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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
01 Nov 2002: Maharaj, Mac
POM I have been going through, I haven't finished yet, Ruth First's book. She had some observations on the way in which she perceived interrogators to work and since there's really no comparison between what you went through in terms of torture and what she went through one of those odd things that Swanepoel would keep saying, "You're lucky, we still have respect for women in this country", but from your observations and reflections on the way torturers work and the ways they used to lead you along, good cop, bad cop, the way they used to identify your weak points so that you'd give them away even though you're aware they're looking for them, they're professional enough to probe in ways that identify them, work on them without you being aware they're working on them till slowly you find yourself being led into situations that are compromising you or leading you towards giving information: (a) what would they be in that regard and (b) of course, is the second question that's always been on the banality of evil?To a considerable extent, maybe even to a large extent many of these people who performed routine tortures, beating up people went home in the evening, greeted their wife and kids, sat down and had supper with them, supervised their kids' homework, watched television, played sport, led normal lives and didn't see themselves as ever doing anything wrong, perhaps using the excuse - I'm only obeying the law, or whatever, but it never appears (maybe I'm wrong here) to have affected their conscience or perhaps in the way they lived their lives, or maybe it did, I don't know, it's one of those open-ended questions.
MM It is a very big question but I want to start by saying beyond even the issue of torture, I don't believe that the torture of one person can be compared to a torture of another person in terms of which was worse. It's a general view that I hold because I even disapprove of the word which says of us that we made 'sacrifices' for the struggle. I don't like the word 'sacrifice' because I believe you cannot measure and compare one person's sacrifice with another person's sacrifice. I may have gone through the life that I have gone through and somebody else may have gone through lesser than what I have but in terms of that person's life it may have been a greater sacrifice. So I don't like to measure, I don't think pain even can be measured that way. So I do not like to use the word 'sacrifice', I simply say we did what we did because we believed in what we were doing and the price, if we want to use the word, that each of us paid, there is no basis to compare and say this one did more, that one did less because I don't know your life, I don't know when I punch one person, that person the same punch can maim him and can even kill him whereas the same punch delivered to me may have left me with just not even a bruise.
Now when we come to torture, again one doesn't understand the individual human psyche and make up to know where is your weak point, what is it about. I have seen people, one individual whom I knew to be a young man with a heart condition and he went into detention and he was tortured and he didn't speak. He came out of it reasonably intact. I have seen the biggest built, physical person, like Piet Beloved, appearing to be very strong physically, appearing to be very sure of himself mentally, and I have seen that he cracked up in five hours of interrogation and in his case no physical assault but just made to stand for five hours and confronted with certain information and at the end of the five hours he was talking. So what makes a person talk is based on their individual psyche which we don't understand, I certainly don't.
Then we come to interrogators themselves and their techniques. The SA experience shows that the SA security forces were relatively a benign force when the NP came into power in 1948 and their sophistication in interrogation techniques, their incorporation of a systematic form of psychological plus physical brutality, is something that developed. I personally believe that one of the most sophisticated interrogation systems sits in the British system and the secret of that is the amount of intelligence gathering that they do which they use in interrogation, they use information that they are privy to as interrogators to systematically wear down the person they are interrogating and constantly leaving the person in a state of mind which says that if you admit to A in a limited way you find that your interrogator knows more than A and therefore you become totally insecure and you begin to feel that the interrogator knows everything. That seems to be the classic way of interrogation, the utilisation of torture techniques is limited to psychological pressure and that psychological pressure is limited to leaving you with the feeling that they know everything about it.
In SA, sure, trapped by their racism the conduct of the security forces did have an internal inhibitor in the interrogator's mind which tended to treat the white detainee different from the black detainee but very soon those barriers created by race were overcome. I believe that those barriers were completely overcome in their minds around the time when I was in detention in 1964 and the small group called the African Resistance Movement, ARM, through an individual called John Harris, he was executed by them, a white man. He put a bomb in Park Station in the public concourse in the white section where a white woman and her child, either both died or one of them died. Now I was in detention when that event took place and the night of the arrest of John Harris and company I was in one of the rooms on the seventh floor at The Grays being interrogated and that is the night when the security police interrogators simply went berserk. I believe that that night they broke John Harris's jaw in detention. I think it was established subsequently that they had broken his jaw but they claimed that they broke his jaw accidentally during the process of apprehending him.
I know that other colleagues of mine like the late Ivan Schermbrucker, he served five years, he's now dead, but Ivan was detained and it's the first time that I heard a scream from one of the neighbouring rooms and I came to realise that was Ivan Schermbrucker screaming. So I am saying that that night all the barriers to the use of physical force just vanished from the mind of the Security Branch against whites. Also they came to me in my room and they were certainly almost out of control in the way they were conducting the interrogation. To them it was open war now, anything, any form of assault on you was legitimate. You were going to talk, you were going to pay. It was revenge time. White civilians, a woman has been killed.
Already before that event, and you can see it in Ruth First's 117 Days that she was detained in 1963 some time after Rivonia. After, before? I can't place it. But the reason why I spoke to her on the phone and said, when my son was born in London and she was passing through and she phoned to congratulate me and Zarina, and I said, "I have just finished reading 117 Days. I think at last I am ready to have a chat with you about our respective experiences", believing that I could also help her to resolve some of her own psychological problems because what I remember about the book is that she was nabbed by the court that she had been enticed into an environment where she was talking and she had to pull herself up not to go further. In that pulling up process she tried to commit suicide and she, in the book, is plagued by the fact that one of the interrogators, I think it was Viktor, won her confidence to the point where there was a flirtatious relationship developing.
Now for me this was very interesting because Viktor was one of the brutal people in my case and he and the other one, Van der Merwe, had just returned from training abroad. One had gone to train with the French in Algeria and the other had gone to train with the Portuguese and they had come back having been trained by those people and now were seen, they were both holding the rank of lieutenant I think by the time I am detained, but they were seen as rising stars of the security force, the specialists on how to torture and interrogate. The Swanepoels, their superiors, were seen as people who had to learn how to do the job on the job so the use of brute force was now seen as something that you have got to be using in a sophisticated way. Between Viktor and Van der Merwe the balance that I saw in Ruth of Viktor being the smoothie and Van der Merwe being the toughie and the bad guy, was in my case both of them were the baddies. The goodie was another chap called Van Rensburg. So the real baddies who boasted that they were baddies, who boasted that they are acclaimed and they have got such skills that you can never withstand them, were both baddies in my case whereas one of them was the goodie in Ruth's case.
So I think that already in their training both abroad and in their self training here the idea had been developed that in the interrogation room the simple use of brute force was not sufficient. You had to get the person being interrogated in a state of instability, in a state of fear and in a state not only of fear of psychological and brutal force but fear based on now being paranoid about your comrades, believing that your comrades were talking and that the game was up, that one of your most trusted comrades or more are talking and if you don't talk they're going to save their skin and you're going to be left carrying the can.
So these were a whole complex set of things that they were now putting together as part of the technique but underlying it was this indoctrination of total hatred for us who were fighting for freedom. We were monsters, we were sub-human and therefore cast in the race mould anything goes. If the person lost his life you were protected by the law, the 90-day law which became the death in detention and you would have the doctors and you would have, as happened in Biko, that even the District Surgeon and the two doctors who examined him were now pilloried at the Inquest by George Bizos and company because they had certified that this man was fine, nothing was wrong with Biko, that to the extent he had some injuries it was perfectly explainable as self-inflicted and accidental and that the injury was not serious, that he could be transported to Pretoria. Yet we know subsequently in a very unusual Inquest that he was already deeply physically injured and brain damage had been inflicted on him and he was then transported naked and manacled by a van to Pretoria.
So, doctors were there, magistrates came to visit you, you'd dare to complain and the magistrate would not enter your complaint in the report. He would simply say the prisoner is fine and he would maybe enter that the prisoner is complaining that the food is bad. But the part that you are under interrogation, you are being tortured, no, it would be an unusual magistrate. So the security who put in a report to say that this prisoner has put this complaint and he puts it accurately, he may then dismiss it, it's another question but he's recorded correctly what you've said. They knew that they had this protective environment and it gave them the licence to do whatever they wished to do.
I also thought I could talk with Ruth because I had attempted to commit suicide too. I had faced the situation that they seemed to know a hell of a lot if not everything, that there are definitely comrades of mine who are talking and they have got already enough of a case against me to send me to prison for a long time, that they are already using physical torture and psychological torture, even what they were doing to my then wife. All that was present and I thought it's possible for Ruth and me to have a meeting of minds to help each other, to talk through these experiences and say there is nothing that you have to feel guilty about, that if she had walked this distance and I may have walked an eighth of that distance, there is no way to compare that and there is no way for each of us to sit down and say I feel guilty, because I know what it is to have been on the verge of a breakdown and I was lucky that I was able to withstand it and had a mindset of extracting information without panicking in the face of that information but looking how do we rescue and preserve what's left of our forces. In her case the issue may not have arisen that way.
In her case the issue may have been the game is up, and here I've got caught up in this relationship, this is my enemy but I'm already beginning to look at him as a human being, I am looking at him in a flirtatious relationship because I'm deprived of company, they have allowed me to go to the hairdresser, he has allowed me to get my clothes, and she was a person who liked to dress well, and he's complimenting me. Whenever I'm sitting alone in my cell with nobody to talk to I ask to see him and he pops up and he sits down and he's polite and he's nice and he's charming and he's complimentary but above all, he's given me company to talk with. That was part of the torture that you did not see through it until later. It's not to be counted now as a weakness, it's to be seen in the totality of what you were subjected to.
Those were my impressions from the Ruth First case but the more I reflect on the problem I am convinced that white South Africans and the security forces, including black security forces, were leading a schizophrenic life, that they were never able and we have not seen how and to what extent the torturer becomes himself, herself, brutalised. Because of the structure that you are part of the powerful state, and it's beyond race, it's easy to couch in the race frame in SA, that torturer could go home and behave normally. In fact the position is the opposite. The anomaly was an authoritarian household. The anomaly was a patriarchal household. The anomaly was a disrespect for women as women. The result is within that norm there was relative peace in the house. I say 'relative' because that schizophrenic way of life and the brutalisation that's going on layered onto that authoritarian, patriarchal form of society was masking the relationship at home until it exploded and from time to time it exploded.
I think it is a matter that is verifiable to the extent that statistics are available of the extraordinarily high rate of suicides amongst the white community in SA. Now when we talk about the police we say they are living in stress and we now know that there is such a thing for army and soldiers called post-traumatic stress disorder. But every South African male was being conscripted to serve on the border and if you wanted to escape border duty and active military service you went into the Prison Service or the Police Service and by the time the Rhodesian war intensifies the police were sent there by Vorster rather than the army. All the compensation they were getting was a higher allowance for going on active duty but they were experiencing this brutalisation and it was manifesting itself in their behaviour in the house, not in the normal course of day to day events but until that dual life exploded in some conduct, be it an assault of the child, be it assault of the wife, be it an assault of the servant or be it just what may have looked like road rage, smashing his car.
Many, many parents I remember the case of a parent, the mother came to see me in Botswana because their son had been conscripted into the army and she was describing - now there were already the rudiments of what became Five Freedoms Forum, the white grouping, but before that had been the Black Sash which continued to exist - now white comrades from those circles, the parents were saying my son has come back a different boy from what he went out to do in the army. Now normally when you heard the words, 'a different boy' you understood military service and it was portrayed in this society as part of the growing up to be a man. I remember talking to one of the mothers in Botswana and I said, "What do you mean because you seem to be very concerned?" She said, "Well he has become reticent, he does not interact with the family, he stays in his room. I know he's taking dagga but there are some moments when he appears to lose control of himself." She was saying he would have emotional outbursts and she said he would become abusive and he had mood swings.While he had never used physical force against his mother or father there was an element of destructiveness around objects. This was the concern she was expressing and saying we are beginning to study this problem because it seems that the relationship between what they are doing and seeing in military service active duty and how the behaviour is changing.
So I am saying the army has been perceived in history as the males' route to manhood but in the context of the walls you see what happened in Vietnam, you even know what happened with the Hiroshima bomber, the pilot of the plane who dropped that bomb and who went mentally unstable after the event, for years and years, I don't remember how he died eventually. But the vision of what he had done, the impact of what he had done and the knowledge subsequently of thousands and thousands of innocent people, men, women and children who died through that atomic bomb, permanently left him scarred. I don't recall reading material which says how was his conduct now in his personal life. I don't know whether he ever maintained thereafter a healthy man/wife relationship and father/children relationship.
