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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
17 Sep 2002: Maharaj, Mac
MM to Madiba and that is when I realised that the conditions under which he was visiting Madiba as a lawyer were such that I could open contact with Madiba. I then sent a message to Oliver Tambo and Slovo to say that accidentally I have wiped out my
POM You were in the country?
MM I was in the country.
POM And you were using?
MM Mr Ayob.
POM To send a message to?
MM I was first trying to find out what are the conditions.
POM From OR, you sent a message through OR?
MM I sent a message to OR.
POM To the Vula system.
MM Yes, to say I think I have found a way to set up a safe communication with Madiba. It wasn't part of my explicit instructions when I came in on Vula but now that this opportunity had opened up and one sensed the possibility of negotiations, would he like me to open a safe communication? And he said to go ahead as long as you do it safely. So I wrote out a message in very small handwriting and curled it up into a tiny piece of paper and I asked Ismail Ayob to deliver this note to Madiba at the visit at Victor Verster. I had ascertained that they normally met around a table and I was concerned that Victor Verster was both bugged and possibly had hidden cameras. So when he described how he sat and where they sat in Madiba's Victor Verster prison house it was around a table so I said to him, "Do you sit in a position where your hands are under the table and so are Madiba's hands?" He said, "Yes." And I said, "Do you think you could slip this under the table into Madiba's hands?"
POM Was he able to tell you that Madiba put his hands under the table?
MM No. You would be sitting at a table and your hands are easily on your lap so that gave a chance to slip this note but the question then was in slipping the note what should he say verbally to alert Madiba that there is a message and that he mustn't just pull it up on top of the table and start reading. So I said to him that in the course of the visit while he had this piece of paper curled up nicely into a tight little cylinder, he should use the word in the conversation, very normal conversation, he should say, "Greetings from Zwengendaba." Now that is a code name that Madiba and I had agreed upon when I was leaving prison and that if a message reached him under the name Zwengendaba he would know it's coming from me. Zwengendaba is the name of a chief in the anti-colonial struggle.
The other thing that I had ascertained was during these visits Warder Gregory, who was in charge of Madiba, was likely to pass in and out of the room, not to sit in but pass in and out. So I said, "You'd better go on this visit, Ismail, with your wife Zamila." And I said to Zamila, "Your job, Zamila, is if there's any panic or any distraction that may alert Warder Gregory and the prison staff, it is your job as a woman to distract the attention of the warder." So when I debriefed them they had successfully delivered this message and you had better hear Ismail's and Zamila's story because they say after he mentioned this Zwengendaba Madiba realised there was a note being given to him. So he collected this piece of paper and now realised that he was in some sensitive situation that this note must not be picked up by cameras or be seen by the warders, so he tried to put it into his pocket under the table and they say he kept missing his pocket. Zamila tells the story that both Ismail and Madiba were both panicking and becoming extremely nervous and she had to calm them down by keeping the conversation going. And then they say that three or four times during the course of that visit he went off to the toilet to try and read it. But you ask Ismail about that. OK?
POM Did then they become the conduit?
MM They became the conduit.
POM Messages would come, you would use Vula to contact OR, OR would send a message back to you.
MM OR would contact me. I would give it to Ismail.
POM To give to Madiba. You'd give it to Ismail and he would take it in.
MM I would give it to Ismail and he would take it in to Madiba and he would collect the replies and give it to me and I would transmit to Lusaka.
POM I know we talked about how Madiba, you wanted him to use invisible ink and he said no way.
MM Invisible ink, no way. I said to him in a note, just name your surroundings, a wallet, a pen, invisible pen. I said I can make concealed compartments into a ballpoint pen so that all that would happen is that during the visit he would write a note and leave his pen on the able and Ismail would write a note with his pen and leave it on the table and there would be a swap and you would know that concealed in that pen is a note. And Madiba said, "Too complicated, too complicated."
POM What did you eventually settle on?
MM Just transmission by hand under the table. And Ayob, no collection of note, Ayob then went to
POM The messages would go from OR, so you'd contact OR?
MM Ismail's system was - as we examined the physical environment and the security around his visits we realised that his briefcase was not subjected to search and I planned, I had originally started probing where can I insert a concealed tape recorder and I thought that I would manufacture a briefcase that he would carry as a lawyer that would have a concealed tape recorder.
POM You created a space?
MM No I didn't create. I said, now as I'm discussing with Ismail I'm in my mind probing, "Do you go with your briefcase?" He said, "Yes." So in my mind I'm thinking the briefcase is subjected to search so I start saying, well I can take a briefcase and conceal a tape recorder in it and conceal a hidden trigger to switch it on and off.
POM Now how would you do that?
MM It's not a difficult problem. What's difficult about putting a tape recorder into a briefcase?
MM Inside the panel of the briefcase?
POM Inside the panels? What's the panel?
MM I'll come to that. So I'm thinking, can I conceal a tape recorder in a briefcase so that when it is searched you won't see that there's a tape recorder in it. That's how my mind is thinking and I say to Ismail, "Now do you visit him with a briefcase?" He says, "Yes." "Do you take it into the visit?" He says, "Yes." So I then say to him, "Do they search your briefcase?" He says, "No." I say, "Now, as a lawyer what do you have in your briefcase?" He says, "I have my files, my documents, my pen and pencil kit, I have my calculator, I have a tape recorder for dictating for my secretary when I'm travelling." So I say, "You have a tape recorder?" He says, "Yes." I say, "Openly?" He says, "Yes." I said, "And they don't stop you?" He says, "No." So I said, "Hey, why do I have to bother to conceal a tape recorder? You're having a legal interview with Madiba. Just open your briefcase, switch it on and keep talking and let Madiba talk." So he says, "Perfect, not a problem."
POM And no-one would see him putting his hand cameras wouldn't see him putting his hand in his briefcase?
MM No he just opens the briefcase, open your briefcase half and just put your hand in there and just switch on the tape recorder and leave your briefcase partially open. You know these portmanteau type of briefcases, when you open it it has got a hinge on the side, fairly stiff so that the flap doesn't open up fully, you can open it fully, you can open it half, and you switch it on and just carry on talking while you are working with papers. And it worked perfectly. Madiba would be talking. For example, the letter to PW Botha, that was brought out that way where Madiba says, "You're my lawyer, let me brief you what I have written to PW Botha." And he started reading the letter. He's written to PW Botha, he wants it to get to OR so he briefs the lawyer. He says, "I'm going to read out the letter to you." In the meantime it's being taped and when Ismail arrives here he takes his tape and makes a transcription and he hands the transcription to me. I take it and I put it into my Vula system, I encrypt it and I send it off.
POM All because they never would examine, open the briefcase.
MM But if they had opened the briefcase I would have created in the space of the cover and put in a tiny, tiny flat tape recorder and somehow technically solved the problem of how to switch it on and off, I would have done the same thing. That's how I was thinking. And to me those technical problems were nothing. I would simply send a communication to Tim Jenkin in London, he had a team with Ronnie Press, very good at innovation, and say I want a thin tape recorder concealed in a briefcase of this description manufactured in SA and please insert it and put a remote control attached to the handle or to the lock so that when you unlock it switches on the tape recorder, and send it into me with the next courier. We had a courier, one of our safest couriers was the purser on KLM flights, a stewardess who had risen to the rank of purser, so she was in charge of the stewardesses on each flight and she used to put herself on the route of Amsterdam, Nairobi, SA. The plane used to stop here for three to four hours and it would go back to Nairobi and that's where it would do its overnight stays. So she used to come in on a flight. Tim would go to Amsterdam, she originally brought in the money for us.
POM The money for?
MM For Vula.
POM Vula. She brought it in?
MM Yes, in cash. I didn't want any bank transfers. So Tim would fly to Amsterdam, give her the parcel, she would go through the stewardesses security check at Schipol, she would fly off to Nairobi, fly on to SA. The plane stops for exactly four or five hours during which time the cabin crew have got rooms at Holiday Inn to rest and then they would get back on the flight to Nairobi. So during that stopover when they went into the Holiday Inn I would have arrived in Jo'burg, taken a room at the Holiday Inn, my first contact with her was
POM The Holiday Inn adjacent to the airport?
MM Yes, and it was where the crew were housed for the four hours, right next to the airport. So I would go there, meet her in a hotel room, not in her room but she would come to my room, give me my parcels, whatever she's got, and I would give her whatever she used to take. I would sometimes give her disks that I didn't want to run through the normal transmission system and she would pass through the airport security check. So she was a reliable, alternative route of bringing in things and she served as a courier and she was perfectly safe because who would suspect a stewardess who is coming in just for four hours?
POM Is she still alive?
MM Yes she is. You know who would know her? Oh the other person that you've got to interview is Janet Love.
POM I've interviewed Janet.
MM OK. Janet still has contact with this woman in Holland. She's retired from the airline service. Between Tim Jenkin and myself in the communications we had a code name for her, it was 'The Nightingale'. She paid a visit recently, about two years ago, to SA. Janet Love would probably be still in touch with her. Her real name was Antoinette oh I can't remember the surname at the moment. I still picture her and I still know her as the Nightingale, that was her code name, but Janet would know where she is in Holland at the moment. Why did she crop up? Ismail, Madiba? Where did I switch over and suddenly think of her?
Oh, the Canadian couple who were to provide me with a safe house are in Hout Bay.
POM Oh, my neighbourhood now.
MM Husband and wife team. I haven't got their address here but I'll give you their names, Rob and Helen Douglas. They are originally from Vancouver and they are renting a house around Hout Bay, or is it False Bay, from Ronnie Kasrils. The other person who would have their number is Janet Love. By the way you should interview Ronnie Kasrils.
POM Now who said he would help me do that is Howard Barrell before he resigned. I was supposed to have called him yesterday evening but all our phones are gone in the house and my cell phone was gone too.
MM But you can contact him at Water Affairs.
POM I have his number, yes.
MM I don't have his number here. Rob is teaching and Helen was doing her PhD I think at Stellenbosch when I last saw them about two years ago.
POM He was teaching?
MM In a school somewhere around is it False Bay, Hout Bay, somewhere there. She was doing a PhD at Stellenbosch. They just decided they wanted to stay in SA after their experiences with Vula. The other person that you should see is Ismail Momoniat. He is in the Department of Finance heading the municipal finance. His nickname is Momo. I don't have his number here. He was a crucial person in Vula.
POM Would Janet have his number too?
MM Oh yes Janet would have it, but also you'd get it through the Department of Finance, just ask for Ismail Momoniat. He was crucial. He played a very important role, he was based in Johannesburg and he was one of my key contacts here. The other person that you would need to speak to with regards to Vula is Mo Shaik, now Ambassador in Algeria. Then his former wife Soraya Shaik, she has come back from a posting in Rome where she was in Foreign Affairs as a political secretary. She's now at Foreign Affairs Head Office.
POM Was she involved too?
MM Yes she was involved. Then one of the people who used to be quite close to me is a woman who's now working for DBSA, Claudia Manning. She used to be my driver also at times and she was in the Intelligence section. She used to work in the Intelligence section.
POM Intelligence section of?
MM Of the underground.
(Phone call to Claudia. .
MM What was the name of the doctor from Chatsworth that we were using for the doctor who was in charge of the vehicles, doctoring the vehicles, and also he found a house where in the garage he used to run a printing establishment. You wouldn't have known about it but there was a time when the police had got into that printing establishment. We used to call him Roy, a doctor, Rajesh, or Rajen.
CM Rajen. I actually never knew him. Wasn't it that drunken doctor, he was a bit of a drunk?
MM No, no, that's Aboobaker.
MM This chap was Rajen I don't know if it was Naidoo? Chatsworth.
CM I don't know him.
MM He got arrested once, they wanted to arrest him and during my arrest in Vula he was arrested and that's how they found the petrol tanks that we used to doctor.
CM Oh, no, I actually don't know this. I don't know this at all. Anesh will know, Anesh is in London.
MM Anesh is in London.Anesh Sankar.
CM Anesh Sankar and Selina Pillay.
MM Selina Pillay, yes. No I'm not going to refer him to Selina. She will put a spin on it that will be harmful to my respectable image!
CM Yes, well that's why I'm surprised you're prepared to give my name because what do you think I'm going to do?
MM Well I've primed Padraig so well that he will understand that he's talking to a bullshitter when he talks to you.
POM All Irish people are bullshitters anyway.
MM And of course as he says all Irish are bullshitters so they know how to recognise another bullshitter.
CM Well tell him I'm looking forward to meeting him.
MM Wait a minute now. Let's just think of some names.
CM Can I ring you back? I don't remember anything.
MM Oh, you had a blackout?
CM I had a big blackout. Thank God for that.
MM As soon as the cops came you had a blackout.
CM All I remember is getting on the train, going to England thinking thank God that's behind me.
MM And now you're safe.
CM I'm safe and sound and as the train took off I thought thank God! That's when we met in the UK with your bloody wife, so I was not away from you unfortunately.
MM I'll tell her you called her a 'bloody wife'.
CM Your darling wife I should say. I always get into trouble with Zarina.
MM So you shouldn't take your jealousy that far!
CM Yes old man! What else do you want to try and pick my brain on?
MM Remind me of some names in Durban. And remind me of the places in Jo'burg.
MM Oh Yaj, the doctor where we were hiding the arms. Now Yaj is a doctor somewhere in Cape Town. Yaj Pillay. His father was a doctor.
CM That's right, his father was a doctor.Yaj left for Cape Town. He is a doctor and I am sure he's in Cape Town somewhere, Yaj Pillay.
MM Yaj Pillay. Anyway you'll try and think of some of those. Any other names?
CM Not that immediately come to mind. There's Selina obviously.
MM Oh Yusuf Mahomed.
CM You mean Joe?
CM The crook, your friend.
MM I used to bribe the security guards through him. What's your problem?
CM What about ?
MM Peps. Oh yes.
CM What do you mean, 'Oh yes'. These are all of your boys and girls. And Mo, what about Mo? Soraya is in town.
MM Where do we find her?
CM I've got her cell phone number but it's on my phone.
MM You can access it, man.
CM I can't. Let me try. Wrong one.
MM OK, will you give me a call?
CM I'll give you a call and tell you. That's all I can think of right now. What's this chap's name?
MM Padraig O'Malley.
CM Tell him I look forward to telling him all the gossip about that terrain. Tell him I don't remember anything real but I do remember the gossip.
MM What he must do is give you a few stiff whiskies and then your tongue will loosen and your memory will come back.
CM Without a doubt, but cognac will do the trick.
MM And don't exclude the salacious parts.
CM The salacious parts is the part where I'm going to start, don't you worry about that.
MM OK my dear. Keep well.
MM Suddenly she started because we've never thought in that direction.
POM Is she working in Foreign Affairs too?
MM No, she's working for Development Bank. She's Dr Claudia Manning. When the arrests started she escaped to Sussex and she did her Masters there and has now done her PhD.
Oh, oh, Dipak Patel. He's now the CEO at Stannic. It's the Standard Bank Moveable Assets Department. He was on trial with me in Vula. You've just heard a bit of how things were in compartments. Claudia was working in Intelligence, she used to be at times my partner when I'm doing long distance trips. She went with me to see Govan Mbeki. She was my driver, co-driver and decoy when I went to see Govan Mbeki, but when I say to her, "Do you know give me names in Durban", and when I tell her about Dr Rajen Naidoo, Rajen the panel beater in charge of concealed compartments in vehicles for carrying arms, she says, "I don't know, that part I didn't know." Although she was in Durban and he's in Durban they didn't know each other. She didn't even know that he was involved, she didn't even know what was his role. So the names that are coming to her, Dr Yaj Pillay, would be coming because when the arrests started I went to rescue the arms in Durban and one of the places where it was hidden, suitcases full of arms, were in the ceilings of Dr Yaj Pillay.
POM In the ceilings, of his house?
MM Yes, in Reservoir Hills, and I asked Claudia to come with me and collect those arms and shift them. That's how she got to know that Yaj was involved.
POM So who do I have now? There were three or four names. There was a stream of consciousness there for a bit.
MM A chap called Dr Rajen, we still have to track him down. I don't know his surname, I think it's Pillay. Rajen Pillay and he was working on concealed compartments for moving arms, for smuggling arms from Botswana.
