About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

05 Nov 2002: Maharaj, Mac

POM     Just one point, Mac, where I want to pick up on from where we finished yesterday and that is on Thabo's side, i.e. the people who met with the NIS in London and Geneva, which included Thabo and Jacob Zuma, at one point knew of your activities and what you were doing in the country. On the other hand you did not know what they were doing. Now at the same time I would assume that through the Vula operation they were sending messages to Madiba and that you were taking messages from Madiba back to them both with regard to Vula and whatever information they might have been passing on to him with regard to the meetings taking place abroad between the ANC and the NIS.

MM     Let's put that a little bit more in context. Before I entered the country there were signals from the SA government side of overtures being made towards us and I think I mentioned that at one NEC meeting we had addressed this question about the Kobie Coetsee overture to Winnie. There were also overtures being made by the western powers, particularly Britain and the US, to the ANC to say engage, be prepared to negotiate.

     So I came into the country knowing that such overtures and such pressures were coming. In the country itself one picked up that particularly Gerrit Viljoen, who was head of Constitutional Affairs, was involved in making overtures to people in the Mass Democratic Movement but quietly and nobody was speaking. So I was operating in an environment where I could pick up that the overtures are continuing to the ANC. The ANC has decided how it is going to handle it but I felt that all these strands should reach one central point and that is OR. I did not feel that OR at that stage required to feed back to each of us what was happening elsewhere. What he did for Madiba was he wrote an extensive briefing to locate the context and to assess – is the regime now ready for negotiations? In that assessment he also discussed the pressures that were coming on us from all angles. He then went on to say whatever happens from our strategic position of the struggle, we are now going to face pressures as we move down this line, these pressures will build up but they will be asking for all sorts of quid pro quos from us and these are going to come not necessarily from the SA government, they're going to come from different arenas and the issue is going to be the armed struggle – give it up, abandon the armed struggle as a quid pro quo for negotiations. OR then analysed each of these instruments that we had including the international sanctions and he said whatever happens the gives from our side will have to be very carefully assessed in terms of whether we are not stripping ourselves of the capacity to continue to put pressure on the SA government and to wage the struggle. This was the tenor of his briefing but it was a fairly lengthy sort of one-off briefing to say I want to put you in the picture from our side. Madiba's response was –

POM     How did that reach Madiba?

MM     Through me. Without me, without Vula OR's means of communicating with Madibawere very minimal. They were sort of one liners and two liners. It's like the classic one that Madiba says, OR sent a message, "What are you negotiating about?" And Madiba's response, "I am talking to them to get them to talk to you. I gave them a curt answer." What I am saying is that with that briefing Madiba's response was –

POM     You would be aware of the contents of that briefing?

MM     Oh yes.

POM     So then you would be aware that – ?

MM     OR in his briefing didn't say there are talks going on in London led by Thabo Mbeki meeting so-and-so and so-and-so. He didn't say I met the Secretary of State of the US and the Under Secretary who is saying this and saying that. His was a global strategic picture that you have these powers, OR putting pressure, and from their side or from the SA side the question is going to come up – ANC be prepared to negotiate. And he said, "Be careful, the moment we say we are prepared to negotiate they'll say right now as a test of your good faith give up the armed struggle, or give up sanctions, or commit yourself to the restoration of law and order in SA." He said, "Now those are the pressures that are going to come and they may pop up from different places, the most unexpected places because there's all this buzzing going around, nothing coming to any fruition, nothing tangible." Nobody is coming to the table and saying I want you to do A, B, C and the SA government will do D, E, F or the SA government will do A, B, C and you need to respond with D, E, F. There's nothing like that.

     Now Madiba's response was the letter to PW that he wrote because the letter to PW centrally said one thing, "I am not negotiating, I am merely urging the SA government to talk to the ANC and by the ANC I mean the ANC with its head office in Lusaka. The ANC and the SA government need to sit down to discuss and discuss in a framework that says we're going to resolve the SA conflict."

POM     This is the letter that was misunderstood by Valli and the others.

MM     Right. When you say these negotiations were going on let's break it down. What were Madiba's negotiations? His negotiations were not negotiating a solution, his negotiations were with the SA government, saying, "I urge you to talk to the ANC. You have the following reservations why you are not prepared to talk. Now the country is going down. Secondly, you have the following reservations to meet the ANC. If we are agreed the country is going down then the reservations that you have, let me explain to you why they are not genuine obstacles." So he says, "I am not negotiating about the solution, I am negotiating about the critical step that's needed to move this country out of its impasse."

     Now you take the London talks, what was going on to the extent that has come out now? It was, do you people have a solution? That's what Thabo was saying. They say we have these fears about you people. He said, "Let me allay your fears. Let's talk about your fears." Then that reached a point where he says, "We can carry on talking like this but where are we going? Are we at a point where we say we can negotiate a solution?" That's where that discussion was taking place.

     In my briefing to OR I was saying the SA government has got at a central point all access to whatever it is doing through it's various arms, because if you look at it Gerrit is talking to individuals in the UDF, none of them are saying to each other - by the way I met Gerrit. He used to meet them at night, that was my information. Similarly, the Israeli government and from Israel's side there were relationships growing with certain individuals in the Mass Democratic Movement here to the point where Nthato Motlana is now on record that a group of black people had been sent off to Israel to get training in administration. Nobody knew about this, it's only come out post-1994.

     So overtures were being made and I was saying my sense is that somewhere inside the SA government all these overtures and readings of what's going on and what is being said is centralised. You, OR, also keeping your hand on all these strands from your side so that sitting in you and whoever you draw in in Lusaka there is a clear picture of these diverse strands which may not be fitting into a single strand. For that reason I'll open these communications with Madiba. In the meantime what am I saying to the UDF? I am saying to UDF comrades in the leadership who come and raise negotiations, I say, "Chaps, let's just be clear about our tasks. To the extent you get an overture report it to Lusaka but here let us not preoccupy our agenda with discussions about negotiations. Let's keep our focus on the prosecution of the struggle and stepping up the struggle because the best thing that the apartheid regime would want to extract the maximum benefits from negotiation is to have us demobilise the struggle. So let's focus on our job and let's leave the co-ordination and monitoring of the strategy where we are getting into the hands of OR."

POM     In fact I would read it as your saying that if some of you are getting overtures from members of the government or whomever about possible negotiations or talks, what you should do is not put your emphasis on that but rather you should use that to increase the level of mobilisation so that the pressure increases.

MM     On the South Africans is stepped up.

POM     So you're not talking about talks, what you're talking about is creating more pressure on them so they would be more willing to engage in talks.

MM     And in the meantime don't defuse your energy, pass that information on to OR but keep your focus on what you're supposed to do. Your focus is step up the mass mobilisation. Now keep moving there, don't come and say I have neglected this mass mobilisation task because there's a state of emergency and because I am busy, I had to meet so-and-so and so-and-so on negotiations. Of course they were getting overtures, not just from Gerrit Viljoen but they were getting overtures from the American Embassy, the British Embassy, the German Embassy. Now you know those activities could totally absorb your time. Now think carefully, let that be handled by Lusaka. Hear the person out, pass the information. Don't now start getting involved in that, get back to your work. And that's how I interpreted it, my work too. Keep to your work, intensify your work, pass the information, be aware that that's a possibility in the scenario but keep up your focus. So when you say what was the progress of talks in London, there was no report saying there are meetings taking place in London. It was in the general evaluation.

POM     Kathy says that when he and Walter got released, one of the first things they did was to call a press conference to reaffirm again that Mandela was not negotiating on his own, that their assessment of the situation when they came out was that there were, again, strong rumours, even beliefs, going around that Mandela was going it alone in Victor Verster and that their function was to say no he's not, the ANC is one, Mandela is not acting alone, Lusaka is the driver of the ANC machine. Why would that have persisted even in the wake of your talking to Valli and the other leaders of the UDF and Govan and getting the word out post Mandela's letter?

MM     The issue is you were not the sole controller of the agenda. The SA government, the Americans, the British, the Germans were all feeding their perspective into the media and to individuals that they had relations with in the mass movement, from the trade unions to the UDF to the churches. The idea of negotiations is always an attractive one so they were feeding that and they were leaving the impression that so-and-so is more amenable rather than so-and-so.

     For example, there's a whole thesis in Patti Waldmeir. The thesis is a dichotomy of ANC forces, people who wanted the struggle and the insurrection and people who wanted negotiations. Now I am arrested for Operation Vula. What does that mean? Oh, he's for the struggle, he's for insurrection. So-and-so has come in, is part of a delegation for talks. Oh that one is a negotiator. Completely false dichotomy but a very plausible dichotomy. The SA government was also interested in feeding in the impression that some people are amenable to talking, others are not and that there are people talking away.

     Secondly, in our own ranks, remember Govan was no nonentity, a Rivonia trialist in the original high command of MK, in the leadership of the SACP. When he says, "I believe Mandela is selling out", in the mass membership and support base of our movement even though you have neutralised that message that doesn't mean that the message doesn't persist in each person's mind. It stays. Harry Gwala in Pietermaritzburg is saying, "Madiba is selling out." When Walter and them are being released Mandela has already briefed them and you know that at the first briefing that he gave them, it's on record, all sides agreed, Walter's first response was, "I would have preferred that the initiative for talks came from the government side, not from our side." Madiba responded to that, he said, "Does it really matter who makes the overture? Aren't we concerned too much with the form than the substance of the issue?" And Walter said, "No I can't disagree with you but this is my preference. I feel that they're going to try and out-manoeuvre us and if the message came through that they made the overture it would be better for us to handle than if it came out that we made the overture." So he didn't have an in principle objection. He said when he met Raymond Mhlaba and when he met Andrew Mlangeni to brief them their response was, "About time. Why have you waited so long to make the overture? You should have done it earlier." But when he briefed Kathy, Kathy's first response was, "I don't like it. I just don't like it."

POM     This is in nineteen eighty - ?

MM     1988.

POM     When he wrote the letter to PW requesting a meeting?

MM     Before that. Now prior to that, then of course the first people to be released were Govan Mbeki and Harry Gwala in 1987 and Madiba met them on the eve of their release, individually. He gave them a hint that he was engaged with these talks. He did not brief them fully but from my point of view he was not just sharing information, he was actually saying to them, sit back and look at your own release. The excuse is that you are being released (a) because of your age and Harry is being released because of age and health, but you are high profile people who are being released so just sit back and think - is there something more to this? And if there is something more ask yourself how will you conduct yourselves when you are released, whether to push this process forward.

POM     This process being?

MM     The potential for a negotiated resolution. So beneath the lines he was saying you have to consider how you act when you get out. Govan came out with a mindset of he hasn't told me everything and I think he is not doing the right thing and he's done this unilaterally. Finished, I dismiss it. Walter and Kathy are being released –

POM     So where does Govan fit when he is released? He's the most senior, most visible ANC leader released. Where did he fit into the structure of things?

MM     He is very quickly banned because he addresses a mass rally, they pick up information that he is pushing that the focus is the armed struggle. He is sending couriers to Lusaka saying, "I now am going to proceed setting up the underground." The regime very quickly bans him. He is obviously trying to keep lines of communication going. Govan is obviously seeking to reach Lusaka and I can pick up that he's reaching Lusaka but I am unhappy about his courier.