Inherent in that is the brutalisation but if you bring that into the security force experience of sitting in the torture room even when there were twenty in the room and maybe only one of them only threw a punch at me on one occasion when they played me as a rugby ball and did not participate more than that directly in my torture, by being in that room, by gloating and by sharing that camaraderie with them he was becoming part of that process. It's not the conscience problem, racism was clouding, put a barrier for the conscience to come up, but it was the brutalisation in their behaviour towards others and particularly within the family. That is why I say when I was here in Vula in the late eighties and the early nineties I recall press articles alarmed at the rate of suicide in the white community. It's disappeared now, statistics are not published, but it used to be week after week you'd be learning of a white person who shot his family, he shot his wife, his kids, the lot, so that was happening. To me it said this is a manifestation of that brutalisation, that sort of schizoid life they're leading and maybe it never reached a point where the conscience came in because the conscience is an extremely powerful agent in every psyche but for your conscience to come in the overall philosophy and outlook that is guiding your life you have to begin questioning and very few were questioning it because religion and everything was reinforcing that the Bible says there's Cain and Abel and there's Ham, and theologians are saying that apartheid is endorsed by religion.
POM Every organ of society was reinforcing their behaviour.
MM Their world outlook and therefore not allowing the conscience as we understand it, the conscience relates in terms of values that you have grown up in society and something has to happen for you to move into a space where the conscience now feels free to question everything. There is that trauma too in our society. I believe that in the international sanctions campaign the severance of the Dutch Reform Church in the mid-eighties with the DRC of Holland, the parent church, with the DRC in SA on the basis of the ideology of apartheid and whether it is supported by the Bible sent a shock wave through Afrikanerdom but that shock wave had to work itself through and you had the Beyers Naude's coming up in the eighties theologically challenging the established theology but they were in the first round marginalised as irrelevant. The Dutch severing the relationship with more pressure and with the thing getting into the newspapers a segment began to have their consciences freed and got out of that cocoon of the world view that they had been nurtured in. The Beyers went back to reading the Bible to re-interpret it, others took other parts but conscience does not come up because it is already first conditioned by the outlook that you've been brought up into. There needs to be some other value system that begins to make an impact on your thinking for your conscience to get freed from that surrounding framework.
POM It seems to me that two things might follow what you're saying. One would be that if you were in a room where there were twenty security force people and they were throwing you around as a rugby ball that even if there were one or two guys there who didn't quite approve, they were co-opted into doing it else they were not part of the team.
MM Yes, the hard mentality case.
POM They'd say afterwards, hey, you didn't participate, what's wrong with you? Have you got sympathies with this guy? Or just to be part of the group you start (joining in).
MM I remember now, you brought me to an incident, Van Rensburg, the softie, he used to question me in another office. Now this was a softie, when he took me to his office to question me, and interesting I'm using the word 'question', I'm not saying interrogate, the other room in my mind the word that comes is 'interrogation' room, when I was taken into Van Rensburg's room I am saying 'to be questioned', right? You see how the softie picture is? But Van Rensburg used to stand, his desk was towards that wall, he would offer me a seat, and this is windows here, big windows, and from time to time one day he began to take out his binoculars and look through the window, he would be looking through the window with the binoculars, he brought binoculars. Why? The talk amongst the security police was that a building across the road at a little bit of a distance there was a brothel operating and he and his colleagues would come and borrow the binoculars and stand and look at the brothel and you would see them getting an erection. Now they wouldn't let me stand up and look, shit! Because it was a white woman running the brothel. They would be talking amongst themselves but they never did anything to close down the brothel. This was like a show for them and it was titillating them, it was sexually arousing them. Here I was, a black man, supposed to be under interrogation and they saw nothing wrong about talking amongst themselves. I guarantee you it never occurred to me to say Lieutenant, can I have a look?
POM Would they be speaking in Afrikaans?
MM Afrikaans. And they would be making commentary of what's happening. "Look at that woman, look at her appearance, look at her tits", and the lot. But they were talking about them
POM Could you follow them? Could you understand them?
MM Yes I could, I could pick up what they were saying. But the point I'm making is they were talking as if these were they knew that they were white, it was sexually arousing them but they were talking of them like objects and they would be ribbing each other, when are you going to go there, when are you visiting there? No, I don't have to go there. But what you could realise is that they were in an environment where they themselves were not faithful in their own home lives but they saw nothing wrong with that. We know that syndrome, Padraig, we know how growing up in a patriarchal society has an accompaniment about even sexuality and sexual relationship of the family, that the man who was promiscuous would often see that as nothing wrong. He would say that's the nature of a male, and he would be dishonest to the wife. But if the wife dared to just engage with another man in friendly, intimate conversation, that was a betrayal.
So when you're talking about value systems and conscience, the value system of that patriarchy never questioned the two different behaviours that were expected of male and female in a marriage relationship. Something outside of that box had to happen to you for you to snap out of it and generally you go with the herd. When you step out of line the herd treats you not as a breakaway but treats you as abnormal and sick.
This is what they did with Howard Barrell. When Howard Barrell refused to go into the army under conscription they treated him as mentally ill and put him in Vlakfontein and treated him with drugs. Here is a perfectly normal man being now given drug treatment as a mentally ill person and then on top of this what has come out now is that Vlakfontein was being used as an experimental station. I believe one of the doctors recently, it was in the papers about a year ago, has now settled in Canada. I don't remember his name.
POM The name of the institution was?
MM Vlakfontein. But the scandal, I recalled recently, is that the doctor who's settled in Canada was a doctor in the army medical services and he was supervising the treatment for homosexuals in the army on the grounds that homosexuality was an illness and he was going to use drug treatment, etc., to cure, so-called cure them of their homosexuality. Now you see how the environment was, if you showed tendencies you will be classified as homosexual and you have to go for medical treatment with drugs and psychological counselling saying you are ill.
POM Would there be a comparison in some way here with what the Soviets would do with dissidents to send them to psychiatric facilities?
MM Yes, exactly. What I'm saying is that the person who stepped out and didn't join the herd is treated as a mentally ill person. So you see how powerful the environment is and how inhibiting it is for a conscience to step out of that world view that they have been brought up in. Therefore, I started off by talking about the British intelligence gathering and questioning and I accept that criminality requires investigation, requires interrogating a suspect, but I don't know where to draw the line between what is an abuse of that custody and what is legitimate because the Americans believe in the truth serum. I don't know, as a layman, whether that truth serum does not leave some wounds in your brain tissue. The claim is that it drops your inhibitors and makes you talk the truth, but what are those inhibitors? One of those inhibitors to me is your conscience because my conscience was telling me I should not talk and if you're going to give me a drug under the name of truth serum that is going to reduce that guard in my brain, what harm are you doing to me mentally? And is that harm going to remain in my make-up as I go on with the rest of my life? So I don't know where to draw the line. When you move over from open brutality I know, out, and I know it's counter-productive to get in too dark.
Then you come to all forms of psychological torture taking place. I know one of my comrades, he may not say it now but the one of the comrades you'll be seeing in London, the one who said he's got his wife's birthday, he told me in awaiting trial in Pretoria that what made him talk was the knowledge he had a spastic child, one of the twins was spastic, his wife had a heart condition and eventually they drove him around Lenasia at night in a car, threatened to kill him. That was frightening him but not working until they said, "We're detaining your wife." At that point he realised, he just lost focus and he said, "To protect my wife I had to show them the place where that printing machine is stored."
That's psychological torture and what wounds it leaves he himself when he came out of detention, and I was still on trial, I was told by comrades that he was walking around the streets of Jo'burg and every movement, person that he bumped into who featured in his interrogation, he would go up, weep and say, "Comrade I spoke about you, I told them about you", and he would break down and cry. Eventually he was smuggled out of the country and when I met him again twelve years later we never talked about that experience. It appeared to me that now time had put some bandages around his wounds. He was no longer walking around a broken man, you will see now he has repaired himself to the extent that I can call it repair, but I never go to talk about those things with him because I say if I open those wounds I don't know what happens when the bandages get removed. For all I know is he's never been for psychological and psychiatric treatment. So he's walking a whole man, he's put some bandages around his conscience and to the extent that those bandages lead him to lead a normal life I have to support that normal life.
POM Could you, from your own experience and from the experience of others, draw a profile of the kind of person who would make this probably would apply to security people in the ANC who interrogated people thought to be informants and perhaps tortured them? Can one draw a profile of the kind of person who has 'the potential', the personality potential to be an effective interrogator, torturer, or is there a difference between those who are effective interrogators and use psychological means of getting at you as distinct from those who use physical torture and is there a difference between physical torture and psychological torture?
MM There is a difference between physical and psychological but what I am saying is that even in the area of psychological torture my thinking is that there is a boundary where psychological torture becomes unacceptable. I think that the purpose of interrogation is to elicit information. The purpose of the interrogation is not to destroy me as a man, as a human being, and when you invoke my family, my relatives and everything into the picture of that psychological torture, what you are doing is you're destroying me as a man because suppose I am freed, I have to lead a normal life with my family and my children and when you have brought all those things into breaking me down I think there's a difference there, the psychological torture if it is to break you it is different from pressure to make you give information.
Now I don't know whether I'm drawing a distinction that's valid at all, I'm talking as a layman so when you come to the profiling I'm hesitant to profile. I see the importance of profiling, I see it in normal life, I see it when we have to employ a person even in the bank. We do all sorts of psychometric tests when somebody is being given a job which requires him or her to manage huge risks which is inherent in the work of the business and particularly in finance. Now we do all that profiling. The reason around that profiling is to see is this a stable personality, how does this personality react when you have to work under pressure, and working in a risk environment is pressure. How does that personality see responsibility? That's what you're profiling whereas the profilers that work with the police, for example criminal investigation, are profiling the abnormal personality.
I don't know how to profile an interrogator from my anecdotal and personal experience and from what I have heard from others. I have never paid attention to it and I have not read any literature on it but what I know, which is frightening, is that when I was in detention and particularly when I came up to awaiting trial and joined Wilton Mkwayi, Laloo Chiba and the others at Number 4 and we were planning our escape, what is frightening is the scenario that we by discussion created. The scenario was we're going to escape but we're not going to get out of the country. Why? Because the security forces will believe that we will be heading out of the country for safety. The three of us, Wilton, Laloo and I, said we would escape, we will find a hideout within the country to re-group and carry on with the struggle. Fine. All looks reasonable. I then added another element, I said we will resurrect Radio Freedom, we know where to find transmitting equipment and the spares. We will start transmitting knowing now the pitfalls of our previous transmissions. Then one day I got up in a discussion, I said, "Now chaps one of the first things we will do before we engage in sabotage, once we've got the radio station going, we will kidnap Percy Yutar and Swanepoel."
MM The prosecutor in the Rivonia case and Swanepoel the torturer.I think it was Laloo who said to me, "Why do you want to kidnap Swanepoel? Swanepoel we kill." I said, "No, I'm telling you chaps, give me Swanepoel for 24 hours in captivity. I believe his make-up is such that without using physical torture I will crack him within 24 hours and I would like to have a tape recorder there recording him pleading for mercy, confessing and fingering his colleagues and putting the blame on them and I would like to play that on the radio station to SA because I believe it will contribute significantly to cracking this hegemony that the security forces have because they see him as the powerful hero." And Laloo says, "Swanepoel, he's a brute, you won't crack him, you'd have to kill him." I said, "No, no, no, chaps, that chap's make-up is that he essentially believes in brute force, he believes in racism, he's a convinced believer. I believe that just the act of capturing him, us black people capturing him, and keeping him in captivity and throwing him with the facts of what we know about the security police is going to make him plead and confess."
What am I saying? I am saying if you've got a profile are you ready to put me into that profile because I think in 1964 after my arrest, detention and torture, I would have made a very, very good interrogator, good in the sense that I would be inflicting serious damage on the apartheid state formation.
POM You would have learned also from them what works, what techniques to employ.
MM And thought through those which ones would be more effective in delivering the result I wanted. I wanted Percy Yutar because as the prosecutor he had made some most nasty remarks in the Rivonia trial, in the treason trial, and I wanted Percy Yutar to be selling out his colleagues, saying: I was serving the wrong master, please save me, I don't mean it, I'm an honest Jew, I didn't mean to serve the apartheid state. Yes, what the Jews have gone through should have alerted me that what I was doing as prosecutor was wrong. I was overstepping the bounds of what is the normal duty of a prosecutor.
The point I'm making is at that time when I recall this incident I was actually claiming that I would be a fantastic interrogator. Now that may have been true, it may not have been true. I was accepting that interrogation was necessary and I could do it better than they had done it. Where does that put me in your profile? It tells one thing, it's very dangerous if you become an interrogator and are simultaneously a partisan, a zealous partisan. An interrogator has got to be separated from being a zealot for a cause because as long as you're a zealot there's no check left inside you that's saying am I going beyond the bounds? The zealot, that conscience, that barrier is not there for whatever cause and yet the peculiarity is there. You want trustworthy people.
