About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

31 Dec 2002: Maharaj, Mac

POM     What was the relationship between the Transportation Unit at Shell House and your department?

MM     The ANC when it reorganised itself post-1990 set up an economic policy unit and under that unit it set up subsequently a Transport Sector Unit but it did not appear to have really gelled together and function properly. It hardly got to grips with the problems. It constituted people simply on who's interested in transport. So when I met the unit for the first time after my appointment to government I found that it was just a mixed bag of people, it had no research capability and it had not done any substantial research. What became more significant for me as a minister was that in the parliamentary set up you had the portfolio committees set up by parliament with all the parties participating in it but the ANC itself then maintained a study group of those MPs of the ANC who were part of the Portfolio Committee on transport. They became a more important resource base but again a limited resource base because all of us had come into this process and chose whichever committees we went to. There was very little saying – you have to go here, you have to be on this committee, and there was very little processing of what is your skills base for it. It was simply that all parliamentarian MPs had to be allocated tasks and, like myself when I was appointed to Transport, one had a layman's perception of what is involved with transport. I think most people start off that transport is how the train services and the bus services that move people, passengers, whereas transport embraced a far wider ambit because it was the basis of moving goods and services inside the country and externally. So the capacity of the group was limited by that because you had people who came with hardly any academic interest in transport to people who may have had some academic training and now were prepared to direct that skill to the transport sector.

     However, all processing of legislation affecting transport had to go through the Portfolio Committee and that meant that the ANC study group had to be on top of those pieces of legislation that I was bringing through. Secondly, they created an environment which opened the parliamentarians to being heard by any interest group on any matter relating to transport and that meant they had to equip themselves. I tried to set up a relationship with the study group.

POM     The study group was made up of?

MM     Of parliamentarians.

POM     Of parliamentarians, ANC parliamentarians on the Portfolio Committee?

MM     Of Transport.

POM     So now you had the ANC unit at Shell House, you had the ANC study group on the Portfolio Committee, you had the Portfolio Committee and you had the ministry.

MM     Yes, and the department.

POM     And the department.

MM     The ANC sub-committee virtually fell into disuse because there was so much duplication going on.

POM     That's the ANC unit at Shell House?

MM     Yes. That virtually ceased to function. The Parliamentary Study Group began to function and its efficiency and capacity gradually grew, not to the point where I could access it for innovative thinking coming from its initiative but from the point of view of bringing problems from around the country where they were receiving representations, petitions, all sorts of things, they became useful. From the point of view of their own skills development and capacity development as the draft legislation would come I would take it through the study group first. I would brief them, I would send people from my department to brief the study group to acquaint them with the facts, to allow them to debate it. And there were a few moments when I would have to go to the study group because they were unclear about the advisability of the legislation. So I would have to debate in that study group to ensure that by the time the matter came up in the Portfolio Committee the ANC's participation in the Portfolio Committee was informed, hopefully would defend my draft and sometimes already influence me to amend my drafts by the time it was being debated in the Portfolio Committee.

     So the Shell House structure vanished, just went into disuse. The people themselves who were in that committee, some had become parliamentarians and were serving in the Transport Committee and in the study group. Others had gone to work in the parastatals and others had gone into other departments in the civil service, not necessarily transport. So that's how we ended up.

POM     Just to clarify something we dealt with yesterday and that is in the end which body was the 'supreme' body in terms of governance, the National Working Committee and the National Executive or the cabinet?

MM     In theory the National Executive Committee, in theory. In practice the details of what we were doing in the context of our strategy was more debated in cabinet. The ANC Economic Policy Unit was more seized with the global issue, the strategic overall issue, but functioning in government meant that you had to address the detail and therefore the detail overwhelmed and all you needed to do was to cross check at times whether you were in keeping with the strategy. In my first five years the Economic Committee met probably two times, of the NEC, and it was seized with sessions over the global strategic issue and it was overwhelmed by the consideration of the introduction of GEAR. So the discussions were focused on that macro level. The significance for transport, of transport in that macro pigeonhole, was minimal and the departure or the further development of policy for transport would be reported to the NEC but I do not recall an instance where it became the centrepiece of debate where the National Executive members began to say we're unhappy. But it was not efficient.

POM     Did that happen with policies emanating from other departments?