POM     You know the courier?

MM     I have identified the courier. On the ground I've identified him.

POM     Are you in the country? You were inside?

MM     Yes I'm in the country, shortly after his release.

POM     But you made no attempt to contact him?

MM     No, it's not my job. I'm going to endanger myself by reaching high profile people who are under house arrest and surrounded by strict surveillance. It's not my job. If I do that I'm endangering, I only go to see Govan when problems arise and the problems are beginning to become bigger and bigger and it's necessary that we are at least speaking from the same script and acting from the same script. OR, I had appealed to him to give a briefing, and OR sends a message to me, "I want to send the briefing through you." So I say to him, "The courier, the person I've sent to meet you, let him arrive here and all your briefing that you've given to the person verbally you will have already sent it to me in writing by the time he gets back. That will make the person sit back."

     Now this is a different courier, this is a courier from Natal who I know is working with Govan closely. I don't want to confront him because I'm picking up that the messages we are giving are conflicting so I sent this courier out to meet OR. OR has two to three days discussion with him, briefing him with a view that he must transmit that briefing to Govan. But as this comrade starts making notes OR says, "Don't make notes. When you return to Durban there will be a full written briefing of everything that I'm saying to you." And it came to 34 pages, A4 paper. The reason why he said that is to make the courier understand that often in a discussion you go away and the impression left with you is what you transmit. The matter is too sensitive, I want you to transmit accurately what I'm saying and he says, "When you get to Durban there will be a person who will give you in writing everything that has been discussed here. Please read it and discuss with him if there are any differences between what is there in writing and what you think you and I have discussed."

     This courier arrives in Durban and I had been in touch with him before and I was the one who had sent him to Harare. When he arrives I get somebody to go and contact him and say come to a certain venue. He arrives there at the venue, I am there.

POM     You've already received this through the encoded - ?

MM     Oh yes, everything. I say, "Here is the briefing of all your discussions with OR. Please sit down, read, because at the end of it you and I need to discuss – my instructions are, is this an accurate recording of what OR wants to transmit to Govan?" He reads it, he says, "Absolutely." He is of course stunned. He is stunned that he only left Lusaka the day before and here the thing is in 34 pages, accurately written out. But I don't tackle that and he says, "No, this is accurate." I say, "Completely accurate? Now the instructions are you will conceal these 34 pages and you will deliver this to Govan and when you deliver it you will tell him that this is the full text of your face to face discussions with OR. It's not your version, it's OR's version of the discussion which you agree with." So he says, "Fine."

     This was sent to Govan, still not divulging that I'm in the country because Govan is using another courier from PE to go to Lusaka from time to time and I have said to OR I have observed this courier, OR hadn't told me who the courier was. My information is so-and-so is the courier and I have actually seen him in a hotel in Johannesburg en route that day to take a flight to Zambia and I came to the conclusion that is Govan's courier and I say, "I have problems about that courier. My information says the following about him." So that was the context in which this Durban courier went.

POM     Now the Durban courier was part of?

MM     He was integrated into Vula. Subsequent developments necessitated OR to say to me, "Mac, even though it is risky, are you able to go to meet Govan?" I wrote back to him and I said, "I see the need from your side and my side for me to meet him. The problems that I face are that PE has got a large number of police informers who are operating in the Mass Democratic Movement. So Govan is living in an environment where access to him is surrounded by these informers so it is dangerous territory." But I got back to him, I said, "I have investigated the matter and I believe I can do it as a once-off meeting." A few days later I reported to him, "I am ready to proceed to meet him." And OR said, "Go ahead and meet him now but do so with extreme caution, I don't want you caught. I am reading you to say you can do it successfully without being detected." And I said yes and I proceeded to PE and met him. I met him for about three to four hours.

     This was then the environment. You were asking the question how is it that people persisted in thinking? When Walter and Kathy's release was coming up –

POM     Let's just keep with the – we had the 34-page briefing which was sent to Govan which he received and subsequent to that OR asked you to meet with Govan because there were continuing problems.

MM     Yes.

POM     That would suggest that Govan was not taking the instructions or the path painted in the 34-page briefing to heart, that he in a way had his own agenda or his own reading of the situation which again would suggest more emphasis on armed struggle, keep the struggle going. What was the need for you to - ?

MM     It was not the emphasis on the armed struggle, it was that he was as a senior leader of the ANC going along that path with an inadequate appreciation of how far the enemy was aware of what he was doing. So it was vulnerable what he was doing. We needed to prosecute the armed struggle, prosecute the underground, prosecute the mass mobilisation, but do so in a secure way. Remember, we had had a disaster at Rivonia and what Govan was doing was sitting in the middle of that activity without an appreciation that this thing is riddled. In fact what OR was doing by sending me and by the fact that he had earlier received this full briefing, was to say we are doing things in more secure ways so please maintain a higher level of security than was maintained at Rivonia, but without saying so crudely. You're talking to a senior leader.

     Strategically he was saying there are structures, it's not as if the structures that you are creating are the only ones and it's necessary that these structures at your level are moving in sync and my discussion with Govan was not to say you are doing wrong here, you're doing wrong there, it was to say, for example, "Oom Gov, you're a senior leader of the SACP, one of the things that needs to be done here is that the SACP is running an underground publication called Umsabenzi as propaganda for mobilisation. Do you have a capacity here to distribute it in and around PE?" "Yes." "OK, how many copies do you want? Do you have the capacity to print them, shall I get the text to you and you print them and distribute them? Have you got a capacity?" He said, "No, I prefer it in stencils because we've got roneoing facilities."

POM     Got what?

MM     Cyclostyling facility. "OK, how many copies on cyclostyle stencils do you want?" Because each cyclostyling stencil can only run off say 5000 copies so if you want 20,000 you need four stencils of page one, four of each page. "Do you want it in stencil form?" "Yes." "How many copies? Right. You will get Umsabenzi cut on stencils ready to be run off on a cyclostyling machine. Is that OK?" "Yes, fantastic." "Good. Can we make arrangements now so that it will be delivered and you will get signals, can you allocate somebody to the receipt of those stencils, to taking those stencils and ensuring they are run off and printed and then distributed."

     By discussing a concrete thing like that what are we doing? We are ensuring that what Lusaka is writing gets said to the masses. Right? We're ensuring that if he and the structures in PE want to write an article in Umsabenzi they can send the text through me to Lusaka and it will appear on the stencil.

POM     So the contents of this publication had to be cleared –

MM     I wouldn't use 'cleared', but coming in line. By offering him that what is written in Lusaka would be available on stencil and offering him that if they want to write something the text will be transmitted to Lusaka and will appear in the stencil I'm not saying that the purpose is censorship, the purpose is that the messages are consistent.

     So, that's an example and it's a question of saying you have a secure line, you saw how earlier you received a full briefing from OR which was discussed verbally but accurately transmitted timeously to him.

POM     How did you find Govan's assessment of the situation to be?

MM     We avoided discussing the assessment because I chose to conduct the discussions on the basis that whatever is Lusaka's assessment we agree to carry it. What we were discussing then was maintaining the cohesion of our forces. Do we share that? And not by saying do we share it, by putting it that's a given so it doesn't become a point of debate. And we both say yes we have to do this. If Lusaka makes this assessment even though we may have reservations we will send our reservations directly to Lusaka but we will not make them a point of dissension here on the ground. That was the tone of the discussion. But it was also to offer capacity for him to reach Lusaka.

     For example, if a group now came up there in PE interested and capable and allocated to pursue armed activity, should they be sending somebody to Botswana, to Swaziland without arrangements, looking for contacts where to get arms? How does the person in Swaziland process whether this is genuine or if this is a bogus courier? But we can ensure that when you send a courier that courier's accreditation has been cleared and that courier knows where to go in Lusaka or in Zambia or in Botswana and who to speak to so that the two when they meet face to face are not meeting without knowing each other's credentials and therefore you've minimised the capacity for some impostor to infiltrate your ranks. But again the discussion means, please anybody involved in that activity has got to be completely separate from anybody involved in the political structure underground and in the mass organisation.

     So it was a good cordial meeting, very good cordial meeting. But the point I'm making now, to take it forward to your main question, you asked – how did the rumours persist? When Walterand company are coming out they have been briefed two or three times by Madiba.

POM     Does Walter know you're in the country?

MM     When I sent a message to Madiba at one stage to say, this was an interesting incident, I was trying to find out whether he was able to communicate with Walter and Kathy who were kept at Pollsmoor and he was at Victor Verster, but I also was getting a little bit cocky. I assumed that Walter and them are relatively cut off from him, that when they meet it's very infrequently and only when the authorities allow it. So I was trying to assess whether I should open an independent line with Walter and company in Pollsmoor. In the Pollsmoor case when I examined the problem I saw a potential that I could make a face to face visit to Kathy, not to Walter.

POM     In Pollsmoor?

MM     In Pollsmoor. So I sent a message at one stage to Madiba, "Do you think it's advisable that I brief Walter and Kathy?" I had code names for the two, "Or one of them, whichever one I can reach." His reply was, "No, don't bother." He didn't explain. In the meantime I had not seen that this would be a problem for him. I had begun the preparations to visit Kathy and I sent a person to go to Kathy and see him and indicate to him that I'm in the country and I'm ready to visit him. You should ask Kathy this. Kathy got such a fright that he immediately vetoed it. He got such a fright, he thought, shit, if they are monitoring this discussion, and it was a code name, I had taken a lot of measures to ensure that it's very safely couched, nothing like somebody is in the country from outside and all that. But Kathy understood immediately that I was saying that don't get a shock, are you ready, I'm going to come and visit you as a visitor. He said, "Nothing doing, don't do that." So Kathy was aware. Whether Kathy told Walter – open question. My assessment? 90% yes.

     The main topic, the persistence of the rumours. In the same way as he saw Govan and Harry when they were being released he saw Walter and the group when they were being released. Now in their release group there is Walter, old, but there is Kathy relatively young. We're talking about 1987, that's 15 years ago. Kathy is now about 75 years old, he was 60 so he was young. There's Mlangeni, there's Raymond Mhlaba, there's Elias Motsoledi being released. He sees them and again he's not telling them what to say but he would have sensitised them that how they conduct themselves when they get out is crucial. It's not about him but about the political developments.

     And you should see the tape I have, the vivid memory of what Walter said at that press conference. I may be again, memory likes to highlight certain things, what struck me about the interview is that there are Walter, Kathy, Mlangeni, all seated at a table, the press gathered there and microphones and Walter opens the press conference. He says, "This is a press conference of the African National Congress." Remember, it's a banned organisation and I still remember that graphically because that statement was one of the shrewdest political statements de facto asserting the existence of the ANC before the masses and before the media and in the hearing and eyes of the government and the world. If there are going to be negotiations it cannot be with anybody else but the ANC. You're not going to use any excuse such as the ANC is banned, the ANC has got an alliance, the ANC is involved in the armed struggle.