To me the gain of a constitution in SA, living in a constitutional state, prevents me if I'm an interrogator from claiming I was only doing what my bosses told me. It prevents me from invoking the defence of Eichmann when the Israelis captured him in Argentina and put him on trial in Israel and he said, "I was carrying out the orders." This is the butcher of Auschwitz saying, "I was only carrying out orders." I say with a constitutional state your obligations are defined but so are your actions and there is nobody above you who can give you an order to do something that is contrary to what the constitution requires. Now if you are a zealot for the constitution, in that constitution are rights and duties. That's the check and balance that you've got. That's not to say that an individual will not become so zealous in their work that they forget their rights but you're no longer living in an environment where you're saying I'm defending just an ideological cause, I'm defending a written constitution and that is my duty and in that constitution are rights and duties that evolve and I know that if I'm asked to do something that is against the constitution, I'm supposed to invoke those rights.
I'm very happy with the idea of a constitutional state. I think it is an enormous progress to have been made in this country. I think it is a progress beyond what others have done with constitutions but it has removed the Eichmann defence of I was only carrying out orders. You now have an obligation, was that order in conformity with the constitution? That is a reinforcement to invoking a conscience because the world view is the constitution. I don't know, I haven't thought of this much.
POM Just to move backwards on a point you raised and that was when you talked about the individual on whom they tried with force, tried torture, then they brought up his wife and that was a vulnerable point so to save her life or what they might do to his family he spoke. He now comes out, he goes back to his family but every time he looks at his family he's reminded that he betrayed the struggle. To counter that, you have the individual who in the very same circumstances they say we're going to kill your wife and your family, and you say go ahead, go ahead, kill. And you're released and you go back to live with them and you look at them and every time you look at them you are reminded of the fact that you were quite prepared to give up their lives.
MM That is where I made the distinction between interrogation being to get information and interrogation to destroy a person. Both scenarios you've destroyed the man. Both scenarios you've planted the dissolution of that family. The fact that subsequent events in the human psyche allows you to swathe it in bandages and bury it away, it doesn't mean that it might not pop up tomorrow and when it pops up tomorrow you're a broken man. So I am saying I am making a distinction between torture be it physical and psychological which is breaking you as a person and interrogation, which may include psychological techniques, intended only to get the information from you. And you can challenge me on that one, I can see the challenge that once I've given information I feel broken. So I don't know where the boundary is but I am, in this discussion because of the questions you put to me, I'm forced to ask myself how far do I condemn interrogation techniques when I know in the real world you have to arrest and interrogate people. I'm trying to put up some marker that says at this point you've gone too far, you've deviated from the objective of the interrogation.
POM For example, let's assume that they arrest people with regard to these bombings. Now the first question is are these a group of fanatic individuals operating on their own and they're just kind of out of it or are they part of a larger formation that's deep underground and you've got to find out where they are. So if you're an interrogator do you say, well I've just got to question you and elicit what information I can? Or do you go in there and say I've a job to do and my job is to find out where that underground cell is and I'll use whatever means are necessary. If I break the guy I'll break him.
MM Now you see that's where I think that you would be transgressing the bounds of the constitution. The constitution says even that detainee has certain rights and he or she that you've detained has a right to life and limb, has a right to a family life, has a right that says even when he has committed a crime he will be punished by the courts, not by me.
POM But already whoever those people are are being portrayed in the press in a non-human way. White supremacist, racist. They've become objects not people.
MM But what is interesting in the portrayal, I haven't read all the papers, just see the headlines, skim, right I know what it is. But when I listen to the radio talk show the portrayal that they are white supremacists is going side by side that they are a minority of a minority. They are out of sync with this country and a large number of white callers calling in say they are wrong, they are harming this country, they must be arrested, they must be stopped and they must be punished and brought to court and we must know as the public who they are and what is this foolish thing that they are trying to do.
POM Is there not a danger in itself in the fact that before anybody is arrested and charged they've already been classified as a group?
MM That's where your profiling problem comes because there have been a series of arrests already over the last three months, arms caches have been found and as I understood they captured a document naming the top leadership, explaining their plans, their objectives and their targets. Now when I hear this it seems to me that the authorities are saying they are part of that group but we are looking for the nexus that will finally solve that problem that there is a nexus between them.
Now, I agree, if it is a tiny, tiny minority there is no real threat to the state and it is always possible in circumstances such as this, whether they are bigger or smaller, that you could go down the road that Bush has gone down. From September 11 the classic route that he's gone is to characterise other states as 'prime evil', as the 'axis of evil', invoking morality the wrong way. Fortunately at the moment the language is skirting, is getting close, but the language is at the moment of 'racist', 'supremacist' based on the concept of supremacy of race. If the authorities now begin to call it part of an axis of evil what they have done is they have transferred it and are cheaply using morality as it exists in a religious, normative philosophy. Very dangerous. So the potential is always there. You have to steer your way, as a politician how do you use this to further get people to understand the values that are there in our constitution, grounded on those values of the constitution to support the cause of getting this unity in diversity going, to say there are benefits for everybody whatever your culture or religion but the dividing line is no individual, no people, can claim a freedom at the expense of somebody else's freedom. That's the framework for diversity to become unifying.
That was the debate to the extent I got involved with the white right in Kempton Park and outside Kempton Park, the discussion was that I used to say, and the ANC was saying it, "You are claiming the need for a Boerestaat." I met the father and son of Orania, Boschoff and his son. I said, "You say you want a Boerestaat and you are saying you don't mind it even if it's in the desert. But I say how will you satisfy your rights without impinging on the rights of others? If there is even one black man in that area are we going to forcibly remove him? And let's say he says that my ancestral home is here, the graves of my forefathers are here, on what grounds will you remove him from that Boerestaat? Let's say you allow him to stay there. Will he have the same rights as you, the citizens of the Boerestaat, have? Because let's agree that the starting point must be that your freedom cannot be at the expense of somebody else's freedom." And we agree on that as a starting point. I said, "That's the starting grid. If we accept that as a starting grid we can talk now about your ideas because from time to time we can test whether it's transgressing this base line and you now, Boschoff, have the challenge, present your views without violating this freedom. So I'm prepared to talk with you, I'm prepared to entertain a solution, whatever that solution is, because you and I have agreed by one criteria, we'll test its validity." And of course they have sweated over that and this has been the big problem.
So I am saying that culture now derives for me not from an ideological outlook, it is now grounded in the constitution we have. Now you may not share my ideology but I think I have a base to say all of us have to respect that constitution because if we don't respect that constitution then we are completely poles apart. Now at which point in the potential for hysteria that this incident has brought up does somebody stand up and characterise the matter properly? That's why when I drive around, I don't like 702 as a station but I listen to it. I listen to it not because I agree with the viewers but it is another line that is keeping me aware of how people are thinking and from time to time I pick up the phone in my car and phone the radio station. They will tell you, you speak to Jon Quelane, Jennifer Cryss-Williams, everybody, my only embarrassment is that now for the last few months I haven't called because the moment I call the producer, the call centre says, "What's your name?" I say, "Mac", they say, "Mac who?" I say, "Just Mac." "What do you want to speak about?" I say, "I want to speak to Jennifer Cryss-Williams." "Is that Mac Maharaj?" I say, "Listen, please cut it out." But he's worked out my voice and he puts on the screen for Jennifer Cryss-Williams it's Mac Maharaj. So the result is I can't get into a debate anonymously. All my past is there in the listener's mind and yet what is needed is it doesn't matter who I am, I would like to inject into this debate the values in the constitution are you seeking an answer that defies this constitution? I want you to think about that. Don't think because Mac is saying it. But I listen to the station because I'm interested in hearing the views that are coming through even from that constituency and a large number of them have been primarily affluent whites but now I see more and more blacks.
POM A large number of them are?
MM Affluent whites. But there is an increasing number of blacks phoning in now. It doesn't mean I agree with the black views too and I want to challenge them. On one occasion I phoned Gareth Edwards. There was a black man phoning in and Gareth Edwards, the host, was just cutting him down in the rudest way and I phoned through. I was travelling a fairly long distance I suppose, Pretoria or somewhere, it was after I left government, and when I got through to them, and of course they said it's Mac Maharaj, I said, "Gareth I've got just one thing to say, I support your radio station because it encourages debate and discussion but you and that previous caller were so far apart that you had an obligation to help him to articulate his views so that even if you didn't contradict him others could come in to contradict him but the key is we come from a past where that poor black man has probably been cut off thinking this is a white man being rude to me." We had a discussion for about five minutes, Gareth defended himself, I persisted and he finally said, "I'm sorry", and immediately after that came a white person on the phone, "How dare you give that bugger Mac Maharaj five minutes of your time, I've been waiting and he's talking nonsense. I'm behind you." I met Gareth at a function later on and he came and he said to me a very nice thing, he says, "You know you really taught me a lesson. I never saw the matter from the angle at which you're seeing it." Now in that case would he have listened to me if it was not Mac Maharaj? I don't know. But I generally feel now at a disadvantage.
I'm giving this all in the context of what does this country need? Do we understand how central this constitution, drafted in the most democratic way, is so crucial to us?
POM We come back in a way to what I see as one of the not just central points of the constitution but perhaps the centre point of democracy, and that is the right to free expression irrespective of the view you hold or the ideology you hold that it be heard, that it be allowed to be heard as long as it is not inciting people consciously to
MM Commit a crime or to violate the rights of another individual.
POM And that's where we come back to what we were talking about yesterday, that the nature of political formations in fact I was going to tear a piece out of the paper yesterday after we talked because it talked about the Premier of Limpopo and the man who was going to be his successor and he had revealed certain corruption and he got marginalised in the thing and it said that the price for being honest was that he was marginalised and his career is over and the lesson was if you have to put the interests of the party above the interests of the public the temptation is too strong if you're a career politician to put the interests of the party in terms of yourself. If you serve the interests of the party you get rewarded whereas if you serve the interests of the state if you say something derogatory about the organisation that's a no-no.
MM But it's precisely because of the constitution that you could have an article written in the paper, not even in the form of a letter but a centrepiece article. That's where the constitution comes in, not that there may be something going wrong in the ANC but that you can talk about it and write about it and you can write in an organ that could be read by ANC members even in that centre.
POM My question that you successfully evaded is what do you think? Do you think that tendencies like this within the ANC are dangerous tendencies that must be addressed?
MM I'll tell you, I know Joe Phaahla and I know Ramathlodi.
POM You know Joe?
MM Yes, Phaahla, that was the character, Doctor. No his name is not Joe he's Dr Aaron Phaahla. The father was Joe Phaahla, he died, he served in prison and died. And the Premier Ngoako Ramathlodi, I know them both. [Between both of them, off the record, I wouldn't like to make a choice.]
POM We've talked a lot about human nature and the direction that human nature takes, that if people think they are operating within a protective environment protected by the law then they act illegally or immorally or evilly within an evil context.
MM Hold on, hold on, let's not use that word.
POM Evil? I'll drop that. Drop that.
MM Keep to the substance of your point. My paradigm for answering that is what I have learnt in the struggle from Walter Sisulu in prison. Whenever I was unhappy with the organisation we would have strong debates. This is where Madiba said, "Don't go and argue with this one." Even Madiba would argue. He'd say, "What are you getting at? Are you so unhappy with the ANC? Do you disagree so vehemently?" I said, "Yes, I disagree." He says, "Now does that disagreement entitle you to say you leave the ANC? Has the ANC abandoned the objective for which it was set up?" I said, "No." He said, "Now don't you see that the struggle embraces two forms of struggle. The first is the struggle for which we have come into existence to remove the system and create democracy. That's the big struggle. But to achieve that life has taught you that you need a force, an organisation. If it was not the ANC it would have to be another one. No organisation comes up into existence and exists as a perfect instrument. You have to struggle inside the ANC to make it the instrument that will succeed in its task." So he says, "You've got two struggles. The means you use in the prosecution of the large struggle and the prosecution of that struggle to make the ANC the instrument it should be are different things."
POM But don't the two get caught in a peculiar interaction when that movement or that party also becomes the government?
MM Even before it became government, what happened in Angola in the detention centres and what has been acknowledged by the ANC through the Motsuenyane Commission, what was there in the evidence that I and Thabo gave at the Truth Commission on behalf of the ANC over these incidents acknowledging and taking responsibility for those wrong practices. Now even before we captured power there were these things that happened and if we had not acknowledged them and simply buried them under the carpet in 1990, but it's not only 1990, we had a Stewart Commission in Lusaka which also found the prevalence of the practice, which also led to the NEC taking corrective measures, it was part of that struggle of making the organisation what it should be. Now post-1994 it is the ruling party, it is identified with the state, it is in a better position to hide those mistakes when they are committed today but to the extent that it stands by the constitution and keeps invoking that, and it translates into action what even President Mbeki has been saying, he says, "This is not the home for corrupt and career minded people. You are in an organisation that its founding principle is service to the people. If you come there with your personal agendas for your own self enrichment and your career this is not your place."
