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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
30 Oct 2002: Maharaj, Mac
POM Mac, just to pick up on two points, it struck me last week as peculiar that you were supplying the London office with information regarding the reliability of Craig Williamson, you were asking for the name of his sources and they were withholding it. Now it would appear to me that Lusaka was the head office and London was a 'branch office', an important one but nevertheless a branch office, and that they were disregarding direct orders that were coming from Lusaka that in this instance may have compromised a number of people, led to a lot of damage. What kind of a problem did this pose? Where did London see itself with regard to Lusaka? Did it see itself as some kind of autonomous operation or as a fully functioning subsidiary?
MM There's a background to it. First of all in general if you equate underground, that is clandestine work, and if you take into account the casualties that we suffered at Rivonia with the Rivonia arrests, the idea that sensitive information should be centralised is normally a very difficult one to grapple with and then if you add to that that all intelligence services, which obviously operate clandestinely, have a rule that you only disclose source identities on a need to know basis. So the convergence of the circumstances with that sort of theory which in the intelligence services then has this huge problem, at which point in the chain of command do you divulge? Because if you divulge it through the usual chain of command a substantial number of people get to know that identity and there's a tendency to protect your sources in intelligence work. We can see it even now over September 11th, huge chaos in the information system of the United States intelligence services, not only the rival arms but the evaluation of the information. And when you add to that that London had been a converging point for a number of leading people in the movement post-Rivonia, 1963, the whole regrouping was taking place in London simultaneously as a regrouping was taking place in Tanzania. Some of the comrades like Dr Dadoo and Joe Slovo were not able to go and settle down in Tanzania and London gave them a convenient operating point. A number of sensitive operations were being mounted from London from 1963 onwards so that gave the London structure although it was a subsidiary structure a sense of possessiveness about what it was doing. It was prepared to report the general assessments of work done but it was not prepared to divulge who it was in touch with at home.
That's the context and my appointment and the creation of this department in 1977 obviously had to go through a phase of getting all the structures spread all over from London, to Botswana, to Lesotho, to Swaziland, Mozambique and even some clandestine operations before Zimbabwean independence to pull those things into a uniform way of working and then move towards the sharing of sensitive information and the highest sensitivity was about identity of people. It was not going to be an easy task in any structure.
Given that Craig Williamson and his partners had been trained by London in leaflet bombing and were being managed by London before the department was set up, the effective sharing of information was something that they were resisting because they were saying if we give you this information we lose control of who else knows about it and are you going to take this information and put it into a filing system in Zambia because Zambia is a very vulnerable country. It's vulnerable (a) to South African and Rhodesian military operations. It's vulnerable to penetration and all those sort of questions were cropping up. So, you say peculiar, I say peculiar, yes, but until they develop confidence in the head office and its ability to manage sensitive information they would be very wary to share.
The problem arose also with other areas neighbouring SA, Botswana, Lesotho. Lesotho, Chris Hani had settled down in Lesotho in 1973 and he would send political reports assessing the situation in the country but he would be very wary of transmitting this information. The difference in this particular case with London and myself is that I said divulge it to me and not for the purposes of putting in any records or files but because I'm intrigued. And immediately the question came up, what are you intrigued about? And the moment I said I have a suspicion about some of the individuals in that unit, they said, but how dare you challenge that? We have worked with them for a long time, they are working well, we have nurtured them, they are doing successful leaflet bombing, they are sending extensive reports about the political situation and who is doing what at grassroots level. And so you come along and say you are not sure of their bona fides and there's a human tendency then to take it as a criticism of them. So I am saying that when you look at it in that way the peculiarity disappears and is replaced by an understanding that this was one of the features of the underground.
We had a similar problem that the military would have its contacts inside the country, Intelligence would have its contacts inside the country, the political underground would have its contacts in the country, SACTU, the trade unions, would have its contacts, and I used to joke about it that we sit here in the Revolutionary Council and here's a report of a political reading of what is happening at home and SACTU says, "Our report confirms that", and the ANC Intelligence says, "Our report confirms the same thing." Yet we had very little way of knowing whether it was the same person reporting to the four different arms and each one not knowing that it is the same person because each one is saying to him or her in the country, "You don't tell anybody that you are in touch with the political." The reason for that is, don't tell anybody, is saying don't endanger your existence at home. But in practice how does it unfold? Here is a report before the Revolutionary Council, it's corroborated by three other reports from different sections and you have no way of knowing that, wait a minute, the report is from the same individual.
POM So was there on the part of London, this is a more general question, particularly in terms of operations it set up prior to they were set up in Lusaka or headquartered in Lusaka under a more institutionalised structure, a sense of possessiveness?
MM That's always there.
POM Ownership, this is our thing and suddenly you want to take it from us and we've developed it and we've nurtured it.
MM You may take it away from us and it's ours, it shows we are working. So there's an element of possessiveness. But you see the explanation for that was always grounded on security. You want to preserve the security of the person who is at home. So under that all sorts of foibles and agendas have room to thrive and all I'm saying is that that is the record even in western democracies of the intelligence services. So it's a real problem. Of course when you're in the middle of the problem you become impatient: what the hell is this? But I'm sure if you went to the head of the CIA he won't be able to say, 'I have the identity of O'Malley's source in Russia'. All he says is that my job as an analyst, my analysts look at O'Malley's reports and they keep on checking whether those reports are verified by other people's reading of what's happening in Russia and subsequent events to the extent that subsequent events prove that that report was accurate. You have a tendency to say O'Malley's source is reliable, but once you put reliable on the categorisation the need to protect the person becomes even greater.
POM But then since this is, I suppose again in a more general sense, counter-intelligence would say that let's say they've identified me as being a source for the CIA and they say what we must do is we must prove to the CIA that O'Malley is a reliable source, therefore we must make sure that certain events that he forecasts or sees happening because of his contacts actually do happen because then he will gain greater reliability at home and the more reliable he becomes at home then the potential greater use he is to us.
MM Yes. So that's a conundrum. You're sitting in that problem all the time with every person that you have. To take another case, in the Zimbabwe struggle, and it's well documented, the Zimbabwean ZANU/ZAPU would send a person into the country, into Zimbabwe, as a courier to meet one of the commanders on the field to take messages, whether concealed on his person or in his mind. What the Rhodesian forces did is they began to capture the courier and rapidly by threat, cajolement and enticement convert him to be their informer. They would then allow him to proceed with his mission to see you and brief you and you see him as coming from Mozambique with correct passwords and everything and then the message you gave to him to take to Mozambique I would pass it on to the Rhodesian forces and then go on and deliver the message in Mozambique. And through that measure they now began to intercept the information when a new group of insurgents is entering the country from Mozambique and by which route on which day at which time. They would sit in ambush and just mow them down. Nobody is left surviving so you don't know what happened.
Now Intelligence comes and says, "Please don't use Mac, every time Mac brings information don't act on it." We faced that problem in Vula. We had two very graphic incidents, the one was an outhouse in Reservoir Hills, a suburb of Durban. One of our comrades who had come in from outside, who had actually been trained in Cuba and was an expert in detonating devices, now he comes into the country, we settle him down and one of the things we do for him is we found an outhouse through one of us, I didn't even know where the outhouse was, where the accommodation was located. He settled there and it happened to be an outhouse separated from the main house, a few rooms. He began to work there and we commissioned him to manufacture detonating devices using locally available products from watches to chemicals, the lot. He was doing fantastically and then one day the Intelligence comes and in its reports it turns out that the Security Branch were observing a certain address in Reservoir Hills. They had mounted surveillance, they suspected the individual living there and the shock of shocks came that then I got hold of a video of the Security Branch that they had taken of this purported occupant of this servant's quarters. The video showed him from the rear going into a car. Now knowing him I knew that they had identified this comrade of ours, that they were on his track. The car that he was using was in the photograph but what was missing in the photograph was that the photograph did not record the number plate of the car. When I saw this I realised that this is Kevin that they're on the track of so I immediately went down to the structures and asked the relevant military structure, "Does Kevin live in a servant's quarters? What is his address?" And they tell me, "This is the address." I think it was Gebhuza or one of his juniors. So I said, "Very good. The police are now carrying out surveillance on this chap."
POM On his address and on the outhouse.
MM On the outhouse. The report says they haven't identified him by name but his behaviour is suspicious so they are keeping observation. It also says, the report, they had tapped the telephone lines for all houses in that area within a certain perimeter. So it looked very serious. Right, what we did then was we investigated the chances that we could steal him away and when we examined his circumstances we had to break this surveillance. So we managed to get a message to him, we managed to move him out of the area and we managed to break the surveillance and house him in a separate place. I went to see him one evening and the reports were saying he is extremely restive because he's now got to sit in a house, not go out day and night. I said, "What's he restive about?" They say, "He doesn't understand why we have put him in this house." So I went to see him because I knew he was quite a difficult comrade, he wouldn't listen to authority easily, so I personally went to see him and I said to him, "Comrade, our information is that you are under surveillance." He says, "Prove it to me." I said, "No, I can't prove it to you. I'm not going to divulge that information but what I do want is you are going to be escorted out of the country. I want you to get out of the country and stay quiet until we are very, very positive that we can secure you again. We need your services." Now he was resisting that but we sent him out. The police in the meantime, having lost track of him, then went into the servant's quarters and there they found all these devices that he was working on. So they couldn't find him.
The more graphic case was a case in Chatsworth.
POM So you took him out and ?
MM Took him out and later on we brought him back.
POM And he proved to be reliable?
MM Reliable and clean. In the other case in Chatsworth we had, again it was a separate building, a garage attached to a house but it was separate from the house, motor car garage. Attached to that garage was a room like a storeroom. The owners converted it into a flatlet to rent for income and not use it as a motor car parking place. We rented that place and we installed some printing machines to print pamphlets and leaflets and we assigned it to a particular comrade that that's his workplace. Some time later our Intelligence comes and says, "Hey, the police are on to a place in Chatsworth." And they said to me, "Do you have a place in Chatsworth?" I said, "No, no, no, I'm not answering that question. You tell me the address that the police know because I'm not going to divulge to you places that are not known to you or to the police. If the police know of a particular place you give me that address because I'm not going to give you every place that we have in Chatsworth." OK, the chap comes and he says, "Here's the place. This is the address, it's an outhouse.What's more the Security Branch have put three officers, they have arrested the people in the main house and detained them. They have gone into the garage, they have found the equipment and they are now occupying it but as if it's deserted. So they are allowing life to look normal and they are waiting for the culprits who occupy and use this workplace to enter."
