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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
23 Aug 2002: Maharaj, Mac
MM All issued by Mayibuye, his speeches and writings published by Mayibuye, the latest version of Mandela Speaks. That is the version that was published probably round about 1994. What you will see in all his speeches is that as soon as he came out he made the statement that the struggle goes on, that what is needed is the fulfilment of the requirements of the Harare Declaration on the cessation of hostilities. Now that never happened. There was never a cessation of hostilities. Then it is only in the Pretoria Minute of 6 August 1990 that the ANC agreed unilaterally to suspend the armed struggle, but suspend
POM Does not mean end?
MM By that time I had been arrested on 25 July. So the existence of Vula to the 6 August did not even fall within the purview of a suspension of hostilities but in any event there is no record between the Groote Schuur Minute and the Pretoria Minute that Vula had engaged in any acts of sabotage during that period. So a suspension only implied non-carrying out of armed activity. So that point is within the Harare Declaration and it's worth putting it because it's pure historical fact and then make the distinctions that you are making.
POM After the decision to suspend the armed struggle, even though you had been captured and were in jail, elements of the Vula operation continued insofar as more arms, you continued to bring arms into the country and to train people but none of this was in violation of anything at all.
MM The point is the crucial element was that the state was saying that it is looking for a number of people who were part of Vula and we surfaced them long after the Pretoria Minute at the Mandela home in Soweto only once they were granted indemnity. So they continued to be in hiding and evading police arrest because, we said, you grant them indemnity and they will surface. So they never went out of the country and when they finally surfaced Mandela presided over that press conference with me. It was Mandela, myself, Siphiwe Nyanda and then we produced Janet Love, Ronnie Kasrils and the others who were in hiding, Shoke, and said, "Here they are, they have now surfaced, they are no longer evading police arrest."
POM While they were still underground they were still engaged in - ?
MM No, I am not sure of that, whether they were still engaged what they were engaged in was surviving. By that time the black on black violence arose, became a predominant feature and the ANC after the Peace Accord which allowed in the absence of the state's being able to protect people and communities, the ANC formed at the community level the self protection units and many of the Vula operatives like any other MK operatives got integrated into the self protection units in the communities where they were living and working.
POM Now that was provided for in the Peace Accord OK?
MM That's how Inkatha then and the IFP started we called it the self defence units of the communities and the IFP then suddenly announces that it is creating self protection units.
POM What I want you to describe, part of what I'm going to get into is he would have known about your trial, right? Would information have flowed into the Island that there was a Little Rivonia trial going on or would they not have known?
MM That's in 1964.
POM Yes, when you were on trial.
MM In 1964 they arrived on Robben Island, they were sent in June 1964. They were moved immediately to Robben Island, kept under very strict isolation conditions and no access to newspapers. They had a visit from Bram Fischer, it was focused on whether they would appeal or not appeal against their sentence and it would have been under tight security so they would not have received any information. There were rumours, titbits of news reports reaching them that Mkwayi and a whole lot of others had been arrested. I arrived on the Island on the 5 January 1965 and I and Laloo Chiba from the Little Rivonia trial were immediately put in the single cells. We were arrested on 5 July 1964. Our trial started in November 1964. We were sentenced on 17 December 1964 and we arrived on Robben Island on 5 January.
POM He would only have been there for?
MM Hardly six months.
POM So they were really just settling in.
MM They were settling in. They were first kept in the zinc prison, that is the iron structures where common law prisoners were also being kept, a temporary building.
POM Sorry, in the zinc?
MM ZINC galvanised iron, the structures were built out of that, they were temporary cells. That's where the common law prisoners were kept but they were put separate from them and then by that time the building for where we were finally housed was going on and within months they were moved into that section. So there was a complete disrupted life going on, finding their feet, just the Rivonia trialists kept alone. Then they were brought into the single cell section, then they were put out to work on the stones and they kept each one in solitary cells. Their only meeting point is whispers while working or in the bathroom, exercise is single file.
So I am saying that that first six months they would have simply been hearing titbits of rumours that other arrests are going on, there's a big trial going on, that Mkwayi and others are arrested, that Bram Fischer has been arrested. But Laloo Chiba when we arrive on 4 or 5 of January, Laloo is put straight into the section where Madiba and them are housed. I am put alone in a cell, separated from them in the U of that U structure. Laloo is taken out to work with them in the yard. I am left in that cell for a few months.
MM Alone, I had no contact with them.
POM Did you get out to walk around?
POM So you had no books?
POM No anything, no contact with the outside?
MM But the U section of the building, right? This is the U, this the side where Mandela and them are housed, this is the side I'm housed here, this side is empty. I am overlooking the yard where they are seated and breaking stones.
POM So you can see them.
MM I can see them from my window and eventually whispers went along from Kathy and company because while they are working I am often standing at my window and looking out and when they recognise me, Kathy and company are obviously whispering to in his row, he sat back. Then I got the last person sitting here would find a way to whisper up at the window when the warder is not looking and a few titbits of messages are passed.
POM Did he whisper or shout?
MM You talked down the window but if you're standing here at the window, here's the concrete paving.
POM How many feet away from your window? How many feet away from your window?
MM I'm just trying to work out. Now here's my window.
POM OK, you're there.
MM I have this window open, there's the concrete paving up to about here, the gutter and then the quadrangle, the yard starts where they are breaking stones and there would be a person sitting about here chopping stones.
POM So it would be less than 20 feet.
MM Less than 20 feet.
POM About 15, between 15 and 20 feet.
MM Let's say 20 feet because of the angle, I wouldn't know. It is about 20 feet away. He is sitting breaking stones and he would be able to look up at my window and the moment the warders were right at the entrance end of the quadrangle he would have a chance just to shout a greeting but a suppressed shout so it just carries to my window. So a few words of greetings were passing back and forth.
So I am saying Laloo Chiba would have been conveying all the news about the trial, who were the people in the trial, what sentence they got. Wilton Mkwayi, accused number one, was left in Leeukop Prison in the Transvaal. When they moved Chiba and myself to Robben Island out of the black prisoners they left Mkwayi in Leeukop. They brought Mkwayi to Robben Island about six to eight months later. We don't know the reasons for that. It may have been to try and play up some rumours, some dissension, some inter-suspicion, oh why hasn't Mkwayi been brought here? And at the same time by keeping Mkwayi isolated maybe they were hoping that they would extract some information, so Mkwayi was left separate from us and brought back to Robben Island about six to nine months later.
POM When you were in your cell for those months how did you spend the time?
MM Just sitting on the cement floor, standing, walking about in my cell.
POM Did you have any regimen, exercise or try to walk across the cell for 200 - 300 metres at different times in the day?
MM It was nothing unusual. I had already been six months in detention without trial under interrogation and solitary. One had already developed, consciously or unconsciously, coping mechanisms. While you were in detention you were preoccupied with how to keep your mind intact because you were subject to interrogation and the second preoccupation was the chances of escaping. So those two things preoccupied you. Physical exercise that you did in your cell was part of that regime because you needed to combine otherwise you would be just drowning in thoughts. When I was shifted to Robben Island of course the first thing that was worrying me was why am I now separated and not joined to the others to work. Your mind is focused on, oh, they are just treating me differently, they want to break me and so resist that, engage in everything that would help you to resist that. But my mind is also preoccupied with another thought, I am now in Robben Island, I will soon be joining my colleagues and however harsh it is I am now in a collective, I can see them and I have to keep on complaining and querying with the prison authorities why are they screening me like this so that I can be joined with them. That's the second thing that's occupying me.
The third thing is that I am now demanding that I be allowed to study. I want to apply for permission to study and of course they are refusing, not answering. So you've already shaped a set of battles and in terms of your physical treatment and psychological treatment you are concerned with a fairly positive frame of mind because they can't go on for ever like this. I can see I'm the one person lying in this whole wing, the only person in these cells and I know I am going to be joined by them.
POM Now who would you make your demands to? How often would the warders come by? How did the process work? A warder comes how many times did a warder come by?
MM Every morning a warder would come at wake up time to do roll call and inspection.
POM But you're here on your own.
MM Yes but you have to stand at the window.
POM The window, outside?
MM The window looking into the corridor.
MM He walks through the inspection and you have to stand at that window with your prison ticket, your bedding, your blankets have got to be properly folded.
POM So your prison ticket is that
MM The prison card.
POM That shows your number?
MM Your number and your little towel, piece of cloth, had to be over your shoulder and you had to be dressed and ready for that inspection every morning. But once a week would come an officer who would combine an inspection with what was called 'klagte en versoeke', that is complaints and requests. He would come with a book during inspection. They would announce at the beginning of the corridors, 'Klagte en versoeke', meaning have you got any complaints or any requests to make. He would record that in the book and maybe by Monday, Tuesday you would be called or given your response to your complaint.
POM He would deliver who would deliver the response?
MM One of the officers. It would usually be a Warrant Officer, not a Sergeant. So often you make complaints and they didn't even bother to record it. For instance if I made a complaint, yes I have a complaint, why am I being kept here alone? They said don't raise stupid complaints. But if you said, "I am expecting a letter from my wife, I haven't received it", they'd say, "How do you know?" I'd say, "I know because when I was sentence she said she's writing to me." By Monday, Tuesday a prison warder would come past your window and say, "With regards to your request no letter has arrived, we have no record of such a letter", so your complaint has been attended to.
That was the regime but I'm saying when I think back it wasn't for me a traumatic period. I had come from total solitary confinement. I now knew I was joining, and I was put in the section where the Mandelas, the Sisulus, the Kathradas, the Rivonia trialists were and there were a host of other prisoners that I was busy looking at from my window, can I identify them? Who's who? And I could see that there were about 30 of them and I could see how the warders are behaving, how the prisoners are reacting and how at the end of a work day they go out on single file exercising and then they go to the bathroom to shower. I could see all that so I could feel that, well, I'm near the community, the next stage is I will be joining them. So mentally there was no sense of oh, I'm alone, I'm going to be interrogated tomorrow, I'm going to be tortured again. There was more the expectation, hey, soon I'll be joining them and no matter how harsh the regime I will now be in a collective of people and colleagues, we will stand up to this regime together. So I am no longer standing up alone.
POM Just to backtrack on one small detail. They expected you to be well dressed, a small detail like laundry, did they give you a change of prison clothing?
MM At that time, 1965, the whole group was the regime was once a week you were allocated time to go to the bathroom to wash your own clothes and to hang out to dry. While that was happening and you had to strip and wash your clothes, you came out of the bathroom, I could see the collective
POM So you would be naked?
MM You would be naked, and there would be a pile of dirty clothes, torn clothes, and you just had to grab a shirt and grab a pants and put it on.
POM Did you do your own laundry?
MM You did your own washing.
POM And then you washed it and then you?
MM Washed it and dried it and put it on again.
POM So you had just the one uniform?
MM You just had one but you were given another one to wear while the clothes are drying.
POM OK. Now as regards toilet facilities?
MM In your cell was a galvanised iron pail with a lid, it was tiny, that was your urinal and your toilet. You were given a plastic bottle of, I think, two litres of water, that was your drinking water and your washing water. You were given a little towel, a piece of cloth, that was your towel and you were given three blankets, I think, a sisal mat and a felt mat. That was it. Every morning you were opened out, you had to take your sanitary pail, go and empty it and rinse it and you had to take your water bottle.
POM So you left the cell in the morning, took the pail with you.
MM Took the pail to the bathroom, sloshed the pail, took your water bottle with you, refilled it with drinking water and then back you were into your cell. Your food would be brought to you, your breakfast.
POM At what time? Wake up call was at?
MM You would be woken up, the bell would go I think at about five o'clock. The inspection would take place by about six o'clock. By that time your mats had to be rolled, your blankets folded up and bundled in a particular way, you had to be dressed, your shirt, your jacket, your pants, your shoes, you had to be fully dressed. Your towel had to be put over your shoulder and as soon as you heard the announcement that you had to stand to attention you had to step over to your window and stand there with your prison ticket.
POM Now, like you had the bottle, how did you use that to wash your face or whatever?
MM You just whatever was left in the bottle, you wanted to wash your face, you opened the sanitary pail, you poured a bit of water on your hands and you washed your face. Poured water into your hands, washed your face.
POM How could you put it in the sanitary pail if you're - ?
MM You're standing over the sanitary pail.
POM You put the water on your hands and then
MM Yes, just put the water on.
POM You had no soap?
MM They gave you a little piece of soap cut from a bar of soap and that was your soap for your washing of your face and hands. It was your soap to use when you were given the chance to have a shower. It was your soap to use when you washed your clothes.
POM So when you went to wash your clothes once a week that was the nearest you got to human beings?
MM While I was in that section I was still not allowed to wash with the others. Only when the others are locked up would I be taken out even for my exercise but once I joined them a few months later, and I don't remember how many months I stayed like that, once I joined them then I was part of the group. I think every Saturday morning we were then allowed out to wash our clothes.
POM Did your wife write to you during that period? Would you get letters?
