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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
12 Dec 2002: Maharaj, Mac
POM We were talking about this
MM This book by Strydom, Rivonia Unmasked. I think there was a book in English also called Rivonia Unmasked in 1964. They published it the objective was very clear and you see it in Yutar's introduction where Yutar, the State Prosecutor, is saying that firstly he tells the whole agenda. They, one, wanted to show that the trial was based on an objective set of information, that there was no political agenda to it, and secondly to extract some propaganda to claim that the ANC was in the pocket of the Communist Party, that Bob Hepple, who had agreed to be state witness, one of the detainees, and then as soon as they freed him he escaped so he cheated them. And thirdly to try and deal with Chief Luthuli, to claim Chief Luthuli knew and was party to the conspiracy which is true, Chief Luthuli was aware of the decision and was party to the decision. But they had failed to prove these things in court so he was now supporting the publication of a political tract to try and bolster support. So other than that there is really nothing in it and nothing new. I've skimmed over the part how they got to Rivonia, they really don't reveal. They say that it was based on an informant who volunteered the information to them.
POM The name of the informant came up.
MM Gerard Ludi.Gerard Ludi, all the checking did not unearth any information to say that Ludi knew of the location of Rivonia or of its existence, so Ludi could not have pinpointed the place. He had never been there. Ludi was in a Communist Party unit and Bram Fischer was the head of that unit and Gerald Ludi was having a relationship with Rusty Bernstein's daughter. Other than that the claims that Ludi could have led the police to Rivonia, nothing indicates that he knew about it's location and existence.
There have been various other speculations. One of the most tangible in my mind is around a chap called Brian Somana. He used to be a journalist on New Age and he was related to Winnie Mandela. He was an activist in the ANC and when Madiba went underground Brian, as a family relative, was the ideal person to be the one that would give Winnie support, be in and out of her house, etc. I think, therefore, he was in the ideal position to be transporting and arranging the transport for Winnie when she visited Madiba. But if that was so Brian certainly did not lead them to Rivonia before Madiba got arrested because Winnie used to visit Rivonia only and Madiba was arrested in 1962.
Whether Brian went back to Rivonia post-Madiba's arrest I am not sure but the reason why Brian features as a possibility is that subsequently in 1964 I came across an incident where the facts suggest that Brian was colluding with the police. The facts were around Fikile Bam, now a judge in the Land Claims court. Fikile Bam was not a member of the ANC, he was with the Unity Movement, but his sister Jane and the family were strong supporters of the ANC and Jane was very active in the ANC, elder sister to Fikile. When the Alexandra group got arrested in Cape Town Fikile was part of that group.
POM What year would that have been?
MM 1963. And so Fikile and two others I think fled from Cape Town to Johannesburg and Fikile went to his sister seeking help to get out of the country. The other two reached us through some Cape Town people to say here were these people on the run and although they don't belong to our organisation can we help them to get out of the country? The side that I was involved in related to the other two and we helped them to get out of the country but Fikile on his own went through his sister Jane. This is what Fikile told me in prison. Jane made contact with Brian to say could he help her brother to get out of the country and according to Fikile, as far as I can recall, Brian made an appointment for Fikile to be picked up in the early hours of the morning at some spot to take him out of the country. When Fikile arrived at the spot the police were there. There was no Brian, there was just the police and they arrested Fikile. That's how he ended up in prison. According to Fikile that could not have happened unless the police had been tipped off by Brian.
POM So what happened to Brian?
MM Brian Somana continued to live an ordinary life here. He then at some stage opened a shop in the sixties in the Transkei. He remained very close to Winnie. Then while we were in prison in the seventies Winnie featured in a court case where Brian's wife sued Brian for divorce and she claimed as grounds for the divorce that Brian was having an affair with Winnie. I don't remember what happened to the case because it was snippets of news and then reports were saying that Brian had taken to drinking heavily and then he died. I can't remember the circumstances in which he died but we got news to say that Brian has passed away in the Transkei. Again, not evidence but it's not unknown for black people who began to collaborate with the police for one reason or another but usually pressure of blackmail, for them to become extremely schizophrenic, subject to depression and taking to the bottle and becoming unstable people. But that's it.
There are other suspicions even suggesting the US CIA had somehow or the other got wind and passed the information onto the SA Security Branch. Again, we've never been able to find substantiation. The feeling, while it's never been discussed, but I think the feeling amongst Madiba, Walter, Kathy, Raymond and on the periphery people like me, is it's no use to waste time trying to find out because even if you found out today who gave that information what are you going to do? It's buried in history and we have felt that it doesn't take us anywhere because you didn't know when the enemy was putting misinformation your way. We are agreed that the security measures we adopted were extremely lax. So there is the reality that our own security measures were extremely lax. If you just look at the facts, Rusty was arrested at Rivonia. He only had his Chev car, old car and he had to register at the police station because of his house arrest orders, report every day, and he was hardly being able to practice as an architect any more. So it was very easy to follow him. And you look at the number of people who were coming there, Bruno Mtolo who gave evidence in Natal was there.
POM He gave evidence in?
MM In the Rivonia trial identifying Madiba and everybody and saying that he was at Rivonia, he stayed there once for a few days, he knew it. Quite a few people were moving in and out and all of them may be saying that they're taking security measures that they're not being followed but you know if you're in a car you don't have to see a car consistently tailing you, with radio communications and all that they can you will find different people on the road and you wouldn't realise you're being followed. Then the large number of people in the struggle who were going to Rivonia for meetings, etc., it made knowledge of its existence fairly common. So given that laxity, which was recognised by the people at Rivonia, that's why they were due to move, but the idea was to move the ANC and MK to a different accommodation but not to give up this one. There was still the feeling that it's safe.
POM Rather naïve given that a large number of people knew and everybody who knew probably told at least one other person.
POM Before you know it exponentially half the population knows.
MM But the point I'm making is that in that environment of our own laxity to try and still find out how did the police precisely get to it, was there an informant, becomes a sort of endless process of searching and all that that searching does is you begin to question who amongst you might not have been reliable. That's all it does. So it's buried, forgotten, none of us lose any sleep about it.
POM Ivan made a couple of interesting observations yesterday that I would like to hear you comment on. One, he said that prior to Madiba being released you and he met in Moscow.
POM And that the purpose of that meeting
MM That meeting was as a result of a request by OR that he wanted me to meet him in Moscow for a face to face briefing and discussion about the developments at home both at the underground level and the overt political and to make an assessment of the situation. I recall that that would be the meeting at which OR suggested that instead of turning straight back home I should come to Lusaka where the Madiba letter to PW Botha, which I had sent to OR but OR had not yet tabled it before the NEC - so he wanted to table that letter and the Harare Declaration so that National Executive could have a discussion on planning a way forward. That's my recollection. What's his recollection?
POM Well his recollection can you recall the assessment you gave him face to face of what you thought the political situation was in the country at that time?
MM I think roughly the shape of it is clear. First of all at the level of Operation Vula we were making enormous strides and we were surviving in the country fairly successfully and expanding our operation. But the other Vula type operations were not moving ahead significantly. For example Charles Nqakula and company were in the Western Cape and I didn't know who's there. I only know that Chris Hani was supposed to go the Western Cape but he hadn't gone to the Western Cape yet.
POM Jacob Zuma was supposed to have come into the country too?
MM Yes he was mooted as a possibility. So there were Charles and a couple of people in the Western Cape. Without identifying them the indications at that meeting from Joe and OR were that they were not making the progress we were making. The second thing was that at the overt mass level the UDF/COSATU were making significant strides but were grappling with the problem of state of emergency after state of emergency and the large scale detentions.
The third aspect was that at the level of possibilities of negotiation there was this letter from Madiba to PW Botha explaining what positions he was taking but it was in the context of rumours that Madiba was selling out. They didn't put any report from their side, they were really debriefing me and the idea was that I was going to return home but as the debriefing went on and we discussed the Madiba letter in order to assess the possibilities of negotiations and OR had just succeeded in getting the frontline states to adopt the Harare Declaration as a position that we would be taking towards negotiations.
POM Even though it had not been tabled by the NEC?
MM No the Harare Declaration, the idea had been discussed at the Working Committee. The draft had started, OR had lobbied the frontline states, the frontline states had adopted it. OR had taken the matter to the OAU, they had adopted it and the OAU had now taken the Harare Declaration to the UN outlining our strategic stance which was to avoid appearing as just negative and saying no to negotiations. Here was a positive declaration saying negotiations are needed but these are the conditionalities and processes that it must go through. It was an attempt also to ensure that the world community did not start setting its own agenda on the negotiations process. The Harare Declaration talked about the need for conditions to be created so that there can be talks about talks, the need for the next phase for a cessation of hostilities to be declared and then a need for how do we get to a democratic order. So those were what was spelt out.
The upshot of that discussion was that OR said all those things at the Harare Declaration level have happened but the Madiba letter, he has not disclosed that he has it and he would now like to put that letter before the National Executive but the problem with that letter was that the way I interpreted the letter was something that OR wanted me to get to Lusaka to do at an NEC meeting. He said, "Your approach of taking the letter and doing a textual analysis of it point by point is very, very useful. So what I'd like to do is please come over to Lusaka, we will say that you need a bit of a break from your treatment, so that you are clean mind" (as far as the rest of the colleagues are concerned). He said, "I will table the letter and there will be a discussion and I would like you at some point in the discussion", because he was aware that most of them were going to say that Madiba is selling out, he said, "I would like you if there is a lack of understanding about the content of that letter to speak in the meeting and take the meeting through an analysis of that letter." That was the arrangement.
The second thing was that because of Zarina's accident this would give me an opportunity to meet Zarina and the children. So we parted in Moscow on the basis that I would take a bit of time for my disguise to come back to normal, I would get the necessary documentation to fly through and I got to Lusaka. By the time I arrived in Lusaka OR had had his stroke so he was in hospital in London. I passed through London, I saw him in hospital. I went through Adelaide, I approached her and said OR is in hospital, can I visit him? And she arranged the visit and when I got to see OR his mind was still very lucid. He was incapacitated but at a certain stage very quickly he indicated to Adelaide he'd like to speak to me alone. So Adelaide left the ward, it was a private ward, and all he managed to say is, "Lusaka." So I said I'm on my way to Lusaka. He said, "Please go", and he said, "And home." So I said, "What about home?" He said, "Get back to home as quickly as possible." That's all, in a very stuttered way. So I said to him, "Don't worry, I'll get back home."
So I went to Lusaka and the letter was presented and indeed there were many people in the NEC who interpreted the letter in the most negative light and thought it was something that Madiba should not do and he should be told to stop talking to the government. I intervened in the debate, analysed the letter.
POM Madiba had already sent the letter?
MM Oh yes, sure. He had sent the letter to PW but he was now sending it to OR to say this is what I am engaged with, there is no sell-out, there is nothing, but this is my agenda. The letter was very clear, "I am urging you, PW, to talk to the ANC. Not to me, you can't speak to me and say you are speaking to the ANC."
POM Why was there so much misunderstanding if the letter was so clear?