MM     Yes, all those touching on the economy, the economic transformation, were put together into a single report and when it was tabled at the NEC you would find the debate happening on GEAR, on labour, hardly any debate on transport, yet at cabinet, as far back as December 1995 there was a special cabinet meeting which recognised transport as one of the five critical areas that needed to be addressed in terms of our total restructuring of the economy. What do I mean by total restructuring? I mean we were taking a closed economy and now integrating it into a world economy and saying that the basis of that is that the SA economy has got to become more of a manufacturing export economy and competitively on the world market. The transportation costs were a vital element and, as you know, whatever understanding people have of globalisation, this modern phase of globalisation has been driven by two issues: the rapidity and reduction of costs of transportation of goods and of telecommunication. Those are the two things that have driven the increase of inter-trade between states around the world.

     So it was pivotal but the understanding of dealing with that in detail, the role that it played and how to reduce the transportation costs was still at this stage overwhelmed by an assumption in most people that the ownership of the state of 60% of the transport industry should be maintained and yet what we've inherited from the parastatals was a total inefficiency of that system. So the debates around that inefficiency and how to deal with that, bringing about efficiency and reduction of costs, was really taking place inside cabinet and it's rarely touched into – it may be referred to in the debate in the NEC and the Policy Unit but never pursued in any significant way.

     In fact it was so hardly noticed that I learnt - one year after I retired I visited one of the ministers, a female, quite a dynamic minister, and she said to me, and she was now in charge of the public service, she said to me, "You know, Mac, many of us distrusted what you were doing in Transport", in terms of the agencies that I had set up, the autonomous agencies, "I now realise that what you had done in creating those agencies is a very significant development which we should be looking at and trying to emulate in other government departments." And I said to her, "What do you mean you distrusted? Because you were sitting in cabinet and you were approving my memoranda." She said, "Yes we approved but we didn't really trust, we thought you were taking it a liberal way, you were a neo-liberal." So I said, "That's a great and sad comment." She said, "Why?" I said, "Because it meant that you did not put your reservations on the table so that what I was doing could be informed by debate. You were saying I can't be bothered to investigate this thing and examine it, let's pass it. But you were saying I don't believe in it and therefore you were transmitting a message to the membership that you don't believe in it. Now should we be surprised then if our delivery was not effective?"

     So we dropped it but that illustrated that we were new to government. As Madiba says we had no experience and some people can argue that maybe from the top, at the presidency's level, we should have been driven harder but then that would be to ignore that the presidency had come up with no staff so it had to start from scratch because the staff that Madiba got was the tea lady and the cleaners and maybe a secretary for the diary. But what research capacity, what monitoring capacity was there?

POM     Was it Jakes, right?

MM     He had to employ Jakes and then he employed Frank Chikane but Frank Chikane was with Thabo as the Deputy President and FW de Klerk had his staff, but to monitor and process this plethora of proposals coming from 30 ministers every two weeks at cabinet meetings needed a very competent monitoring staff with research capability.

POM     When he walked into his office did he walk in on his own and sit down at a desk and look around him and there was no –

MM     Yes, the only person who turned up was the tea lady. The day we were appointed to cabinet when I went, I told you I went to his office, where's the Ministry of Transport? Nobody knew. Hold on, we'll find out for you. Oh yes, there's a book somewhere here.Of course I'm a little exaggerating, there was a secretary. I don't think it was because the previous government also wanted to leave us stranded, there was nervousness. If I put the staff that I had previously there would you look at it with suspicion? Also FW, "I want my staff with me, I'm Deputy President so I'm not going to denude myself of staff." So there was that nervousness, that hesitation. And of course the trick of Madiba, the Madiba character was, "OK, that's fine, there's nobody here." We will start. The tea lady was an Afrikaner lady, she came to serve him tea. Fine, stay on.

POM     She was Chief of Staff. I went in in the morning as the tea lady, I came out in the afternoon and I was Chief of Staff. But did he not have somebody – what I'm getting at is did he not have somebody who beforehand said OK, when he walks into his office as President he's going to need this, this, this and this?