POM But the fact is that's like
MM You've got to follow it up. Isn't that the struggle as defined by Walter as the struggle in the terrain of inside the ANC to make it what it should be. That it is not happening or that it is happening haphazardly and not delivering the outcome you want does not mean that that struggle has ended. But then why do I become inhibited? The logic of that position is I'd better put my money where my mouth is. I'd better become an active member of the ANC. And there I am taking the luxury of saying, no I don't have to die with my boots on, I have done my part up to this far, now it's for the new generation but I can keep saying to them, comrades, there are two struggles. One is to make your instrument the instrument it should be. Don't ever lose sight of that struggle because if you ever lose sight of that struggle you've gone down the road.
POM But you are I don't like to use the word 'generations' but perhaps it is the word, you came and Walter Sisulu, Madiba and all the others you have named came mostly from backgrounds of immense deprivation, of oppression both overt and covert. You are locked together in a struggle for fundamental human rights. You have the present generation, many would say the vehicle to there's only one organisation to belong to in this country and that's the ANC, that's the way to get forward and of course I want to help the poor and of course I want to eliminate poverty and of course I'm for all these good objectives, everybody is, and I join. But my background is not the same, I don't come from a background of having lived through the seventies and the sixties, I've come from the mid-eighties into the nineties and I'm now driving around in my BMW and even the house I have a flat in is a screamingly good example.
MM Hold on. The generation gap yes but there is also continuity. Again I'm going to put names just for the sake of our discussion. I don't know whether it's proper to put them, no definitive judgement but in my view there is a judgement inside me. Joe Modise was my senior but I believe that when we came to power and he administered the Ministry of Defence, I believe he did a lot of things that were out of keeping with those objectives that brought us in in the thirties. So that generation has individuals too. But then when you come to the Ngoakos of Limpopo Province and Joe Phaahla, Phaahla's father died 15 years ago, Phaahla's cousin was an operative that I used to send into the country and he finally disappeared while crossing from Zimbabwe. No trace of him till today. Clearly he was killed in an ambush. Phaahla himself has been an activist from the day he was at medical school at Natal University, has been one of the key members of the UDF from its formation, has been a field activist and when banished as a doctor and restricted to a remote rural area he carried on. Ngoako came out of the country
POM Phaahla is the guy who?
MM Who they said is now being marginalised.
MM Ngoako Ramathlodi was at Turfloop University in the late seventies, went from there to Lesotho to join Chris Hani, he was already active at Turfloop, he was a student leader at Turfloop, fled the country, studied in Lesotho, joined the ANC now formally, went and did his training and became a secretary to Oliver Tambo. He worked closely with Oliver Tambo for several years. He became also part of OR's team of speech writers, became OR's secretary. So people say Thabo has learnt his politics from OR. Ngoako learnt his politics from OR and nobody says OR was a bad politician. Ngoako has had that has come back in 1990, gone down to the grassroots organising and has won at every conference of the ANC in that province the votes electing him and recently they had their conference. This article comes after the conference, because Ngoako was challenged, he was challenged not only by one of his members of the executive in Limpopo Province who got a very small number of votes, but from the floor there was a proposal for a stalwart, 75 years old, John Nkadimeng, I mentioned him yesterday, to stand for the position of chairman. He agreed but as a nomination at conference without having been nominated through the branches his nomination required a certain number of votes to be accepted on the list and he didn't get the requisite votes. So the process allowed for the challenge, the delegates voted, I may have a view that the predominance of the delegates today in the ANC are made up of people who are looking for careers.
POM But it's not surprising.
MM Not surprising, and the reality is therefore there was a free vote. What is at the heart of the proposal that Thabo has put about what type of people are we looking for to serve in the ANC, he has got to factor it in that there is a current reality in which we are living and working and that reality is nobody will work for nothing. They have got to be reasonably paid but you've got to debate what is reasonable and you've got to debate it not amongst the people who are going to get the salaries, as public servants you've got to debate it in the public arena.
POM Then to just parallel that with what Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi was saying a couple of days ago, "What we have is a brain drain from the public sector into the private sector", so you're lowering the quality of the calibre of the people in the public service.
MM She's putting it simplistically. I didn't leave the public service because of better pay.
POM You're the exception.
MM No, I'm not the exception. Khetso Gordhan didn't leave it to join the bank because of pay and I can assure you Helena Dolny didn't leave them because of pay. Tootsie Memela who is in this bank didn't leave because of pay. I think it is a false characterisation of the problem by simply saying it's the pay. I think there's a huge restiveness in the public service today because the mandates, the clarity, the responsibilities are being fudged. When a minister gets appointed and disagrees or doesn't get on with his or her DG, they haven't measured is it performing, not performing.
POM It's the President who appoints the DG.
MM The minister just goes to the President and says, "Fire him." Sipho Pityana is out. It was known that he disagreed with his minister, they didn't get on. So I can show you DG after DG and other civil servants leaving not because of pay but because the working environment, the mandates are not clear, the micro-management that's coming in. So you don't have an environment which says this is your duty, you're part of this team, your responsibility is for this area, your responsibility beyond that is within this structure, now you've got capacity to act and your performance will be measured by these criteria. It's not whether you and I personally don't get on, that we don't socialise, we are not friends in that intimate sense. It's irrelevant. You wouldn't be able to run this bank if you did it on that basis. Government is often shown symptoms that - here at the bank when you leave there's an exit interview. You are leaving, we'd like to interview you, your reasons, etc., and it's recorded. And we've gone further, wherever the person goes, anywhere for another job, one year later contact that person, have another interview. No pressure, no compulsion, that person is not working for you any more, another interview, what were your reasons for leaving?
Why the second interview a year later? You may now be prepared to tell us in greater depth your real reason. Maybe the first time when immediately on departure you gave reasons because you did not want to blot your copybook, you may have had a fear that the new job you're going to with another company, that we might go and undermine you. A year later we interview you hoping to hear from you an honest criticism of us and then when we look at your reasons we say look at those reasons, see is there a truth? Is there something we can do about it? Is there something we're doing wrong? Why? We want to be an employer of choice.
So don't treat me as the exception. I am the exception in cabinet but at the level of the civil service this brain drain is not purely a salary issue. There is more to it, there is the management issue where the buck stops with the ministers and beyond that the appointment procedures, if I walk in and I'm just assigned, look what happened we're talking honestly here. Pre-1999 Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi was Minister of Social Welfare and Zola Skweyiya was Minister of Public Service & Administration. 1999 comes the portfolios are switched. Within three months the DG who was in Public Administration under Zola clashes with Geraldine. Geraldine goes to the President, "I want him out. I can't work with this DG." In the meantime Zola Skweyiya publicly attacks the DG that he's inherited in Social Welfare. "This DG, she's useless." He goes running to the President, "I don't want that DG." The President doesn't say performance, criteria, etc., because they were both employed by ANC ministers. He says, "I see there's a problem. You know what I'll do? I'll switch them. Geraldine would you like to have that DG who was with you in Welfare?" She says, "As long as it gets rid of this one." "Zola, would you like the other one?" He says, "If you get rid of the present one, yes." He doesn't say you bloody ministers, there's something very funny here. It's clearly a personality clash not a performance clash and how dare you try to run a department on the basis of personality? Aren't you opening the door to a bigger problem? How do these two civil servants now feel when they have been swapped? They also feel very special, I don't agree with my minister, I'll be still kept for another job. The issue is not performance, the issue is do I agree with him and if I'm not agreeing with him I'll keep on becoming friendly with other ministers, they'll take me in. It's a management issue. Isn't that a management issue rather than a salary issue?
I can show you lots of civil servants who have left but I don't see a study looking at what are the reasons, analysing those reasons and asking what is it within management's capability and what is it beyond that an environmental problem?
POM Can it be the more important thing of micro-management that leads to the lack of delivery at the end of the line which leads to frustration? You go in full of ideals, I'm going to change this department, I'm going to get it moving, I'm going to get things done, I'm going to be able to show delivery. And you spend two years and you say,my God, I'm bogged down exactly where I was and I'm working 24 hours a day.
MM And I'm bogged down with bureaucracy and I'm bogged down with petty interference. The argument is not am I delivering, what are the obstacles? The argument is I walked in front of the minister, I should havebeen walking behind the minister but I didn't notice, I just got off the plane. Or the argument is, you know this guy, I come past into my office every day, he doesn't greet me, I greet him. He doesn't stand up. Is that the issue? Is that what I've come into the civil service to fight about? Sorry, I didn't notice you. I'm a person who when I'm sitting at my desk when you walk past I just happen to be one of those people so intense on what I'm doing that I don't even notice who's walking past. No disrespect, minister.
POM Since most of these people would be ANC people, what is the ethic within the ANC that suddenly people who were 'ordinary strugglers', and I always like to tell the story of how I bought Penuell Maduna a suit in 1992 when he was in Boston because he had to go on a TV programme and he had no clothes. So I went out and got him a suit. I said "You can't go on the way you're dressed", and now I look at him, I saw him in a picture yesterday and I thought, "My God! The ring on his finger would have " He's not the same person, he's not the person I knew in 1990.
MM I only discovered last night over the dinner, through Patricia, that her group was involved with the Western Cape in the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the ANC. Now I'll tell you a problem with that Constitutional Committee. While in 1991/92 through 1994 we were all collecting an allowance of R2000 or R2500 a month, all those who served in the Constitutional Committee, which included the Penuells and the Zolas who were outside, now because they housed the Constitutional Committee in the University of the Western Cape and because they were funded by donors from outside, were now collecting senior lecturer salaries. Dullah Omar
POM They were all at UWC?
POM Kader and Dullah, I used to go there to interview them.
MM They used to collect that salary, different from our salary. Why? The ANC should have said, "I don't care where you're working, you're in the Constitutional Committee, we housing it at UWC, you will get R2500 because we can't give you R10,000 and give Cyril Ramaphosa R2500 at the World Trade Centre. It doesn't make sense." Dullah was a lawyer, had a legal practice, had a lectureship at UWC and was collecting two salaries. Kader was employed by UWC and in the Constitutional Committee and I don't want to ask how many salaries he was collecting. They hadn't thought through what is the implication of this arrangement. Isn't this a problem that has arisen with the unions recently? The criticism of union leadership, NEHAWU saying you are earning a salary at Wits University, that's supposed to be a cover to give you the space to do your job but you're earning a salary beyond what the union leadership has said will be your salary. Then what happens? Not to say that that individual may have been bad or gone bad, the logic is you put the person in an environment where the person feels, I'm different.
Now these are things that should be publicly debated but not emotionally because even Lenin and them started in the Bolshevik government saying no salaries, accommodation, food and everything found. But then they said this way we're not getting quality people, we'd better give the guy a salary. So they gave him a salary and they said nobody needs a car. So the British workers gave Lenin, donated him a Rolls Royce so he rode around in a Rolls Royce. Then we said no, there's food scarcity. At the time of Stalin they set up special shops for the party leadership. There you can buy, there's no queues, there's all the food you want. Then they said, no, we'll set up a foreign currency shop, there you can buy all the electronic gadgets that are available in the west but are not available here as long as you're in the party leadership. Why? Because the party leadership needs to be in a comfortable surrounding to be able to do its work. But what is happening? Separation.
Those are the things that need to be examined. Those are the things that need to be examined even when you're discussing public service delivery. What is it in the environment that is under our control, that is contributing to non-delivery, that is making people unhappy, that is making them leave? And don't go for the easy answers because the easy answer of the brain drain going to the private sector I can show you private sector people if you want. The night before last I am at Karen Pearce, she was working in my department, she joined our department. Post 1999, she was working for the Banking Council, she joined them this year at a very good salary. She told me the night before last she's leaving to go back to work for government for half her salary. You've never heard of Karen Pearce. Why? She wants to do something that is in the service of the public and she tells me, "I've accepted the job." I said, "Karen, but it's half the salary." She says, "I've agonised over it, I am a single parent but I said to myself experience and fulfilment is more important and fulfilment is I'd like to work for this unit in the public service."
POM Not to speculate, given what we've talked about, about the micro-managements and the blockages and the power struggles and the petty interests, she may find herself a year from now saying I came here with the objective of making a contribution and I find that I am blocked at almost
MM All I am saying is that she has gone back and if you can't retain her then there's something wrong with the system in which you put her. You shouldn't run to the excuse that there's something wrong with her. You should rather ask what's wrong with the environment we've created because it's contradicting the story that they are just leaving for salary. There must be something else that's making her unhappy and want to leave and you hunted her, knowing her record, knowing her previous performance in the public service, knowing that she left unhappily because of being unable to get on with two ministers and the environment and she's still coming back and she's competent. I wanted her for the bank and she told me, "No, I'm going to that unit." "Have you thought it over carefully, Karen?" She says, "I've thought of it for four months, Mac, and yes I've taken a balanced, sober decision. It's taken me four months to come to my decision."
All I'm raising here, Padraig, is I'm just challenging this central thesis of Geraldine Fraser that you've quoted, brain drain, private sector is competing, we can't compete. Then the answer is raise the salaries. But the buggers are getting already, the DG is getting R800,000 - R900,000 a year. How much more do you want? He's getting more than the minister. It can't be.