A huge debate took place. The debate was, some comrades said, "We now know the identity of the officers there", and one of them was a Captain and they were white. So it's a high ranking officer and he is there with two other officers and they are sitting in this outhouse waiting for any culprit to walk in and they would arrest them and interrogate them. One school of thought says we have an element of surprise, that's in the Durban leadership. "We are able to now go and ambush them and kill them and disappear." This argument raged and other said, "Wrong. If you raid them and kill them you would have told the enemy that we have information that is pre-empting them and that would mean they would look inside their sources what has happened." The view that prevailed was to do nothing. We had set up a legend for the front house, the occupants of the front house, the main house, as to how and to whom they had let this place if anything went wrong. So the legend was fine, we now had to cross-check with the person in detention, "How are you coping with your interrogation? Is your explanation holding?" And everything indicated that his legend was holding because the police had no information to contradict his story.
POM So he went back to - ?
MM No this is another person. The occupant, the landlord.
POM Oh the landlord, OK. He had been arrested.
MM He had been detained, questioned and he says to them, "I let this place out to a person who gave me his name as X, his appearance is the following, this is what he looks like, and I've never interfered with him. He's always paid my rent." Does he own a car, etc., etc.? All the answers. So we say the landlord is telling the story that we had prepared. Fine. Now, what we do about this place, let us put it under discreet observation ourselves and leave them. They stayed in that outhouse, the police, for one month hoping that some day somebody is going to walk in here. At the end of the month they realise, hey, something is wrong here, nobody is coming. What was their assessment now? Two things. Whoever was using this place has got to know we've been watching it. Has he or she got to know by having smelt the rat and seen some of us whether night-time or somewhere getting in or bringing in food or have they got a source of information or has the landlord, because his family were left to live normally, so had the landlord spoken and sent them a tip-off. None of that they could resolve so in the end for their propaganda side they briefed reporters that they had captured a terrorist hideout and found lots of incriminating material, and let it die.
POM The landlord got - ?
MM He got released. Now the Intelligence veered, first the idea was attack the place and kill them and Intelligence was saying in the meeting, "Don't do that, you're going to endanger my source of information." We decided not to kill them and just disappear on the basis that we needed to preserve our links inside the Security Branch and therefore we opted not to act to eliminate. And the other side's argument was valid also, had we neatly killed these three officers it would have been a coup for the struggle in the sense that the public would learn that three high ranking officers led by a Captain were just mowed down and nobody has been caught for it. So we had to take that decision and I am saying this decision is always there. Do you act in such a way that betrays to the enemy that you have some other source of information that enables you to remain secure?
The result of this thing was when I was arrested in Vula and the Security Branch now had confirmation that we had sources inside the Security Branch, this is why General Basie Smit said after Madiba had visited me, he came into my interrogation room and said, "Listen, make no mistake, I want the identity of the informants in my Security Branch. I am not letting you go until I have that information."
POM To go back, this is a Vula deviation for whoever's filing these things, how like when I was talking to Dipuo Mvelase she talked about the quite brutal torture she had gone through for months, electric shocks, being hung upside down by the feet, being held incommunicado, not knowing who else had been arrested or what was happening to them, and this was while talks were going on and on the outside people were talking about negotiations beginning and a new start. How were you being treated? They knew you were high up in the hierarchy, they still wanted information from you, people like Basie Smit saying you're not getting out of here until I get the information I want out of you, how severe were your interrogations at that point?
MM Mine was totally different because I was (a) a member of the National Executive. I was arrested after I entered the country legally with an indemnity. When they arrested me of course the first thing that happened to them is that they misread the information that they found in Durban. They read that a conference had taken place in Tongaat.
POM That's the Tongaat thing, yes.
MM That it was a conference of the Communist Party and that there was a person who presented a hard line view in the debate in the form of a paper and that the author of that paper and presenter was a chap called Joe. The enemy immediately saw that as a chance to split our organisation between communist and non-communist, between ANC and SACP. The second thing is, I told you they had arrested me with a draft of the resolution of the position to take, so I was able from the moment of my arrest and the moment I was taken into Sandton for questioning, in spite of all the verbal aggression, I was able immediately to say, "Gentlemen, you be careful how you handle this matter." Now I was able to say that because I had already briefed Madiba of the arrests.
POM Of the arrests, of - ?
MM I had briefed him on the morning of the 19 July, I had briefed him again saying that my information says I'm going to be arrested, and he had intervened with De Klerk. On the morning of the 19th when I briefed him, the day after his birthday, he immediately picked up the phone and contacted Comrade Jacob Zuma and said, "Zuma, I want you to arrange a meeting between President de Klerk and myself urgent." So he was going to go and raise it with De Klerk but he was not going to divulge identities. What he did was to say, "Mr de Klerk, your security forces have arrested a number of people in Durban. They are people being arrested according to the newspapers for being in the underground. Now I want to say to you that these arrests are of people who belong to the ANC and I want to say to you that the underground has been continuing to exist, we can't just wind down everything, and I would like to see that this matter is resolved without it jeopardising the negotiations and, number two, that your people do not torture these people that they have arrested." Of course De Klerk said, "I'll get a report, I don't know about it."
So under those circumstances when I'm arrested I say to them, "Be careful. You have got there the resolution of the position we are going to take on 6th August. I don't believe that you should be misusing this information and passing it to government."
POM Passing it to? To the government?
MM To use in their talks with the ANC. Of course they say, "We've got jackpot here. Now tell us about Vula." I say, "Look, it's straightforward. I am the commander. What do you want to know?" "Who's who, what have you all been doing?" I said," 'That I'm not prepared to discuss, I'm not prepared to tell you." So they say, "We're going to beat the hell out of you." And this is where, I forget the name of the Colonel, there were about between 20 30, maybe even 40 officers involved coming in and out of the room and quite a few of them simultaneously in the room, it was a fairly big room, probably narrower than this room but a bit longer and they had chairs all round three walls and I was seated on one chair against the wall. This particular chap, all of them were in civilian clothes, some of them wearing camouflage jackets, etc., and I was observing from their conduct their ranking to see who was giving deference to who.
I then isolated a chap who was wearing a grey suit as being fairly high up because he would come in the room, come and threaten me verbally and march out. "I'm coming back later. If you haven't talked by then you're going to deal with me." And he would leave and the others would come to cajole and threaten. So my first line that night was to say this is clearly a high ranking officer, he is setting the tone of how the others should treat me by his threats. At some stage he walks in that night and by this time I'm ready. I say to him when he comes and starts threatening, I said, "Excuse me, can I see you alone?" Now his instinctive reaction was, "You want to see me alone?" I said, "Yes, I want to see you alone." His reaction was, oh this man is going to talk. So he took me into a private office down the corridor, went behind the desk, says to me, "Sit down. Right, start talking", he says. So I say to him, "I take it you're a Colonel?" He says, "Yes." "So you're a very senior officer?" He says, "Yes." Now he's still thinking that I'm only prepared to talk to a senior officer, this is going to be a coup for him, and I say to him
POM Is this before or after August 6th?
MM Before, this is the night of 25 July, the night I'm arrested, and I say to him, "I asked to see you because your conduct is an incitement to your juniors to assault and torture me. My arrest comes at a very sensitive time. Your political bosses may well have to sacrifice you in favour of the talks. You know my rank, you know I am the commander of Operation Vula, you know I'm a member of the National Executive of the ANC. I think you ought to be very careful because if your junior officers mistreat me and the thing becomes a difficult and a hot potato for your government, they will repudiate you and the buck will stop with you. They will put the blame on you. Now I've asked to see you because I think you're setting the wrong tone. You're inciting your officers and giving them the impression that they have a licence now to torture me. I've asked to see you alone." So that is what I told this officer and I said this would be a very uncomfortable thing for him and I thought that as a senior officer I should call him alone to tell him this. I would not like to tell him this in front of his juniors but it is in his hands. He didn't know how to respond to this. It was not a normal way that he has been used to handling people that they've arrested. So he just shut up and he escorted me back to the interrogation room and all the officers who were in the room who had seen him and me go out were all watching with expectation and they were clearly looking at his face and my face and our body language to work out what had transpired. I went into the room and I sat in my seat and this Colonel, once I was in the room, left and he never came back.
I was interrogated the whole night, the whole day, the next night and finally I am brought to John Vorster Square to sleep. I had been kept there without sleep under interrogation and when I'm brought to John Vorster Square as I get into the place a large number of students from Wits had been arrested that day for some demonstration or other and they were being released on bail and of course they recognise me. OK, they hush me and took me up the stairs and they take me to an office, the officer of the Officer Commanding of John Vorster Square, and who is it? It's this Colonel who disappeared. I look at him and I say, "Good afternoon Colonel." He just doesn't know how to handle this thing. Those were the circumstances in which I was kept and the first time that they actually assaulted me was after 6 August, after the morning of the 7th when Madiba had visited me.
POM He visited you on the 7th, the day after - ?
MM He visited me the day after the Pretoria talks, in the morning, early hours of the morning. And then somewhere around 7th, 8th, 9th is the first time that they assault me, physically. And when they assaulted me I remember the officer, he was going under the name of Nieuwoudt, and he claimed to have the rank of a Warrant Officer. When he assaulted me I turned round, he slammed me against the wall, and I turned round and I said to him, "Be careful what you are doing." In walked in a Colonel who had been supervising the whole thing. His name was Van Niekerk, they used to refer to him as Fritz. He walked in and he was wearing this camouflage jacket and he was a huge guy. He walked in in one of the pauses, came up to me, stuck his face into my face, slammed me against the wall and he clouted me. I immediately said, "Colonel, I was waiting for you. I promise you, hit me once more and it doesn't matter what you do to me but I'm going to kick your balls." Now this is in the presence of two of his juniors who are interrogating me. One of them has previously slapped me around. The shock was that this Colonel backed off. My reading? They have all been told, "Hey, there's sensitive issues here. You've got to be careful how you're handling it."
I don't know in the meantime that even FW has backtracked. What I had seen as I was moved from Sandton to John Vorster were the posters in the prison van and the posters said, 'FW demands withdrawal of Joe Slovo'. Subsequently I learned that Madiba refused to back off on that. De Klerk having made a public demand that Madiba must drop from his delegation for the meeting of the 6th Joe Slovo, Madiba refuses to back down, FW allows Joe Slovo to be in the meeting. Now what are the officers reading? The Security Branch who are interrogating me are reading, "Hey, hey, this ball game we don't understand. Even our President is backing off." So there is that edginess how to handle me.