MM The misunderstanding was that when Madiba read out the letter to two people in the room at Victor Verster, and that letter was being taped so that it would come out to me to send to OR, both people listening to it
POM One was Dullah Omar you said.
MM Yes and Ismail Ayob.
POM Ismail says that there was no taped conversation, there is no taped conversation that he had with Madiba.
MM He's saying that he was writing it out?
POM He's either saying that he was writing it out or that he was remembering it.
MM It couldn't be, it's so well worded. Where's that book of Mandela. You've got it?
POM Which one?
MM The one yesterday that you had, Mandela Speaks.
POM I'm having it scanned today.
MM I think that one contains the letter.
POM Would the tape exist?
MM No it wouldn't. As far as I recall because I recall the version that I received from him and I recall Madiba says, "This is what I have written to PW", and he goes on reading. So the transcript is showing that and then at the end of it it breaks off, it's Madiba saying, "And there are ten more pages of this type of argument." So it's not the full letter. It has gone through the arguments why the objections that PW has to talking to the ANC, the alliance with the Communist Party, the turn to violence, etc., and each one of them he deals with them and explains why they should not be an impediment. And then it says that, "What I am urging you to do is that to resolve the crisis in the country you need to talk to the ANC. Without that discussion taking place we will not be able to take this country out of its morass." He ends up by saying, and this is handwritten by him, he's reading out, he has got no typewriter, etc., at Victor Verster, he had handwritten the letter to PW and he says, now that's taken a long time to go through the letter, he has gone through something like ten pages in his handwriting and then he says, "And there about ten pages more of this type of argument."
Now when you read that transcript it's not clear who's writing to whom until you realise, wait a minute, this is Mandela reading out a letter which he has written to PW and he is briefing a third person and the briefing, once he has realised he's covered the core issues, he then terminates it without spending more time. Now how Ismail did it to the best of my recollection is that he had taped it unobtrusively. You will have to check with him. But be that as it may whichever way he got it out the language is authentically Madiba's. You would be very hard put to listen to that ten pages and then go out and come to Johannesburg and sit down and reconstruct it in that way and Ismail was not a political animal so to remember that and remember the sentences, very, very difficult.
POM But then he would be dropping that off to you?
MM He would be dropping it off to me and I would transmit it to Lusaka. But because of a slippage two things happened, Ismail gave a copy, before he reached me he gave it to people in Johannesburg. That is how it reached Jay Naidoo, Valli, Kgalema Motlanthe and Sydney Mufamadi. Secondly, Dullah, who had no written record of it, went off and verbally briefed Govan Mbeki. Govan was already saying Madiba is selling out and to him the verbal briefing confirmed that there's a sell-out and he sent a message to Johannesburg to the comrades in the UDF to say Madiba is selling out. So they were reading the letter in a mindset that he was selling out so when I met Valli that evening, when I heard the rumours that Madiba is selling out and I got the letter from Ismail and learnt that he had given it to these other four, I called for Valli and Valli when he walked in to meet me started off in a sort of adrenaline high, "Do you know Madiba is selling out?" I then had to sit down and say, "How do you know?" He said, "But we have a letter written by Madiba." So I said, "Have you read it?" Of course in a glib way he said yes and then I took out the letter and I said, "Is this the letter? Can I read it to you?" And as I read the letter and analysed it Valli got a shock.
So I am saying that same mindset was everywhere. Nobody was sitting down and reading the letter carefully. They were just saying, proven. And then they would just look at little parts, some sentences would stick in their mind. They were not following the argument that he was putting because he was arguing with PW Botha to persuade him. With the letter, the text in front of us, I could show you how easily if your mindset was wrong you would misinterpret it if you did not read it properly. For instance, a section of the letter would start, it's not divided into sections, but a paragraph would start something like: You say you will not talk to the ANC because the ANC is in an alliance with the Communist Party therefore the ANC must sever its connections with the Communist Party. It's like outlining a heading. Now if you only read that, that your view is that this alliance is an impediment to resolving the conflict and that therefore the first condition on your side is that the ANC must sever its alliance with the Communist Party. This is all sticking, Oh Madiba is entertaining the severance with the Communist Party. Completely wrong. It was the most magnificent defence of the alliance continuing to exist but that you would only discern if you read the whole argument that followed and it would be an argument running into a page, two pages because Madiba was trying to put all the reasons that PW would find difficult from his own experience.
For instance Madiba would say there has been an alliance with Stalin in the second world war, if that was acceptable why not in our situation? Secondly, he would be saying, what type of reputation would the ANC have if the Communist Party with which it had a relationship for 50 odd years now on the eve of a settlement the ANC should now sever its relations with the Communist Party, friends that you have fought together with? Who would then have any regard for the ANC as a reliable partner? No-one would do that, no-one would abandon a friend with whom you've shared the trenches, at the moment of a settlement you jettison your friend. Would you then trust the ANC any more to work with it? Would anybody trust the ANC? You cannot expect that to be done by the ANC, therefore to request that and to place it as an obstacle is an unreasonable requirement. But on the other hand you would argue that the ANC is not a communist organisation.
All I am saying is that the introduction to that section of argument, if you read the first two sentences, you could say, oh, there you are, Madiba has said the ANC should sever its relations with the Communist Party. What you've not noticed is that it's a letter to PW saying this is your argument and here are my reasons why you have to abandon that argument.
POM So you have pivotal moments arising. You have in a sense a vacuum, OR is
MM OR has had a stroke.
POM A stroke, so there's a vacuum at the top so to speak.
MM Yes, so to speak, because he was the man who was holding all the threads, they were sitting in his hands and here he's immobilised. Who's left? People who are knowledgeable on certain strands only. Nzo takes over as the Acting President. Slovo is there, Thabo is there, Zuma is there, other members of
POM Why would Nzo be chosen to take over? Was that just the chain of command?
MM He was the Secretary General. He came from the generation of 1958 and he was the Secretary General of the ANC so logically how do you continue? Well for the time being the Secretary General begins to fulfil the functions of the President as well.
POM Nzo has never been known as the strongest of the strong.
MM No, but he was a stalwart, he was the Secretary General and OR is now in hospital, we don't know whether he's going to die, whether he's going to recover, how much of the recovery will be there. Will he be able to continue in his functions? And in the meantime here are all these developments moving at a rapid pace. So the NEC says, "Nzo, please also take up the position of Acting President for the time being." What I am saying is there was not a single person now at the helm such as OR who was in touch and had the background to what was happening at the different levels.
POM How about Thabo?
MM Thabo obviously would become pivotal but he knew what was happening at that level on the outside.
POM Thabo was privy to, he was conducting his own whatever with OR's authority or whatever, his own ?
MM Yes, but that's a singular view I'm saying.
POM But he also knows about Vula?
MM He's aware of its existence but how significant it is in his mind I don't know. I know how significant it is in OR's mind but was OR sharing that with Thabo? Not necessarily, it doesn't follow, because OR in the ANC had kept the knowledge to himself and Joe Slovo and OR had no way of knowing that in the Communist Party Slovo had informed Thabo, nor was Thabo sitting and receiving the reports that were going to OR from Vula. So I am saying each person that was left had a particular angle or view into what was happening but OR was the person who knew all the strands and he was not yet sharing it with everybody. He was sharing different segments with different people.
POM But you can never be sure of that.
MM I know one thing that from Vula side, I know how he covered our security. I know how when we wanted money at the beginning, although he had a presidential discretionary fund which he could access through Thomas Nkobi, he said, "No I don't want to access it because if I access it the Treasurer General would realise that such a large amount is needed for something and if he gets a hint that it's something secretive, already I'm alerting people." I know in my Moscow meeting he didn't sit down and say, now let me give you everything that's happening from my side. He would say this is how you proceed correctly, you keep moving on your work. And I know him saying both directly and in communications to me directly, your developments in Vula and the light that is shining that says there's an end to the tunnel we're walking. You have to press ahead with your work, it is crucial. I have seen his briefings to Madiba. In his briefings to Madiba and to Govan and to Harry he is saying, "We are running through this difficult period where the pressures for negotiations are coming." And to Madiba he said, "Whatever you do there will be pressure on us to abandon the weapons of struggle. We must be very careful that we do not just unthinkingly abandon one weapon after the other." Meaning, don't you commit yourself on your own, we need to analyse this matter collectively when the regime comes with conditionalities.
POM Where are those briefings?
MM We destroyed them. That's one of things that I'm searching for in trying to decipher the Vula records, is to get all the communications. What I have found so far in my glance of it is chunks but the main chunks are the sort of mundane things, communication, this one is coming cryptic, change this programme, change that programme. I am not finding my reports to them of the political situation. I am finding some of the documents being sent over to us to reprint here but I'm not finding that type of response from JS or OR on the actual progress of the work. I haven't found the letter to Govan, the long letters to Govan, to Harry, to Madiba.
POM Could those documents have been among the documents that were among the unencrypted files?
MM No they would not be there because what I had given to Gebhuza would have been the material of the real places, the contacts and who's who inside the country. For example, let's say we called a place Libby and Libby is a safe house in Johannesburg or in Durban, now the identification of that precise address what does Libby stand for, where is this house, who is renting it, who is living there, what's it supposed to be used for? That would be there. What was there in the largest was because we had just had the Tongaat meeting, the 300 pages verbatim recording of that Tongaat meeting was there in the records because we finished the meeting on 20 May, it was a Sunday, and that Sunday evening I had transmitted that entire record to Lusaka and I had made arrangements for a print-out to be made for Umsabenzi and for the Communist Party and I brought a print-out to give to Jeremy Cronin in Jo'burg. That would be there.
There are other things there, there are gaps because this has come from the part that the disks were deciphered years ago for the story that Tim Jenkin wrote on the communications in Mayibuye, so those disks I've got but the continuities are not there and I haven't got back to Tim to say look, can you find something? And the same pressures, I've got stacks of disks but they belong to we were not using the ordinary laptop, it was not yet in existence the ordinary laptop. The Toshiba 3000 had come out but because of our suspicion that a computer screen, if your computer is switched on, a mobile monitoring mechanism down in the street has a capacity to read what's on your screen, but the screen that it could not read in those years of surveillance was what they called a crystal screen, a low intensity, crystal screen. That was on the first batch of laptops, portables, which did not have enormous hard disk storage capacity. They all relied on a three inch floppy disk. So I have a box full of floppy disks, so encryption disks, all sorts of disks and they're all there but when I put it onto the computer it says where's your master programme for deciphering it? And the master programme was changing periodically so to get it into sequence, to find which is the master programme that fits where and realise I was saying that the encryption system worked in this way, you took the message off the tape, you entered it into the computer, you put the decryption programme in, you aligned it, you decrypted, and as soon as it decrypted automatically on this disk it wiped out that decryption page. So there's the problem, to remember on which basis they had written which programme, how they had changed, and we were changing these things virtually every two to three months. Over a two year operation you just don't know what's what. And then JS when I was arrested, JS had given the order to Ivan and them to destroy all records. So Ivan and them secretly preserved some of it but they were preserving it with fear and they just stored it, they just threw it into a box and went and hid it away. They didn't say that's now index, everything, store it properly. They dumped it into a box, hid it away. That's part of the problem but I am searching for it.