     So I still have this picture, very modestly, firm but low tones, no triumphalism. He said, "This is a press conference of the African National Congress, the ANC." They had to go ahead and say exactly what Madiba was saying in the letter, that any potential for negotiations must understand that this potential will be explored in line and through the leadership of the ANC and that ANC is Lusaka and we will not do anything, none of us, not just Madiba, none of us will do anything that is not sanctioned and in keeping with what Lusaka says, and that meant OR. That was to deal with several problems at one time, the powers that be in the world governments, the SA regime and the mass forces and ANC forces gathered in and outside the country. That's how we're speaking and that includes Madiba. Finish, full stop. That does not mean concerns and fears in the ranks of the democratic forces that negotiations was the wrong thing to do did not persist. It persisted. There were grounds to have fears about negotiations. What was important is that the ANC should be moving the ranks in a consolidated position rather than fragmented and Walter in that first press conference was to consolidate that position. So what Kathy is saying must be located in this framework.

POM     He talked about, which I thought was an interesting point, that the ANC while they had been in jail for 27 years the ANC had been banned and was in exile, that the ANC was a collective and that Madiba was perceived as not part of that collective, he was some place else and that you had – he said, "Which persists to this day." Mandela, even though his first statement was that 'I am a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC', that he's not part of that collective culture that developed during the days of the exile in Lusaka. Is there merit in that?

MM     We talked about the question of Madiba's leadership in prison, the challenge that said that he was nobody. Persistent to the rumours in the ranks of the ANC has always been a strand which reflects a tension around the alliance with the Communist Party. One of the things that was dealt with outside and subsequently had to be dealt with in prison was a story that said that Madiba and Walter were the leaders of a petty bourgeois wing who were not wedded and not really left in their thinking. Before prison there was an occasion where Moses Kotane, the General Secretary of the Communist Party which had been banned but he was still respected as a communist and he was the Treasurer General of the ANC, he called a meeting of militants in the ANC and he had Madiba and Walter there and he said, "Now, there are people who are making criticisms of these two comrades alleging that they are not really progressive. I called this meeting for you to put your criticisms in their presence and let's discuss whether there's validity to that criticism."

     Earlier, in 1953 when Madiba was a candidate for the presidency of the Transvaal ANC, JB Marks the communist had been President of the ANC, Transvaal, had been banned now and therefore could not retain that office. So elections were forthcoming in the Transvaal ANC at its conference to elect the new President. Madiba was put up as a candidate and a group who described themselves as left, meaning close to or part of the Communist Party, were going to put up a rival candidate. I'm trying to think of the name at the moment, it'll come back, Kathy will remember the name very easily. So they were putting up a rival candidate and a number of comrades who had been identified with the previous Communist Party before its banning got into an active anti-Madiba campaign. The anti-Madiba campaign was, of course, again a distrust of African nationalism. That one was defused in a very interesting way, and you can make what you want of it but I'll put the facts on the table. The person who nominated Madiba was J B Marks, a well known member of the Communist Party leadership and Central Committee before its banning. Here were people perceived as having been in the Communist Party opposing Madiba for presidency and here the Central Committee member of the Communist Party and outgoing President says, "I nominate Madiba." Madiba won hands down. OK. There was no opportunity to talk openly but by JB nominating him the signal was clear, your debates about how progressive or non-progressive this man is, is he a collective or not collective, is he part of the ranks of progressives or not, forget it. Here's my stamp, I nominate him. So that's the early fifties.

     Then comes this thing in the late fifties, early sixties where Moses Kotane calls a meeting. Comes the prison one, the meeting in prison about is Madiba our leader. So throughout the career of Madiba this issue has been there. What is this concept of a collectivist leadership in the ANC?

POM     That would also have applied to the SACP too, right?

MM     Yes, I want to understand what it is, what are they saying when they say 'collectivist'. Yes, there were people who were saying that but I didn't buy that. Did they mean by that that the ANC must be faceless? Because if they meant that I don't understand the tradition whether from the side of the Communist Party or the side of the ANC.

     Let's deal with the ANC just cursorily. Dr Xuma was the leader of the ANC. His name was projected. Moroka became President of the ANC, his name was projected. But when Luthuli became President of the ANC his name was projected even more powerfully so much so that we nominated him as an individual for the Nobel Peace Prize and he won it in 1961. Did collectivism mean non-projection of certain individuals in the public limelight? Oliver Tambo, we projected him. We projected other people too in the leadership. Pamphlets were written under the name of Moses Kotane. Pamphlets were written in the name of Walter Sisulu. Keynote addresses were delivered and published under the name of individuals. If you mean by collectivism that the statements you made had to be in accord with the policy positions I have no problem but if you mean by the –

POM     In accord with the?

MM     Policy positions. But if you mean by collectivism that every statement had to be first clear by a collective, that was never the practice. Even OR's statements, yes, like the statement on January 8th every year, that had to be worked on by a collective because it had acquired a status of a guideline for the coming year and so it was debated at the NEC or the Working Committee, sub-committees were set up to do the first drafts. OR had to check it out and if time allowed us in exile conditions we met again to finalise it, to be happy. But many times we didn't meet again to finalise it because we had discussed what is our projection for the coming year.

     On the other hand if he had to make a statement at the UN he didn't come and present it to the NEC and say, "Here's the statement, I'm on my way to the UN, will you approve of it?" No. As President he simply had to use the judgement, am I saying something outside of the policy positions and if it is outside is it a serious one that time doesn't allow me to take or is it a minor one that I have to respond to on the ground at this moment and later on I will discuss it with my colleagues?

     In the Communist Party the same position prevails. Yes, clandestinity had forced us into a position inside the country to be as nameless as possible so that they could not identify you and arrest you. I actually believe that those who say there is a collectivist tradition need to explain what they mean by that collectivist tradition. I think sometimes the word is used too loosely and lends to this perception that some people create that Madiba is outside.

     I've actually written an article on this one, on Madiba, I think it was his 70th birthday or on his retirement from the government, in the ANC publication. The ANC publication, I think it was called – it's now called Rabulo(?) but it may still have been Mayibuye. Mayibuye or Rabulo. On the anniversary of his birthday or of his retirement, I think it's his retirement, I wrote a tribute. In that tribute I said one thing, I was actually hinting at other people too in our ranks, I said Madiba saw the struggle as his life. He never said I am the ANC. He subsumed himself to the struggle and the ANC but he never took the ANC and subsumed it to himself. Now you will remember there is a graphic statement, Winnie Mandela, "I am the ANC."

POM     She said?

MM     Time and again. In the last few years there have been moments when she has said, "I am the ANC." It's a fantastic statement in front of a huge gathering. It has a huge defiance element to it, but what's implanted in that? Implanted in that is the potential that says – what I decide will be the ANC's decision. You will never find a statement like that by Madiba. It's very interesting that with all the adulation there isn't a single statement by him that says 'I am the ANC'.

POM     She's saying, or he would be saying, I am the ANC, therefore if I take a position that's at odds with the ANC, that the ANC really isn't the real ANC, it's deviated.

MM     That's right. I've gently used the word he 'subsumed' himself to the ANC but he never subsumed the ANC to himself. I was leading people to read between the lines of that statement but I actually quoted it to illustrate this proposition, he never subsumed the ANC to himself. I said you will not find a statement where he says I am the ANC. Always, I am part of the ANC. Always the ANC is the stronger issue.

     So this whole collectivism, yes, from different quarters from time to time and the only instance that I dealt with in that tribute where he acted without the mandate of the ANC which has the signs that it was speaking himself was in the overtures that he made to the regime from prison. But I then put his defence. I said the issue there is was he speaking out of line with policy positions? There was no chance for him to call a meeting of the ANC. There were no communication means to say, I propose the following, can you discuss it? I said to deviate from the policy positions of the ANC would appear to be a defiance and in his autobiography he says, "I deliberately did not consult my colleagues."

POM     He said, "I knew Kathy would object."

MM     Object.

POM     That's what I remember.

MM     So he said, "I deliberately." I said now, is this individualism? I said no, examine the proposition because the lesson is dangerous. Are we saying that you can act on your own? I say go back to his positions when he talked to the regime. He didn't say I am negotiating, he said, "I want you, the regime, to negotiate with the ANC in Lusaka." Totally different ball game. He was not changing the policy positions and I say let's go back to uMkhonto's manifesto. What did the manifesto say? Issued from a position of illegality it said - we have set up MK, drawn from the ranks of the national liberation movement, MK will engage in armed activity and sabotage but it will do so under the overall political guidance of the National Liberation Movement. It didn't say we will supplant the National Liberation Movement. It said very clearly, 'under the overall political guidance of the National Liberation Movement.' Read there 'under the guidance of the alliance led by the ANC.' He said, "We are prepared to negotiate. Time and again we've asked the regime to negotiate. It has rebuffed our overtures. The time has come to either submit or fight. We have to fight." Embedded in that statement has been left a little thread which says if through these means we can get you to the table we will go to the table. That's why in my introduction I said there is a strand which always left open the potential for negotiation but it understood we could not get negotiations unless we forced it. I said, therefore, I do not like this word 'miracle'.

     Now who wrote that manifesto of MK if not Madiba guided by the political leadership? Why was Walter Sisulu the Commissar of first High Command? He was there as the Commissar to serve as the political link so that even that manifesto had to go through the process of political testing, whether it is saying things that are out of sync or in accord.

POM     This was the manifesto issued by?

MM     uMkhonto weSizwe on the day the first blast took place, 16 December 1961, announcing that a body such as MK now exists and is operating. Anybody who was in the ANC is charged for sabotage. Of course we couldn't, so the formulation was, 'under the overall political guidance of the National Liberation Movement.' Of course we didn't say that this manifesto is under the name of Nelson Mandela because he didn't want anybody, the regime, to know who's the leader of MK. But when he is caught and he's put on the Rivonia trial charge for MK his defence is, "Yes, I'm the Commander in Chief." And if you had a nonentity leading it would so many thousands have supported and joined it? No, they would be asking what are your credentials, mate?

     For me sitting in the GDR under training, when I hear MK was formed I don't have to be told that it's Madiba but when I come back and on my way in I realise it's Madiba. No problem, no problem. But if they told me that it's Mr Amos Ntuli I'd say, "Who? Has the ANC agreed? Has the Communist Party agreed?" before I can say yes I'll be a soldier for MK. I couldn't. So this collectivism, sorry I sound like nit-picking but I have a huge problem.

POM     In a sense and you were touching on it there, it's like you have these – and I think it's in the introduction where we talk about it, you have these four pillars and you juggled them. At each time one of the pillars played a larger role than the other one and there came a time in the late eighties when international pressure was being put on the regime for negotiations and the Anti-Apartheid Movement had taken off and the Release Mandela, Mandela had become a world-wide name at that point. It could be a time to lower the profile, you didn't go round at that time bombing as many targets as you could.

MM     Uh-uh, we went ahead but what we didn't do was to try and put rival personalities to confuse the public mind. The international campaign of Release Mandela takes root after it takes root in the country where The World newspaper under Percy Qoboza, the editor, ran a campaign – it got banned subsequently, but he ran a campaign demanding the release of Mandela. This is 1980/81/82 and it accumulated 70,000 signatures in the country from the black community. That's when Release Mandela committees began to spring up inside the country. Nobody then said, hm, you're elevating the individual, there's a collective leadership here. Why don't you say release all political prisoners? We said yes, implied in Release Mandela is release all political prisoners, but the identification with a name was not done by him, it was done at the instigation of the ANC from Lusaka and with the support of the ANC from Lusaka and internationally we ran the campaign, 'Release Nelson Mandela'.