POM Would Rajen Pillay be in Durban still?
MM He's still in Durban but he dropped away, he drifted away after Vula.
POM His telephone number we will have to find, OK. Then?
MM There's a couple who are in the SA High Commission in London, they married after the Vula trial. The husband is called Anesh Sankar. He was involved in an area of work in the underground, unknown to the person who has now become his wife. His wife now is Selina, her surname used to be Pillay. She used to be in the Intelligence section like Claudia and she used to also from time to time be my travelling partner when I drove around SA. Either Claudia or Selina was my co-driver when I went to see Govan Mbeki in the underground in Pretoria.
Then the other name that came up was Dr Yaj (j or g I'm not sure) Pillay. He's presently in Cape Town and we used a house that we rented and made him occupy in Reservoir Hills as a storage house for arms.
POM Where is Reservoir Hills?
MM Durban. It is the house from which, after the arrest of Siphiwe, I rushed down to Durban with Ronnie and rescued those arms just hours before the Security Branch pounced on them and the person who did the moving of the loaded vehicle was Claudia Manning.
The other person we came up with is a chap called Yusuf Mahomed, also known as Joe. He's a pharmacist who used to run a pharmacy in Hillbrow called Hillbrow Pharmacy. It was a 24 hour pharmacy and quite a few security force members who were hooked on drugs used to come to his pharmacy to try and get drugs and I used to work behind the counter at night.
POM This was when?
MM In Vula.
POM You were behind the counter?
MM I'd stand behind the pharmacist's counter to watch and see these guys coming in, trying to squeeze Yusuf for drugs and I would get access to their identity cards to check who they were and in an effort to penetrate them. In fact one of the interesting gadgets we got from one of the security force members whose brother was in the SADF for special forces in the bombing in Harare, what was his name, can't remember, the two very brutal brothers in the SADF, the brother was arrested and imprisoned, he's still in jail in Harare, but the brother was here and he was a druggie but through Yusuf I got him to supply a detection device for telephones.
POM You got the brother?
MM Yes, he was in the SADF, to make a detection device that you could attach to your telephone wire to check whether your telephone was bugged.
POM So did Yusuf give him free drugs or were these guys - ?
MM He didn't go that far, Yusuf is a very legitimate man now.
POM How do I find Yusuf?
MM Yusuf Mahomed, let's see if we can find him. Let's see if that number is still working. It's a long time ago since I've been in touch with him. He's now a very respectable businessman. He represents a trade union investment company. He used to do my money changing on the black market, all sorts of things.
POM A very handy man to be in charge of an investment company.
MM Of course from CODESA time besides Gillian Hutchings there's Dr Theuns Eloff. He is now the head of Potchefstroom University.
POM And he worked with Gillian?
MM He was Gillian's boss. In fact he's coming to see me at one o'clock today.
POM He is? So you'll get his number and tell him that I'll be calling him.
MM I'll give you Theuns Eloff's number. Now a whole set of names are coming that are going to cause you a problem Mr O'Malley. Rev. Frank Chikane.
POM I interviewed him three or four times.
MM Have you interviewed him on Vula?
MM On my being in touch with him and his working with me?
MM That's why I'm mentioning it now. Rev. Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, Mayor of Tshwane, which is greater Pretoria. That's Vula. Claudia would have been the contact with him and Frank Chikane. Cyril Ramaphosa.
POM Now I had all of Cyril's numbers but my diary and my stuff last year, everything went with that too.
MM The way I reach him is through Donné. They were all in touch. Then Jay Naidoo, who used to be the COSATU Secretary.
POM Is he still at the Development Bank?
MM He's Chairman of Development Bank. These guys were all
POM I've interviewed him too.
MM But never on Vula. They were all part of Vula but nobody has ever mentioned them and nobody has ever spoken about that.
POM OK. Frank Chikane. The last time he said, "You're bugging me and I'm busy", standard reply you know. It's incredible the number of people who, like Trevor is the great case, before he came into government Trevor would sit for hours. I kind of had to say, "Trevor I have to go." Now, I've never seen him once and he promised me and promised me. At the inauguration of Madiba he said, "I'll make time for you." I have a great photograph of us dancing together at the ball, I thought I would use it to maybe exert a little pressure! Here you are, dancing with a white man!
MM Let's just get some names going since we are down that memory track. But I think when you phone them you have to say you want to see them in regard to Vula and mention my name. [I don't want to throw one name at the moment because there would be a great effort, this is off the record, but there would be a great effort to suppress anything you are doing, and that is Sydney Mufamadi. He was part of Vula.]
POM I've interviewed him on a number of occasions.
MM Well he's being used to spread rumours to say that Vula was nothing, that's because he was trying to cover tracks for somebody else. Oh there's another chap.
POM Why would he be spreading, as you say - ?
MM He would be trying to debunk because he aligned himself very closely with the current power structures but before we came to power in 1994 in some manoeuvring that went on behind the scenes he became a front runner in trying to debunk Vula, so he would be a last call.
POM You think he was trying to bunk it before?
MM That's between 1992 and 1993. 1991, 1992 and 1993.
POM Why would he be doing that?
MM There were some manoeuvrings going on about who should become Secretary General, Chairman, etc., of the ANC and he aligned himself with a grouping. The other person is called Mike Roussos. Mike Roussos would be very interesting. He was in the Underground District Committee of the Communist Party in Johannesburg together with Sydney, Mike, Momo (Ismail Momoniat). It's the group that played a crucial part also in the escape of Valli Moosa, Murphy Morobe, Vusi Khanyile from Modder B, he supervised that escape. So he would be interesting. Where to find him at the moment I don't know. He's in and around Jo'burg. I heard his name the other day in the news. The one way to track him down, I think his children are still at Sacred Heart College.
Then let's go further Jesus, you've taken me down a different route! You're going into murky areas.
MM We're beginning to go down a route, Padraig, which can also become a distraction for the simple reason that I started off by giving you names of people who would give you different perspectives on me and of course they touch, they are people that would be interacting in the underground through Operation Vula and the part that you have to make a judgement on is that we have never talked about Operation Vula as such and the book can become Operation Vula which would be a distraction.
POM It will not become that.
MM Because the names that are coming now are all in these structures but when I threw up the names of Cyril, Frank Chikane, Mkhatshwa, Jay Naidoo, these were very prominent UDF/COSATU officials and of course through Vula one was beginning to try and get a synergy without dictating to them what they should do. But they worked closely with me and they will give you their own picture of their understanding of me. But at the same time it's beginning to push them into divulging their roles.
POM Their roles in?
MM In the underground and depending on how they see their political careers today you don't know which can of worms you are opening there.
POM Cyril's forming that party! What I will do is draw up this list, well you'll get it in the transcript anyway, and then prioritise them in some way as to what they can say about
MM Their contact with me and what sort of yes. I think of Smangi Mkhatshwa, the Mayor, he was the head of Catholic Bishop's Institute, the Institute of Contextual Theology. So he would be very interesting.
POM Yes I used to follow that. I wanted to interview him at one point. In fact I'm sure I wanted to interview him at one point. Just the name of the place was interesting, Institute of Contextual Theology.
MM Yes, so Smangi headed that and Frank was at that time General Secretary of the SA Council of Churches. Cyril at that time was General Secretary of the Mineworkers Union. But it's important for you in your core project because I am suddenly throwing up names who were very prominent in different fields, Council of Churches, Institute of Contextual Theology and then UDF, COSATU, which would give you just a window into seeing how Operation Vula was interacting with all the opinion makers in the liberation struggle.
POM I think that's important to bear out because Vula has gotten too tied up with
MM Something clandestine and military and inter-actionary.
POM The way it's written about it's not understood.
MM The issue there was that I would be picking my way not to dictate to the mass democratic organisations but to discuss with them strategy: which way are we heading, what are you planning to do, is it in sync, what can we do in the underground? Now I would be interacting with them as individual ANC members but in order that they would stimulate that type of debate and discussion in those mass organisations but never to dictate to them what they should do. You will see from those names and once you meet them that we were touching all the key buttons in getting ideas and action going, not to take them and convert them into military people and soldiers but to embrace them and let them drive that mass mobilisation in a direction that was in synergy with the other pillars. So to see Vula as if it was something buried there, deep, underneath, some people doing something conspiratorial is the image but the reality is completely different.
POM That's what we want to get to and that is touched on in this one well Madiba hopefully will say that's right. What if he said, 'Well Mac, I think everything here is wrong. Who wrote this?' Well you said I'd have to write it myself so I wrote it myself, OK, don't drag me into it.
MM I think we've touched a number of interesting names.
POM Mike Roussos, he's in Johannesburg?
MM He's in Johannesburg. In fact people like Smangi, people like Claudia Manning, somewhere they will tell you that they know where Mike is, but the only people who knew of his role are Ismail Momoniat and Sydney Mufamadi.
POM So if you had to pick the key here. The Ayobs, where can I get hold of them?
MM He's a lawyer, he's in Houghton.
(This is a phone call to Ayob.)
(IA I'll be happy to talk to him. )
POM His number is?
MM He's here in Houghton, his offices are there. Where else are we going down that line?
POM We may as well get all the names now that you're on a name rush.
MM I think Ismail Momoniat is very important. He's a chap who would know where everybody is.
POM The chap in the Department of Finance?
MM Yes. He makes me laugh. You know this bank, First National Bank, you know who used to work for it in 1988/89? Maria Ramos.
POM Is that right?
MM And I brought in a German woman, Anita Kreuss, also her task was to live quietly, live clean and find a safe house for me.
POM This is a German person you brought into the country.
MM Yes, and I brought her in in 1986 before I entered the country.
POM From where?
MM From Germany.
POM But from where in Germany? How did you recruit her in Germany?
MM Through the German Party, I asked for a safe person.
POM Was it from East Germany?
MM No, West Germany.
POM What is the German Party?
MM West German Communist Party. I asked them for a safe person who did not have a blemished record and who would be brave enough to come into SA and settle. They produced her and in her credentials they said she had served as a courier to Venezuela and met the Sadonistas and had been undetected. So they introduced me to her and I then got her to come into SA one year before I came in, without knowing that it was for me, and assigned her the task to live clean and find a safe accommodation and to get occupation. By the time I made contact with her she got a job at First National Bank but she was leading a very, very lonely, difficult life. She had to stay away from politics, she had been eleven years in the German Communist Party. She had to stay away from any perversive events and she had no friends. She got a job at First National Bank and in her loneliness looking for some people with whom she could interact socially but with at least some common framework she then raised with me that she's come across this woman called Maria Ramos who she thinks is progressively inclined, could she recruit her to the underground? I said, "That's not your job, you don't expose yourself. You're not supposed to do that.""But can I be friends with her?" I say, "That person, stay clear." And she says, "But I'm leading a lonely life." So I allowed her to socialise a bit with Maria but not to get involved in any political activity.
POM Now was Maria part of - ?
MM By that time she was part, I think, of Five Freedoms Forum and she was already coming closer and closer to the movement. That's how I came across Maria Ramos.
POM Did you ever recruit her?
MM Brought her close, not into any organised network but Maria stored my stuff unknown that she was storing my stuff. I told her after she became Director General of Finance, I said, "Where's my duvet? What were you doing with my duvet?" She got the fright of her life. Anita is now married to a South African of German origin and she is living in Malawi. Her husband is a chef.
POM Her full name again? Anita
MM By the way, her husband never knew that she was in the underground. Anita, her maiden surname was Kreuss. She's married to a chap called Udo (first name, don't know the surname) who is a chef in one of these leading hotels or resorts in Malawi. The sad thing about her is that in her loneliness she fell in love with Udo who appeared to be anti-political and I had to drop contact with her because it was clear that she was desperately in love with this guy and she was agitated about the need to confide in him about her past and that meant she might have divulged that she was involved with the underground. I had to say to her, "You cannot raise this with him." She said, "But I'm going to marry the guy. It's going to be our life together. I have to confide." I said, "You cannot tell him that part of your life", and very quietly I severed contact with her and only re-established contact after 1994. She established contact, she came on two visits to SA on her own and she met me. I didn't have time at that visit to ask her whether she had now told Udo about her background, that she was a member of the German Communist Party, that she was involved with Operation Vula.
POM And how would I go about tracing her?
MM I'll have to think. Maybe Janet Love will know where to find her.
POM You should have a Vula reunion like what they have at high schools, see who would turn up.
MM I don't know if Janet would know her because let me see, Janet although she began to work at a critical level as my secretary, maybe Janet does know. But Anita Kreuss.
Oh, oh, I've mentioned Ivan Pillay haven't I? Of SA Revenue Service. That would be crucial because he was there in an administrative role for Vula.
POM I've got Pillay and Pravin.
MM OK, we'd better switch off that track now or we'll start getting nowhere.
POM Let me then pick up, we're starting on a new era in your life. You're at university and you have become involved in student activities. What was it that politicised you, number one? You'd gone through a youth that wasn't very political. Your first year or so in Durban you were putting yourself through school by gambling, you were having a good time. You were on the road to Damascus and, bump, did lightning strike?
MM There was no lightning. Already when I went to Natal University and registered in 1953 and wanted to study law at the non-European section I found that they were not providing for law for black students. That was already a struggle. Why haven't you got an LLB, I want to do a BA LLB, five years. No, there's no such thing as LLB for black students at Natal. Then I say I've got to register for my BA but I want to do law courses in the BA so that it will shorten my LLB. They say, no, haven't got it. So I say, no, I want Roman Dutch law. I want Roman law, I want to do Latin. They say, Latin?Latin 1. He says, "You're black, you people won't pass Latin 1. We have a special bridging course in Latin called Latin 1B, you can do that." I say I don't want to do Latin 1B, I want Latin 1 because that's a prerequisite for LLB. They said no. So we start agitating. Already in the first year my rebelliousness was taking hold of me. I registered, I began to do courses that were irrelevant for my law and I began to incorporate in it by demanding an agitating amongst the students. I think in my second year I got them to agree to provide Roman Dutch law and Roman law in the BA.
But already in 1953 I bumped into several features. I've told you about the cross cutting black African/Indian/coloured who were there and the soccer. So I began to find that here I was fraternising with Indian students irrespective of their ethnicity and communal back ground. I began to fraternise with coloured students, one of my outstanding friends was a chap called Edward Nicholls. Then there was Raymond Kunene who became the poet, Mazizi, he's now Professor Mazizi Kunene at University of Natal who has published a number of books, poems, both in English and in Zulu. He would be probably Zulu Department, I think he did his majors in Zulu, wrote poetry in Zulu and in English. That was the feature, that jolt.
The second jolt was courses that I wanted to study were not available, degree and LLB not available. The third was I came across this antiquated practice in academia amongst the students that those who were graduates were supposed to be treated by undergraduates in a very subservient way and I was a rebel and when I found in the common room that there was this hidden, invisible line separating graduates from undergraduates and that the undergraduates' conduct was supposed to be very subservient to the graduates, I rebelled against this.
POM This was those who were doing graduate studies like MAs and PhDs and whatever.
MM Yes, and Honours.
POM And Honours and passes.
MM So these are graduates and I remember an incident where one of the teachers, who had already got his Honours and he was doing his Masters, in the common room, I remember an incident that I was sitting alone, none of the people that I had got to know had come in, and here was this bunch of graduates sitting around chatting and suddenly I became aware, I was a first year student and I had come from Newcastle so nobody knew me, and these graduates were talking and they were talking about ragging somebody, having a bit of fun. They then nudged each other and I overheard them saying, "Hey, that's a freshman so let's have some fun." One of the chaps crumpled paper and threw it on the floor. I saw this, didn't pay much attention until one of them said to me, "Hey, pick that up." I ignored him. They repeated now they were going to have some fun, so the chap repeats, he says, "I'm talking to you. I told you pick up that piece of paper." I said, "You threw it, why must I pick it up?" He says, "You're a freshman." I said, "Yes." He says, "Do you know the rules?" I said, "What rules?" He says, "We're graduates, you behave yourself, you listen to us, you do what we say." So I got up, I went and caught him by the scruff of his neck, I said, "Try it."