Anyway, what does Ivan say about the Moscow meeting. What's his memory?
POM I want to pursue this point and then come back. It's the point of there being a vacuum at a critical moment when things are beginning to change very, very rapidly. How does that affect how decisions are made of the NEC? Say, for example, and you referred to it once, it would appear to me that the two powerful figures with most knowledge, most thinking or whatever, are at that point Joe Slovo and Thabo so they become the de facto strategists cum decision makers.
POM How did it work?
MM The tendency would have been to settle into the National Working Committee and the NWC was made up of a smaller group within the NEC but anybody of the NEC who was in town could attend because they were dispersed in different countries. The lynchpin there would be Nzo. When they met, if they were all in town at the same time, yes Thabo, Slovo, Pallo would be speaking and having views but there would be times when the meeting is taking place and Thabo is in the US. There would be others times when they are meeting and Slovo is somewhere else. So the continuity would sit in Nzo because he was the de facto Acting President and it depended on how dynamically they were in touch. What is clear to me is that Thabo would be in dynamic contact with Nzo. Was Nzo similarly in dynamic one-to-one contact with Slovo? Don't know. All I know is that the communications coming to me in the country are still coming through the same channel, Ivan and them, but they are getting their instructions from Slovo because there's no longer OR.
POM The communications that are coming through to you.
MM To me in Vula.
POM Are coming from?
MM Ivan and them, who are getting it from Slovo.
POM Is Slovo talking as party or is Slovo talking as - ?
MM No, very clear, when he's talking as ANC the message is clear and when the message is a Communist Party message the message is clear, because his appointment was by the ANC to assist Tambo on Vula and even when OR was alive I would get a communication running through Ivan and them all the time, sometimes I would see that this is very clearly a message from OR and sometimes it's very clear that it's from JS and sometimes it's something that they have communicated to Ivan from different parts of the world and somebody else has drafted it by talking to them. But it would be coming from the Vula administration and the person who might be able to answer that question would be Ivan.Ivan would sometimes send me a message, "You have sent this report, OR is out of town, that is why the delay in the response."
POM Was Ivan's reading, going back to I'll give you a copy of his transcript when it's done because my memory in the short term it's better a week later than a day after, particularly after I've had a night like I had last night. One, that you raised concerns about the support being supplied by the leadership to Vula in the sense that here you were, you were two years in the country, for one reason or another Chris Hani had not arrived, for one reason or another Zuma had not arrived and in order for Vula to develop in the way it was originally envisaged and for Vula to work more of the leadership there had to be a greater commitment on the part of the top leadership to send more NEC people into the country.
MM Right and we compromised then when OR said, "Well, what about Ronnie?" And I said, "Yes, I'll take him." That was where it was agreed. Not my first choice but in the absence the amount of work anybody was better than nobody. Yes, I put that problem but I put it even more clearly even in communications saying the support we needed also from Lusaka was different. We did not want detail, we wanted strategic support and by that I mean are we reading the situation correctly and are we guiding the structures correctly? I was saying you guys in Lusaka have got to be analysing the situation and giving us your analysis and when you see us doing something you'd better be telling us, are we deviating from our strategy? That's the guidance I want. I don't want to be told now you've bought a car, you shouldn't have bought a Cressida, you should have bought this car. That's nonsense, that's my decision. I don't want to be told, hey, you shouldn't have travelled from Durban by road to Jo'burg, that's an operational decision I will take but I want to be told, are we handling, for example, the UDF/COSATU/IFP violence the correct way because comrades are pressing to fight, give us more arms. I am saying no, are we doing the right thing? But not only am I saying no, I have to give them a positive answer what to do. I can't just keep saying to structures, no. I must say what must you do. Now I've given you a report of what I'm saying to them, is that a correct strategic decision? I want support on that not in the sense that you say you agree with me, in the sense that you say we're away from the situation, this thing is counter to our strategy or this thing is enhancing us, carry on this way. No, give the guidance this way. That's the issue. And what are you saying to the other structures that are continuing to exist in the country? Are you giving them the same instructions and are you ensuring that those instructions are reaching them in the same way?
I needed senior people from the NEC to be with me on the ground here and you say Chris can't come, this thing has changed because he's now become Chief of Staff of the Army so you can't release him. You say Zuma you can't release, he's head of Intelligence. OK, give me somebody else from the NEC. Then we come to the name of Ronnie and they say, "Will you have him?" I say, "I have reservations but I'll have him." Fine, let's make arrangements for Ronnie to enter the country. So we agreed on that.
There was agreement that I was overloaded with work and they were constantly writing to me and saying, "We're amazed at the speed with which you are working. Take it easy." I said, "Chaps, when you are in the theatre of struggle, you can't postpone tasks by saying I'll do it next week. You are living in the situation, it's fluid and I have to work 20 hours a day with no rest at all." So Ivan is right, that was one of the problems that I raised.
POM The second one was that, maybe one that you've already touched on, that not physically being present at meetings of the NEC and didn't feel that you perhaps were being kept fully informed of the swing and flow of debates in the NEC rather than the decisions per se.
MM Correct. That's strategic guidance again. I say every time you meet as an NEC you should be immediately sending me a report of what has transpired because without that how do I know I'm acting correctly and I don't want a report just in relation to a segment of my work because I have to give guidance here on the ground and unless I'm aware how you are seeing the picture I don't know whether I'm seeing it right.
POM The two things would suggest to me, (i) you feel they're not keeping you adequately informed of not just the decisions of the ANC per se but more importantly of their assessments and the swing and flow of the debate.
MM It's not the swing and flow, it's the assessment.
POM The assessment, OK.
MM You see it's that assessment that allows you how to take your operational decisions.
POM So you're not getting the NEC's assessments on the one hand and on the other hand you feel that the commitment to Vula is lagging in the sense that you have been in the country on your own for two years, working 20 hours, 24 hours a day.
MM I'm getting low level, ordinary, cadre reinforcement but I'm not getting leadership level reinforcement.
POM So both of those, if I were an ordinary human being I would say these guys are either marginalising me in some way
POM - or they're not paying sufficient attention to it.
MM No, I wasn't saying you are marginalising.
POM Let's use a different word, that you're not paying sufficient attention.
MM Because the objective of that exercise is to locate the leadership in the country to be able to give leadership inside the country and if you do not give that backing you reduce our capacity in Vula to give that leadership on the ground. That's the crucial issue.
POM When I asked Ivan what he thought the purpose of Vula was he said it was (i) the infiltration of the leadership. He said he'd been advocating this idea since 1981/82.
MM That's right.
POM Saying you've got to get the leadership in the country, you've got to get the leadership into the country. But (ii) that it was in preparation for what would be a national uprising.
MM It was to place us in a better position to give leadership and participate in mass upsurges. For example, we'd been through Soweto, we were not on the ground with people and with weaponry. When the Vaal uprising took place we were able to send in some arms but we did not have high level people and we did not have sufficient quantities of arms. We did not have stockpiles. We knew from everything that these sort of upsurges were continuing to bubble up in different parts of the country all the time now. We had to, therefore, locate hidden stores of arms, bring in leadership people, bring in officer corps so that the next time the bubble burst anywhere you would be able to channel the energy of that uprising and to spread it. Yes, there was a theoretical debate arising out of that. Does this mean that insurrection is going to be the way to overthrow the regime? Some of us were saying the potential for insurrection is increasing but the classical conditions are not there. But why debate that to a finality? We are not on the ground with the resources to opportunistically exploit whichever possibility arises.
POM Ivan says that in 1989 since he was there in Cuba at the
MM The Party conference.
POM - that Thabo gave, as a member of the Politburo, the keynote address on a paper called The Path to Power which put the emphasis on insurrection.
MM Yes, exactly.
POM In 1989. Meanwhile he's been conducting with Niel Barnard well I often feel I come across as though I'm after Thabo, maybe I am, OK, let me be honest, there's a kind of a duplicity there. This is like playing what would you call it in poker? You're playing two sides.
MM With your own comrades.
MM I have explained it away by saying that the discussions that he was having in London and Zurich were under the guidance of OR and the discussions were a probing: is the regime serious, can we move the regime in SA to a serious negotiating point? That was not inconsistent with pursuing and analysing what should be your strategy and your strategy could not be predicated on if negotiations take place. Your strategy had to say, if we pursue this primary path, should negotiations become possible we would be able to handle it and that therefore we had to move consistently. Increasing our capacity to generate insurrection would be an added strength to push the regime to negotiations. As long as that was being reported to some central point it would be fine but the problem was, and you can come back and counter me with the problem and say, was he reporting those things to the Politburo as well, because he was a member of the Politburo, so that the leadership core in both sides is well aware. You must remember the regime itself would have liked to deal with you piecemeal and hold all the strings in its hands and I was satisfied that as long as all the strands were sitting in OR's hands I was satisfied and had full confidence.
What I witnessed is that, and I didn't know that Thabo had presented The Path to Power at the Havana conference, I was in the country but I had sent delegates to the conference and when they returned I was not interested in asking them who spoke what. What I wanted was: what is the strategy? And they come and say it's on it's way and what reaches me is The Path to Power. I study The Path to Power and I say, now, is this position of the party consistent with the position of the ANC? Are they both working on the same strategy? Because it's important, you're allies. And the report I get is The Path to Power is a further elaboration and condensing of all the strands of thinking that have been coming through by the ANC and the Communist Party. So it says, don't worry, that strategic perspective is shared by the ANC.
POM Where does that come from?
MM It comes from my report from Joe Slovo and them, from the administration of Vula.
POM Yes but when you posed the question, is this Path to Power consistent with the ANC's view of the situation?
MM They say
POM Who is 'they'?
MM The Vula administration, Ivan and them, respond to me, because remember Vula is accountable to the ANC. They respond to me, this paper presented by Thabo is a crystallisation of the discussions that have been going on in the ANC as well as in the Communist Party. There's nothing inconsistent with what the ANC has said to me and The Path to Power does not say, it says this is your strategic line, but what it does not say is that if the situation on the ground changes you have no power to opportunistically shift positions and zigzag your way. There's nothing there that says that. Nothing says if negotiations become possible don't support it. So that's how I interpret The Path to Power.
But you see the problem that adopting a thesis and translating it operationally into an action requires a lot of thinking and working and guidance where you can slip up. A person could interpret The Path to Power to say now go out into full scale war with the IFP.
POM It lends itself to immense misinterpretation.
MM That's what I mean by that, when you want to translate a thing, a general framework and policy to an operational level decision, you have to be very, very careful how you interpret it.
POM For example for delegates to the conference in Havana, what interpretation would they be taking?
MM Sure, and that's part of the way you take your hierarchy of structure and bring it into alignment so that it translates operationally and conveys a message and an understanding that is consistent and is not contradiction.
POM But the party delegates to Havana might disperse thinking that The Path to Power is the gospel of the day?