MM Well there's a very interesting thing in those reports that you gave me from Caryl the other day. There is a report of the prison security and the Security Branch clearly working together which lists who visited me on which date and there are so few I got a shock, I really got a shock. I didn't realise that I had so few visits in my 12 years. It's listed there and the names and it's listed there that they overheard certain conversation between me and my visitor and they actually used a statement that they claimed that I made to one of my visitors to justify their report to say that this man is never going to change and he'd better be put under restriction when he comes out of prison.
Now, about the letters, yes my wife and I wrote to each other. At the beginning, 1965, you were only allowed one letter outwards and one letter incoming once in six months and 500 words maximum. So that continued for a good number of years, one letter once in six months to receive and one letter to write out. That was the same for visits, one visit for an hour or half an hour once in six months by one person. Then some years later, we were now classified as D group, the lowest category of prisoners with the least privileges like visits and letters, then later on after years of protesting some of us were promoted to C group and in C group you were allowed one letter in three months.
POM Still 400, 500 words?
MM 500 words, and one visit every three months.
POM One person?
MM One person. Then I remember our visitors writing demanding that, for example, my wife saying my mother is old and she needs to visit me but she needs to be accompanied and also saying, my wife saying, "I can't afford to travel to Cape Town every three months, so can I have a longer visit once in six months?" But I got promoted to B group somewhere around 1974, I was promoted now to B group where you were allowed, I think, one letter every month. But of course it was not feasible for our families to implement it because my family
POM And the same with visits?
MM The same with visits. I think you will find those details in The Struggle is my Life by Mandela, the Defence & Aid publication, because they interviewed me Mandela's writings and speeches under the title Nelson Mandela The Struggle is my Life.
POM That was published in?
MM By Defence & Aid, the International Defence & Aid Fund which became housed in Mayibuye Centre. So there I have done an interview in which I described (i) in the interview the personality of Mandela and how I read the situation in the country, then (ii) an extensive interview about prison conditions where from the food, the categories and the classification is all there as I remember it. However, while I was in B group somewhere around 1974/75 I was demoted from B group to C group again because I was charged for so-called attempting to bribe a warder.
POM Did you attempt?
MM Of course I did but they never found me guilty, they didn't try me, but arbitrarily they just demoted me. They said, "Right, you lose your privileges of one letter a month. You're now C group, you now get one letter in three months."
POM How did Mandela progress?
MM All of us were denied movement from D group for years and eventually somewhere in the seventies for the first time we got movement up to C group and then the Prison Board would sit once a year and amongst others look at your conduct and attend to your classification. Mandela did eventually become an A group prisoner but I only think he became an A group prisoner after I left prison.
POM Would he have been moved were all your movements at the same time?
MM Not all of us but the bulk of us. They had to maintain the charade that it had some objective criteria that they were using. When you move to A group part of the privileges was for the first time you could buy some of your groceries.
POM Would you buy them on the Island?
MM You had to buy it from the prison authorities. You had to put an order, it was limited by amount and categories of foodstuff. You could buy things like coffee and tea and sugar and biscuits from your own money if you were A group.
POM Where would you get the money from?
MM You had to get it from your families.
POM How did that work?
MM Families would send it to the prison authorities with your name and number and it would then be credited to your prison account under your name. Then from that account you could place orders for those items and they would be supplied to you the following week if you qualified for them and your prison account would be debited with that amount.
POM To backtrack, when you were in solitary confinement and being tortured before your trial, during that period were you allowed visitors, could you contact your wife?
MM No visitors, nothing. You were not allowed to contact anybody. You were not allowed access to your lawyers. You were not allowed access to your relatives and in that detention in 1964
POM You were not allowed access to your lawyers at all?
MM Nothing, nothing, nothing.
POM So how could your lawyer prepare a defence?
MM You were under detention, under interrogation, the lawyers could do nothing for you. In fact in those years it was illegal to publish who was detained and who was not detained. The newspapers were prohibited from publishing that information. In my case I was detained under a false name, the papers did carry a report that a Solly Matthews has been detained.
POM A what?
MM A Mr Solly Matthews had been detained somewhere in Johannesburg. My wife was detained with me but she was not said to be my wife. They said he was arrested with another woman. And it's only when I was brought to trial in November did the papers get to know my real identity and name and carry a report that an S R MAHARAJ
Where was I?
POM At your trial.
MM Now why I know is that my wife had been released just a few weeks before I came up for trial. Of course she started making contact with relatives and friends but my father only learnt of my detention when I came up for trial because the Sunday newspapers then carried my name and I was told, when my mother visited me, that the grandchildren and members of the community read the Sunday papers and rushed over to my Dad saying, "Hey, is this your son? He's been arrested."
So you were living under a false name but of course people in the movement, the Bram Fischers and all, knew that I was detained whatever name had appeared in the papers and of course they were making efforts to see me and of course they had gone to an attorney, Joel Joffe the Rivonia attorney, trial attorney. Joel was due to emigrate and Bram went to him and said, "Postpone your emigration please, I want you to handle the defence of one more case that's coming up, that's the case of Mkwayi, Mac and others. You must be the attorney for that case and once that case is over you can leave the country." And Joel had said he's leaving the country after the Rivonia trial so he was getting packed up to leave for Australia. He postponed his departure and as lawyers they were constantly badgering the Security Police trying to ascertain where each of us was kept, when are we coming up for trial, etc. When we appeared on trial, I think on November 14th, the lawyers were there in the cells of the Supreme Court.
POM Was that the first time you saw the lawyers?
MM Yes, first time.
POM The first time you saw who was going to defend you?
MM We didn't even know who they were. Here we are sitting in thebasement cells of the Supreme Court in Johannesburg, we'd been brought from No. 4 Prison no, no, we were brought from our respective detention cells for the first time, by that time I was in Pretoria Central Prison in detention, but in Pretoria that morning I am taken out of my cell, I'm taken to the reception of the prison and there I find Wilton Mkwayi and I find Laloo Chiba and we are put in the prison van and then they bring Dave Kitson and John Matthews, the two whites, they put us in the same van and they drive. They don't tell us what's happening. They drive us, we land in the Supreme Court cells.
POM Are you all put in different cells?
MM No, no, those holding cells for awaiting trial prisoners the blacks are put together, the whites separately, but of course we demand to be opened, to talk to each other and we realise we are awaiting trial and there Joel Joffe arrives. He comes and he says, introduces himself, "I'm Joel Joffe, who is Mac Maharaj?" So he looks at me and he gets a shock. So I said, "What are you shocked about?" He says, "I expected to find an old man but you're so young." So I said, "Why?" He says, "No, Bram has told me I have to defend you, I'm your lawyer." OK fine. He says, "Please introduce me to the others." So I take him, "This is Laloo Chiba, this is Wilton Mkwayi, this is Dave Kitson, this is John Matthews." He says, "Well I'm here to defend you all." And then we say, "What's going to happen today?" He said, "I expect you will be taken to the courtroom and you won't be asked to plead, the prosecutor will simply ask for a remand of the case to a further date and we will go through the procedures. Don't worry, I'll come and see you. I expect that they will put you in No. 4 Prison (that's now the Constitutional Court site) and I'll be visiting you to come and discuss all the preparation of the case, the defence."
POM When you went into the court there was nobody else there was there?
MM No, no, our families were already there.
POM Your families were there?
MM Families and friends were there.
POM Had they been notified?
MM The lawyers got in touch. The lawyers got the information to say get your relatives and supporters there, my wife and all were there. You walked up in the courtroom, there they are sitting in the public gallery and you're not bothered about the court proceedings, you're busy telling your lawyer, "When can I see my wife?" And he said, "We'll try and arrange, as soon as the court adjourns you'll be back in those basement cells and we will see if they can come and see you at the grille."
POM Who was there? Your wife?
MM My wife, the wives of some of the comrades who were still in detention who were not on trial with us, movement supporters, and that's the time I remember on one of the occasions while we are appearing in court Percy Yutar the prosecutor in the Rivonia trial came past, he had this stubby hand, short arm, so he was distinctive, very short man, and he came past the grille where we were standing trying to see our relatives.
POM This was in No. 4?
MM In the Supreme Court.
POM The holding cell?
MM Yes. He came past and he looked at us, we were like monkeys in a zoo. By now the newspapers were carrying reports, the Little Rivonia trialists, the five of our names, etc., horrendous things that we are supposed to have done, and Yutar came past and he looked at us and Wilton and I were standing next to each other at this grille and he says, "You are lucky, you are lucky I am not the prosecutor. I wanted to prosecute you people." And we said to ourselves, "Who's this clown?"
POM You didn't know who he was did you?
MM He introduced himself by name. Oh! That's Percy Yutar!
POM Did you get to see your wife?
MM Yes. Then she came to visit me at No. 4 Prison on visiting days and they were allowed to bring us food, they were allowed to bring us clothes and they would visit us and whenever we appeared in court they would be there. They would come and see us in the basement before the trial, before we went into court. They could come and see us in the basement after we came out of court pending our being taken back to No. 4 prison.
POM So how long would you get? What space of time?
MM Two minutes, three minutes.
POM That's before trial.
POM When they came to visit you in No. 4 Prison how long?
MM No. 4 Prison I think the visit was about an hour.
POM And how often could they do that?
MM I think we were allowed a visit officially we were allowed a visit once a week but they were allowed to bring us food every day. So you had to go down from your cells to the visiting area to collect your food and you often sneaked a glance at each other.
POM She would be standing there with the food.
MM She and her friends would be there with food and they would say, "This food is for Mac Maharaj and this food is for Wilton Mkwayi, this food is for this group of people", and there would be always arguments because our families would not just bring individually food, they would band together and come as a group and they would bring food in bulk. They would say it's for all five of them. The warders would be saying, "No, but you're allowed to bring for each one of them." "No, don't talk nonsense, they are all on trial together man, why do we have to break this thing up? Aren't they staying together now? Aren't they supposed to be given time to eat together?" And then others would say, would make nice delicacies and say to the warder, "Here's some for you", then the warder, depending on the warder, he would allow you to see them a little bit.
POM Were they always white warders?
MM At No. 4 prison it was white and black.
POM Did you ever get a chance to talk to a black warder?
MM Oh yes, oh yes, and to the white warders. We planned an escape from No. 4 Prison while awaiting trial. We were locked in steel cubicles the three of us, each individual, it was a steel cubicle.
POM The three of you?
MM Well Wilton, myself, Laloo Chiba but it was in the same bunch of steel cells that separately also were Steve Naidoo and Paul Joseph who were being tried separately. So each of us was in our little cubicles and each of the cubicles looked out into a small passage and then there was a communal door into the passage before you went into your individual cells and got locked up. So we demanded that we be allowed out into that little passage to sit down and eat. We demanded that we be allowed to play games together. We demanded that we were no longer under punishment and so depending on the warder we could be let out into that little passage and we would sit there and play cards and yak and share the food.
POM Were there particular warders who regularly would let you do that and particular warders who would never allow you to do that?
MM The atmosphere was of total corruption amongst the warders. We would be busy trying to entice them, what did we have? Food. Share, give them some of our homemade food and all of them, black and white, went for the Indian cooking. But while there and while proceeding with the trial one of the common law prisoners, he was a bank robber, and they had stolen - up to that time it was SA's biggest mailbag robbery.
POM You were saying it was the biggest
MM They had hijacked a Post Office delivery van carrying postal mail and the value of the robbery I remember as R41 million.
POM The rand was worth something then.
MM We first bumped into them in the waiting cells at the Supreme Court, they were appearing in another courtroom and as far as I remember they were four Africans and one white man who were part of the gang. So we had talked to each other at the Supreme Court in holding cells. They were kept in No. 4 Prison somewhere else, it's a huge complex, but the gang leader who was African, and I remember them very well because the white chap was of Hungarian birth and when we met him in the holding cells he was protesting bitterly that they had been detained under the 90 day law. He said to us openly, he said, "I don't know why they detained us under the 90 day law, they tortured me, they took a wet towel and wrapped it around my neck, twisted it to choke me." And he said, "That law is not supposed to be used against us robbers, it's supposed to be for you people." So here they were, we met them, we met the leader of the gang and the deputy leader of the gang and one night, late at night, a warder came and quietly opened the door to our cells, to the passage.
POM This is No. 4?
MM No. 4, the warder came and opened up, came in and opened Mkwayi's cell and took Mkwayi quietly downstairs, took him to another section of the prison and there was the head of the Benoni bank robbers and his deputy, two of them, and the warder went away, allowed them to sit and talk alone. They raised the prospect of us escaping with them. Wilton engaged in this discussion and the next day when he got a chance to see me he reported the matter to me that, "Look, the Benoni bank robbers are planning an escape. Should we pursue it?" When I asked him what had he done he said, "Well I've arranged that the next meeting should be two people from each side", and he wanted me to come into the discussion. Of course we met and we raised the question.
POM The same warder came again?
MM Whether it was the same warder or a different one I don't know but I know that the head of the prison, because when I met the Benoni chaps, the robbers, with Mkwayi I asked first of all how are they managing to arrange this communication between us. And they said all the warders from the Commanding Officer of the prison are courting them because of the R41 million the police had only recovered one person's stake, the Hungarian's. He had, like a fool after they split the money, gone on a bit of a spending spree and he had led to their arrest but all the others they had not found their money. So they were all crowding around to find out the location of the money from them to make their own money. And in terms of that they, being a gang, were acting under rigid discipline and had come to an agreement and were going to escape if possible with the co-operation of the Commanding Officer.