MM     To the extent it was done, it was done by people amongst us who didn't know how the system functions and we were seized with all the big problems. How are the President and the two Deputy Presidents going to function? But at the same time everything was last minute - Oh God! The elections are over, we're in government now. I know that one of Madiba's great characteristics was that in the midst of all this work, well before the elections, he asked to see Barend du Plessis who was the Minister of Finance, at a private home, and Barend told me that Madiba won him over for ever because Madiba sat down and said, "Barend, you're the Minister of Finance, please explain to me what is a budget? Can you take me through what is a budget, explain?" And he says Madiba won him over for ever because he said he least expected this man to turn to him to say, "Explain to me." He said, "I don't know." Of course he would exaggerate when he says, 'I don't know', because it means he's already been applying his mind even if it's in a patchy way. Hey, wait a minute, a budget is crucial to the functioning of the government but how does it happen, how does it come together, how does it get put together, what is its real significance? I haven't got time to read, OK, call Barend, meet me quietly, tell me, give me in an hour or two a summary, give me a road map so that I'll apply my mind.

     In the meantime we had sent a few people to be trained as civil servants in Britain and various places but they were coming back: What I've learnt is the way to do the thing. You go and do a six month course on –

POM     They learn it in a different environment, cultural bureaucracy.

MM     And they didn't learn with a focus saying, I know I have to go and become this job and therefore in my studies what does that job mean, and not address just what my job means, how does that office function?

POM     Did the TEC act as any kind of a shadow cabinet?

MM     No. The TEC, you must remember, existed only for four months and, again, it's created, it hasn't even got physical offices. Fanie and I go and hire offices in Pretoria, we structure the thing, each party starts putting its people into the different sub-committees and essentially its function was to watch over the existing government and the institutions to conduct the elections so that the playing field was level. And there were enormous things happening. I found out, I get into government, that during that same period Bophuthatswana received from the DBSA ten million rands.

POM     The DBSA is?

MM     Development Bank of Southern Africa. Now in my view that transfer of ten million for Sun Air was not in accordance with the legislation because it was bolstering up a Bantustan when the decision in the constitution was the undoing of the Bantustans. It ought to have come to see whether the TEC felt that that was a necessary transfer but we never knew because we were watching government and picking on things that we would learn about accidentally or in the newspapers and what we were watching was the IEC, is it functioning, the Independent Media Commission, is the state broadcaster being biased, to look at those various sub-structures that we had created and in the meantime still negotiating what happens through the defence sub-committee on the integration of the statutory and non-statutory forces, what happens on Safety & Security. And then in the middle of that we have the chap who was leading Venda, General Ramashwana, we smelt that something that is happening to the pensions, he just stripped the pension fund.

POM     This is General?

MM     Ramashwana, he was heading the Venda administration. Then what happened in the Transkei under General Bantu Holomisa? In that period the Transkei army got left with no soldiers, everyone got promoted to officers. So when we come into government there's an army with no soldiers and everybody in topmost pay brackets. This is why in the constitution there was the chapter on the interim period and Arthur Chaskalson had said to us at the World Trade Centre, that chapter was not there, we had finalised the constitution and Arthur comes and says, "Chaps, now that we are about settling the constitution we need a whole chapter." We say, "On what?" He says, "The state coffers are going to be plundered so you need a chapter on that bridging phase to try and prevent it being plundered." And what did he mean by it being plundered? Exactly what I saw in the Transkei when I came into government, that there were no soldiers left, everybody was an officer and now in terms of the constitution you couldn't remove them and even if you demoted them you had to give them the salary of that officer rank. And who had he promoted? Black people. The Venda pension fund was stripped.

POM     So this was going on in all the Bantustans?

MM     All over, all over. In fact it's the tip of the iceberg that the security forces – you couldn't find the documents and the shredding was going on. That was just the tip of the iceberg but our eyes were now trying to be everywhere. In the middle of that, the TEC period, the Bop thing takes place, we have to raid the training camps in KwaZulu, the right wing is threatening to break up the elections, gets onto its bombing spree, and here you are a ten person Management Committee of the TEC with two joint secretaries whose staff is made up of two secretaries only.

POM     Moving back to government, to cabinet meetings. You've had the first couple of cabinet meetings. Does Mandela run – what was Mandela's style of running a cabinet meeting?

MM     A memorandum is up, it has been circulated, it has gone through –

POM     You as Minister of Transport would have sent a memorandum with a proposal for legislation?

