About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Sep 2002: Maharaj, Mac

POM     OK Mac, let's sum up your London days. You were a founding member of the SA Freedom Association. That was a precursor to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, so there wasn't any organisation when you left actually called the Anti-Apartheid Movement? OK. You were succeeded by Solly Sachs.

MM     Solly Sachs. When we founded the SA Freedom Association in 1958 spurred by the need to mobilise support for the forthcoming strike in April 1958, Solly became the first Secretary and when Solly gave up the post of Secretary after a few months I became the Secretary. The SA Freedom Association became the immediate precursor to the Anti-Apartheid Movement which was established in London in 1960 and the immediate spur for the Anti-Apartheid Movement was for a broader mobilisation in the British public in support of the calls from SA by the ANC for mobilising boycotts both economic and cultural.

POM     Why London? Why London rather than New York? What was the connection? Was Britain still seen as a colonial power or former colonial power?

MM     SA's immediate colonial power pre the Act of Union in 1910 was Britain and in 1910 when the Union of SA was established under British tutelage it subsequently acquired dominion status in the thirties as part of the British Empire. Later, post-second world war when the Commonwealth of Nations was set up it was called the British Commonwealth of Nations and SA became an independent state but a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. In 1961 Dr Verwoerd, then head of the SA government, withdrew SA from that commonwealth because of the commonwealth's criticisms of SA's policies. So Britain was the historical colonial power. Britain was at the centre of a huge empire which was now disintegrating and being regrouped under the commonwealth and therefore it became the logical point for mobilisation. Britain also had in the Labour Party and in the trade union movement, as well as the co-co-operative movement, a very strong tradition of support for the anti-colonial struggle. Until SA pulled out of the commonwealth in 1961 we were regarded as South Africans but had access to British passports and British citizenship, so it was the logical place for mobilisation.

POM     So you go to the GDR, this was your 'GDR days', you were sent directly to a town, we've covered this ground before, but what I want I suppose is more detail. You spent a year there doing training in printing, then you spent six months at a second place doing a course in sabotage. When you lived in the first place, which was named Bischofswerda, who did you have contact with on the outside, who actually knew and had an address for you, who could write to you?

MM     My contact with SA was via Vella Pillay who was then the representative of the SA Communist Party Central Committee and was based on London.

POM     Then Tim had your address too so you could communicate with her?

MM     Tim was in touch with Vella Pillay and in touch with me.

POM     So if she wanted to send you a letter she had to give that letter to Pillay who would forward the letter to you or she could contact you directly?

MM     No, it was through Vella.

POM     Did she communicate often with you during that period and you with her?

MM     No I don't recall many communications because one was in a clandestine situation. Officially to friends in London I had left London to return to SA so it was not common knowledge that I was in the GDR.

POM     Would you communicate more often with Pillay than with Tim?

MM     No. There was no need for extensive contacts. I had gone there initially for six months with a clear mandate of what I had to do. I simply had to report to Vella once I had decided where I was going to do the course. I had to just simply communicate with him informing him that I had settled down and thereafter I would receive my reading material and keep up to date with SA developments via the German authorities, they sent me material. Maybe Vella sent them some of this material. Then when I heard about the decision of the Communist Party to look at the creation of sabotage units I then had to communicate with him and say don't you think that while I'm here it would be a good idea to incorporate a course in sabotage in my training. I received a response and so did the German authorities from him and the SACP to say that they supported that development and that was that. But one had to keep communication to a minimum.

POM     First of all, and this applies to other countries too, why do you think countries like the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Russia and China all provided help to the SACP, to the ANC, when what would emerge in SA was not a government that might be particularly to their liking? Or did they think that a government in SA would emerge that was to their liking?

MM     The history of the communist cause was premised on the working class struggles in the developed capitalist countries and working in a strategic alliance with the struggles of the colonial people against colonialism. This process received further articulation and concretisation when the Soviet Union staged its revolution in 1917 and Lenin wrote extensively and authoritatively on the need for this strategic alliance between the developing socialist world and the anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggles. It culminated in 1927 in a major conference at which non-communists like Nehru of India, Josiah Gumede, the then President of the ANC, all of them attended it, it was called the League Against Imperialism in 1927 or 1928.

POM     This was in Russia?

MM     No, this was held – I don't recall where, which country it was held in.

POM     But it was sponsored by the Komintern?

MM     Sponsored by the Komintern as well but as a sort of strategic alliance between the workers of the socialist countries, the workers in the capitalist world and the anti-colonial people.

POM     When you look back and find out that the workers' revolution, as it were, never took place in any of these countries, that instead there was suppression and oppression on a level never imposed by some of the colonisers, what do you make of it all?

MM     That's a hindsight issue.

POM     Oh I know, but I'm asking you in hindsight. Here you have Lenin talking about the freedom of the masses, the working man, whatever you want to call it. In Ireland we had a programme that always ended with, 'What about the working man?' He was this theoretician on the one level and this ruthless power grabber on another, even more exercised by Stalin. I'm not asking you what went wrong. In hindsight how do you view things? Do you not say how could these guys be writing what they were writing, giving us the help they were giving and yet simultaneously oppressing their own people?

MM     I think you're putting the question in a way that suggests that Lenin and the entire communist movement was built on a deliberate deception. That's not true. I think that the development of socialist thought was premised on a genuine desire to grapple with the issue of the haves and the have-nots that had emerged in the world under capitalism and there can be no denial that under capitalism its spread to a colonial power was premised on taking the resources from the colonies for the benefit of the metropolitan county, that is the colonising power. It applied to Britain, it applied to France, it applied to the Russian Empire.

POM     But also advancing the infrastructure in those countries to a point where they maximised the ability of the coloniser to exploit the resources.

MM     Sure, but only for that purpose because, for example, in India pre-British colonisation India had a shipbuilding and a textile industry, but that industry – the shipbuilding was destroyed because the unique dockyards for building ships had to be in the UK. Secondly, the textile industry in India was destroyed because at that time Manchester was becoming the textile heart of the world. So while the infrastructure was developed in one way, e.g. railways in India, at the same time it was in order to take raw materials and resources from India to be processed in England. So I'm saying there were a genuine set of problems and socialism and Marxism came into being analysing this phenomena and to work out a way how we could rid the world of this phenomenon.

     Now when you say that the communist rule in the so-called socialist world at the time eventually emerged as a ruthless dictatorship and that it did nothing for the workers, again one has to be somewhat more circumspect. For example, when I visited the GDR and Czechoslovakia in 1961 and I lived in the GDR there was no doubt that rent control, provision of health services, provision of education was ostensibly free to everyone in the population and we can see today even after the fall of Berlin that whilst the Berlin Wall fell because the conditions had become untenable in the GDR for the ordinary people, there has been a criticism by the citizens of the former GDR that those protective measures, those welfare measures of free education, free health service, rent control, now that they are gone has led to a situation where there has been a resurgence of the left in elections. So there were benefits that were accruing.

POM     But are those resurgences of the left that would participate in an electoral process along with other parties.

MM     Sure, but the point is that the public who's voting for that left are voting because they're saying there were things that we enjoyed under communism in GDR which now we are deprived of and those things they are beginning to spell out and say those are things that we hanker for when they disagree whether that is the right way to go about it or not.

POM     Is education without free access to information education?

MM     The question goes the other way. Are we arguing that education in Britain in the 1940s was free access to information? Are we arguing that there has been education and a record of education that was based on free access to information or whether this idea that education is not to teach you what to think but how to think, that development in an understanding of education has been a process and even now often the educational institutions drift into trying to tell the student what to think rather than how to think.

     Now all I was saying was to go to school, to go to a crèche, to go to a nursery school, to go to primary education, to high school, to university, was free. That is a benefit that many people still hanker for, that is a demand that we still make and in SA one of the first things we did as a democratic government under Mandela was to say phase by phase, firstly primary education will be open and accessible to everybody without a fee, that anybody who could not afford education would still not be turned away from a school in SA, a primary school.

POM     But they are.

MM     They are being turned away but that is the policy goal and where they are being turned away from time to time you see in the newspapers that the Minister of Education turns round and says that is not acceptable. Just as today I heard on the news that a nursery school turned away a child with AIDS and the matter is before the courts. Why? Because our constitutional educational policy says you cannot deny a child access to that education and there are clear grounds that a primary school education you cannot be denied access to that education on the grounds that the parents can't afford the fees.

POM     I suppose my point would be, Mac, that this is fine, they were given free education, they were given free this, they were given free that, but they weren't free.

MM     Sure.

POM     So the cost of these things was coming at the price of their freedom. I am trying to see why was it that, why do you think that in all countries that went to communist rule that they all denied freedom to their people, freedom of choice, freedom of movement, freedom of – well, you put that in a secondary way when the Berlin Wall was established, how did you perceive of it? Did you perceive of it as a wall to keep the evil west out of invading East Berlin or did you see it as that the authorities wanted to keep their people within Berlin?

MM     I was in Berlin when the Berlin Wall was put up, 1961/62. I was undergoing training in Berlin at the time and quite apart from my reading let's not treat the western capitalist world as something that was an imaginary thing to me, I had lived in Britain and I had experienced first hand. I had come from SA and now I was in the GDR living and working and training there. There were sharp disparities between my experience in SA and Britain and my experiences in Germany on the other hand which were favourable and fed into my theoretical commitment to Marxism, e.g. it was the first country where I did not feel that I was being discriminated against because I was a black man.

POM     You felt that in London?

MM     I definitely did. I experienced first hand going to look for accommodation advertised in the newspapers and being turned away. My first accommodation with Hassim Seedat and Tony Seedat was a room which they had obtained because the advertisement said, 'For coloureds only', and in a three floor building there were 96 occupants, all black. Now that was Britain. Shortly after that, while I was in the GDR I think, came the Notting Hill Gate riots. I experienced that. I experienced discrimination in getting housing, in getting access and being treated as a human being. In the GDR I did not experience any discrimination. I never felt I was turned out from an accommodation because I was black or I was looked at askance in a restaurant or that I was ever insulted in the streets.