POM And in turn he would get a percentage of - ?
MM Yes, but each one was trying to outdo the other. The warders were only interested in finding the location of the money so that they could grab it themselves but these guys were saying we will never divulge that. Then at this meeting I asked, "Why do you want us to escape? Because, remember, you're at the moment robbers. You are privileged here, you can bribe, the prison officers see you as good people but if they touch us they're in big trouble and so are you. It's not to your benefit to take us with you." They were very interesting. The deputy gang leader, he had the gift of the gab.
POM You and him!
MM He had the gift of the gab. He said to me, he said, "No, we have a common interest. You people, your politicians, freedom fighters, want sanctions against SA." So I said, "Yes." He says, "You want no investment, you want this economy to go down, you want to carry out sabotage." I said, "Yes." Hesays, "Well we are robbers. We don't rob poor people, we are robbing the rich people. That's part of our sabotage." So I said to him, "All right, let's not argue about that, let's get to the next point. Of what value are we to you? You are valuable to us to help us escape but of what value are we to you?" He says, "Again you are very valuable to us. You guys we can escape but we will hide in the country and we will get caught again. So we've got money but we need to get out of the country. Number one, you know how to get out of the country illegally. Number two, if we escape to Botswana or Swaziland you will get refugee status so that you cannot be deported back here but if we are there with you and you testify for us then we will get refugee status to so we won't be returned to SA. That's why we want you and we don't want all the political chaps who are awaiting trial. We want this group, your trialists, Mkwayi, you Mac, Laloo Chiba, we want you people because you people are big names in the newspaper and there's no way if we get into Botswana will the Botswana government deport you to SA. There will be a world outcry. So that's why we want you."
As it happened that escape aborted twice.
POM What was the plan?
MM The first time we were getting nervous and there was a plan that the day they were on trial at the Supreme Court and we were on trial we would attempt to escape from the Supreme Court cells. They said they would be able to smuggle the arms in to the awaiting trial, the holding cells, and they would bring in the escape from those holding cells.
POM How would they manage to do that?
MM They got their visitors to bring it in and bribe their way in.
POM They would bribe so the warder would know?
MM The court orderlies and everybody.
POM Would know that money was coming in? Sorry, weapons.
MM Arms. They brought in arms to the holding cells but we decided to abort it. When we looked at the situation we said it is too unsafe, just with two pistols there was no way we were going to get away alive. Now we presented them with a problem because here's the weapons in the holding cell and we are saying, "No it won't work." They have now got to smuggle those weapons from the holding cells of the Supreme Court into the prison at No. 4.
POM When they go to trial where are the the trial is happening in an hour or whatever?
MM And there are prison officials guarding them, Police guarding them.
POM And they've got two pistols.
MM Two pistols which they hand to us in the holding cells and I said, "No, take it back." They said, "What must we do with it?" "Take it back to No. 4 Prison where we are housed and where you are housed." And they said, "No problem."
POM They said no problem?
MM No problem. They said, "We will conceal it and take it back."
POM So did they go into their trial with a pistol in their pocket?
MM Probably with a pistol in their pocket and from the trial transported by prison van to No. 4 prison, searched at No. 4 prison and still took it through. And you were strip searched. Anyway, the second attempt
POM So now you have two pistols in
MM It's their job to hide it and keep it safe.
POM But it's in No. 4 Prison. And your meetings were still going on with them?
POM Yes, OK.
MM Now we plan to escape. We said from our side that the escape should take place from No. 4 Prison. We opened clandestine communications with our colleagues outside, in fact with Bram Fischer, and said to them that we are planning an escape.
POM How did you manage?
MM We smuggled notes out with our lawyers and we had other ways to smuggle with our visitors, we got out messages saying that we were planning this escape. I remember asking that Bram through our comrades who were still outside should do two things, that two cars had to be parked and the keys left under the driver's floor mat at a certain spot near No. 4 Prison. Number two, I asked that they should hire minimum two accommodations with no traces to the accommodation. They hired a place in Ferreirastown near Marshall Square here and they hired a place in Doornforntein for us, with all sorts of problems arising but to cut the story short they sent a report that this would happen and the cars would be there. There were lots of problems about raising money for us and I said that once we had got away through those two safe accommodations we would attend to ourselves. Just leave us some money. Bram did reply, gave me the addresses of the places, told me about the cars and said that there was a big problem finding money but they had raised a little bit of money.
POM Why would there have been a big problem raising money? Because it had to be kept - ?
MM It had to be in cash. Who would give money today to us or even to Bram? Look at all the demands, the trials going on. You've got to pay defence, all sorts of things. Donors, who were the donors? Who was going to give you money? So they were having problems and the movement was in retreat. I remember Bram was a lawyer and to be caught helping with an escape was a hell of a problem.
POM The gang didn't say, well we'll reimburse expenses or - ?
MM That's a promise. At the moment we need the cash. Our plan was to split the two sides so that we are housed separately in our hiding places. But that night, the prison is shut down, everybody is locked up, we are waiting for the moment and suddenly late at night the sirens go off, the alarms of the prison go off. We hear just pandemonium, prison officials rushing up, running all over and some of them come rushing into our cells, look through the people, are you there? Are you there? They don't say anything to us. Something's gone wrong. OK. We just hear pandemonium in the prison. Don't know what's happened. Nobody comes to open us up. Next morning
POM That was supposed to be the night of the escape?
MM That's the night of the escape.
POM Next morning. What was the plan to - ?
MM The plan was that the Benoni robbers would get out of their cell with all their contacts but they would do like they had forced escape. Then they would come with a warder, so-called under duress with the keys, hold him up but he would be a co-operative man but to cover his back, and force him to open our cells. Then we would get out and they would use this warder to get the exit door to the prison opened. We would get out, we would tie up this warder, beat him up or maybe even take him with us and dump him somewhere. Then from there we take over, once we are out of the prison. We hadn't told them where the cars would be, where we would be going. We would go to these cars.
POM Which were how far?
MM And then off we would go.
POM Five minutes away?
MM Yes just two, three minutes away, a dark street. Now what we didn't know is that to make it look like there was no inside job these Benoni chaps were kept in a communal cell with other common law prisoners, thirty, forty of them, and that night they took a hacksaw blade and cut through the hinges, they sawed these hinges.
POM There were hinges on the window?
MM On the steel door and they were sawing through this with hacksaw blades while they held all the other prisoners hostage.
POM Including the Benoni guys.
MM The Benoni guys were sawing.
POM Oh, they were sawing?
MM From the inside of the cell. This is a communal cell, it's locked, all the thirty prisoners are here. As a gang they have threatened all of them.
POM But they had two pistols right?
MM How many weapons I don't know by now. But they have threatened all the others not to squeal and they've threatened the others now and said sing. So that you sang so that it suppressed the noise of the hack-sawing, of the sawing of the hinges. They had left the hinges just slightly, just waiting, so if you just yanked the door it would fall open.
POM I thought they were going to bribe the warders to
MM They were going to bribe the warders but this must look like that they had done it themselves. They must not compromise the warders, right? But that night on the inspection a warder patrolling who was not into the game plan, one of the prisoners from the window told the warder on patrol that there's an escape being planned and this warder raised the alarm. The officials came and opened this door with a key and the whole door fell off. Of course they took all these prisoners, beat the hell out of them, we don't know what's happening, and of course some of the prisoners taken along pointed out the culprits. We don't know all this. We don't know what's happening.
Next morning was a day when we were not supposed to be at court. We didn't expect a visitor but at half past eight that morning Mkwayi, Chiba and I are taken out of our cells by the prison authorities who said your lawyers are here. We didn't expect the lawyers. So we go to the consultation room, there's Joel Joffe, there's George Bizos I don't know whether Arthur Chaskalson was also part of the team. George writes a note, he sits next to me at the table and he writes a note. Ostensibly they are interviewing us. He makes me sit next to him and he writes to me on a note, "What happened? Bram wants to know, what went wrong?" So I reply that something seems to have gone wrong and it's all off for the time being. OK. We're being returned from the legal consultation which went on for an hour or two and we are brought to the entry to our section of the prison where you had to get into a courtyard, you had to be strip searched before you went to your respective cells. As we were being strip searched I see three of the Benoni bank robbers standing there in the courtyard, stripped naked but beaten up, terribly beaten up, bashed up. So of course when I undress and I finish, I throw my clothes as I'm undressing near to them and when the warder has finished searching and he is satisfied I go near to the chap to pick up my clothes and I whisper to him, "What happened? Did you tell them about us?" The leader of the gang says, "I have not told them about you. You people are not in trouble. I would never tell them about you because if I tell them about you we are in bigger trouble."
So that one fell through. They were eventually sentenced to 15 and 20 years each,they went to Barberton Prison but I don't know whatever happened to them. It's a town in the Mpumalanga Province, a very high security prison. I remember when we saw them at the Supreme Court before they were sentenced they were very jovial. They said it didn't matter, they were going to escape from Barberton.
POM You never knew what did happen?
POM I must follow them up, get the details. They must still have that money. They could buy the castle!
MM And become respectable again.
POM Just going back, when you saw your wife for the first time were you able to touch each other, embrace or were you kept separate with one of these panes between you?
MM At the Supreme Court cells?
MM I saw my wife twice in detention, under detention and while she was in detention at the Marshall Square police cells because some time into my detention one of the things that I was doing was demanding to see my wife. They of course were refusing. So I began to do as if they allowed me to see my wife then I would allege that you've been torturing her like me and they would keep denying, no, no she's fine. And they would say, "She's talking." That's what they would say to me. So in that paradigm I began to imply that if they allowed me to see my wife and satisfy myself that she was not beaten up they might get my co-operation to get me to talk. What I was hoping was that in the absence of evidence except that she is my wife and the absence of any other evidence against her, her conditions of detention would be a little bit easier. I had at that stage already attempted suicide by cutting my wrists, here are the marks still I'm looking for the scar, here it is. Do you see the faint scar here running right through here, running right round there? That was an attempt to cut my wrists with eggshells, boiled eggshells, because one of your breakfasts from time to time was boiled eggs and I saved the shells, the pieces of the shells. One night at No. 4 I tried to cut my wrist.
POM At No. 4?
MM At Marshall Square.
MM Well I was in a desperate stage
POM This is after you had been beaten? This is your man, what's his name?
MM Being beaten up, Swanepoel and company. I'm being tortured day after day but a crisis had arisen where they, through their questioning one day I was able to work out that Piet Beyleveld, one of the detainees who was a member of the Central Committee, he was the President of the Congress of Democrats before his banning and he was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
MM Yes. And he was one of the people that I was working very closely with before the arrest. Now from the questioning I realised that they had information that they could only have got from Piet Beyleveld and the most crucial information was that they were alleging to me in interrogation that I had the names of all the full time people in the underground in the entire province of the Transvaal. I had the names, they said, of all the members of the Communist Party as well.
POM Of all the Central Committee?
MM No, the entire membership. They also alleged that I had the names of the full time officers of uMkhonto weSizwe who were paid and I had the names of the full time people working in the ANC underground structures. Why? Because they said I was the one that determined the total package of money that was required each month for the payment of these people and that the money would come to me and through me I would use intermediaries to pay everybody.
POM Was that true?
MM Yes it was. And they wanted that information. That was my crisis because if I broke down now under torture this was something that they were going to pursue to the ends of the earth. It left me with very little space for manoeuvre in the torture and I was getting afraid that I would break down because if this carried on and on I just could not see myself pulling through. I couldn't work out a way of getting out of this situation. I am trying to recall the sequence of the key issues but I also realised that I had one small card to play and the small card was that it was not in their interests to kill me, that until they got that information they couldn't afford to kill me. That was a very small card because it also meant that the torture would not stop, that it would go on day after day. I then attempted to commit suicide on several occasions because I said to myself I would rather die than betray the movement because this was not going to be a betrayal of myself only.
POM On several occasions?
MM On several occasions I tried, because I was kept with nothing I would collect cotton threads and I would collect pieces of wire in a desperate attempt to equip myself with some way of escaping. But failing escape I thought the only way out now is to commit suicide. Two things happened, one, this attempt.
POM That's on your left hand.
MM My left hand. The problem was I had a shirt in detention that covered my arms and when I attempted this one the shock was that, and I didn't realise that I had got to the vein but I had been stretching it to cut and it was very painful cutting with just pieces of shell because you were really by abrasion trying to cut. The pain was such that when I thought I managed to get to a vein I let it go and said, right now I'm going to bleed to death so let me just jump under my blankets and next morning they will find me dead. Instead what seemed to have happened is that because I had cut it at a stretch
POM As soon as you cut it into?
MM Because I had done it by stretching the skin, when I had managed to get into a vein I said right now it's bleeding and I released the tourniquet, the stretch and the skin just came up and covered it and an hour later I find I'm still very conscious. When I look it's not working.
POM So you had put a tourniquet?
MM A tourniquet to try and get the veins up.
POM On your left arm, yes. What did you use for that?