MM     Yes, saying that this is a problem, this is the measure of the problem, this is what I'm proposing, this is why I'm proposing it. Then I remember at one of the early meetings, hey, these are all the sub-headings, but, Jesus, we can't be sitting, given the night before the sub-committee a file like that with documents from every ministry and each document is running into 50/60 pages. OK, rule one, no cabinet memo must be longer than six pages. And a little later we had to say the typeface has got to be a certain size because they started reducing the type face. Then we said, wait a minute, there's got to be sub-heading that is your proposal consistent with the constitution, so that before you bring it here to the sub-committee, has some specialist looked at it whether it's in conformity with the constitution? So legal advisors have got to be in. So you bring the memo, you circulate it, you meet the next day on a Wednesday in the sub-committee on Economic Affairs, it passes through. Hey, wait a minute, this one overlaps with Social Affairs. Have you also sent it to Social Affairs because it has an impact on Social Affairs? OK.

POM     Who'd be overlooking the sub-committee?

MM     The ministers, ministers and chaired usually by one of the Deputy Presidents. Then the following week, now it's gone through that process, it comes up before cabinet and a sub-committee has already looked at it so if it's got problems it will state it, that these problems arose and this is how the problems have been overcome or has it been passed by it. If it's been passed by it, fine, now cabinet discusses it.

POM     How does Mandela run his cabinet in terms of discussion?

MM     He has got in front of him the file, he's got a guideline prepared how to on each item on the agenda and he's got notes made by his staff saying this matter has a problem with it on this clause, and he would not state his objections, he would say, "Right, discuss", and if nobody raised the matter he would say, "But what about this aspect?" Put the question, allow people to discuss it and then say, "OK, we've discussed it, are we agreed? Do we approve this thing, yes or no?" And if no what needs to be done? If we approve it what other work needs to be done with it? And that would be the decision of cabinet and the minister would have to work on it.

POM     So how would his running of a meeting of the NEC or the Working Committee differ from the way he would run a cabinet meeting and how would you compare his style with the style of OR when OR was conducting a meeting of the NEC?

MM     The style was no different because we were in an enforced coalition government and therefore the need for consensus was a very important consideration. In the constitution the cabinet rules of functioning said it would strive to achieve consensus and only in the absence of consensus would there be a vote. In our case, just as in the ANC in its liberation phase you sought consensus, you were therefore driven in government to seek consensus and never did we reach a point of vote. The maximum we reached was typified by Minister Buthelezi. He would come to cabinet meetings, he hasn't raised it in the sub-committee but he would come with sometimes a ten-page document and read it out in relation to a particular proposal, into the records, and he wants it recorded that these are his views. We say, OK, you have these views and then we'd say, do we now as a cabinet agree to pass it? Yes we are agreed, the reservations by Minister Buthelezi have been noted. Are we agreed, can we move forward? Yes, proceed.

POM     So you said you took as your guideline the RDP. Did every other minister do the same thing or when ministers walked into their offices was it up to themselves to develop policies and then to put those policies in front of cabinet?

MM     Yes, all of us assumed that we are proceeding from the RDP.

POM     But there was no question like - ?

MM     But the clearing of the problematics was done before cabinet met, even in the preparation of the legislation there would be a sub-heading which would say that in preparing this proposal I have consulted the following departments and following ministers so that everybody that was impacted upon by your proposal, you, through your department, had already consulted and sometimes even went up to the ministers. For example, I would often have to go to Public Enterprises and an example of a matter which we never resolved, but never took to cabinet, the RDP had said that Transnet should be falling under the Ministry of Transport. When we came into government Transnet was reporting to the Minister of Public Enterprises. I never reached a point where the Minister of Public Enterprises, who was ANC, agreed with me that we should now work towards that transfer. She insisted that it should remain under her.

POM     This is Stella?

MM     Yes. And the people that she appointed in Transnet, from the ANC, also insisted that they should remain under her so it was never resolved. Well, let's say I never achieved the goal that the RDP had put.

POM     But there was nothing in the same way, as you said, if a proposal was being prepared there was a sub-heading which said is this in line with the constitution? There was no sub-heading which said is this in line with the policy of the RDP?