POM     When Walter and Kathy were released did they sit, again, in the structures in Lusaka, the structures - ?

MM     The first thing they did was to apply for a passport to visit Lusaka and they went and met OR for discussions. I myself, inside the country, held meetings with Walter, had meetings with Kathy, who were Jo'burg based, about my presence in the country and what we were doing in Vula, not to implicate them and involve them but to make sure that whatever we were doing in Vula was with the agreement of Lusaka and therefore with their understanding but not to involve them in that area of work. They went to Lusaka to make sure that whatever postures they were taking publicly were in keeping with Lusaka's perspective.

POM     So did they become the public voice of the ANC here?

MM     Yes, they increasingly became a public voice of the ANC. But they saw their work as the first phase of generating support for the ANC, generating the demand for the release of Mandela. They didn't see their work as straightaway studying and making pronouncements on negotiations. No.

POM     In a roundabout way too, really the period almost coinciding with your release or at least your return to Lusaka and the period of Vula. Botha came to power in 1978 and the history books that I read begin with the sentence that PW came to power as a reformer. What was the ANC's, the SACP's take on Botha when he came to power? Did they say, OK, here we have a new figure in the arena, he's been Minister of Defence, he's now Prime Minister, he starts right away accumulating more power to himself. How do we read this man, where does he stand? What does it mean about the emphasis we put on different pillars of struggle? Is he likely to be an ultra hard-liner? Does he open possibilities? Do the possibilities close?

MM     No, we were clear, we were clear we needed to escalate the all-round struggle. Shortly after his ascent to power we adopted the Green Book. We knew that Botha had come from a background of a hawk. We knew that he came to power as a result of dissension within the NP over Mulder scandal, the Muldergate scandal, their use of information, Eschel Rhoodie. But we also knew that PW's history was manipulating the party machinery, the bureaucrat and the tough guy. But we also knew that the late seventies were the founding of Vorster's outward looking policy.

POM     When you call it 'his outward looking policy'?

MM     John Vorster put forward the idea that he was going to unleash a diplomatic offensive into Africa to get the support of Africa for diplomatic relations for fruitful forward – maintaining apartheid but putting cosmetic to it. Part of the cosmetics was experimenting with all sorts of toy telephone structures for the Indians, for the coloureds, for the Africans. In that internal power struggle involving corruption, mismanagement, manipulation of the party structures, political ambition and the hawks, because it is from that defence background we saw him as a clear hawk and that he was going to unleash tinkerings to defuse the struggle and the gathering opposition inside and outside the country. So whatever he was going to do was going to be more or less against this Chinese word, 'prettifying apartheid', making pretty, making apartheid pretty. But because he rose to power in a context which showed an open manifestation of conflict within the NP regime we had to keep our eye open about these internal conflicts in his own camp.

POM     Had the assumption been to that point that the NP was a monolith?

MM     No the assumption was not there, the theory was that there are going to be tensions but the reading of those tensions was now facilitated by the fact that there was an open manifestation of it. Until then if you told anybody that the Nats are not united nobody would believe you. It's in the realm of almost academic analysis, just as we would be reading how far is business and the NP regime converging and is this convergence without contradictions and what are the contradictions. You'd always be looking at those things. I think Nic Wiehahn had spearheaded the labour reform measures already.

POM     His name is?

MM     Nic Wiehahn, an academic. He had spearheaded the study group which led to the Nat reform of the Labour Relations Act.

POM     1979.

MM     Which acknowledged the right of African unions to exist and to bargain.

POM     And to go on strike. Was that not one of the really key turning points?

MM     Look, let's be careful, the context in which I brought this up, I brought this up in the context that apartheid was now seeing the need that it could not go on in the old form but it was seeing the need – how do we make adjustments to the fact of apartheid so that we prettify it? There were a number of initiatives which came up post-Vorster but which were going on in the NP thinking – how do we perpetuate our power? The Bantustans were the first mechanism in the early sixties. The independence of the Transkei was a further development of that which was not envisaged by Dr Verwoerd when he devised the Bantustans. He had actually said it would be hundreds of years before the Bantustans ever become independent but by 1978/79, no before that Transkei was independent. But it was independent, and so was Bop, as a buffer against the national liberation struggle, as an effort to defuse the national liberation struggle. And so the labour relations changes were seen firstly as a buffer but secondly, while trying to prettify and maintain and perpetuate apartheid rule, it opened up a new space.

POM     Bu would they not – it would seem to me if I were a Nat and we are discussing reforms to labour and understanding that the continuing growth in the economy means we need more black labour, we even need more skilled black labour and we're talking about what kinds of reforms or whatever we can make and I, Padraig O'Malley, say - do you know what? We should give them the right to strike. Would you as Mac not say, my God, if you give them the right to strike it means they can bring industry to a halt at any time, they can take to the streets, they can stop the whole bloody industrial machinery. That's a crazy idea.

MM     Sure, that's the debate amongst them. What prevailed was, listen chaps, we are beleaguered. Unless we do something this whole face of apartheid is causing us a problem but if we do this we will defuse the struggle.

POM     I would have said that will intensify it by giving them the right to strike.

MM     Sure, that's part of their debate.

POM     Yes, well I'm saying did they make a mistake – when I say a turning point, when they passed that legislation did they not provide, would that provision open to the struggle a whole new avenue.

MM     I said it gave us a new avenue and a new space. But what I'm saying is that you cannot make an assessment that says now with that space apartheid had changed.

POM     Not apartheid but that it gave room for the struggle – it opened a completely new terrain of struggle.

MM     Wasn't this the debate over the Bantustans' independence? One of the debates was: has it not opened a space that if we created a political party operating in the Transkei, participating in the elections, it could mobilise the people? Those potentials are there with every development. The question is, when you say a watershed, the question is whether that had released an autonomous set of forces which made our pursuit of the struggle in the way we were pursuing it irrelevant.

POM     I'm saying irrelevant.

MM     Then I'm in agreement.

POM     That's what I mean.

MM     So our assessment was that this is being done to prettify apartheid but it has opened up spaces for us to better escalate the struggle. Why did we have to say the first statement? Because if we didn't say that the objective is to prettify, all those voices who would say now it has changed would be reinforced and that's exactly what the government was saying. It was saying why are you carrying on with the struggle now? Use the mechanisms that I have given you, abandon your struggle, go into the Bantustans, go into the House of Delegates, go into the coloured House of Representatives, go into the local authorities that I'm creating for you, go into the labour relations mechanisms of bargaining. We said yes, we will go in but we don't say that that's done the job. So we're not going to give up our four pillars of struggle. The only time we can talk about giving up the struggle is when you say we will get rid of apartheid.

     So they said we'll get rid of apartheid in sport, you can now select a black person. So they said, we can allow you to go into restaurants. We said cosmetic, but we didn't say to our people don't go into the restaurants. We said go, but we said cosmetic. Cosmetic because we're saying you're not agreeing that apartheid needs to be dismantled. So, yes, it was a very significant piece of legislation but watershed for me has a different meaning.

POM     Well let's throw the word 'watershed' out.

MM     I think it was one of the most significant pieces of legislation, far more significant than the creation of the House of Delegates and the creation of the House of Representatives and the tinkerings that they did at local authority level for the African population, far more significant because it opened a space, although it tried to define that space, it opened a space for us and for our working people to come out openly into action even if it was confined to industrial problems which was its aim. But behind their strategic thinking was that this legislation will defuse the struggle and that it will prettify apartheid. We will now be able to go to the world and say we don't understand what the ANC is doing, we don't understand why you are supporting the ANC. Can't you see things are changing? Give us time, they will change. But they would determine the agenda of change and the content of that change and we were saying no, we were saying to the western governments - all the more reason why you have to come out stronger in our support. Do you see the point I'm making? Yes.

POM     We were talking about Botha's accession to power, discussions that would have taken place in the Revolutionary Council and the SACP and the ANC in Lusaka in general, in London. What are we dealing with here?

MM     As we went down the line more and more we got confirmation of Botha's hawkishness but we also detected, and I think it was fairly common knowledge over time, that there were huge internal rivalries over the security forces. That's the rise of BOSS, the conflict with (Major General Hendrick) Van den Bergh, military, with the backing of Botha, military intelligence coming to a stronger position, the creation of the State Security Council as Botha's key body which even began to supplant the power of cabinet. So there was a re-arranging of the decks in the power centre. All these things were happening at the same time. Botha came with the record of the Angolan war behind him and the rise of Magnus Malan. Magnus was like a key man in Botha's cabinet but so did the State Security Council become the all-powerful, all-seeing arm of government. Those were extremely negative features, they were not a loosening up of the environment, they were a tightening up of the environment but at the same time there were all these pressures for change within the country, mass mobilisation, mass action that now erupted in the Vaal Triangle in 1984.

POM     I want to keep to before, keep to just the initial years before he introduces his so-called constitutional reforms, the presidency, the tricameral arrangements. In that period, from 1977 when you go back to Lusaka to 1982 what are your primary activities?

MM     One of the most interesting developments in that period was the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the declaration of SA as a republic and SA leaving the commonwealth. Under PW Botha the regime decided in 1980 that it would be holding a month long celebration of this 20th anniversary in May 1981. That decision was a very significant one for us, it provided us with a space to do and achieve certain things that we could only previously dream of. It was decided to celebrate over an extended period a month and to have celebrations in various parts of the country. It was using the 20th anniversary as a mobilisation to consolidate white power behind apartheid. I remember also Botha had opened up discussions with big business to try and reach a more comfortable relationship with big business.

POM     Big business being controlled by?

MM     The Anglos and the lot, but with big business also having substantial Afrikaner players who had come up post-1948 and there were signs that business was saying, yes we are behind you but you need to be a little bit more gentle, repression mustn't be so high. So there were signs of not being on the same wavelength and Botha called a big conference here in Johannesburg with big business and there were signs that they were now papering over their cracks and to consolidate that countrywide he decided that the celebrations would not be located in one centre, they would be over the period of a month celebrations all over and continuing for a month.

     This handed to us something we didn't even see fully. It gave us the opportunity to increase the number of sabotage actions, armed propaganda actions. It gave forces within the country to create ad hoc structures like the Release Mandela Committee, etc., to push for the release of political prisoners, to begin to push up the demand for unban the ANC and to link those issues with grassroots problems, with resistance towards the dummy institutions that they were now contemplating. It gave us a chance to do these things without one central mass organisation structure. It gave us a chance to increase our contact with the media inside SA, individuals in the media, to report on these incidents. The media began to see a relationship between a local demand or activity of a Release Mandela Committee in Pietermaritzburg with a sabotage action and therefore we began to dominate that month in the reporting on the celebrations. But increasingly they were reporting there has been sabotage here, there's been this there, there's been that there, there are people demanding here, there are people doing this. In the public mind there began to be a convergence between what was happening in mass forms of action and what was happening at the ground level. We too began to issue leaflets clandestinely through our political section trying to encourage people to stand up and to do so by propagating what was happening at the level of sabotage and armed propaganda. So there was this convergence taking place in the public mind and in a certain sense then –

POM     Was this planned?

MM     We planned the escalation.