MM I used some clothing that I had to tie it up. It may have been a shirt or something. Now with that attempt having failed I faced the challenge that in torture they should not find out that I had attempted to kill myself. So there I was keeping this shirt and just at that time I'm demanding to see my wife. I decided that if they let me see my wife I will find a way for her to see this, the coagulated blood, and she would find a way to communicate it out. They allowed me to see her.
POM To backtrack, so you were lying there in your bed expecting you're going to bleed to death. What's going through your mind?
MM I wrote a note which was smuggled out and it was smuggled out before I attempted the suicide,before I started attempting the suicides. I wrote a note on toilet paper and I smuggled it out with my neighbouring detainee, a chap called Amien Cajee. He is still alive, he's living in Mayfair, he's about 88/90 years old.
POM And he was in for?
MM He was detained also in the round up. He was a banned person and he was working very closely with me in a unit in MK but they didn't know this. He had been put at Marshall Square in the cell next door to me and he and I had almost a telepathic understanding. We had worked very closely in the underground. He and I opened communications. I think you should see him because he will describe it.
POM I'll get it afterwards, Amien Cajee.
MM I'll see if I have his number here.He was banned. We were housed at Marshall Square, I was housed in a wing which had three cells and in the corridor were grilles separating these three cells from the rest of the police cells. I was housed in the middle cell. There was a night when I was attempting suicide where I had torn blankets high up on the wall where there were radiator pipes moving hot water, they were fairly big cells, probably about the size of this office.
POM This cell you were in?
POM Was this big?
MM This was awaiting trial, these were the police cells, this was not the prison cells. When I had been brought in, probably about this size, there were three such cells meant for large numbers of prisoners, awaiting trial, detained people, arrested people, and this was the middle cell. There was the door. There was a cell on that side, there was a cell on that side. Both were empty when I was brought in.
POM This is in Marshall?
MM Marshall Square. At some stage they brought in a prisoner next door. I didn't know.
POM OK now let me backtrack a bit. You're in Marshall Square, this is where you are being tortured?
MM No, no. This is Marshall Square Police Station. I am taken every day from Marshall Square to The Greys, the Security Branch headquarters which is nearby, and that's where I'm interrogated and I'm brought back at times at night, thrown into my cell often semi-conscious, next morning I'm taken again.
POM But you go into this bigger cell before you they take you out of your cell in which you kind of live?
MM No, no, this is the cell I'm living in at the beginning. At the beginning this is the police cell that I'm living in.
POM So you've a big cell?
MM I have a big cell at the beginning while I'm at Marshall Square for the most part of it, for the first part of Marshall Square I'm kept in this big cell. I am later on transferred to another wing to a smaller cell, then I'm later on transferred to Pretoria Prison where I'm put into a small cell. Then I'm transferred to No. 4 Prison when I'm put in this steel cubicle. But while I'm in this one here at the beginning after a few days there is a night when I tore the blankets and I used a stone that I collected from the exercise yard, a little stone which I had smuggled in in exercise and I tied it to the blanket to try and throw these blanket strips tied together over that radiator pipe in the hope that I would then be able to make a noose and hang myself. As I tried to throw this thing it keeps on bouncing off the wall because there's just a little gap between the pipe and as a result of this noise, this is late at night, the chap next door suddenly hears this sound, and I don't know there's somebody occupying it now but he's been brought in that day, and he starts tapping in the wall and when he taps on the wall from the tap I realise that's Amien Cajee because when we visited each other late at night and he came to my place he would knock at my door in a particular way, he had a particular knock and I would know this is Amien, we call him Doha which means 'old man' in Gujarathi. Kathy and them used to call him Doha. He was a veteran because we could never work out his age. We knew that he had been involved in the struggle with Dr Dadoo in 1936 so he was like a piece of furniture around the struggle and we had nicknamed him Doha, old man. We called him Doha.
POM What Indian language is that?
POM And that's spoken in what part of India?
MM It's spoken in North India amongst a small section of Hindu and Moslems coming from Gujarathi Province. I don't understand the language, but that signal, that tapping on the wall tells me it's Doha. Now fixed to the wall using iron rails of a tramway inserted into the wall was a bench, just a plank, on my side and on the other side the same steel was used for a bench for that cell.
POM So the benches were you had a wall and on each side of the wall you had a bench.
MM Which you could sit on. It was a long bench, very long bench, it could take about eight people seated. Now because of our understanding of each other he started looking how to communicate with me and the idea was now we were trying to tap the wall but we had no signals that can we don't know Morse code. My mind says we don't want to knock at the wall so loud that the prison officials will hear downstairs, it was upstairs. So my mind says look under the bench and I see this steel protruding and I say if I tap on the steel it will transmit the sound easier and lo and behold he realises the same thing and now we are knocking on this little steel, we're lying on the floor and knocking away and there's a resonance coming through. Suddenly I hear a faint voice, the cell is dark.
POM All the time?
MM No, there is a lot on top outside the door.
POM That's on all the time?
MM In the passage. So there's a bit of light coming through. Same on his side and suddenly I hear a voice, he says, "Can you hear me?" And I hear it fairly distinct his voice. He says, "Look, there's a little hole next to this steel bar, can you see it?" And just a little bit of light in each cell left a pinhole of a peephole. Just a pinhole of light but the voice was carrying. So I say, "Yes I can." And he says, "Listen, we've got to get to work on this." I said to him, "I'm being taken every day for interrogation."
POM When he said 'work on this', what did he mean?
MM He means we've got to take this hole and widen it. The next night when I'm brought back
MM So you tell him that you're being taken every day for - ?
MM Every day. All I say, I state, and all he manages to say to me, he says, "Look pal, we're going to find a way." So the next day when I come in the evening and when we were locked up and it was quiet I came to this hole and he says he has picked up a piece of wire in the exercise yard and he's busy widening this hole. That evening we break through the hole under the bench, make a slightly bigger hole and we chatted virtually the whole night. He really in effect counselled me. At that stage in my detention and interrogation the problem was that the police were saying that my fingerprints have been found at the Rivonia farm, explain, and they are beating the hell out of me. I have worked out in my mind that whenever I visited Rivonia I took extreme precautions that I never left a fingerprint and one of things, I used to go to the Rivonia farm for was to attend to the printing equipment, duplicators, the lot, and work there. In the process I came to realise after days of this torture that indeed they had my fingerprints. The reason was that even though I used gloves I had serviced a duplicating machine, what we called a Roneo, a table model, a Roneo machine. In servicing it and getting it working I had reached a point where a part had fallen through inside and I had tried to retrieve it. In those days you did not have magnetic screwdrivers. Unable to retrieve it with my gloves on I recall having taken off my gloves and tried to sort out the problem and I realised that's the only place they could have found my fingerprint, on that machine. So that night I'm talking to Amien Cajee
POM Were you ever at Rivonia farm when Mandela was there?
MM Not Mandela, it was after Mandela's arrest but before the arrest of the Rivonia people.
POM After his arrest.
MM His arrest in 1962, October 1962, because I had returned to the country in May and it's post his arrest that we began to use the Rivonia farm more extensively and that is where I used to go from time to time.
Now this was the issue, how do I in interrogation fend off this problem?
POM Now he was arrested at Rivonia farm, no?
MM No, Mandela was arrested in Howick, Natal on the road.
POM Oh that's right, yes, OK.
MM This was the problematic in my detention. They can't find anything against me except that they are alleging, "We have your fingerprints." And I've been fending off the interrogation by all sorts of excuses trying to work out, withstand the assaults to extract more information from them. So I recall that I have been partly fending off the questioning by saying, "How can you blame me for this? I could have bought a packet of fish and chips somewhere and the bloody packet could have ended up there and you're saying Mac was at the farm. No way, no way." And hours and hours of torture had led them to say, "Don't come with that stupid nonsense, a piece of paper."
He's the best witness, suddenly you've triggered off all these things, but he's the best witness to my detention. But that night in conversation with him, I have now worked out in my mind where they might have found my fingerprint and I realise it's on this duplicating machine and I have to prepare a fallback in case I am on the verge of cracking. How do I explain this in a non-incriminatory way?
POM Because they attached you to Rivonia farm, what would that mean?
MM I'm guilty. Not only that it's proof that I was there, part of the Rivonia group and the consequences of that if I crack up is uncontrolled. Now I have to fend that off in the torture in a way that is, if there is a way out of it. So when I tell Amien through this hole, number one that they are not providing me with food, I had gone for several days without food in addition to the interrogation and torture. He says he's getting food from his family and he says through that hole, he wraps in a tinfoil some food and pushes it through the hole, in a little tube of tinfoil he pushes the food through.
But secondly I say to him, "I have this problem." Now he was part of my printing group and I say to him, "I have this problem, they have found a duplicating machine and on that machine find in Rivonia they have found my fingerprints." So he says let's work a legend, let's work an explanation and we toss around ideas. Remember he had been a banned person and I advised him that the day they come to interrogate you don't deny. Before they question you, the first question, openly proclaim that you, they know, have been a member of the Congress Movement from the 1930s and go on the attack on the system of apartheid and say, yes, you are totally committed to the struggle against apartheid but don't admit you're in the underground. He says it's fine, that's good advice, he says, "If I deny everything then they can prove you are lying because they will show that you are a banned person, you're this, you're that." And as we toss around my problem which is as I am attempting to commit suicide, and I tell him, he says, "No, I can't accept that."
POM You tell him that you're - ?
MM That the only way out that I can see is that I must try and commit suicide. He says, "No, I don't accept that." But I said, "I'm being tortured." He says, "Still? Is that the problem, the duplicating machine?" I say, "Yes." So we work on an excuse.
POM Well you've two problems, one you know all the names.
MM No, that comes a little later. At this stage it's this problem, it's early in my detention. We then work a legend. The police have no reason to know that he and I are in touch. I will begin to construct. Whereas I am not answering questions yet I will begin to answer certain questions. Basically I will be saying that I am living not just as a carpenter, which was my first reason, I will keep that, that I do carpentry, but number two I deal in stolen goods and in a very skilful way I will include in the stolen goods that I have sold in Johannesburg city to a person I don't really know but I have sold a duplicating machine. But I will only do that when the police have given me enough from their side in the interrogation to say it's a duplicating machine and when they do that I will readily say, oh, I did sell a duplicating machine. Is it a table model, electrically driven? Yes I sold a duplicating machine. To whom? I don't know. I'm backdoor into stolen goods dealings, you don't ask who's who but I sold it to a chap, an Indian man, short man, near enough to the description of Doha but not close enough. And I will stick to that.
In turn, the day he is under interrogation and he is asked about Solly Matthews and given a photograph of me, Solly Matthews he won't admit to but when they show him a photograph of me in questioning he will readily say, oh no, that face looks familiar. And when they push him, what do you mean familiar? He will say, no I can't place him, a bit familiar, I have seen this man. Then he will come out with try and remember where have you seen this man? And he will say, oh, I bought a duplicating machine from him. Now that would be independent responses corroborating.
POM Now they would never associate that the two of you are - ?
POM In cells together because the people in the interrogation centre wouldn't know where you were placed in Marshall Square, right?
MM So that gave me life for a while because now I could withstand the interrogation and torture because I'm waiting for them to throw the clue. Now I can handle the detention, I have got a plan of action, keep withstanding the torture, keep denying, keep forcing them so I would daily say, "Impossible", to the officers, "You couldn't have found my fingerprint on the walls, I was never there." They wouldn't admit that it's not on the wall, but this would go on until one of them says, "Yes, it's not on the wall but it's on something big." So I would say, "What big? What big? You can't expect me to answer your questions if I don't know on where, but I'm telling you I was never at Rivonia." They say, "You're talking nonsense." I say, "Was it on a moveable thing? Could it be on a chair or a table that somehow or the other unknown to me that I did as a carpenter and it ended up at Rivonia?" And the moment one of the officers said, "Listen, that's bullshit, it's not on a table", it's removed an item and it's narrowing down and bringing them to tell me what it's on. They in turn don't want to tell me what it's on because they want me to crack.
POM So it's like a chess game. You're saying I want them to keep narrowing and narrowing and narrowing the field until eventually they will say, God damn it, it's on that, or something? Then you can respond.
MM Because then I can give an explanation. But even then I won't give that explanation readily. I will wait for them to carry on torturing me so that it's like I've dug it up from the recesses of my mind. And indeed that one worked like a gem because eventually one of the officers on one occasion turned round and said, "Aren't you the bloody government printer of the movement?" I said, "Government printer?" You know they would mock you. "Oh, you guys want to take power, you want to become the government." And one of the guys said, "I know you, you fucking expect to become the government printer when you take over." I said, "What shit is this? Me? I have nothing to do with these people and you say I'm going to be the government printer, what do you mean? What do you mean I'm going to be the government printer?" Of course they go on beating and I say, "Drop the subject, carry on", and then one day it pops up again. I say, "You know it's been worrying me." They say, "What's worrying you?" "You say government printer, what makes you say that?"
POM So you return to the subject?