     I've told you the story about how I took offence when children in Bischofswerda when I was walking from my working place to my accommodation, which was with a working class family, I was a border and lodger, and the children gathered behind this strange phenomenon of a coloured man and they were saying words like 'Negre', and I went to my flat and they followed me all the way, opened a dictionary, I was really angry, were they calling me 'nigger'? I found in the dictionary that the word for black was 'schwartz' or 'negre'. Then I felt it necessary to interact with those kids when the family with whom I was boarding came over to invite a group of the children and raise my blackness with them because one little kid, a little girl when asked – any request? She said she would like to sit on my lap and she sat on my lap and suddenly turned around and smacked me on my face and said, "Smutsig."I didn't know what's the meaning of "smutsig", so I opened the dictionary with the help of Walter and there smutsig meant dirty. I said to myself, wait a minute, it can't be that this kid is saying it from a racist point of view, and I took these kids into the bathroom and gave them a nail brush, soap and hot water and said, "Here, wash." And she scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and when they couldn't remove my colour we went into the lounge and I said to Walter Rimmer in my broken communication with him, I said, "Now explain to them that this is not dirt, it's the colour of my skin." So I had started off as I walked down the street and hear this word 'negre', to me it's sounding like nigger, and agree now when I look with hindsight that did not mean that there was no racial differentiation. In fact people in that village, many of them were patronising towards me, but experiencing that patronising where I was being treated in a privileged way was an experience that had to be put against the background of a lifetime of discrimination because of my colour.

POM     In the GDR it would seem to me at that time when you went in that there wouldn't be - you were living in a small town that was about how many people?

MM     Probably 5000 people, little village.

POM     A village, so there wouldn't be many foreigners there.

MM     I was the first black man to have ever walked in and been seen live by the people there. They had seen it only in a magazine.

POM     Automatically you were something of an oddity.

MM     And nobody spoke English so I was an oddity to those kids.

POM     And to adults too.

MM     To adults too. I would walk into a pub and at the beginning there would be total silence. Why? Everybody is waiting to see, let's hear what he's going to say, does he speak German? And when I said to the waiter, having looked at my dictionary how to order a beer, and I said, "Bitte ein beer", the buzz started, "Oh, oh, this oddity can speak German." I suddenly found when I finished my beer here was the waiter coming with another beer, I haven't ordered it. No, no, no, and I can't communicate properly and by gestures, etc., he indicates that somebody has sent a free beer and I finish that beer and another beer rocks up.

     Now that was my first experience in GDR in a pub in Bischofswerda. What was my experience in SA? My first experience was you can't go into any bar and when you went in you went into a bar meant for black people, not for Africans, for Indians and coloureds which was like a cattle pen. You just stood in a queue and you just got your drinks, hardly any place to sit and down it. Here I was sitting in a pub which is a restaurant, having a meal, drinking at ease and being looked at people with a friendly eye.

POM     So you were in a village where everybody was employed?

MM     1961 was the heyday of the GDR, industry was developing, unemployment did not exist. I participated in the printing factory where I was training in problems of the workers. I still remember, and I've often talked about it, one of my concrete problems that I experienced was in my training I had to do, ostensibly as a student from India, I had to compete with trainees in the factory. In the course of the training you had to do layout design, you had to do lithography, you had to do lino cuts and others were doing it as part of their normal competition and my work was entered as part of the competition. So I was competing with young kids and one of the young boys –

POM     This is 18 or 19?

MM     17, 18. Suddenly I detected that there's a problem with him and Walter Rimmer, the factory foreman.

POM     That's who you were staying with?

MM     That's where I was staying, he was the foreman of that floor. He says to me that this young boy does not want to go for army service and they are having a problem, he's facing his call up. He's finishing his apprenticeship and he doesn't want to go. At home we used to talk about it. I said, "What was happening in the factory?" He said, "The factory committee had met him and they were unable to resolve the matter, he was extremely stubborn." I then said, and we talked and we realised that he was in love with one of the girls and I participated in discussions with this boy. Why didn't he want to go into the army? And when I went into the discussions I thought that he's going to tell me some earth shattering problems. He didn't have earth shattering problems, he didn't have a problem with the army, he had a problem that he did not want to leave his girl friend. So I participated in discussions to try and help to resolve that problem so that he could go into the army.

POM     How would you participate and communicate with people whose language –

MM     By that time I had been in Bischofswerda for three to four months, I had taught myself a fair amount of German, I could communicate in broken German but communicate reasonably with people in social interaction. I had learnt the standard words, applicable technical words at work, and I had gained access to a lady, a teacher at the local high school called Meltzer and they said that she knew a little bit of English and maybe she could help to teach me German. It turned out that she knew very little English but she did try to teach me German. So I was able to communicate and I could discuss, I could sit down in a pub and talk a bit. I still carried around my little pocket dictionary that Walter had given me and that he had acquired in 1922, a little one inch by one inch pocket dictionary, German/English and English/German. And of course I had got hold of more books now, Teach Yourself German from the UK and things like that, so I was coping.

     What I am saying is besides my theoretical commitment through reading to the communist cause, here was a practical experience that I was going through and when you come to the Berlin Wall, sure I read the explanation of the German government, the German party, the left wing media in the western world and I had supported that.

POM     On what grounds?

MM     On the grounds that I still remember an article in the British Daily Worker which I had practical experience to test, that while the free flow between East and West Berlin was existing you could buy a Zeiss camera at a give-away price in East Berlin and you could go to the West and the same camera was two to three times that price. One of the arguments put was that the free movement was not only being used to support and incite people against the GDR government but it was also a mechanism to try and drain the products from the East and that the wall had become necessary under those conditions. So I was in fact in Berlin the morning when I got up and suddenly the radio announced the wall has gone up. I had travelled to West –

POM     You were saying that?

MM     I was saying that Alan Worthington, who was correspondent for the British Communist Party paper called the Daily Worker, I had known of his existence during 1952/53/54 because he was the reporter behind the lines in the Korean War. He had been based in China and was reporting from the North Korean side and he had played a role in bringing the two forces together into the truce that was signed bringing the Korean War, the first step, to an end.

POM     Alan?

MM     Worthington. Now when I was in the GDR Alan Worthington was based as the Daily Worker reporter in Berlin and I met him and I was asking him about life in East and West Berlin and he took me around in his car into West Berlin, into the pubs and everything. I was living in the East and he was living in the East.

POM     This was when you were doing this sabotage course?

MM     No, no, I used to come into Berlin even when I was doing the printing course. I did part of my sabotage also in Dresden and Bischofswerda and part in Berlin. But I used to come regularly when I wanted to go and visit the Brecht Theatre. I don't know why it was producing still and running the Berliner Ensemble and every time a new play was put on I would take a train from Bischofswerda, get to Dresden and get off to Berlin and go to see the play. I would meet Alan and he took me around, showing me these disparities and these problems. Yes, looking back now, under that was masked other things, but what I am saying is that at that period I travelled through Germany, I volunteered and worked on the farms in the harvesting season, I was working in the printing factory, I had been in facilities for training for sabotage, I travelled through all the towns. I went on my own, I would just take the train. I spent Christmas 1961 in Rostov where I checked that the factory trade union had places reserved in the resort on the coast, at a town called Rostov, and asked the factory, "Can I get accommodation at Rostov over Christmas, New Year?" And I went off there, spent my Christmas, New Year in Rostov in a resort where I learnt that the trade unions had block booking and permanent facilities for the workers to go and be at these holiday resorts. To me it looked great and I am saying in 1961 it sounded, because I revisited GDR in 1978, it sounded to me that 1961 was a heyday where there was confidence, the people were still expanding in their opportunities.

POM     But they didn't talk politics did they?

MM     Oh they discussed politics, they discussed –

POM     The door was still open?

MM     Obviously many talking, there was the East German radio, there was West Berlin broadcasting to the East.

POM     So when you would go to West Berlin how did the comparisons strike you?

MM     The West was glitzy, West Berlin was glitzy. Alan would take me to the night clubs and say, "Look here, the worst features of capitalism. There's prostitution." Then in the East, today I can say it was drab and uniform, I didn't see overt prostitution and to me that sort of contrast that Alan took me to, I said, "Oh yes, this is a new world." I was not unique in seeing it as a new world. All sorts of scientists, ordinary people had been visiting the Soviet Union. The Dean of Canterbury, Reverend Hewlett Johnson, had written books on his visits to the Soviet Union from the twenties and I shared platforms with Dean Hewlett Johnson in Britain before he died. Here was a man who said, "I have seen the future and it works." He wrote a book called The Socialist Sixth of the World, he was part of the British church establishment, highly respected in our circles.

POM     What was his name?

MM     Hewlett Johnson. He was not a communist. But so did Americans, not just Anne Louis Strong who was a journalist. Even though today I am no longer in the Communist Party my position stands that the human impulse to create a life where nobody should go hungry, unclothed, unhoused and without access to opportunity in life, is a goal that we have to strive for but I recognise that it is a goal that is only realisable if society, if the economy and society is producing the goods that can make it possible and in that I think that the huge inequalities that are characterised by many, many colonial societies and exist in many other countries are just unacceptable. I think that even today, last night I think when watching CNN and looking at the Tyco CEO's perks, beyond his salary, disguised as loans in the order of $96 million.

POM     You didn't add Tyco to your list of - ?

MM     No. So I'm saying, there is a reaction there. And so CNN was running a question/question for listeners to respond: what should be the CEO's salary relative to the average salary of an employee in a firm? Should it be 200 times, 100 times, 50 times, ten times? That was the lowest, and it was doing a sort of poll. But what was it pointing to? That the disparity as it exists is just too large.

POM     Even for American standards.

MM     Even for Americans. So I am saying we are not disunited in addressing that goal. That disparity may be different in my mind if there was nobody as a category of people being deprived, who are having no jobs, going hungry and unsheltered. That disparity may not be as problematic if the basic things that go with a human being to realise his or her dignity were there. I think that goal stands. I am not for the growth of our economy just for the sake of growing. So I am saying when I look at that communist experience I look at it and say, I think I've said it to you, we should look at history to learn the lessons of what not to do because unfortunately there are not enough experiences of what to do, to tell you how to do it right. I am concerned about this question of a human society. What is it that structurally denies the person of a chance to acquire their own dignity? You can't give it to a person but I think that a person needs to be in an environment where their dignity can flower.

     So when I put it against that framework I look at the experiments of the socialist countries, failed as that experiment has been, to still say what is it that was fundamentally and critically a strategic mistake? Because I don't know of an experience that can say now there is the right way to do it and I think we are all in a learning curve and we can do better if we could find a framework of operating to get those lessons on the table. This remains my criticism of people who are today communists. I say have you looked sufficiently backwards to isolate what were the strategic mistakes? I grew up as a communist. When I got to Britain the Hungarian counter-revolution had taken place.

POM     Why do you call it a counter-revolution?

MM     We called it at that time a counter-revolution, that it was a revolution to overthrow a revolution. It was characterised to re-establish capitalism.

POM     Nagy, right?

MM     Nagy.

POM     I remember him. He was my first – on the radio I heard it, it was my first experience as a child hearing the call for help.