That's the sort of rebel I was but I'm saying in every area of my life at varsity both from what they were providing, the type of students, they were all black but cutting across ethnicity and communalism and religion and language and then the fresher/graduate hierarchy.
POM Going in a different way so you had vertical that was kind of integration and then you had horizontal dis-integration.
MM Yes. All of these drove me towards rebellion and in my very first year there was some function called by the university and I joined a spontaneous group of students who rebelled. The principal of the university, Dr Malherbe, Professor Malherbe, a highly regarded educationist in SA history, he was the principal of Natal University as a whole, white and black, and he then summoned a meeting of the black students and announced that it was compulsory that you turned up at the meeting and that anybody who did not attend it was going to be punished. So he had the meeting in the college hall. Here were we, about 300/400 students, forced to come to this meeting and, I'm trying to think of the incident, it was some visitor that had been brought to the university and we had stayed away from that function. He was going to deliver an address and we thought it was a bloody racist, reactionary thing, so we stayed away and we agitated on the students to stay away, boycott that. So he called us at this compulsory meeting and accused us of deliberately showing disrespect to the foreign visitor and wanted a resolution passed apologising. He just ordered the meeting, that's what he wants from the platform, and some of us got up and demanded that we address him. He said, "No, I'm not giving you a chance to address me." We insisted and he said, "Well what have you got to say?" We said we're not prepared to vote for a resolution, a motion that has been drafted by him. We would like to discuss the matter amongst ourselves without his presence and decide what we're going to do. We have heard his case. The Principal reacted very roughly, very bully-boy tactics, but in the end he said he was giving us five minutes to discuss the matter.
POM How many of you were there?
MM About 400. He said, "You've got five minutes, I'm leaving the room and when I come back I want you to endorse this motion." Well there was a crisis, the bulk of the students were part-time students, teachers, etc., very, very scared about their future. Before he left he said, "Anybody who does not vote I am expelling." And when he left the room of course there was pandemonium and he had given us five minutes so some of us got up and said to the student body, "We're not going to vote on this. There is no way we are voting on this resolution." And we were still debating this when the Principal sent the courier in to say five minutes were up and he's coming. We said, "No, you're not coming." About ten minutes later the Principal walked in and said, "I am here, I want a vote. All those in favour." So one of us got up, trembling, and said, "No."
POM Can you remember his full name?
MM Yes he's deceased now. A chap called Varajlall Soni. He committed suicide. He was a very brilliant student but he committed suicide in 1955/56. He was a tiny built chap, a fantastic English student. His passion was the English language. He had been at Wits University for one year so he was a little older than us and more seasoned at campus life. I think he was second year at Natal University. So he got up from the floor and he's trying to be respectful in his tone and wording and said, "We cannot agree that you should simply take a vote." And the Principal shouted him down and he said, "OK, I am changing the voting procedure. I want a show of hands and I want to record all those who are voting against." That was a shock because he said, "I'm going to deal with those who vote against it."
POM Well he had already said he would expel, right?
MM That was a shock because he was saying stand up those who are going to be expelled and 41 of us stood up out of that 300 and the Principal stood there and he said to his officials, "Take their names down." When we stood up it was a show of hands. Now that was a spectacle for me, an experience of a lifetime, because first a few hands went up and as he glowered the hands increased and it had reached 41, they probably reached a little more than 41 when he instructed one of the officials on the platform to record their names, and then you saw some of the hands coming down. Then as I recall everything was turmoil in my head but afraid of my future, my desire to study but on the other hand pulled by this arrogance of this white principal and the hand staying up. He recorded the 41. He dismissed the whole meeting. We just refused. Then the 41 of us met in the common room and the question became what are we going to do? We're defenceless. Out of 400 students we are 41 who are singled out and now what it looks like is we're facing expulsion. There was a Student Representative Council which had got into a clash with the university regime and one of the decisions we took as 41 was to call for the SRC to come and meet us and we threatened and we bullied them and we said the SRC has got to stand by us.
The end of that episode was that we didn't get expelled. On hindsight I think that the idea of expelling 41 students in one go in 1953 was a little bit that he balked at, the Principal, and I think that the others in the administration said it was going too far. He sent a message to the SRC that we should express an apology. The others had submitted an apology and we balked. We said no we're not. I don't recall how that incident passed but the upshot of it was we didn't get expelled and we remained a group of 40-odd very rebellious young people, heavy drinkers, heavy gamblers, but we were also very bright students in that 40. I recall an incident maybe that year where we used the university premises for a drunken party where 30 40 of us got so bloody drunk in that common room. I don't know, we had organised food from our friends, the women students, their homes had cooked and roasted meat for us and we bought liquor. We got the SRC President who was a non-drinker, we gave him ginger ale and made him drunk. We made speeches and we ended up in a brawl throwing food at each other, bottles, vomiting, we uprooted plants and everything. We took the SRC President who had never drunk before, when he started spewing we carried him and put him in front of the Registrar's office and made him spew in front of the office before we cleaned him up and took him to his home.
The next afternoon I remember coming in at about three in the afternoon and I saw students on the campus as you walked in, walking about in threes and fours and as they saw me they just all would turn their head but you could see that they were whispering in groups. So they were looking at us, people like me, "Oh, this is one of those culprits." When I went in I found the common room sealed off. The Registrar had ordered, it was a Dr Mabel Palmer, she was going to get fingerprint specialists to check the fingerprints on the bottles, the broken bottles and the lot, she wants the culprits who were there that night. When I realised that we were in big trouble we got hold of one of the students who had a car who was part of our group and amongst our group we are talking now, whoever was there at the party, what do we do? I said, "Get a car, let's go to the President of the SRC who was with us last night and we got him drunk." The guy who vomited.
POM On the Registrar's lawn?
MM Yes. Got into a car, went to his home. He was from a fairly wealthy Indian family. Got to his home and he was still in bed with his hangover. He came down in his gown to the lounge and we said to him (he's now a prominent lawyer), said to him, DK, there's shit flying at varsity. And this guy got the panic of his life when we reported what's happening. Now he was the President of the SRC.
POM What was his name again?
MM He's a respectable man now.
POM That's OK, I'm not going to -
MM He comes from a very respectable family. We said to him, "You, you are the one that vomited in front of the Registrar's office. If you don't stand with us there is big trouble. You were in the firing line number one. You're the President of the SRC." He says, "What do you want us to do?" "It's very simple, they're going to demand all sorts of things. Go and meet them, don't tell them you were there. Tell them no punishment can be meted without calling a meeting of the student body." We finally get him to agree, the university of course calls for him, he turns up and the Registrar says, "I want the culprits and I want to punish the culprits." Now he can't say, "I was there." So he says, "Well I will call a student meeting." So we have a student meeting in the common room and about 100 students turn up and this is a tension filled meeting because everybody is looking at us, you bloody gamblers and drunkards, you people are disgracing us. The meeting starts. DK puts the problem, the university wants the culprits to own up for punishment. We said, "No, we're not going to own up." So other students from this hierarchy of graduates, teachers, get up, and one chap got up and he said, "You know we are being disgraced by this small band of students who are drunkards, gamblers, womanisers. They're bringing us all into disrepute. Let's give them the names, instruct the SRC to give them the names." I still remember Varajlall Soni, the same guy, he got up, the tide had turned against us, everybody was taking about us as scum. Varajlall Soni got up and said to the meeting, "We're gamblers, we're drunkards, we're womanisers, but we are the damn best academic students in this university. Yes, we got drunk, we had a party here. We uprooted these plants, but how dare you become scabs and hand us over."
POM How dare you, or the SRC?
MM Yes, how dare you do that? I tell you it floored everybody and then we came up with a suggestion, because the SRC President is saying, "But how do we get out of this mess?" He was saying don't give the names but what do we do? So we say, "Simple, we're going to put up a collection box, anonymous. All damage suffered by the university for its plants and its chairs we will put a donation in anonymously but that's as far as we go. We don't know who the culprits are. And now of course when the tide turns some of us got braver, got up to address the meeting. "Who here is prepared to put my name forward? Stand up, let me see you." [ these drunkards who would beat the hell out of us! I'm not so sure that's a in my life.]
POM This Soni, was he political? Did the administration accept that, the Registrar?
MM They eventually had to accept that because we just got the whole student body both by persuasion and terrorisation.
POM Already you were learning techniques that would be useful in the future.
MM In that very first year there were these confrontations but then there was also, there was a very interesting bunch of students. There was one chap, a comedian, Soni had spent his first year at Wits University as a failure. What had he done? He had come out of high school, his parents had sent him to Wits University, he spent the entire year in the library of Wits University only reading joke books.
POM Only reading joke books?
MM So he could tell you jokes like a machine gun. We had a comedian who was a part-time comedian and a teacher and we would sit down at these drinking sessions and compete telling jokes. You went round the room and each one had to tell a joke and by the time your turn came you dropped out. In the end there were these two guys left, the chap who was a semi-professional comedian and Soni who was nothing but you'd think Soni hasn't got a joke for a joke, a joke for a joke. It's going on and we're just drinking away and spending the whole evening laughing.
In the same way I remember I had come across - besides Marx and Engels now I'd come across the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. Now he had been a naval officer in the Turkish army in the 1919/21 period and he had led a rebellion and then he spent the rest of his life in and out of prison and as a poet, an anti-colonial poet. I had this whole collection of his poems. Everything was anti-imperialist and I'd walk into the common room at night, instead of going to classes whoever is there, my drinking mates, let's recite poetry and declaim poetry aloud. The others would look at these ruffians, what are these guys? That's how we came across Pablo Neruda. So poets around the world and we would sit there and drink and yak and talk and everything and politics would come in and the lot.
So the first year, 1953, became a year of becoming involved in activity around the student side and in the meantime I had moved and I am living in Hanson Grove in Old Dutch Road and I am renting a flat from a man whose brother lives across the road and his brother is the legendary Dawood Seedat. Now this is a guy who was in the Communist Party before it's banning, went to prison in 1941 against the war and he's living across from me. And where is he? He's Indian Congress, he's banned, and his brother and sister-in-law have given me a room to rent in the front.
POM He was banned? Banning was - ?
MM 1951. When he was banned he broke the banning order and he went back to prison. He was an alcoholic. So already in 1953 I came directly into contact with the Congress Movement, with Dawood Seedat, his brothers and sisters, New Age and the student rebellion, anarchy, primitive rebellion. All that is now impacting on me. By 1954, my second year, I'm into organised student activity, leading this demand for LLB classes. I'm now working for a lawyer.
POM The name of the lawyer was?
MM The lawyer was J Kissoon Singh.This is a different one.
POM Was he involved in any way in the Indian Congress or anything?
MM No he wasn't involved. He was the brother of this particular chairman of the SRC who got drunk and it's this chairman of the SRC, D K Singh, he was the chairman of the SRC that we got in all this fracas but DK in my 1953 year, gambling, drinking, DK used to come to me and say to me, "Why don't you work?" So I said, "I want to be a lawyer." He said, "Well my brother's a lawyer. I'll get you a job. Do an honest day's living instead of living by gambling." And he got me my first job with the lawyer as a clerk and I hadn't seen a typewriter. I'm interviewed by DK Singh.
POM Was this your first time in lawyer's office?
MM Yes. And he presents for an interview with his brother who is a professional lawyer, just trained, working for a white lawyer called Gurwitz, Julius Gurwitz. Kissoon Singh has done his articles there and is working for him as a partner. Of course I need articles. In those years although the law said you needed to do a certain internship called articles and you were supposed to be paid a cost of living allowance but the scarcity was so high that for a black person to become an Articled Clerk you had to pay your principal. I had no money to pay, so I said, "DK how am I going to afford articleship?" He says, "Go and work for my brother. He's just starting practice and then after a year we'll speak to him to give you articles without your paying." So I go up for this interview. Kissoon Singh says to me, "Can you type?" I said, "Yes." So he says, "OK, you've got a job."
I think he said about £8 or £7 a month, and I turn up there the first day to work and he gives me a whole damn thing to type out. There are no computers. Each time you made a misprint you had to retype. This one document, for a whole week I typed and retyped, every time a blunder and scrap the thing and start it again. I ended up unable to finish the work. I put it in my drawer and locked it up. I look back and I laugh because he realised that I wasn't a typist and that I was lying. He never came back, it wasn't a job that he seriously wanted done.
Next week he gave me a new set of tasks to do which involved typing, letters of demand, etc. I did them all, struggled. That he asked for, but that first week's assignment that he gave me which I buried into a drawer he never asked me. I then began to work for him.
POM So the second bunch you could type?
MM The second bunch I managed.
POM You got by.
MM With the rubber, there was no typex.
POM They had no whitening out then.
MM No there was no typex to whiten out, you had to use a rubber. So that's how I began to work for Kissoon Singh and I worked for him 1954/55/56. He never gave me articles. I asked him each year, he would say, "Next year", because it was cheap labour. I became this specialising in all his appeals that had to go to the Supreme Court, in preparing the documentation, filing, preparing the case. I had quite a few brushes with him. He developed a sort of paternal, big brother attitude towards me. When he had now set up his own practice on the same floor as the congresses I recall him doing something that he thought was revolutionary and he had a big practice, he had about eight staff by that time. We used to congregate in one of the offices to have our lunch as staff. All I could afford was two thin slices of bread and the office provided free tea. I don't drink tea. The head clerk had looked at what I was eating and said to me he is going to do an unusual thing, from the office expenses, petty cash, he would buy a pint of milk a day and I could have, after the milk was used for the tea, for the boss throughout the day, I could have the remainder of the milk with my bread and that was my lunch. Whatever's left of the milk and two thin slices of brown bread. One day the boss says on a Friday, and of course when we ordered our lunches there was the messenger of the office who would take your lunch orders and go and bring your lunches, the boss used to order his lunch
POM That's Singh?
MM Yes, and he used to eat in his office. So comes one Friday the messenger comes past and by now I had an office of my own right next to his office, I was managing the whole thing and of course I was doing funny things because I had the keys, I used to work there from eight in the morning to three, go off at three o'clock to varsity, finish at varsity at eight at night and come back to work at eight at night to do my work. In the course of that, it had a roneo machine, it had eight typewriters, so I began to publish the clandestine newspaper of varsity from there, run it off on his paper, type in his office, get my gang of guys. But this Friday the messenger comes and he says, "The boss says order whatever lunch you want." Order whatever lunch, it's on him today. I had been asking for a pay rise, I remember my salary by then, it was £9.6s.3d a month. My rent for my room was £4 a month.
POM That was a month?
MM Month. My rent was £4 a month for the room. My university fees in instalments were £6.10s. So I was already out of pocket by about £1. So I am already short, but then I was selling the newspaper, New Age, on weekends and from my commission I would make up the difference. Anyway, this day the boss says, "Tell the staff lunch is on me, order what you want." Now of course he went to the other staff and they ordered the same things that they normally ordered, the cheese and tomato sandwich. When he comes to me he expects me to order this three penny two slices of bread and he says, "Boss is paying." So I said, "What did he say?" He says, "He said order what you want." I said, "What is he ordering?" So he says, he tells me the boss has ordered a fancy curry and rice and things, which is about 5 shillings or 2s 6d, I don't remember, but this is unaffordable by us. So I say, "Same." The messenger is stunned, he says, "Oh, you can't do that." I said, "Why not? Didn't he say it's on him?" He said, "Yes." "Didn't he say order what I want?" He says, "Yes." So I said, "Well you put it down, I want the same." The boss comes to join us for lunch, this is for him revolutionary. That Friday he's going to have lunch with all of us and he sits to make small talk with us, trying to fraternise and treat the workers nicely. The head clerk is there and as we're eating he sees the others eating cheese and tomato and he says, "Why did you order cheese and tomato?" He looks at me and he says, "Oh, you're having the same as me." I say, "Yes. The messenger said you're paying and you said buy whatever you want." The head clerk then says, trying to plead a case for me, he says, "Mr Singh, do you know what Mac eats every day? He has two thin slices of brown bread." Now it was his way of thinking that he's going to say you'd better increase his salary and Mr Singh says, "Why do you do that?" So I said to him, "Pay, you give me pay that I can eat." And then I push my food aside, this curry and rice that I'm eating. I said, "You know, I don't even want to eat this food because you think that by coming this one time and paying for my curry and rice you're doing a very generous thing. It's nothing generous. Take your damn food." He calls me to the office and he says, "You know I treat you as my brother. I suppose one day I will article you to become a lawyer. You must conduct yourself in a way which understands that one day you're going to be a lawyer. You mustn't talk to me like that in front of the staff and so rude." So I said, "But my message is simple, pay me an adequate wage so that I can eat. What's this thing that you come today and give me curry and rice and think you've done a great favour?" He says, "Listen, I'll have to fire you if you carry on talking like that." I said, "No, you're not going to fire me, I'm leaving you." And I walk out.