MM I return to bait them on it and eventually it popped out. One of the interrogators says, "We know because you know about printing machines." "What do I know about printing machines? I told you people I'm a backdoor dealer, any stolen goods from radios, tape recorders, whatever, anything I get hold of I will take it and I'll find a buyer for that thing." Eventually I said, "Oh, you're talking about a duplicating machine? Are you talking about an electric one?" They say, "Yes, yes, electric one." "Oh, that was a time when I made quite a bit of money because it was not a hand machine. I got one backdoor, I sold it. Now you're not blaming me for that." They said, "No. Talk the truth." They don't want to admit but in the meantime they had one day taken Amien Cajee for questioning and Amien had agreed that he would answer only the legal questions that he was an open member of the Congress Movement.
POM That's the Indian Congress?
MM Yes. But that night when I was brought back Amien reports to me. I said, "Did you explain?" He says, "No." I said, "What happened?" He says, "No, they assaulted me for no reason." So I say, "What did you tell them?" He says, "I didn't tell them because I got so angry when they assaulted me I told them to go to hell, I'm not talking." I say, "You've left me in the lurch." So he says, "Oh shit!" My temper got hold of the better of me. So he then says, "All right, next time they call me I'll remember the thing about that." I said, "Did they show a photograph of me?" He says, "No, they never got a chance because I just told them to go to hell. When they assaulted me I said I'm not talking, you go to hell." So I said, "Please, the secret of this is that you've got to talk. You're not betraying any secrets." So eventually that happened but it carried me through.
Now the new crisis arose over Piet Beyleveld and the information about the names.
POM Just so he was taken to interrogation again, he was shown - ?
MM Maybe I don't know. All I know is that they stopped questioning me about my fingerprints and the fact that they backed off on that one meant that I had created a doubt in their minds whether that was the root of questioning that would crack me.
POM A side diversion, I will get back to our friend. Did you and some of these interrogators, did you get in any way to admire some of them for the way they would question, the way they would follow up things or did they get to admire you in a way for the way you would answer questions skilfully?
MM It's on record, it's on record that I have said that in a perverse way I have a certain respect for Swanepoel.
POM Yes, you've told me that.
MM In his own way, subsequent detainees who came to Robben Island told me how - from time to time different one were told how he respects me. He said, "That one ran circles around us." And how he would then talk derogatorily about Piet Beyleveld because Piet Beyleveld, I am told, cracked within five hours without a finger being laid on him and this was supposed to be a well built man, a white man, a comrade who had been in the second world war as a soldier and we looked at him, I looked at him in the armed struggle days, the sabotage days, hey! I'm dealing with a real soldier.
Be that as it may it's in this environment that one day they agree for me to meet my wife, just the police officer, the interrogator who is behaving as the softie, a chap called Van Rensburg, Lieutenant. But he in Ruth First's book was the toughie. So Van Rensburg was playing the softie and one day in his office at The Greys who appears there at the door, he tells me, "Do you want to see your wife? I don't believe in assaulting you." "Yes but you're assaulting my wife." All right, bring her here to see me. I'm sitting in a chair here and she's going to sit on the chair next to me and he's sitting at the desk.
POM So they think, this is done in the context of they think you might be more willing to provide information on all the people in the Communist Party and all the people in the underground? OK.
MM Yes. So it's that stage. When they put her next to me
POM Does she come into the prison or do they take you out?
MM This is at Marshall Square in the interrogation rooms but they take me to Van Rensburg's office and Van Rensburg is alone in the office, sitting on the side of the desk, and saying to me, "All right, you'll meet your wife. I'm not a bad man." And he says, "Would you like a cup of coffee?" No. "Do you want a cigarette?" No. "Why not?" I say, "Because I don't trust you. You said I will meet my wife, where is she?" He says, "OK, you'll see her, be patient." Suddenly she's brought in. I get up, we embrace. You'd asked me had I seen my wife. We embrace but it's very tense. I am aware I must not say anything that is going to compromise her. She's tense because she must not say anything to compromise me and we sit down and I hold her hand, she holds my hand.
POM Van Rensburg is still looking at you?
MM Yes, he's sitting at the desk but it's under his eye vision. I am asking how is she, have they assaulted her? And she says yes. So I said, "There you are." Now he pretends he's innocent. "Who did that to you? I'll take it up." And she tells me an Erasmus had been abusive and clouted her and slapped her around. In this conversation
POM Erasmus is his first name?
MM Surname. He is the one that ended up General Erasmus, I've talked about him. A short, stocky chap who used to be the butt of the jokes and was a sadist. So she tells me Erasmus had done that to her.
POM Is he still alive?
MM Yes, he's a General, retired, got amnesty from the Truth Commission. Anyway in the course of this conversation I manoeuvre while I am holding her right hand, I manoeuvre and shift her hand under my sleeve, under the sleeve of my shirt where were the scars and I am trying to signal to her several things. One, I am not talking but I am hoping that she will draw the conclusion that maybe I'm trying to commit suicide. She, as it happened, drew the wrong conclusion. She drew the conclusion that part of my tortures included visible scars. Anyway that visit terminated.
Then the second time I had intercepted her at Marshall Square cells where we were housed when she had gone out to the wash room from the women's section I was going to my exercise yard in the men's section and I spotted her collecting some warm water. The women were allowed to collect warm water to wash. I just broke away from my warder and I went and greeted her and just whispered to her, "Stay strong." But this time they separated us and threatened us.
So those were the two times that I saw her while I was in detention and then I saw her when I was awaiting trial and she had been released. That was a long answer to your short question.
POM So when you saw her when you were awaiting trial you would then when were you allowed a visit of one hour?
MM Oh, while I'm awaiting trial?
MM Some time middle of November.
POM So did she come then and see you?
MM She came to No. 4 Prison to see me.
POM And you'd have an hour with her?
MM Yes. Not on a one-to-one. The visiting facilities were you stood on one side of a wire mesh, there was a space and visitors all stood in a row and all shouted at each other and talking.
POM What was she able to communicate to you during those visits?
MM It was really moral support and sharing confidences that we would stand together, we would fight, that she was behind me and me worrying about what's going to happen to her.
POM Was she able to convey to you anything of how she had been treated, how she had been assaulted?
MM Oh yes, but they had very little against her, very little evidence except that she was my wife. So they released her from detention.
POM After six months?
MM Let's see, July, August, September, October, November, after about four months.
POM She was solitary confined, she was assaulted on a numbers of occasions?
MM Probably two or three occasions.
POM Would she be assaulted by women warders?
MM She was assaulted by a male warder, male police officer, Erasmus, and he was a Warrant Officer at that time. First name Gerrit and he was a Warrant Officer who ended up a General in 1990 and he was the General in charge of Witwatersrand Security Police in 1990. Not a very tall chap.
POM I think I met him. The circumstances are that I got to talking to the Attorney, very nice chap whom I've interviewed two or three times, who was representing the Generals in their amnesty application and one night he came he said, "I'll come to your place", and when we got out, he had this big, big car that wouldn't fit in the garage, somebody had taken the done a fix job on what do you call it? I don't drive.
MM On the lock?
POM On the lock, so he was stuck there and his wife was some place and he couldn't get hold of her. He rang all these guys, and Erasmus was one of them, and some guy came down from Pretoria who was working in the police, OK? Came down with a tow truck, OK? Pick up the phone, this guy now this is about two years ago. He comes in a tow truck.
MM After they have retired and left the police force.
POM The one guy is out of it, he's directing traffic. It was a tow truck but he's directing traffic and Erasmus is the guy who wouldn't give up. He got into that car under the dashboard and he kept going until he got the car started. Yes, that was him.
MM He's the one I told you before when I was put in interrogation in Vula, I told my interrogators, the Colonel, I forget his name, the Chief of the Interrogations, I said, "You are not going to get me to talk this way. These assaults won't help you. Why don't you phone General Gerrit Erasmus and ask him. He failed to get me to talk in 1964 and he was doing worse things than you. You think you're going to get me to talk?" And a few days later under interrogation I said, "Did you speak to Erasmus? Did you find out from him?" "He's here, I've spoken to him. He didn't manage to crack you, don't worry I'll crack you in a different way."
POM Who's this now?
MM The interrogator.
POM But you can't remember his name?
MM No I can't remember his name. He was the officer,Colonel, in charge of John Vorster Square at that time.
POM So how did he intend to crack you?
MM No, he never told me how he's going to crack me but he failed.
POM When was your wife able to tell you in detail what she went through?
POM Did you talk about it?
MM No, an opportunity never arose. I was awaiting trial, in the shouting visits, then I was in Robben Island with the visits and then she left on an exit permit in 1973. I met up with her in London in 1977 August and we tried to re-patch our lives. The focus of our attention was how do we re-make our lives together? She was working as a nurse day and night, two jobs trying to make a living, and here I was on a short visit. The crisis in our lives was are we going to be together or not? There was no time, we never had a chance to sit down, to calmly reminisce about what had happened to each of us. The predominant thing was that what's next? What's next? And the unhappiness, I might go back home, what does this mean for us? From her side, "I can't go on living like this." And from my side, "What can I do? Unless you are to give up your work and come to Africa, but where in Africa, I don't know. My job I might be in Zambia, I might be in Mozambique, I might be sent home." So she said, "What's the point of coming to Africa if you're sent home? At least I've got a job here in England." So those were the things that were occupying our minds when we re-met in 1977 and finally agreed to break up.
POM Did you love her when you broke up or had the separation and the experiences in Robben Island created that kind of distance or whatever? Not distance, it's just
MM No, I have myself described it to myself and my description is whatever regrets I think that the fact of the matter is that life had separated us. I can't point a finger at her. I think she remained committed, very much in love with me and wanted to find a way for us to live together and I think she took it very bitterly when we decided to divorce. That's from her side.
POM Did you ask for the divorce or did she?
MM I did, I did and I think from my side when I say life had separated us, while we shared the commitment of the struggle still I think the chemistry between us was gone. Maybe in a very callous way what was sitting uppermost in my mind was how do I get back into the struggle and get to grips with this struggle. The distance that had opened up between her and I was largely from my side but on other matters we were no longer on the same wavelength in our passion for be it the arts, be it the theatre, be it the passion for the struggle. She was still a supporter of the struggle, still in the ANC, but looking around she would be saying, "Why is it so-and-so who has been in prison, he is now able to live in London? Why can't you come and live in London and still be in the ANC?" And I would be saying, "But that's a disjuncture in the way we are seeing it. For me to be in the struggle you must give everything of yourself and the thing that is needed to be done is for us to get home and fight." And she would be saying, "But why you? You've done your bit. You've been in prison. Look at our lives so why don't you ask them to let you stay in London and work for the ANC then we can be together."
So you see on my side there was an insensitivity of her needs, an insensitivity in the sense that I expected her just as she shared with me in the sixties that commitment to come into the country illegally and live clandestinely
POM She had passion for the struggle then and that passion had kind of changed to support?
MM Support and let's build a life together, and my passion was I had just come out of prison, I want to get back to fight.
POM Your passion was greater.
MM So I think in that sense I was callous and I've explained it by saying life had separated us in the sense that our thinking had begun to move in different parts and that closeness of thinking that was there before I went to prison was now gone and I wanted to live with her but I also no longer saw that firing between us. That is why we divorced the divorce was mutual, she signed a consent so it was not any big news, but the agreement for divorce came very, very suddenly. I had now been posted in Zambia but there was no way that she could come to Zambia and work for the movement. We were a very small structure in Zambia. We were setting up the Solomon Mahlangu Institute in East Africa, Solomon Mahlangu College. He was one of the cadres of the ANC who had been executed here. So we set up this facility outside Dar Es Salaam in Kongawa where refugee children, refugees going off to study, could all stay.
MM Kongawa and Dakawa out near Arusha in the north of Tanzania. There we had a facility, farming, etc., and we started setting up schools, clinics. She applied then to go and work there.
POM She did? As a nurse?
MM As a nurse, and she was busy making that preparation hoping that she and I could be together.
POM Were you agreeing to this or?
MM Yes, I was agreeing to it and we were hoping because while she's making these preparations I'm called to Lusaka and told I'm going to be based in Lusaka. Now there's no way for her to come to Lusaka but she could go to Dar Es Salaam to Arusha and then my work is internal. Tanzania is out of my beat. Why should I even fly to Tanzania? I can only go there if the organisation sends me on work but the organisation is going to send me on work to Mozambique, to Swaziland, to Botswana but never to Tanzania. So we were in the middle of discussing this when I paid a visit to London and we sat down that evening and the discussion was no longer it was not about when is she going to Tanzania, it was she and I. What's going to happen to us? Again she says, "Are you going home?" I say, "I'm secretary of the ANC underground, I expect it's part of the logic of my work that I should go home. How can I be the secretary sending people home and not go home myself?" And she says, "I can't handle this." And that night I suddenly said to her, "Tim, I think we'd better divorce." She looked at me and she said, "I think so too." That was it.
POM I recall you saying before that she came down one morning, she had made a list of the
MM That was the debate quite early on, early debate. And this debate was lingering because it was always there. What does it mean for us? And now she was going to be in Dakawa, I was going to be in Lusaka, but still we would not see each other and back the same question came what does it mean for us? Then I said, "Look, I think we'd just better divorce." She just went silent and just said, "I think so too." That was it. I was passing through London just for one day. We were meeting in the evening, she had come from work. She was going to go off to work the next day.
POM That day.
MM That's it, that was the only time.
POM You said she was very bitter. Was she bitter that you chose the struggle over her or that you were willing to?