Look at me, I'm not holding myself as and Zarina clobbers me. I say I'm going to work half my time. "Yes, what about the money?" I say, "Well this is enough for us and the children what I'm going to earn." Arguments, "No but we're short of this, we want that. Look, we haven't paid our mortgage." I said, "Well you want to do something about it? Go and work." "Right, I'm going to go and make millions." "Go and make the millions but please, let's just be clear, I am doing something to make sure that the home is clothed and fed and housed. You want to take risks, take your risks, go bankrupt today and be a millionaire tomorrow, I don't mind if you're going to take me to a restaurant for a meal or a game lodge for a holiday. Fine, you take me." "Yes, I'll do that." "Right, do it. If that's going to fulfil you do it. And I don't challenge your reasons because you will couch it it's for the security of the family, it's for the future, for the children, for a chance to study, a break in line." Fine, OK. She bought me two suits six weeks ago. Last night when we were driving back she said, "Have you fitted them on?" I said I haven't yet. She said, "I'm returning the bloody things now before the refund date expires." So, OK, return them, because that's not the issue. But I can't say my outlook must be your outlook.
POM I have the same problem in a different way. People buy me clothes, a jacket or a pants and what I do is I hang them up and six months later they will say, "Did you ever wear that pants yet or suit?" And I'll say, "What pants?" "You forgot I bought you pants?"
MM I can't deny that I don't like good clothes, I do, but everything, shoes, look at my shoes. "You need a pair of shoes." I said, "No, I've got plenty shoes." "No, but look at them!" And she'll come back with, "I've seen a pair of shoes, now come this Saturday." This one here. She says, "Try it on, try it on. Is it comfortable? Don't lie, it's comfortable." "Yes it's comfortable." "So take it." "Wait, Zarina, it's expensive." Then she knows. "Come let's go to another shop." She goes there and says, "Now that shoe, that's not expensive. Try it on. Is it comfortable?" "No it's hurting." "Ah-ha, hurting eh? You want it, you want that one, cheap one?" "No." "OK let's get back there, come on."
POM But what you've done in all of this, with your suitable degree of evasiveness you've answered a lot of the questions that I've posed. You're not just answering them as directly in terms because you're a loyal and disciplined member.
MM No, because I'm aware that there are two struggles and I cannot simply say that either has ended. That is the nature of human society that you have to make the instrument an efficient, efficacious instrument and if you come to the conclusion it can't be done then you are left with no answer. You have removed yourself from the role of an activist. You've placed yourself in the role of commentator. Well that's your choice but remember the commentator sits in a privileged position and therefore that privileged position, because you are unassailable, can cloud your judgement. I've said it to the media. "You're asking me my salary? I will disclose. Will you disclose yours? Put it up." Shaun Johnson wouldn't put it up, Battersby wouldn't put it up. Let me see what's your grading, but don't ask me to subject mine. You could only ask me to subject mine when I was a public servant. Now that I'm private citizen go and read the annual report, it's disclosed. But I don't see yours in the annual report and please you are fourth estate. So I read this wonderful editorial attacking salaries and everything and perks, I don't read it.
POM From CEOs, or CEOs themselves who don't disclose in their editorials what their perks are what they're getting.
MM And why they're getting it. Today's newspaper, I know this guy.
POM This week's Financial Mail.
MM It says there's Jeff Liebesman whose performance as a company and profit delivery is one fifteenth of the profits of First Rand Group but whose salary is as good as the CEO of the First Rand Group and bonus.
POM You know in the States what they do is when as a CEO you go in to negotiate your salary the first thing you negotiate is your severance contract, so you're assured of $10 million even if you're an absolute failure. The incentive to perform is gone.
MM But these are the contradictions that are there. It's the real environment in which we are living and there are real environmental and real mistakes but what I know is that you cannot solve a problem if you do not first analyse what are the factors contributing to the problem. Then you separate the external uncontrollable ones from the internal controllable ones and then you tackle it in your limited resources saying here are five internal factors, I can't tackle all five, which one do I tackle first which will bring the greatest change? That's the essence of movement forward.
POM Let me ask you the obvious question, why isn't that debate on all these fronts being conducted in a more open and productive way? Why have so many people who should be contributing to debate withdrawn?
MM I think there's a passing of the buck at the moment. I think the responsibility of government to ensure that the debate takes place and the facts are on the table cannot be evaded but I think that the participation of the private sector in that debate cannot be evaded. I think the participation of the media in that debate cannot be evaded. Each one has different areas of responsibility that are uniquely theirs in that debate and they should be playing their role in SA as a democracy but not just because it is a young democracy, because the experience of the rest of the world says that that debate doesn't take place that way.
That's why I say we were sitting at new frontiers, we're going to do it differently. We're going to learn from the mistakes of the rest of the world, we're going to learn from the inadequacies of the rest of the world and we're going to say because we're in new territory
POM Well you're saying that, you're saying 'we', who is the 'we'?
MM First and foremost the ANC must say it, the alliance must say it because it is the leading force, it is setting the agenda and it must say yes, we have an obligation to do that.
POM This is where we come back, and I don't want to get into repetitive things, it must not say it is the leading force, it must not say that we have ownership of the process, it must say opposition parties, civil societies, NGOs that don't agree with us also have a part in that debate and if they don't agree with us we shouldn't label them ultra this or ultra that or ultra the other because that's introducing an element of emotionalism and attaching no validity to anything they say at all.
MM But then on the other hand if I'm in that situation, say, in government and let's say you're the opposition party, keep on being emotional I'll just ignore your contribution because I told you over and over let's not be emotional, I'm doing my best not being emotional, you're persisting in emotionalism and I will say, well I ignore you.
POM What if you have two parties saying the same thing, it being a world of perceptions?
MM Somebody has got to stand up and say let's stop, let's put the facts on the table and let's remove emotion because we are dealing with the future of the country and I'm going to live by this, I'm going to put my money where my mouth is, I'm appealing to you to do the same and if you persist in not doing that I will say, well, you're irrelevant to the debate. Until you take responsibility for your actions I've done my best, you don't want to act within the rules that we've talked about, you pay the price for it because you can't as an opposition keep putting the blame on me and having one rule for you that you can be emotional and I must be rational.
POM So in that context what would be your critique of, say, the DA?
MM Oh my critique of the DA has been lack of facts, lack of factualness to the debate. I think it has often, often when I was in government, attacked on pure emotional grounds. It has raised the fear that the white people are going to be disadvantaged. It raised the fear factor and I say fear is pure emotion and that was its record when I was in parliament. To be fair to the DA, in the Transport portfolio I persisted and my team persisted with an approach that said fact, fact, fact, and they found it very difficult to handle me and say they oppose me. In fact I think that there was no bill that I took through which was not supported by all parties but that was hard work.
POM Do you see in the last couple of years
MM A degeneration?
POM - any movement away from that? Do you think their efforts to become a more inclusive party are genuine or if I asked you do you think that people like Joe Seremane are sell-outs, Uncle Toms?
MM No. The answer is a different way. I say that was my record of five years in Transport but when James Selfe (DP leading spokesmen in one of the houses in Transport) when he would come to me privately and say, "You know, Mac, you're good. I don't know why the other ministers are not like you." I used to say to him, "James, don't set me up by saying I am a good minister, I am debating rationally, the other is not a good minister. Why don't you conduct yourself in that other portfolio and set an example because both of us have a responsibility. I have set the pace for rational fact-based debate, the other minister may not be doing it but during the Portfolio Committee, you participate in that Portfolio Committee, are you attacking that other minister on the grounds that he or she is not like me or are you conducting yourself in that portfolio debate on a fact basis?" "Oh no, but that minister is attacking me." I said, "It doesn't matter, doesn't matter if that minister is attacking you."
The quotes, I think it's one of the other papers, I've missed it.
POM In one of the other papers today?
MM Today or yesterday.
MM Mahatma Gandhi. He says to be friendly to a friend is not difficult, it's not even work at all, but to be friendly to your enemy that's a challenge. That applies to both sides, the opposition, the DA, and the ANC. The DA too needs to sit down and take its experience and if the ANC is not doing it put its experience on the table in that way. Isn't that so? Don't we have a responsibility for this democracy? I think we have. That was my experience in parliament. Penuell Maduna would smash them and they would fight back, both at an emotional level, no party seeking to get down to facts. Every time he went to Portfolio they would be attacking for what he did six months ago, even on a new matter that's cropped up. To be friendly to your enemy, that's work. To be friendly to your friend, that's business as usual. So what do you say about that dodge now? Then I've dodged you, I've evaded you.
POM Yes, I would say sometimes I find it the other way round. OK.
MM Having our comment is simple, there's a hell of an achievement in this country. It's ongoing. There are huge weaknesses, dangers. If we say the hallmark of the change is the constitution we have to say how do we conduct ourselves to make this constitution a living instrument, a living instrument of inculcating a value system and from that value system a set of rules for your conduct where you live your values. I think that's a responsibility everybody shares. What is remarkable in the good things of this country is the way in which in its overall performance the Constitutional Court is acting that way. Here's a crucial institution and it has so far in the eight years conducted itself with a sense that the constitution must be living, it's driven by a set of values and that those values should become the rule for the conduct of the agency.
POM OK. Do you want to call a break for five minutes, get some real work done? You can move that big file on your desk a couple of inches.
We are going back to 1977. We have slightly covered your having gone back to Lusaka. You have now set up or you are Secretary of the Department of Internal Reconstruction and on the Revolutionary Council and you gave your assessment of where you thought when you took over these departments of where things stood. We now have to cover the years from 1977 through the Vula days when you re-entered the country at Vula, what I call 'the missing years', I have really nothing on you at all for those years, 1977 1987, when Vula began to be planned and exercised.
First of all you met a whole new group of people in Lusaka. How many of them were familiar to you from your days in the underground in Johannesburg or in London while you had been there and who were the people who were new to you? Again we've talked about the location of the ANC in London and the London office and the Lusaka office and where in this mix of things does the SACP fit, the development of the MK and its siding with ZAPU? Did it side not with ZANU but with ZAPU? And why the decision was made to get involved in that struggle when many would have argued you should be sending your cadres back home? They seem to have been more active in fighting on behalf of the Zimbabweans than fighting in their own country.
MM Well you've put a whole stack of questions.
POM It's only the start of them.
MM Let me start with comrades. You've recalled for me a very interesting episode. I got to Tanzania and from there I told you I was flown over to Lusaka and when I arrived at Lusaka Airport in August 1977 I was taken to the farm Makeni where the National Executive of the ANC was in session.
POM You've told me about that.
MM But did I tell you about the friends? For the next few days I was housed at Makeni in the same farmhouse where we were meeting and I got up in the morning fairly early and August is winter, it's the ending of winter in Zambia so it was a cold morning and I went along to the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee and I looked out in the yard and I saw somebody had built a log fire and he was standing around the log fire with an overcoat on and warming himself standing over the log fire. So I walked out there to the comrade, I had seen him in the meeting and I went up to him, greeted him and we started chatting and he began to question me about my experiences, prison, etc., and we chatted. And then he said to me, and every time I asked him questions about himself he was very elusive. What's he doing? Elusive. Where does he come from in SA? Elusive. When did he leave the country, 1962/63/64? Blank. But suddenly he turns to me and he says, "You know you're taking me back so many years. I used to work with an Indian comrade. He had come into the country as one of the first trainees. I don't know what happened to him." "Who is this person? He was trained. What was his name?" He said, "I don't know his name, there was just a first name." So I said, "What happened to him?" He said, "I heard that he was detained." And I said, "After that?" He said, "Oh, I think he must have cracked in detention and talked, got released. Must be working for the enemy or he may have disappeared because I've never heard of him again." And things begin to dawn on me. So I said to him, "Where did you meet him?" He said, "In Johannesburg." I said, "Which part of Johannesburg?" He said, "I think he used to live around Doornfontein but I don't know exactly where he lived." And I say, "Was he a printer?" He said, "Oh yes, he was a printer. We used to go and work in a building, a block of flats on the first floor where there were printing machines." I said, "How did you find him when you worked with him?" He said, "Well I was put in touch with him and he was a very hard working comrade. He didn't talk much but he worked very hard and he was brilliant." So I said, "Well it seems that he broke down in detention and sold out." He said, "Ja, that's the pity of the struggle you know. Sometimes I think of him and I say oh, that's the nature of the struggle. You meet a person who's very good and then he's arrested and he breaks down. That's life, you don't know who to trust." He's holding down on to me, so I say, "What do you remember about him?" He said, "I still have a vague picture of him." I said, "Describe him to me." So he does a vagueish description, and I'm wearing spectacles now, so I take off my spectacles and I say to him, and his name he had given me was Peter, I said, "Peter look at me. Look carefully." And he suddenly burst out, "Oh my God! Oh my God! It's you!" And we hug each other and he says, "You know I was a driver of Putco (Putco Bus Service) and I was working with you." He starts crying and he says, "You know I feel so terrible", this is 1977, he says, "For 13/14 years I have only thought of you as a sell-out. Now I realise that you've been sitting in jail all this time. I feel so guilty."