I don't come to work the next week but Monday goes, Tuesday goes, his brother, who's a bastard, comes to me.
POM This is the head of the - ?
MM The one who recommended me. He's no longer President of the SRC but he's training to be a lawyer also. He comes to me and he says, "Listen, just go and apologise to my brother, man. Your job is there. Why are you cutting off the chance of becoming an Articled Clerk? Just apologise for your rudeness." I said, "No, I'm not apologising." But in the meantime I know that there's nobody else in that whole establishment who can handle the preparation of documents for Supreme Court. So both of us are looking for a back track. Of course by Wednesday I turn up there, I am looking for a way to get back to but I'm not going to say I'm getting back, I go to the bookkeeper, the accountant, "I've come to collect my salary that I'm owed", for the few days that I'd worked that month. He says, "Well I'll have to go and see the boss." He goes in, comes back to me, he says, "The boss wants to see you." So I walk in there and the boss says, "Well, what have you got to say?" He wants me to apologise. I said, "I've come to collect my pay." There is again tension. He says, "Listen, man, I treat you like my younger brother. What is wrong with you? Please, I like you." And I'm saying to myself, "Bastard, you need my job, you need my services for those Supreme Court documents." So he says to me, "Can you type out the rules for how to do Supreme Court preparation?" So I say, "Sure, I'll type it but you pay me." So he says, "How much do you want?" I said, "I want £20 to type out the rules." He says, "You're crazy. Stay, work." And I am saying, "Oh you want me back?" He hasn't said explicitly 'I want you back', but he says, "Stay." I said, "OK, I'll stay."
POM Did you get a raise?
MM Never got a raise. Stayed at £10 a month, never got my articles.
POM You never got your articles?
MM Never got my articles.
POM Did you ever figure out a reason why?
MM Well he wanted to extract as much service from me that would make up for the foregoing of the fees that I would have to pay him, although it was illegal to pay those fees as a premium for articleship. People would have to pay £300 - £400 to get articleship and the cost of living allowance in terms of the law at that time, in the Law Society, was £9.6s.3d a month and that's what he paid me. He paid me the cost of living for an Articled Clerk and therefore didn't pay me a salary for a full employee but never gave me articles. Then of course came the treason arrests of 1956.
POM Let's just keep where we are for a minute. What I was going to ask, Mac, the Law Society, was this at that point an Indian Law Society?
MM No it was predominantly white. The black members were not officials or anything. You had to be a member of the Law Society to practice.
POM So you just paid them
MM And got registered on the roll.
POM OK. Now what were the clients that - ?
MM Our business, Kissoon Singh's business, was mainly black clients.
POM Were they Indian primarily?
MM Primarily Indian. There were African clients also but primarily Indian businesses, their collections, their legal cases, divorce cases and although he had bought off the practice of Gurwitz, who was a white lawyer, so he inherited a few white clients but with time the white clients left him and his clients became exclusively black, primarily Indian with a sprinkling of African clients.
POM The group of 40 at University of Natal, was that primarily Indian too?
MM Indian, African and coloured.
POM But who would be the predominant group?
MM Predominantly Indian. Most of the students were Indian.
POM What I see, two things have struck me just from what you said today. One is that there were these two forces going, one was expanding you in the direction of an inclusivity of coloureds and Africans and other ethnicities in your range of, I won't say your drinking activities, your 'social' activities, your all-encompassing social activities. The other is a horizontal one, those kind of acting against that where there was very hierarchical, you respect, you respect, you respect, and where those at a higher level always looked down at those at a lower level whether it was a college, whether it was in the workplace. Now was, again, because I know it was certainly true in Ireland of this looking down, always looking down on somebody who had less education, who had less this, the boss had to be treated as Mr such-and-such. The same in school, the teacher, you could never say a word. If you said a word against the teacher you were through the window and when you went home your parents would say, "Well you deserved it."
MM Very authoritarian.
POM Was this particularly true of Indian culture?
MM No, I think it was the general culture. It is that contradiction by 1953 that drove me rapidly towards Marxism, very rapidly, because Marxism had built into its philosophical and theoretical framework the desire to build an egalitarian society.
POM What did you understand by egalitarian?
MM Well I understood that Marxism had - the predominant mode of thinking was two phases beyond capitalism, a socialist phase where each was rewarded according to their ability and a communist phase when the productive forces are so developed that you each would be rewarded according to their needs rather than their ability and that led to the concept of an egalitarian society where not only opportunity but rewards would be dictated not only by what you were doing but what your needs were.
POM Just going back to pursuing your understanding of Marxist/Leninism, does this come from your reading of their works or from courses you had taken at University of Natal or what you had picked up in discussion groups? From whence was your identification coming with their writings which are complex, deep, turgid, you don't flip the page.
MM 1953, I said that I took a room in Hampston Grove in a flat that was owned by the brother-in-law and sister of Dawood Seedat and across the road from my room was the home of Dawood Seedat and he was quite a legendary figure already in the struggle having gone to prison in 1941 and then subsequently again with his bannings. So Dawood had been a member of the Communist Party before its banning in 1950 and he still had a lot of Marxist literature and through him and other people in his circle I got access to material on Marxism and began to read it. It was self reading but I read all the classics of Marxism, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Bakonin, Trotsky, the Second International, in that period, in that phase.
But just lightheartedly I had been labouring under the idea that I was born on Easter Monday 1935, this is what my parents said. My Mum was very clear that it was Easter Monday in the early hours of the morning. In 1954 when I lost my eye, no just before that, in high school I became attracted to Shakespeare and learnt that Shakespeare was born on 23 April. Now my parents used to say I was born on Easter Monday, 23 April 1935. So I was quite chuffed that I share a birthday with Shakespeare. But 1953 in Durban I have left home, I'm on my own, and I'm still thinking that my birthday is on 23 April. Then I get involved with readings and Marxism and the communists, I am questioning the Dawood Seedats and other activist leaders in Natal, in Durban, who I knew from reading had been in the Communist Party before it disbanded in 1950. I am questioning them, how could a revolutionary party like that agree to disband merely because of the law. And they were hard pushed to defend that and they thought I was an extremely troublesome chap and they used to warn me that, "Look, you're talking so openly, you don't realise that you are falling foul of the law by what you are saying and you can be arrested for what you are saying and all this literature you are reading is banned literature." 1954 I have this loss of my eye and for the removal of my eye, because I'm under 21, I need my father's consent and I also needed for some reason my birth certificate. When I applied to the authorities for my birth certificate it arrived with my birthday as the 22 April, not 23rd.
POM Big blow!
MM Big blow to me, no that was 1953, before my eye. Big blow to me but it coincided with the period that I was reading now extensively on Marxism and then I think shortly after I got this certificate saying born 22nd, and I had written a letter to my Dad, "Can I have a supporting affidavit to change this thing? My birthday is 23rd you told me but now I've got it saying I'm born on 22 April." I need to go through a whole procedure, affidavits from my Dad, my Mum and everybody to change it, I'm going to change it, because they have robbed me of my birthday that I share with Shakespeare. Before I could get an answer from my parents and the affidavits I learned that Lenin was born on 22 April, so I said, "OK, let's leave it, let's leave it." It's only when I was in prison and studying mathematics that I came across the formula to calculate backwards into time. You could pick a date and it will tell you which day of the week it was, etc. So I sat in prison working out what was 22 April 1935, what day of the week, and it came out Monday so I said I'm the genuine one. But that's aside.
So I'm saying 1953 began a period of intense reading and getting involved in the national liberation struggle but my involvement was not to go to the Indian Congress. To me the Communist Party was banned. Communists that I was meeting who had been members of the party before it was disbanded, to me had abandoned the cardinal principle of revolutionaries, that is a bourgeois state had ordered them to be disbanded and they disbanded. Now I look back and I realise, how could they tell me that it has been recreated? They couldn't tell me that. Secondly, I don't want to go to the Indian Congress because I say it's made up of a mixture of social formations from Indian traders to Indian workers and also it's Indian. So I go to the newspaper New Age. Now Dawood was again involved with New Age so I go to New Age and I start distributing New Age on my Sundays, door to door in that block.
POM New Age was a Durban publication?
MM No, its head office was Cape Town. It was an independent left wing publication which had started off in the thirties as the Guardian and it was published by an independent group of people in fact who were communists. So it was the one weekly left wing paper in the country and in the fifties the Guardian was banned and it reappeared then under different names. By 1953 it was being published under the name of New Age. The editor was Brian Bunting from Cape Town. The Johannesburg editor was
POM The same Bunting that - ?
MM The same Bunting. Wolfie Kodesh was working in the Jo'burg office, M P Naicker of Durban was managing the Durban office and by 1955 Govan Mbeki became the Eastern Cape editor. So it was the voice of the left but in fact it was a creation of members of the Communist Party but wearing a label of being just an independent left wing publication. So I gravitated towards the New Age, I felt more comfortable working in that environment.
POM Had you at this time accepted the teachings of Marx and Lenin regarding the nature of capitalistic societies?
MM Yes I had. By the end of 1953/54 ideologically my readings had shaped me now and my discussions with individuals in Durban had shaped me to believe, no, to the view that I was now committed to the ideology of Marxism/Leninism.
POM Had you during that period examined the origins of capitalism, read Adam Smith, Marshall, Pigou, Bernard Caines?(?spelling of names)
MM I read Adam Smith. I read Stuart Mill -I was reading voraciously now, I was reading any book that I could get on left wing, on Marxism/Leninism.
POM The pull being? What was the where did the ideological pull come from within you? What made you as you read them say, yes, yes, yes, identify, identify, whereas reading John Stuart you'd say, umm, well?
MM Marxism helped me to distinguish between what sounded like a cliché formulation thatwas extant in SA. We are fighting against national oppression and exploitation. Very easy for a young man like me to say I agree. But what was the distinction between oppression and exploitation? Marxism helped me in its understanding of capitalism to make that distinction. Secondly, Marxism, and whatever I could read on the Communist Party until 1950, was that it did not distinguish in its members on the basis of class or on the basis of colour or ethnicity or race. I found that attractive. I found the analysis coming through from the SA Communist Party attractive.
POM That analysis being at the time?
MM Class and nation.
POM Class on the one hand.
MM And national, in terms of national group, the indigenous majority, the African people. The second thing is that it introduced me to my understanding of colonialism and imperialism. I found it attractive that the Marxist analysis presented showed colonialism and imperialism as phases in the world development of capitalism.
POM How would you at that time distinguish between the fight for nationalism and the fight against exploitation?
MM The fight for against national oppression was the liberation of our nation which was covered or subsumed by colour. The fight against exploitation meant that I was aligning myself with the workers, that the basis of the creation of super profits was based on the exploitation of labour. I found that attractive and I found Marxism providing me with a paradigm to understand the unity of the anti-colonial struggles and I found the logic of that with support from the socialist countries. I was coming into political activity at the time when the Soviet Union had triumphed in the second world war, Eastern Europe had gone people's democracy route, China had triumphed in 1949, Mao Zedong's guerrillas, so I read books by Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China, and Dr Bethune, doctor volunteers of the west going to China. I read about the volunteers who went from the US to the Soviet Union, the Ella Louis Strongs, the lot. So I found that attractive.
Then of course this was the age of the it comes a little later, Ghana's independence in 1957, but George Padmore, a West Indian who had been in the party in the thirties and left and had been party to the formation of the Pan African Congress held in Manchester in 1945, of the African continent meeting together. I think it was the third Pan African conference. Now George Padmore had written a book published in 1956/57, Pan Africanism or Communism. He posed this as alternatives and he was very critical of communism. But counter-balancing George Padmore, who had come from the West Indies, was William Dubois of the US.
The same thing was happening in my reading of the struggle in India for independence, India became independent in 1947 and in the Indian struggle for independence there were those who followed the Gandhian approach of non-violence and there were a group who had engaged in armed activity and within the Indian Congress there was a group who were saying in the second world war that they should form an alliance with Japan and Germany in order to overthrow British colonial rule, led by a chap called Subash Chandra Bose. He died on a secret mission over the Himalayas on his way to try and form that pact.
So I was seeing in the anti-colonial world huge ferment and huge debates about the tactics to be used so I came in 1953/54 into activity critical of the SA Communist Party having disbanded, nobody able to tell me that it has regrouped but finding a home in the left wing publication New Age, critical of the congresses because they were separated on racial lines. There was the ANC for Africans, the Indian Congress for Indians. Critical also, and becoming even more critical as time went on about our commitment to non-violent forms of struggle in the congresses, the ANC and the Indian Congress.
POM You weren't yet a member of the ANC?
MM No, couldn't be.
POM Of course you couldn't, you were Indian. Sorry.
MM I remember at the New Age we used to gather around the New Age offices at lunch time and have impromptu discussions and I was challenging the comrades in New Age at these lunch time things about non-violence but always premised on Marxism and I knew that the people that I was debating with had all been members of the Communist Party before 1950. The discussions would become acrimonious so I was called - Billy Nair used to be at those lunch meetings, Billy Nair accused me at one time of being a Trotskyist, another time of being (what was the other major epic that we used?), an ultra-revolutionary. Then when I criticised them on non-violence they were not able, they had been members of the Communist Party, some of them were now in the regrouped Communist Party, and I would say, "How could communists disband the Communist Party?" And they would argue with me but they couldn't tell me it has regrouped so they were fighting with me with their hands tied and because of the inadequacy of their explanation I would say, "You're not a bloody revolutionary! You're just pretending you're a revolutionary. You were in the Communist Party."
POM What was your definition of a revolutionary at that point?
MM To me you had to believe in the ideology and the analytical tools of Marxism/Leninism and you had to belong to a revolutionary party and to me that was the Communist Party, because just to theoretically support something was not a definition to me of a revolutionary. You had to be active.
POM Did that intend that you had to overthrow the capitalistic class?
POM With whatever means were available?
MM With whatever means that could deliver that result and that you were not bound to non-violence. So I would accuse Billy and M P Naicker, "What's this? You've become passive." Again, they would argue about the efficacy of non-violence. I would say, "What's happening? You're talking about this and look what's happening to us. The Defiance Campaign, being locked up, 8500. Where has it taken us?" They would say the membership of the congresses has grown. I said, "So what are you doing with that membership?" And Billy Nair would lose his temper and say, "You! You're a bloody ultra-revolutionary. You are reckless, you're an anarchist. Oh no, you're a Trotskyist." So I said, "Fine calling me a Trotskyist but what are you? Explain to me, what are you?" And of course he can't explain what he is because in the logic of our discussion we are all moving from the premise that Marxism/Leninism provides us with the right tools.
POM Did that get more discussion than the question that the ANC portraying itself as a liberation movement would not accept non-Africans as members?
MM That didn't arise at that stage because, bear in mind, in 1953 the ANC's shift to mass mobilisation via the programme of action of 1949 was just beginning to come through and all the literature that I was reading from before the banning of the Communist Party was that the Communist Party was there representing this revolutionary strand but it had to form a tension-filled but a working relationship with the congresses, in particular the ANC, because they represented the aspirations of nationalism and our approach now was not to oppose nationalism but in a certain sense, patronisingly at that stage I think, to accept that it was a valid impulse but believing that by engagement in mass struggle that narrowness in the nationalism would become broader and always the ANC said it supported also the workers' struggle but it didn't describe itself as a liberation movement.
POM Who didn't?
MM The ANC in 1953.
POM Was it describing itself as a national movement?