MM Not a problem for us on the ground. I met some of the delegates that went from home but with the path to power I sat down and discussed operationally now and where somebody understood it in a wild way I was able to say, "Wait a minute, chaps", and a situation didn't arise when the Harare Declaration came to say it's consistent with The Path to Power. It didn't arise that way. Even the UDF and COSATU called the conference for a democratic SA to mobilise support behind the Harare Declaration. Party people. They didn't say to me this is inconsistent, we're going to shoot it down. They said, "No, your duty is to go to that conference and motivate and support for a position to be arrived at supporting the Harare Declaration." That's what it did at the conference. I think that conference was held in 1989 after Path to Power.
POM Which was one was held after Path to Power?
MM The conference for a democratic SA. The conference for a democratic SA was held in the latter half of 1989 in Johannesburg. The Mass Democratic Movement came, even AZAPO was present. The conference came out in support of the Harare Declaration.
POM 1989. You're meeting OR, you're meeting Joe Slovo and Ivan is present and you're giving a face-to-face debriefing of the situation on the ground in 1989. What part of 1989 is this? This would be after PW had stepped down as President of the NP but was still State President? That was in February of 1989.
MM Yes it would be after that.
POM So already there's been a change.
MM Yes, and the change is also being analysed by everybody because the first analysis was FW has a bigger hard-line record, I think the challenger was Barend du Plessis.
POM That's right.
MM Barend had a more verligte image. FW had a hard-line verkrampte image.
POM It was quite close.
MM Yes. What is this going to do? And Barend loses out. So FW was seen as a man who knows how to manipulate the party machinery.
POM But you're talking now to me as OR, what are you telling me? I'm saying, what's going on on the ground, Mac? These changes are taking place, what's the balance of strategic forces?
MM At the fundamental level it's saying FW is there but how much is he going to imprint on it, on the situation? How much is he going to imprint his own stamp and what's that stamp going to be? But it says while you are debating that stamp and continually analysing, does that in any way affect the way we are doing our work in Vula? Should we change direction or should we continue? The answer from OR is, "Press ahead even more vigorously with your work."
Then as time goes down the line here comes a situation where FW releases no, Govan was already released.
POM Walter and Kathy are released.
MM Kathy and Walter are released in October. That says, what is happening? Is De Klerk moving this way because the situation on the ground, the upsurge of the masses, the ungovernability is reaching a point where he has to do a give and is that give the pressure also by the international forces, particularly the US, Britain, Germany, France, are they also pressing him now? So will you push for sanctions harder abroad so that if those are the pressures that are operating on him they intensify so that he cannot stop at that point. That's the sort of thing that would be happening but I recall OR's Moscow meeting saying, "I want you to get back home as quickly as possible and push ahead." Ivan will tell you the meeting had agreed with my criticism of lack of strategic support. He said, "We will try and attend to that, with the lack of personnel. OK, you're getting Ronnie now and I will be looking at sending you more people but give me time." So, agreed. No question that your criticisms are invalid, no question that you're marginalised, that didn't even arise. The question is we have to shore up and repair these gaps that you've identified but your primary position, get back home, keep moving and you will get more material, financial and political support from us. That was the conclusion of the meeting.
POM Then he goes and he has a stroke.
MM That's why in hospital he says to me when I visit him, "Lusaka, are you going?" Because he's got this letter problem. And two, home, "Are you getting back home as quickly as possible?" Meaning don't get stuck here and the problems of here. But at the same time at your personal family level I understand you have problems, attend to as much of it as you can but get back home.
POM So you go to Lusaka first and you said you had to - on initial reading or whatever this letter has been perceived as sell-out, or many are saying it's a sell-out on the part of Madiba and he should stop talking to the government.
MM That's changed. There's full support for Madiba. The NEC agreed, support Madiba.
POM Was that after you go through the letter?
MM After we've been through the analysis of the letter.
POM You leave, you see Zarina and the children.
MM I helped Zarina and them to settle in Brighton. I then attend to the question of Ronnie's entry, his legend and his entry and how he enters the country. I attend to that side of it. JS speaks to Ronnie, then he brings Ronnie and me face to face. That is the time we disclose to Ronnie that I'm at home. We then prepare a legend for Ronnie that he's going to say he's gone on a visit to Vietnam and that in Vietnam he has an accident. The question became Ronnie and I had to work out how he would enter the country and roughly by when and the means by which we would and then I come back in.
POM Now when do you get back into the country?
MM As far as I remember when Walter and them are released I am abroad. Where I am I don't know. Am I in Lusaka, am I in Brighton or am I in Moscow preparing to get in, or am I already on my way in? I think it's post-October 1989, it would be November/December 1989.
POM When you re-enter the country?
MM Yes, because one of the first things that I did was to meet Walter and Kathy. This book on Walter's memories, I've just been glancing at it, is saying an interesting thing.
POM Oh, is this the book?
MM This is the Walter book.
POM Is it a nicely produced book?
MM No, not well produced. Look at it. According to Elinor Sisulu Walter says that immediately after being released he is saying Walter, Raymond, Govan and I constituted an interim leadership group and Madiba was not yet out but his name was added on that when he came out he joined that group as a leadership group on the ground. I am a bit surprised because the book says 'they constituted the interim leadership group of the ANC'. I don't recall us calling ourselves the interim leadership group.
POM You wouldn't have that authority?
MM No. Walter would. He had been to Lusaka and Lusaka would have mandated him. But I know that I met. I know I first met Walter one to one, I met Kathy one to one. Then I recall a meeting after Madiba is released of Madiba, Walter, Govan, Raymond Mhlaba, Nzo, JS and myself in the country, clandestinely, and I recall that group being told now we constitute the leadership of the movement on the ground but it will not be a leadership that's advertised because our job is not only the ANC, the overt ANC (now it's unbanned), but our job is to look at also the underground and the military and the negotiations. So it's overall on the spot like the National Working Committee that was based in Lusaka, to say this is the group, this is where you function. Nzo and JS would be coming in and out of the country. This is the group that had to sit down also and discuss what do we do with our underground formations, political and military. And this is the group that said, "Now Mac, will you come to the next meeting and put a proposal?" What happens to the underground and the military in the context of this situation? Because I had said it's wrong for us to discuss this now. We need to consult the underground machineries in the country so that when we get back we are informed by their thinking as well.
POM Sorry, this meeting takes place?
MM In Johannesburg.
POM In Johannesburg? So this would be after -
MM Yes. Straight after Madiba's release. Then we met again. This time I recall Slovo being present. I'm not so sure if Nzo was present but Madiba was there, Walter was there, Raymond Mhlaba was there, Govan Mbeki was there, and that is where I put the proposal that, look, the underground now while it continues to exist as an underground needs to be buried in some overt structure. Secondly, that it needs to be concealed in the overt structures in such a way that should it come out that we are still maintaining an underground and military formation, Madiba and them are able to justify its existence. I said the justification is that there are some comrades in the underground who are saying their continued existence is needed but the grounds for it is that it's an insurance policy in case negotiations don't work. I said I disagree with that viewpoint, that is not the way I favour it being explained. I favour subsuming the underground structures because they are existing in a military style, into the marshal structures which the Mass Democratic Movement had created. These marshals have come up to organise the rallies and I said the marshals need to do their work in a semi-military way. We will provide the officer corps from the underground, we will provide many of the foot soldiers in those marshals and if the regime confronts the Madibas in the negotiations that you are maintaining a military style formation, your answer will be, you, the regime, are unable to protect and secure our rallies and our leaders. We have taken, yes, our underground and tasked it with that job and there is nothing illegitimate with that. At the same time for us it will give us a chance to operate fairly openly but unknown to the regime we were maintaining our formation in a disciplined way.
The second problem is that by doing that we would be in a position to examine what do we do about the black on black violence and the defence of our communities, because by maintaining our cohesion and disciplined structure which is buried in this marshal structure and we are operating fairly freely, if they see us drilling, we are drilling the marshals. If they see us with walkie-talkies it's for the marshals to communicate with each other but at the same time we are getting our formations into place so that when you discuss in the ANC what to do about black on black violence we have possibilities of defending our communities.
POM So you made these two proposals to ?
MM And the group agrees and then I recall sending a report, because Ronnie was now in Durban, and Gebhuza, I recall sending a report, "Comrades, your viewpoint that it should be described and be structured as an insurance policy, I put it up at the meeting. I have previously told you all I do not agree with that approach and I put my approach on the table. The meeting debated it and came out in support of my proposal. So this is the decision, this is the line of march that we have got to follow."
I am saying this not for putting in the book or records because after the Vula arrests Ronnie persisted in describing it as an insurance policy.
POM I want to hold you now to where you are. This is March 1990.
MM February/March 1990.
POM OK. So at this point you've resigned from nothing?
MM At this point Madiba has forced me, has pressured me into withdrawing my retirement. I had said to Lusaka at the end of January 1990, "Guys, I want to retire."
POM Yes but in October, sorry, just according to what you said Sisulu's biography says, you were part of ?
MM This interim leadership group.
POM That is in October?
MM No, no, it doesn't say in the book in October.
POM Well it has to be after October since they were released.
MM But I am saying I was surprised by that description because it says in parenthesis, 'before the release of Madiba', Madiba had not yet been released. I don't recall us constituting ourselves as the interim leadership. I recall the constitution taking place after Madiba's release. Until Madiba's release my interaction with Walter was one to one, Kathy one to one. I recall the collective gathering taking place after Madiba came out of prison.
POM Which I will come back to again and again. The Madiba letter, that's done. You've gone to London and you've come back from London. You're back in the country. Things move rapidly. Walter is released. At the point when Walter is released had you resigned?
POM So that's October. We've narrowed the space of when you made your decision to between
MM I make my decision at the end of January 1990, before Madiba's release. I make my decision that I want to retire because I have never said this publicly, I felt that Lusaka was not pulling the strands together, the different strands of the struggle. It was not pulling it, it was simply floating. It was in a state of hesitation. I was satisfied that negotiations now had to be pushed to happen. I was satisfied that now was the time to find a formula to merge the underground with the overt and with the Lusaka leadership, that that was a critical element to make sure we all marched in step. And I felt this was impossible because now even JS and them were not sending me reports adequately. It was they're all flying around and you can't get an assessment and besides my problem with my children and family I said it's time to retire, things will move. I'm satisfied Madiba will be released, I'm satisfied that there will be a leadership taking over reinforced with the release of Madiba. OR is incapacitated, and things will move. But I said it's time to pull out, I'm getting into a negative frame of mind. Lusaka also, one of the catalysts was Nzo suddenly announces from Lusaka another interim leadership group in the country and he hadn't even told me about this. I'm reading in the newspapers.
POM Who is this leadership group?
MM Made up of Cyril, Kgalema Motlanthe (now the Secretary General), and a few other people, and I don't hear from Lusaka, I just read in The Sowetan. I say, "Where are we now chaps?" They say, "Sorry, Nzo made a mistake. He was not supposed to speak to the media, we were still going to consult you." I said, "But you've done it." "Sorry, you know Nzo, he just didn't realise the tenor of what was being discussed. He was not on the ball. He came out of the meeting, the journalists were there, they asked him questions and he spoke out of turn."