OK, we parted from Makeni and we met each other again about a month later and he walked over, embraced me and started crying again. I said, "What are you crying for?" He said, "Because I thought so evil of you. I'm really sorry." So I say, "Hey, piss off man. I was having a bloody holiday on Robben Island and you're now regretting, when I needed your sympathy when they were torturing me you were not there thinking of me and when I was having a holiday you now are crying for me. You've just got it all wrong." This was Peter. So we identified each other.
Then I said, "But Peter, you were from Alex, there was another comrade from Alex Township, there were two other comrades that I worked with closely." He said, "Which two?" I said, "There was one with you who was also employed by Putco." "Oh", he says, "That's Peter also." I said, "What do you mean his name is Peter?" He said, "Yes, he now goes under the name of Peter Boroko." I said, "Where is he?" He said, "Well he's up and down but he's currently based more in Maputo." So I said, "Well OK, when you bump into him please tell him I'm out and I'm not a sell-out."
Then I ask him, "But there's a third, there's another one."
MM Peter Boroko. You don't know him. He works in Intelligence. Last I heard he was based in Egypt. I haven't seen him since 1994. So that brings me in touch with Peter Boroko. Then I enquire where is the other one and one of those I had worked with very briefly was from Alexander Township was Josiah Jele but he was at that time based in Helsinki in the World Peace Congress so I didn't get to meet Joe Jele until somewhere around 1979 when we met at a meeting of the Communist Party in 1978 or 1979.
But I was thinking of what is the funny incident with Peter Boroko? Oh, it's Peter Dlamini still, the one who we identified each other first.
POM The first name was Peter?
MM Dlamini. There was a huge and lovely incident about him because when we began to meet more frequently and socialise a bit he told me that immediately after the Soweto uprising he was sent by the Revolutionary Council to Botswana to start receiving these youngsters that were flooding out and processing them and supervising and he was in the Security Department. I asked him, "By the way, how's your family?" He said, "Comrade since I left the country in 1964 I haven't heard from them because we were told not to write home, not to contact." But he said in 1976, post-Soweto, he's in Botswana and in a group that he's interviewing from home, young kids, talking to them, there's a young girl in the group. He asks her name, she gives her name, address, she gives. What do your parents do? She says, "Well my mother is at home but I have never known my father. I was about six months old when my father died." "Oh what did he die of?" "I don't know. My Mum has just said to us that he's dead." "Do you have brothers and sisters?" "Yes I have." "Older or younger?" "Older." "What are they doing?" She tells him. And he realises he's interviewing his daughter who was six months old when he left the country but the mother has said, and the community thinks, he's dead. He then re-established contact and contacted his wife and she came out with the children and settled with him in Zambia.
Then there was a wonderful story about Peter. Some time in the eighties when a large batch of our students, those who needed to study went to Cuba to study and we sent Comrade Peter, I don't know whether we will use this, but we sent him on behalf of the organisation to look at the training for the military people and at the same time look at the student problems. He went there, did his report and in that report he had said that our youngsters were short of a number of supplies and we set aside some money and the Treasurer General said go to Botswana, buy the stuff and we will airfreight it to the students. He did that. Subsequently there were criticisms of him and the criticism was a charge of corruption, of misuse of Revolutionary Council funds. So he's a member of the RC and we set up a disciplinary committee to look into the charge. What was the charge? The charge was that he was given funds to go and buy these supplies from clothing items, the girls were complaining that they don't have pads, they don't have panties, they don't have bras. He bought all those things but they alleged that in the process of buying those things he bought extra clothing for his daughter, over and above what he bought for the others and sent it as a special parcel to her. OK, we sit to examine this thing. We call Peter in and say, "This is the charge, comrade. This is what you are alleged to have done." And he burst out crying.
POM He started crying?
MM He said, "It's true, it's true. I did wrong but this is my daughter who I never had a chance to bring up and when I met her in Cuba as now a student, as part of the group, I also met her alone as a father and I asked her how she's living, what she's missing, and she told me and I came back and I have no money and so in the money that you gave me to buy for everyone I did take out three pairs of panties and several bras, an extra packet of pads and made it into a special parcel for her and I sent it to her." He said, "I did wrong comrades." I was in the group, the committee looking at this problem and I said when we sent him out of the room, "Listen, we're not punishing him. This is not a case for punishment." So that was Peter Dlamini.
Peter Boroko and I, I've suddenly remembered the joke. When we met after being told all the time, "Hey, Peter Boroko is looking for you." And I turn up in Maputo, "Where's Peter?" He's flown off to Dar Es Salaam. When I'm in Zambia they say, "Oh he was here, he's gone off to Angola." So we kept missing each other and he's a very jovial sort of guy. Here were comrades who were young people when they left and they were now abroad 15 - 16 years. Eventually I bump into Peter Boroko, can't identify him but somebody says, "Hey, Mac, there's Peter Boroko." So I go and say, "Are you Peter Boroko?" He says, "Are you Mac?" And we greet each other and he says, "Mac, I'm sorry man that you had to go through all this prison and torture." I said, "Fuck you. Are you? You left me and you deserted. You left me to get caught." He says, "I'll tell you something my friend, I got word when you were detained and I was told to take cover. I knew the police knew my address. The whole night I sat in an open pit toilet waiting for the early hours of the morning so that I could escape." He said, "As soon as it was safe I got out of this open pit toilet and shot across the border to Botswana." So I said, "Thank you very much, that's wonderful solidarity." He said, "Listen, you think I was going to sit around and wait to be arrested like you? If you're stupid I'm not. They don't get me."
Then of course I metSlovo, Dr Dadoo in London, I met Vella Pillay. He was now, had long gone into a frame of mind of unhappiness with the movement.
POM To go through each of them, you met Joe first, your first real encounter with him? He was then Chairman or Secretary?
MM No there was another one. When I got out to Mozambique I learnt that Ruth First was lecturing at Maputo University.
POM This is in nineteen?
MM 1977, July. So I got out, crossed the border, got to Maputo. I was taken in by the Chief Representative's office, was given accommodation somewhere and then I asked, "Is Ruth First here?" And they said, "Yes, she's lecturing at Maputo University." And I said, "Can you give me her address, I'd like to visit her." And they gave me an address in Mao Zedong Avenue saying that she was living in a flat there. It was the second evening I think, I walked over to her flat, rang the flat bell and Ruth answered on the intercom, I think she was staying on the second or third floor. No, I was taken by one of the comrades, Lennox Lago, to show me the place, I didn't know my way around Maputo. He said, "Here's the flat", so I rang the bell and Ruth answers and I could see from her voice that she was in a hurry. So I said, "Is that Ruth First?" She says, "Yes." I said, "I've come to visit you." She said, "I'm very sorry, I'm just rushing out, I've got another appointment." And she says, "Who are you?" I say, "I'm a friend." "A friend?" and she's obviously cagey. So I say, "A friend, we last met something like 12/13 years ago." She's very suspicious. "What's your name?" So I said, "Don't worry about the name. When you see me you will realise who I am." She said, very briskly, "Listen, I'm in a terrible hurry." I said, "OK if you're in a hurry I'll wait here when you come down." She said, "I'm just about on my way down. Are you alone?" I said, "No, I'm with Lennox Lago, this Chief Representative." And Lennox gets on the intercom, he says, "Ruth, I'm here." She says, "Well Comrade Lennox, I'm really in a hurry, I'm very sorry. I'm coming down now." And there she comes trotting down the stairs, rushing to her car, she had an old Vanguard car. She looks at me and I look at her and I say, "You know me Ruth?" Oh, she embraced me, she recognised me instantly, "How are you? What are you doing? Listen, I'm going out to dinner with a group of people, lecturers and comrades from Canada, etc., who are attached to the university. Come, let's go there." I said, "Wonderful." So that's the first time we met Ruth.
Then I met her a second time, alone this time, and we had a very interesting discussion. She said to me, "Mac, I've changed." I said, "How have you changed?" She said, "I've had many disagreements with the Communist Party, I still have my fundamental beliefs, they are still there, but Czechoslovakia and subsequent developments, I clashed with comrades in the party." So I said, "That's understandable." She said, "No, well, I have a very low opinion of some of the comrades who are living in London and based there. I don't get on with them." I said, "That's understandable. When you are close together and you have clashes, it's not new." And she said a statement that has never deserted me, she said, "You know until then I now realise that my loyalty was based on blind faith and I've had to re-think my positions. I cannot accept blind faith as a basis of loyalty. I have realised from the events in Czechoslovakia, etc., that my faith must be grounded on something other than blind faith." We had quite a discussion about that.
It is in Maputo that I also met Indres Naidoo who had lived in the communal cells and I had parted with him when he was arrested in 1963. Now the time when Indres was arrested was over Easter weekend 1963 when I was still a boarder at his home and he and I used to share a bedroom upstairs. When he got arrested I had to, of course, hide, but he was arrested with a group of people including a chap who was in my printing unit, a chap called Abdullahai Jassat and Abdullahai had smuggled a message out from detention to indicate that this boarder at the Naidoo house had better disappear, he's in trouble. That's the first hint to the Naidoo family that, hey, Mac is involved because the old lady came to tell me the message is saying you'd better get out of this house as fast as possible. So I made a joke of it because, I disappeared from the house, but I made a joke because I said Indres Naidoo, we had been sharing this room and I had a suitcase with just a few items of clothes and some of my personal belongings, now he found in my personal belongings a pair of gloves and I had a pair of ankle boots, very comfortable boots, these typical veldskoene that we have in SA
POM At this point in your life you were into expensive good-looking stuff?
MM No, no, couldn't afford any of those things. Just had a pair of these veldskoene that these farmers wear.
POM OK, yes.
MM That night when he went out to commit that sabotage he took my jersey, it was a rust coloured jersey, he wore that. He took my gloves for fingerprint purposes and he wore my shoes and so when he was shot at the site of the sabotage the bullet went through my jersey because the bullet had gone in the front and out at the back so the jersey had a burn mark. I made enquiries, "Hey, my gloves, my jersey." The mother described to me how the police brought him there with the gunshot wound to search the house, they said he was wearing my jersey and he was barefoot. Why bare feet? We found out that he had thrown the boots out of the police van because they were my boots and then he had thrown the gloves which were my leather gloves from England. So when I meet him in Maputo I say, "You bastard, I want my boots, I want my gloves and I want my jersey. You, to cover your tracks, were using my footprints to avoid tracking down and they would come and arrest me."
POM I didn't get time to go through it all because I'd gotten this book, the second edition of his book. You did the
POM I scanned the first page quickly this morning but I saw 'Van Rensburg'.
POM Where does Van Rensburg come in?
MM His real name was Van Rensburg. He's the warder that we had called 'Suitcase'.
POM Oh OK.
MM I told you the incident. Then I get to Dar Es Salaam, floods of youngsters coming out of the country. What I remember of that is that I stayed for a few days at Eli Weinberg's house, with Eli and Violet. That was a good reunion. Violet had also served her imprisonment and joined Eli in exile. Eli had served also five years. I stayed at their house. Amongst the youngsters coming through the one I can recall now who is in fairly high public office is Baleka Kgositsile who is now the Deputy Speaker of Parliament. She goes as Baleka Kgositsile, she's got a hyphen.
POM I met her. She was where?
MM She's the Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
POM I met her at one of the
MM Oh! And the Chief Representative was a chap called Reddy Mzimba, I don't know where he is now, he must be either in Intelligence or Foreign Affairs. Then in Zambia besides Peter, that stand out, Indres arrived in Zambia. No he had got to Zambia earlier than me so he got friendly with a German couple who were working there, one as a German volunteer service and one, the woman, as a journalist. What was her name? Henning Hintze and his partner was Almut Hielscher. Indres arranged for me to go to their flat, they had a one-bedroomed flat in Lusaka, to be interviewed by them about prison experience. That led to a friendship which has endured till today with a very ironic twist. The Hielschers and the Hennings eventually gave me accommodation in their flat, it was in the centre of Lusaka rather than in Makeni. Secondly, they moved into a bigger house and they then gave me a room and in the bigger house there was a garage and the garage we converted into a bedroom where OR's driver and one of the mechanics in MK, OR's driver Khumalo who was the brother in law of Winnie Mandela, was OR's driver.