MM It described itself as a national movement. It's only in 1955 that the ANC supports the Freedom Charter which says SA belongs to all, basic programme, votes for all, the mines will be nationalised. So I say, OK I'm comfortable with that because it is going in the direction that I seek.
POM When apartheid was introduced in 1948 you didn't see any contradiction between legalisation of racial separation and the de facto, by the rules of the organisation, racialisation of the ANC?
MM No. I saw the logic of the existence of the ANC, the Indian Congress. I even took up the position in the student movement of asking our university to disaffiliate from NUSAS because in practice one found oneself in interacting with the white students who were in NUSAS confronted with the fact
POM NUSAS was the?
MM National Union of SA Students. I found that we were at a great disadvantage. We were dominated by the white universities. Remember at Natal University we were in a separate section. I then moved in 1954, I became part of a group of students who said the non-European section will disaffiliate from NUSAS. I was heavily criticised by my comrades in the Congress Movement and around New Age. In fact Lionel Forman, who eventually was a treason trialist and who at his death asked that New Age publish his will and in his will he said, "I want it shouted from the rooftops that I have been a communist all my adult life." Now Lionel Forman, he was the editor of the international page of New Age, and Lionel Forman wrote a letter to New Age criticising me for my stand on NUSAS, that is asking for the black students to disaffiliate.
So at that time I was a mixture of impulses. I wanted the student movement to be just the black students and I wanted us to interact with NUSAS on equal terms. I didn't want to be a member of NUSAS because I found being in NUSAS
POM You had a separate but equal
MM Yes, I was being treated as a member of NUSAS but I felt that the whites were being patronising.
POM So you wanted a separate but equal arrangement.
MM Yes. And Forman criticised me.
POM Now how, just to follow a thought into your mind because I have met people who broached the matter, particularly in the early nineties, and that was that the public face of resistance to apartheid after 1976, the detentions and imprisonments were 'white liberals' and that they in many ways came to dominate the activities of the UDF. It was whites telling blacks what they ought to do, educated whites telling blacks that this is the way you should do things. Not flaunting their education but kind of saying, as much as you know, I have a better way of doing it without knocking your way.
MM They were more articulate.
POM And that there was a backlash against that in the early nineties that left many whites, who felt that they had supported the struggle all their lives, somewhat puzzled.
MM That didn't arise in 1953/54 in Natal.
POM But did it arise later?
MM You see I had New Age as a home and in the New Age committee there were a few whites but to me they were different kind of whites. They were united by their left wingism. Secondly, I saw them doing the same work as I was doing. They sold New Age with me in different areas, they worked on the New Age committee, they ran the risks with me and they treated me, I felt, differently from the arrogant young white student who thought not only are they articulate, not only do they have resources, but also they seem to claim that they know more, who could say 'I've travelled around'. Many students could say, 'I was in England'. Oh, it would get me mad and I said to hell with that. But then I would retreat from there into the New Age circle.
Now in New Age very interestingly one of the people, when I begin to manage the New Age office in 1956 when the treason arrests take place and I'm approached to become the manager of the office, just before that time I see that there is a quiet New Age committee made up of the then editor, the manager of Natal, M P Naicker who ended up on treason trial, made up of a chap called Dr Kurt Danziger. A big shock for me. Kurt Danziger is my professor in psychology at the university in 1955. He used to cause me problems in my psychology classes because I would be questioning the validity of whatever he's saying on social psychology, I would be bringing in South African oppression and he would be saying, "Uh-uh, you're going into politics now, we're discussing psychology", and I said, "Nonsense. You can't be saying that. There's a logic to what you are saying on social psychology that has implications for politics." So he says, "That's your conclusion but that's not what I'm saying here." And here I now find him, he's on the New Age committee. Oh, so he's a progressive.
Now as a result of all these controversies and these different pulls and pushes in me what happens is that clearly Kurt was in the Communist Party and M P Naicker is in the Communist Party. I participate in the lunch meetings, Kurt is not there at the lunch meetings, he's at the university. One night in 1955, one day Kurt Danziger comes to me after I've completed my BA, he says, "I'd like to invite you for dinner at my home." Interesting. First time a white lecturer is inviting me to his home. So I said, "Fine." I go to his home for dinner and I see he's invited a group of students, some from the Unity Movement, that's the Trotskyist wing, who were students of his in psychology, I'm there, so there's a mixture of people of different tendencies and of course over supper Kurt starts a discussion. The discussion moved about the Unity Movement, which was the Trotskyist grouping in SA, and of course I took on the Unity Movement guys in that supper/buffet. Later I came to realise that that was set up as a meeting where Kurt was asked by his colleagues in the Communist Party to assess me. People were accusing me of being a Trotskyist and Kurt clearly had said, "Chaps, he sounds like a Trotskyist but he's not."
At his home at the dinner he provokes an argument between me and the Trotskyists and he's sitting and assessing. So the next thing is I'm invited, I don't realise that this is as a result of that, I'm invited to become a reporter on New Age, from selling the paper to become a reporter. Of course I welcome it. The next thing is when M P Naicker is arrested I'm invited to be the manager of New Age.
POM As a reporter what would you do?
MM I would go out and report on events, on developments for the paper and write news reports.
POM Events like?
MM Like a group of Africans were being moved from Shongweni Dam area, what is happening we will go to the area, interview people, talk to them, what are the problems, why are they being moved and write a report.
POM But at New Age you had Indians and you had Africans? Did you have Africans too?
MM Yes. Steven Dhlamini, all these guys were there. All the sort of left wingers would congregate there. So I become a reporter and I say I don't want pay. I'm working for a lawyer, I'm a student and I'll do the reporting and I sell the papers. I get a commission on my sales that supplements my income and as a reporter I don't want pay. I see this as volunteer work for the struggle. From the reporter when the treason trial takes place I'm invited to become the manager for Natal and who appears to appoint me as Manager? Fred Carneson, now in Cape Town, Ivan Schermbrucker, the manager of New Age from Jo'burg, M P Naicker. They all come down from the treason trial and of course my readings have told me that Fred Carneson used to be in the Communist Party. My readings tell me Ivan Schermbrucker was in the Communist Party. So I feel honoured.
The result is I leave in 1957, that's why Wolfie Kodesh was joking the other day when I phoned him, that New Age had given me a contribution to go abroad. But when I get to Britain I'm very aggressive towards the South African movement and I say I don't want any addresses of contacts in England, I'll make my own way. Wolfie, Brian Wolfie in Jo'burg, Brian in Cape Town - all say to me, "Listen, we'll give you addresses of friends in London." I said, "I don't want to know." I get to London and one of the first things I do is to apply to join the British Communist Party and I go and see Emile Burns, he was a British communist who had written a classic little introduction to Marxism called Introduction to Marxism and I'd read it here in SA. So I go to see Emile Burns at King Street, the head office of the Communist Party, and I say to him that I have a problem, "I'm a South African and I've come here to study and I intend to return to SA but I'd like to join the British Communist Party. At the same time I'd like to join it in such a way that it doesn't jeopardise my security when I return to SA." So he says, "Well, we'll think about that, we'll see what we can do." And then I don't hear, don't hear anything. I'm working, attending meetings, attending the Marx Memorial Library lectures on Marxism, and then one night at my room where I was staying in Notting Hill there's a knock on the door. I open the door, "Who's there?" Kurt Danziger. "Oh come in Kurt." He says, "I've come looking for you." I said, "What are you doing?" He says, "I'm on my way to Indonesia to be a lecturer at Jakarta University." Indonesia had just become independent under Sukarno. So I said, "That's fantastic. How are things at home?" "Great." He says, "Listen, there's a chap called Vella Pillay." So I said, "Don't tell me about him, I don't want to know that guy. I'll punch him on his nose." Because this is the only address that I had and I phoned him at the Bank of China, the only contact name I had.
POM That you'd taken with you?
MM That I'd taken.
POM From whom?
MM From Wolfie Kodesh. And I say, "I phoned this man and he said to me phone me on Sunday evening at six o'clock. I phoned his home on Sunday evening and his wife answered and she asked me who is speaking. When I told her who was speaking she says hold on, and she goes away from the phone for two, three minutes and she comes back and she lies to me that her husband has just gone out for a walk." I say, "I could hear them talking and I decided to hell with this piece of rubbish." In the meantime what I don't know is that the British Party has gone to him and said, "Who is this South African who wants to join the British Party?" And he writes home to his contact, "Who is this chap?" And he's waiting for an answer so without that answer he doesn't know what to do with me. By the time he gets an answer and he tries to reach me I say, "Go to hell. I don't want to know you." I don't know what is happening.
Now Kurt arrives. Kurt says to me, "Yes, yes, I hear what you say about you don't like Vella Pillay, but listen, New Age has got a problem in SA. The international page depends on people sending information culled from all the left wing papers of the world. Finances, we depend on voluntary raising of funds amongst other places in Britain. The committee in support of New Age in London has collapsed because of Hungary."
MM Of Hungary, the Hungarian counter-revolution of 1956. He says, "There used to be a committee here of South Africans doing that work but it just collapsed and we are struggling at home. I have a letter from Brian Bunting." So I said, "Give it to me." He says, "No, I can't give it to you. My instructions are to open this letter in the presence of yourself and Vella Pillay. You must be two present." So I said, "Oh well, OK, arrange it but I'm telling you I don't agree with that man, I don't like him."
So he arranges for me to come one evening to Vella's house in Finchley. I go that evening at the appointed time and in my typical way, they tell me to come at six o'clock, I try to be there dead on time. If I'm five minutes early I'll stay outside in the street and walk in exactly on time. I walk in and as you open Vella's door there's a slight passage and a hallway, the lounge was on the left but the passage led you straight to the kitchen and I could see at the kitchen table Vella and his wife, Patsy, and Kurt were having supper. So I'm received and told to come into the lounge, so I go and sit in the lounge alone. In a few minutes time Vella walks in, sits down. He says Kurt will be joining us just now and Vella is a very arrogant chap. He sits there in his house and he says to me, "So you want to join the British Communist Party?" There's a shock for me. I had only spoken to Emile Burns and this was months ago. So I said to him, "Hey! Wait a minute, where do you get that from?" So in his arrogant way he says, "It doesn't matter where I got it from, I'm asking why do you want to join the British Communist Party?" So I said, "No way. I'm not answering your question. You answer how you know." We're in confrontation.
Kurt walks in, pacifies us and says, "Look, gentlemen, I've got a letter from Brian Bunting, my instructions were to open it and read it to both of you." So he takes out the letter and what the letter says is that we in SA at New Age are desperately in need of financial support and news, international coverage. The committee has collapsed, post Hungary, and we are asking you two people, Vella Pillay and Mac Maharaj, to work together and create a committee of support.I'm in trouble, so I listen to the thing and Kurt looks at me, we talk a bit and he says, "What do you say?" So I said, "What can I say? This man Vella Pillay I don't like him, but you guys at home are asking me to work with him. OK, I'll work with him but I will never be his friend." But I say I will work with him.
Then we talk and I say, "But solve this problem. This man seems to know that I applied to join the British Communist Party and I want to know how he knows." But then the penny drops, as we argue. Oh, he is connected with the SA movement.
MM Vella. He's connected with the SA movement, he's connected with the British Party and the British Party has asked him to clear my credentials because I walked into their office out of the blue. So I said, "OK, OK, let's not argue about all that, let's put it aside. It's my business that I'm joining the Communist Party of Britain, I want to join them. It's got nothing to do with this New Age work." And Kurt says, "Nobody is saying that it has anything to do with it. Yes, the British Party had a problem when you applied to them. They didn't know who you were and all they were doing was to try and find out." So I said to Vella, "Are you in the British Party?" So he says, "Yes." So I said, "OK, that's fine", and we started working together.
So Kurt was a white lecturer at the university, at Natal, lecturing also to black students but quietly working for New Age. That is when I began to realise that he is in the regrouped party. That's 1957. I start working in the New Age committee in London. I get close to Vella and Vella comes to me and he says, "Mac, the British Communist Party wants you to serve in the Africa Committee of the British Party."
POM Were you now a member of the party?
MM Yes. We agreed with the British Party that I would use a pseudonym. My pseudonym was John Kuluma. I addressed meetings throughout Britain as John Kuluma so I was a member of the British Party as John Kuluma and then about 1958, the April strike, is when Vella comes to me and he says to me, "The SA Communist Party want to form a unit." I said, "Who?" He says himself, myself, his wife, can I find recruits to run group classes, to go through classes in Marxism, South African students? And that's when I now in 1958 had become a member of the SACP in a unit operating in London under Vella Pillay and then I find out, as a result of that, that Vella Pillay was the representative of the Central Committee of the SACP which was existing at home.
POM Did you find contradictions? You're in an England regarded as the imperialist power of all time. I think at that time Clement Atlee would have been Prime Minister?
MM No, Gaitskill.
POM Hugh Gaitskill. God! Talk about memories. He didn't last long.
MM And MacMillan, the Super Mac, Wonderman. Anthony Eden.
POM Who had a quick fall from grace.
MM A quick fall from grace, yes.
POM But here you had a capitalistic society, a very nationalistic society, a very in a way insular society in the fact that it was cut off from Europe and yet you were free to say what you wanted to say, where you wanted to say it and how you wanted to say it. Did this strike you as a contradiction in any way, that the system you wanted to overthrow allowed you to hold public meetings wherever you wanted to advocating the overthrow of the system?
MM Coming from SA I found Britain for me personally at that stage an exhilarating place. Yes, the empire was collapsing. Ghana gets its independence, India has already been independent, Malaysia is getting independence, Tanganyika is getting independence. So the British colonial empire is collapsing but in London you have these people from all over the world, little groupings existing, supporting their liberation struggles in their respective countries. Burmese, Indonesian, Sri Lankans, Indians, South Americans, West Indians, Irish, so all these people are there and you are in a real cosmopolitan environment but bound by this unity when you meet each other. There's a commonality in your struggles so you don't feel lonely in spite of the insularity of the British. Then I'm in the Communist Party and there I'm into the unions and I'm following the unions. These are the days of Bill Painter, of the National Union of Mineworkers, communists, Jack Dash, Dock Workers Union, and I see Jack Dash address a meeting in Glasgow docks then I'm there when he turns round and pulls his docker's cap and he's a demagogue and he's got these dock workers eating out of his hand and he talks about MacMillan. He takes off his cap and he just spins it into the air. That's what we will do with MacMillan.
There was a Scottish chap who was chairman of the party, Gallagher, and I'm meeting these guys in the International Affairs Committee of the party. Then I meet in the Africa Committee Jack Wadish(?), Idris Cox, these guys have written books. Chairman of the International Committee, R Palme Dutt (Anglo-Indian) who has written books, End of the British Empire, a big book like that, but an intellectual who had been expelled from Oxford in 1919 or 1918 and here he is, he's the chairman of the International Affairs Committee, and I meet them all. I'm going to classes under them. I meet Maurice Confort, I meet Maurice Dobb the political economist, Confort the philosopher, John Lewis. I'm going to classes, these guys are running classes at the Marx Memorial Library and I go to their classes.
Then besides the unions now I'm in the Movement for Colonial Freedom under Fenner Brockway. He comes from the Independent Labour Party. He's still Labour Party but he's in the House of Commons, he's Lord Brockway and he runs a movement called Movement for Colonial Freedom. Then I'm meeting face to face people whose books I've read, Professor John Burnell, a marine biologist, a member of the British Party. The historian Eric Vaughan. I'm meeting all these guys and to me it was an exhilarating period. I get involved organising the Paul Robson Trans-Atlantic concert that's played over the telephone wire when Paul Robson has been banned and he's broke. When Paul Robson gets his passport I am involved in organising his concert in London. I'm involved in the process of the committee supporting him to go to the Soviet Union and I am receiving people from home. I am reading now, this is where I come across the Irish, who was this playwright that I used to always talk about?
POM Brendan Behan?
POM Sean O'Casey?
POM The Plough and Stars. Walter Sisulu's favourite playwright.
MM I gave him all the plays in prison.
POM Well when I heard that, I knew that before I met him the first time, so I gave him a complete copy of the plays.
