomination and I'm re-elected and when I return people say to me, "What happened?" and they assume that I've returned to the Communist Party as well. I say, "No, I retired from everything in December, I have returned now only to the ANC." But again I write to Joe Slovo as General Secretary of the Communist Party, I say I'm not giving reasons, I'm leaving it to you to give reasons as long as your reasons are in a political context, they're not personal, that would be fine because I don't want to hurt the organisation. So I'm going to be quiet, I leave it to you to answer the media what has happened. As long as it is clear that I have retired from the Communist Party you can give reasons as you wish as long as they are political reasons but I reserve the right that if you make it personal reasons then I will respond. And I wrote that to him.

POM     The reason was that you had lost faith in the party?

MM     Yes. I just said you people have got my reasons from earlier. You and I, Joe Slovo, have discussed the matter. Now I don't want to say that I have lost faith in the Communist Party. You can give a reason. However you put it as long as you give a political reason I will not contradict you but if you, as others did, feed stories to the media that I have resigned because I was unhappy that you didn't come to my succour while I was in detention, you know that to be false. Or people say that Vula was a maverick operation, if you give reasons like that, that I'm unhappy about that, then I will repudiate it. Don't malign me personally because I'm not harming you politically so let's leave it at that.

     As it happened the party never explained it and I had occasion then when the media carried a report to write a letter to Joe Slovo to say, Joe, you know the circumstances under which I retired, you can see mischief being published against me, it is time you corrected that. He came to see me and he said it was a very difficult situation for him to handle. And I said, "Fine, we'll part."

POM     We'll part?

MM     We'll part, we'll part company but I will still never say why I did it.

POM     One of my last memories of Joe was in fact the morning I was coming in to interview either you or him at Shell House at eight o'clock in the morning, the two of you were sitting there, the place was empty, the two of you were sitting there smoking a cigarette. It just sticks in my head.

MM     I even did this, Padraig, I said to them when I returned to the ANC, I had a different quarrel with the party, a disagreement, and that disagreement was that an extended Politburo meeting in May/June 1990, I had held the Tongaat conference as a way of making the party surface, that was the issue, how should the party surface in a legal space? I had set that in motion. I exited the country but before I exited we had a meeting of the extended Politburo clandestinely in Johannesburg. I disagreed with them about who should be in the leadership of the party and I told them, Chris was at the meeting, Ronnie was there at an extended meeting, and I opposed one particular name and they said, "Why?" I said, "Because the party, the ANC, now has to be a negotiator. This is a very murky terrain where the morality of our struggle can get drowned because you're busy with trade-offs." The party as an ally of the ANC needed to be the moral voice of the struggle. I said, "That's the space you must have. The ANC will appreciate you playing that role. You don't stand up and become a rival to the ANC but you become the moral voice." Then when it comes to nominating who should be in the position they mention this particular stalwart.I said, "No." They said, "Why?" I said, "You have my reports for the last year. You know that in divisions within the movement in the country he has incited people to kill good comrades and one of the cases is documented, a very good comrade was killed by our own comrades incited by this stalwart. He settled internal differences by getting one faction to kill the other. Why? Because that person did not agree with you." He was UDM. I said, "That's not the voice of morality."

     Chris then suggested that let's put him in the leadership when we launch on July 21st but we will have a Commission of Enquiry. I said I don't agree. A Commission of Enquiry when we are not in power is going to be an instrument to bash …and it won't happen that you'll have a successful Commission of Enquiry. Ronnie then says, "You, Mac, are betraying the revolution." And I said to Ronnie, "I said, comrades, if this is the language then you understand the degeneration of what you have fought for. He has no right to accuse me of betrayal. To say I would not be involved with the party is not a betrayal of the party but if you want to use that then you know that you and I, Ronnie, are on a collision course and it can only be said … "

     They calmed us down and I said, "I will do everything for the launch of the party", which I had started working on 21st, "But on the 21st exclude my name." Slovo then pleaded with me. He said, "Even if you are excluded will you play a role at the launch rally and introduce the members of the leadership?" I said, "I'll do that but that will be my last act."

POM     Including the man who was - ?

MM     Including that. I will introduce them to the rally as the leadership, provided that they've excluded my name and that it's my last act for the party and we part company. That was the ending to it. As it happens I get arrested so I'm not at the rally and they announce my name against my wishes.

POM     Again in the leadership.

MM     Put me in the leadership. When I came out on bail I heard about this. I said, "Well you've acted without my permission in breach of our agreement. I'm not there." And people came to me from the media, "Are you in the party?" I said, "No, I don't belong, I'm retired and that's it." They say, "Why?" I said, "Go and ask the party, don't ask me. Ask them." They say, "But your name was announced." I said, "I didn't announce it, they announced it. Go and ask them." Then I kept quiet.

POM     There are two questions – I'll leave them with you to think of because we're meeting, I think, on Monday before I go to Cape Town.

MM     Yes I think it's on Monday.

POM     It's about here you were at Joe Slovo, somebody you've worked with for years on all kinds of projects, all kinds of exchanges, ideological, personal, whatever, and you make a cut. Here you are in a movement to which you have dedicated your entire life and on a question of principle you've cut for six months, you sit in Johannesburg watching the action rather than being an integral part of it. My question is what did you feel on those occasions? You don't have to answer it now.

MM     No, I just simply felt that I've done my job.

POM     Did any emotion enter into it?

MM     Yes but no regret because I felt I had done my job and when I returned to the ANC I returned and I worked with Joe Slovo as ANC. I don't have a problem. That's why in 1999 when I retired I said I want to give my time to my family and I spend my time with my family. That's all. I don't go to huge socialisation. Many comrades feel bad about it, they feel I've left them in the lurch. I said, "No, comrades, I support you all. I agree you must carry on but the fact that I'm not there shouldn't change your mind. So if you feel I've let you down, but if I keep on interacting with you socially I'm inevitably leaving you with the feeling that you must pay attention to what I'm saying. I'm saying no, I've done my job, that's a chapter that's closed. You're on your own but you know one thing that I support you, the ANC."

     No sense of loss because I've lived through the period, I've read about what has happened in so many countries where revolutions have gone haywire and I've got my own sense of responsibility to my family and that is why I'm very hesitant about all these judgements that I'm expressing about individuals. I would like to see whatever is written is very careful.

POM     Oh we will do that later, we'll go through other people.

MM     I just want the caution that we should do it with care and with respect because they have done service too.

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