The Katherines are in a different position. There's been no publicity of their names, there are huge names that large numbers of Vula people have been arrested. Katherine is arrested, by the way, because the first news we had that Charles Ndaba and Mbuso Tshabalala had disappeared was that they were working with her and Charles Ndaba and Mbuso had gone that weekend to work in Inanda Township and she is the one that raised the concern on Monday, saying Mbuso and Charles were supposed to return and meet her on Monday and they have not turned up. So Monday evening I get a message in Johannesburg, problems, Charles and Mbuso have not returned. So Katherine is from outside, she's done military training, and they want her to talk and they feel more secure what they can do with people like her, they feel they have greater licence.
My situation was completely privileged and subsequently, after the first time they assaulted me I remember raising the matter. I said, "Please go and check", the General in charge of the Witwatersrand Police was a General Erasmus. I said to them, "General Erasmus is the officer commanding the Witwatersrand Police." He used to be the Warrant Officer in 1964 who was quite sadistic. He had been Warrant Officer in 1964. He is the chap who had assaulted Tim, my wife, and he's the chap that I jokingly say he was my saviour because he was small built relative to the other cops and he had a complex about his build. They used to rag him and they used to joke with him. He is the chap that I then isolated personalitywise that if I provoked him, if I insulted him and the first time I insulted him was by spitting into his face in front of the others and within seconds he would assault me to the point where I'm unconscious. This was the Warrant Officer.
POM You spit on him?
MM Spit on his face.
POM When did you do this?
MM 1964 in detention under torture. I had isolated him as a man who was provokable. I was being administered this slow torture and continuous torture and I said to myself, if I provoke him he will so assault me that (a) he will leave marks on me and (b) I'm likely to be unconscious. And indeed that's exactly what happened. He would assault me and within a minute I would be unconscious and I jokingly used to call it 'my rest period'. Knowing this personality and he knowing me, now in the Vula case I said to the officers, "Go and ask the General that this little bit of slapping and punching me around and threatening me, go and ask him whether it will work because he, with all his licence and torture with his whole team, did not get me to talk. Do you think you are going to succeed?" Yes, his first name was Gerrit, Gerrit Erasmus.
OK that day passes and a few days later when they threaten me again, to assault me, I say, "Have you been to the General? Have you contacted him and asked him?" Of course I don't know whether they have but they say, "Yes we have contacted him." So I say, "Well didn't he tell you that this stuff that you're doing and all these threats and these slaps you're giving me are not going to work?" No answer. I said, "Check it out." Now all those trumps were being held by me and then arrives this position that they say, "But we want the names of the informers in the Security Branch." And I say to them, "No." They offered me a trade-off through Basie Smit. Basie Smit says, "You give me the names of the informants you have in my Security Branch, I will give you the name of a member of the National Executive of the ANC who is working for a foreign intelligence service." And I say to him, "The idea that somebody in the National Executive is working for the foreign service of some other country, not a problem for me. I know who it is." I'm just boasting. I say, "I know who it is. A non-trade." They say, "No, we must have the names of the people in our ranks." I say, "You free me. This is a very delicate situation, negotiations are about to take place. You free me and then when I am a free man you meet me and then we can discuss whether there's something to be traded or not traded, but under detention there's no trade-off to take place."
So this was the environment and I believe that I got off very lightly because of those circumstances.
POM Did Madiba visit you again?
MM Yes, he visited me the second time in September 1990 at St Aidan's Hospital. By this time I had been moved to Durban and I had been hospitalised and Madiba had made a trip abroad and when he visited me, what I remember him telling me was that he was now fed up with the way the government was handling my detention. He had left the matter in the hands of Walter Sisulu to deal with the Minister of Police and Law & Order, Adriaan Vlok. Vlok had indicated that by 17 September they would either release me or charge me, one way or the other I would either be charged or released, but Madiba returned to find that the 17th had expired, that they had done nothing about releasing or charging me and they were persisting in holding me. So he said to me in the hospital ward that he found that they were reneging on their undertakings to Walter and he thought the time had arrived to mount a campaign for my release but he cautioned me, he said that there were members of the leadership who were divided on this matter. Some were feeling that he was giving my detention too much attention relative to the attention that he was giving to get the negotiations moving and therefore felt that he should reduce the pressure on my release and concentrate pressure on talks and he was feeling that he should pursue both. My answer to him was, "You have to assess politically what's the best thing to do, I have no problem, I am sitting here in hospital having a right royal time, I'm under no pressure, I'm living it up so I have no problem, I can sit it out for as long as you want. Don't judge the matter emotionally, saying, Mac is in detention, I want him released. My terms are alright, worry about the others and worry about the larger picture what you need to do to push those negotiations." So that was the burden of our discussion and now that I've remembered that Vlok had promised Walter that I would be either released or charged by 17 September while Madiba was abroad, this visit took place later in September or early October.
POM Now where did, and I'm not yet revisiting the question of why you resigned from the SACP or the ANC, there was one school of thought that you had resigned because you had felt that the ANC had neglected, paid no attention to your situation, that they just said, well that's tough, Mac will have to handle it on his own, we're just moving on. Where did that kind of rumour emanate from?
MM OK, this is something that I have not spoken about publicly at all. In detention and particularly when I was now in hospital I was receiving information through doctors, through my physiotherapist and the nurses and I was receiving visits, I was even phoning my wife in Brighton through public call boxes with the collaboration of the nursing staff. Now, my information did say that there was a divided opinion inside the ANC but this is not before my detention, this is after my detention. There are people who have said that I was concerned about my detention, I wasn't. I had sent messages out that I could escape from the police station in Durban, is it politically advisable? I don't need their help, I can escape. From hospital I sent messages also, I am now in hospital, I'm comfortably settled, I have relative freedom and I can escape and St Aidan's Hospital was directly across the street from the bus rank so if I just stepped out of there and got into the crowd in the bus rank I was gone. But I said in my messages, "You have to take a decision politically", and my messages were to Slovo, I didn't want to go directly to Madiba, I knew he would talk to him. I said, "It's only if you say that it will be politically useful if I escape would I do it." So in spite of all the stories that I was getting of divided views of individuals in the ANC I was not concerned and, as I say, about my treatment, it was a holiday compared to 1964, and I felt that I was serving a useful role in hospital as time went on because Billy Nair was in the same hospital, he had had a heart bypass while under detention and Anesh Sankar, who is now in London, was in another ward also receiving medical attention and he had been detained. Now I was able to see both of these guys, I was able to consolidate their positions of not to talk and I felt I was playing a role of holding the ranks of people in detention.
When I came out I did raise the matter very, very sharply at a National Executive meeting. I had heard about which individuals in the ANC leadership were saying these things about me, such as that Vula was not an ANC operation, that it was a maverick operation and were saying don't bother about him, let him face the music. Now they were telling journalists, they were telling other individuals and what annoyed me was that some of the people who were in the know about Vula were not doing anything to change that. I know that the ANC issued a public statement acknowledging that Vula was an ANC operation but notwithstanding that I have also had a report from my wife that on London Channel 4 TV in a news item the Chief Representative of the ANC had appeared repudiating Vula and back to back with that programme Channel 4 did an interview with my wife in which she said it was an ANC operation in her personal knowledge directed by OR Tambo. But Tambo was down with a stroke.
So the ANC issued that official statement but nonetheless journalists and others, I was getting a feedback, were telling this and they were identifying who were saying these things. Slovo and Nzo visited me while I was awaiting trial in Westville Prison. Now I had been charged
POM The message back from Slovo was stay put?
MM No, he didn't respond, didn't respond. When he visited me in Westville Prison I raised with him, "What is this nonsense? Aren't you able to tell the members of the NEC to act more honourably?" He said, "Well you know, these are things that people say." I said, "No, the problem for me is these are things that are being said by members of the NEC, individuals in the NEC, and I find that extremely distasteful not because of me personally but because I regarded it as an ethic that you stand by." I had lived through the sixties, I had seen how people stood by their comrades under torture and I felt that this was a bond that you don't break. You don't just jump and react to enemy information, you deal with uncomfortable developments by politically explaining them to the masses and you stand your ground. I was clear that Madiba was standing his ground in defence of me, that Walter Sisulu was doing so and I believe that Slovo was doing so too. There are posters that they were going on marches demanding my release. But there were these individuals talking this way. So when I was awaiting trial and given bail I then attended an NEC meeting.
POM But when you raised it with Joe he just said, "Oh, well."
MM We were talking under surveillance conditions. The NEC then had a meeting, it was a regular NEC meeting to discuss all sorts of things and that's the first one that I attended after I had been detained and I asked the chairman permission and I said, "I have a major, major criticism to make." And my criticism was made about how certain people were talking. I said, "Here we are entering the negotiations phase which needs us to be united as never before." It's a difficult task to negotiate with the enemy. But here, parallel to that is an experience of how individuals in the NEC were maligning their own colleagues and maligning colleagues who are sitting in the enemy's den. And I named some of the NEC members. In the meeting I said, "You, so-and-so, this is what you have been saying to journalists and I do not understand this behaviour." So it was a very brutal attack I made on some of them personally.
Of course that passed. There was some discussion. I even criticised Joe Modise. I had a report that indicated that after my arrest he had visited Angola and the camps and of course in the camps comrades were asking, "What's happened to Mac? What is happening, he's been arrested?" And apparently Joe Modise said to them in a meeting, he said, "I know nothing about that, that's not an ANC operation. Don't ask me about it." Yes he knew nothing about it but I felt that as the commander of uMkhonto weSizwe he was obliged to say to the comrades in the camp, "Yes he's been arrested. Yes we are worried about his arrest. Yes we are mounting campaigns to have him released and yes we are negotiating." But not to repudiate. I said this at the meeting.
POM Shubin says that he was not aware of
MM Yes, he was not aware.
POM He was not aware?
MM Not aware of Vula.
POM Your point is that whether he was aware or not you were a colleague involved in an operation and rather than saying I know nothing about it, don't ask me, he should have understood that there were many activities going on in the ANC of which one member was not aware of the other.
MM Yes, that's all.
POM That collectivity had to kick in.