MM     No because in the coalition government while we as the ANC kept reminding them that we are acting in terms of the RDP, the other parties in the government said in general they support it but they do not believe that it is workable. One of the first debates was with Derek Keys who was the first Minister of Finance in that he came forward and put a proposal clearly stimulated by the President and by Deputy President Mbeki to say Derek Keys, how are we going to fund RDP projects, what allowance can we make in the budget? And he came forward saying he's thought the matter over and he's putting a 5% one-off levy on the taxation for an RDP fund. That he brought to cabinet and we all agreed but that did not mean that the RDP programme was accepted by the other parties.

POM     But when somebody like Pik Botha brought a piece of legislation before parliament, he was Minerals –

MM     Minerals & Energy.

POM     It would go through the same process, a sub-committee then tabled and put before the cabinet?

MM     Yes, and he would say, "I have consulted, this memorandum has been taken also to the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Finance and the Ministry of this, that and the other and none of them have objections." And if we had objections we would gently push it aside for further consideration. "Minister, would you please come back with this proposal after you've consulted so-and-so." And sometimes we would have a situation where you consulted the department, and I remember once Trevor Manuel saying, many times, "I am sorry, I have not had a chance to consider this." And they'd say, "But we consulted your officials." "Yes you consulted my officials but unfortunately it did not come to me." "OK, OK, bring it back in two weeks time. In that period, Minister, will you apply your mind to it so we have your input."

POM     Would there be wide ranging discussion in the cabinet or was it more of serving as a rubber stamp?

MM     Initially there was quite a bit of wide-ranging discussions but in the nature of running machinery more and more the role of the cabinet sub-committee became important because if a member of the sub-committee said that when they considered the matter there were strong reservations then the question became, what are those reservations about and where? That would become the driving force of how intense the debate would be or how quickly you'd pass a matter. Then there were moments where, like the TRC legislation, long debates in cabinet, postponement of the matter, bring it back, postponement again for further debate to try and lose the differences. Other matters would pass fairly rapidly through cabinet because they had been addressed by the sub-committee and because it adequately reflected that when it consulted other departments the ministers were confident, but where the minister expressed a reservation then there would be a debate.

POM     What voices in the cabinet tended to be – if you go back to that five years, who were the ministers who tended to make significant inputs, first of all dealing with the coalition era and then dealing with the post-coalition era?

MM     Various ministers at different times would come up but the workload was so big that you were willy-nilly unconsciously driven to concentrate on the areas that you were specialising in but there was one minister who was often outspoken and had a view on every matter and that was Kader.

POM     Of course!

MM     A view on every matter. But then you see the matter had a positive and a negative side, that you had no staff in your department to process these memos coming from other ministries. Your staff were concentrating on, e.g. the transport impact, other memos were passing and at the beginning you said, "Oh well, OK, I can't study everything." Then those who spoke a lot on every matter, you began to realise as the debate went on that theirs was just a superficial look and often the minister would be saying, "But the facts are these." So while the person spoke it's meaningfulness was questionable. One had hoped that – in fact I had raised it with my department, with Ketso, that it was clear that in my ministerial office there was need for staff, staff with all sorts of broader interests who would be looking simultaneously as the documents hit my desk, they are also looking at the thing and they are sending me their inputs and drawing my attention on matters coming from all the other ministries. That position I never achieved because it would have meant a growth of a bureaucracy in the ministry and therefore needed the resources. And one said, wait a minute, just get the work moving first, get on top of your field.

     So the debates across issues only were productive and meaningful, in my view, when they impacted or somebody drew attention to its impact on the larger picture. Then there was impatience by colleagues. Oh, wait a minute, you're raising a global picture question, there is an immediate problem here and the effect of your input is delaying getting things moving. So these were the unconscious environmental pressures to begin to be bureaucratic in your work. In my view when I reflect on that period, the centrality of a properly equipped monitoring and research capacity in the President's office was a crucial mechanism that was needed before you began to talk about what was needed in each ministry. My view is that the pulling together and the assessment of the contradictions as these proposals were meshing and being counter-productive to the strategy had to be done at some centralised body. There's a tendency for Finance to do it because no piece can pass through without looking at its financial implications. But if Finance does it, it does it with a narrow technocratic viewpoint so it needs that capacity but you need to be aware that that is a technocratic outcome. Where is the mechanism of people who are sitting in an environment looking and processing and monitoring from a strategic environment, having some of the technical skills but looking at it strategically.

POM     That capacity didn't exist in the President's office.