POM He was the brother in law. I always get these in-law relationships
MM Somehow related from Transkei. He described himself as the brother in law. And the other chap, the mechanic, we used to call him Dullaboy, he was a mechanic. The Henning Hintze's gave the two of these guys accommodation in the garage at the back. We got very friendly and it turned out that Almut Hielscher was born in the GDR and her father was a miner and after the incident in 1953 where there had been a strike by the mineworkers in the GDR which was a turning point in the thinking of Berthold Brecht because the strike was broken with quite a bit of force, Almut's parents then left and settled in the west so she grew up as a teenager, a young girl, in the west. The twist was, because I had trained in the GDR, I asked her where she lived in Berlin as a child and it turned out that she lived in Busch Allee which was the street where one comrade who was in charge of my welfare in Berlin used to live and I hated living in hotels and he and his wife used to there were occasions when I would say I don't want to live in a hotel, and Hans' wife would say, "Come and stay at our flat." They used to open the couch in the sitting room whenever I visited Berlin to let me sleep there. And I said, "Busch Allee, what a small world. I lived in Busch Allee in 1961. When were you there Almut?" She said, "I was a little child growing up in Busch Allee in 1952." So we had a great friendship which endures up to now.
Dullaboy and Khumalo were an hilarious couple. The two of them one day were sitting and chatting in the yard and they were questioning me about home. They had left in 1962. When I told them things about home
POM Home is?
MM SA. They would suddenly interject. They'd say, "Is there still Lux toilet soap?" Yes. "How much?" And maybe I'd answer 50 cents. They'd say, "No 50 cents, tell us how much is it in shillings and pence. What is this new currency? I've heard about it but it doesn't make sense. Tell me again in shillings and pence." Dullaboy was hilarious because he was a mechanic in the Revolutionary Council's workshop team and so from time to time we would send him to Botswana to collect cars, etc., and through getting to know Dullaboy I realised he was from Cape Town and when we would sit and reminisce at home about life at home before we went into exile, Dullaboy would go into ecstasy about the pigeons that he used to keep in his backyard. Eventually I found out that he hadn't made contact with his family and I said, "Things have changed post-Soweto, guys. Give me the address of your wife. I'm in the internal political. I will be able to track your family down." We eventually traced Dullaboy's wife and I made arrangements for her to be brought to Botswana clandestinely and I made arrangements for Dullaboy to go down to Botswana to meet his wife. Dullaboy goes down, it must have been about 1980/81/82, and Dullaboy returns to Lusaka and I get home and I am very excited. Is Dullaboy back? Yes he's back. Where is he? He'll be here this evening. Dullaboy arrives in the evening and I go rushing to the garage to the room, "Hey, Dullaboy, DB, how are things man? How's the wife?" "Oh no, she's fine." I said, "What's wrong with you?" He said, "Shit man, I had a terrible quarrel with her." I said, "What was the quarrel about?" He said, "I asked about my pigeons, the woman has sold my bloody pigeons!"Those are the small things that make life.
Then I went to London. There I met Dr Dadoo, Slovo, Vella Pillay and all the others that had settled down, and my former wife.
POM You mention Pillay. Pillay was the man in charge of - ?
MM When I originally went off for training he was the Central Committee representative in London. Shortly after I went into prison in 1964, this is Vella who used to be working for the Bank of China, so Vella had become unhappy with the movement by the mid-sixties. He was in the anti-apartheid movement as a leading official but his relations with comrades in the ANC and the Communist Party were strained but I maintain friendship with them even till today. We remain good friends, we quarrel like hell. The first five minutes we are very pleased to see each other and the next five minutes we're into an argument and by that time his blood pressure is soaring and his wife is busy taking my side and saying, "Vella, shut up! Listen to him. What do you know Vella? You've been cut off, you know bugger all. You're just coming with your theory here." And Vella and I would have a good old argument.
POM Dadoo at that time would be, what age would he be?
MM Oh he was well into his late sixties.
POM I've a question there that I had written down on material I had gone through that would be sent back to you and probably stopped by the bank again so you should forewarn them so everything doesn't get stopped and sent back and I have to write to the Administrator and say - But you had talked as a kid or as a youngster attending meetings attended by Dr Dadoo and Dr Monty Naicker, you said there was a leadership struggle going on between the moderates and then you had, "And the Dadoo/Patel."
MM Not Patel, Dadoo/Naicker group. Dr Dadoo was leading the campaign in Transvaal. Monty Naicker was leading the campaign in Natal. Dadoo was having a struggle with the Transvaal Indian Congress leadership and overthrew them in the early forties and Monty Naicker was leading a group in Natal Indian Congress and overthrew them and took over the leadership which radicalised the Indian Congresses. Oh, the Natal moderate leadership was made up of Kajee and Pather.
POM OK, it was just in the transcription, it must have, Judy just got
MM Patel, Pather.
POM So it was Dadoo who emerged as
MM The leader in the Transvaal.
POM As the radical?
MM As the radical.
POM As the more radical, that we have to move in a more
MM Militant, mass action. That's what led to the Passive Resistance Campaign in 1946 where 2000 Indians voluntarily went to prison by breaking the laws.
POM Did Naicker still stay on as part of Natal?
MM Yes, he was part of the radical leadership of Natal and he went to prison in 1946.
POM OK. I'm a bit confused. Dadoo was part of the radical leadership and Naicker was part of the radical leadership, who were they fighting?
MM In Natal the leadership that had to be overthrown was - two individuals were identified as the leadership, one was called Kajee and the second one was called Pather. They were overthrown. In Transvaal the moderate leadership, there was no individual who stood out, and still stands out, Kathy would know, who was the leading force that had to be overthrown but there was a moderate leadership in control of the Transvaal Indian Congress. Kathy would remember that.
I recall Dr Dadoo, Monty Naicker, Devi Singh coming to address meetings in Newcastle in support of the Passive Resistance Campaign, in support of building the support base amongst the Indian community in Natal and in support of working together with the ANC.
POM OK, so the word 'passive' there was kind of a funny word because they were
MM They were militants. 'Passive' was modelled on Gandhi's satyagraha that you resisted without violence, so it was called 'passive resistance'. The passive resisters occupied a plot of land, for example, in Durban or went and sat on a bench marked 'For Europeans only' and got arrested. Their demand was a rejection of a land tenure Act called the Asiatic Land Tenure Act which was passed by the General Smuts government which was supposed to make it even more constricting in Indians owning land and their demand was against the immigration laws between provinces and their demand was that we should have the vote and participate in a democracy. So they went on this non-violent resistance of breaking the law and serving terms of imprisonment and batch after batch went into prison and by the end of the campaign 2000 men and women had served sentences.
POM So this was the radical, more confrontational branch? The other more moderate branch was for meetings and
MM Delegations and compromise.
POM OK. I was just getting confused between the word 'passive' and more radical.
MM Of course that Passive Resistance Campaign became the inspiration for Mandela and company to think in terms of the Defiance Campaign where 8500 got into prison.
POM So the Gandhi strain which is one of the things, we're now wandering backwards but it's up to the cutter to find the boxes, the Gandhi strain had a more lasting influence than is generally perceived. It influenced both movements. In a way it was the Indian Congress that
MM Brought the issue to the fore.
POM In a way radicalised the
MM The political terrain overall.
POM The political terrain overall.
MM And even radicalised the ANC.
POM And the ANC.
MM Well there's a book just coming out now, already last night it hit the shelves of Exclusive Books, it's hard cover, it's the autobiography of Ismail Meer, called Ismail Meer, a Fortunate Man. He was a passive resister, he was a member of the party and he deals with his friendship with Mandela and he deals with the passive resistance. There are some interpretative issues but he's entitled, I helped edit the book, the manuscript. I've let them stand because I think they're interpretation issues, each one is entitled. But you will see in that book how the influence of Gandhi's thinking became a powerful instrument. Some began to believe in non-violent struggle as a principle and as a philosophy and others supported it as a tactical move. The matter came to the fore when MK was being formed, in those debates. I know some of the Indian comrades in the leadership of the Indian Congress when the matter was put at the Joint Congresses about the formation of MK, they had to decide on it, some of the Indian comrades argued very, very strongly against the turn to violence and some went so far as to weep when the decision was taken.
POM This is the meeting you were telling me about where J N Singh won the debate for a moment with the statement, "Have we failed non-violence."
MM "Non-violence has not failed us, we have failed non-violence." And JN was a member of the Communist Party also.
POM So when you, again, in that interview that I'm going through now, it's a corrected interview but I inserted more material so the question didn't arise in the last questions that I put to you. When you said that you were a supporter of Dr Dadoo and Dr Naicker that was in 1946 but by 1952/3 you had moved towards militancy?
MM Let's put it this way. I instinctively supported the passive resistance because I was too young but by 1952 and the Defiance Campaign and I get to Durban in 1953, now I am a supporter but I see the aftermath of the Defiance Campaign.
POM Which is?
MM Which is that 8000 people went to prison. We had put ourselves on the map as a struggle but we had achieved no success in changing the government's thinking. I now come in, become active, I support the militancy but I am not happy why are we committed to non-violence?
POM OK. I want to reconcile here. When you talk about the Defiance Campaign in 1952 in one interview you said, "Yes it happened but I hadn't yet moved into my political mode." The question I think I asked was, and there never is one spark, but was it when you went to the University of Natal that you found you couldn't take courses that you wanted to take, that was the first time that exclusion hit you in a real way?
MM So that student activity, I make a distinction, that's where I for the first time get involved in a collective of people.
POM But you've got your first year is your year of your drinking
MM And getting slowly there.
POM Slowly getting but you were very rebellious.
MM Rebellious and when the Indian Congress chaps come they are preaching caution in how you tackle the student problems and I'm saying, you buggers are non-violent. What sort of revolutionaries are you? And I'm reading and I'm saying why did the Communist Party disband just because the enemy makes a law banning you, you disband. What sort of revolutionaries are you? It's a drunken revolutionary stage.
POM Important. A passage of riot. R I O T. There was one thing that I didn't ask you about your experiences in the GDR and that was with the family you were staying with or with the people you met was there ever any discussion of the war of Nazi Germany?
MM Second World War. Oh there was a lot of discussion. I stayed with a family, the name has just come to me, the husband's name was Walter Wemme. His wife's name was Ilse and they had a teenage son of about 18 whose name was Jonker. They had a married daughter and her name was Marina. The husband, wife and son were staying in a flat and they had an additional room which they gave to me.
POM You were allocated to them.
MM No. I had been allocated in Bischofswerda by the Party that they would provide me with a room and meals, etc., laundry, the lot, at a hotel, the only hotel in that village which was owned by the Communist Party. It was called not the Communist Party, it was called the SED, Sozialistische Einheits Partei, (Socialist Unity Party). When we got to this village together with Hans of Busch Allee he took me
POM Sorry, you had been saying that you had been allocated to stay at the hotel.
MM When we got to Bischofswerda the starting point was the printing factory and the Soviet Base Camp, but for the legend that I'm a young man from India under the name of Das Gupta, Hans said they've made arrangements for accommodation for me at the Party hotel. I raised with him that night that I was unhappy to live in the Party hotel. I thought it would isolate me in that village too much as a privileged person. I also said that I would prefer to be a boarder and lodger in some family home so that I would get to see and meet people living in a normal environment. The next day he raised the matter clearly he contacted the Party Secretary, etc., and the foreman of the printing factory was Walter Wemme. He was going to be my key instructor also in printing and he said he had this flat with an additional room and they would willingly take me on as a boarder. So I went and saw the flat. His wife was working in the printing factory as a bookbinder. His son was an apprentice carpenter and so when I saw the room I was very happy to stay with them. Arrangements were made and within a couple of days it was sorted out and I moved in to stay with them.
You raise the question about the nature of discussions. Well at every level Berlin, in Bischofswerda with Walter Wemme, with colleagues in the printing factory who were German, the discussions I was keen to learn about the Second World War. I was reading lots of novels written by German writers based on experiences of the Second World War. I remember a German writer, Stephan Hein who wrote a number of novels. Then there was a classic novel for me, it was called Naked Amongst the Wolves by Bruno Apitz. It was a novel based on the concentration camp experiences. I was reading about German left history, the Communist Party, what is called the Red Band under Ernest Heilman(?) during the time of Nazi rule at a Reichstag fire trial. All these things were fascinating me and I was also talking about race and racism and, as I say, I was the only black man in that village ever to have set foot and been seen live by people there except for one chap, I forget his name at the moment, who had worked in the merchant navy post second world war for a while and had travelled parts of the world. The rest had only seen black people in magazines and so the question of race came up.
I felt very comfortable but at times I felt uncomfortable in the sense that one had a lingering feeling that there was a lot of patronisation around colour but when they explained their experiences and compared it with what was happening in West Germany they argued that they were teaching history by putting the Nazi experience fully on the table whereas the West was concealing it in the schools. Secondly, they were confronting issues of racism and discrimination frontally, that their support for the anti-colonial struggles was open and transparent and public, before the public mind. But the patronisation I felt was, to give an example, I think I told you about the pubs where I never had to pay, but also the patronising was about women, fathers would walk over to me, mothers would walk over, young women would walk over and want to talk with me, want to touch my hair, and fathers and mothers would say, "I want you to marry my daughter, I want her to have children with you." Now they thought that that was friendliness, I found it strange. I dismissed it, I didn't judge them harshly. I dismissed it partly I think in a mindset that said, look, they've never seen a black man, they are seeing me a bit like a monkey in a zoo but be understanding, the papers, the government, the Party are all preaching no discrimination, anti-nazism, anti-Ayran superiority, and so dismissed these sorts of manifestations, treat them rather as manifestations of people changing their outlook.