MM Yes, you had to defend your colleagues. You had to assume that your colleagues are acting in good faith until proven that they were not acting in good faith. That's a principle to me and I said at the meeting, I said, "You've gone and said this thing. You're the commander. The fact that you don't know about it, what is your obligation to your membership? Isn't your obligation to defend your members? Now how much more are you obliged to defend your fellow colleagues in the leadership until you know and you now know. There was a statement issued saying it's an ANC operation. Don't you feel silly having gone to the soldiers and told them you know nothing about this, that that's a maverick operation. That's not the way you deal with a matter like this."
So, yes, I made a pretty harsh attack on some of my colleagues in the NEC and I named them. I didn't name all of them but I named some of them as examples. I am sure that those individuals have never forgiven me for it. I have continued to work with them in subsequent years in the NEC but I am sure that this thing stayed on in their minds and to the extent that it has stayed on in my mind I tried not to allow it to influence my working together with them. But if you ask me would I trust them for a sensitive operation if we are required to do it today, mandated by the organisation and I was asked to select the comrades who would do this sensitive thing with you on even a denial basis, as is done in intelligence, and if they said so-and-so and so-and-so will be in the team with you, I would object to them being in the team and I would object on the grounds that I do not believe that given their past that I could trust them to stand by when things go wrong. That to me is the essence of comradeship. It's not to defend you when things are going right. That's wonderful. It's when things go wrong that you are supposed to close ranks and stand together and I criticised them for that.
POM Another matter that, well there are two matters I want to check with you that Ismail Ayob brought up, one was he said that you were, the word is not disappointed, that you were, the word is not devastated, there's a word in between, you'll get it, that when your Mum died and you were taken to her funeral in shackles and handcuffs that there was no-one there he was there but there was no-one from the ANC there.
MM It was not my Mum, it was my sister from Springs who died.
POM She's the one you'd contacted when you wanted to get out of the country?
MM Yes. After I had returned legally I had paid a visit to her because I'd heard that she was critically ill with cancer so I visited her before my detention and I saw that she was in a dire condition, she was on her deathbed with cancer. I got arrested on 25 July and I think she died on 28 or 29 July. Ismail Ayob, clearly advised by somebody, who I don't know, very likely advised by Madiba, used her death as a basis to demand permission from the authorities for me to attend the funeral. It was a cremation here in Brixton. The body was brought from Springs to be cremated because the Hindus cremate the body. Yes I was brought in shackles and manacles, etc., with about 40 police guarding me, escort vehicles, and I was taken in. I didn't have any time that day to notice who was there, who was not there because I was brought in straight and taken into the room where the body was now prepared for going into the furnace for cremation. I don't know the routine of the Hindu rituals so my mindset was very clear, there is a photograph of me with all those chains and all these hoards of policemen around me.
And they didn't warn me. I was in detention under interrogation and suddenly they just came into the room, I was in a tracksuit that had been sent by Elsabe Wessels (Mohammed Valli's wife). She had brought a pair of tracksuits as change of clothes for me to the police station and they had given it to me after a few days. So here I was wearing this tracksuit, a pretty gaudy one, but my mind was clear that as soon as they said we're taking you and I saw all these escorts, "Where are you taking me?" Leg irons. "No, you'll see." Now as we drove off from Sandton Police Station I began to ask where am I going. I don't know that my sister is dead yet. So when I arrive at the crematorium I see Brixton Crematorium and I think one of the officers said to me in the car, "You're going to your sister's funeral." My mind was clearly focused, somebody has manoeuvred and got me this permission. I have one duty, conduct myself in such a way that whoever is seeing this must see an unbroken man. That's all.
The police wouldn't let me interact with anybody, the just surrounded me, and I just said to myself, with my handcuffs behind me, straighten your back and walk firmly. So I don't know who was there, it didn't affect me. The positive thought was somebody had intervened to make sure I am produced so that it's a restraint on their torturing me.
The next thing that happened is that, as I say, Slovo and Nzo visited me in Westville Prison as I was due to come up for trial. So that was the General Secretary and Slovo. Now when I appeared in trial in Durban, yes, mind now focused, how do we stand together?
POM So you're all there.
MM Nine of us.
POM Dipuo is there, Katherine is there.
MM Pravin Gordhan, Dipak Patel, there were about nine of us on trial. So two things are occupying my mind, how do we collectively defend ourselves and handle the defence and how do we get bail? Secondly, who's going to be our lawyers? And thirdly the great relief, you're out of detention now and you're going to deal with this matter politically. You're not going to say sorry for what you did and you're going to expose the treatment that your colleagues have had because now when we were brought together one could hear how this one and that one was tortured. OK, but when we get in the courtroom unable to look around who's there, who are my relatives, who's in the gallery, it didn't strike me at that time, Padraig, that there was a problem about anybody in the leadership coming to court. It was a normal thing, oh people are busy, lots of work to do, rebuild the ANC, get into negotiations, etc.
Bail was set and for me it was R180,000 and the lawyers, it was set at about midday or two o'clock in the afternoon, now until that money is paid you can't be released and the lawyers before five o'clock had raised the money. Now that's not small smackers. I think taking all of us they had to raise about R230,000 or R250,00 but mine was R180,000, but they raised the whole money and by five o'clock we were freed, out on bail. And of course a date was given when the trial would come up and of course I flew off straight to Jo'burg and of course I am thinking now, now is the time appropriate for Zarina and the kids to come and I have no worries in my head am I going to be found guilty and am I going to be sent to prison. I had no worries like that. But I became aware of a problem when I was informed that the NEC has met and somewhere, either the NEC or the Working Committee or the officials have instructed that members of the NEC should go to the resumption of my trial and be present and the people who turned up there was John Nkadimeng and Bob Manci. Both of them were members of the NEC, both had been formerly prisoners on Robben Island and they attended my trial.
POM Were you all tried together, were the nine of you brought to trial together?
MM Together, each time, yes, we were all charged.
POM What lawyers were representing you at that point?
MM Zac Yaacob, now Constitutional Court judge was our advocate. He's a judge on the Constitutional Court, he's the judge who is blind.
POM OK, oh I've interviewed him.
MM You've interviewed him?
MM Quite a hilarious guy. Right. And he was Durban based and we needed lawyers from Durban and as far as I'm concerned he didn't regard this as a complicated case. So he was the Senior Advocate defending us and we appeared the trial proper never started. It was remanded several times and then the trial proper started, the state began to lead evidence, it was adjourned again and the next time we met, we attended court I think in March 1991, the prosecutor got up and announced that FW de Klerk as President had indemnified the entire group and the case therefore fell away.
Now that indemnity too, Padraig, could not have come without intervention of the ANC and from Madiba personally. So I think there's a misreading there and that misreading is based on even Shubin finding out how many people were not coming, who didn't come to the funeral, who didn't come to the trial, because in his own mindset as a close worker with us from the Soviet Union in his mind too it was 'something is funny here'. So I think it's that that colours what he says in the book. Certainly in writing that book he never discussed the issues with me.
POM It was Ismail Ayob who got confused, he said it was your mother's funeral, number one, and then he said he was the only one there at that funeral, that there was no other member of the ANC hierarchy or anything.
MM It may have been something that when the authorities conceded it they said we don't want this funeral to be a political event, and from a position of a person like Madiba and Walter they would say it's more important that he be brought to the funeral so that the press and all of us can see that he's in good shape. Now do not jeopardise the thing by making it a huge political event because, remember, I am arrested on 25th, this is on the 29th and we are still heading for the August 6th talks with the government. So I think Ismail is also reading something into it.
POM To just return to something you said. You said to the officers who had arrested you and found the draft of the resolution that you and Thabo and Ronnie Kasrils and Slovo had prepared, you said, "Don't show this to the government." Was I hearing you right?
POM What do you think they would do?
MM No, that was a sophisticated argument just simply to put them on the back foot because I said, "You are a crime investigating division. You are investigating a criminal act committed by me and my group. The information you get includes information about how the ANC is going to conduct itself in its talks with FW on 6 August. It would be improper for you to brief your political masters of this resolution because you're abusing the information you've got to change the way the negotiations are talked about. You are forewarning De Klerk of a position that the ANC would take because it's a very honourable position." It said we were going to announce that we are unilaterally suspending the armed struggle. I said, "That would be to give FW a wrong advantage at the table. That discussion at the table should be proceeding on the merits of each side's case, not on using this information to pre-empt the ANC."
POM Surely, you knowing who they were, would say they've already given it to him?
MM Sure, I knew that, but if they said that to me what they would be saying is that FW as a President of the country is hands on involved in the management of my case. Right? No big stick for them because I knew that my detention had been sanctioned by FW. That is how I briefed Madiba to say I believe that three members of the NEC, my information tells me, will be detained. I don't know which three but I know I'm one of them. I then speculated that it would be Ronnie and that it would possibly be Slovo. I said all three are members of the NEC and I suspect that this is what's going to happen. How do we conduct ourselves. And I said this is a decision that my sources of information are saying has been taken at the highest level. He said, "OK, fine, we can handle that."
POM So after the arrest of Nyanda which would have gone to De Klerk
MM Nyanda's arrest I don't think was authorised by De Klerk, I think Nyanda's arrest took place on the 11th.
POM But after his arrest?
MM After his arrest clearly there was a race to inform the government because of the information that they found. Nyanda's seniority, information with his arrest that I have been in the country with him from the beginning, information that Ronnie had joined us in February. Now that plus the minutes of Tongaat with this name 'Joe' and all sorts of communications that they found between inside and outside, arms, etc., cadres.
POM This is all encoded information?
MM Yes. Would have said we've got an explosive thing and they would have rushed to their chiefs in the police in Pretoria to brief them and the chiefs in Pretoria would have been on the line rushing to FW because as it turned out people like General Basie Smit were hard liners on the negotiations. I have to work on the basis that the briefing of FW came shortly after the 11th. And I assume that FW's response would have been - keep me fully informed as you go on investigating this matter.
POM Ayob also says that with regard to the transfer of information from Madiba out of the prison on to Lusaka, he divides it into two periods. He says that he had met and discussed all kinds of things of invisible ink and tape recorders with you but that Madiba kind of pooh-poohed the lot including the tape recorder. In fact there is no record of him ever on a tape saying something in Victor Verster but that the first stage of that operation was that he would just absorb what Madiba was saying, come out and then that he would fly to Lusaka maybe once every two weeks or so, brief Lusaka and that then that stopped when Operation Vula kicked in, that he would make notes or whatever of the meetings and that would be picked up by a courier, taken to you and that you would pass it on through your own channels to Lusaka.