MM     Then came Janus Kada(?). But when theRussian tanks rolled in I was in SA as a student and of course the west was attacking the Soviet Union, supporting this effort of an uprising and I was standing and saying, "Well they are staging an uprising to join the west, I don't support the west. I'm anti-imperialist." So I defended the Soviet Union and I get to Britain and I find the British Party decimated, from 34,000 members before the Hungarian uprising they fell after the Hungarian uprising, when I got to Britain their membership had dropped to 19,000. So at that stage I'm defending it. Today would I defend it that way?

POM     When you got to England did you ask what happened?

MM     I asked, I read, I tried to read everything that I could lay my hands on but of course I related to the British Communist Party. I went to British communists and asked them about communists who had left the party. One of the communists who had left over that period was Eric Hobsbawm, over Hungary his disquiet started, but Hobsbawmkept drifting backwards, holding to his socialist ideals. So there were books which I read. For them at that time I'm defending it.

     Then comes the Khrushchev revelations of the Stalin letter, and what did the Khrushchev revelations show? That the trials in the Soviet Union were rigged trials of the Zinovievs and the Bukarins. Until then I had been defending those trials, they had been communists and became counter-revolutionary. Now I see the secret letter revealed by Khrushchev at the 20th congress and I say Stalin was wrong. So I put the blame on Stalin. In the meantime the collectivisation of land under Stalin in the early thirties I am still defending. Later on I say, but wait a minute, doesn't the source go to the problem that even under Marxism/Leninism we put as a critical stage a definition of democracy under socialism as being based on a dictatorship of the proletariat? It was like a core principle of Marxism/Leninism. Today I question that.

POM     But did you understand the dictatorship of the proletariat?

MM     It was premised on a critique of parliamentary democracy, that parliamentary democracy is a sham democracy.

POM     Because?

MM     Because ultimately it still represents the interests of the capitalist class, that those levers of power in the economy and in the country are controlled by the actual people who control the economy. So parliamentary democracy was critiqued by Lenin as a sham democracy and he came forward with the idea that under socialism we would establish a dictatorship of the proletariat which would be true freedom.

POM     But that's a concept. How would that concept become operational so to speak?

MM     It became operational in the sense that your access to economic resources was not the key criteria to your access to expressing your views and participating in debate. But then came the rider that your freedom of expression cannot be allowed to take the form of a support for capitalism.

POM     Or dissent?

MM     First for capitalism. Gradually it became for any dissent but its premise was that these capitalists who control the media, who control the levers of the economy, all those instruments, that power, the economic power is used by them to set the agenda in their interests. Now we have to create a media controlled by the ordinary working people. Who is the expression of that control? The Communist Party and the socialist state. The first thing that happens, we're going to prohibit you from carrying any articles that express favour for capitalism. It sounded reasonable but then as it went down the line it now is controlled for any dissent as long as you characterised the dissent as anti-socialist. Then gradually even internal dissent and disagreement cannot be put. Right? And I questioned not just the dissent, I questioned whether the principle which said that the higher form of democracy is a dictatorship of the proletariat, whether that's a correct issue. I don't support it any more.

POM     Did you support it?

MM     Oh yes I did.

POM     For the better part of your adult life?

MM     Yes, I supported it for the better part of my adult life. I believed that when you get into power as the working class you would prohibit the capitalists from propagating their views.

POM     Did you see coming back to a South Africa, like when you were talking about enfranchising the masses, in one sense if the alliance had taken over in the form of being the dictatorship of the people there would be no need for elections?

MM     I didn't. I had begun to shift in that position by the eighties and I was still a supporter of the Communist Party because that issue the Communist Party supported also, the SACP supported the idea of a democracy in SA.

POM     Well what did they mean by a democracy?

MM     Yes a bourgeois democracy but we called it a national democratic revolution.

POM     They still use that word?

MM     Yes it's still used.

POM     The ANC have appropriated it completely. So there was a deviation in the SACP for standard understanding of what was a dictatorship, what was a proletariat?

MM     No there wasn't – it wasn't called a deviation.

POM     I'm saying, I use the word 'deviation'.

MM     It was rationalised by the Communist Party that in the colonial world, and we were called a special type of colonialism, an intermediate step before you reached even socialism, which was an intermediate step to communism, that there was another step in our situation and that was a revolution that brought about national democracy which would be a mixed economy but would be tilted anti-capitalism.

POM     Now would this view be expressed at international meetings of the Communist Party?

MM     The 1961 meeting of the World Communist Parties when Khrushchev was at the heyday of his power, 1960/61, where the 81 communist parties of the world met, actually had in its thesis a sub-section which called for a non-capitalist road to democracy in the form of colonies and in the emerging world. It wasn't called anti-capitalist, it was called a non-capitalist path.

POM     This meeting, do you remember where it was held?

MM     It was held in Moscow 1961, it was the meeting called the Meeting of the 81 Communist Parties of the World, at which the SACP had a clandestine delegation present and its thesis for the developing world said that there is a non-capitalist path of development.

POM     Non-capitalist path to development?

MM     Yes. And I supported it. I was an enthusiastic supporter of that because the central idea was that as you get your freedom it would now be a socialist revolution and what you would be doing there would be giving an opportunity for the mass of the people who were oppressed power but you would be encouraging the development of the economy not in the direction of an economy controlled by a small capitalist class. Premises for that was that you will get support in resources and training and technology transfer and capital from the socialist countries. That was the premise. That's gone.

POM     I want to go back to on the one hand you had the dictatorship of the proletariat and in countries like the GDR, Czechoslovakia and Hungary and Poland and the USSR itself, this did not include elections.

MM     Oh they had elections, so-called elections. The voting was 99.9%.

POM     No-one would doubt –

MM     No-one campaigned against.

POM     Sham elections, OK. So was the SACP believing in the dictatorship of the proletariat, you were talking about enfranchising the people, to do what? Were you going to give them … ?

MM     The idea was that you were going to break the power of the capitalist class and you were going to break it by having a development path that is non-capitalist and, yes, we began to now say, yes we would allow elections like in the western countries, yes we'd allow political parties to exist. But the sting, I'm saying I questioned that concept because the sting in it was a different one. We had still premised it that the next stage is that the working class would control and our model still was - how did the working class express its views? By being in the Communist Party.

     Now in Germany in 1961 there were other parties. There was the Peasant Party, called the Bauern Partei, there were a few other parties but they all said that they are in support of the fundamental thesis of the socialist religion. And I thought that here other parties can exist, the only thing that is prohibited is a pro-capitalist party. So when we come to grapple with our problems in SA we have a different order coming up. What should be our model? And initially the ANC in the eighties, its first constitutional proposals were an electoral based one, constituency based, and with an executive president.

POM     Van Zyl Slabbert said 20 years and you're back to –

MM     But when we face the criticism, are you talking about an executive president directly elected by the people and aren't you centralising too much power? Under those criticisms we began to go to the Westminster model, a president and a prime minister. Eventually in the negotiating process we came down, shifted to a proportional representation and to a coalition government.

POM     I want to go back to – as the SACP you in the seventies and eighties you are attending, the SACP is attending conferences where the emphasis is still on the dictatorship of the proletariat and here you come along and say, well we in the SACP see a different path, we see elections along the western style of democracy. Did they not say, you're not communists, you're –

MM     No, no, that would pave the road to –

POM     So this was the tool that you used to destroy.

MM     A stage to go to there. In the declaration of the 81 parties of 1961 you won't find the dictatorship of the proletariat featuring as a prominent thing in the statement. So what I am saying, Padraig, this is an intricate question, we can't exhaust this in discussion. We'd have to start off by saying what we mean by what is the fundamental critique of bourgeois democracy, what is the proposition behind a dictatorship of the proletariat. But I am saying that in this off-the-cuff discussion the concept of – I now question the concept of a dictatorship of the proletariat which was regarded by Lenin as a fundamental core principle to realise socialism. And I question that as fitting in to the type of society that you really want even as an end state. I don't believe that the communist parties are questioning that. I think that they still adhere to that view.

POM     In SA?

MM     Yes.

POM     Well it's hard to know what they believe to tell you truth.

MM     Sure. That's why I said 'I think'. But I don't think justice has been done to the debate because I say the lessons of history are supposed to be what not to do.

POM     Just keep that for a moment and go back. When you were saying earlier about the process of debate was that you could not have a pro-capitalist debate, that was out, and then what was out slowly became more stringent, other things were prohibited, not mentioned in discussion, then internal within the party itself the same thing began to happen. It struck me that, gee, I see signs of that happening in the ANC.

MM     Now remember that side by side with that stream of socialist thought was the reality that when the colonies begin to get their freedom and independence post second world war, the first of them is India, 1947. India goes to remain in the British Commonwealth, to allow all parties to exist, a federal system of government. China, 1949, there people's democracy modelled in the communist fold. Then Africa starts getting free in 1960. By 1961/62, now those were not communists, in Africa the idea grew up that a one-party state was a legitimate form of democracy in Africa. Today nobody will defend that. NEPAD, the African Union says nothing about one-party state. It talks about good corporate governance, opposition, etc. But the sixties were a period when the Nyereres, the Kaundas, Nkomos, Nkrumahs, were all saying the right way to go is a one party state, not a Communist Party but one party and they argued that that's a democracy and a true expression of African democracy. Into that discourse even western scholars, pro-capitalist scholars, anti-communists, were saying it's correct.

     So what is the ANC, those tendencies – there are tendencies. I don't see that they have reached that point.

POM     No, no, I'm just saying too, when you were saying those words I was saying, bingo, bingo, bingo, bingo, they could, there are signs, there are signs.

MM     There are always signs because those who come to power even in a democracy are legitimately entitled to go to election after election to remain in power and then comes the question of power price because you then begin to use anti-democratic means to retain that power. Isn't that a problem also in the US?

POM     Yes but the idea in the US of any member of any political party disagreeing totally with the leadership, being thrown out of that party, just doesn't exist. Criticism – put it this way, that it is the Republicans in Congress who have put the yoke on Bush's going to war with Iraq, they didn't say we're all falling into line, you're a member of the party and the party has decided and that's that.

MM     Bush calls his Chief Whip from the Republican Party and presumably says, "Who's giving us trouble in our party?"

POM     The guy says, "Half the party boss."

MM     "Half the party", he says, "Can I deliver patronage to neutralise them?" Then he says, "And can I punish some of those buggers?"

POM     But that's on a different perceptual plane.

MM     All because you have now had a maturation of a defence of your constitution and your constitution has become part of the web and weave of American society. And the idea of those checks and balances are legitimate questions. What is it that has helped? Because the same position obtains in Britain although in Britain if you give Tony Blair trouble he's going to kick you out of his party if he can get away with it. The difference is this, that if I'm living in Manchester and I'm in the Manchester constituency of the Labour Party Tony Blair has got to come to the Manchester constituency of the Labour Party to persuade the leadership and that constituency will kick me out.