POM Who's giving you back this response?
MM JS. Because I'm saying, "Here's a newspaper report chaps. Is this true or false? And if it is true tell me how do we relate to it from the underground? What are you going to do?" All they answer me is that Nzo made a mistake, "We were going to consult you." I said, "But you're in instant consultation with me, you can reach me in an hour's time." JS said, "Well I did not know how to handle the problem. I did not know whether I disclosed." I said, "But guys, JS, you know we are here. Thabo he knows, Zuma knows, Nkadimeng knows. You can't tell me you didn't know how to handle it. If this is the way you are handling things in this sensitive stage be careful, you're going to make a mess of it." And with no adequate answer from Lusaka I said, "Guys, I'm retiring."
POM This is in January? Did you talk to Walter about it?
MM No, I think that Walter was on his way Walter and company had gone there. No, they had gone there, they had visited Lusaka in November/December 1989 and they had come back with no dynamic lines of contact with Lusaka. I didn't discuss this matter with Walter, I don't recall discussing it with him. I think I informed him. No, wait a minute, I was in Durban at that stage, I was not in Jo'burg I was in Durban. That's the reason why I didn't see Walter. I was in Durban at that stage and these developments were taking place and it's from Durban that I wrote to say, "Guys, I'm retiring."
POM Mac, there's more. Nzo comes out and makes a statement in January, before Madiba is released, and says the new interim while the organisation is still banned he publicly announces what the interim leadership of the ANC in the country is even though Well would Cyril even be regarded as a member of the ANC, the organisation? Did that not immediately make him subject to arrest?
MM Yes, but I think we were pushing the envelope now, legitimately pushing it. Remember certain other things that happened, the march in Cape Town led by Bishop Tutu and Boesak, the mass march, the regime refused it permission. Tutu and Boesak announced, "We're going ahead with the march, we're defying them." De Klerk backed down, allowed the march to go on. So what it was saying was that we were now living in a climate (break in recording)
They got out of prison in October and they reached Johannesburg to hold a press conference, all the chaps that were released, and Walter is sitting in the middle. I still remember it very, very graphically, it was one of my proudest moments.The ANC is still banned. Walter opens the press conference, he says, "This is a press conference of the ANC." Oh I felt so bloody proud, I said now let's see what you do, De Klerk. You've released Walter and company, and Kathy and company, you still maintain the ban on the ANC and Walter sits there, their first press conference, "This is a press conference of the ANC." The ball is in your court, De Klerk. De Klerk couldn't do anything. So what has it created? A de facto existence of the ANC.
POM And Walter is in charge?
MM No, he says
POM I know, but I'm saying after Walter is released Walter is the - ?
MM Walter is going to mass rallies doing one thing as far as I'm concerned, going to the mass rallies, forcing the pace so that (a) the ANC gets legalised, and conducting himself in such a way not giving FW an excuse not to release Madiba.
POM But he's also going to Lusaka.
MM Yes he made a trip to Lusaka.
POM OK, so what would give Nzo the authority to come out in December or January? How can he make that decision? That's Walter's decision.
MM No, no, it's not a single person's decision. The NEC is still existing in Lusaka. The bulk of the ANC's leadership is in Lusaka.
POM Then wasn't it that Nzo bungled something?
MM Yes. I'm saying the excuse given to me was that he bungled it, but I say the consequences of this bungling can be immense on the ground.
POM So you say, I quit?
MM No, I say, "Chaps, time to retire." There were other things that happened, unpleasant developments, because not spoken about, I just felt that the dangers of a mistake were going to be too great and I said I cannot now impact on you people's decision. Unless you say you're going to act by pulling together the strands and don't just say yes we're going to do it, you've got to tell me that Nzo is really now brought into the loop of all the strands including the Vula strand and the underground, you don't understand the problem.
Subsequently developments took place that I had, and it's there in Gillian Slovo's book, and it's not because I spoke about it, that JS and I had an extremely bitter meeting here in Johannesburg in the underground straight after Groote Schuur.
POM You told me about that, that he didn't
MM About that, there was nothing in the wording that protected the people living illegally in the country. This is May. It's a climate that we're talking about. My resignation was not my retirement was not saying you did A, unless you do B I'm leaving. My retirement was, look chaps, if my retirement is going to force you guys to sit up and stop just floating and hoping pieces will fall together then it would have served a good purpose because I'm tired of trying to argue with you people and getting the excuse that it's a slip up, because our slip up can cost lives here.
POM You wouldn't discuss that with Walter?
MM Because he is, at the moment I'm meeting him very, very secretively but I understand his task. His tasks are don't get caught for underground activity now, don't become involved there, stay clean Walter, speak in a very measured way so that don't give De Klerk an excuse not to release Madiba, not to unban the ANC. These are your two tasks at the moment and in those constraints the level of contact that he and I must maintain is still keep the underground separate. Don't endanger Walter's existence.
POM But there's something different. There's you-
MM And Walter's mandate is, you are in the country, you've just come out of prison, you're not taking over the running of the ANC, you are becoming a spokesman of the ANC inside the country at the overt level. The leadership is still sitting in Lusaka. That collective takes decisions there.
POM But then this goes back to the reference in his biography.
MM Yes this is what I say, there's a problem in that reference. It's both true but it's not located in a time frame. I would not have gone at that stage to start briefing and involving Walter in the underground and illegal aspects of the struggle. I'd be crazy, I'd be creating a major security mistake. I still have to report to Lusaka. It's Lusaka that must take the decision when they brief and draw Walter into the clandestine levels of work.
POM But this isn't consistent.
MM It doesn't have to be consistent.
POM No, consistent with what you have said before, which you said Zarina pointed out to you in the foreword, when you had written that you were stepping down because of family considerations and she said put in there 'among other considerations'. You and I discussed it and you said when you quit the party you quit saying, "You guys don't make it personal, make it political and I don't care what you say but if you make it personal I will respond in kind."
MM That's a different issue. The issue that arose in the party was a different one and a little later. This is around my retirement when the six months have elapsed. The six months elapsed in November/December 1991. The compromise I made with Madiba was that, "OK Madiba, I'm withdrawing my retirement. I will carry on but I will carry on so that you can have an orderly transfer of function." That's the agreement and Madiba says, "We'll talk about your problems later." We don't talk about it, I come back into the country legally in June. The NEC meets and I'm appointed to the Organising Committee. Now I thought that was in conformity with our plan. It gives me a legal organising work but it gives me the space to do my underground work of burying them in the marshals. But I say when they appoint me in June, "Chaps I will do this work for six months", that's to the NEC, "Because I wish to retire." I carry on with my work. Groote Schuur has added to my disquiet.
POM You have not yet resigned from the party?
MM Not yet resigned. I had undertaken at the party level there was a meeting of the Politburo held in May/June 1990 in Jo'burg clandestinely. At that meeting I had a big disagreement with the party. I told them that I would be retiring from the party, that I would do the work of organising the first rally of the party on 27 July and that would be my last action for them.
POM What was your big difference with the party? Mac, at some point or another we have to deal with this.
MM I know, but is it the time? But I'll tell you. We'll have to decide how to use it.
POM OK, that's different.
MM I'll tell you. As a party we had had the Tongaat meeting for consultation. I said, no, don't just form an interim leadership group, learn from the mistakes of the ANC, constitute your leadership group with proper consultation and to help in that consultation I will call a clandestine meeting of the party people throughout the country in Tongaat. Can somebody come from Lusaka and attend the meeting or at a minimum I actually said, can Joe Slovo come in, we will arrange it safely, as the General Secretary and speak? They said no it wouldn't be possible. Then I said, "Well can he send a personal message as General Secretary?"As it happened he said the message was coming, it never arrived.
We had the conference and already I had a disquiet because I get to the Tongaat meeting and we assemble at the venue, I think on a Thursday night and the conference is starting the next morning. About 20 30 delegates from different parts of the country have come in, many of them disguised. Cheryl Carolus I remember came disguised as a Moslem girl. So they had come from Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, the Free State. So that night I'm communicating with Lusaka, "Where is the message from Slovo?" I get a reply, "Jeremy Cronin is arriving and he will deliver the message." I say, "You've made no arrangements how we collect Jeremy who just flies into Jo'burg airport and thinks he's going to drive into Tongaat. You've not told me. You've not told me what time he's arriving and how are we going to bring him safely without bringing the enemy to us. Please tell me what time he's arriving." They say, "We are still waiting for his visa, for his indemnity to fly in." I say, "Can you send me a copy in case he doesn't arrive so that we can read it out?" They say, "No, don't worry, he is coming."
On the night before the meeting I'm communicating with Lusaka, I'm saying there's no sign of Jeremy, "Please send the speech." They don't reply. So I said OK, I've got to dothe keynote address, let's start drafting. I call a group ofcomrades, I said, "Look, what are we going to say?" So we prepared an introductory speech and I sent it to Slovo. I said, "In the absence of everything this is what I've delivered. I hope it has your approval." He replies, "Great." While we are meeting I hear on the radio that Jeremy has arrived on the day before we're finishing the meeting, the Saturday, he's arrived in Jo'burg, but there's no communication saying he's arrived. OK. I say, "What game is Lusaka playing that Jeremy is saying - ", he doesn't even send me Slovo's speech, he wants to be there personally and he's jeopardised all our security plus he denudes us from the political guidance that was going to come from the Central Committee. I'm angry but we have the meeting, we finish and I send by radio that night, on Sunday, the full transcript and JS indicates that Jeremy will be running Umsabenzi, editing the regular publication of the party called Umsabenzi.
So I say, "Great." Sunday morning I read in the papers that I've got indemnity. I call the meeting, because so far I haven't told them who I am. Some people have recognised who I am, my real name, others don't know, but I say obviously there's been speculation amongst the delegates and they might have come to the conclusion by talking one to one that this is Mac. So I call the meeting and say, "Guys, we are dispersing now and I'm clear that you've certainly amongst yourselves realised my real identity." I'm not worried about Gebhuza because I don't think any of them recognised his real identity because he was not a publicly known figure. So I said, "Now, can I explain? If you look at today's papers indemnity has been granted to Ronnie Kasrils and myself in that list. It is imperative that none of you speak about this meeting. A full report of this meeting is on its way to the head office of the Communist Party but there should be no talk and I remain illegal in the country. What decisions will be taken about me and about Ronnie and about Gebhuza and the others who are here illegally, those decisions will be made by Lusaka in consultation with Johannesburg. Let's just leave it at that and no talk."
So we disperse, I come over to Jo'burg. I meet Madiba and he says, "Mac, I want you to get out of the country illegally and I want you to return legally." I say, "Who else?" He says, "I want Ronnie to do the same." I said, "What about Gebhuza?" He says, "No, Gebhuza stays illegally, doesn't go out. And you come back by the 15 June." OK.