MM No, his memory is wrong there because the Madiba letter to PW Botha was tape recorded and it was a very long document and Ayob transcribed it in his own handwriting after the visit from the tape and it was verbatim. I know it ended up incomplete because Madiba then in the transcription it reaches a point after about ten pages of handwriting where Madiba says, "And there are a further ten pages of similar arguments", in Madiba's handwriting. Madiba was reading the copied letter.
POM He was saying, as I recall, he was saying to Ayob, "This is what I'm going to write."
MM No, he said, "This is what I have written."
POM Written to him. He was reading it out.
MM And that was being recorded on the tape and he reaches a certain point where he's gone through the substantive arguments and he then cuts short that part by saying, "There are a further ten pages of similar argument", meaning there's nothing new in the rest of what I'm saying. You've got the core of what I have said in what I have read out so far so let's not waste the rest of the visit going on to the rest. Now I am very clear that that was on a tape because there is no way he could have reconstructed it from memory.
POM That's the one that was read out by his daughter, is it?
MM No, no. That's not the one read out by the daughter. The daughter one is 1986/87 at a UDF meeting. That one is a much shorter statement which he gave to Ayob before Vula had come in which Zinzi read out at the Orlando Stadium. This one I'm talking about is the letter that Madiba wrote to PW Botha urging the need for talks between the ANC and government.
POM This would be after his Rubicon? Or was it after he said, "I will release him if he gives up violence?" That was the 1985 one.
MM Yes, correct. This is now a letter that Madiba wrote in 1989 to PW Botha. I can find the date, it would be in a book called Mandela Speaks.
POM I can't find that book.
MM OK, I'll remember that I've got a copy.
POM I go into book stores and look for it and I was looking for
MM Madiba was looking for the text of that speech, of that letter, and I showed him that it is on the ANC web site and I found it in this book. It is the letter that I used to prove to Valli that Madiba was not selling out.
POM To prove to Valli?
MM What happened in this case is that Ismail was (break in recording)
I think the date is 1989 but I will check the date. I knew Ismail was going to go sometime, I had to avoid seeing him all the time, regularly, continuously, and I had an intermediary. Now he went off
POM Who was the intermediary?
MM I think that the intermediary in this case was possibly Janet Love. So I didn't know that he had gone to visit Madiba and was back. I was in Johannesburg but I was leaving on the Sunday night, I was due to be driving down to Durban. On Sunday afternoon I heard a rumour circulating in town through Momo (Momoniat the chap who's in the Department of Finance on municipal financing). Oh no, he was my courier with Ismail. I heard from Ismail Momoniat that there was a rumour that Madiba is selling out and that this was widespread, that there was talk that Madiba is going to be asking for delegations to visit him and that because he is selling out nobody is to visit him, you should not respond to his request. So I said to Momo, "Where does this come from?" He said, "I don't know." So I said to him, "Have you seen Ismail?" He says, "No." I say, "You'd better go and see him. It's urgent. If this is the story that's circulating amongst comrades it is a very serious development so go and see Ismail urgently and come back to me by this evening", it was Sunday. Momo goes to Ismail and collects the letter but he also learns from Ismail that Ismail not knowing where I am and realising he's got a very important document in his hands, gave it to Valli, Sydney Mufamadi and Jay Naidoo (COSATU General Secretary). Now he gives this thing to me and it comes I read this thing quickly. I say, "You say he has given this thing to Valli and company?" He says, "Yes." He says he gave it to them, and I say, "Why did he do that?" And he says, "That's the basis of the story that Madiba is selling out." So I said, "OK."
POM The letter is?
MM Yes, it's regarded as proof that he's selling out. So I say, "Oh, oh, let me read this." So I read it, this is before transmitting or anything. I read this thing rapidly, it is Sunday afternoon, it's getting later afternoon and I say to Momo, "There's no sell-out here. I want you to immediately go and find Valli or Sydney or Jay Naidoo. Find one of them, whoever you can find now, and bring them this evening to a meeting with me." Momo managed to contact Valli and he brought Valli to the Constantia Centre where the old trucks used to be and there used to be a cinema complex and an outdoor restaurant on the first floor in a sort of open area. It was a vantage point from where I could see anybody. So I got to the Constantia Centre and he came along with Valli.
Valli greeted me and said, "Have you heard, Madiba is selling out?" So I say, "Where do you get it from?" He says, "We have proof, we have a letter that he's written to PW Botha." So I say, "Sit down", I think Momo went away, "Sit down Valli." And I take out this letter, I say, "Is this the letter?" He says, "Yes. Oh you've got it too I see." So I said, "Let's go through this letter", and I took him paragraph by paragraph through the letter and I said, "Is this a sell-out? There's no sell-out here." He is urging PW to have talks with the ANC in order to resolve the conflict in SA and he is arguing that the obstacles that are in PW Botha's mind are not valid objections to the negotiations taking place with the ANC. He is not negotiating himself, he is simply saying you have an objection to talking to the ANC because it turned to violence. Now he explains the historical circumstances under which we turned to violence and says that by opening negotiations you can remove the violence. Secondly, he argues that you have an objection to talking to the ANC because they have an alliance with the Communist Party. He then goes historically to justify that alliance and defend it. And that is the letter in which he says for negotiations to succeed the negotiations between government and the ANC will have to address the following issues. Firstly, the principle of majority rule based on one person one vote. Next paragraph he says, but against this you will have to reconcile it not with another principle but with the fears and concerns of the white minority. These are the two things, the principle and fears and concerns that will have to be brought on the table and a resolution found. Then a little later he says any resolution of this issue, of the principle of equality against the fears and concerns of the whites, must be taken in the understanding that unless there is equality there will not be permanent peace in this country so he raises equality as a principle.
I go through this with Valli systematically and I say, "Where's the sell-out? Have you chaps read this letter carefully?" He says, 'Shit, I didn't understand this thing. I just thought that this is proof that he's negotiating." I said, "But how did you read this? Besides, it was not supposed to be for your hands. What have you all done?" He says, "We've met and we are meeting again tomorrow morning."
POM Talking about Mufamadi and Naidoo?
MM Mufamadi, Jay Naidoo, himself. He says, "We're meeting tomorrow morning." I said, "Who else is going to be at the meeting?" He says, "Kgalema Motlanthe." (The current Secretary General of the ANC.) He says, "The four of us are meeting to discuss this." So I said, "Now are you satisfied that there is no sell-out?" He says, "Yes." I said, "Now, that meeting tomorrow morning must happen and it is your duty now, Valli, to go to that meeting and take that meeting through the letter word by word as I have done with you to see that there is no sell-out and to change the decision you will have taken to spread the message around the country that he's selling out." He says, "Sure, you can take it for granted it will be done." So I say, "What other damage is happening?" He says, "Mac, the word has come from Port Elizabeth also that he's selling out." So I said, "From where?" He says, "From Govan." I said, "Where did Govan hear this?"
POM Govan is now free?
MM Yes. I said, "Jesus! Something has got to be done about that." Now my line of communication with Govan is through Durban so I don't tell Valli that but I know I'm heading for Durban. Then I say, "Where else?" and he says, "But it's the talk in the whole country, it's spread like wildfire. Harry Gwala has said the same thing."
POM Harry Gwala?
MM In Pietermaritzburg.
MM Also an ex-prisoner. He is saying that Madiba is selling out. He is saying that a warder has turned up at his home in Pietermaritzburg requesting him to come to visit Madiba, a prison warder. So he says, "This is very suspicious, I don't trust it. What are the prison authorities doing? It means Madiba is selling out." So I said, "Valli, let's take this piece by piece. You are now satisfied, no sell-out?" He says, "Yes." "Now it's your duty to get that committee to change its decision, correct the position immediately." I say I'm heading for Durban, "I will be there by tomorrow evening, I want a message to Durban indicating how your meeting has gone and what steps you are taking to correct the matter." He says, "You can take it for granted it's done."
I then proceed to Durban. Now I left in the early hours of Monday morning for Durban. By the time I got to Durban I see Billy Nair, I go through this letter. By this time of course I've already
POM Had he already gotten word too?
MM No, but he had heard the rumour. But by this time I've transmitted, before I left I transmitted the text to OR and I sent him a commentary to say what is happening here and told him what steps I'm taking to diffuse the problem. I said I'm proceeding to Durban and I will be following up. Now when I get to Durban another picture comes out that Harry is saying this and has sent a communication that Madiba is selling out.
POM He's sent a communication to?
MM To Govan and to the UDF head office and to Western Cape, throughout the country.
POM On the basis of a warder - ?
MM This misreading.
POM A warder coming to visit him to say that Madiba would like to see him?
MM In prison.
POM That's enough for him to put this whole - ?
MM Well together with what he's heard. As it turns out later what he heard from Govan in PE, Govan would have sent verbal messages I'm coming to that a little later.
OK, we've taken the damage control, I've sent Billy to see Harry Gwala in Pietermaritzburg to correct the wrong impressions. I've got a report from Valli and them that that morning they met, I think at about seven, but he says the three of them met, Sydney, Jay Naidoo and himself. Kgalema arrived late. Why? Kgalema had been to PE to see Govan. Govan had summoned him so he had flown down on the Sunday and he flew back on Monday morning, early flight, coming to the meeting to say, "Confirmed from Govan, Madiba is selling out." So when he walked into the meeting the guys were waiting for him and he says, "Chaps, I've had word, confirmed, Madiba is selling out." So they then say to him, "Where do you get this from?" He says, "I get it from ANC head office." They said, "What head office?" So he says, "But I've just seen Govan. I've just come from PE." They then say, "Here's the letter, have you seen this letter?" He says, "No." And they go through the letter and Valli takes them through, shows them that there is no sell-out and then they start correcting.
Now in the lobbying they had even gone to Albertina Sisulu to say that Madiba was selling out. Now when they go the next day to see Albertina and say, "Mama it's wrong, he's not selling out", poor Albertina says, "Boys you are confusing me. I don't understand now what you are saying. You first came to me and said he's selling out, nobody must visit him. Now you're coming to tell me he's not selling out." So Albertina requests a visit with Walter in Pollsmoor. She goes to Pollsmoor and she meets Walter and the report I got back was that she says to Walter, in a reasonably camouflaged way, that there are rumours circulating that Madiba is selling out. She brought a gem of a reply from Walter, the reply said to her, "I don't have the details that you're talking about but I can tell you one thing, Albertina, never lose faith in the integrity of Madiba." Now that satisfied Albertina that the rumour was wrong.