POM     And he may fail to do so.

MM     And he may fail. But it has no constitution such as the US with written checks and balances.

POM     It has no constitution at all. It's the greatest constitution in the world.

MM     One can't deny that Britain also is a democracy.

POM     The worst kind.

MM     OK. Now you're speaking as an Irishman.

POM     No, no, it's the worst kind because where there are three parties, I mean Margaret Thatcher retained power for eight of her 16 years with a minority of the popular vote because there were three parties contesting the elections. You had the Liberal Party, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party so the system first past the post doesn't work when you have more than one party. I would call it the lousiest form of democracy.

MM     The US had the Republicans ruling for about four terms. The only difference is it says you cannot be president for more than two terms.

POM     Yes but you get a Congress controlled by the Democrats and the Presidency controlled by the Republicans and there's tension there between the two. We're talking about something different, we're talking about what I see in the ANC, and I can point out to not just the Cronin incident, but I thought Mbeki's statement that he made after that an extraordinary one and I'll tell you why. It was in the newspapers, they said, "Mbeki slams", or depending on what paper you read, "lays down the law" or whatever. I went back to his original statement and it was premised entirely on, just at the beginning of his speech, but on a speech by Oliver Tambo in 1980, it was the 68th anniversary of the founding of the party. Now this was a time when the ANC was at one of its lower points, it had been infiltrated, it couldn't get anyone across the border, it looked like, phew, we're really up against the wall. He was giving this in Lusaka. One would expect in a revolutionary organisation that the need for silence, the need for always all for one and one for all is a core principle so certain principles of behaviour are mandated. If you flip that over and take it into 22 years later where you are now a party that controls two thirds of the parliament, whose hegemony is all over the place and apply the same principles it means that you are taking struggle principles and applying them directly to the way people should behave in a democracy.

MM     In a different environment.

POM     Yes, and the funny thing is in that speech Tambo said circumstances change. I kind of said Thabo doesn't get it, circumstances have changed. But do you know what I'm saying?

MM     Yes. I see because the fundamental lesson, if there is a lesson it's not that you can model yourself on one or other. I keep saying history teaches us what not to do because I'm not saying copy the American system because I know that the American system has other vulnerabilities. Its positive is that there is no way that you can manipulate that power to entrench a person but there are other negatives, that if I want to stand as a presidential candidate, Jesus, I've got to have millions.

POM     Twenty million.

MM     Twenty million minimum. Don't tell me about all these rules of disclosure and all that, you still need twenty million.

POM     Just if you are at the lower end of the scale of candidates.

MM     Right. So there are other criticisms that I see. My critique says we have now achieved a democracy entrenched in our constitution. The first question to address is that in our constitution at the World Trade Centre and in our final constitution we have put what is not there in any other constitution in the world. We have explicitly mentioned organs of civil society. How do we bring in organs of society into decision making and delivery? Not an experience that anybody can tell you how to do it. Only an experience that we can look at and say, don't do that it has this danger, don't do that it has that danger. But we are grappling now, the strategic perspectives set at the ANC conference in Bloemfontein said –

POM     That's the one in?

MM     1995 I think.

POM     No it wouldn't be 1995, it could be year that's – was that the last one?

MM     No, the Mafikeng one was after that.

POM     That was four years ago, so it would be four years before that.

MM     We're now heading to December which is a five-yearly one. Not 1991, 1991 was Durban and there was another one.

POM     It will be the last one in Mandela's book.

MM     Now there is a document that was adopted there on the strategy and tactics that conference adopted and it put four points as the strategic objectives for the next quarter century. One of those points was deepen democracy. Is democracy being deepened? And part of deepening democracy must mean bringing the organs of civil society into a relationship in decision making. It's not happening yet. They haven't resolved the question. We planned it as a strategic objective to be realised in the next 20 – 25 years.

POM     But it seems, and I think we may have had this conversation before, because your memory is far better than mine, but just recently that I am concerned about when I read statements about the repeated usage of certain words, 'enemy', 'opponents', 'agents', 'forces'. In fact I had Caryl scan the last Strategy & Tactics that was laid out for this coming conference in September for a number of words and all these militant words occurred again and again and again. I find that a dangerous tendency, the looking for enemies. The way I feel, OK, rather than kind of thinking, is that if you are not for the way the ANC sees transformation you are against it. You are not offering an alternative. If you don't see it their way then somehow you're an enemy. That I find very disturbing.

MM     Doesn't it put up some bells? And I'm not saying this to frighten you, yesterday I saw a report to say Madiba had met Mulder, one of the Mulder brothers from the Freedom Front. So they were on the steps of Madiba's office meeting the press and Madiba says, "I have met Mulder from the Freedom Front because I have been very concerned that here is a right wing plot that has been unearthed and it's before the courts and they have not condemned it." He says, "When it came to murders happening on the farms they were extremely vociferous and I met them and I agreed, it's a matter of concern. But now when a group of right winger Afrikaners hatch a conspiracy to overthrow this current state by force they are quiet, but I am very happy to say I've met Mulder and he has made it clear to me that he is totally against this plot." And he hands over to Mulder and Mulder says, "We are against this type of thing." Very good. But what do you read between the lines? Between the lines he's saying, "I am taking this step as a private citizen, yes former president." He's also saying, "By Jove, this job should be done by the ANC." That a person that you disagree with yet he represents and is an influential member in the right wing spectrum of white thought should be brought into this national enterprise. Yes, when you bring him in he's going to bring questions of self-determination and cultural rights and everything and religious rights, we must engage, but you must make them part of this process. By his taking this step some people can read it and say he's actually pointing a finger at the existing establishment.

POM     I read it. I said, "My God! I think he's president again." That just jumped into my mind.

MM     This is the point and I think that in government there would be restive voices, they'd say, "What's wrong with him? He shouldn't be interfering in things that are ours." But if I look back, not that I would ever confront him that way, but if I said to Mandela, "Why? What are you doing this for"' He would say, "I'm doing it as an ordinary citizen." And then when I say, "But shouldn't it be done by the ANC?" He would say, "But they're not doing it." So I say, "Is that the reason why you're doing it?" He says, "No, no, no, don't put that in my mouth." But he's doing it. What is the impact of that sort of step on the thinking of the ANC? In his own way he's putting that into the debate as against all those key words that you got Caryl to pick up. From outside claiming he is still a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC, he's injecting an issue into that debate and he's saying those are things you should be doing in the ANC. And when you come to your catch phrases, words, if you still use those words you're trapping yourself, you're not discharging your power in the right way.

POM     When you have so much power isn't it kind of paranoid to keep looking for enemies?

MM     The truth of the matter, Padraig, is that in all societies the what not to do, the most difficult thing about exercise of power is the generosity aspect because the normal tendency is to close ranks behind your power whereas the generosity requires that you reach out, draw others in who disagree with you into this national … engage them in debate because when you engage with them what you've done is you're making that constitutional democracy entrenched, you're making it impossible for them to go to undemocratic values. If you and I were talking and I'm in power and we are busy talking, having a productive exchange and you go behind my back using dirty tricks to overthrow me and I call you and say, "Padraig, just explain to me, you and I are engaged in a discussion and yet you're going behind my back to use undemocratic means to overthrow me. How can I engage with you? Why are you doing this because I haven't closed the door to you?"

POM     Put that in the context of the Democratic Alliance. Every time they say something they say, "You white privileged bastards, all you're trying to do, you're an enemy. You don't want transformation you want things to remain as they are." Some of the criticisms they offer as proposals on the board are very valid and very good, there's not just one way in which society must be transformed and talking about that you're back to how much social engineering can you do. Social engineering? Ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling, doesn't that ring a little bell some place?

MM     So I say it's that expansiveness that you need.

POM     But that doesn't exist.

MM     It's got to be created.

POM     I have found that since the heydays of the early nineties, the excitement, the exhilaration, the things changing, that this country is not turning out the way I would like it to turn out.

MM     Yes I think the euphoria of 1994 has vanished. I think some of it was to be expected. I think that the sense of one hopes for a growing feeling that people would say around this and this we are all with our sleeves rolled and even while we are arguing with each other those three things that we are agreed upon, we are shoulders to the wheel. That is the element that's missing. Will it come back or is it gone forever? The jury is out on that.

POM     You are putting it very well but I had seen a democracy that was vigorous, that was also inclusive and it would appear to me, just as an observer and I'm speaking for the people who've come through and known about SA in terms of being involved in helping the ANC in negotiations and all of that in 1994 and you'll get a feeling that it is the ANC that is doing the excluding.

MM     I wouldn't challenge you on that proposition but I will say it's a proposition that's worth debating. I think it's a viewpoint that should be part of the debate.

POM     That's right but it's not part of the debate. It's cut off as being – I find the continuous - I understand all the government's problems with the media, the media are there to catch you if they can and they do it in every –

MM     I still laugh, I saw in Business Day yesterday, First Rand …criticising the media …this looks like I'm sitting inside government having … (interference on tape)

     There are certain deficiencies. My attitude is we are in power, we are supposed to be setting the agenda, we are supposed to be setting the tone how to attend to the problems so we are past the stage where we can blame somebody else. I don't like Tony Leon but I believe that the people who are voting for his party are people I want to reach and engage and bring into the debate.

POM     I mean he is willing to debate, is he?

MM     I'm not enamoured with Tony Leon the person, if I debate with him I am mindful that I am not trying to change Tony Leon, what I am trying to bring into the debate is those people who support him because I want that constituency that he has, a good number of them I believe should be brought into my side. So if I debate with him in political party terms it's not to win him over but it's to win people who support him over to my side.

POM     So therefore you go from 66% to 82%.

MM     Yes.

POM     Well is this not a multiparty democracy?

MM     But that's the objective. I mean surely when today Schroeder and the other chap debated on TV, were they debating to convince each other?

POM     No, to get votes, but if you had 82% and you're still looking for more votes –

MM     Must I stop?

POM     Well your constitution says in its preamble that the constitution is committed to creating a thriving multiparty democracy. Would you call this a thriving multiparty democracy or a one-party democracy?

MM     It set the rules, freedom of the press, freedom of expression. Now we're in the market place. Am I supposed to say to the public, please buy his package?

POM     No, you are supposed to say, it would seem to me, that if you are, as I would say, the founders of the countries who came with an idea and a vision of what a new SA would look like, that part of again step-phasing things, part of that would be how do you create an environment in which many parties can thrive politically? If all power is assimilated into one party, where other parties are there and there are elections but they're marginal, they really don't count, in the end we can treat them as really not counting. In the end we don't have to reach out to them because, you know what? They're marginal.