I then meet Jeremy. "Jeremy, what happened?" "Oh we couldn't get a visa." I said, "You didn't get a visa but you jeopardised a whole conference because you wouldn't transmit by radio the speech that you were going to make on behalf of Slovo. I find that unacceptable conduct." So OK, forget about that. I give him a print out of the minutes of Tongaat. I say, "Here, because you're running Umsabenzi, here read this thing, you make extracts and use it in your next Umsabenzi to say somewhere in the country a clandestine meeting was held." He says OK.
I go out, I come back. Then Slovo comes in and he says no, no, I go out, I come back on 15 June and now I'm legal in the country. Slovo meets me and he says, "Mac, the launching of the party, what do we do?" I say, "A mass rally on the anniversary of the formation of the party." He says, "Great, where?" I say, "At the stadium." He says, "Well you know all the people, will you take charge of that?" I said, "Sure." He says, "Now, shall we have a press conference announcing the legalisation of the party and that it will be launched on 29 July?" So you will find that Joe Slovo and I had a press conference now for the first time openly saying, "This is a press conference of the Communist Party and that our plans are that the party will launch itself publicly at a rally on the 29th."
A few days later the question arises when we announce who are we going to announce is in the leadership of the party, so we say let's have an extended meeting of the Politburo, let's not just decide on our own. You've got inputs from the Tongaat conference, you've got your thinking done in Lusaka, you've been consulting other people, now let's meet. So the Politburo meets, it met in Jeppe.
POM Is Thabo part of that Politburo?
MM I'm trying to remember who was present at that Politburo meeting. It was an extended one so that other members of the Central Committee who are in town could be present. The ones that stick out in my mind besides Slovo are Chris Hani, Ronnie Kasrils they stick out in my mind, I cannot remember who else. They stick out in my mind because in the debate that flared up they were key speakers. We ran through the list of names and I said to them, "Chaps, we're discussing this matter a bit disjointed. We need to be clear what type of space the Communist Party intends to occupy in the public mind. From my point of view we are into negotiations. That's coming. Negotiations are going to be perceived by the public as murky business and in truth it will have murky aspects to it. In the public mind there is a danger that it will be perceived as a corrupting process. For that reason alone it is important that the Communist Party, which is very popular on the ground, should occupy a space asserting the morality of our struggle and therefore already projecting the need for incorruptibility. That image the ANC would welcome the party occupying because it will be a countervailing voice against a tendency that will grow."
MM That will grow, a tendency of corruptibility. So it's important.
POM When you say corruptibility you mean?
MM I'll come to what I mean. I said, "The second reason is that in the course of the conduct of the struggle so far from the underground I have been reporting to you aspects of the conduct of our struggle which are dangerous." I don't remember the exact word that I used. "One of the examples of that danger is that a number of our people have slipped into practices where they cannot distinguish what is a legitimate instrument and what is an unacceptable instrument in dealing with your own colleagues. The biggest worry that I have reported to Lusaka repeatedly is that one of the leaders, as an example, has created situations in Natal where very good comrades, leaders, youth leaders, in one instance I supplied you all the name of a youth leader who disagreed with this leader, this other leader, and the other leader encouraged other youth, a faction, to kill him. They killed a very good comrade in the pursuit of their internal squabbles. You know the record of the man, he is a stalwart communist but he has never in his life had that moral fibre about distinguishing between how you fight the enemy and how you fight your own colleagues. That was acceptable in political manoeuvring in the old days but not acceptable when it reached a point of fomenting the killing of a good comrade. I've reported this previously that these were the problems that I was encountering in Natal. We have to stamp that out because otherwise we will be riding a tiger that is going to bite us. This is the space that the party needs to occupy."
Everybody says yes, you're right, but I can see they're impatient with the argument. So I said, "Now if that's the framework then this name cannot be put in the interim leadership because he is the person that I have previously reported to you was responsible for the killing of this one comrade." Hani responds to me. He said, "Look, it's right, there are these problems but this comrade that you are mentioning is an influential person. We need to put him in the leadership and we will have a commission of enquiry on his conduct." So I said, "I don't buy that. I don't buy that because I've seen commissions of enquiry before. Under the pressure of events we will be forced to make the fudges" This is what I mean that the ANC will have to do, but the party does not have to do it. The ANC has to make sure that everybody is there behind it in its negotiations but we as the Communist Party we need to assert a voice as part of the alliance which is countervailing to all the carpetbaggers and everybody coming in, who should come in.
Ronnie Kasrils then said, "What are you saying? Are you saying that unless we do that you are not prepared to serve in the Communist Party?" I said, "Why do you ask that question?" He said, "Because the position you are taking, Mac, is the position of a traitor. You are betraying the Communist Party." He used those actual words. So I said, "Ronnie", and I said to the meeting, "Stop there. To call me a traitor for what I'm saying is such a serious thing that it cannot be left at that. You have now personalised the issue. You know I have access to arms and I know you have access to arms. The logical conclusion of what you are saying by calling me a traitor is that you and I had better get out of this room and fight it out because I will not tolerate that from you."
POM You and I will?
MM Fight it out, because I'm ready to kill him for what he's just said to me. I want to fight it out. The meeting then tries to pacify me. I said, "No, I don't accept discussions being conducted this way because Ronnie by calling me a betrayer has questioned my integrity. He has not listened to what I've had to say, he is in fact saying that even if we appointed that person and had a commission of enquiry he will be calling for a whitewash of that person." I said it's not acceptable to me. So JS and Chris tried to pacify me.
POM They didn't call on Kasrils to withdraw his remark?
MM They did say, but I say in pacifying the meeting they say, "Ronnie didn't mean it that way." Ronnie says, "I didn't mean it that way." I said, "The harm is done now, the harm is done. But OK, let's put it aside. You appoint that person to the interim leadership group and that's the last you see of me in the Communist Party." Slovo then said, "Mac, what does this mean? Does it mean that you will not help to organise the rally?" I said, "No, I will organise the rally. It has been announced that I'm organising the rally, I will continue to organise the rally and I will do it with my full passion but when at the rally where you're going to announce the interim leadership and now you've decided that you will include that person, please exclude my name because that's it. It's goodbye after the rally." JS then says, "Will you introduce the people to the crowd, the members of the interim leadership?" I said, "Why?" He says, "But everybody is looking up to you in the country." So I said, "OK I will introduce them, including that man, but please understand my name must be excluded and that's my last act, it's goodbye between the Communist Party and myself." He said, "Will you think it over?" I said, "There's no need to think it over, Joe, that's very clear. I think we have drawn the lines and I will not speak out. I will introduce all the leaders nicely that you've named, one by one to the crowd so that they are identified and approved. My name mustn't be there and at the end of it I won't say anything but I will have gone into retirement. It's left to you what you explain politically but don't tackle me personally." I was meaning the sort of thing that Ronnie had said. I said, "If you impugn my character and my integrity then I will reserve the right to reply publicly." So that's what I meant by 'I reserve the right to reply.'
Between you and me the individual involved in this bust-up was Harry Gwala. Because I'd seen it happen. I'd seen how under that Stalinist strength he had no discrimination. He would slash a comrade to advance a particular victory for himself and I'd seen how he got a youth leader killed and I said that is unacceptable, we've got to stamp it out. Unless you stamp it out immediately you're going to sit on a powder keg. So that was the story but of course it was preceded by a very bitter argument by JS over Groote Schuur, which I've told you about because it features in Gillian Slovo's book. It says there that the informant was Ismail Momoniat. Have you seen him?
POM I'm seeing him this afternoon.
MM Good. Because he was not I don't think he was in the meeting, he was the person who knew that clandestine venue, it was a flat in Berea that I had where I used to meet Jacob Zuma and meet Joe Slovo. Momo knew the location of the flat and Momo was a critical functionary in the underground because it was his job, he was legal in the country, it was his job to be in touch with the Zumas and the Slovos and then it was his job to arrange for their transportation to this clandestine venue. At this venue we had this meeting where Slovo and I took part and I criticised Slovo, very, very harshly I think with hindsight, and it was one more incident, it was reinforcing my thinking that the team - you expected that in that team there are people present who are aware, one of this strand, one of that strand, one of that strand, but that it was critical that you should take up a position of defending your comrades and protecting them and at that time De Klerk had no wind of how strong we were on the ground. He had no idea that there was a thing like Operation Vula.At the mass level if we had to declare, having got the indemnity, if we had at one of the mass rallies to say, here's Mac, here's Gebhuza, they've been illegally for two years and three years in the country, the emotional upsurge of support would have compelled De Klerk to say, 'I won't charge them and I won't arrest them.'
But it was possible at Groote Schuur in the declaration to say indemnity shall be granted, it had said so, but any of the cadres of the ANC who are in the country illegally will be allowed to surface and legalise their stay. At that time he would have said how many? And Slovo should have said, but it's necessary. You would want to protect your men. And he would say yes. After all, even at the end of the Anglo/Boer war when the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed to bring the war to an end and discussions started between the Boer Generals and the British, Jan Christian Smuts was called from the Transvaal province and he travelled clandestinely by horse to get to Cape Town to the meeting but he had to be present and by his presence as a frontline commander his task was not just the negotiations but also to ensure the safety and security of all his soldiers.
To me in that delegation at Groote Schuur I said, "Everything is in order because Slovo is there." And Slovo after all was the joint founder with Madiba of uMkhonto weSizwe. In the original MK formed by Madiba, Slovo was his right hand man. So all he had to say to Madiba was, hey, please, we've got to insert this phrase. And Madiba would have said definitely. I checked in that discussion, "Slovo were you involved in the drafting?" He said, "Yes, Thabo and I were involved in the drafting." I said, "And you didn't think of this? You are making a fatal mistake, not from the point of view of the progress of the country but from the point of view of whether the movement stands by its cadres." Probably harsh. Slovo tried to defend himself, tried to read the text to say we were covered. I said, "We're not covered." And I proved to him that we were not covered, and indeed we were not covered because had that been in the Groote Schuur thing the day we were arrested Madiba would have been able to say, here, adhere to it. It's the ifs of history.
Anyway, I served in the ANC until December. I got arrested in July. I came out of my detention, was brought to trial, was granted bail. Court was due to resume in January. I came to Johannesburg, set up house with Zarina and them. They came over in the December period and that December, 16 December, there was a conference at Nazrec of the ANC, the entire leadership of the ANC was on the platform, the six months had expired and I didn't go to the Nazrec conference. My absence at the Nazrec conference led to journalists beginning to ask what has happened. They tried to reach me. I refused to meet them, refused to make any comments, said nothing. They asked many ANC people and there became some of the floundering replies. Some people said I was not well, rumour spread that I was unhappy at the way I was treated in detention. I just kept quiet.
In the run up to the July conference of 1991 comrades came to my home, raised the issue that I should return, that I was letting them all down, it's not right, it's the wrong course of political action. I said, "But guys, I'm not saying anything against you all. I've retired, I'm not taking part in any political activity. I've not joined anybody. I'm leading a life now looking after my children, my family." They said, "No, think again", and eventually I was invited to the Durban conference and even Zarina said to go. I went there and some had even lobbied me to stand as a candidate for the General Secretary's position. They put up my name when I got to conference. The candidates were Nzo, Cyril Ramaphosa and Jacob Zuma and I said to them, "Right, I'm withdrawing, I'm not standing as General Secretary." I informed the officials that whoever has nominated my name and I'm not accepting nomination. Then people nominated me for the NEC and I said they could put my name up and I will stand for the NEC and I was re-elected and got back into action.