MM And I had in prison his seven volumes of his autobiography, in Robben Island. So Sean O'Casey. Then Brendan Behan, the Unity Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford, Joan Littlewood, progressive theatre, music, the experimental theatre called Unity Theatre funded by the Labour movement in Mornington Crescent. Then appears Brendan Behan, this drunken Irishman writing The Hostage. I would go to these guys' plays. So it was an eye-opener.
It was even an eye-opener on left wing politics because I got to Britain saying in my heart I'm now a communist, and I go around Hyde Park Speakers' Corner and I read and I go to meetings and I find, Jesus, there are so many brands of socialists. There's Fabians, there's Scientific Socialists, there's this, there's that, and I say, "Good God, I didn't realise this." It was like walking into a cheese shop and there's 250 brands of cheese but I'm at an age when I'm just ready like a sponge absorbing it. There I find Nkrumah coming to London, Julius Nyerere is still in the troubles of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda comes, I'm in the support movement for African struggle, the forerunner of the OAU. It was called the Committee of African Organisations. Dennis from Zanzibar, They are all there and when Kaunda comes, who's hosting him? The Committee of African Organisations. Nyerere comes, who's hosting him? The Committee of African Organisations. I'm reading and I'm in direct interaction so to me it was
POM A university.
MM So when you say a Britain that's insular, a Britain where the empire was decaying, yes, but there was a sense that now the colonies are all getting free and we are standing at the brink of a new world. When Britain goes Conservative it will topple. That's where I met an Irish couple in the British Party, Jack Coates, he's in the British Party, he's a carpenter. His wife, Mary, devout Roman Catholic, and they're living in this we are in the same area, just across the street is Jack and Mary in their flat. I'm in the flat in Havergill Villas and I go there in the evenings and have a drink with Jack and Mary. Jack and I are flaming communists, Mary is Catholic.
POM A flaming Catholic. That's true love!
MM I used to laugh, she used to say to me, "Mac, I'm going to convert you to Catholicism and you're going to end up a Bishop in the Catholic Church."
POM So Britain was a vortex of ideas and people, so this is like being at the real university.
MM This was a different world for me because it made my interests just blossom from straightforward politics to plays, to fiction, to poetry, to drama, you name it.
POM OK, I now want to take you back into the period you were at New Age. You finished your BA in?
MM 1955, graduated in March 1956.
POM Then you worked full time at - ?
MM No, then I agitated and got my LLB started, one year LLB.
POM One year of the LLB before they disbanded that, said you were the only one who passed, they can't keep it going.
MM 1957 there's nothing to study, I'm planning to exit the country.
POM In 1957 you were working for New Age?
MM Working for New Age as a voluntary reporter. Working for the lawyer still. Helping in the unions and as a reporter I got in touch with the unions because I would begin to report the union meetings and through that I got in touch with
POM What unions were these?
MM Small. Metal Box Union, Textile Union, Clothing Workers, Bakers.
POM These were non-white unions?
MM Black unions. For instance the Textile Workers Union Secretary was Dr Ronnie Press. Now that is a white comrade but they were all affiliated to SACTU. SACTU had just started in 1955/56.
POM OK, this is for my, and I should know, the difference between the unions in SACTU's time and what PW Botha did, in 1979 I think it was, when he allowed black trade unions to strike? Did you have the right to strike?
MM Black trade unions were given recognition by Nic Wiehan. Until then an African worker was not allowed to be a member of a union.
MM Until 1979, Nic Wiehan. Whatever existed before that he did a report for the apartheid government on labour issues and that's where he recommended that the African unions should be given recognition.
MM Somewhere in the seventies, 1973
POM OK but when you
MM Until then an African worker could join a union, the regime had said a separate union, no recognition by the employer, and so we used to have a situation where the representative of SACTU would say, "I am speaking on behalf of the Indian, coloured and white workers", there were very few whites, but in putting the wage demands he would put a wage demand for the African worker. SACTU came along, organised those unions, they affiliated to SACTU and SACTU had formed an alliance with the ANC and the Indian Congress. So that's when Chief Luthuli came up and said, "A good ANC member is a member of a union and a good SACTU union member, who is African, is a member of the ANC." To me that was in keeping with my outlook as a Marxist that the national oppression struggle and the exploitation struggle had a point of convergence in SA.
So I went along reporting these union meetings taking place for New Age, in the factories, outside working hours, sold the paper, got involved, got closer and closer to the unions and that's where I got closer and closer to Billy Nair and Moses Mabida. Moses Mabida was the SACTU Natal secretary.
POM Where along the line did you meet Tim?
MM Tim I met at Natal University when I started there in 1953. Then I left for Britain in August 1957.
POM She was studying nursing or - ?
MM She was a teacher student. She was teaching part time and she was studying at the University of Natal. That's where we met. Her parents were deceased. Her brother was active on campus and in the Indian Congress and in the student body. We became close friends. But the family were unhappy about the relationship between Tim and I, that is Tim's eldest sister and the eldest sister's husband who was a teacher. They didn't like me, they were not happy about the relationship.
MM Well they felt who is this guy that she's associating with? He doesn't come from a prominent family. He has no money. He's lived one year gambling at university. He used to drink like a fish. They don't buy that I've stopped drinking and they felt I'm a useless guy.
POM because in Ireland that was always the view, you didn't marry down.
MM So they didn't look kindly at the relationship and when I left for Britain in 1957
POM But did Tim share your passion for New Age, your political beliefs?
MM In the student world she participated, she was active. So was her brother. Her brother dominated the scene. She used to live with her eldest sister and brother-in-law, so she shared all that. Yes, by 1956 we had formed a congress grouping of African, Indian and coloured students, she was a participant in that grouping also. When her brother M D Naidoo returned from abroad just before the treason trial he became active and also became active on the campus, would come and see us on the campus. He was a legend from the Communist Party days of the forties and he had gone as a representative of the Indian Congress to the United Nations in the late forties and stayed away in England and now here he came back in 1956 to SA completing his law studies. But he too didn't take a shine to my relationship with Tim because I went and raised the matter with him to say that I was in love with his sister. He very shrewdly said his sister had not raised the matter with him but I know that he did everything possible to get others to take her out to cinemas and exclude me who was working on New Age. He would know I'm working at night on a voluntary basis and he would take all the other volunteers and he would invite them to go to the cinema and leave me to do the bloody work, so I realised he was not too happy with the relationship.
POM Did she do volunteer work on New Age?
MM No, not on New Age. What happened is that MD and I clashed because in the wake of the treason arrests MD became the organiser of the Indian Congress. This would be end of 1956, early 1957, and he called me one day in the reorganisation of the congresses in the wake of the treason arrests, he called me to the Indian Congress and asked me to stand for General Secretary of the Youth Congress and I turned it down and he wanted to know why. I said I felt more comfortable in my left wing views to work for New Age, that even though it was a big name position to become secretary of the Youth Congress I'm not prepared to do that because I asked him, "Who do I account to if I'm successful in being appointed General Secretary of the Indian Youth Congress, who would I account to?" So he said, "What do you mean?" I say, "Will I account to the senior congress?" of which he was the organiser. He said, "Obviously." So I said, "Nonsense. If I'm secretary of the Indian Congress I'll account to the executive not to the senior congress because I don't agree with your policies, you people are too passive." I'll never forget what he said to me, he said, "You know, Mac, your problem, you're stubborn. Your stubbornness against the enemy is a good thing but your stubbornness against your own comrades that's a weakness." He dismissed me.
So I went off to Britain when my relations with Tim had collapsed also somewhere around there. I didn't realise that she was also planning to get out of this environment and she applied to become a nurse, to do a nurse's training course in Aylesbury in Kent.
POM Now you weren't seeing her at this time?
MM No. Of course I said goodbye.
POM So did she leave the country before you?
MM No, she left after me. I went to Britain in August 1957 and Tim arrived in the UK I suddenly got a letter to say that she was arriving on her way to study as a nurse in Aylesbury somewhere around December 1957. When she came to London once in a while we met and eventually we resumed our relationship and we got married.
POM Were you not at that time already moving in very different - ?
MM No, no, no.
POM Was she part of - ?
MM She shared it. She was a nurse in Aylesbury. She was became active in the Nurses' Association and whenever she came to London, she began to come to London once a fortnight at the weekend when she had fortnightly leave and she would go with me, we'd go together to all the meetings wherever it was possible, South African freedom meetings and the forerunners of the Anti-Apartheid meeting.
POM Mac, you were talking about Tim.
MM Yes, in fact I just remembered a funny incident because she used to come to meetings that I used to address also, anti-apartheid, under my pseudonym, British Party meetings, under John Kuluma. I remember we used to share a joke amongst each other because here we were in small venues, 20 30 people, you're addressing them and I remember an evening where Tim had come with me and she was sitting in the front row. She used to rag me that when I speak I used to have my hands flying all over. But this evening she was sitting there and as I am speaking my eye falls on her and I find she's imitating all my hand movements deliberately, as my hands are flying she's doing the same thing. It was so disconcerting and when we went off that evening into the pub I said, "Hey, you stop that, you're going to mess me up", and she was having a big laugh. So yes, she used to accompany me.
POM You just finished telling me the little anecdote about your hands.
MM So Tim used to come around, Tim was well aware, fully supportive, participating in the solidarity work and knew that I was a member of the party and our plans when she finished at Aylesbury were that she would come to London and at Middlesex Hospital undergo training as a midwife. That would take 18 months. I in the meantime would do my final year LLB at LSE, that would take a year. That would give me time to work a bit in London while she's finishing her midwifery and we would save money to pay our fare to come back home. That was the plan. She arrived in London at the end of March 1961, end of February or end of March, and five days after she arrived to settle down in London Vella Pillay arrives to say home would like you to go for training. Then I said to him, "Sure", thinking that it will take a year before I go off for training but three days later he turned up and said, "Here's your ticket, you're flying tomorrow." So I left Tim in London.
POM You had gotten married in - ?
MM In 1958.
POM In 1958. She was still travelling back and forth from Aylesbury?
POM Then she came to London.
MM We would only see each other once a fortnight. She finished her general nursing at the end of 1960, came to London end of February, end of March with a view that we would now live together in London while I completed my law and she would set about doing a course in midwifery and then we would together return to SA. But in the meantime within a week of her arrival in London Vella comes and says home wants to know whether I would go off for training.
POM 'Home' meaning the SACP?
POM So the SACP were already moving ahead of the ANC?
MM Oh yes. I was going for training in printing and I was in the middle of my printing course, just finishing my printing course, when the decision was taken by the SACP to support movement towards armed activity and therefore while training in the GDR when I received this news I then applied to do a course in sabotage.
POM You applied to do that through?
MM Through the GDR but I applied for permission to the SACP, the party, to say here I am, I'm just about finishing as a printer and getting ready to come home to work for you full time, should I not add on a course in sabotage given your decision already. And they said, "Yes, do the course in sabotage."
POM How was that decision conveyed to you?
MM Through the Central Committee, through Vella as the representative of the Central Committee.
POM When you were in the GDR who knew where you were?
MM Vella knew, my wife Tim knew, Vella's wife Patsy knew, Dr Dadoo knew and obviously some people here in SA in the Central Committee. Who they were I did not know.
POM So again I want to back up to the Resistance Campaign, that was 1956, right?
MM Which one?
POM Going back to the one in there was one in 1946 or 48 that was instigated by the NIC?
MM 1946, the Passive Resistance Campaign.
POM You were then at high school.
MM In Newcastle, yes.
POM Did that have any impact on you?
MM As I've told you before the only impact that I can recall is that I was aware of the campaign, I was aware that there were people going to prison, Indian men and women, and some were serving their imprisonment in Newcastle prison.
POM These are the prisoners you saw?
MM Yes, on the roadside.
POM On the roadside, including J N Singh.
MM I don't know where J N Singh served his imprisonment, in Newcastle or which prison. All I know is there were prisoners on the roadside and we used to try and get food to them.
POM In the fifties you had the
MM 1950 May Day strike, certainly I was aware of it, how I don't know. That's where the miners were shot. In solidarity June 1950 is the first national stayaway campaign led by the ANC. I am in standard eight and I bunk school.
POM This is in nineteen - ?
MM Yes. I am in standard eight, in high school, and I hear that there's a national strike being called and nobody goes to work on that day so I am a schoolboy, I'm going to go on strike, I'm going on a picnic, but the thing is that I'm not going to school. So I bunk school. That's 1950.
1952 comes, Defiance Campaign. I am aware of the Defiance Campaign because meetings are being organised by the congresses all over, including in Newcastle, but I don't recall anybody from Newcastle defying. I know of personalities who defied but I have that sitting at the back of my mind, this thing happened.
POM Again, you weren't very much interested because you weren't into your political mode yet.
MM I'm not yet in a political mode.
POM You were still happy being just rebellious at your father and taking it all out on him.
MM Just an awareness mode. Then there was Durban 1953, I get to Durban, I begin to get involved with New Age, etc. I am aware of the campaign for the Freedom Charter, I am involved in discussions but I didn't go to the Freedom Charter conference at Kliptown because I am more at that stage, my mindset, while I'm not opposed to it my mindset is the movement is too concerned with non-violence, with producing all sorts of demands whereas what is needed is action.
POM So really from the time that you joined New Age, met your left wing friends mostly whom were communists but couldn't say it, you were moving through the overthrow of the apartheid government by violence, that nothing else was working. You had reached this conclusion a lot earlier than
MM I don't think mine was a profoundly intellectual conclusion, I think it was more a primitive conclusion.
POM At that time would you be there were other revolutionary wars going on throughout Africa, there were real revolutionary wars.
MM I'm saying why don't we do that? Why are we so committed to non-violence?
POM What was the debate that took place about other revolutionary movements in Africa at that time that were resulting in countries getting their independence? Did no-one say, gee, we ought to be thinking in the same direction?
MM No, there was a bit of a high after the Freedom Charter conference and then came the idea that we would have, use the legal cover of national days of prayer to stage one-day strikes, but of course we were passing through the treason trial now so we were a bit demobilised. There were stirring events taking place like the Alexandra bus boycott, so there was thinking moving towards mass action but what form of mass action was not yet clear.
POM So this was the Gandhian strain of
MM Gandhian activities strain and I leave in 1957 and the first, the next major strike is called in April 1958. I think it was intended to be a three-day strike. I am in London and the appeal comes from home that the regime is likely to react very harshly to that strike, could we step up the activity of solidarity in Britain to put a restraint on the regime if it decided to become brutal vis-à-vis that strike.
POM Was this kind of simplistic?
POM How were you expected to put a restraint on the regime?
MM If we could mobilise support from Labour Party, support from the British government, support from the British unions, protest meetings, solidarity meetings, the feeling was that this would (a) encourage our people who were undertaking the strike and (b) we would be thereby internationalising the reaction of the apartheid regime.
POM Were you not underestimating your enemy at that point?
MM Not if you take into account that the actions of the British labour movement had helped to restrain the British government's reaction to the national struggles in various colonies. It is that solidarity that forced the British government, which had imprisoned Nkwame Nkrumah in the Gold Coast, to allow Nkrumah to stand for the election from prison and become the Prime Minister of independent Ghana. It is those sort of pressures which forced the British government when it had Nehru imprisoned to allow him to serve his time as a prisoner with access to study material and even research material so he wrote some of his best books from prison, Discovery of India, Glimpses of World History were written from prison. Not if you realise that we had also mounted enormous solidarity campaigns in Britain in relation to the Kenyan struggle, the Sierra Leonean struggle, the Northern Rhodesian struggle and we were campaigning against Southern Rhodesia, and South Africa while it was apartheid only left the Commonwealth in 1960, until then it was a Commonwealth member state. So pressure from the Commonwealth and Britain was regarded as holding the potential to restrain the government of SA from doing anything it wanted to do freely.
POM But my larger point I think that I'm trying to drive at is that if you had a situation where you were seeing one African country after the next gain its independence and they were all doing so through armed struggle against the colonial power, whether it was France or whether it was Britain, and here was a national movement in SA that insisted on trying to achieve its aims, which at the time were pretty limited, by non-violent means.
MM Not correct. Most of the African countries and the Asian countries were getting their independence not by violence. The countries that had resorted to violence, Burma, Malaysia, there both the violent efforts were suppressed by Britain successfully. In Africa there was an attempt in Kenya, it was smashed.