MM     But why am I reaching out to them?

POM     Who is?

MM     When Mandela was reaching out, why was he reaching out?

POM     Oh yes, I think Mandela was reaching out in a fundamentally different way, it was to reassure them that they were part of the process when whoever it is, when Leon I think, when Leon says, for example, that when Mandela was in power and he wanted to see Mandela he would pick up the phone and call his office and he would get an appointment.

MM     Let me tell you the reality was different. When Mandela was President he would reach out.

POM     OK.

MM     But he made no bones that he did not support Leon's party.

POM     That's fair enough.

MM     And when it came to election time he said to the public, "I want you to vote ANC."

POM     Every party leader should do that.

MM     And when he was prepared to debate he was debating not just to try and win Tony Leon but to make sure that Tony Leon's supporters voted for the ANC even if it was going to give the ANC an 82% vote.

POM     Now if you move that to a process where the President never makes a call to Tony Leon (I don't know whether he does or not) or where Tony Leon tries to meet with the President and he's told, "Well that will take six months." You don't do that to a leader of the opposition even if small and marginal as it is because, you know what? You're alienating them rather than –

MM     I said exercising power must be done in a generous and expansive way.

POM     That's not happening.

MM     The normal tendency for people in power is to close ranks. The more difficult exercise is to understand that when you get power you exercise it by being expansive. It goes back to the question, how did we neutralise those warders if you want to use the cliché of a war? They're part of the enemy. They are vigorously part of the assault force against us prisoners. First step, I can't win this person to be part of freedom fighters like me but I can neutralise his capacity to act as the cannon fodder of the enemy. How do I do that?

     There's a story told of Walter Sisulu and Eric Molobe when in prison a warder would use insulting terms, Eric would swear back, tit for tat, carried on. One day Walter has a chat with Eric, he says, "Eric, why do you descend to the level of this warder? Because when you descend to his level you give him more excuse to swear at you and insult you." "No, but he has insulted me!" He says, "You know, he's laughing, why don't you try just to ignore that warder." And Eric says, "At some stage I sat and thought back and said maybe I should try what Walter is suggesting." Then he says, "The warder stopped insulting me because I was not responding at his level." That's expansiveness, even from the position of disempowerment in prison.

     So how to exercise power even in a democracy with a constitution which guarantees it is an exercise that when you look at world history what not to do.

POM     Do you think that's more difficult for parties that come to government power out of a revolutionary situation in the sense that the revolutionary situation called for a different paradigm, a certain paradigm of conduct and behaviour, and that government governing calls for a different paradigm?

MM     No, it's a deeper question, Padraig. Look what Bush is doing on the world scale from an entrenched democracy with his unilateralism. You would think that this unrivalled super power would today be reaching out and being expansive in its exercise of power. What is it doing? Even now when Iraq has said unconditionally inspectors can come in, what does Bush say?

POM     Not enough. He doesn't mean it.

MM     He comes from a democracy, he's limited to two terms but he's treating the world with that same arrogance of power because, yes, America is a super power. Now you see what a model he's setting before the world. He's setting a model that says democracy in the world means nothing. So all I'm saying to you, Padraig, is I hear your criticisms, I hear you concerned about the danger signals, but I would like us to be consistent in the way we raise this issue. It's not as if because we come from a struggle phase to now power that it follows that we exercise power the wrong way. Madiba came from a struggle phase and he exercised his power in a different way. Bush comes from a democratic tradition but he's exercising power the wrong way.

POM     I agree with that. Not only do I agree with it but, let me put it this way, when I have dinner with Americans here, they now don't ask me to their parties because I am so rabidly anti-American.

MM     You should go to Walter Sisulu for advice so that you still get invited, because it doesn't help not to be invited. That's all. So if I went to the American Ambassador's party today I would raise this question but I would not raise it by saying, listen this is undemocratic.'I would say, guys, you are standing out, your country stands as a country committed to democracy, with a history of democracy. Today what you say shapes the world. What I don't understand is why your President is saying and acting in such a way that he wants to effectively shape the world as a dictatorship. It's not consistent, it throws me off from looking at your society to learn experiences for my own sake in the country where I am because it's putting me off because my experience of your country, great as it is, is at this edge where I see you dictating. Explain to me. You're cutting your own feet and you're making it difficult for me to learn the right lessons from you.

POM     In fact in a way he's encouraging other countries that are in developmental stages of democracy to say, hey! If he can get away with it why can't I?

MM     That's why I said encouraging dictatorship. So that's how I'd put it and I am sure the Ambassador and I would have a discussion but he would find it difficult to say, I can't stand Mac. He would say Mac was debating this thing with me in such a way that he won the sympathy of all the others that were listening and I have to engage with this guy to make sure that those people who are deserting me come back to me.

POM     The truth of the matter is I really want to piss them off.

MM     As Eric said to Walter, "When that warder is calling me Kaffir, I want to piss him off!" OK.

POM     Sure.

MM     But you see where the difficulty is. Do you see how exciting the debate can be because as I'm outlining there I'm not putting the question into the debate in such a way that it puts me in a position as if I know the answers but I'm putting myself in a questioning way and I am saying to you, help me to understand. That's where you get into difficulty and even though you may take a position hostile to me I do think one day you will go to bed and say, shit! You know, that bastard put questions which I didn't succeed in answering and I answered it in such a way that I alienated support rather than gained support.

     But I was suddenly shifting because the question of the exercise of power and how you exercise it is a question that today is visible also on the world scale and if we are correct, if I am correct in my criticism of Bush then in SA somebody who is my friend will stand up and say, but I'm criticising you, how you're doing it here. I support you in your criticism of Bush but aren't you doing the very things that Bush is doing which you are criticising on a world scale, aren't you doing it here? That's the cross fertilisation you want in this enterprise of building. Otherwise I might as well say, right now I give up, all that's left for me to do is just shout, well from shouting I'll go to toyi-toying.

POM     Back to the beginning. I was at the SADTU conference and listened to Motlanthe whom I've also interviewed at length from the time he's been head of NUM, because he made a strange statement, not a strange statement, we were talking about working and he said, "You know if I had my way workers would be working 48 hours a week, it's a revolution, everybody should be in there. This thing about more holidays and more this and more that, that's not the way revolutions are made. Everybody's got to get down to it." I said any man who starts saying, the head of a union who says people should be working 48 hours a week is worth watching. But he spoke and Madisha spoke and Madisha kept saying the alliance is sick. I don't know how many times he said it. Well when Motlanthe spoke he just ignored Madisha, he had his speech and he said well you've had yours and I'll have mine, that's it. But one felt again that (a) nobody in the audience was listening. All these speeches were going on for more than 20 minutes, no-one had said there's a certain point at which you stop because you've lost people's attention. The both spoke for like four hours, two speeches, the conference was running an hour and a half behind.

MM     You go and ask Khetso.

POM     Ask why?

MM     Khetso Gordhan who was my Director General. When we were in Transport and we started putting the policies in place by consultation and it was suggested that we could go and privatise the Airports Company, who was fighting me? The Transport & General Workers Union. Randall Howard and Harold Harvey, the General Secretary and the Assistance General Secretary were hobbling me but we would invite them to every policy making meeting and they would make the standard speeches and then they thought they owed me. They invited me to the national conference of the Transport & General Workers Union, here in Jo'burg, and I went. When I walked into that hall, Padraig, that whole hall was just wearing red shirts and I've arrived there, the meeting has started and the opening has gone on and I've arrived at my time. I'm taken to the platform, had to sit on the platform. Randall is delivering the Secretary's report, he's on the microphone and he clobbers me and he clobbers the Department of Transport. He got all emotional and the crowd, the delegates are cheering at every statement. I get up, I say, "I want to discuss with you guys. I'm not going to respond to Howard I want to talk with you with facts."Oh, oh, are you for privatisation? I said, "No, hold on, hold on. I want to discuss facts. Let's put the facts of the airports on the table. You want these airports to grow, you want more traffic, you want more jobs, do you? Now I want it but look at that airport, I have to build more runways, I have to build better facilities, I have to attract an income. Here's how. Am I saying any of you are going to lose jobs? No. When I start building there's more jobs. The question that I'm facing on the airports is where do I get the money? And I'm saying we will build retail outlets, I won't charge extra tariffs for the planes, I want more people to come. We'll build retail outlets, parkades and get more income and we will use that income to expand that airport. But in the meantime to kick start that process I want an equity partner and I want that partner to bring skills transfer, technology and capital."

     You know, there were so many moments in that meeting where the delegates wanted me off the platform and I said, "No, guys, let's debate. You've got another answer, put it on the table." Howard got up to say, "No, Minister, we didn't call you for this." I said, "No, no, no, you attacked me, you attacked me and I'm answering and let's debate here. Let's not go away, you've made your speech, I've made my speech. Here are you delegates, you've got to take decisions and I am saying I am here to debate with you." You know, Howard didn't know how to handle that meeting and when I finished off I said, "Guys, we disagree, but tell me am I walking out of this room your enemy or a comrade?" All got up, "As a comrade!" It wasn't easy, it wasn't comfortable. They were setting me up to smash me and they wanted this to pass each other and they wanted to confine those delegates at the conference to stick to the clichés and I said I'm not going to allow that trap, I will go through this uncomfortable period, but as I say, I wanted to leave the room saying, "Guys, you cannot – tell me am I your enemy or am I a comrade?" And they had to say, "You're a comrade." And then I sat down, next speaker, he said, "I have to hand it to you, you're bloody brave." I said, "No", I heckled him, loudly from where I was sitting, "I'm not brave I'm a bloody fool, I'm a bloody fool because I'm reckless but I am saying to you you're not going to shit on me and get away like that." And everybody burst out laughing. "You're right, Mac."

     So all I am saying is I haven't got right answers, it's this engagement that's important.

POM     And did the engagement take place?

MM     Oh yes. Randall Howard and his union came on board and their delegate went around with my team, around the world inviting people to bid for the Airports Company. I put them in the Adjudicating Committee to adjudicate which bid should win. They gave me shit but I didn't retreat and take the shit and say, oh they're enemies! Yes I pulled demagogic tricks and all that but I knew that if I put the facts on the table – I didn't say am I for privatisation, I said I am for privatising the Airports Company.

POM     And you didn't say that if you don't agree with me you're anti-struggle, anti-transformation, you're just anti, you're on the other side.