In the meantime I come back to Jo'burg. I start seeing is the damage control now
POM What about did you go and see Govan?
MM No I didn't go to Govan. Too risky. The one time I saw Govan it cost me about R10,000 to visit him, to take security measures to be safe to meet him. But I sent a message from Durban but I also asked OR to send a message to Govan. When I came here it was clear now that the letter had reached Valli and Jay Naidoo and Sydney through the hands of Ismail Ayob. What was not clear to me was how did the message get to Govan. It turned out when I saw Ayob personally to go through this whole thing and to say to him that he had caused a major problem by acting incorrectly, that the communications were directly for the eyes of OR and OR's eyes only and that he had done a mistake by just getting excited and showing it to comrades in the UDF, that that was not his function. OK, he took it well and I said to him now, "Let's go through what has happened."
It turned out that that particular visit to Victor Verster was made by Ayob in the company of a lawyer from the Western Cape, from Cape Town. Two of them had gone to see Madiba and so this lawyer from the Western Cape had overheard, he didn't know it was being recorded, he was hearing this for the first time and he got overwhelmed by the impression and the impression he took was that Madiba is negotiating and selling out and he, as soon as he got out of the visit, took a plane and rushed to Govan in PE and reported to Govan that he was present at a briefing where Madiba was selling out. The rumours became so bad, because his mind was so coloured and he had not grasped the purport of what was being said by Madiba, that he actually embellished it. He said that he had heard it personally from Madiba's mouth, that Madiba was dressed in a three piece suit and Madiba was drinking wine and had provided wine. So the image he conveyed is that Madiba is already living in the lap of luxury, he's dressed in a civilian suit, he's offered them wines in this house at Victor Verster and that added proof that he's selling out. The story that emanated from PE now was not only that Madiba was selling out but he was wearing three piece suits, drinking wine and consorting with the enemy.
POM Can you remember the name of this guy from the Western Cape?
MM Dullah Omar.
POM That's too much.
MM Now I don't know how we handle this incident, Padraig. I put you the names
POM We'll deal with that later.
MM - the personalities, we'll deal with it later. But it is Dullah Omar who did that, who rushed off to Govan and briefed him and it fell on fertile ground because Govan had had this suspicion and it just caused havoc. That is why Allister Sparks in Tomorrow is Another Country refers to this incident and says that Vula had acted so swiftly and timeously that it diffused an extremely explosive situation in the country over these negotiations. I am convinced had we not been present, had we not acted fast, as fast as we did, track it down and report to Lusaka accurately and take the damage control steps here, that incident had the potential of splitting the movement.
POM Let me go backwards now that you've mentioned Govan. This is going back to Robben Island and he quotes here, this is Shubin on page 187, he quotes from a letter that was smuggled out of the prison from Madiba to OR. He's talking about Madiba's - first of all it was Madiba's attempt to get the Gang of Eight somehow back into the movement, attempt some reconciliation. He says: -
"I am very impressed by Oliver's action plus all others. Does Oliver think I should write to Tennyson Makawane? Would this have a reuniting effect. The letter would ask Tennyson to rejoin the group and would be sent to him via Oliver. The message is interesting because it reflects the staunch spirit of the political prisoners and in particular of Madiba himself, "We are still very solid here. In Robben Island (Prison) we are sharply divided on what actions should be taken inside the country by our members."
Now he has 'prison' in parenthesis.
"Some think the time has come to act as politicians so as to improve the conditions. Some are thinking of open defiance to authorities. My own view is that all possible means of negotiation have been used and that, therefore, open defiance is the only way out. I personally favour this attitude but the majority of colleagues think we should be more cautious. The matter is still being discussed."
That's the end of that quote from the letter.
"Mandela was worried about the absence of regular contacts between the prisoners and the leadership outside SA and urged, 'Oliver should see that people (respectable English MPs or journalists still come to RIP (Robben Island Prison). Mac Maharaj is one of the most reliable boys who has gone out from here, he is bringing a lot of messages for Oliver'."
Then he just quotes from the end of the letter: -
"Mandela's letter or message was especially important in the light of a report that was smuggled out from Robben Island about the political and personal differences which existed over a long period from 1969 in the top leadership in the prison. The 'original High Organ' of the Congress movement in particular between Madiba and Xhemela (that would be Walter Sisulu) on the one hand and Govan Mbeki and Ndobi, Raymond Mhlaba, on the other.
"The final findings of the new High Organ (he doesn't say what that is) held the four original High Organ men primarily responsible for disunity through mal-administration and incorrect attitude towards one another while 'an immediate cause of this understanding was the proposal for a discussion on separate development institutions', personal relations and clash of personalities between Madiba and Govan contributed to the discord. Power struggle in jail was a factor in the dispute and questions of tactics were elevated to questions of principles in discussions."
Then it goes on to say : -
"It was decided to reinstall the four persons (that's Madiba and the others) in the High Organ partly as a practical test of the effect of the unity discussion. Madiba's status was referred to the general membership and an overwhelming majority of the meeting reaffirmed Madiba's leadership of the Congress Movement on Robben Island Prison."
What was all that about?
MM Several things to that whole thing by Shubin. One is a debate and disagreement in Robben Island single cells about the tactics to be used with separate development, the Bantustans.
POM Yes, you talked about that in the foreword.
MM And it's there in Reflections in Prison, there's an article by Madiba, there's an article by Walter, there's an article by Kathy, there's an article by Govan. If you read that carefully you will see that from different positions, although the title was Problems of the National Liberation Struggle all of them come to this point of what tactics, and you can see the differences there. Yes those differences became acrimonious, sharp divisions and in the context of those divisions personal relations degenerated and in the middle of that dispute there was a challenge about Madiba's leadership.
POM That challenge came from?
MM It came from Govan and his group about Madiba's status, it was resolved by having a meeting in the single cells.
POM The challenge came from?
MM Govan and his group, who argued
POM His group would be?
MM The primary people on one side were Govan, at that stage Mhlaba who subsequently shifted position, Joe Gqabi, Andrew Masondo and the late Elias Motsoloaedi, a Rivonia trialist. A meeting was then held in the dining room where we took precautions to see that the authorities were not eavesdropping, etc., and the meeting affirmed that Madiba was our leader.
POM What was the nature of the challenge?
MM The challenge was a far more subtle one, that there is no such thing as a leader in the ANC, that there is a collective leadership and nobody has the authority to speak on behalf of the ANC in prison, that is any discussions arose or any representations had to be made they would be made in a collective name. It was a technical argument because in prison you also could not write a letter saying that the ANC demands this. You'd be charged for running a banned organisation. So on the other hand if your letter was signed by four people you'd be charged for conspiracy. But be that as it may, as far back as 1968 we wrote a petition demanding our release. It was drafted by Madiba and a whole number of us attached our signatures to it. But it was spearheaded by Madiba and the first signatory to that letter, petition, was Nelson Mandela. The purpose of that was to say if no-one could speak on behalf of the movement then Madiba's position ipso facto is changed from being a leader to being just part of a collective. The meeting resolved after very long debate, resolved to affirm Madiba was our leader, that he was one of the most senior members in prison, he was a senior Vice President of the ANC before it was banned and as such he was our leading person in prison and Walter supported that view. It was resolved that way.
Now that was one set of issues. The second is the earlier letter that Shubin is referring to.
POM The earlier one, that's the 1969 one that's marked there. You can read the passage so that I know what I'm referring to.
MM The status of this 1969 report on Shubin, page 188 is a bit problematic. Who sent this message, how it got out of prison?
POM There's a reference there to it? I can just check at the back.
MM The report that we have talked about, Kathy and I, intrigued as to the source of that report because no such report was mandated at that stage to go out to Lusaka. There are some accurate bits of information in that report and there are some highly inaccurate bits which suggest that it was not an official report but was sent by somebody without the organisation's approval, so it was coloured by the person's view.
POM That would be somebody from within?
MM From within the Island. Sometimes we speculated who it would be but I'll go through it and I'll come back to it.
POM That they would be sending secret reports to Lusaka?
MM Yes, that somebody sent such a report, not necessarily from prison but somebody who got released gave such a report and made it sound as if it was coming from within Robben Island. The second thing is the one about the communication, about the division about what action should be taken by our members inside prison.
"Some think it is time to act as politicians to improve conditions, some are thinking of open defiance. My own view is that all possible means of negotiation have been used and that open defiance is the only way out."
This one, again his source is 84 1990, Policy Documents and ANC Statements. I don't have this book, published in 1990, Lusaka. But the communication makes sense to me because he's referring to, it also refers to me, so it is pre-dating my release, just before my release, and yes, at that stage about prison conditions there was some thinking going on as to what form of action we should be taking. We had already been debating the Irish experience, for example, Bobby Sands, and some were saying let's do this and go on hunger strike to death. The view against that was if we did that we would have to put our leading person first in the line.
POM They didn't do a hunger strike in Ireland, they had hunger strikes but in the prisons not until 1980. What they were doing in 1976 was what they called the 'dirty protest', they wouldn't wear the prison uniform.
MM Oh, I'm wrong there. But we were certainly thinking of hunger strikes to death but the debate said if we did that, even if we sent them one by one, we would have to start with our leadership and while our leadership was prepared, Madiba was prepared, we felt wrong, we would be walking into the enemy's hands. But the more formidable criticism was that unless you had secure lines of communication to timeously get out the news you could not get a public reaction while you were in the middle of your action and such communication was needed if we were to engage in those forms of struggle.Madiba, just before my release, was already in a frame of mind saying we have got to take some drastic action.
POM Because of the nature of the conditions you were being subjected to?
MM Yes. Remember news began to come through about well we didn't know at the beginning it was Soweto but we were catching the whiplash and we found it unacceptable that they were now coming down so heavily on us. So Madiba was of the frame of mind that something drastic needs to be done, something different from what we had done in the past. Walter was saying no. I left prison and one of the things that had been raised was could the outside set up, help set up more efficient means of communication so that whatever we did if we did it would be timeously relayed outside so that outside could build support both within the country and externally.
POM So this is one of the messages you were to deliver to OR?