POM The Mau-Mau were smashed?
MM Yes. In the Cameroons against the French there was an effort, it was smashed. And so Ghana non-violent; Tanzania non-violent; Zanzibar non-violent; Rhodesia non-violent; Malawi non-violent. Most of the countries were successfully moving towards independence without the use of violence.
POM Where violence was being used
MM Where violence was being used, it was still languishing in a violence mode, e.g. Algeria.
POM So Algeria was the exception.
MM So the violent route looked like the exception because Britain had gone to the United Nations and accepted that there will be independence but it said it must be done in a programmed way and we were forcing the pace through protests in Britain that that programme be speeded up.
POM But there were two lessons in a sense if you take away Algeria, is that in other colonised parts of Africa where there was a revolutionary struggle actually the Brits smashed those struggles even though it paved the way of getting to the table.
MM Yes. There was no conclusion to that struggle which used violence where you can say directly as a result of that violence you overthrew the colonial power. The only ones that had been successful until then were China got its freedom through guerrilla warfare, India got it primarily through passive resistance although there was a fragment engaged in sabotage, Kenya got its independence although there was the Mau-Mau and Kenyatta was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment etc. and the Mau-Mau smashed and then Britain granted independence and allowed Kenyatta out to stand for elections. Tanganyika, just protest action and representation. Zanzibar the same, Rhodesia the same, Malawi the same.
POM So actually the non-violent route was the more because in a way the world was also changing and colonialism was no longer the flavour of the day. These countries wanted to get out but they weren't going to go out as seemingly to be (a) defeated and (b) the second thing that's laid against colonisers is that they left these countries unprepared for their freedom.
MM That's another part of the debate, but the point I'm making is that for us to mount that protest in 1958 was not illogical to the mood of the time.
POM In the context of the time.
MM And not mutually exclusive with resorting to armed forms of struggle. That was 1958, that was how the Freedom Association got established in London by us and that was the forerunner of the Anti-Apartheid Movement which we set up in 1960.
POM Again, that's the Communist Party?
MM No. It was never we never spoke of ourselves as the SA Communists in London. We drew in every South African who supported the Freedom Charter to be part of the solidarity. We went to Fenner Brockway, the Labour Party, the Movement for Colonial Freedom, they were not communist bodies, to be part of the process. The London Anti-Apartheid Movement was headed when it started the first anti-apartheid grouping, it was called the London Anti-Apartheid Committee, and it was headed by Barbara Castle of the Labour Party and it had Lord Altrincham from the Conservative side in it. Yes, as communists without disclosing our identity we took special interest in ensuring that those things grew but they grew not by us dominating it, they grew by us attracting people to the cause of supporting South African freedom.
POM To go backwards, it just crossed my mind as you were outside, when you talk about MD Naidoo, Tim's eldest brother, being against the match so to speak, was it for the same reasons as her elder sister and her family were against it, that you were a ne'er do well, who was your family, you had no money?
MM I think to be fair to MD, as I told you that when he asked me to stand for General Secretary of the Youth Congress I refused, I think he saw me as a bit of an ultra militant young boy. He heard the criticisms in the rest of his family against me and he was just being cautious because in the sixties we met up in prison, he came there to serve a five year sentence.
POM He came to the Island? For five years?
MM Yes. He was in the same section, he came on holiday. We got on fairly well. By that time of course I was married to Tim.
POM The second thing was why did you and Tim break up in Durban before you left the country?
MM I suppose on my side I think she was under pressure from some members of her family who were not happy with the relationship. Secondly, it would have been compounded, that pressure, by saying what sort of chap are you going out with? He hasn't even got a career prospect, you may say he's studying and he wants to be a lawyer but, look, even the law courses are over. He's really got no prospects and therefore from my side I was putting her also under too much pressure because I was saying are you agreeing with your family or are you going with your feelings towards me? So these things kept disturbing our relationship and some time in 1957 we had agreed that, look, it doesn't look like there's a future for us together. So that's how it stood in 1957. I think that was all there was to it.
POM Now you told me the story, the events leading up to your leaving Durban. The story, going back, the boys telling you the police were here looking for you and you got out with your one bag and got a ride to Ladysmith and from there to Johannesburg where you stayed with your sister in Springs and were able to raise the money to get a one-way ticket to the UK. Were there any specific events that would have led to the police looking for you at that time?
MM I was now full time Manager of New Age so the police would have been looking at that. My predecessor was on treason trial so political activity would have fingered me. But I had managed to get a back door passport and the official in the Security Branch who had agreed to enable me to get that passport had said, I had applied first in Newcastle, I had applied in Dundee, I had applied in Pietermartizburg, and all of those places I had received a refusal.
POM A refusal from?
MM From the government.
POM From your government to give you a passport?
MM To give me a passport. They said, "No, you can't get a passport." Somebody then tipped me off that there was a person working in that section in the Security Branch in Durban which I had thought will never grant me because they know said go to that chap and apply there, apply in Durban because when you apply at Immigration you then had to take your application and you would be given an appointment with the Security Branch for a report to be made. And he says, "Take that report to this chap, he will fill it in for you supporting your application." So that was the form in which it was a clandestine passport and when I went to him he said to me, "Look, we are the Security Branch HO in Durban for Natal, I have the other rejections from the Security Branch but what I will do, I'll put them on the tray as if I have not yet seen them and I will simply approve of the granting of your passport. As soon as you get it get the hell out because to cover my own back I will do like I received the reports from Pietermaritzburg and Dundee later on and I will put them into the system. So as soon as you get your passport just get out of the country."
POM Now was he being sympathetic or was he being paid off?
MM I think it was a mixture when you talk about black people working in the Security Branch in those days. It's a mixture of sympathy and pay-off.
POM Why would the government allow a black person to be head of security in Durban in 1957?
MM The Security Branch had not anywhere reached that level of brutality. Until then at political meetings the police would sit there and you'd sit there. So what? They'd be busy making notes. So what? You'd make snide remarks at them and they would tolerate it and most of the black policemen would go to an Indian lawyer in Durban when they wanted some favours. In fact their offices in Smith Street were in the same lane as the legal offices of J N Singh, who I've mentioned before, and JN would have registered their bonds, their hire purchase agreements, their family problems. They would go to him as a lawyer because where else could they go as a lawyer? They couldn't go to a white lawyer. So I think it was a mixture of that.
POM So there was this peculiar relationship that on the one hand they were 'the enemy' and on the other hand they were part of your community and you weren't regarded as being a traitor if you belonged to the police or whatever.
MM No. Many, many black people, warders who were in charge of prisons, black warders during the treason trial, as a result of seeing political prisoners come there as detainees in the states of emergency got interested in politics and joined the ANC. So I think it was a mixture of those and the result is that when I walked up to my flat that night, my room, and the kids were standing around at different strategic points to tell me the police, the Security Branch were parked outside.
POM You already had your passport on you?
MM Passport, I don't remember where it was, but I was living in a room that had an entrance from the front, from the open end, but it was a room which was just part of a flat, the connecting door to the flat was normally sealed but, as I said, that flat was owned and occupied by Dawood Seedat's sister and brother-in-law and it was kids from the Seedat family who came to warn me so they had made arrangements.
POM Sorry, which family?
POM Yes you mentioned them.
MM They arranged for me to get into my room from the back door where nobody could see me getting in and that's where I rescued my bag, my passport (if it was there), I don't think I would have had it on me, it would have been left there, and moved out.
POM But this was like almost a convergence of two things because you had that passport and you knew you had to get out of the country and then the fact that the police came looking for you just accelerated that whole thing.
MM Accelerated, precipitated my departure. I would have gone on trying to raise money from friends and relatives until I got my fare but now I had to run so I ran to Springs and from there began to try and raise money.
POM Now was your family aware, your father and mother aware that you were departing the country?
POM That was conveyed to them through your sister?
MM No. Newcastle was halfway to Durban and that was the only road. I had told my parents that I was leaving, that I would be leaving, I would be going to England to study. So that was known to my parents.
POM That's when your mother gave you the ring?
MM That was before that. But the point is there was no such thing as I'm leaving on such-and-such a date this way. When the date arrived nobody came to see me off at the airport.
POM You've talked about arriving in London and sleeping on the railway station.
MM On the benches.
POM During those days whom did you make contact with or did you make contact with anybody or were you more or less on your own for a period of time?
MM I was on my own entirely and one day, I think round about the third or fourth day in London, I accidentally bumped into a chap from Durban, funnily his surname is Seedat again. He's from Newcastle.
POM You just bumped into him?
MM Yes, just bumped into him in the street.
POM In the whole of London you bump into him!
MM Of all places, a chap called Seedat who used to be my classmate in matric in Newcastle and his cousin, also a Seedat, older than us was a student at the Medical University in Natal, so I knew of him and he used to live in Hampson Grove, all of them used to live in Hampson Grove while Hassim was a student and this fellow who was with me in school was working for a furniture business in Durban, Simplex. Two of them, unknown to me, had travelled to Britain earlier by ship as cousins and here they were in London planning to study but in the meantime upon arrival in London the elder of the two was down with bronchitis and was in bed while the other one had taken a job at Lyons Corner House, I think in Knightsbridge or Hammersmith. So here the two of us bump on the pavement and he says, "What are you doing here?" I said, "I'm here waiting for a job at Lyons Corner House, where do you go?" He says, "I'm working for Lyons Corner House." So I said, "Well I'm waiting, I've been to Kensington." I don't tell him what's happening to me.
POM So why did you choose to go to Lyons to look for a job?
MM Because I had heard stories from white colleagues who were here in SA in the movement, like in the New Age committee, Jean Middleton and Harold Strachan were in the New Age Committee, they had been students in London and they said the two places you get a job easily are Lyons Corner House and Securicor, night guard. I even applied to Securicor. So they said you'll get a job there easily and the thing is at Lyons Corner House whatever job they give you there's meals supplied and this is what I needed desperately, I needed food so that I don't have to pay.
Now the two Seedats, one is Bhai, the one who was my schoolmate, he's now working for National Intelligence, Tony Seedat, and the other is now a lawyer in Durban, Hassim Seedat. But Tony tells me that Hassim is in bed, so I say, "Well come on, give my your address, I'll come and visit you." So I go to visit them, I don't tell them that I'm sleeping on the benches. I see Hassim in bed in the one room. There's Hassim there in a bed and there are two other beds and Tony is using the one bed and it's partitioned with a kitchenette and a stove and a little, in the corner there, a bathtub, a little partition, one tiny room, hardly any place to walk. I think in their generosity and understanding, because they knew me from Natal and from Durban, they're in Hampson Grove, and when I went to visit them they said, they put a proposal to me. They said, "Where are you staying?" I said, "No, I'm fine." They said, "Well look, we've got a proposal", because they knew I had no money. They said, "Look, the two of us have arrived here, we've got some savings and Tony has just got a job, why don't you come and stay here with us? We've already bought pots and pans and plates so we are able to cook and eat ourselves." I think they were paying a week rental. They said, "If you join us we'll split the rental three ways instead of two ways." And Hassim said, "Look, I'm in bed, quite ill with bronchitis, etc." He's sickly. He says, "I'll cook and whatever you earn put it in a pool so let's come together." So I said, "That's fine." And I moved in with them. It gave me a great break because now I had a room. What I earned from Lyons Corner House I put in there. I ate my two meals at Lyons Corner House and in the evenings we had something baked beans cooked by Hassim with bread to eat, it was fine.
POM What soccer team did you start following?
MM I didn't have time for following a soccer team in the UK. I was so absorbed in this ant-colonial movement.
POM OK. So then you moved from living with them?
MM We moved together from there. I then became a teacher. Tony became a bus driver.
POM Now how long were you working at Lyons?
MM I probably worked in Lyons Corner House for about two to three months and in fact I was - you opened the Corner House at about five in the morning, and remember this is August, September, just heading for the winter and it's getting colder and colder and it's getting darker early. One of my first jobs was as a garbage porter. When we got to work and opened the Corner House my first job was to take the ladder and go and wash, clean the windows with this ladder with warmish water. You got up the ladder, you did a portion of the window, you got down and you moved the ladder and you got up again and this was across the pavement and I'm doing this work, it's about five, half past five in the morning, and when I come down the ladder somebody would walk past, noticed me, came back, he was from Durban, an Indian chap and he says aren't you so-and-so? I said yes. So he says, "You're from Durban?" I said yes. So we're very pleased, he's from SA, Durban. So he says, "What are you doing this job for?" So I said, "What do you mean?" He says, "Aren't you a graduate?" So I say yes. He says, "Well you can get a job as a teacher, you're a qualified teacher in Britain just by having an undergraduate degree." So I said, "Not possible." He says, "That's a wartime regulation. In Britain if you're a graduate you're a teacher. You must be earning a pittance here, you can earn far more than that." So I said, "How do I go about it?" So he then tells me the rules in Britain, you go to the County Council Education Department, you get on a panel of supply teachers, you get allocated wherever there's a vacancy on a day to day basis and for every day you teach you get paid.
POM You were like a temporary teacher.
MM Temporary teacher being cycled from school to school. So I said, "Really?" He says, "Yes, go and check." So I go and check and find indeed I can be a teacher. I go and raise this with Hassim and he says, "It's fantastic, what's the pay?" I said it's going about three times what I got as a garbage porter. Great! So I became a teacher.
By this time the three of us had decided that we would put all our income, whatever we earned, put it into a pool, we would start a savings scheme, we would live off it frugally and we would start saving to pay for us to go to university and as soon as it became enough for one we would sponsor the one while the others would come on stream.
POM And how was that reckoned?
MM We didn't bother. I was just like, oh I'm not interested but Hassim you keep the money. Tony, of course, still had to do a General Certificate of Education because he didn't have a matric. In a few months time we decided that, look, let's find better accommodation now. I was teaching, slowly the kitty was growing. Tony got a job, trained as a bus driver, dressed as a conductor on London Transport, became a conductor. So we were earning more now and the kitty was beginning to grow and we got a flat in Tottenham Court, just past Mansion House. We got a flat at a month which wasn't much more than what we were paying, we were paying about a week for this one room. We got a flat, one floor up, kitchen, lounge, two big bedrooms and a tiny bedroom like a study. That was fine for us and we said, well that's better. So at a month we got that place. The three of us moved there.
POM Was this an Indian speaking part of London?
MM No, there was no Indians there. Hassim has seen in the papers and gone and seen the place. It turned out that it was quite a progressive area. The Tottenham branch of the Communist Party, Tottenham Court Road branch, had a woman who used to write for the Daily Worker as the Art Critic, Nina Hebin, and her husband was the organiser and a union man and they were living in the area too. So Hassim found the place. There were no black people there. It was a side road in these terraced houses and we got this flat upstairs. Downstairs was a Ukranian married to a British woman. They had a kid. So we moved into this flat.
POM You were teaching now?
MM I'm teaching.
POM Are you going from school to school every day?
MM Every day.
POM Different school?
MM Different school, sometimes not every day. For instance I would be told if there wasno school to go to that morning I would go to the office.
POM What would you teach?
MM Anything that was required. Wherever there is a teacher absent from the staff they would phone the County office, the County office would look at people waiting in the queue, "Oh, you're at the head of the queue. School so-and-so the following address needs a teacher today." You go there.
POM So you go there and you don't know what age you could be teaching kindergarten?
MM You don't know what standard, what school, what subject, nothing, and then sometimes you find that a teacher is ill so they tell you they need you tomorrow. Sometimes you will be told there's a vacancy there for a week. Sometimes you'll be told there's a vacancy for two weeks. When you finish that stint then after that stint the following day you come and stand in the queue.
POM You walk into a classroom
MM Walk into a classroom, you go in there, the Principal will tell you, "Oh your timetable is the following", and you go and cope. That's it. But after that when you got settled in that panel you began to teach longer stints at particular schools. Then I applied to be tested, I applied for permanent employment as a teacher. You had to go through a process of testing on the job by the headmaster, by the school inspector. I did those tests and I was then accepted on the permanent staff as a remedial teacher.
MM Yes. As a teacher teaching children who were problem children.