We talked a lot about German history, world history. Hans and Ilse in Berlin when they heard that I was interested in the literature of Thomas Mann were very excited. They went and got copies of Thomas Mann's novels written in English. They always looked out for the literature. They were extremely thrilled when they learnt that I was a fan of Berthold Brecht and the Berthold Brecht Theatre. The village was thrilled that I would take weekends off and go by train because I'm going to see a play at the Berliner Ensemble.
POM Would they talk about Nazism, their participation in it, their participation in the war, the concentration camps, Jews?
MM Auschwitz, I went to Buchenwald, I went to visit Buchenwald. I travelled the length and breadth of East Germany. I worked as a volunteer on the farms. I was in factory, I was in the resorts and I travelled all over, Wiemar, Karl Marx Stad, Rostock. I was a young man in the prime of my life, adventurous, I would open a map find that the Elbe River was passing through a mountainous area, I took walks, I would take a train, go to Dresden, take another train and go out and jump off at a small village up in the mountains, go off walking on my own visiting old castles. I didn't form any deep friendships. The Wemme couple were pretty old and she was unable to walk long distances. I remember in the first week, I think it was on a Saturday in the afternoon at about four o'clock they invited me to go for a walk with them and we went walking. Germans like the saying is 'to go walking', and they were ambling along. I found this too slow walking for me; go off on your own. Language was a barrier in forming friendships so I had a level of friendship among my work colleagues, we'd meet in the park and have a few drinks, but for the rest I went my own way.
POM Did you raise questions about the war, support of Hitler, Nazism?
POM The Jews?
POM The camps, their knowledge?
POM Whether or not they had served in the war, most of them must have served in some capacity. Many of them must have been on the eastern front.
MM Walter Wemme himself had served in the war. He had injuries on the one hand. He himself as a youth had been conscripted into Hitler's army as a young man. Towards the end stages of the war he describes his experiences. Hans in Berlin had served in Hitler's army and was captured in Crete and was a prisoner of war in the camps in the POW camps in Egypt. He said he was a member of the underground Communist Party. He came from a Socialist Party background and in the war he was conscripted. In the POW camps he fraternised with the British captors and formed alliances between captors and the inmates of the camp who were members of the Communist Party and they used to get together clandestinely and meet. After the war his father, because he came from the Socialist Party and was old, was made the Mayor of one of the towns, was dead by the time I got there. Hans himself had gone off fully into the Communist Party. His wife, Ilse, was a concentration camp inmate. She is one of the women whose face has haunted me ever since. She had helped me in Berlin, taken me to the shops to buy clothes for the German weather. She couldn't speak English but there was a great warmth between her and myself, she was like a mother to me, and it was gradually over time that I learnt that she had been an inmate of the concentration camp, had been tortured and had suffered permanent injuries such that she couldn't have children.
POM For being?
MM For being in the underground.
POM In the Communist underground?
MM Yes. And she as a young girl was an inmate. She never explained the tortures but they told me, her husband Hans who spoke a bit of English told me (he spoke reasonable English) that as a result of her tortures she could never have children. But she had a face that had immense beauty but written in the face was immense pain and sadness. We had a beautiful relationship. As I say she's the one that said, "You can come and sleep in our flat when you are in Berlin, sleep in the lounge", and she would get up in the morning, "Das, wake up, breakfast is ready." "No, I want to sleep longer." She'd give me a couple of slaps, "Wake up!" Always mothering me. But there was immense sadness and pain in her face and in 1978 when I went to Germany I tracked Hans down, went to his flat, met him and learnt that Ilse had died and that after a few years Hans had married again, a woman of his age. It was different for me. Then the next time I visited Germany in 1986/87 in my refresher course I went off on my own to Busch Allee again, went to the flat, it was on the first floor in the block of flats, knocked at the door and a stranger opened the door and I asked for Hans Eischler and they said, "No, he lives downstairs, he has swapped flats." He was too old to walk up. I went downstairs, Hans opened the door, he and his wife were around. We spent an evening together. They were very old, they were retired, and that was the last time I had contact with him.
Walter Wemme, I phoned him in 1994, I phoned to Bischofswerda. I found somewhere that in 1978 in 1978 I had gone and visited him in Bischofswerda, the same village, I had driven over and I had somewhere kept his number. So in 1994 when I was clearing out some junk I came across this number so I phoned one evening. There was Walter at the end of the line, "Walter Wemme?" "Ja." "This is Das Gupta." "Ooh, Das!" He really didn't speak much English but we connected and I asked him about Ilse, he said that Ilse had passed away. I asked him about Jonker the son, he said Jonker was married and lived on his own. I asked him how he was living. He said he was in retirement, living in the same flat. How is his health? He said fine, but getting old now. And that's the last we contacted each other. He must be dead now.
POM I suppose I'm getting round to the question, did you find any German who had supported Hitler, had supported his wars, had supported his policies?
MM No. That, like today's apartheid, there's nobody who supported apartheid, there's nobody who was prepared to say that they were conscious supporters but the version that was extant was that some were in the army but still were part of the Party structures and others were conscripted and others said they didn't really know what they were in but nobody claimed 'I was a supporter of nazism'. I don't recall meeting one. But I met one other very interesting guy, and I talk about outside the big structures of the Party and leadership. The caretaker at the Party hotel in Berlin
POM He was the caretaker at the hotel that you used to visit? Yes.
MM He used to be on night duty. He was a short man, very old, had chest problems. In SA he would not have a job, neither would he in Britain. He said to me that he had been a member of the Spartacus Movement in 1919 and knew Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. This was a thrill for me. We used to have discussions and he used to tell me that my generation were all softies because he would tell me how they as Spartacus members in 1919 would have stand-up fights with the police, in his broken English he would be always spinning these yarns. Any time I walk in, "Oh, when are you going to fight? Look at me." He never told me about the Nazi times but he told me about the Spartacus times.
POM It seems you would have encountered this kind of denial of the past in the same way as the past by whites is denied here in the sense of 'I wasn't aware', 'I didn't know', 'If I had known'.
MM There's a more interesting twist here in SA. I bumped into an Afrikaner couple who I got to know since 1991. They're pretty wealthy. His version is, "You know, Mac, you fought apartheid from outside apartheid. I fought apartheid from within apartheid. So we are comrades."
POM Did he offer you any elaboration of how he had fought it from within?
MM There's no point in pursuing it. What was the point of pursuing it, one understood the thesis already. No I didn't pursue it. I said, "Good for you."
POM But you were meeting people in the communist underground who were saying, "We were opponents of the Nazis, we were fighting the Nazis from within." Were they?
MM Yes but I did meet quite a few inmates of the concentration camps.
POM These would be specialised
MM Party members. Hitler
POM Sure, he cracked down totally.
MM I met a few survivors of the concentration camps like Hans Eichler's wife. Remember now, I'm talking about 1961 and therefore one heard in the village and the town, in Dresden, that this is so-and-so, his father was in the concentration camp and died in the concentration camp. This is so-and-so, the mother died in this concentration camp. So you were meeting the children of people who were in the Communist Party and were imprisoned by Hitler and died.
POM You were not meeting 'average' Germans who raised their hand and said Heil Hitler and marched to the Ayran march, the Fatherland.
MM I had a problem about my treatment because I had to intervene in the case of a group of SA students who were studying in a little down called Oberhof, I had to go and intervene in their problems. The Central Committee asked me to intervene. We built a legend that I was on a visit. When I went there I am sitting and talking with those SA students, I learned then about their conditions and they were getting a stipend, an allowance, which was double the stipend of a German student. I raised the matter to say that this was wrong and I explained that this was one of the reasons why I refused to stay in the Party hotel and this was one of the reasons that while I was in the printing establishment training as a printer I said that the allowance that they should give me was the allowance of an apprentice. They of course argued with me that because I was a foreigner, I had no family, that they had to give me a once-off allowance to buy me an overcoat and warm underwear and clothes and boots and hat. I said that it was more than what I needed for the clothes. They said, "Well that's to kick-start you." So that was at my insistence but when I found that the students in Leipzig University, Oberhof was the entry point familiarisation with German language and preparatory to entering Leipzig University. I learnt that their allowance was double that of a German student. I raised it with Hans Eichler, I said this is wrong. He wanted to know why. I said, "It's allowing them to live a lifestyle as a student different from the lifestyle of the German student." I said that would be a barrier. His argument was that on the other side of the scale these German students had grown up in Germany, had families, relatives, even if they were not from Leipzig and could go off and visit their families and therefore had a support network and friends and these foreign students did not have that network. For that reason it was necessary to give them double the allowance. I don't think they changed the system but it was an observation that struck me.
POM But it would also be giving the students a standard of living that was totally disproportionate to the standard of living they would have had in SA.
MM Not only in SA but I said it would cause a clash inside that campus because of course the foreign student would then flaunt his ability to pay more, to drink more, to go more often to entertainment, to entertain a girlfriend or a boyfriend more than the German could. As I say, there were two sides to the argument but it was an observation. What am I trying to say? I'm trying to say that while I acknowledge that I was seeing Germany through somewhat rose-tinted glasses, at the same time I'm saying I noticed these problems. Therefore I'm saying with all the travelling that I did on my own inside Germany, the way in which I lived and the different places that I lived and trained in, my overall judgement of the country was positive. At the same time the problems that one saw appeared so minor in the larger scale of things. I've read and heard subsequently that in the eighties at Leipzig University there were physical clashes between foreign students and German students and I have seen since the collapse of the GDR how the most xenophobic, chauvinistic and racist attitudes and intolerant attitudes have been thriving and it has led me to ask questions, questions which I began to ask when I was visiting the Soviet Union in the late eighties, where I told you the story that I asked Shubin in 1989 when we walked around and we came to the Market Square which is a poet's corner, speaker's corner, and I could see from the tone of the speaker that he was speaking in a most aggressive way. I asked Shubin what is he saying, and Shubin said, "He's talking nonsense, forget about him." I said, "No, what is this one saying?" And Shubin was forced to translate and the chap was inciting the audience with the most vituperative, xenophobic, chauvinistic argument. That's when I had a discussion with Shubin to say, "Comrade Shubin, explain to me, this is 1989, the Soviet Revolution took place in 1917, that's 60/70 years. You've had three generations, two of which have grown up and passed through a socialist educational system, from kindergarten to university, have ended up working and living in the Soviet Union. So it's not just one generation. By now all that xenophobia in terms of the socialist and communist ideals should be out, gone. You've lived in isolation from the west so you can't say the poison of xenophobia has been injected externally. Explain how this is happening here."It means that there was something wrong in the way life was ordered under communism.
Those GDR experiences of 1961, what I heard in the late seventies, eighties and what I saw in the Soviet Union were all leading to the question that says, hey, changing people's way of thinking cannot be simply drumming in lectures. Yes lectures, history are important but what is it in society that leaves in the way it is materially organised for fear or concern to dominate one's thinking because xenophobia, for example, rears its head sharpest and thrives in a soil where there's unemployment. The first demand in a country preceding the emergence of rabid xenophobia is that we haven't got jobs, there are no jobs for us. From that it becomes foreigners are coming here and taking our jobs and from that it becomes foreigners are bad, customs, traditions, everything bad. Foreigners are thieves, foreigners are murderers. It's there in Germany today, in the united Germany. As the unemployment has been going up the xenophobia has been going up.
So the Soviet Union, GDR used to say there's no unemployment. I saw people living in reasonably decent homes. I saw all the children going to primary school, health services, on to university and technicons and doing work. And I said but there's a speaker's corner and the man is an articulate, educated man, he's talking xenophobia. But he was born in Soviet Russia, he went to kindergarten and school, got bombarded with your syllabus and your propaganda and still he came out of it as xenophobic. Explain.
POM I will leave you on that note because I won't have to explain. You will have to explain when we start because the question I want to leave you with is that you were in Britain, London, you were exposed to every kind of influence, every kind of literature. You could not have escaped books, whatever, about the second world war, about nazism, about that whole era and yet to go there and find yourself among a population that almost seemingly had never heard of Hitler or anyone who had heard of him had been an opponent of him, is like I being in the US hearing all about apartheid, what was going on, what was happening here and then coming to SA and travelling around SA and never bumping into a white who
MM Never supported apartheid.
POM Or never sometimes even and if I did bump into one they were against it, or they were like your friend, they were fighting it from within. I want to leave you with that question, you being such an enquiring person, how would you have let that go at that?
MM Don't mess me up, I want to have a good weekend.
POM Well that's the question. You see I know it's the last one of the tape so I can play it back and I know exactly where I stopped.