I still remain - it's a sort of question that the actions that I took, the silence, I remain of the view that in the circumstances and given the issues that I was raising the decision to retire, I can understand how I was feeling, I still think it was right. The decision not to go public, I still believe that there was no option, I had to keep my mouth shut. And the return, I think it was a good thing. There was over those clashes that I had with the Slovos and the fact that I'd left the party and the fact that at the NEC of the ANC after I came out on trial, I launched a vicious attack on my colleagues on the NEC. I named the people who were spreading rumours to the journalists that I was disgruntled over my treatment in detention. I said this was a falsification and I told the meeting the sort of rumours they were spreading about Vula, I thought that was completely uncomradely.
Now that bitter attack hurt a number of people. When I was re-elected to the NEC in 1991 after a few months I found myself not given any tasks by the ANC. Everybody else was given tasks. One day Madiba called me and he said, "Why don't I see you at the head office?" I said, "Because I have no tasks. When I am informed of the meetings then I come." He says, "Why have you not been given a task?" I said, "I don't know." A week later he says, "I've been following up the matter, I can't get an explanation why no tasks have been assigned to you. I insist that you be assigned. People have been allocated all the tasks so I'd like to know from you what you'd like to do. What are the tasks that you would like to be involved in?" I said, "This is not the way I've been brought up, Madiba. I've been brought up, you tell me where's the need." So he says, "No, this is a new period. Give me an indication of what your passion is for and your strengths." So I said to him, "Well I see the greatest need in two areas, the one is in the negotiation process. I think there's great need there for capacity and a strong team and I certainly could play a role there. And the second is the formidable task of organising the ANC on a proper footing and so either of those tasks I would be happy." He said, "Are you prepared to serve under those who are already appointed?" I said, "Yes, not a problem, as part of the team." He said, "Which one would you be most interested in?" I said, "Well both are challenges but I think that there's going to be an enormous challenge in the negotiations." So he said, "Good. I'd like to put you in the negotiating team." So I said I would be happy.
Nothing happened for weeks and about a month or two later, round about October, two/three months later he calls me, he says, "Mac, I've had immense difficulties. I've met the members of the NEC who are in the negotiating team and I want to be open with you, your colleagues opposed your being appointed to their team." And he says, "I'll name them for you." He named them. The strongest opposition came from Slovo and Jacob Zuma, they didn't want me in the negotiating team. So I said, "Not a problem." He said, "No, no, it is a problem. I'm calling you because I have told them to give me their reasons and they have failed to give me adequate reasons and I am calling you to say that that has been the delay but I am meeting them next week. I want you to know that these were the problems, the difficulties, they have failed to substantiate and I'm meeting them next week and I'm going to order them that you are joining their team. Will you be able to do the work under those circumstances?" I said, "Sure."
POM What reasons had they put forward?
MM That I was a difficult customer. I'm saying it to you because I think in those quarrels, in those arguments, like the Slovo one over Groote Schuur, I think my attack had gone beyond the political to the personal where I had been saying, "You have failed." Now it's one thing to say you have failed but I think it's a deep injury when you say to the person, "You had the responsibility of protecting your soldiers. Your failure to protect your soldiers is a measure of your weakness." I said that was a poor show.
After I had retired and before the Durban conference I one day walked into Sauer Street, that's where the offices were, and Walter was there so I went up to Walter and greeted him very warmly. Walter says to me, "What are you doing?" "Oh, I'm looking after my kids." "Have you got a job?" I said, "No. I haven't been able to get a job." "So how areyou managing?" I said, "I'm managing." So he says, "Why don't you write?" So I said, "Walter I can't write. The things that I would write about would harm the movement." And Walter says, "Nonsense, I know comrades are saying that you've sold out. You haven't sold out. I tell them. I say you don't know that boy, you don't know his passion for the struggle. And I know you. It is necessary that you should write." I said, "But Walter, I'll tell the truth." He says, "Yes, tell the truth." So I said, "But the truth may hurt the movement." He says, "Mac, the truth will never hurt, the movement will grow stronger from the truth." I say, "Walter you're putting me in big shit."
And just then Joe Slovo walked in, came into the office where Walter and I were, he greeted us. Then he said to me, "What are you doing?" "Nothing." He said, "Come let's go to the office and have a chat." So I went to his office and he said to me, "Well what are you doing?" I said to him the same thing, I said, "I was just having the same question with Walter." He said, "Well what did Walter say?" I said, "Walter says I must write." So Slovo says, "That's a very good idea, why don't you write?" I say, "But I told Walter that if I write there is a danger that some of the things that I say will harm the movement and I don't want to harm the movement, I'm happy with my quiet life." Slovo turned the thing, instead of the way Walter said, "The truth will never hurt, you will always come out stronger", Slovo says, "Why?" "Do you mean to say, Joe, I'm talking politically, I'm not talking about an individual, about the left and the problems of the left." He says, "Like what?" I said, "Well isn't it a legitimate question to ask whether the left reached a point in its lifespan of existence that it lost its revolutionary nerve? Would that be a legitimate question to analyse?" So he says, "You mean you're going to attack me?" So I said, "I didn't know you're the left. I didn't know you're the personification of the left, Joe. I'm saying the question, did the left lose its revolutionary nerve, if so, when and why? It's an interesting question to debate." We never had a serious discussion after that because I said, "There's no basis for you and I to discuss seriously. You're seeing the history in different terms from me."
Which is sad because he died without us finding a way to maintain our friendship by standing above those differences and by recognising that there had been a longer lifespan of activity where we shared a goal. But I think those things hurt. Why I've never had a clash maybe he was at that extended meeting of the Politburo and maybe he was at that NEC meeting where I attacked the NEC for all the malignment that they'd engaged in over Vula and the failure to show the moral fibre of leadership to defend their cadres. Tough luck.
Padraig, now you can switch off. You've got a section that now you're going to fucking sweat, you don't know what you're going to bloody find. I think in life you have to make choices. You have to make choices, there is no certainty that your choices are the right ones but having made your choices you must live with the responsibility that goes with that choice.
POM What I thought was that perhaps an astute observation on you, would remain in the cabinet at a distance hence the horse-trading and the
MM I think he found the same thing in his life. Yes. Well now you know why, you know some of the roots of the problem why I say that with all the benefits of the 20th century it has bequeathed to this century, the 21st, the biggest challenge is restoring a sense of morality to politics. The profession of politics is acknowledged as inherent in society but the practice of it worldwide by the conduct of politicians has been so discredited that young people today don't know where to go, whether to go into politics, simply go in there as a career for themselves, their individual career. Those who say that they have some ideals behind it and purpose and goals that are beyond their own interest are seen with cynicism by the public. They don't buy it any more that there's a politician who's really serious and committed to the ideals that they espouse. It's an unhappy position.
POM That links up with what we were talking about yesterday, you were saying the need for leadership and my point if we are to fight these various wars we were talking about, my point is that leadership going to emerge out of the leadership that is already there unless that leadership is substantially changed? Or do events at certain times like, say, a second world war throwing up a Churchill, throw up somebody to meet the occasion or is that a random occurrence?
MM I have no answer. I only know that the problems of yesterday which were raised in the context of SA are universal problems.
POM Oh yes.
MM And that the one positive thing in this world today is it is precisely partly for that reason that the world still sees Madiba as a world icon because they attach to him the hope that there will be restoration of a nexus between morality and politics. The fact that so many people in the world hold him as a icon says that the conditions are arising where there is a yearning for that. Where and in which country it will come about that some breakthrough will happen about that creation of that nexus, I don't know, but that the potential exists in SA yes, but that the potential that SA will be the restorer of that nexus is diminishing. It's true. I am very clear, I am no longer certain in my own self about myself that if I were to do the unthinkable and return to politics that I would not get caught up in that disjunction because I think the environment is overwhelming and yet I see around the world substantial portions of young and old people yearning for that and attaching themselves to Madiba. I am happy that I don't have to sleep those sleepless nights and grapple with that conscience problem because I'm clear I'm not returning to active politics. The problem is there.
It's a different type of person and it's a pity that Madiba is nearing the end of his life and maybe it's a good thing. If we adequately unpack and debate these issues about the breakdown of the nexus between morality and politics and the issues of conflict resolution, the issues of generating national commitment, somewhere in the middle of those issues will emerge the people who will play that role. The absence of adequate flagging of the problems and the absence of adequate discussion on how to overcome those problems is part of it just as is the debate over globalisation, anti-globalisation to pro-globalisation. I think that it's got a very useful identification of problems located in that arena.
POM It's said over and over again that the major wars of the next 50 years will not be over oil, will be over water. It's said over and over again and no-one is really doing any damn thing about it. In fact they're using more water to spray their lawns than ever before.
MM Well I thought the tenor of what I was I was saying yesterday in relation to SA that you were raising, the tenor was that here you are, you're entering a frame of mind of despairing and I was saying, no
POM Depressed, not despair. Big difference.
MM All right. If it's depressed it's all right. All I am saying is don't become despairing, there are many things, they are incipient, some of them are below the surface, but I'm saying there are positives. Once you identify a problem correctly you're on the road to a positive position. It's when you have not identified the question correctly and you've touch the peripherals that you can keep sliding, you're guaranteed to keep failing, but once you've identified and more and more people identify, more and more you can see signs that are positive. That's how I would jump from the positions we were discussing to turn round and raise the question of why is Madiba an icon around the world and to say part of that adulation from those different age, class, groups is the fact that with the disillusionment with politics is a yearning, but the issue is what is that yearning? I think the yearning is we're not asking political leaders to be perfect human beings but we are asking them to be morally sound individuals and a morally sound person is not a person who hasn't got weaknesses of morality either. There are weaknesses. It's notthat I'm perfect and that's one of the things that he never represents himself as a perfect person. That's what's important, that with all your imperfections in your own conduct don't pretend it but try to uphold a line of conduct that you can explain in terms of fairness and morality.
POM In a sense he's used his poking fun at his own imperfections as a source of gaining even greater stance.
MM Exactly, because we have an instinctive desire to protect him as long as he doesn't present himself as perfect. He says, I'm like you, then he says, no, I'm worse than you. Then he says, no, no, no, you're a good guy. Interesting development. Isn't that part of the problem of the churches over sexual abuse and everything? This defence 'we are perfect' has led to decades of covering up all those abuses. A new world has arisen. Where's the priest who goes up and says, I sinned, I am sorry, you decide my fate? It's cover up, cover up and then it becomes your action of covering up, then your action of correction is inadequate because you're saying you're trying to preserve an image and you're trying to pretend that the reality is always in conformity with that image. Why don't you just admit you are ordinary human beings?
POM My mother wouldn't like to hear you talking now.