POM     When MK said this is the plan, we will have a demand here for release Mandela and then that will be accompanied by –

MM     You go and hit there. No, no. It wasn't planned in that way, it was planned to escalate, encourage mass mobilisation, stimulate it, increase your underground political work, increase your armed activities, your sabotage activities. But during this month as each section began to escalate and increase its level of work and as the papers began to report it and the blockages we were encountering all said we need to bring them together to co-ordinate them. That is why in 1981 the Revolutionary Council met and decided on the creation of Area Political Committees inside the country and to send in senior people but it did not spell senior in terms of NEC.

POM     Did the Area Political Committees, were there an adjunct of the Internal - ?

MM     They would be controlled by the political but under the supervision of the Revolutionary Council. We began to put up co-ordinating machineries of the military and political even in the neighbouring countries, like in Maputo. Instead of calling it separately the Political Committee, separate the MK, we now created a senior organ where both bodies sat.

POM     That was called the Area Political - ?

MM     No, that was called the Senior Organ but inside the country was going to be the Area Political Committee so that individual units did not report directly to the neighbouring country. Units would be coming together in an area controlled by a locally based leadership and that locally based leadership would be reporting. So you were giving a little bit more space for leadership to assert itself over various units inside the country.

POM     So you had the Area Political Committees and then above them you had the Senior Organ.

MM     The Senior Organ in Maputo, in Swaziland, in Botswana.

POM     So the Area Political Committee within the country, depending upon their location, would report to a Senior Organ in Botswana or in Maputo or wherever.

MM     Or Lesotho. But what your question triggered off, there was something very interesting about how we understood our own mandates. In the preparation and in the escalation that began to precede the month of May we got a report at the Revolutionary Council that one of the major celebrations by the SA government would be a mass event where virtually the entire cabinet and President Botha would be present in the stadium in Bloemfontein. It was advertised in advance, months before the programme, all round the country. So that gave us information but around this Bloemfontein event where PW Botha was going to be keynote and central figure but almost his entire cabinet would be flanking him at this celebration and it was going to be held in a stadium. We got a report at the Revolutionary Council months before the event that one of our units had found a way to get access to that stadium and the question arose that we could work towards planting a substantial bomb that had the potential to eliminate Botha and a huge part of his cabinet. Obviously the unit in the country sending this report –

POM     Was this a unit that had infiltrated, had been trained abroad?

MM     It had trained people in it, it had people on the ground connected to it. To get access to that stadium you could not be just all people from outside the country. But the point is that it had found itself with a capacity to look at this and it was excited. It sent its report and of course whoever it sent it to in Botswana, I think it came through Botswana, got excited. The military, Joe Modise got very excited and he raised this matter at the meeting of the Revolutionary Council. It would have meant a lot of preparation and sustained work to bring it to fruition but the opening arose. So Joe was quite excited and he raised this matter and it led to a very interesting discussion.

     There were two parts to the discussion which were not separated in the meeting. The one part was the feasibility. Feasibility we will clear, it was a potential, it had to be worked on, it had to be carefully worked on and it would be an enormous development. Then came the issue of the political impact. Interestingly the first part of the political impact was not a problem, that if we could wipe out even 50% of the cabinet and PW it would be a huge blow in favour of the struggle. Then the discussion veered. It wasn't couched in the language of – is this pure terrorism or not? I told you from the beginning of the formation of MK we eschewed terrorism a la Algeria but this raised that matter because with the cabinet it would be the cabinet ministers' wives, it would be a large civilian gathering but, others were saying, but there would be the military there, the officer corps, the Chief of the Defence Force and his cohorts would all be there.

     The upshot of that discussion was very interesting because we said, uh-uh, no. It came to mind because this is never talked about, never written about, nobody has ever talked about it, but it came to mind because you said how were we seeing PW Botha. We were convinced that the simple act of removing PW Botha through this form of action was not the correct type of action. Yes in the debate some people said, well if we remove him they'll put another one, and others said yes but it'll be a blow of raising our confidence.

POM     Your profile both nationally and internationally.

MM     And others said, yes, but it will also consolidate them, and others said, but is this the type of action, chaps, that we think is appropriate because it will unleash that type of action? So the debate was touching on all these angles. The important point for me is, I am saying the Revolutionary Council with OR present ended up taking a decision, no.

POM     Which part of the debate, which side of the argument were you advancing?

MM     Oh I think like everybody else I veered from one position to the other. I saw the plusses, I saw the minuses and there was no dissension amongst us as if to say it's yes or nothing or it's no or nothing. It wasn't that type of debate. But informed in that debate in each of our consciences and understanding from different approaches as individuals, for instance with me, does this fall into pure terrorism? But the debate was not is this terrorism, are we for terrorism, not for terrorism? The debate was consequences, impact politically, impact internationally, negative, positives of the impact. At the end of the debate no dissension amongst us. When the decision was taken, no, it was a no we all accepted however we debated. So I am not trying to say, Padraig, that there were very clear, steadfast positions. We were engaged with a pure pragmatic issue.

POM     If we do A what are the consequences, what are the plusses, what are the minuses? How do you weigh one against the other?

MM     And should we do it? And how much energy would we put into it, would that deplete us of the energy that we need for the other things that we've got to do in the country? So all those were put on the scale. It was the period also, that 1981 period under PW, 1981-1982, he started his raids into the neighbouring countries. He started his forays and forced Mozambique under Machel to agree to the Nkomati Accord.

POM     He was to remove the presence of, or not give sanction to, the ANC in Mozambique.

MM     But it was preceded as subsequent events told us, that Nkomati Accord was preceded by a quiet one which was never revealed in the public arena, that almost a year before Nkomati he had succeeded in signing a similar accord with Swaziland and we were encountering formidable pressure, arrests, deportation by the Swazi authorities. He had decided quietly to hit at us outside the country under the guise of pre-emptive strikes by subterfuge and even openly. Inside the country it was the period when the State Security Council had begun its campaign of its permanent removals, hitting at the Mass Democratic Movement, but inside the country that 1981 celebration, month long, not only escalated the synergy between mass struggle and armed activity but it also laid the groundwork and tilled the soil for the creation of the UDF and it also created the climate for FOSATU, the trade union federation, which was pursuing a position of non-participation in political action to be subsequently replaced by COSATU.

     So it was a critical period and if you ask how did we assess Botha, quite apart from our analytical position and analysis of Botha as a hawk, his actions reinforced the idea that we'd better not seek comfort on the neighbouring territories and create structures in the neighbouring territories, we had to get into the lion's den and fight. It created the conditions for the four pillars to be talked about in the sense that the reader and the listener of Radio Freedom inside the country and the cadre in the camp could understand why there were four pillars and that each pillar had to be prosecuted by the cadres deployed there with the fullest zest, that you should not look at the work you were doing, one pillar, as if to say that pillar is superior to the work that somebody else is doing in another pillar, that the four were the foundations of the war we were heading for and that that war meant we had to get into the country.

POM     Just after he took power in 1978 and then in 1979 you had the meeting in London that was the precursor of the conflict that subsequently emerged in KwaZulu-Natal between the IFP and the UDF. I think we've covered this ground before but Buthelezi maintains that Inkatha as a cultural organisation or whatever was formed with the ANC, that at that time he was close to the ANC, he was perceived as an ally, that he had contact with people like OR and that the actions he took in forming Inkatha were another form of taking the struggle from within. Is that true? Was Buthelezi perceived by the ANC in those years as somebody who was a protégé of Chief Luthuli, a member of the ANC, who knew Mandela, as somebody that the struggle could work with, could be an instrument in furthering its aims?

MM     That's a big story in itself but the record is clear. In the late fifties Verwoerd had unleashed his Bantustan plans, Buthelezi was a member of the ANC not yet in any prominence. We're talking about the fifties.

POM     When you were in Durban in the fifties how was he perceived then?

MM     Nobody saw him as anything special. He was in no prominent position. But I am saying that from Fort Hare days because of his traditional position the issue arose over the Bantustans as to what he should do and it's a matter of record that Sisulu, Mandela and others in the leadership of the ANC were consulted by him and he was advised not to abandon his traditional position in traditional society but without fanfare go into the Bantustan, to be advisor to the King, it was at that time King Solomon, and to strengthen the resistance from within we already had preceding the Bantustans the case of Chief Luthuli who when he became President of the ANC in 1953/54 was then deposed from his chieftainship by the Nat government. Chief Luthuli was now deposed as a traditional leader but rose in prominence as the leader of the ANC and still portrayed himself as having a position in traditional society even though formally they had deprived him of that position.

     Chief Buthelezi was in and around that period and saw all these things happening and post the deposition of Luthuli he consulted Mandela and Sisulu and others in the ANC leadership, what should he do? And the advice was, go in, don't let them depose you, go in, your role is advisor to the king.

     UMkhonto is formed, I told you Chief Luthuli was in the leadership of the ANC, Buthelezi wasn't, not in Natal, not anywhere, but accepted that he is working as part of the ANC. It was not advertised and talked about in the membership, that would be self-defeating but he was operating as advisor to the king. Of course when uMkhonto weSizwe was formed it was not public knowledge that the ANC had met and endorsed under the leadership of Luthuli, that was not public knowledge. When Madiba gets arrested for the first time the trial records show that in his diary he had gone to report to Chief Luthuli but report what didn't come out. When Madiba got arrested the entire ANC rose from its clandestine position to the defence of Mandela. When then the Rivonia arrests cameChief Luthuli gave evidence in mitigation. No, he didn't give evidence, Alan Paton did, but Chief Luthuli wrote a letter of solidarity and support with the accused. I think he might have given evidence, must check.

POM     At Rivonia?

MM     At the conclusion of the Rivonia trial. But certainly there was a public statement by Luthuli of solidarity with the accused. I am saying Buthelezi isn't around at this period. What he can see publicly, even if he's not made privy to the decision of the NEC and the formation of MK he knows all these things, it's common knowledge. It's common knowledge that Madiba, after coming back into the country, went straight to report to Chief Luthuli and that in his diary it recorded that he had made the trip and the evidence of the state said he had gone underground, he had gone abroad illegally, he had come back and he had come back and gone to meet Chief Luthuli in Groutville and met him and on his way back got arrested at Howick. Common knowledge. By 1964 it's now common knowledge in the Rivonia trial, Mandela is the Commander and founder of MK and then in that environment Luthuli gives support to the accused and solidarity.

     It's also common knowledge that in 1961 Chief Luthuli gets the World Peace Prize and that he could not have achieved that prize without the movement having lobbied with all its supporters abroad to get that prize for him.

     Then comes the period of repression. Clearly Buthelezi is cut off from any meaningful contact with any individual in the leadership of the ANC and who would he see as a person to consult? Luthuli? Banned in Groutville and cut off from the movement abroad, ageing, living hemmed in, banned, observed and therefore cut off from the ANC as well. Oliver Tambo in exile? Buthelezi is following that guidance, he is in the Bantustans now risen to the head of the KwaZulu Bantustan and the SA government is urging independence and Buthelezi says, "No, I will not take independence for KwaZulu." He begins to say, "You need to release the political prisoners." They say, "Why won't you take independence for KwaZulu?" And he in that space that he's occupying says, "You release the political prisoners, release Mandela and company", advancing the objectives of our struggle.