MM     I said to them, "I can't go on like this with this airport. Come, nominate your people. I will put them – we'll share the facts, we'll design the tender, you'll be part of the adjudicating and as long as we know what we want and why we want it." And they ended up there. They came in reluctantly, they became enthusiasts. I sent them around the world. There was a group bidding from Chicago, Canada, Singapore, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, to court KLM, to court (other airlines) to come to take a stake. Trade union men were there. In fact when in the end we signed the deal, we signed it at the Airports Company at the ceremony and I invited Randall, Howard, the General Secretary of the Transport Workers Union, to be at the meeting and I gave him a slot to speak to celebrate this agreement. When my turn came to call on him to speak I called him the union's Mr Privatiser of the year. "I would like to introduce Randall Howard, General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, the union's privatiser of the year."

POM     Did he relish the title?

MM     He laughed, he realised that you can't be riled by that, he's saying it as a joke.

POM     Is he still around?

MM     What you're saying to me about the SADTU conference, is set pieces, talking past each other, forgetting the delegates because to shift those delegates into a constructive positive mindset the messages were crossed.

POM     They also, I would suspect, didn't come there as teachers with their concerns to be subjected to part of this debate on the alliance. They didn't really care much about the alliance, they cared about their jobs and their salaries.

MM     Those teachers had to be engaged on the concrete questions as teachers. Guys, what are the conditions you are facing? The working conditions, encouragement to upgrade your skills to become better teachers, because that's the nobility that you gain. It's not just the wage, you are sitting at a point in this society where you shape the future and your pride should be that one day even in your old age you will pick up a newspaper and you will see this guy is doing fantastic work and you'll say, "You know what? I taught this bloody sod in standard seven." And he'll be saying, "I've shaped a generation." So that will be your connecting point and from there you would say as you pursue these things, unless you put to the fore the idea that you are training a generation with values and that that is your biggest reward, unless you put that at the front you don't get the respect of the community because we were brought up not to think like that. You want to be able to walk down your village street where everybody says that guy is teaching my daughter, teaching my son.

POM     In a way just on teachers you want them almost to go back to what it used to be, where if you were a teacher in the community you were regarded as a special person.

MM     And then you want to say, then you come with your criticisms against that, you say don't let somebody else come and point a finger at us as teachers, let's correct any problems amongst ourselves immediately it pops up. If there's one amongst us who doesn't turn up to work regularly, who comes late, who doesn't attend to teaching the children, who comes drunk, don't wait for me to point it out to you, correct it yourselves. You brought them to the problems that you're facing but you've brought them on the basis that you're making them feel that they are special and say as you so that, not just in your village will people be saying this guy is a respected amongst us, but when you come into that alliance room you want him to listen to you, to say this guy is building. Because you're not coming there first to say, "I was reduced from 44 to 40, I don't want any monitoring of whether I'm performing, I don't want you to punish me without a three year process if I come drunk on duty or if I go and sleep with a pupil", because then in that alliance room your weight will be different. You may have less members than even the steelworkers but your voice will be listened to with great respect because we know, everybody, the whole society is looking at you as at the front end of the builders of this future. It's the engagement you want.

     Once you've done that and you keep passing that message all the other issues that you disagree with are handled in a different mindset and I think that's part of the problem. We go with set pieces, not listening. We're not talking. We're playing the power game.

POM     In fact there were five days of continuous speech making. There were no workshops.

MM     No commissions, nothing.

POM     It was just speaker after speaker after speaker and you could look around and see that the hall was getting emptier and emptier and emptier.

MM     People are sleeping.

POM     They were going outside, having a drink, looking at Durban and Durban's a great place to be. Once you hear ten more speakers -

     You've just reminded me of something because I use a guide to drive me around, his name is Ronnie, a great person. Ronnie is a very, very intelligent young lad. Well he's not young, he might be in his forties now. He reminds me in a reverse way of you. He's got his wife that's in London working as a nurse and he's trying to arrange to get the family over there. He had trouble, to get into Britain now you have to have X amount of money saved beforehand. It's proving more difficult. But if visitors came I would have him take them around Soweto, he's absolutely knowledgeable on every break, it's a real tour. I can discuss anything with him and his ideas and openly talking, we talk all the time. He brought this up, he said, "When President Mbeki gets on TV in the townships nobody understands him." They don't understand the language he's using. What's he saying? And nobody knows what he's saying. It struck me the irony of it, of maybe Thabo labouring to write the perfect speech with the perfect analogies and the metaphors and whatever and the people to whom he's talking don't understand a word of what he's saying. It's like there's a huge irony to it. That's all.

MM     Well I think I've told you the story of the late King Sabata in the Kabwe Conference.

POM     He was a king? Sabata?

MM     Tembu king, King Sabata.

POM     Mandela's tribe.

MM     Yes. He ran away, he fled the country because Matanzima was trying to kill him. At the Kabwe conference we were debating the way forward and Sabata was a fantastic orator. Sabata Dalindyebo.Joe Slovo delivered the military report of the commission and ended up with a slogan that now that they are doing all these things to our cadres as we enter the country and killing them, he says, "Every day we kill a cop. One day, one cop."

POM     Slovo said this?

MM     Yes. I am sitting waiting to deliver the political report of the political commission and the floor is discussing Slovo's report. We had agreed that there will be a discussion on the military report, then there will a political report, there will be a discussion and then there will be another session where the two reports are addressed simultaneously. Sabata comes to the floor, everybody is praising the military report because it's a very aggressive one we find and he turns to Oliver Tambo and he switches course. He says, "You, Tambo, you know there's a story from Tembu," (from where the Tembu stay, the Xhosas). He says, "There were two men having a quarrel. One was a Xhosa from the rural area, wearing a blanket, the other was a Xhosa who had been to work in the mines and he had come back and was on a visit, he was wearing a pair of trousers and the two of them got into a stick fight. The community was looking at this as a competition, stick fighting competition." He says, "The chap from the city and his shield and his stick and he was whacking away. The chap with the blanket from the rural area was holding the blanket with one hand and fighting with the other." He says, "Now you, Tambo, are causing us problems. You're forcing us to fight the enemy holding our blanket to our crotch and fighting with one hand. I say to you free us, free both of our hands so that it's not one cop one day, it's not one day one cop, it's one day a hundred cops." Oh! Applause! But he spoke in the idiom.

     I was in stitches on the platform so when I came to speak, now I'm giving the political report, I said, "Mr President, I'm in trouble. We started off on the military report with Slovo saying one day one cop and speaker after speaker, next speaker said one day five cops, then another one came and said one day twenty cops, and King Sabata has ended up one day a hundred cops. My problem is I want the same thing but we can't get there if we don't do our political work first. My problem is we've got to get all our people to wear trousers before we can start talking about freeing our hands." And Sabata comes to me after the meeting, he says, "You know you're a dirty sod, you undermined me." I said, "OK, OK."

     Now Pallo was on the blackboard because all those who understood Xhosa were laughing, the African delegates. A number of white and Indian comrades don't understand.

POM     Now were you speaking in Xhosa?

MM     No. But when Pallo saw me laughing spontaneously he sent a note to me, he said, "You bloody sod, I didn't realise you understood Xhosa." So I said I understand, I can't speak but I understand and I admire the imagery that Sabata had invoked. After he said that to Tambo he just sat down and the hall was in pandemonium. If there was an election ahead of the military we would have elected Sabata at that time. All I'm saying is idiom of the people, simplicity of language, taking complicated concepts and putting it simply and relating it to the people's conditions. Key, it's a key issue. What makes a Chinese so attractive, Mao Zedong, was that his language when he talked about people's warfare and guerrilla warfare, he says, "Guerrillas, their ocean is the people, we are like fish in the ocean. People are our environment and we have to conduct ourselves so that they shelter us, they protect us." That was his style. Ho Chi Minh had that and you see it with Castro. Bloody hell, for years he's been speaking for four, five hours and he has the stadium (enrapt) because he's speaking in Spanish, he's constantly coming back with imagery that the ordinary person understands. Yes, within it he becomes a demagogue too but they are listening. He has not lost that contact.

     It's not just a political question, communication. Communication is a problem everywhere. I see it in the bank and communication, you lose sight of it if you think it's all the infrastructure and sophisticated equipment. Today it is said in business, no matter how big that business is, the secret of a successful CEO is to know your people, to be available to them every day. More than just running the business from an ivory tower, go in the mornings, set the agenda with your top management, look at the day's issues, yesterday's problems, look at the forthcoming issues of today and then spend your time in all your divisions. Direct communication while your communication department is issuing electronic mail and publishing and doing all that for the staff.

POM     That's non-communication.

MM     None of that, in fact all that increases the need for you as a CEO to directly interact with your staff. It's only coming back now, you open business books today and they're saying the same thing. It's a simple issue, as human beings with all our ability and brain power nothing eliminates that direct communication.

POM     I was talking about this in very much the same terms the other night with someone in the context that e-mail is the worst form of communication. It is de-personalised to the extent that you don't feel that a human being –

MM     Is there.

POM     Ever. I don't. It's not that I write that many letters but I prefer to pick up the phone. I prefer to pick up the phone and call the US if I want to say something to somebody in the office rather than send them an e-mail. What I say on the phone might be the very same thing but I prefer saying hello, how are you doing? How are things? Then I will talk and I can hear a voice and I can give what I want them to do and then I will hang up and I feel much better than if I had put the same thing in an e-mail and get it off. Then I've no sense of having identified with another human being.

MM     We've got to feel, are we talking – understanding what we are saying to each other or are we just too impersonal. I'm not denying the validity and usefulness but I am saying it has to be emphasised.

POM     It should act as an aid to direct communication rather than the other way round.

MM     For a while all these electronic techniques were seen as replacements for direct communication and wherever they were treated as replacements they brought disaster, whether in business, politics, whatever.

POM     Just to revert on transport, this struck me last night, it relates to communication and I was wondering if in countries where the colonial power created a fairly good infrastructure in order to move goods to ports or whatever, that in one sense they were laying the groundwork for revolution in the sense that they were increasing the capacity for communication. That is that different people in different parts of big territories could actually get to each other and that was facilitated – the better the roads, the quicker you moved.

MM     The more the telephone lines, the more you got them into communication. I no longer had to take my goods hoping that I will sell them before I move from my subsistence plot with the little circles, I know whether there's a buyer. But the point about it is – what was the point you were making?

POM     The point I was saying is that the existence of that infrastructure would facilitate the development of resistance movements to the colonial power because people who thought the same way could get in touch with each other quicker and be able to move. It facilitated communication. Therefore the colonial power in – I suppose what I would be saying is that often the colonial power in trying to exploit the native resource to the most were in fact creating the infrastructure that would enable the people to free themselves.

MM     Right. I agree and it's an unintended consequence. That's what makes it progressive at a certain stage in the development, evolution of society.

POM     This is from Reflections. Page 72.