MM To OR. And of course the technique for this was one of them is referred to by him to say can we get respectable English MPs, journalists, to come to Robben Island from time to time? Now after I left prison I heard from Walter that, yes, the debate got sharper but Madiba was now advocating an open defiance of the authority of the warders and officers, namely he was broaching things like that when a warder or an officer walked in nobody should stand, we should just stay seated, ignore them. Walter was opposed to that. He said that such an action would call for collective punishment and that it would be wrong to take a form of action that would put the prison authorities with no option but to resort to physical brutality. This is the only time that, I'm told by other colleagues because I was already out, that Madiba tried to take this discussion beyond even the ranks of the ANC because he was making no headway in persuading the ANC.
POM The ANC within the prison? Yes, OK.
MM He tried to take it to the other organisations, SWAPO, etc., but in the end nothing came of it. We have a joke amongst us which we've never talked about, that one of our comrades in the single cells went out on an unannounced individual hunger strike and days later when colleagues discovered that he was not eating comrades went and asked him, "Why are you not eating?" So he says, no, he's on hunger strike. They said, "What hunger strike?" He says, "I'm on hunger strike because we are disagreeing amongst ourselves what to do."
It shows, that incident that is recounted jovially, shows that there was a lot of heat now about how do we fight back but nothing happened. As it happened conditions in prison eased significantly and there was no need for that form of action to be considered. So that's what he's referring to here. He's not referring to the political disputes, he's referring to the disagreement should we take the hard line against the prison authorities. So that's that one.
POM The 1969 one?
MM The 1969 one, we said we will come back to it because I need to phone around Kathy and others and check some things and look at the sourcing of this thing. You could help also if you are in Cape Town, it is reference 86 and to me reference 86 would be, MCHPANCLUSC Emergency Meeting 1988. Now I think it's the Mayibuye Centre, it's the file reference and if we could pull this one out, the full text, it would be useful.
POM To move all the way backwards
MM Is that an indication that we're making no progress?
POM We are, we're moving. I'm trying to have the people who put this together so they know that we're moving to a different section so they know where to cut. Move from here, cut, move to another box.
You had talked about when you had gone back to Lusaka and taken over as Secretary of the Internal Development Committee and you were setting up posts in Maputo and in Botswana and all the neighbouring countries. Now at the same time you became a member of the Revolutionary Council. The RC was headed by Joe Slovo was it?
MM The RC chairman was Oliver Tambo, deputy chairman was Dr Dadoo.
POM And he was in London?
MM Dr Dadoo used to fly over from London for the RC meetings.
POM How many people sat on that council?
MM It varied, I'm trying to think of all the names and the composition would have changed a little bit over time. OR, Slovo, Nzo (the Secretary General), Nkobi (the Treasurer General), Moses Mabida who was based in Swaziland at that time and was just phasing out as Secretary of the RC in favour of Cassius Make. Slovo, Joe Modise (from the military side), John Motsabi, myself from the political, and the intelligence and security guys. There used to be a doctor who left shortly thereafter for Lesotho and disappeared from the scene. Although Chris Hani could not attend because he was in Lesotho and he couldn't travel in and out, he was a member of the RC. There was a chap called Peter Dlamini, security side, Mzwai Piliso, overall head of security, Reg September, Gertrude Shope, Jackie Molefe (Joe Modise's partner), John Nkadimeng. When Ronnie Kasrils became Commissar in Angola he joined the RC as well, that would be a little later. I'll have to check the records.
POM Its function and how it related to the other armed structures?
MM The RC was first set up at the conference held in Morogoro in Tanzania in 1969 and there the discussion showed that there needed to be a specialised organ or structure devoted to the struggle on the home front and separate so that their attention was singularly focused on prosecuting the struggle within SA as distinct from the very widespread work of mobilising anti-apartheid support around the world and sending people for studies, etc., focused on the military/political work within the country and that was the mandate of the RC.
POM How did it work with regard to the Internal Development Committee?
MM It was the overall co-ordinating and supervisory body. It would strategise, it was charged with managing the struggle and all the departments, military, political, security, that fell on the home front side of the work, their work was co-ordinated and guided by the RC.
POM So you're back in Lusaka, it's now 1977. What direction does your life and work start taking?
MM When I moved over to Lusaka permanently from London in January 1978, after taking stock, more planning
POM What was, that's a question I asked you the last time which I don't think you answered, when you came back and you were appointed to both of these positions, but I would assume that before you began planning your actions, particularly in the Internal and Development Committee, that you would assess for yourself the state of the struggle. My question is what was your personal assessment of the state of the struggle in 1978?
MM I wouldn't assess just for myself. I needed to assess where the struggle was at at the political level within the country, to share that assessment with the Internal Political Department's committee and arrive at a common understanding. Now what was clear, when I look back now I can't remember because it was a constant evaluation that you were doing and even meetings of the RC once a year used to be preceded by what we called a Planning Committee and the Planning Committee had to assess the home front military/political struggle so that that analysis would inform the plans for the coming year, what the politicals should do, what the military should do, etc.
But looking back with hindsight now I think some of the things that were standing up, even now stand, (i) by 1978 the Soweto revolt had shown that it was not a once off event, that revolt even though suppressed was continuing to simmer and bubble up. Secondly, that the regime's repression had now brought all the Black Consciousness organisations under the banning orders in October 1977, that you had the death of Steve Biko in detention which had raised the international and internal campaign on the treatment of detainees. Thirdly, the trade union movement was at that time dominated by a body called FOSATU (Federation of South African Trade Unions) which had taken a position that was characterised as economistic, namely it had said it was going to organise workers to fight around their day to day economic problems but that it would not take part in political struggle.
POM Would these be called the workerists?
MM These were part of the workerists. There were workerists and there were others in FOSATU but FOSATU's official position was it stays away from the political arena. Now that led to debates within FOSATU and the question of a relationship between FOSATU and the South African Congress of Trade Unions which was in exile, which was an open ally of the ANC
MM SACTU. So the debate was going on and the culmination of that debate was the conversion of FOSATU to COSATU where the decision at the inauguration of COSATU was that it would, without jeopardising its legal existence, align itself with political struggles. So this was the environment of 1978.
The next thing was that the military struggle, the sabotage actions, etc., were correctly to be characterised as armed propaganda. We had not yet entered the stage of an armed struggle and that armed propaganda was an action, series of actions, intended to generate the conditions where we could move over to proper armed struggle.
The next element was that in our written material outside we were putting too much of an emphasis on the military side of the struggle. Sometimes we were even saying only the armed struggle, only, could bring the desired change in SA, that it was necessary to stimulate mass mobilisation in overt action. Secondly, it was necessary to maintain a political underground which spoke in the name of the ANC which the mass organisations could not do, and thirdly that the mass organisations inside the country needed to be supported to grow up and work together. So that was 1978.
POM How did you assess the strength of the opposition, of the government?
MM The Bantustans were giving us a problem. We were debating outside what should be our tactics. Some people were preparing a paper that we should fight the Bantustans from within the Bantustans and from outside the Bantustan structures, that it was necessary to shift to that form of struggle rather than just staying out of the Bantustans. But that coincided with the talks that were going on between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC and that whole discussion paper never reached the NEC because of the breakdown between Inkatha and the ANC.
POM Which didn't take place until 1979.
MM 1979. We were already working, had started working in 1978 with some of the opposition parties in the other Bantustans. For example, we were working with the opposition party in Bophuthatswana, it was called the Seopasengwe Party.
POM You were working with them clandestinely?
MM Clandestinely, yes. And we were trying to reach the Labour Party amongst the coloured people. We saw at that time a potential to encourage the opposition parties in the Bantustan and tricameral structures to take a harder line.
POM This would be before the tricameral?
MM Yes before tricameral but there were already the Labour Party, it was set up in the House of Representatives. There was a House of Delegates already but the tactical issue arose over the urban councils that apartheid was mooting for the African areas.
POM That's the BLAs?
MM Yes. So that was an issue of debate and working out the strategy but it was not within the remit of the Political Committee to decide on those sort of macro, strategic or tactical questions on its own. It had to take such matters to the RC and even where the RC endorsed it it would have sometimes required going on to the NEC for its approval.
So you ask, what did we think of the opposition? We were emerging from the period of the Lusaka Manifesto that was signed between Kaunda and, I think, John Vorster and we were rolling that back without going into direct confrontation with the Zambian government. Our tenure in 1977/78 in Lusaka was once more beginning to stabilise vis-à-vis the Zambian government. I think the Lusaka Manifesto was 1976. We were also seized with the problem of the initiatives in Namibia because through the UN, I think it was called the Group of Seven, had been set up as mediators to try and resolve the Namibian conflict. That was already rolling, 1977.
That was the global picture but internally the picture was of post-Soweto uprising, a huge reaction amongst the masses, the youth in particular, against people participating in the Bantustans, against the Buthelezis. In particular this had come to a boil at the funeral of Robert Sobukwe where Gatsha Buthelezi was heckled and howled down from speaking. That was the environment and it was a constantly developing, fluctuating environment and we needed to be able to give political leadership in the country and this was one of the remits of the Internal Political & Reconstruction Department.
So that's my memory of it, I'm conflating some things timewise but it was a continuing
POM Was your feeling, God! I've spent 12 years on Robben Island and I come out and I find that things are not much further advanced than they were when I went in 12 years ago, the MK still has not made any real impact?
MM No, the mood was far more optimistic. One was able to acquaint oneself with a number of efforts that had been made over the time from 1965 to 1976, to my release. The sending of our forces into Zimbabwe/Rhodesia in 1969, the efforts to settle people in the country by bringing them by boat, the efforts to smuggle in cadres via Mauritius and Madagascar, the successful settling of people for relatively, although short periods, as I said when I came out I received Inkululeko posted in SA to me. One understood the setbacks in the context that there was no mass ferment, that the repression had still successfully created a climate of fear in the mass mind but that 1976 Soweto had exploded that fear mentality and people were emerging and flexing their muscles and so one saw a potential.
POM Was this mostly the youth?
MM Through the youth, through what was happening at the revival of the campaign against the Indian Congress, the campaign by the Indian Congress against the Indian Council, through the ferment against the Bantustans, through the trade unions which had re-emerged on the scene post-1973. Now at last one was sensing that the mobilisation of the masses and their action was now re-emerging and therefore the conditions were improving for settling in our cadres to take part in armed struggle as well in more secure conditions and one understood that from 1965 to 1976 virtually conditions were extremely difficult to keep the struggle going because there was no visible mass response and now there was a mass ferment going on and therefore it was encouraging to us and so one didn't look at the past, the intervening period as if to say, God, we're still battling with the same problems and we've made no headway. One was saying that the little things that happened between 1965 and 1976 led to the Soweto uprising and the results were now far more promising. So that's how one saw it. One didn't see it as taking up a losing case.