     In that situation it is now, it is a matter of record since 1985 at the Kabwe conference, Oliver Tambo says in that statement at the Kabwe conference in his presidential address, "We must analyse some the mistakes we have made. We were party to encouraging Buthelezi to establish the Inkatha Freedom Party as a cultural organisation." It was first intended, there was no space for a political party so you needed to explore and the advice given by Tambo and the ANC to Buthelezi was, "Set up this cultural organisation. It has cultural legitimacy. It has a place in Zulu traditional society and get the king to give it his blessing and use it to mobilise." So that was agreed. But Tambo in his statement at Kabwe says, "However, we made a mistake. Having encouraged him we failed to maintain dynamic contact and strategic guidance. That was a mistake we made. The decision was right but the implementation we were at great fault. The culmination of that has been a breakdown of the relations between Buthelezi and us."

     That breakdown developed over time. His first Minister of Labour, who died, I forget his name at the moment, was an extremely powerful, up and coming figure, and Buthelezi, it is no secret, was now at loggerheads with him because he was pursuing 'we are aligned to the ANC'. Buthelezi in the meantime in his own space that he was creating was being seen as blue-eyed boy by many people, was being courted by all sides including western governments. He was beginning to travel abroad so he was beginning to say things like, "I oppose the armed struggle." That initially looked like sitting in a space of maintaining his legality. But the next thing is he says, "I oppose sanctions", and then he began to say, "I am part of the ANC of Luthuli, not the ANC of Lusaka which is pursuing the armed struggle and sanctions." On the ground inside his Inkatha Party he began to depose and remove from office key officials including the Secretary General, Sibusiso Bengu.

POM     Who were all ANC?

MM     Who perceived what they were doing as aligned with the objectives of the ANC. And every time they conflicted with him he began to remove them. So the Secretary General was removed. So what we were seeing was an increasing tendency for autocratic powers and the objectives of Inkatha from mobilisation were now being translated into, instead of mobilisation, more and more to disagreeing with the ANC strategy and tactics. In an effort to patch up these differences, and because he was now increasingly travelling abroad, meetings began to be held with him and it culminated in the structured meeting in London. In London he, at the meeting, began to raise crucial questions of disagreement with the ANC and the meeting ended up in a breakdown.

POM     These crucial questions were?

MM     Armed struggle. Yes, we say, you can be quiet about it but why do you say you oppose it in principle? Sanctions, you can't go round the world saying don't impose sanctions because then we are practically constantly working against each other. Don't begin to oppose other formations at the mass level because they are not operating in the Bantustans. You're operating in one terrain, you can't simply make it your monopoly therefore and that no other organisations must exist. He was saying, "No, but I am the internal voice of the ANC." We said, "But how can you be the internal voice of the ANC when your strategic positions are completely opposite to ours?"

     So the London meeting broke down in 1979 and the relationship went steadily downhill. Madiba and others sitting in prison were in the meantime getting reports of this breakdown taking place and were trying to make overtures to Buthelezi to woo him back. He in the meantime was using even a birthday card from Madiba to prove that he is ANC.

     So that's the environment and the answer to the question is, historically yes, the ANC guided him to go into the Bantustan. Yes, the ANC encouraged him to set up the Inkatha Freedom Party. Objectives began to diverge and the breakdown came in 1979. He saw the formation of the UDF as a direct threat to the IFP.

POM     OK, now we get to what are you primarily doing? You set up headquarters for the Internal Development Committee in Botswana, in Maputo, in Swaziland.

MM     We are obviously assessing in the Internal the Inkatha developments and the IFP and when he fires Sibusiso Bengu (who became Minister of Education) as General Secretary of the IFP, for example – he was the General Secretary of the IFP round about 1978 and Buthelezi fired him. Sibusiso Bengu got a job at the World Lutheran Federation, Geneva based, because he was under enormous pressure and attack here and he went off to work in Geneva and one of the first things we did in Internal when he reached Geneva was to make contact with him and to invite him to Lusaka, quietly, to meet him to get a first hand report from him and briefing of what is the alignment in IFP, what are the problems and to devise guidance for our cadres inside the country who were in Inkatha. Should they remain in Inkatha, should they pull out? If they remained what should they do? How should they act? Who's who in the Inkatha leadership?

     Motsabe, the Chairman of the Internal and myself as Secretary met with Sibusiso quietly and a proper minute, a report on that meeting, was filed with the Internal and with the Revolutionary Council to justify (this is pre-1979)to justify a tactic that we should guide our cadres who are in Inkatha to remain there but to take up a line to focus it more and more on mobilisation rather than issues of difference with the ANC so that Buthelezi would find himself with pressure from within Inkatha. This report was filed with the RC and the NEC of a debriefing of Sibusiso Bengu.

     As it happened the report signed by me reached Buthelezi and, bang, I read in the papers and I get records of the KwaZulu Bantustan Legislative Assembly and I find Buthelezi has made a six-hour speech. He has spent more than an hour on me divulging that he has the report, that I am an arch culprit working against him, inciting the Legislative Assembly and members of Inkatha to say if this man is ever found in the country deal with him. I am saying this because it meant somebody in the leadership of the ANC was still maintaining contact with Buthelezi and with good intentions was hoping to woo him back and was working to show, look, we're not working against you, because that was not my report. My report was not that we were working against him. My report was we're going to strengthen those forces inside Inkatha who will keep to the original agreement with Inkatha when it was formed, mobilisation. Mobilisation for what? Against apartheid. But Buthelezi chose and so somebody senior in the ANC handed a copy of that report. Buthelezi then used that to attack me and having attacked me and virtually created a climate – when I read it I said, "Jesus! If I'm found in KZN he's created an environment that just somebody in the street could kill me." He made me virtually enemy number one in that Legislative Assembly meeting. But he used that as further evidence on a one-sided reading to say the ANC is opposed to him. Yet there were people in the ANC still hoping to woo him over, to come back to the original positions of being part of the struggle of mobilisation against apartheid even from the corner within the Bantustan.

POM     Had anyone in the ANC at this point made an assessment of his personality?

MM     No, I think there's been a book written by Mzala, under the pseudonym, under the name Mzala. He's a comrade who's died, a young man, student who was expelled from … University, I forget Mzala's first name but the book was published under the title Mzala.

POM     And it was written by?

MM     Mzala who was an ANC member in exile, part of the command structure based in Mozambique, was in the MK. He wrote a book exposing Buthelezi. There's a book written by Maree published in SA in the early nineties. Books were attempts to examine Buthelezi from a perspective of the broad democratic movement and the ANC but examining his record. I can't remember much of these two books. I think both were interesting books but Buthelezi reacted and Mzala of course gave him a bit of ammunition because Mzala's book also questioned Buthelezi's credentials as a traditional leader. I don't think I have a copy on my shelf. Wits Library would definitely have it.

POM     The hiatus, things are deteriorating, from 1979 contact is broken off.

MM     But we're still trying to reach him.

POM     Still.

MM     And making no headway. He too, being the politician he is and clearly there's ability there as a politician, he is increasingly trying to occupy the space which says I have been ANC, I am part of the ANC of Luthuli.

POM     Was he trying to show Luthuli as a pacifist?

MM     Pacifist, non armed struggle and that Luthuli would not have supported sanctions. "That what I am doing is authentic ANC, what OR and Lusaka is doing is a deviant ANC." The sort of space he carved for himself, tried to carve for himself, and if you wanted proof he would say, "Here, I have a birthday card from Mandela in prison wishing me happy birthday", because the forces ranged and gathered under UDF and COSATU increasingly ran into conflict with Inkatha people on the ground. Those tensions began to boil. Buthelezi himself was contacted by an armed group of cadres who were trained and who entered SA in 1968. They settled in the country and they got hold of an intermediary and reached Buthelezi and met him but by this time the regime was acting, in the late sixties, very hostile towards him. They had put bombs in his car.

POM     In Buthelezi's car?

MM     Yes. They had arrested him and detained him over this meeting in 1968 with the ANC cadres and they made him come to court to give evidence and he gave evidence in court.

POM     And the purpose of that meeting in 1968 had been?

MM     Had been, there are armed cadres who had done military training, they had come to settle in the country and they were meeting him to see whether he could give them assistance to settle in the country. The information that such a meeting had taken place reached the enemy, the enemy captured these cadres, put them on trial, took Buthelezi and confronted him and he acknowledged that he had met them and they said, "OK." But he said, "I haven't given them any help." And they said, "OK, you come to court. We want evidence from you because you met them."

POM     But you said he was arrested?

MM     Yes. They said, "We are taking you to court, now you agree to give evidence."

POM     Against them.

MM     Yes.

POM     So you're state witness.

MM     State witness. I don't believe he gave incriminating evidence but he gave evidence to say, "Here on behalf of the state I am saying so-and-so brought these people who came to meet me, who disclosed to me that they were MK cadres, and they met me and they wanted my assistance. I did not promise them assistance but I am bearing witness that they are MK cadres who met me." End of his evidence. The state is being very mischievous, the evidence is not material to finding them guilty but it is saying we have now forced you to compromise. These cadres when they came to prison told us that Buthelezi gave evidence against them.

POM     Where did you meet these prisoners?

MM     In Robben Island, 1969/70, they were put in our section.

POM     So in 1969/70 you guys in prison had information that Buthelezi had compromised on the position of the MK?

MM     Let me put it this way – had given evidence for the state and we were not prepared to hold it against him. We said he was caught literally with his pants down and he was asked to say just that he had met them and in that difficult position he chose to say, "Yes I met them." He didn't add years to their sentence, he didn't get them acquitted and we said oh, he was in a difficult position.

POM     What did the MK cadres say Buthelezi's receptivity to them was?

MM     They said they were disappointed that he gave evidence.

POM     Not that, when they met with him.

MM     They said they had a preliminary first meeting. They were sounding him out about the potential for assistance to find people who would be reliable to give them accommodation, to give them facilities. They did not raise the whole agenda. They went to meet him to see whether they could get some progress. The meeting was cordial, they did not expect any promises to materialise in the first meeting but they left on the basis that they would be able to contact him again.

POM     So they left with a positive feeling rather than a negative one?

MM     Not a negative, he didn't rule them out.

POM     He didn't say, "I'm anti-violence, I won't have anything to do with this"?

MM     In his situation I would have immediately tried to send word to OR that, look, here I am sitting in this position, this type of contact that was made with me is extremely hazardous and dangerous both for the cadres and for me. If you want to support me we have to work out a different mechanism that doesn't bring me into a face-to-face relationship. Whether he did that or did not I don't know.

POM     1981 presents you with an opportunity which you exploit in terms of being able to mount a fairly widespread sabotage campaign. Sasol.

MM     Sasol, because it turns out as no longer just a little bomb that cut a railway line or a bomb in a bin. This is an attack on an oil refinery.

POM     This is the real thing.

MM     And it incites the public mind, encourages the cadres that we are making advances. We hit Koeberg, the nuclear power plant which is supposed to be top security, a national key point. After we hit Sasol once we went and hit it again. In the public mind you would have thought that the first time we hit it they would have taken such security measures that it would never able to be hit again but we hit it. In the meantime by 1983/84 the Vaal Triangle begins to erupt.

POM     You've moved to 1983. Are you travelling all this time?

MM     All the time.

POM     Are you travelling within your ports of call in the southern African region?

MM     My key ports of call are Botswana, Swaziland, Maputo, Lesotho. Then comes Zimbabwean independence and Zimbabwe begins to become also an important port of call for me.