MM No I don't think I am saying I think that she has been left with a bitterness about our split and I think that she would be legitimate in that bitterness in the sense that she probably would be saying to herself: I don't think he made enough of an effort for us to build a life together. And I think that she would be in some sense justified in that because after I split with her I developed a relationship with Zarina, my present wife.
POM How long after was that?
MM It was 1978, a few months later, but it was a relationship that grew. She was in Mozambique and by the end of 1979 as her contract was expiring in Mozambique and I would pass through Mozambique from time to time, we then discussed what we should do and she then agreed to come to Zambia to look for a job in Zambia and see if we couldn't be together in Zambia. She came to Zambia in 1980 and we married in 1981.
So I am saying if you look at it from Tim's side with my never having gone and told her about all this, she would be hearing about it, and she would still say after that, "But why didn't you make the same effort with me?" Then as the years went on
POM Did you ever talk to her after that?
MM No, she wouldn't entertain a discussion.
POM After the divorce.
MM After the divorce. She wouldn't entertain a discussion.
POM Did you try?
MM I have accidentally met her about probably three times since then and the first time I met her I tried to have a discussion with her.
POM Was this in London?
MM She went back to London. After Dakawa she went back to London and the first occasion was I think I saw her in London at some social gathering and I went up to speak to her, she greeted me and then I looked for an opportunity to be alone to chat with her.
POM Were you married at this time, or remarried?
MM It was long after my marriage. I tried to have a chat with her. She just said to me, "Let's not talk about that, I don't want to discuss anything with you." Then the last time I met her was at her brother's funeral in Durban recently, about four years ago. I was at the funeral, I had flown in. The funeral service was going on and people were going to the microphone and delivering talks about the deceased so it was in session and I walked in and as I walked into the hall
POM Were you Minister of Transport at the time?
MM Yes I was minister. So I just flew in for a few hours and as I walked in through the doors somebody came to escort me to where I should be sitting and as I went past the front row I saw the immediate family of her brother, brothers and sisters and children and the nieces and the nephews, all seated in the front row and I had to go past them. So I went to each one and greeted them and because I know them all fairly well I hugged most of them. One sister was there, the eldest, we hugged each other. Then I reached Tim and I went to hug her and she tried to do it in the least visible way but she just allowed me to kiss her on the cheek but she very subtly avoided my embracing her and hugging her. Then I was shown my seat and I kept saying to myself, you know I've passed my condolences to each member and I'm here for a short time and I'm going to be flying off back to Jo'burg, I must look for a chance to speak, to say something more in condolence. But then I was very aware that in that moment she had very subtly avoided me from embracing her. Then I said to myself, she's got enough pain, her brother has passed away, must I go and speak to her to confront her again with an additional pain? So when my time came to leave I just walked out quietly and just said goodbye to each of them, including her, and went off. That's the last time I saw her.
So from all that I'm extrapolating that she would be feeling somewhat bitter, somewhat hard done by life and somewhat hard done in particular by me.
POM Do you think, like the way you've just talked now, I've been in, I won't say similar situations, but parallel, probably different when you walk away, when something ends, there's awful unfinished business. It's like there's something still I have to say. It's like the closure hasn't been proper.
MM Yes. That's it.
POM Do you still feel that?
MM Well too much time has elapsed. You are right, one felt that closure hasn't happened in a way that adult, thinking, caring human beings should close, and from time to time I've felt that but it is now 24 - 25 years ago and I know that it is too late for a closure to take place in a form where we would be able to say we are still friends.
POM Why do you say it's too late? Nothing is ever. She's in Durban, you're in Johannesburg.
MM She's in Durban, I'm in Johannesburg. She's probably in retirement, she's definitely in retirement. She's gone through a hell of a lot of pain. Most of her brothers and sisters are deceased. Two of her nephews died very badly, Sadhan was assassinated, he was in the MK as a cultural officer and he was assassinated by, it turned out, one of the members of the organisation who was an enemy agent.
POM Sorry one of the members of?
MM Of MK who was an enemy agent. It was on a farm and he one day shot Sadhan ostensibly saying it was a quarrel and accidental but it has come out in the Truth Commission that he was an enemy agent.
POM What was his name?
MM The boy's name was Sadhan Naidoo.
POM Could you write to her and just say these things have been flowing through my mind?
MM I've thought about it from time to time, Padraig, but maybe it will happen, maybe it will.
POM Do you not think by doing so you would get it out of your system? Do you know what I mean? By saying I recognise
MM There is so much in my life that one could say one would want proper closure that one doesn't know where to start. There's Tim, there's my immediate family right now, my children and my wife. I sometimes feel when I see each of them going through some difficult patch I have to ask myself am I the one that is responsible for this difficult patch? It's not something I talk about but I think one has to acknowledge this when you are asking this question. Then there are so many comrades and friends. A number of them have died having worked very closely and life has been such that one hasn't gone to the families of all of them to sit down and spend a few hours talking. Sometimes one wants to do it and one doesn't do it because you say do you want to go and reopen this for them?
Then there are enemies, people who were serving the SA government. Some of them were intercepted by the movement, they were intercepted by me, some of them were arrested by us. But I know this morning when I was driving on my way to work I thought of one of them who died in our detention and I had lured him out of the country having detected that he was an enemy agent on the ground. I had handed him over to our security in Mozambique.I was thinking of this case as I was driving because it came to me that after handing him over to security the next time I went past Mozambique security reported to me that he had died under interrogation and his case was, yes he was assaulted but it seems in the course of the assault he was kicked and his kidney was damaged. That was the explanation that I was given, and he died. Now I was thinking of this case this morning from a very peculiar way as I was driving. I suddenly said, what's his name? And I couldn't remember the name. I was saying to myself as I was driving, how is it that he has become nameless and faceless and yet he lost his life. Yes he was working for the enemy, I have no doubts about it, but he's nameless, he's faceless and maybe he's got a mother who doesn't ever know what happened to her son. Don't I owe something to her in the new SA? And I said, but where do I start? Because if I went and asked the chaps in security they may or not remember his name but they will remember the incident but they will say what are you digging this up for? Are you wanting to point a finger at us, that he died in detention at our hands? And once more I would be busy explaining. So as I was driving I said, "Please, it's unfinished business but put it aside."
I'm saying for all angles there is so much unfinished and I think in ordinary lives, not the lives that I've led, there is also unfinished business in people's lives. Sometimes you have to keep asking, do you want to open a fresh wound in other people?
So, come back to Tim, what will closure do? Satisfy my conscience? Or will it help if there is need for closure from her side would it help closure? I am not sure any more but I do not want to do something as if it's closure for me but in the meantime a resurgence of a pain in somebody else. That's the conundrum.
POM Is that like a risk that upon balance might be worth taking? It's almost like the lead up to negotiations. To use an entirely different thing, like the ANC had to weigh will we go for it or will we not, are they real, what will this do, what will our membership think? But on balance it's the best way forward. And that similarly for a person who's always taken risks all you can do is open the door. She may close it again but then again she may not and if she closes it again in a way that's it, but if she doesn't just
MM I can't fault the logic in that, I can't fault the logic and I can't fault the humanness in what you are saying. All I am saying is it is part of also that same humanness equation that you have to ask yourself whether with the best intention of hoping that the other person would be helped to find their own closure on the same episode, whether that opening would cause a resurgence of pain which may not find closure for that person. But it may help the person to also find closure later. I am saying that there are so many unfinished businesses at that human level.
POM But this one is special. This is someone who went to extreme lengths to be with you, be part of what you were doing, who went through an incredible experience, in jail, the isolation, not knowing what was happening to you, standing by you, waiting for you in London.
MM That's why the thought does come.
POM If you said these things have been going through my mind and, as I get older or whatever, I am increasingly aware of the damage I may have done to you and it pains me, I have not forgotten. In other words it's not that I have gone on with my life and you became
MM Last night, Padraig when one lives with it all the time but there's a great danger that one has to avoid, to become self-blaming. Last night I heard my daughter and Zarina in my daughter's bedroom chatting away. I had met her because she was writing her exams and it was English Creative Writing and I met her when she was still with a friend of hers from school, yesterday afternoon. We greeted each other and I said, "Joey, how did your exams go?" And she said, "Dad it was a very difficult one, they gave quotations, you had to choose one but eventually I chose one I think was OK." We didn't get a chance to talk again. Late in the evening at about nine o'clock she rushed into the study where I was working, "Hi Dad, hi Dad, I'm going to sleep, good night", picked up her bags and ran off to her room. Then I heard her and Zarina talking, quite animatedly. I went into the bedroom and I found she hadn't even got into her pyjamas. Zarina was lying on her bed, Joey was sitting on her chair at the desk and Zarina says, "Has Joey read you what she wrote in the exam today?" So I said, "No." Then she said, "You've got to hear this." It was a quotation about reaching the top mountain top and she used that as a take off and she began to read what she had written, beautifully written, and she was interspersing it, she wanted to give me an explanation. She said, "Look, it took me half an hour in the exam room to select a topic from what was offered", and because it was creative writing she said, "Dad, I decided that to be really creative in that limited time I had to select something from my own life so that I could write fast. I could not invent something. I had to ground it on reality." She says, "And what's worse is when I got going, it had to be 600 or 650 words, when I got going in full flow half an hour after the exam had started and I had selected the topic and started writing, I suddenly was in full flow but I hadn't even finished with you, Dad, when I realised my 650 words were almost over." She says, "That's the preamble, now listen to it." And she began to read.
She had located it as an unnamed child saying she's reached fulfilment, the mountain top of happiness, and this imaginary child she develops with powerful imagery and then she swings over to a moment, she says in conversations with her mother, "Mama, what does he look like? Will I recognise him? Is he tall, is he this?" And then she moves from there to a demonstration outside a stately building in London where there are all the people, stamping of feet and demonstration going on vibrant, then she's lost in the crowd and then she's pulled up by her mother and her mother is standing there and she's on one hip of her mother being held and she says, "This child has got one arm around the mother and the other arm she's holding a placard but unlike other placards which say 'Release Mac Maharaj' she says mine read in crayon writing in my own handwriting, "We want our Daddy back, bring him back." And she says then later on you realise that that child is herself, the writer. She goes on and she says, "Now time ran out, space was running out, so it's a bit disjointed, Dad, and I concluded it that in these 18 years I have now reached the mountain top of my happiness."
Zarina was lying on her bed andZarina began to cry, tears were just rolling down. Joey then tries to make light of it. She says, "Dad, this is the third time Mum's crying tonight as I read this story to her." Zarina just burst out, "Oh Joey I'm so proud of you."
Why am I saying this? I am saying it
POM What did you feel?
MM All these things keep coming back.
POM What did you feel last night?
MM I felt so proud of my family but I felt so hurt because I was saying to myself, she's picked on an aspect of her life, a review of her life, which fitted into a statement about the mountain top being a mountain top of happiness. She's fitted it all together and defined it now as being happy. But that's one perspective. What if tomorrow she was given a quote and that quote asked her to pour out the pain of today? Like Zarina, it included the pride and the pain but it was also for me, hey, we're getting through it. But the emphasis is on getting through it. It told me also that we're not through it.
POM That you're not through?
MM We're not through it all.
POM You say 'through it all'. What do you mean?
MM There are so many dimensions of that 18 years of her life that there is a strong sense in me that, yes, she is emerging out of it with benefit but I cannot say at the moment she's emerged.
POM We never emerge.
MM Yes we never emerge so there is a sense that said this is fantastic but immediately when you say it's fantastic you start thinking who else you owe this to because it cannot be just she, I, Zarina and her brother because what she's thinking about is the thousands of people who were at Trafalgar Square with her. They're all part of it, that have helped to emerge. This emerging is happening not just by an internal strength of her or me or her mother or her brother or just the four of us, there are so many other people known and unknown who are contributing to this process.
POM Hold it a minute. You just said a couple of minutes ago what if the quotation was about pain. Now do you know what the other choices were?
MM No. She said they were all very impossible in that exam room to get excited about. But even this one, she says, after half an hour of toying with each one what triggered her to take this one, she said this one allows the space, Joey, if you focus on your own life then you will be able to do it in an exam connection.
POM You don't know whether one of those quotations was a quotation about pain?
MM No. What I said to her was, "Now Joey, you've done this for the exam, your exams are over on Friday and you have a bit of respite. Will you do yourself a favour, will you take the unfinished portion of this and complete it." And she said, "Why?" I said, "For yourself. For yourself what was triggered by this quotation, complete it unrestricted by length because you have only talked so far about me and tangentially about Mum. What else were you going to talk about?" She said, "Dad, I have said in the opening statement there are parts where I referred to the warm embrace of my Mum, the warmth in the looks of my brother's eyes." She said, "I've mentioned those things, I was going to develop them." So I said, "Will you do it for yourself?"
So, yes, I haven't looked at the whole thing and maybe I'll get back to it with her, maybe I won't.
POM Back to Joey?