MM     Walter Sisulu:

     "The development of capitalism stamps the character of our struggle and is central to the creation of these interconnections. Plunder and loot from the colonies played a significant role in the process of primary capital accumulation that led to the emergence of capitalism. As capitalism established itself as the dominant mode of production in several west European countries its dependence on the colonies increased. Towards the end of the 19th century the first phase of industrialisation of the western world was nearing completion and capitalism entered the phase of imperialism. This marked significant changes in the structure of capitalist economies, etc., etc. Capitalism spread its tentacles to every nook and cranny of the world, tying the whole world into a tight system of ruthless oppression and exploitation."

     That's one side. Then he says:

     "But however harsh and evil the consequences of this process it was in the nature of capitalism to unleash forces that made our world one world. The insatiable appetite of this system effected this without design and without regard to the fate of peoples and nations. Autarchic economies were destroyed, nations and peoples subjugated, imperialism and colonialism created a unified world in their own image, a world enslaved in the interests of the ruling classes of the handful of imperialist countries.

     Having said that he says: But where does the unity of the world reside? The imperialism forged two nations, the exploiter and the exploited and across state boundaries driven by the pursuit of wealth through exploitation at home and abroad, they have been and continue to be locked in rivalries. The unity of the world is found not in the community of interests of the imperialists nor does it reside in the hopes of harmony between oppressed and oppressor. The unity of the world is embedded in the forces striving against exploitation and oppression and against imperialism."

     So he says it united the world but, as to be expected, it united the world in terms of oppression and exploitation and it has a common interest in perpetuating that system. But in doing so it gave the basis for the oppressed to unite because now they could communicate to each other, now they could understand the common interest that they have and that goes for technology, that goes for transport.

     Transport and communications in my view have been the two reasons, the two ingredients that has made the positive part of globalisation a reality because it has increased the trade, effective trade between countries and economies and now can produce cheaper goods in one place and sell it in another. So transport and communications is a key, it provided the infrastructure for others to realise their common interests also and fashion the answer to the negative features. Nothing in this world exists – Thabo said it very nicely when he was defending the labour legislation and presaged that there's going to be some revision when he came into government in 1999. In parliament he said there are certain unintended consequences that we need to attend to. We did it with good intentions but the consequences are not the right ones. So everything you do –

POM     Has unintended consequences.

MM     And the lessons that history says when you decide on policy take a little bit of time out and try and assess, are there going to be some unintended consequences?

POM     Which I was wondering in fact the very same thing the other night in relation to Bush. Has anyone in his administration sat down and looked at two things? One, let's say we rid ourselves of Saddam –

MM     And Arafat.

POM     What happens? Now you know what you think might happen, but what may happen?

MM     And look at your own record.

POM     Not too good.

MM     And look at the Soviet Union's record, they went into Afghanistan, it was their Vietnam.

POM     Yes. And you've gone in there again and you know what?

MM     You can't come out.

POM     You can't come out. The people there hate you more and more because, you know what? You're getting in their way, you're destroying their culture.

MM     Now you want to get rid of Saddam, what next?

POM     What next? Two, what are the consequences in terms of the rollover in terms of the Middle East, the Arab legions, the world, what are the global consequences? Who's looking at what they might be, the different scenarios, and evaluating them?

MM     And because you are the super power you will have to go in there and clean the mess because if you don't what's that instability going to mean for you?

POM     It looks as though no-one learns from the past.

MM     He says it's going to be a quick victory, we'll just send in the Stealth bombers and wipe him out.

POM     Well, they should know by now, a fallacy.

MM     From Latin America, who killed Lumumba in the Congo? What were the consequences of that?

POM     Till today.

MM     The most rapacious system, plundered the Congo, the heartland of a possible thriving economy in Africa. It's got all the wealth. They killed Lumumba. Why? Because he made some anti-imperialist statements, so kill him, get rid of him, regime change. They had the regime change, they got Mobutu, they put him there. So now you'll do a regime change and you'll put some Kurd tyrant. Why? Because he was fighting Saddam and it suited you that he was fighting Saddam. You haven't looked to ask what's he standing for. You haven't set the terms. If I give you support as Kurds is there a basic agreement between you and us beyond what is in my interests today? What type of Kurdistan are you going to have so that I understand whether I am supporting a friend or I'm supporting a fly by night convenience?

POM     If you've a Kurdistan you immediately affect Turkey. Now throw it over into Europe because Turkey is trying to get into the European Union, so now you've rolled it backwards, you've rolled it forwards and that's just one piece.

MM     Who were the warlords in Afghanistan that we're today living with? They were the Mujahedins that were supported by the States, all in the good cause of destroying the evil of communism. OK, you now sit back, learn what not to do.

POM     Who was the one who supported Saddam Hussein? The United States.

MM     Yes. Madiba said it, who supported Osama Bin Laden, who trained him? The CIA.

POM     But in the war against Iran Saddam could do no wrong. No-one mentioned human rights violations, no-one mentioned this, no-one mentioned that. It was -

MM     He's our friend. Because you are judging friendship in immediate expediency gains, you're not asking what type of world are we creating. So you're not exporting your most valuable commodity, your 200-year experience of building a democracy, you're not exporting that. You're just saying, "I want to preserve it for myself."

POM     In fact you're doing something I asked Maria to – I told you I edit this journal and I have to do an editor's note for every issue so I wanted to touch on – I did an article that no paper would accept on September 11th.

MM     It was too much.

POM     I did it as if I were Bin Laden and how I was laughing and all the antics, and I went through it saying we're having a great time looking at you because what you're doing, was my point, is that we don't have to destroy you because you are destroying yourselves, you are destroying your value system in trying to get me. I'm invisible, you can't fight a war against an enemy you can't define.

MM     You are eroding democratic rights.

POM     That's right.

MM     And now you are saying anybody who's assisting, even a US citizen, I'm going to have a court martial for you and in that court martial your rights of defence are limited. I can detain you indefinitely. I just send you to the base camp at Guantánamo Bay.

POM     Not one, because I'm sure it existed before, but in a small way you will now have people arrested who are suspected of being friends of terrorists. They can make the chain go down where if you are arrested for any – this is what happened in Northern Ireland, is that all you see - if you're regarded as a terrorist you were tried before the Diplock court, that it was three judges, you were whacked through, decision made, you were sentenced. What happened was that the police found that this was a really expedient way of getting convictions so what we used to call 'ordinary decent criminals' started being arrested under the same law and tried in that court rather than by due process and the majority of the people convicted under the Diplock courts were not terrorist cases, they were other cases.

MM     So you eroded the civil liberties.

POM     Yes. Now just move that in the direction of where the US is going. They're a quick way of doing something when you want a conviction.

MM     It applies to – this question applies to very simple acts. The US produces sugar from sugar beet, it has a quota historically inherited not allowing sugar from sugar cane from other countries to be imported unlimited. They want to preserve that industry. The sugar producers are a powerful lobby. What does the US do? The confectionery industry, one of the largest users of sugar, manufacturing sweets, says we want to produce confectionery. The sugar lobby says you can't allow the importation of sugar. The US maintains the quota on sugar import but allows confectionery manufactured outside the borders of the US to come into the US without tariffs. You know what has happened? The confectionery industry has moved to Mexico. So it preserved the jobs in the sugar industry and lost the confectionery industry. When it preserved the quotes it never asked what's the consequences for job losses in the confectionery industry. Simple check that says you analyse a problem, you come to a solution. Human experience tells you even if I am a detective once I see there's a body there, there's a knife in the back, I say that's murder. From then onwards I'm looking for the murderer and when I come for a set of circumstantial reasons that Padraig may be the murderer, from that moment everything that Padraig does goes into that suspicion mode. A good detective sits back and says, "Right now it looks like Padraig is a suspect and everything he's doing reinforces that suspicion. I believe he is the murderer." A good detective then sits back and says, "What if he isn't the murderer?" It's a question you've got to put into your equation before you say I now arrest him and charge him because if you don't do that check you are likely to bring Padraig to court and he's not the murderer. That's what makes a good detective.

     A scientist does that. Why is it in scientific methodology in your laboratory testing you are supposed to set up null hypothesis? Why the null hypothesis? That null is supposed to – because if you prove the null hypothesis then the consequences are such because you've built a check in that. So you don't put a hypothesis that is in favour, you put an hypothesis that is against and then send it through the test. In computing, when Zarina was a Systems Analyst and I met her we would chat about her computing work as a Systems Analyst. After designing the system she says you then do systems tests. I say, "What are systems tests?" She says, "Well the computing has got to go through a set of notes, the data that you put in, you now do the test by punching in data deliberately to get trapped, deliberately to escape the notes. Then when they escape the notes then you know the system is working. But the data you put in is not the data that's going to work, you're putting in the date designed in such a way that you expect it not to work and when it works then you know your system has been tested." It's a null hypothesis again just changed to a different terrain.

     So always in your policy you've got to say, what if it doesn't work? That's your unintended consequences. And I think that's a methodology that has been established and you will find it in every society whether it's the priests, whether it's the herbal doctor, they have embedded in their methodology this approach that says what if it doesn't. That's a check we've got to do. The problem is when you're sitting in power the consequences of those decisions – I used to joke as a result of being in government, while I was still in government, I said, "You know we lose say fifty million rand or maybe one billion rand, we do a thorough audit and search, where's that billion disappeared?" What shocked me is a billion disappears you don't even bat an eyelid, you don't even search for it. But a hundred rand you're searching for it. Why? Is it that the billion is incomprehensible? It's outside my experience, I can't conceive of it what to do with a billion rand so when it gets lost – please, don't waste my time. But five hundred disappears, that's within my experience, I know if I haven't got five hundred rand, Jesus, it means I can't buy this, I can't fill up my tank, I can't go to the cinema, so search for it. A big crime has been committed.

POM     The same principle in a way, it would seem to me, applies to a war against terrorism. Here's a war, the enemy is invisible, you can't define the war so how can you fight a war when you can't define who the enemy is, where the enemy is?

MM     There's no territory where you can say there he is.

POM     What are you fighting?

MM     But you called it a war.

POM     Yes.

MM     You called it a war. You didn't think about it, you just thought the emotion behind the concept of war, fantastic! Everybody rally behind. You've got them all rallied. I say, "What are we going to do?" He says, "I don't know, who?" So you turn into yourself, you start looking at your next door neighbour. Oh wait a minute, hey, did you notice that the neighbour has got a visitor with dark hair and dark skin? That looks like an Arab doesn't it? Oh from an Arab that must be a Moslem, from a Moslem that's a fundamentalist. From a fundamentalist that's Osama Bin Laden, shaven.

POM     Call the police.