MM     We had to start creating it and it began to be created more in the Deputy President's office, Thabo's office, with the knowledge that Thabo was going to be the next President. Madiba in his work style began to push more and more of the cabinet functioning and the day-to-day functioning of government towards Thabo and it became increased when FW and them walked out of government.

POM     How did FW while he was in cabinet, how did he behave? Let me say during the first couple of years did Mandela always conduct the cabinet meetings?

MM     He would hand over the chairing of the meetings sometimes to Thabo, sometimes to FW. FW in my view, a good number of the ministers began to feel and had to reprimand him one time in cabinet that we are getting a bit tired of his interventions which I think he saw as a statesman but he would be telling us how we should process things and he would be telling us how the cabinet functioned. At one stage one of the ministers –

POM     This is at cabinet meetings?

MM     At cabinet. He's not making a substantive input, he's making a processed input which is technocratic. But one of the ministers once said, "I object to this, I object to you trying to tell us how to do things because where you come from everything that we've inherited tells us that your cabinet was not functioning properly, so where do you come from to keep on lecturing to us?" And of course FW didn't know how to handle it because the only time he would come in on a substantive matter was on the TRC. He kept on raising problems meeting after meeting and we kept on setting mechanisms to process those things.

POM     We'll deal with that separately.

MM     But I'm saying on the rest of the matter, hardly substantial.

POM     But if the minister said that, Madiba wouldn't step in and say – would he allow?

MM     The one occasion where that criticism was very sharply made, Madiba allowed the criticism to be made, allowed FW to respond and then gently smoothed things out. Because the point was you didn't have to take a decision on that matter. You were hoping that FW has heard and FW was hoping that you've heard his explanation, but what you are hoping is that that will not recur and to be fair to FW after one or two such objections from ministers he did draw in his horns, he did realise that that style of intervention was not being helpful. Of course the NP was going through its own crisis in that I remember proposals, I don't remember the content of the proposals, that Pik Botha came with some proposal. We didn't feel it accorded with our strategic view, we didn't turn round and say it doesn't accord with our strategic view, we kept on raising detail problems which would necessitate his proposal to go back to be re-thought and we would leave it at that. But slowly we began to realise that, hey, the portfolio of Minerals & Energy is a significant portfolio and the result is that as Madiba kept changing when occasions arose to change the cabinet portfolios, slowly he made sure that an ANC minister headed that portfolio.

     How effective were we? On balance significantly effective. On detail on future development of the future functioning of government, very little opportunity to sit down and take stock of that. I recall after the second year Madiba said to all the ministers, from his office he sent out a communication that he needed each minister to give him a strategic report of the work that they have done in the past year and he said, "I don't want a 20-pager, I want a five-pager or so, six-pager, the detail, but I want you to address how far what you have been doing has taken us strategically, where is it taking us?"

POM     Did he say in terms of the RDP framework?

MM     No, he said, "You put down in your paper what has been your strategic outlook and then you put down what you have done and then conclude by measuring how far what you have done is realising your strategy, but put it down succinctly." He didn't follow up the exercise because the first time around when I spoke to him he said he had to send some of the documents back because they ended up 60 pages and they were cluttered with detail and it became clear to him that much more preparation had to be done and he needed much more capacity in his office to interact with the ministers on their reports before they reached his desk and he did not have the capacity in his office to do that. So it would have meant that either he finds the time to sit down and read and send back notes and remember to follow up or put it aside for a while and look for other mechanisms.

     It's happened even after he left government, as he started writing his memoirs he phoned me one day and he said, "Mac, I'm busy with my memoirs and I'm asking the ministers who served under me to give me a four page report of what they achieved in the five years." So I said, "OK", and I respected the four pages. I did the same thing, this was the strategic vision, this is what we did, this is how far we moved towards realisation and these were the obstacles in the way insofar as we're not realising it. Months later I met him and I said, "How's the exercise going?" He said, "Oh, not useful." I said, "Why?" He says, "I'm getting 60 pages and 70 pages of irrelevant stuff."

POM     So the more insecure the minister the longer the report.

MM     No, no, we used to have a joke in the ANC in exile, in the Revolutionary Council the classic joke was where you sent a memo -

POM     So the difference in style between the way Madiba would conduct a cabinet meeting and the way De Klerk would conduct one or the way Thabo would conduct one?