POM You'd have shaken her. I think the first casualty of that is going to be the Archbishop, the Cardinal in Boston. He's almost assuredly on his way well he's on his way to Rome and I think he's on his way to finally see the light of day. When your own archdiocese, the parishioners of your own archdiocese gather outside of your residence with big placards saying 'Resign' and you don't get the message.
MM If you don't get the message, yes.
POM People will not forget things like that.
MM And maybe that's part of the problem with me. With all these political quarrels I may leave the impression that, hey guys, I'm perfect.
POM You will be glad to know that most of your friends think you're not. I hope that's very reassuring.
MM It has to be, but there is a fear of me. Somehow or the other people become insecure.
POM What? They become insecure?
MM They become insecure. It's just that it's like when the Vula arrests started, by that time Ronnie and I were legal. Ronnie was rushing to meetings and parties and I was very conscious that our legality we are assigned a task. There is a full time daily job of organising and there's a clandestine job which you've got to do. So I felt there was no time for anything else but I get a message, the chaps are arrested, I said we've got to move. So I get hold of Janet, have you spoken to her?
POM Janet Love? Yes.
MM I reach her easily, page her. I'm paging Ronnie, can't get him. Janet comes and I say, "This has started, number one, all the clandestine houses in Jo'burg, go and clean them out. Let's go." Now we can't entrust this to other people, you can't entrust it to another level and reveal all the houses. You still need them but you need to secure the people who are living in them and clean them out of incriminating material. "Where's Ronnie? Can you find him, Janet?" She says, "I can't, he's at some party or other." "OK, let's go. Let's get to this house, let's go and clean it up, let's go to this house." We had to go to the Canadian house and saying, "Right now let's even wipe the walls in case the walls have our fingerprints." What's your legend going to be if the police turn up here? Prepared them. And if the things go wrong what's the next step? Can't find Ronnie. I think that was Monday night.
Tuesday, Wednesday, I get to the ANC office, bump into Ronnie. He hasn't even noticed that I've been sending frantic messages to him. When he bumps into me he's busy telling me how he's been going this place and that place and how many people were here. "Ronnie, I've been looking for you, arrests have started." "Oh?" "We need you." "But I've got this commitment, I've got that commitment." I said, "Which commitment comes first?" Thursday comes a message, Gebhuza is arrested. They're looking for Ronnie. I find him on Friday morning and say this has happened. "Oh terrible! How did it happen?" I said, "Forget about how, I don't know how. The first question Ronnie is what do we do to go and protect the men? How do we go and salvage?" He said, "What do you want to do?" I said, "Jo'burg I've attended to with Janet, everything is OK. Now we've got to get to Durban. The first thing in Durban is get a report of what's the security situation and number two, all the arms have got to be moved from where they are. All the houses occupied by people who were known to people who are detained have got to be sorted out."
On the way down I say, "Ronnie, you were based in Durban. Do you know the houses where the arms are stored?" I know there is a house, I don't know which house but I know there's a house where there are compartments, concealed places built in the ceilings. I know there's another place roughly described as this, that and the other. He says, "No, I don't know where they are." "Do you know who knows them?" He says, "I don't know." Ah shit. I say, "Wait a minute, the one house with the biggest cache is that house occupied by a doctor, a bachelor. Am I right Ronnie?" He says, "Yes, come to think of it, yes." "What's the name of the doctor?" He says, "I don't know." Shit, how do we find him? And as we are driving I buy the newspapers at Harrismith or somewhere, or Ladysmith, and I read there there's a medical conference taking place in Durban that Saturday. OK. Let's get to Durban.
We get to Durban and I go to Mo I think, ask for an intelligence report. He names who's detained. "Mo, who do you know amongst the doctors?" He says, "I know so-and-so", many doctors. Who do you know amongst the organisers? "Oh I know so-and-so." "Contact them tonight. Tell them I'm in town, they should invite me as a guest speak to deliver a message." That's going to be my official cover and I went to Durban. Mo says, "I've arranged it." I said, "OK." He said, "Just five minutes." I said, "That's all I want. Now amongst those doctors go and tell a doctor by the following name, Barry, I don't know what he looks like, go and tell Barry that when I'm there he must come and speak to me alone."
I went to the conference with Ronnie. I can see this man is not focused because he doesn't understand and maybe I haven't explained what I'm doing. They invite me to speak, I deliver a five minute just praise, etc., mix with the doctors and Barry comes. I say, "Barry, there's a doctor, a bachelor, young doctor, lives in Reservoir Hills, do you know him?" He says, "A bachelor? Oh yes, oh yes. There's only one doctor who's a bachelor", it was a boy, Yaj. I say, "I don't know what he looks like, find him for me. Is he here?" He says, "Yes he's here." "Right, call him." He calls Yaj. I said, "Yaj, let's take a walk."
POM What's his name?
MM Yaj. "Your house is in Reservoir Hills?" He said, "Yes." I say, "You know about your ceiling?" He says, "No I don't know what you're talking about." "It's packed with arms." He says, "I know some things that go on." I said, "Give me time, this evening everything will be removed. Tomorrow morning you can go back to your home and you know nothing about any arms, you know nothing about compartments in the ceiling and you know nothing about anybody coming in and out." It's six in the afternoon, we've driven Friday till late night, we've hardly slept. Ronnie says, "Now Mac, I'm tired, I've got to sleep." I said, "You're on extra time, injury time. We've got to move those arms immediately because we don't know, even if we get there we might find the enemy already there." I said, "I'll get Claudia." I said, "Claudia, I want you, find a car. You find a car that's not yours, you change the number plates, you park at that place at Reservoir Hills. We'll load your car, you're going to take that car and you go and find so-and-so people out in the North Coast. This is all I want, you be there at this time." That's why she swears at me like hell. I said, "Ronnie, you go and sleep. You will drive tomorrow all the way back to Jo'burg. I'm going now on my own and clearing those arms."
I cleared the arms, Claudia took them away. Next morning we got in the car, we're driving back to Jo'burg, I get a report from Mo, they've just raided Reservoir Hills and found it empty. If we had not gone there, there was one more person gone and all those arms.
Maybe that's a bad quality in me but I just don't want to hear all the debates that take place at that time. What went wrong, who did this, why did this person do this? It's nonsense, you don't talk those things now.
POM Ivan agrees, almost insistently, Ivan Pillay, he talked. I raised it in a very diplomatic way and he kind of led me to the punch.
MM I don't think he sees me under any more does he? He doesn't meet me under at all?
POM He doesn't what?
MM I don't think he meets me under socially at all.
POM Well the way he would talk it was, of all the ways it's been put to me so far it was the most cutting. When we get to it it's one of the things we'll have to deal with.
MM You'll deal with it in your comments.
POM Oh I will.
MM You have the freedom to make your commentary and contradict me and say that he's been reluctant, he doesn't want to say he's lying, he's a two-faced liar. It's your privilege.
POM My publishers will be saying, "You've written - how many lawyers? How many libel suits?"I must tell you, just to turn this off -
MM Of the ANC? I learnt one thing in Lusaka, it's not unique to SA, one of the things that I realised is that in all underground struggles there are people who break down in detention, some through torture, the factors are multifarious, there's no way of predicting it. And people out of that category, that breakdown, there are all sorts of defence mechanisms that come into play. You need the help of a psychologist to enable you to live with yourself. One of the defence mechanisms you begin to live in a state of delusion the overpowering thing was that he thought that by invoking my name and that because I had indemnity he was covered. And he thought that by that cover he had walked into a terrain where under interrogation unless what you say while you are under full control of yourself and you understand your game plan, you've got no way of checking yourself when you start sliding down and talking.
Look at Ruth First's book, she felt she was sliding. She felt she started sliding and she attempted suicide and then something happened where she pulled herself together. That resource of pulling yourself together and taking stock is a critical resource that differentiates the one that slides completely and the one that arrests that slide. That was the overpowering environment. And the mistakes of the unencrypted material that he was storing arose out of this feeling that he's fully protected, a sense of over-confidence, all sorts of recklessness. Because I've asked the question, I said to them, "Guys, when Charles and Mbuso did not return, that there's a problem, these guys are missing, why did you not vacate that house at Kentridge?" The moment they had not returned the immediate task was to clean that house, remove all incriminating evidence and tell everybody to stay away from that house. Had they done just that they would have broken the chain to say what places did Charles know, what places does Mbuso know, who do they know? So places that they knew, clean them out and stay away. Who did they know? Take cover, get out of the way.
I've got so much respect for Janet. Janet, after I took her to those homes that she cleaned out, that Canadian couple and there was a Canadian woman and there was a British couple at different places, we had gone and warned everybody. Now she knew them all and where they stayed, she had helped to clean up their homes. But the time my arrest came she didn't run for cover, she went straight back there to each one of them. She went and said, "What about our cars? What about this? Park your car here. Out." The British, "Go to the British Embassy, go and declare yourself, ask for their sanctuary, ask the British to help you to get out." The Canadian single woman, I think Janet went to her, I think her name was Susan, and said, "Susan, you, your car, get it away." She said, "How?" Janet said, "OK, go and park it in a parking lot, give me the keys, I'll get somebody to buy it. You move from where you are staying and if developments go worse this is how you get out of the country." "How must I get out?" "Here's the money, get out of the country. Go and buy your ticket yourself, fly out." "What about my job? What about this?" "No, out of the way please." So that's what Janet did and they were hunting for her.
Now I think that's an immense quality. I believe that's leadership quality. Leadership is that when you are in trouble you think of saving your people. You don't think first about yourself because the moment you think about yourself you're paralysed.
In Durban I said to them, "Why didn't you?" and PG (Pravin Gordhan) says, he was Joint Secretary, he says, "I told them we move. But the thing that paralysed us was that we thought we should only move when we found another place so we were trying to find another place in the middle of all these arrests going on." But they were looking for a similar place, they were not looking for a place to go and store these things and tell the people don't come back to that house, give them different temporary accommodation. That was the slippage. But where did that slippage count? Gebhuza who was a longstanding underground comrade and a commander on the ground, he should have said, "Out, out, out." And he himself should have said, "Wait a minute, between Charles and Mbuso they know my car, so park my car, hide it in a lock-up garage, and if I have to walk I'll walk but that car is out because that's the link."
Those arms at Reservoir Hills, it wasn't a perfect operation at removing it. I was taking enormous chances. Claudia, she was not working in the military section, she was in Intelligence. But I said, "You're the person that I can find, go and find a car, change the number plates, comes here, park here, and once I have loaded the thing it will have arms, take it and deliver it to so-and-so in the North Coast." But don't use your car, don't use the real number plates. Neighbours will have seen, neighbours will see me because there's no guarantee that I'm doing it at night and nobody will recognise me. There's no time to find somebody else, go and do it. Half is better than full. If it was to be a perfect operation you'd have said, OK, wait a minute, let's get in touch, let's bring in comrades, let's find an unknown person who's going to do it. It's those connecting points that have got to be severed straight away and after that you deal with what you do having severed those connecting parts. There are other people who will want don't do anything until you've got perfect replacements.
POM Are you tired?
MM Yes I am.
MM But this is becoming this book is never going to end.