POM     Talking about Zimbabwe. When was the decision made that MK should support ZANU?

MM     Long before I even come out of prison. It's made in the sixties. It's made somewhere round 1966/67. Its precursor is the meeting that Madiba and OR had with various liberation movements, Cape Verde, the AIGC, the Algerians, no they were over, Mozambicans, there was no Frelimo yet, they were just about to be formed, Angolans, MPLA, ZAPU, there was no ZANU, this is 1962, a meeting which said that we in the remaining colonial countries would stand and work together and fight together. Then that is concretised in terms of an alliance between Frelimo, ANC, ZAPU, SWAPO, MPLA, that we are all engaged in the armed struggle, each one had their own camps, military camps in Tanzania, and inter-camp contact was being built. They would go off and train in the Soviet Union in Odessa, the same military camp, separate contingents but they would meet each other and fraternise with each other. In 1968 with the assistance of ZAPU we mounted a joint incursion of MK and ZAPU into the then Rhodesia, what is now known as the Wankie Campaign. ZAPU forces went in to settle and fight in Rhodesia, our forces went in with them to break away once they were inside Rhodesia to come down south of Rhodesia with a view to entering into the country.

     So that relationship was already concretised before there was a ZANU force operating as a viable force. We maintained our relations with ZAPU even after the independence of Zimbabwe but also at the same time nearing the culmination of Zimbabwe's independence we began to try and develop working relations with ZANU, which had its main bases in Mozambique. I was on one occasion passing through Mozambique where I was present at a meeting between OR and Robert Mugabe and I was the third one at the meeting. We were seeking to build those relationships and when Zimbabwe became independent while we continued to use the facilities the ZAPU, we now began to try and establish relations with the independent Zimbabwe government. Because the Zimbabwe government was primarily controlled by ZANU people there were more signs that the predominantly ZANU government was prepared to give more facilities to the PAC than to us. But a point was reached –

POM     Is that because the PAC had supported them?

MM     Azapia. But it had not been any meaningful action. It had not been a relationship with them.But we developed relations with the Zimbabwe government. They began in part to play the role that other governments had played in the neighbouring countries, namely of closing one eye to what we were doing. They never reached the point of giving us support that was overt and formal, certainly not up to the time that I –

POM     In the way that?

MM     Mozambique gave them.

POM     Yes.

MM     They never allowed us to maintain bases in Zimbabwe. They allowed us to have offices of our Chief Representative. They were aware at different levels of government that we were passing through Zimbabwe, that we were smuggling in arms behind their backs and from there smuggling them into SA, that we were having clandestine meetings with South Africans purportedly on holiday in Zimbabwe or visiting relatives in Zimbabwe and they closed half an eye to that.

POM     Was there any resentment in the ANC, and maybe resentment is the wrong word, that in its struggles where you had provided help, that these countries once they obtained their sovereignty although they allowed your presence, or even a clandestine presence, were closing their eyes to it, that they didn't reciprocate more openly?

MM     No. The ANC was always very big hearted on those questions. It understood the circumstances under which these independent governments were operating and it did not want to see them in difficulty because of what we were doing. We sought their support in the OAU, we saw them as our allies. We sought to mobilise them and keep their support not to compromise with apartheid. We understood the pressures that were there with them, in their economy, and to have some relationship with the SA economy, so we never pushed them hard. We took up a position, unlike the PAC, right from the beginning that we would avoid meddling in the internal affairs of the country that was giving us any form of home. We avoided meddling even in the internal affairs of every country, Tanzania, be it Mozambique, be it Angola. In Angola we fought alongside the Angolan army not on the basis that we were aligning ourselves with MPLA, the political party, but we were supporting the independent government of Angola. We understood the constraints on them.

POM     We had been talking about that Buthelezi had contact with MK cadres, that he hadn't been at least overtly unfriendly to them and that he had been arrested subsequently, gave evidence that he had in fact met with them, but that the ANC continued this relationship with him until 1979 when it ostensibly broke up over the issues of the armed struggle and sanctions.

MM     Sanctions and Buthelezi's demand that we endorse his legitimacy inside the country vis-à-vis all forces. That is to say by implication he was saying we should say he is the voice of the ANC inside the country.

POM     Would not that have made him a target for arrest?

MM     In his mind he had now moved to a position that he was going to be the leader of the struggle however compromised his type of participation but he is the primary voice of the ANC.

POM     Did he begin to see himself as the primary force in the struggle as distinct from the primary force in the ANC?

MM     He saw himself not as the primary force in the struggle but as the future leader of SA. That was what he wanted us to endorse. He wanted us to back off, that the centre of power was him.

POM     The items discussed in London or was it implicit?

MM     Were not put in that way, not put in that way. I'm saying it's implicit. When he is saying whatever you're doing, ANC, outside I disagree with your armed struggle and your sanctions. That's our primary work outside. "That my disagreement with you does not de-legitimise my saying that I am the person who is carrying on the tradition of the true ANC. Thirdly, that anybody who opposes me inside SA and questions my credentials as a genuine person representing the aspirations of freedom in SA, anybody who questions that you have to agree that they don't have legitimacy. You have to tell them to stop opposing Buthelezi." He didn't say you have to tell them that I'm the ANC, he just said, "You have to tell them – call it off. Don't oppose Buthelezi." What's the implication of that? In the meantime he's meeting governments of West Germany, the world, he's meeting PW Botha and he's saying to PW Botha, "I will not even entertain independence for KZN unless Mandela is released", and secondly he's saying, "I don't want a solution just for KZN, I want a solution for SA." He's in effect saying I'm going to be the leader of SA. And he's saying to us at the meeting, "You have to accept me as the leader." That's the gist of what he's saying.

POM     In an odd way even as you get into the actual conflict he continued to serve some of your purposes insofar as he continued to say he would not negotiate with PW until Mandela was released or the prisoners were released. He was making some of the demands that were demands of the ANC. He was reinforcing some of them.

MM     No but we've always said that all the time. We said his refusal to take independence was a positive act, his demand for the release of political prisoners was a positive act. But we've said you cannot set yourself up as the leader of SA because you are articulating a Zulu vision, you're not articulating a national vision and what is your national vision? Is your Zulu vision consistent with a national vision? Because that national vision we have –

POM     His Zulu vision was?

MM     The right of the traditional leaders, the right of the Zulu people to decide their future.

POM     While he was saying that he would not accept independence for KZN at the same time he wasn't ruling out that in whatever form a future SA would take that the Zulu people would reserve the right to perhaps have a Zulu nation, autonomy, independence, God knows what?

MM     And then would that not be the Verwoerd formula also, that we will have 15 independent states? Where's the vision of a united SA? What are you going to negotiate with PW about? For a dismemberment of SA or for a unity of SA? How can we - ?

POM     Was he not saying that you must release Madiba before I will talk to you, implicitly saying that Madiba has got to be at the table too?

MM     Oh no, oh no. Because if he was saying that then he must say Tambo must be at the table because Madiba was never saying, 'I must be at the table', he was saying Lusaka must be at the table. That's a different cry from Buthelezi saying I'm going to be at the table and I'm going to be at the head of the table. That's what Buthelezi was saying, not that I'm going to be at the table, but I'm going to be at the head of the table so I'm the leader of the outcome.

POM     But he's also saying the organisations had to be unbanned.

MM     Oh yes but he saying to PW, "I will negotiate with you if you release Mandela."

POM     Mandela. Unban the organisations.

MM     But he's not saying the organisations will then negotiate with you. "I will."

POM     But isn't there an implicitness in what he's saying that if you release Mandela, release the prisoners, unban the organisations, all of the things which the ANC are looking for, they too will be sitting at that table"

MM     But I will be at the head of that table.

POM     Well the way negotiations work out those who think they are at the head of the table very often end up at the far end of the table.

MM     No, he's saying to us, you agree that I'll be at the head of the table. He's saying to us, I disagree with youon the armed struggle, I disagree with you on sanctions, I don't agree with you on what is happening in the country because I'm saying to you anybody who opposes me, you must tell them to shut up. What's he saying? He's always saying stop all the discordant voices against me, authenticate me. Yes, I will take you in my tow but you authenticate me. He's not saying authenticate Inkatha, he's saying authenticate me, Buthelezi. Hasn't that been the pattern of Buthelezi's record? It's always 'I', even vis-à-vis the king. He says, "I'm your Prime Minister but you may be king but you do what I say." He doesn't say to the king, you're the king, I'm giving you advice, you may accept or reject my advice but I will be your loyal subject and serve you in whatever decision you take. No, he says to the king, "You disagree with me, I'll make you run out of the Legislative Assembly." He's still saying that to the king. He says, "Resolve your differences. I'm your Prime Minister but I am the one that calls the shots." He doesn't go to a celebration today of Shaka Day if it's called by the king. He says, "My differences with the king are not resolved. Until then I won't go." Then he has a rival celebration. He says, "I'm the power." He doesn't claim it on democratic right, he claims it on hereditary right.

POM     Just on that basis, to follow that train of thought, how would you see the IFP? A party run on democratic norms or would you still see it as solely the instrument of Buthelezi – that it's still acting in the same way as its negotiators acted at Kempton Park?

MM     I'm unable to claim any knowledge about how it functions internally now post-1994, but I see Inkatha as having a substantial following to find ways, to go forward and reach into that constituency because I believe that that constituency's long term interests also lie along this democratic, united government of SA. You will see differences are not shared by that constituency in the same form as Buthelezi articulates it because no other voice is reaching them. There isn't that interaction, it's blocked by the traditional system and that Buthelezi seeks to put the traditional leaders as the gatekeepers to that constituency. However legitimate his defence of traditional authority goes the need for that traditional authority to derive its powers and act within the constraints, the parameters of a democratic constitution with accountability is crucial. I do not see how traditional authority based on hereditary power can endure except if it is predicated on the inherent right of an individual to have the vote in a democracy and impact on decisions. For the individual to have the vote and therefore to exercise power through that vote and impacting on decisions. I think that it's not just ceremonial. I think traditional authority in our country at this stage still has an influential role to play but its role is not by carving a distance between itself and democracy but rather to play a role of enhancing the democracy that we've won.

POM     At the provincial level and at the national level Inkatha plays by democratic rules in the KZN Legislature, in the national legislature – well it's part of the government.

MM     No, it seeks blocking powers for the House of Chiefs. It seeks those powers, which is presided by Buthelezi. But more important –

POM     Blocking powers over local - ?

MM     Over the legislature of the province.

POM     Of the province, OK.

MM     But more significantly if local government is the grassroots structure which can deliver on development and progress, that cannot be in a formula which places a veto and makes the traditional authority the unique channel to the people. I think they can play a role in the development but they must understand that the engine of that development is the democratic local authority.

POM     1983. Botha passes his new constitution, he becomes State President. You've got the tricameral parliament, black local authorities set up. What was the struggle view on these developments? There could be, to play both sides, one is he is trying to make concessions to certain groups and co-opt, give a little more to one, give a little but to another but bring them in, accede to some demands and some lesser demands? The other would be that this is a man who already has seen the end of the tunnel but can't even admit it to himself and has to move in very small, discreet steps, measure the reaction in his own community, the Afrikaner community, against each move he makes. For example, the split in the NP after he introduced these 'reforms', he loses God knows how much of his constituency at that point to Treurnicht, Treurnicht walks out and forms the Conservative Party. So he's got to play a number of variables against each other. He is not about to negotiate himself out of power. So again, the analysis of this by the movement.