MM Discussing this with Joey. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. Why? This week is exams. Saturday I am in Newcastle. Sunday I am back. Monday she is busy preparing her next thing but I have said to her to find some time. So maybe Monday, Tuesday when we see each other and we are chatting I will be saying, how's your programme? Have you got time? Have you thought about this thing? Are you writing? Are you going to write it? And she'll probably say, Dad, I'll do it next week. We will talk about it. One doesn't know how she will respond next week Tuesday given what other immediate preoccupations occur but I know one would like to ask her to do it for herself and even assure her you don't even have to show it to me, knowing that if she's done a good piece out of her own excitement she will come to her mother or me or to her brother and say, I want to read this to you, and that's when we are able to take off further.
POM You said to Joey, "Write the rest of it, do it for yourself." Why would you not write to Tim? And I would say to you, Mac, do it for yourself.
MM It may well happen.
POM On the one hand you're telling your daughter 'do it for yourself' and you're not applying the same criteria to yourself. You know what I mean?
MM I understand what you are saying. I hear you. I just don't want to make a commitment in the context of this discussion. I don't want to make a commitment that I will do it.
POM Of course not, no.
MM All I am saying to you is it's an issue that arises from time to time, not only in the particularity of telling but in the general issues that have arisen in so many particulars in my life. Sometimes I sit back and a name would pop up in my memory and suddenly one would realise there's an unfinished business there. I haven't reached a point in my life where that unfinished business so dominates my thinking that what I would have done yesterday when I was driving, a name popped up, I would have quickly made a note to say follow this up, like this morning as I was driving about this one instance that I mentioned, this nameless, faceless person. I would have made a note, just make a note so that it's there now sitting in one memory jogger of something that you may be able to do.
POM You could make a list of prioritised unfinished business, put down ten items and say I will try to deal with these ten and if I get at these ten maybe I will have the time and energy and life to get on to the next ten but I will deal with the major ones first.
MM There is no such thing as major. In this type of unfinished business you cannot make a list of major and minor priorities. All you have to do is when your mood, your feelings, your thoughts are right for any particular specific one out of that list of thousands, because your response must be genuine, it must not be contrived. One name may pop out of a thousand not because it is the most prior but because it's the one where you are internally ready to respond.
POM What you said, what I'm struck by is how you both simultaneously analyse and project, i.e. you project Tim's reactions if you that the projection you project on Joey, if you ask her next week then maybe she will say ba-ba-ba-ba, so that's projection and analysis. That's almost scenario riding, there are all these different possibilities, whereas you've intellectualised something that's in a sense something that should be dealt with on a human level, on an emotional level. It's nothing to do with the intellect, it's got nothing to do with analysis and you can't project what other people might feel because you may be totally incorrect. So projection is not useful because it's based on hypotheses that are not rested.
MM But the projection is necessary in everyday life because you don't want to go and cause more pain for anybody or new pain for anybody.
POM But you can't say if I do this the reactions may be one, two, three or four. One of them could be painful. What you are doing is you are actually thinking for the other person which you can't do so all the projections are false because they're just that, they're projections.
MM Maybe there's an element
POM It's like as if you were still a strategist for the ANC.
MM Maybe there's another element to it. Maybe the way I am reacting is because I also do not want to bring additional pain on myself.
POM That's right. Before you touched on that in an odd way when you said you mustn't be self-blaming but maybe you're not being self-blaming, maybe you're being self-aware. There's a hell of a distinction between the two but you can use the two together almost if you so wish. What you call self-blaming I would call increasing self-awareness.
POM So you've picked a negative to describe something whereas I would use a positive.
MM Sure because so I'm saying maybe there is a deep element of that subconscious in me but it's almost like making excuses. I need so much in the life that I've led, I need so much to always in a whole hoard of issues, instances, events, ideas, I need to be able to pick out always and keep at the forefront of my mind a set of them that afford a possibility of optimism and even faith.
POM Well this is based on faith.
MM Yes, that's why I'm using the word. But I'm saying one needs to pick out from this whole hoard always a few that have a promise of optimism in them, the greatest promise of optimism and faith, otherwise it's so easy to slip into blame.
POM Faith is that one wonderful thing that when you were on Robben Island, when you were being tortured, when you went through the most extraordinary experiences in that jail you had faith. You clung to the belief that in the end SA would be free and that you could endure anything to make that happen, that you could even kill yourself so that you would not betray your comrades. That's faith of the most ultimate kind and it's done in blindness because you don't know the outcome. If you committed suicide you don't know when you're gone. You're never in a position to know what will happen or what will not happen.
MM You would only know that what you've left for anybody close to you a sense that you did not betray, that's all and maybe it will be recognised and maybe it won't.
POM Maybe with Tim it would be leaving a sense that you have not forgotten.
POM I think a lot of pain with people arises and this kind of alienation that develops is because people who are very close to each other and break up is that one person carries the burden always and, two, they think they have been forgotten and therefore that the life that they did enjoy with the person was and what you were doing is making a gesture of healing and part of that healing is that I have not forgotten, I have not forgotten what you did for me and how you made me possible and what I did possible. Without you I would have been nothing, I just want to share that with you because we're all getting on in life and I want you to know that, just know it.
MM I buy it.
POM You buy it? I was in love with somebody about, God it's nearly 20 years ago now, and it was one of those kind of things where you say, "God, this is it!" I'm at the mountain top, I could love her no more. She suddenly left and got involved with somebody else, like within a week. I was so hurt! I was in the middle of writing a book and I was saying, "You've got to keep your head together, don't lose it, you've got to do X number of words a day, you've got to get it out of your mind", but the rest of the time was just pure pain. I'd walk and walk and walk and walk. Then one day I just sat down and wrote her a letter and let it out what my pain was and wished her the best and that I still loved her but I wished the best for her and I sent it and I felt a sense of relief. I felt just relief. She would know what I think but she would also know that, God damn it, did you Yes, but if I truly love you I have to allow you to do what you think is best for you even though it pains me enormously. It gave me relief. The funny part of it is that after she got married and had a kid, eight years later she came back to me and we got very involved again. We were making plans for the future after she got a divorce and it came to 1989, I came here for the first time, we were involved and very close. In 1990 I'd go back, involved and very close. Now she's talking about we should buy a house, you could live in one part we can't live together because she's one of these difficult people. We'd have me and my boy we'll live on this side on one floor and you live on the other so we can be together and at the same time have separate space. She was making plans and I knew that this thing would not last if I came here every year for four to five to six months. I knew it. I knew that she could never accept that. I knew it was over but she was making plans for the future and we broke up again because I chose coming here every year to do what I wanted to do, to do what I had my own vision in my head for and I allowed the most important relationship in my life it took second place. We still talk about it. I loved her a lot.
It's not the same but in a human way it is the same. When you cause pain by saying, well I'm going to do this no matter what, but that doesn't mean I don't love you, while the other person is saying, but if you did love me you would put me and my needs first. The conundrum that there is no answer to but there is a way of achieving a form of healing. We talked before about healing and how enemies must come together and heal, how healing is part of nation building, healing is part of one's individual life.
MM I can't challenge that, I can't disagree at all. There is so much but
POM But take the 'but' out. What you're doing is you're rationalising what I said by saying, 'yes but'. It's like you said five minutes ago, 'I'll buy it', in a way that was the end of it. You start putting in buts and ifs and what ifs, you can always put in a but and you can always put in a what if. You're a seasoned genius at doing that because that was part of what your life was about. I am sure that at strategy meetings you would challenge what somebody said by making them think by saying, but what if this, what if that, what if the other. What you're doing is pushing the other person to develop their point of view or to understand themselves, the implications of what they might be saying and the outcomes of what they might be saying and that would be an enormous part of your contribution to the intellectual debate within the ANC and the SACP and the whole underground movement. You had to be always saying a 'but'. We're going into the country, OK, but we're an underground. OK, we've got to look at A, B, C, D, E, F, G, every possibility of how we might be caught. We've got to have precautions in place for every one of those possibilities for every stage in life.
MM That's what my children and my wife say. My children would say the problem with Dad is that he is too clinical and it's an inhibitor in connecting with people. So I think you are right, I don't disagree.
POM We're actually very much alike. I do the same thing. I do it with my interviews. I say well or the other and I become that in my life too. Oh I always can say, no matter what argument is made, how good it is, I can always say, but have you taken this into account, have you taken that into account? And I'm living on an intellectual level whereas I've got to say get rid of the intellect and remember you're dealing with a human being, it's about emotion, not intellect.
MM Yes. I think we're in agreement there. Clearly there are a whole set of inhibitors in me. What they are, how they arise, is a question in itself. For today the issue is when one looks over one's life one realises that however special and privileged mine has been, in another sense it is like the lives of everybody else, not just in SA but all over the world. In a sense I am better equipped than most because my life has shaped me to be a very, very reflective person. My life has also shaped me to more often than not have the courage to face up to what I reflect on. At the same time my life has shaped me in a sense of killing the spontaneity and maybe a good part of me is afraid of spontaneity and yet deeply wants spontaneity. That's where I sit at the moment. What more can I say?
POM How would you distinguish between reflection and analysing?(Break in recording)
You just said that there's no opportunity to get everybody to get together for an evening meal. Now do you not think you could have a little indaba about that and say, do you know what? We're all very busy, we're all doing this, that and the other, but it's important that we have a
MM We have those indabas.
POM You do?
MM The reality is when we talk about it we say yes we want to do it. The reality is, Padraig, we were not together at the start of the marriage through to my children turning until 1999 my son would have been 15. Until my son was 15 and my daughter was 13 and Zarina and I were married for 16/17 years we did not have the opportunity in that formative period grow up as a family living together every day, having a central team. So post-1999 it has become possible but it's happening on the basis that nothing like that happened in their childhood and now they are active teenagers and Zarina has gone back to work and to try and settle that, that everybody says yes, it doesn't happen. We talk and express the wish and we are so used to living life in its own independent daily timetables that it just disappears and then once in a while we get together and we enjoy it. We say we must do it again, then it disappears.
POM That's ironic in the context that when you came back in 1990 and said, "I want to quit politics because I want to spend more time with my family", is that eventually when you did quit politics was it too late to spend more time with your family or did you think it would happen?
MM It just automatically doesn't happen.
POM But when you quit everything in 1998/99 did you think well now I'll have more time with my family? Did everyone think that?
MM We all thought it would be fantastic.
POM So it was projection. You see?
MM We thought how wonderful, even the breakfasts, Sunday breakfasts.
POM Which you made.
MM We would get up and at least by eleven o'clock we would be together but now one will sleep till three o'clock, the other one will get up and not eat a breakfast and rush off to have breakfast somewhere else, and the other one will say, "I don't feel like eating today." Then somebody will say, "Haven't you eaten?" I say, "No, but I didn't feel like it." "Why?" "Well I've cooked it all and lost my appetite."
POM Maybe they got tired of you cooking the same breakfast all the time. When you mentioned Trafalgar Square was Joey there with her mother?
MM There's a picture, a set of pictures of her, my boy, Joey, Trevor Huddleston and a whole group of others. There's Joey holding this poster, "We want our Daddy back, bring our Daddy back." My son is holding a similar one but he's standing. Zarina is holding something in the crowd.
POM What year would this have been?
MM 1990 when I was arrested for Vula.
POM Have you ever, well you asked her to finish the story, or finish it for herself. When you do get together do you ever talk about the past or has the past in a sense become, I won't say irrelevant, but they're busy building their own lives and is the end of apartheid like ancient is apartheid becoming ancient history?
MM No not even with my children. Last year, or this year when my birthday came around each of them gave me a birthday card but I remember being struck by my son, what he had written in it and I was struck because as he and I are building an understanding and a relationship and there are clearly moments when it's quite jarring, then we end up in a tiff, and the way he leads his life and I realise that all of them are a mixture of pride in me and a huge reservoir of pain. So a very big mixture but part of it is a very unfair burden on my son because, and it seemed to have impacted in different ways on each of them, in him it's like an unfair burden. He used the word 'legend', the legend that you are. I don't remember the large statement but the word stuck out and you could see that at times when we have an argument or he goes and complains to his mother or to his sister there is a residue that says he feels a pressure to do things because of me, not because of me what I demand of him but what others around perceive as legendary.
My daughter very clearly is extremely proud of me, her mother and me, of myself and Zarina. That pride she shows to others and maybe it's partly because of me because at that level I too don't want to discuss my life as if it's a set of and I think I confuse them as youngsters when I talk about some of the dilemmas of the struggle. I confuse their young minds but I know of instances where Joey would defend herself very strongly.
POM You mean 'defend' in what sense?
MM They are going to a yuppie, still white school and the parents of their friends, their mates, do not see anything wrong in what happened in SA and so you would have statements, asides, thrown at Joey that are hurtful and she fights back in her own way, she fights back in her own way. I don't know whether I mentioned to you one instance when one of her school mates criticised me extremely viciously, I don't remember the details, but I know that it stung Joey and she sat back for days and grappled with this. I think one of the parents had said, "Oh he's Minister of Transport, not Minister of Transport, he's Minister of Potholes, this country is going to rack and ruin and all he's doing he's getting more potholes on our roads", or something like that. But the dénouement of it was that days later Joey waited for this girl to make a similar statement and said to her, and she waited till others were present, she said, "Now I want you to go home tonight, I want you to find out what your mother and father earn and what they own because tomorrow when you are armed with that information I want to discuss this matter with you." And the next day she went and confronted this student and said, "Have you got the information?" And whether the child had got the information or not I don't know but the child now faced with others said, "Yes, here we are." Joey says, "Right! I presume your father owns millions and I presume he's earning millions. I don't want to know the exact amount but that's true isn't it?" And the child said yes. She says, "Well my father may not own millions and I'll tell you something, can your father say that he gave his life for this country? Can he say that? Because I'm telling you something, my father gave his life to this country and I don't want to hear any more nonsense from you", within the hearing of all her friends, who are all white. When I heard about this I asked her, "What did your friends say?" She said, "My friends applauded, they cheered, the said good for you Joey, put that one in her place."