POM This crops up and I'm sure we've talked about it before on a number of other occasions, at that time, 1978, was the more prevalent belief say in the SACP where you were in the Politburo at the time, in fact its first meeting was in the GDR in 1977.
MM The one that I attended.
POM Did you go back to the GDR for that?
MM I think the meeting in GDR was in 1978 where I was now formally reintegrated in the Communist Party structures and elected to the Central Committee. The Party Central Committee used to meet at least once a year and it met most of the times in one or other socialist country. We met in Berlin in the GDR, we met in Prague, we met in Budapest, we met in Moscow. So a different socialist country would host us for our meeting on different occasions. Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Soviet Union, Moscow. While I was in Vula it met also in Havana but we would rotate because it was a costly item. The cost had to be borne by the socialist country as our host and this meant bringing our members from all over, particularly Africa, from Angola, from the front line states, from Zambia, from East Africa, from London and sometimes a comrade might be elsewhere and we had to fly them in and we would have to get the socialist countries to sponsor our flights, to sponsor our hotel accommodation, conference venue and to feed us. So it was quite a costly contribution. But we met at least once a year. I would like to think that sometimes we met twice a year as a full Central Committee.
The Politburo, as against that, met in Africa. The Politburo was a much smaller body, six persons I think, six maximum eight, we would meet in Zambia, we would meet in Maputo, we would meet in Angola. I don't recall the Politburo especially going to the socialist countries to have a meeting because that was a big exercise. You had to disappear from your work sites and we couldn't afford that. So the Politburo used to meet once in six weeks and the bulk of the Politburo was based in southern Africa. The ones who had to come from outside were Dr Dadoo from London. It was easy to organise and often we met as a Politburo without Dr Dadoo because there was a sufficient quorum.
POM I suppose there are two questions and they'll pass into tomorrow but I'm trying to get a firmer grip on them. One is, it goes back to this old thing of there being the hard liners in the ANC who put their primary belief in the overthrow of the SA government and then those who said yes, you used the armed struggle but you used it more as armed propaganda but the only course to a solution, given the balance of forces, is going to have to be a negotiated settlement.
MM No, that didn't crop up in the early years. In the early years of my stay abroad, 1977/78, even up to 1986, the issue of negotiations did not even arise. The question at that stage was to tighten the sanctions movement internationally, raise the tempo of the mass struggle, raise the calibre of the armed activities and in keeping with that in 1979 a delegation led by Tambo went to Vietnam to look at the Vietnamese experience and came back and reported on the need to conceptualise, to live our conceptualisation of the struggle outside of the parameters of saying is the potential there for insurrection, is it classical guerrilla warfare? To conceptualise it instead as an all-round people's war which involved armed action and political action all aimed at overthrowing the apartheid regime. Whether the culmination would be a combination of armed action with a general strike which would paralyse the country or whether it would take capturing areas and continuing with the armed action, where the issues that were being debated and the report post-Vietnam led to a commission sitting down under the leadership of Tambo, which sat in 1979 and which invited me as an advisor when I happened to be passing through Mozambique on my way to Swaziland. They invited me to participate in a few of their sessions. The members of the commission were Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo, Thabo Mbeki, Joe Gqabi. OR, Joe, Thabo, Gqabi, I think those were the four members, and then they did say in the introduction that they consulted me.
POM This is a published report?
MM Yes, it's called The Green Book.
POM The Green Book. OK.
MM In particular I was passing through Mozambique, I was there, the commission was sitting there and they asked me to come in on the discussion on the tactics to be used on the Bantustans and asked me to draft that section of the report as a basis for their discussion and after the discussion to finalise that section. Now that is where the experiences of Vietnam were brought to bear into what I believe was a restoration of a balance from the increasing emphasis on solely the armed struggle by the use of the word 'only', to an all-round people's war which saw military and political actions as working together as ingredients of a people's war.
You will find that in Madiba's and Walter's essays in 1976, they are referring to people's war. When I got outside our literature did not refer to people's war. People's war begins to be part of the ANC literature of discourse post The Green Book.
POM That's after Tambo's visit to Vietnam?
MM Vietnam, and after the commission has sat.
POM You talked about 'the lotus flower' strategy. So there was this gradual movement from armed struggle won't do the trick to people's war will do the trick.
MM Is the way forward.
POM To negotiations?
MM Negotiations, the first time the NEC pronounced itself on negotiations was in 1986 when OR presented a report that a message had reached him from Winnie Mandela to say that Kobie Coetsee had met her on a plane when she was on her way to Cape Town to visit Madiba and that he was prepared to entertain the idea of a release of political prisoners if a face-saving formula could be found for the SA government. Simultaneously with that we were receiving overtures from western powers urging us to negotiate. We discussed the matter at an NEC meeting after we had already decided on Vula and we issued a statement which was headed, 'No to Bogus Negotiations. Yes to Genuine Negotiations.' The central theme of that statement was that tactically and strategically we could not reject the idea of genuine negotiations but we were rejecting the pressures that they were putting on us at that time on the grounds that from our analysis the SA government was not yet ready for genuine negotiations, that the overtures that we were receiving from third parties to the extent that they emanated from the SA government, were really bogus negotiations. That is the first time in my stay in exile that we had to address the question what would we do if there were negotiations?
POM In 1986. Now Willie Esterhuyse had visited Lusaka in 1984? He talks about or Patti Waldmeir talks about - approaches made to him from exile, from the ANC in Lusaka.
MM It can't be 1984.
POM But that he talked to PW Botha who did not discourage the idea of negotiations but in his recounting of his discussion with Botha, Botha was saying the time isn't propitious.
MM What I know is that we were making overtures to the white community to mobilise them to oppose apartheid, to support the release. They didn't have to support the whole package. We were even saying demand the release of political prisoners, and we had discussed the need not just to focus our mobilisation on the African and the black community, we needed to encourage mobilisation in the white community. There were signs that within Afrikanerdom itself there was uncertainty whether the existing path the government was taking was the best path and we needed to stimulate that. In that framework I wouldn't put it past that overtures also reached Willie Esterhuyse, I would treat the date rather post-1984 than 1984. I would treat the date as sitting more towards the end of 1985 and early 1986 because that is part of the process that led to the meeting in Dakar and the meeting in Dakar took place I think in 1987.
It was preceded by a meeting in 1987 of a business delegation led by Gavin Relly at Mfuwe where OR, Slovo, Thabo, Chris Hani, myself were present. I can't remember whether Nzo was present. I don't think Nkobi was present, I don't think Nhlanhla was present. Now that meeting at Mfuwe, those who attended it were heavily criticised by PW Botha and some time in 1986 there was an American professor who also came past from SA to Lusaka, that was the time of the Eminent Persons' Group, 1986. That is when the idea of talks, of negotiations as a way forward was emerging but the Eminent Persons' Group had reported to us on its way to SA, and OR had specifically requested them, to say it's well enough you're going to SA, we have great reservations about what can be achieved by this initiative which was taken by the commonwealth meeting in the Bahamas. Nonetheless if anything good was to flow out of it, it would only happen if they also came back to Lusaka after visiting SA. Now, as you know, the Eminent Persons' Group was in SA or had just left SA when apartheid staged the Gaborone raid,
POM In the middle of it actually.
MM In the middle of it, and that effectively jettisoned any possibility that anybody could entertain but at that time the SA government was prepared to entertain negotiations. So it was not a question of PW saying the time is not appropriate, because the action of the Gaborone raid was like a blatant slap in the face of the Eminent Persons' Group who were not looking for a transfer of power to the ANC but were looking for a compromise to move SA out of its dead-end track.
POM Had they been asked by OR or requested that they were only to go provided they could see Mandela? Was that a condition of their trip?
MM As far as I recall when we met them, I was in the meeting with the Eminent Persons' Group, I thought that they already indicated that it was part of their conditions of going to SA that they would make sure that they saw Nelson. So there was no difference of opinion on that. The wariness on our side was that they should not be given the space as the Eminent Persons Group to move the way the Namibian negotiations had moved under the Group of Seven where SWAPO was left in the dark and its capacity to influence the Group of Seven was highly minimal. We were saying, here is a commonwealth initiative, we don't think it's appropriate but don't oppose it, rather engage them and influence their thinking and the way to influence it was to say you need to go to SA and meet the political prisoners, particularly Mandela, meet the mass organisations and when you come back you need to, before you go and report to the commonwealth, come back and meet us, the ANC, report to us everything that has happened so that we could again exchange views before you table your report to the commonwealth. As it happened the Gaborone raid left the Eminent Persons with no space to even offer a compromise and to simply say, "That's it." Now the fears that we would be in a process which was going to be managed by all sorts of eminent individuals but who would not be receptive to our ideas disappeared.
POM Did Obasanjo, and I'll come back to this because my time is up, play a particular role in that?
MM We handled, my impression, those are the only times I met Obasanjo but my impression as we strategised for that meeting was that we should go out of our way not to alienate them. I think that the New Zealander or the Australian, and there was a Canadian in it, we thought we could with sufficient subtlety, no frontal confrontation, impact on them. I have read subsequent reports that there was a good rapport between Madiba and Obasanjo. I don't know how much that is I haven't read The Long Walk, the final version, to pay attention to how he put it in a book that was published in 1993, nor have I read anything from Obasanjo's side except that his return to power in Nigeria has sought to portray his participation in the Eminent Persons' Group as being one member of that group who was more firmly on the side of achieving democracy in SA. Whether that's the truth or not, in the compromises that he was searching for, I don't know but he would have had to justify it that way at a minimum. So it's very difficult for me to make an assessment of that and besides the way it died, that initiative, never made it feature as a significant thing except to underline that at that stage the SA government was not prepared to be serious about this.
POM I was going through my interviews with Niel, I'm seeing this guy Spaarwater
MM Maritz Spaarwater.
POM - this afternoon so I thought I would go back on my interviews with Niel Barnard. By the way if his department in the Western Cape ever used the same language test that they use here nothing would every have gotten through to him at all. His language is downright foul.
MM Have you met Niel already?
POM Oh I did three, four times. I haven't seen him now for years.