MM     It's simple. The disagreements around the cracks that appear over Treurnicht's thing, disagreements about how best to perpetuate white power, are not disagreements about the correctness of white power being perpetuated. That's all the difference is about.

POM     Well then the ANC have seen these reforms as co-option aimed at maintaining and preserving white privilege and power?

MM     I've actually used the word 'prettifying' as elements of co-option, neutralisation, window-dressing. But the differences between them are that the impasse that the country has reached and that the economy has reached –

POM     This is 1983 now.

MM     Yes. The impasse is not about, hey, we've got to re-look and understand that we cannot base a SA on the basis of white monopoly of power. No. They read the impasse as how best to retain that power. There's no questioning of the necessity for retention of that power and the only thing is that Treurnicht is saying your way is going to be a short term one and soon we will be out of power, and PW is saying to Treurnicht, your way is going to alienate support of the US and Britain and while you think it's long term it's going to be short term too, we'll be out of power. So both are accusing each other of the same thing. They're saying your way is couched as a long term thing but its effect is only going to be a short term thing. So that's how they were fighting. To us it is good but to us the challenge is how do we translate that difference and begin to bring into that difference or on a different fissure line –

POM     When you say it's good, do you mean the split is good between the two?

MM     It's weakening to them, to their capacity. It's turning their attention inwards. To that extent it's good, it breaks their cohesion. But the real issue for us is how do we take this atmosphere of dissension and inject into white politics the alternative of democracy as the long term preserver not only of white people's interests but everybody's interests? That's our search. So it is logical that we would move down the path of meeting white students, meeting representatives of the churches, meeting white business, meeting anybody from the white community that wants to interact with us and engage with us even when they are totally opposed to us, to engage with them, to tell them these are not the right frameworks of debate. The debate is that the country is at an impasse, all our futures are gone, yours is gone too. The way forward is move to a democracy, turn our backs on apartheid, it will be in our interests as the oppressed but it will be in your interests as a white person.

POM     This is your underground political networks?

MM     Not only underground, this is what we are saying in conferences openly, from Princeton to Brussels.

POM     We're still in 1983.

MM     Yes but we are attending meetings in Brussels, in Sweden, in Paris, in London, in Canada.

POM     Attended by whites from SA?

MM     South Africans, whites, who are attending those meetings.

POM     Afrikaners?

MM     Yes if you go by the surname. But the point is we are saying this message at every forum loud and clear so that even if the person is not present there they can read what we are saying, others can tell them what we are saying. So I am saying, so we look at that crack that opened out amongst them and we say good, we've always said there are differences between them. Fine in the sense that it turns them to look inward and today this crack has opened up, tomorrow there will be a crack on a more progressive line and it's increasing our chances that we can inject our vision onto the table. For the rest we say a divided enemy is better than a united enemy. Then as to our assessment of PW, can he rise? We doubt it.

POM     Can he?

MM     Rise to the occasion. We doubt it but we hear rumours that there's going to be a watershed speech, the Rubicon, in 1985 and we went – OR went to Radio Zambia and TV Zambia and made special arrangements that the entire Zambian broadcasting TV capability besides doing their regular broadcasts would at their studios hook up to SA so that a group of us, led by Tambo, went to the studio to witness on TV what PW was going to say at the Natal meeting. We sat there, we listened to it and we said, "Shit, he didn't rise to the challenge."

POM     I want to go back to the formation of the UDF tomorrow, oh we've got more time than I thought.

MM     You know you're tiring the hell out of me. Carry on.

POM     You're going to get a respite for three and a half weeks. I'll be taking it out on your colleagues in London and telling them it's all your fault.

     I want to just mention that speech because there was an important line in it that appeared at the time to be missed by many people because they were concentrating on crossing the Rubicon but it was where he admitted that the homelands were a failure and that everybody born in SA was a South African citizen, thereby doing away with if you were from Transkei or KwaZulu-Natal or if you were from one of the homelands you belonged only to that homeland. He was saying we are all South Africans, there will be a unitary South Africa. But I'll come back to that tomorrow.

POM     Just to start on the formation of the UDF, what role, again, did the ANC or the alliance play in the formation of it, in the direction of it, in the co-ordination of its activities, in its strategic uses? If you could take it from the genesis.

MM     Yes, but for today let's just dispose of this Rubicon thing. I certainly recall going there with a mindset saying that if he bit the bullet we would be faced with an enormously complex set of challenges which would require great finesse of footwork and subtlety from our side. We would not be able to respond in a simple way with a very simple message if he crossed the Rubicon because crossing the Rubicon would have been like the challenges that FW posed, threw down to us on February 2nd. But in 1985 we had not yet had any time to make any preparation to engage our forces so we would need to respond with all these constituencies bubbling and we'd need a subtlety in response and the danger with the subtlety in response is there's no simple message to put before the masses. It opened up a field where we would have to manage these pressures coming from western powers, we would have to manage the pressures that would come in southern Africa because Angola, everybody, would be seeing differently and inside the country our contact was not yet sufficiently consolidated. Obviously one expected that his response –

POM     And you had the youth in the townships who were now on the rampage.

MM     On the rampage.

POM     With the armed struggle and anybody who wasn't for the armed struggle was a sell-out.

MM     There was certainly no sense that any journalist would have said there's a stalemate here so there would be a complex situation for us. I went into the studios saying, "Listen very carefully, very, very carefully, because that's the first cut to going to bed tonight to think and there won't be much time to think. We may be forced to even meet in the early hours of the morning so that we can respond timeously." But in the meantime OR is there in the studio and he's obviously going to turn to a number of us that he's invited to the studio to instantly say how do we respond, not even likelihood of time to go to bed because he would be saying, "The journalists are already phoning my number. They want comment. Now quick, we can't sit here and meet for eight hours." That's the environment.

     So one went in there to listen very, very carefully. Yes, he acknowledged the failure of the Bantustans in the sense of acknowledging common citizenship. That is the effort to stem the tide of pushing back African people into their respective Bantustans and make the rest of SA a white preserve. It failed. Everybody knew it failed. The effort to push us into ethnic boxes and have ethnic citizenship was failing. His acknowledgement of that in the order of issues that he had to address was a minimal acknowledgement because he refused to address the question that SA was at a crossroads and had to find a new way forward. That is what his refusal was.

     At the end of the thing there was, peculiarly, a disappointment, even though if he rose to the challenge there would be a complex challenge for us, but at the same time with the disappointment was a relief that, hey, we can just shunt the whole blame back onto him. The pressure is off us, it's on him, whereas if he had tried to cross the Rubicon the pressure was going to be on us.

POM     The fact is at that point you guys yourselves didn't know whether or not you would have been able to rise to the occasion.

MM     Yes, whether we were ready to rise to the occasion. We were not sure. So he had a chance to pull a rabbit even when you were not expecting a rabbit. By the time FW came and FW did his February 2nd the surprise was the distance he walked in that one speech but at the same time there was an overwhelming confidence that we can meet this challenge. It's not going to be an impossible thing, we're not on the back foot. We can respond to this one and say we'll gather our forces in quick time, we're ready to march forward.

POM     In fact, not playing the ifs of history, but if he had in fact crossed the Rubicon he could have left you in confusion, spending a lot of time trying to grapple with complex issues, with your own various constituencies and if he kept pushing and pushing he might have found himself in a much stronger bargaining position because the burden of response would all the time now be on you and not on him.

MM     Conditions have changed Padraig, conditions have changed. US business now moved to saying as long as it's apartheid we can't justify our participation in that economy, we can't defend our participation. This was not so in 1985. In 1989 that situation had arisen.

POM     Sorry, I'm talking about 1985. In 1985 if you guys were caught saying OK, how do we respond, we've got to inform this constituency, that constituency, we've got to formulate our response in a way that some people don't accuse us of selling out or whatever, the pressure would have been on you all the time.

MM     The problem is that in 1985 he had a chance to cross the Rubicon without necessarily going the distance that FW went and as long as he had not addressed the unbanning of all the organisations it would have created complications for us. While not speculating on the ifs I'm saying this was the mindset I walked with into that studio in Zambia and this was the mindset that I walked out of that studio with after I watched him and the uniform response from all the western embassies and from all the world's reporters who were based in Zambia was, Jesus! You're really dealing with dinosaur, with a crocodile. He brought in that speech more sympathy to us than we had gained in years of campaigning between 1965 and 1970, just by that one speech.

POM     He was an ally! The power of negative advertising.

MM     I don't know how, maybe some commentator – I have not read all the books on him, I don't know how the commentators have missed the point that he was a classical case of a leader imprisoned by history. A chance, but he was so imprisoned in that narrow focus that history had confined him to that he just didn't have the capacity to go beyond it.

POM     Many of his advisors that I talked to who say they participated in the preparation of the speech say an entirely different speech had been prepared.

MM     No, it was a paragraph. We had the paragraph. By the time we met businessmen at Mfuwe Lodge we had –

POM     This was which meeting? At the?

MM     1985 meeting with Gavin Relly which took place after that. By the time we went to the Mfuwe Lodge meeting we had the missing paragraph which he refused to give. The whole world was waiting with sympathy for him, that if he had moved a quarter step forward that sympathy that the US, Britain had for him all those years would have bubbled up and what he did was he just squashed that sympathy.

POM     Would that paragraph have allowed – what would that paragraph have done?

MM     That paragraph, as far as I can recall it, would have simply opened possibilities the way the Labour Relations Act of Wiehahn did. It would not have assured the outcome but it would have opened up possibilities and it would have created tactical questions as to how we should conduct ourselves in occupying that space because we would have come under increasing pressure from all sorts of powers, possibly even the Soviet Union, to say, guys, you've got to re-think how you're going forward. Is there not a potential now that if you did the right things you could find a resolution to what at the moment looks unresolved? That's all. I don't think it would have been earth-shaking.

POM     But it might have been of more benefit to you in the sense that if he had crossed the Rubicon completely and you were at ifs, ands and buts about how you should respond and how you should get your own house in order –

MM     The central question is that the bullet that he had to bite in 1985 was not to say I am going to release Mandela ifs, buts. He needed that part of the De Klerk statement that said I shall be releasing Mandela by this and this date. Of course it followed 'and others, etc.' Whereas by the time De Klerk comes a simple statement that, "I shall release Mandela", De Klerk saw that it would not be enough by 1989. De Klerk examined that and had the boldness to say, "And as of today all the organisations, the ANC, the PAC, the SACP and MK are unbanned." He still had the space to retain the ground that he was losing in the US and Britain by just carrying out the release. He had a little bit more space of manoeuvre.

POM     But you're also saying that if he had put in that paragraph that he could have gained space too, that there would have been a lot of pressure on you guys to –

MM     Yes, conduct yourself properly.

POM     There are possibilities here, there's room for further exploration, there is a space that can be opened.

MM     Are you jeopardising the release of Mandela and company? So those were the complex things but it was not a Rubicon speech that was really going to be Rubicon. However, it was going to forestall, at least for some time, the reaction that came from the US, particularly from pension funds and from some of the banks.

POM     I will leave you there, it being 1.30 and being a man of honour.

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