POM That would be what we would call special education. Now would they have psychiatric problems?
MM Yes, disturbed backgrounds, thuggish behaviour. The inspector who tested me, and because of my record, by this time I was teaching in schools in the East End, near Tottenham, Shoreditch area and Hoxton area. I worked at a school called Pitville Secondary Modern which was being closed down and I and two West Indian teachers, apparently anybody sent to that school used to run away, the teachers used to give up, but the three of us stuck it out and the inspector thought we were fantastic guys, we knew how to handle these tough kids so she said I'm a remedial man.
POM Would these also be kids from working class areas where there was little education in the family?
MM Smithfield Market, parents were barrow pushers, the children's ambition was to become a barrow boy in Smithfield Market. That's how we moved and in December that year another fellow student of mine at the university, who in 1957 had been doing his honours in sociology, wrote to me some time in November to say he was disgusted with what was happening to him and was coming over to Britain. So he arrived in December, we accommodated him in our flat. His parents had some money, they were supporting him, and he came to say now he wants to study law as well. So he came along, stayed at our flat. Then it became four of us running the flat now and then in early 1958 because Steve, this fourth member, came from Stanger, that was his home town, and early in 1958 he says to us he's heard from Kader Asmal who was a teacher in SA, friend of his, who's coming to London, can we accommodate him for a while? We say, "What's he coming to do?" He says he's coming to study law, wants to study law. So Kader was accommodated at our place. Our flat became a sort of gathering point for South African students. Kader stayed for a while.
POM Was he as talkative then as he is now?
MM A little bit, not much. That was 1958. For the 1958 term Steve enrolled at LSE, Kader had moved out to his own place but enrolled at LSE. No Kader stayed on in the house. I waited for another year because I had to save money to get my fees. I enrolled in 1959. But in the meantime because of my relationship with Tim I moved out of the flat to a flat in Turnpike Lane just around the corner, got my own flat. Again, teamed up with two other South Africans, Billy Nair's sister Joan came over to London, she was a nurse, gave her accommodation, and then another chap who is now a civil engineer in London came over. I don't know how we got to meeting him. The three of us shared the flat. This was the flat that I had taken now with a view that Tim and I would one day stay there. In the meantime in Tottenham Hassim - Tony went off to Newcastle to study, did his GCE and then went on to study I don't know what he studied. Hassim went to the Inns of Court Inner Temple, or Lincolns Inn, and was doing his bar at law. So it was Hassim, Steve and Kader who stayed on in the original flat. I moved off to Havergill Villas with Manna and Joan and it is from there that I went off to the GDR. In the meantime Kader had moved off to a flat in Kentish Town when he met Louise and married Louise. So that's how life turned out.
POM So were most of the people who you associated with or lived with involved in - ?
MM We drew them all into the South African struggle. We drew them all, they became involved, some stayed the course. Raymond Kunene, who is now Professor Mazizi Kunene at Natal University, was a fellow student with me at Natal University, he came over in 1958, stayed with us.
POM His second name is?
MM KUNENE. So he came and stayed. All of them, as South Africans we got involved in the SA Freedom Support Movement. Many of them, we got them involved in Marxist studies. Some joined the British Party, Hassim Seedat, Tony, Steve Naidoo, Kader, but I was approached to go off for training. I went off, came to SA. Steve was then approached after me. He agreed, he went off for military training in China in September 1961. He came back, he got detained with me and then he was put on trial alone, I don't know whether he was acquitted for lack of evidence or he escaped and went abroad. He settled in London. Kader was approached and said he would agree to go for training but the next thing is he got married to Louise and the issue fell away. He finished at LSE. Steve finished at LSE and then Kader went on to Dublin. Hassim Seedat qualified as a lawyer, came back to SA, began practising as a lawyer, was detained once 1961/62, and then ceased to be that active. Tony Seedat stayed away in London, went off to the GDR, studied in the GDR, came back to London and stayed on in the anti-apartheid circles, never came to SA until after 1990. Joan went on to study in the GDR, met a person in the GDR, got married there to a German and is still living in Berlin. Raymond Kunene joined the ANC in London, became a chief representative of the ANC and then fell out with the ANC, was expelled with the Group of Eight. He is known as Mazizi Kunene but at that time we used to call him Raymond Kunene. He began to work in the External Mission of the ANC, got involved in the seventies, the late sixties with the Group of Eight and was expelled from the ANC, lived on in the USA and Canada, became an academic and returned to SA post-1990 to a job at Natal University.
Who else in that group? Manna Chetty went off to the GDR, trained as a civil engineer, returned to London, got a job as a civil engineer. He's now living in London still, working as a civil engineer. That's about it. Others floated in and out but this was the core group by the time I left.
POM We'll leave you leaving London but we'll turn to another thing. I'm trying to balance your life as we go along with some things that are happening.
This whole crisis on child abuse, assault of children, it seems to be a crisis that appears about once every six months. Last April you had Jacob Zuma calling for a GDP of the soul, talking about the need for moral regeneration -(break in recording)
- pieces of the puzzle on that side or that element, on that side of society had any kind of framework that makes it comprehensible.
MM I think the issues are being tackled more as singular issues and my paradigm I believe still remains valid, that we needed post-1994 to initiate a debate and discussion not from the point of view of victimhood but to share and develop a common understanding of how deeply our society had been brutalised and fragmented under apartheid and white rule. I've made the point to you before because I think the law itself became discredited under apartheid, the idea of law. Similarly the migrant labour system had destroyed the social fabric even in the black communities in the urban areas but its impact in the rural areas with the men folk away, working as migrant labourers and then returning and then disappearing, had taken its toll there too and nothing being done to create some sort of self-reliance in the rural areas.
All this happening opens room for a fundamental debate of the extent to which the social fabric of our society has been not just disrupted but broken down and that in the context of a highly brutalised system that came into place in defence of apartheid post the sixties, it brutalised our society. I think that framework, that debate is necessary so that all the different elements from child abuse, to wife abuse, to violence in our society, to not paying for services, to making new law to re-establish the credibility of law is the general agenda but so that the individual focuses can fit in.
I support the idea of moral regeneration but moral regeneration has got to be preceded by an understanding of the moral disintegration that was there and while subscribing to it I have reservations that the impression one has is that the current campaigns about moral regeneration begin to reside in the area of religion and as if it is something to be spearheaded by the churches. I don't deny the role of the churches but I think that the churches have a role to play but so does every other organ of civil society and government have a role. This is a responsibility that every citizen as individuals working in a collective movement rather than an organisation need to take up.
POM But wouldn't that level of disintegration have been present in 1994? What would account for, as the years go by, the level of violence against women or violence against children of the most extreme form increasing rather than even stabilising or diminishing?
MM The point is this, Padraig, yes we have become a more open society, so many things that were happening are now being known whereas they used to happen before behind closed doors. I live in a fairly exclusive suburb, Hyde Park, which was exclusively white also and very rich. Every house has got huge walls and they're now competing to make their walls taller and taller. What happens behind those walls? They never talk about it as if to say there's wife abuse and child abuse happening in Hyde Park. It's happening. The trouble is that they're hiding it. We're a society in denial of most things but the denial is not that the phenomenon is not taking place, sometimes it's a denial of that, but because we're a society in denial that is why the imperative that we should understand and debate and through that debate persuade people that there's a national enterprise because every stratum of our society, white and black, has gone through that process of brutalisation and fragmentation and a loss of confidence in the law.
POM Now when you say SA is in denial, is SA in denial about itself? Let me tell you what I mean by that. It seems to me, just observing, that you have almost a conscious or subconscious idea to reinvent SA, reinvent it along the lines of being the major power in Africa, of being the most developed country in Africa, as being the country that is just about the best anything every African ever attempted, as being now propagated, emerging as a major act around the world stage, all of which suggests some if you were a person you'd say that person is acting in that way because they lack self-confidence or they lack self-esteem. The parallel I'm trying to make
MM No, that's not the denial I'm looking at.
POM But do you think that denial exists?
MM No, I think that there are this is why I'm saying a debate about the degree of brutalisation, fragmentation and the inequalities that exist, that debate whenever it has been touched from any angle seems to move into either a victimhood, because, yes, you have to blame apartheid and colonial rule, but it's so easy from blame to go to victimhood. Then there is in white society a belief that there's nothing wrong with their society, they don't understand their own dehumanisation that took place. So I'm saying a debate like that is necessary. It is true, it's an undeniable reality that the SA economy is the most developed in terms of output and sophistication. It is true that more black people, even under apartheid, manage to get a higher education. So yes we are more equipped in certain things but it is just as true that our disconnectedness with our roots is bigger here than in many other countries. In Tanzania they have Swahili as their national language, there is a binding force there that connects them to their roots and culture.
Here we're still debating whether the SABC should have eleven languages and how to manage that. Then you find a disjuncture in the debate, I saw last night on TV that in the parliamentary debates there was an MP harshly critical of the SABC: why is it that 70% of your programmes are in English? And he regarded this as a disaster. I may well agree with him but he was failing to say that 99% of the debates in parliament are in English. If there is a reality to his criticism of the SABC isn't that another aspect of the reality that he ought to put into the pot to say how do we find our way forward?
But I am saying this reality of the neglect of the indigenous cultures, almost a closing of the eyes under colonial rule and a denial of it, now calls for those rootednesses to be re-established but in a world environment and in a reality where English has become the language of record.
POM So the word I should have used was that because of the things you were saying, this kind of unsureness as to where exactly are our roots, where are the bonds that sprout out in all directions connecting us, that there is a tendency to overcompensate.
MM In certain areas.
POM In areas by saying SA is this and SA is that and SA is
MM Well we South Africans have a tendency to feel, we're entitled to feel a little bit special but there's a danger that we make ourselves
POM I see! Are you part of the problem too?
MM We have a tendency to feel ourselves too special.
POM Where does that come from? Is that also a legacy of because I felt that, that people who lived under apartheid believe, and as sometimes you express it, kind of went under a special form of colonialism that was worse than any other form of colonialism.
MM No I don't buy that.
POM Why shouldn't other countries be as fragmented as you?
MM I will say - where we created a special space. Previously, I remember in 1978/79 passing through London and seeing a programme on BBC of the tortures of the civilian population and resistance struggle in San Salvador, the Sadinistas, and how they werebeing shot and just
MM Nicaragua. Now I said we have not endured that type of torture and brutality.
POM San Salvador is another good example.
MM Yes, Salvador. So it's not that. What happened is the reality that because of institutionalised racism we were able to generate international support by pleasing a special case for the world to unite behind us. All the others couldn't create that speciality, they could just simply say, "We are colonies fighting for freedom from foreign colonial rule." But we were able to say the distinguishing feature is the institutionalisation of racism and for that reason a Conservative in Britain like Lord Altrincham could work with a militant Labour Party member like Barbara Castle in one organisation called the Anti-Apartheid Movement. And that's how a Singaporean could join hands with a Brazilian, with an American, with a Canadian and with a German and a Scandinavian under anti-apartheid. They may have different political philosophies but we all agreed that institutionalised racism was wrong and we used that institutionalisation as a mechanism to insert the problem in the UN agenda. Any other means would have been interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state but we said, "Yes, SA is a sovereign state but we have a right at the UN to interfere because the institutionalised racism is a direct violation of the charter." So that distinguished us from all other struggles.
We ourselves as freedom fighters felt we had a unity with the others and that is why today the Palestinians for a long time like to mould everything by comparing it to apartheid model. They even regarded the autonomous state of Palestine as a Bantustan. The analogy is carried on. That is why Zionism they inserted at the UN as a critical racist thing. That was in an effort to get into the space that we had created, together with the world, in how to oppose apartheid. That was great and beneficial to us but it also created a special status mentality and it also created a resentment in others who were also struggling against colonialism which resentment they did not express openly. But you say why did the SA struggle benefit from this? So I think that's at the heart of this special status thing.
POM Is SA still trying to recover its special status?
MM There must be a hangover from that and that special status is announced by the fact that we did chart a way forward of a negotiated resolution and that special status is still charted by the fact that we are a diverse society of different races and cultures and languages trying to resolve a problem of how to live and create a united nation in the midst of this diversity, which takes into account this diversity and recognising that this problem has not been systemically resolved anywhere else. All these make us into a hothouse that everybody looks to with some hope and obviously it must rub off on us that we are something special. We may not be like the Israelites, God's chosen people, but we are the end of the 20th century's chosen laboratory.
POM On that note I will in Afrikaans you should do a BBC interview. Out of a 1½ hour interview that's what they put it down to, 30 seconds sound bite, cut. Took them 1½ hours to get there.
I'd like you to think a bit more about the issue of the violence against children, why it is increasing at such a phenomenal rate. Now the easy way out is to say, well males think if they have AIDS and they have sex with a virgin, but there's a difference between that and a child. There's something really sick.
MM Then you see when you hand the thing to the churches it becomes so convenient to say it's the media, it's television.
POM I know, yes.
MM This is what I'm battling with. I'm trying to get away from that and I'm saying if we could just have proper debate - what was the degree of brutalisation? Not to blame but to say let's just take stock. How does it permeate our society? That enables us to find the trigger points where we can address this as a national campaign, not just of regeneration but of the creation that is based on human values.
POM Do you not think that part of that debate or analysis must be that here we are and we have these incredible levels of child abuse that don't exist in other parts of Africa that may have been brutalised as we were in different forms but they don't have this that brutalisation has not affected that society in this particular way?
MM That's why I run to the idea that the fabric of society had not unravelled to the degree that it has unravelled here. You see in Zambia anything can grow, it's such a wonderful climate and soil that you throw a seed and comes the season that seed sprouts and there's mealies growing on the roadside. Nobody goes and steals that mealie. There's no fence but it is known amongst the people who has planted those seeds in which patch. So there's an acceptance of a norm, a rule. Here there isn't. There may be we need to find out where it is but generally speaking it's almost as if to say if I can just leave my cell phone here now it's gone, you have a right to take it. It's almost as if it's fair game.
POM That happened last weekend when we were moving, one of the movers just saw a cell phone and
MM But I'm saying in Zambia mealies would be growing on the roadside and you won't help yourself.
POM More specifically my question is that it's post-apartheid. Why in post-apartheid society is it increasing? And I know you can say that in apartheid society they didn't even record it or look at it or whatever, but here you have a case of year by year it is increasing.
MM Because in post-apartheid society we did not take the responsibility and play the role of getting that single-mindedness developing across the board that we were now going to create not just a productive society in terms of output but a humane society in every aspect.
POM You hear, particularly Archbishop Tutu goes on about it, ubuntu, ubuntu this, ubuntu that, ubuntu the other. Ubuntu is the very thing that this country lacks.
MM All that ubuntu says is that we had an ubuntu in our original society and ask six people in a room, "Hey, each one of you, here's your piece of paper, write a four sentence definition of ubuntu." Then when they've finished writing it put it up on the board and say, "Can we agree now to take these and write down a single formulation that all of us support? Good. Done. Right, are we agreed?" "Yes we are agreed." "Right, now take the thing and make it operational. Change it from a mission statement, now how do we operationalise that here?"You will say leave it to the Catholic Church. I'll say leave it to the Hindus and we'll start fighting whether there's a commonality. Ubuntu simply says you are not human except in your interaction with other humans, that's where you derive your humanity from. If that's true, how do I derive my humanity from a child, from a woman, from a prisoner?You read what's happening in our prisons. That's what I mean. The regeneration has a little bit of an impact of just go back and find out what was there originally and just proclaim it. No, it's got to be operational.
POM When Joey reads about this in the paper what's her reaction?
MM Oh she gets disgusted, she gets annoyed, she gets fearful, but I think she keeps on because in my home this idea of humanity, we talk a lot about it. I think she realises that the basic thing is to see the reality but to conduct yourself in a way that gets behaviour amongst you where you are humane based. So I find her criticising her friends, making critical observation and trying to understand why they are behaving like that. These are elite children.
POM Elite children?
MM Yes, but she's very critical about their sense of humanity. She's very critical of their sense of selfishness, not just in material terms, selfishness in the sense of their humanity. What I'm trying to say is that you can't treat the creation of a humane society as something that is singularly focused on just women or just children or just AIDS children.