MM     You're turning into yourself because you mobilise them and you can't point them what to do. You can't show the enemy, you can't show where to find the enemy so you don't know what you're looking for. Hey, wait a minute! Didn't I see that chap in that airline queue? Wasn't he having an argument with the check-in person? Ah, you know, his ticket looked a slightly different colour. Oh! I think that's a terrorist on board that plane.

POM     You're leaving it to the individual to define who the enemy is since you can't do it for him.

MM     But you've mobilised the individual to a state of frenzy so he cannot think rationally any more.

POM     That's why the terrorist is winning.

MM     Yes.

POM     He's sitting back saying, well this is terrific, look what they're doing to themselves.

MM     They did that in SA. I remember I was sitting in Lusaka when I read a newspaper report that an ordinary worker in a factory was charged for using a cup which had, I think, a Mandela photograph embedded on it or a statement 'Free Mandela'. No it was a Mandela photograph. They charged him under terrorism. I said, "Jesus Christ, not only is that guy great for having got hold of a cup with Madiba's photo on it but secondly apartheid is in a mess now. They've got to have police going and checking in every canteen, hey, what cup is there? Fantastic, they're going to mess up everybody's life. They're going to get everybody angry, even the poor worker who is not interested in politics, he says what shit is this, I'm getting clouted, I'm being detained, I have to answer a question – who made this cup, who brought it here? I don't know who brought it here. I found it in the bloody canteen, I didn't even know that was Mandela's photograph."

POM     Who is this guy?

MM     Who is this guy? He must be a character that I'm getting such a beating and I'm detained without trial for that.

POM     Were you surprised when – let me just throw something else at you, I looked at the Broadcasting Bill when it first came out and there was all this uproar about the freedom of – the Deputy Chairman of the SABC made one of those great statements that said, "See ya! But the right of the editor." But then they pulled back and that's been redressed in different forms in front of parliament. Then the government, well I don't know who leaked it but whoever leaked the 51% on the Mining Charter and the shares fell 15% so they pulled back from that. Then there was the Terrorist Bill which had –

MM     Yes, detention without trial.

POM     - without trial for 90 days. That was thrown out there and that was quickly pulled back. Now one can either say one of two things. One can say the people who put the bill together don't quite realise the implications of the bill in the form they're putting it forward and in fact even its constitutional aspects. Or, two, they're being clever, it's like casting a rod and you cast it out there and you get a reaction, so now you pull it back and you put it out to a level in between where you were and that point. That's OK. But you've established how far you can go. Now am I being too clever by saying – I'm just taking these three things and it seems to me to be a pattern here.

MM     Aren't you moving towards conspiracy theories?

POM     Am I?

MM     It's really making Machiavellian –

POM     Well I've read him.

MM     But on Machiavelli you're going into conspiracy theory because the management of a modern economy and a modern state is –

POM     People would have to be too organised to do it.

MM     To manage that process you've got to mobilise those state forces in such a way that –

POM     It would require too much organisation for it to succeed. The delivery capacity isn't there.

MM     What it says is that there is an obligation on anybody in any leadership position in our society today, we're a young democracy, even in business when you develop something, even in the bank you develop a product, you must ask yourself – am I producing something that is likely to be contrary to the constitution, e.g. phone bills. We've got 34,000 staff in First Rand, 34,000 employees. Do you know what is our phone bill? Every month our telephone bill is millions and millions and it's very easy, I sat in a meeting, said we've got to cut costs – hey! Our telephone bills are too high. Somebody said technology, we've got it, we can monitor every call, duration of call, who made the call, from which extension to which number and how long they spoke. Sounds very good. Then somebody says, "And can you find out what they were doing with that call? Were they accessing a pornographic site on the Internet?" Oh yes, oh yes. Oh fantastic so let's develop a set of rules how to limit the use of the phone. One of the CEO's said, "I don't mind my phone being monitored." He said, "This looks very good." Then somebody says, "Guys, is this going to be an invasion of privacy of the employee?" Mm, OK, we've got a good idea here, can we run it through a set of lawyers with a specific question, is this proposal likely to be an invasion of privacy and therefore unconstitutional? The report came back – unconstitutional chaps, can't do it. A simple check saying this is a new ball game, we've got a constitution, it's got rights in there and we agree with those rights. Are we acting in a way that's contrary to that?

POM     Why would, I suppose this is what gets to me, why would a government that prides itself on having one of the world's most progressive constitutions and which emerged out of a system in which detention without trial was one of the centrepieces of that system even consider putting forward a bill where there would be a clause providing for 90 days detention without trial?

MM     I'll tell you why, because in reconstituting our police force who became our strategic advisors and trainers?

POM     The old order?

MM     No, the British government, and they did some wonderful things and they said, "But wait, wait, wait, in Britain to cope with this problem", they didn't say to cope with it in Ireland, "We introduced detention without trial."

POM     Only years later they tried it in Britain.

MM     But as you say, the Diplock courts started for the terrorists and became for the ordinary criminals, so here was one British advisor, "No, no, you're right, it's a constitutional requirement but there are certain exceptions under which you can tolerate it." And the guy is not thinking, the SA counterpart is not thinking, saying, "Wait a minute, we've just come out of decades of struggle, do we just throw it away by exception? Isn't that how it started under apartheid, by way of exception?" They first introduced 12 days detention without trial, then they made it 90 days, then they made 180 days, then they made it indefinite and each time they justified it as a special situation and introduced for a special purpose. Isn't that cross check again? That null hypothesis has got to have a constitutional factor in it because you're saying, I can drop my guard too because I can put on a blinker, look at a problem in a single way and don't realise that after I've looked at it I must remove those blinkers and I must look at it wider.

POM     Let me say if I came out of a struggle background and I had been detained and whatever and I'm a minister now for Safety & Security or Justice, I don't know what department it emerged from, it would be Maduna's department, s bill comes before me, we're going to send this bill to parliament and I look at it and I say, "Detention without trial! Ha ha! Who put that in?"

MM     Not on.

POM     "Which guy put that in?"

MM     And in walks Steve Tshwete and he says, "You know what I need that law for, the Mujahedin are here, Bin Laden is training here. I know where they are training but I can do nothing about it, Penuell, I need it for those people. You're going to destroy this country if you don't do that. I'm going to the President." Penuell says, "Oh, Steve, can we make an exception? This is an exceptional clause." What are you thinking about? Your immediate problem like the Americans. This is the immediate problem because Steve is saying this is the immediate problem and you say, OK for the immediate problem but we will put checks and balances.

POM     You'll have to substitute somebody for Steve because he's dead.

MM     But I know his blustering way, I know his bullying way.

POM     OK. Somebody like him, because he's gone, he's not with us any more.

MM     He'd say, no, no, no, I can't do this! You can't allow this thing. That's what happened with the Pagad thing, the terrorism in the Western Cape, the Pagad phenomenon.

POM     But they didn't introduce - ?

MM     I remember Intelligence coming with reports saying that there are training camps being run in this country by foreigners, coming from the Middle East and training, and getting worked up. And somebody said, "But where's the report? Where are they training?" "No, no, they've got several sites." "Where?" "Intelligence has got it." "No, please, can we have the information here? Can we have the information here before cabinet, where is the training camp? Who has gone and verified it? Who is this foreigner who's coming in? How is he getting in through the Immigration? You seem to know everything but you can't stop it." "No I can't stop it because of these laws. I don't have the legal powers to stop it." "But wait a minute, if a man comes in with a false passport you can't arrest him using the current laws? If there's a training camp in Worcester you can't stop it using these laws? Please, bring that intelligence report. We want it verified."

POM     Is this an example, you know we have talked on a number of occasions about the need, particularly in the initial stages of developing a nation rather than even a democracy, developing a nation and the necessity of remembering the past, is the past here being forgotten too quickly?

MM     Is the past being forgotten too quickly or is it becoming that emphasis is put on some of the right things about the past and some of the things that are being ignored? For example we set up the Truth Commission, it said in the law we want a TRC, one of its tasks is to dig into how it came to be that these gross violations took place with impunity, and the reason for that we said in the law was so that it never happens again. That aspect was not delivered by the TRC. It never produced a concise report saying – in this section of the report we are examining how it came to be that the rule of law was eroded. What are the key moments and what lessons are there so that it never happens again? Forgotten. I don't remember as I'm talking to you now, I don't remember seeing any even article, even an academic piece of work saying this was one of the mandates. The story has been told of the victims who suffered torture but the lesson of how the rule of law came to be undermined so that it became non-existent, what were the key moments in that turning path and what are the lessons so that it never happens again? And it doesn't matter if the article says that under the welter and pressure of time, etc., etc., it was not produced, but it says this is an unfinished business and it goes and interviews the commissioners and says, OK you didn't put it in your report, you didn't have time, but now can I invite each one of you to write an article? Can we have a debate so that we can learn, not as part of the Commission Report but you've had all that exposure, you haven't had time and I, the Kellogg Foundation, I'm going to fund this thing for a round-table meeting where the commissioners are going to come and contribute papers to this discussion, former commissioners.

POM     Are you going to do this?

MM     No, I'm just giving an example. I'm thinking madly, do you think I've got time to do all this?

POM     Yes.

MM     I haven't got time.

POM     It's a good idea.

MM     You want to put me into shit now.

POM     That's a good idea.

MM     Padraig don't put me into shit.

POM     No, I just want you to talk to Fanie. I'm using this now as – you see?

MM     I've retired!

POM     I'll come and say - make you do this and you'll say I won't do that but I'll do Fanie.

MM     What an exciting project, what an exciting project. But it's there in the law. It was in the terms of reference of the TRC. That was the purpose of the public hearings. The fundamental purpose of the public hearings was to hear the story and distil from it so that it never happens again.

POM     So what has not been taken from all those stories and analysed in a way so you can systemise the … ?

MM     Come to think of it I know how certain pebbles got thrown into the pond which distracted their attention. When they wanted PW Botha to arrive there the focus was to tell his story or incriminate himself and he said, "I'm not coming." The purpose was to say, even if you did it, help us understand so that we don't do it again. So the purpose is not just to pillory you because you will tell the truth and we will forget about it, we will amnesty you. The real purpose is so that it never happens again. It got lost because a different spin went in. The media, everybody jumped into PW is going to be grilled, he's going to have to bare his soul and accept responsibility. And he said, "Piss off, I'm not coming." So the primary agenda got lost. I didn't see a newspaper editorial say the purpose of this is a far more grander enterprise, you were in the seat of power, can you tell us how that rule of law got eroded, how you succeeded in eroding the rule of law, so that the new SA can benefit and the citizens can benefit so that it never gets done again. We will have now got the markers by which to test what not to do. Didn't happen. I don't recall an editorial saying that.

POM     That's a very good idea.

MM     I think it's an exciting one.

POM     I'll put it on my long list. I'll get another grant.

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