POM So your daughter is more like you is she?
MM Her Mum's a fighter too.
POM Her mother's a fighter, my God!
MM Be careful about saying she's like me.
POM I'll remember not to make that statement.
MM That's life. All I'm saying is it's been a good life. I feel extraordinarily privileged. From time to time when I hit a bad patch in my own mind I come out of it and say what an extraordinary gift that I'm still alive.
POM One of those eggshells might have worked.
MM I'm still alive. When I have a headache with my son or my daughter or my wife I get fed up and then I sit back and I say to myself, Jesus Christ, what's your problem? Aren't they wonderful? What are you focusing that they're giving you shit? Aren't they delightful? Yes they are, so what's your problem? You're still alive and you're enjoying it.
POM Do you ever say, Jesus, it was simpler in the struggle?
MM No, no. My children were born after prison. Vula has left some deep scars, very, very deep, very, very deep, because when I emerged from Vula and I passed through the UK
POM This is after you were released?
MM No, before my trial, but when I went out to come in legally. My wife was recovering from this accident which she had in 1988 which led her not to work from 1988 to 1994, unemployed, but she said to me in the UK one gun in Vula and one gun in my son's on a TV programme that he's getting.I've got them lying at home, I've just got to wade through them.
POM Where is Saths now? He was in my interview pile too. I knew him back in Boston.
MM He's in the country. I think he's based in Johannesburg practising as a psychologist, advisor, consultant, all sort of things. I must find it for you because I think it's Saths who got under my skin in a programme called Unmasked, but the incident in 1990 when I met up with Zarina in London, in the UK, she said to me, "When you set off on Vula were you aware that there was a 95% chance that you would be dead?" It's been one of the most difficult questions of my life because it was taking place in a circumstance where, yes, she had 19, 20 fractures, blind in one eye, battling with the children and trying to make a life without my presence and not knowing when I'm going to turn up. It hit me that my first defence was, "But we discussed this thing before I went, we discussed my going home.""Yes, yes, yes, but the point is I'm asking you, did you realise as you set off that there was 95% chance that you would be dead?" And I couldn't answer it because if I said yes the logic of that was, then what sort of person are you to have left me in a strange country with two children, two years and four years old, unprovided for and you were gone and you were going to die, maybe die a hero's death? But what about us? Did you think? That was the logic. And I couldn't answer that question. I am still not able to answer that question. So it's been a very, very difficult question and I say it Vula has left, in its own unintended way, hell of a deep scars between her and I.
POM And the children?
MM Joey when I met her in 1990 and I said, "I'm out of hospital now, let's get home, and things are changing in SA", she and her brother said, but she said, "Who do you think you are? You disappear from my life for three years - "
POM What age is she now?
MM She's now 18. Oh, at that time?
MM At that time she was six years old. She says, "Who the hell are you? You disappear from my life when I'm three years old. You disappear for three years. I've forgotten what you look like. I have to ask Mum to show me pictures of you so that I would recognise you when you arrive, and here you come saying let's go to SA, things are changing, you are recovering and you're saying to me let's go to a country where I've not been born, I don't even know it, with a father who I don't know."
POM At six she was fairly
MM She said, "Who do you think you are?"
POM Were you surprised?
MM Of course I was shocked.
POM Were your surprised that a six year old would kind of - ?
MM I was shocked. I was surprised, I was shocked, I was pained and I was proud. Every now and then we have an argument, I say to her, "Joey, don't start with the three, don't start with the threes", because her favourite was, "I was three years old when you disappeared for three years", and she goes on and it surfaced in her essay yesterday when she says, "I had to ask my Mum, what does he look like? Will I recognise him? Is he tall?" Same question.
POM What was your response?
MM No response. Oh, to that discussion? No we debated and debated until the children said, "Here we are in England, we will come to SA for a holiday during our school break and if we take a liking to SA we will stay on and join you. But you are free to go to SA now. When are you leaving?" I said, "Tomorrow." They said, "There you are, you're not asking us for permission, you're going." I said, "Yes, I have to go." "OK, you go. We'll come in the holidays. We'll see what SA is like and if we like it we'll stay. If we don't we're coming back to England." And I said, "Fair enough, that's a good compromise." Their holidays were due to start on 27 July and they got a phone call on 25 July to say don't come, he's been arrested. That's when my son said, when his Mum was trying to console him
POM He would have been what age then?
MM 20 July 1990, he would have been eight years old. And she says that when she tried to discuss with the children and explain that I'm arrested and they have to cancel coming to SA because there's a danger she might get arrested, etc., etc., and she tried to console them, my son fought back. He said, "Mum, you don't understand the situation. It's not when we will see our Dad, the question is whether we will ever see him again." He said, "That's the question you've got to grapple with."
POM Your eight year old said this?
MM It's in a quote in a newspaper article that she wrote at that time. Now you can't say just that simple statement, obviously preying in his mind was the knowledge that I could be killed. And here's an eight year old grappling with this and telling his Mum who's trying to console him. He says, "Mum, stop consoling with false promises. The real issue is is he going to be killed, will we ever see him?" But he put it very crisply, he said, "Mum, the question is not when we will see him, the question is whether we will ever see him. Now wake up, Mum", he says, "This is the reality." And here's an eight year old grappling with that problem. Do you think he has come out without scars?
POM And Joey said at that time?
MM Joey landed in hospital. That's when she developed a condition that doctors are unable to explain even now but we've done all the tests. She develops pains in her joints in the bones. You can be massaging her when she's got that pain and she will be pleading with you, she would say, "It's not helping, hit the ankle bones, hit it hard. Keep hitting it to bring off the pain."
POM And doctors?
MM Have done everything. In the UK she was hospitalised. They thought it's juvenile arthritis. It's not. They tried other tests, they failed. She came here. She has this condition. We've taken her to specialists, all sorts of bone samples, everything. They can't find anything.
POM Does she get frequent attacks?
MM Quite often, quite often.We've learnt now, she's learnt now to take all sorts of pain killers, all sorts of things, and when she has these vicious bouts then when it's unbearable she will come to me, wake me up and I will go and massage her, give her a hot water bottles, I'll rub her bones and console her and talk to her about all sorts of other things and then she will go to sleep. It's almost sure it's psychosomatic. But if I say to them let's go to psychological counselling they say no, don't need all that nonsense.
POM It's a form of denial actually.
MM But you cannot engage in that counselling unless it's voluntary. That's how it stands.
POM When did they come?
MM I was arrested on 25 July, brought to trial in December. The case was remanded but I was given bail and then when they heard about it they immediately took a flight. I think they got here round the 20 December 1990. We stayed around and within the week the children said, by the way the children refused to pack up. They said to Zarina, "No, don't pack up." The children said, "Mum, don't pack up, don't sell the place, don't get rid of the furniture. We're just going for a holiday, we'll decide." And they came here but within a week we got on so well, it was still a traumatic time, I was still on trial but out on bail, things were uncertain, but they so enjoyed SA.
POM Where were they? Where did you stay at that time?
MM Oh I first stayed at the Carlton Hotel, then I stayed at a friend's house. But within a week they said, "Mum, we're not going back to Brighton."
POM Now how did you become a Dad? You had two children, you'd never been around children and suddenly an eight year old and
MM I don't think it was difficult but the point is that the children after one week said, "Mum, we're not going back to Brighton." And she said, "But what about going and packing up?" They said, "No, you go and pack up, we're staying." Then in a hurry I got a house in Yeoville, bought a house, got a friend to provide money and guarantee the mortgage. We moved in. We went and saw Sacred Heart, they were prepared to take the children, the college, so we got a house in Yeoville, near Sacred Heart, which was unfurnished, we had just got mattresses on the floor and I bought a plastic table and plastic chairs and Zarina went off and here I was with the children, making breakfast for them, taking them and settling them down in school, and on trial. Then Zarina came back having packed up and disposed of everything in Brighton.
So when they give me shit I tell them, I say, "Don't talk shit to me. In one week's time you decided you like it here, you like to be with me." They say, "No, no, no, we didn't say we like to be with you, we said we like SA." But I must remember to find time to pull out those two videos of the TV programmes. One was a film done by Beata Lipman on me and Vula in particular where she's interviewed this Doha chap and she went to the border with me to see where I had crossed and all the story of Vula. And then the interview with Saths Cooper. It's a long time back but I'll find it. I think you might find some interesting things in it.
POM You said he jarred you?
MM He got under my skin because he managed to put questions that put me in a reflective mood and it was in front of the camera. In that reflective mood I gave answers with no time to think through and I thought that in fact at one time I turned to him and I said, "Hey! You're getting too close to the bone." I tried to fend him off because he was prying into my internal feelings and my internal relationships and I tried to answer and he pursued the thing and I just said, "Hey, you're just getting too close to the bone", and tried to bring an end to it because it was discomforting to know that you were having to answer something that is going to be in the public limelight and you have no control.
POM It was actually live?
MM It wasn't live. It was understood it's an interview that he would edit as he feels.
POM That's the worst part when they edit what you say.
MM I think he retains that. That's why I say I'll find it for you. I think he retains it, I thinkon what was broadcast it actually comes to the point where I'm saying, "You're getting too close to the bone", but he wouldn't give up.
POM Maybe we should leave it there for the day. My time is up and it's been a good four hours.
MM Oh shit, not a good one. I'll go about driving and I feel uncomfortable.
POM Well you know a funny thing has happened as this process unfolds now, or whatever we're going to call it, is that the questions I'm asking you, and I find I am asking myself, so it's a certain kind of duality has developed, is that I find that, well good I'm posing those questions to Mac, well why don't I pose them to myself? OK, how much unfinished business do you have? You said, "Well I'll do it and I'll make a list and I'll make my priorities and I'll get about it", have you done that? Well you keep saying you'll do it but do you do it?
MM Don't worry I'm the researcher so I can pose the questions and let him stew.
POM That's right. But then it's not quite like that. It should be but my head just takes on a life of its own. It's like when you're talking about an incident flies into your head, I can't walk out of here and say well that's that, I go saying, hm, but I was saying, I apply to myself
MM What's the implication of that?
MM So you're a bit of a dishonest bastard trying to get him to be honest?
POM Yes. That's very good.
MM You're trying to make him uncomfortable and now -
POM So I'll come and make him more uncomfortable the next time.
MM It's time to take revenge.
POM Among your tasks is Fanie, it has to happen.
MM I've got your note but as you see my life just keeps moving. You were sitting here now. I'm due in Newcastle, my home town, on Saturday but I'm only leaving when my daughter has performed in her drama exam. I'm here thinking I'll have a peaceful weekend and Zelda said, "No", she asked me to come by at the weekend and in the meantime I have to work to justify my salary to the bank.
POM You've got to see Fanie. OK. And, two, you should say to Madiba, because you're causing me, you're disrupting my interviews. I've done all this bloody writing, now I've got to get this research done, I've got to pack it in, I've got to be here I've got to be there, you've got to the foreword to my book.
MM Now that just dropped it. Now that I have no problems about.
POM But what I'll have to get from you next time and I thought I would get to do it this time, is the way when I come in here and put the questions, then we get our conversation alone and I always go with the last thought and say to hell with the questions because that's the way to go.
MM Yes because I realised the last time you began to grope into a different area and you are forcing me into, very deliberately or otherwise, you're forcing me to have almost touching on what has my life been like and you raised last time about my upbringing. I haven't sat down to reflect on my father. And then this time you come and you start pulling out not how were your tortured but what was happening inside me and talking about it.
MM I mean if you hadn't got up today I wouldn't have referred you to Amien Cajee. He's a guy, I can tell you, that in 1978 after I had come out of prison, Zarina and I travelled from Maputo to Lesotho. I used Zarina as a cover to get clandestinely into Lesotho under a false name and we flew by commercial airline, 1978/79. I then arranged to get a message to my Mum to come and visit me. It was the last time I saw her. But I also arranged for Amien to come over and he came over and we were living in a rondavel. He came in late in the evening, he drove and Zarina was meeting this guy Amien for the first time, she didn't know who he was, but the shock was that we were sitting on settees and he got up within five minutes of entering and he came and he held my face and he said, "Mac, was this you? Are you still alive?" And he began to cry. Zarina then says to him after a while, "What's wrong? What's this?" He says, "You don't know me. This man, I saw the effects of torture on him night after night through my peephole as he was carried unconscious to his cell in Marshall Square. He would be brought in unconscious. I've seen him with his head twice the size of his head and I thought this man would never be alive today and here he is, he's still alive."
POM I could keep going. We could keep going.
MM OK pal.