MM     I think two things were happening with Madiba. I think in a very real sense he was a reluctant President, that if he had his way he may not have accepted the presidency given his age, etc., and therefore he was well switched on to ensuring that Thabo grew into that job.

POM     But a number of people have said that Cyril was his choice.

MM     That was past. He is not a person to sit back and reflect on those things.

POM     But that wouldn't have been until later in the - ?

MM     No, very early, well before the elections, once he accepted the views of the officials that he had consulted and their view was Thabo should be appointed.

POM     Did that go to the NEC for a vote?

MM     No it didn't go to the NEC. What he says he did is that he consulted his officials.

POM     His officials being?

MM     The official office bearers of the ANC, the Chairperson, the Secretary General, the Treasurer General, the President. He says he took the matter to the officials and he said, "Here is a matter that we need to think about."

POM     A number of those would have had to recuse themselves, Cyril would have, Secretary General, Thabo.

MM     He would have consulted Zuma, Nkobi, Walter – was OR dead by then? OR had passed away. When did OR pass away? If OR was alive he would have consulted OR too. What he says without naming who – he just says, "I took it to the officials, sought their advice, argued in favour of Cyril, they argued in favour of Thabo and I accepted their view." Now once he had accepted that view, and he never made any of us privy to those discussions till years later, but for the rest of the period his mind was focused on one thing, now my successor is appointed, I now have to make it possible for my successor to take up the work and fulfil the task.

     So it fitted in also with his retirement mode that he should do everything to give the space to Thabo but that does not mean that he was not an interventionist President but his interventions were largely dictated on the larger issues, not on the detail, and if he intervened on the detail he sometimes went very deep into the detail but it would be around something that he felt would likely jeopardise the national process. So to a large extent and with that volume of both ceremonial, public, parliamentary and governance duties, his was increasingly non-intervention. FW's was let me just ensure that the meeting proceeds smoothly, and where he dug his heels in he was seeing that rather than a full scale debate and a clash, rather postpone it for another time and he himself, I think, would gravitate to - can I discuss the matter with Thabo. Thabo too would at times, where that potential for disagreement was sharp, would postpone matters and you assumed, well, how's it going to work? Is he going to take it to Madiba? Is he going to take it to FW? But with ministers Madiba would make interventions by seeing the minister alone and discussing. Thabo too, as Deputy President already on some issues, would seek a postponement and then quietly meet the minister involved. So that was the style that was emerging. If the matter has not been pre-resolved by consultation, postpone and seek to resolve it by consultations so that when it comes back it's come back in a resolved fashion.

POM     So a lot of work went into those years of trying to ensure consensus without ever having put it up to a vote.

MM     It still goes on, a lot of effort is still put into consensus and I think it would be put in even if cabinet was ruled by the ANC alone.

POM     What role did Buthelezi play?

MM     Buthelezi settled into a stance of leading his positions and making it a matter of record. Gradually he began to be given chairing of sub-committees. He chaired OK but he was not interventionist and his reading of his positions into the record became such a mechanical exercise that one didn't bother to even listen to what was being said because it was long, it was boring, it was not succinct and you know you would say, 'noted' and proceed. So the interaction was never constructive in that field. Construtiveness emerged more in the consultations that you would have minister to minister, groups of ministers, etc., and one of the problems that is still sitting there is the Immigration Bill because it kept being commented on and shifted, withdrawn and brought back but it never reached a finality which suggests to me that Minister Buthelezi did not go to engage on a one-to-one.

POM     With other ministers.

MM     Other ministers. He may have sought one-to-ones with Thabo as Deputy President but I don't think that that was enough around the issue because the FW style of implying that he would have a one-to-one with Thabo was suggesting you and I can sort it out and then you, Thabo, would have to take it through your party structure to sort your party out. That had the danger, or at least it created the suspicion, that what he was trying to do was to create the proposal that they had put at CODESA of a triumvirate controlling the government or within the ministers a super council of ministers, and therefore assume that you would then drive your party machinery and I would suspect that Thabo would be wary of that. But I think that the other thing was that at the back of his mind he saw himself as the senior Deputy President whereas the reality was that from our point of view the senior would be the putative next President and it didn't matter length of service. So Thabo would have had that problem of how to govern his relationship with FW such that while they are both Deputy Presidents Thabo's voice in those one-to-ones –

POM     One was more equal than the other?

MM     More equal than the other.

POM     Before De Klerk withdrew from the coalition were there signs that this was happening? Were there increasing tensions or was it something that took the ANC by and large by surprise?

MM     No, no, there were signs, there were signs. There were individual ministers of the NP who at times would get out of a meeting and would say, and when we would be informally criticising FW,many of the ministers expressed sympathy for our disappointment with FW.

POM     Many of?

MM     The Nat ministers. Because after cabinet we would most of us have lunch together and we would sit together around the tables and chat away so there were individual ministers in the NP and some of them I suspect even went so far as to go to Madiba because I suspect Madiba would call an individual minister and say, "I don't understand this position." And I believe that some of the ministers from the NP side would in those one-to-one's say no, they don't agree with FW or that they don't agree with the position taken by the NP, they think it's not constructive enough and I would suspect that before they pulled out there were enough hints. I think Dawie de Villiers had already gone to see Madiba to say that he would like Madiba to support him joining the World Tourism, or some body, based in Spain, the world organisation. I think others would have gone the same way. It would be interesting if Madiba deals with that in his biography but knowing him I don't think he would deal with it.

POM     I guess we'll take that line out in the interview. Or do you want it in there? I'll leave it in.

MM     I think that the style of governance is beyond the question of how one presides at a cabinet meeting. I think that cabinet meetings are an important part of the process of governance but I think it is the direct interaction between the Chief Executive's office and the individual people too that is a necessary glue to get the cabinet function as a proper collective. I remember when I was appointing Ketso as the DG I went to Madiba before I took the matter to cabinet. I was conscious that I'm of Indian origin and I was appointing a person of Indian origin, although of impeccable record in the ANC. I had tried to find other people, couldn't find, the people that I approached either didn't want to, wanted too much a high salary or some were not available.

POM     Why did you approach other people if you already knew that Ketso was the person?

MM     This was before I decided on Ketso. So when I settled on Ketso I went to Madiba and said, "Madiba, here is my problem and this is the person I want to appoint. What do you think?" And he said, "Very good choice, I support you." I took the process through, it was approved. Then months later I got wind of murmurings among some of the ANC comrades, I think it was in a publication called Tribute, a black publication magazine, I'm not so sure, run by Thami Mzwai, but at that time by Jon Quelane and Thami Mzwai, that a general article commented that ministers were appointing people from their similar race groups and in particular they made that remark about me. But there was this murmuring going on and then surprise, surprise, I learnt from Madiba one day in a casual chat that one of the veterans of the ANC who was in parliament and who was in the Transport Committee went to Madiba to complain about the appointment of Ketso. Madiba never brought it to me. I would have liked it if he had brought it to me so that I could meet that colleague and explain but it's clear Madiba listened to him and said to him, "I don't agree with you. What's your objection to Ketso?"

     So the matter died but the matter stayed on in the public agenda when in The Star one day reporting on some matter on Transport, round about 1997/98, Kaiser Nyatsumba in a Star column attacked me and said that I was employing only Indians. I didn't bother and when Kaiser Nyatsumba became the editor of The Star he invited me to a lunch at The Star. So I went to the lunch and I was due to fly off that day to Cape Town at about three o'clock or four o'clock, three o'clock I think. We had a very nice lunch with key people in The Star, most of them white but Kaiser was the host, and they were asking me questions on Transport, I was answering, explaining. They asked me on wider issues which happened in a way very nicely over lunch and then just as the lunch was finishing and Kaiser was thanking me for coming, in his thanks he raised the question, criticising me for appointing Indians. Now this was done at the conclusion of the lunch but because he had written on it I then, when he finished thanking me and now was closing the meeting, I said, "No."

POM     And he criticised you in closing?

MM     Yes. So I said, "No, we don't do this. You have raised matters which you should have raised in the question time and I now insist we carry on." And I called my PA and to cancel my flight because this matter I said, "Doesn't last like this." So I insisted that they all sit down and we tackle the question. I set about explaining and Kaiser went into the defensive and I said, "No, here is a report that you have written some weeks ago on this same matter. Now what I'm offering you here in front of your whole management, I'm offering you a visit to my department, no restrictions. You walk through the whole department, you meet anybody you want to, you talk to anybody you want from the DG down, and you question them about the figures, how many appointments, what we inherited, what was the racial composition, what are the changes, who's been appointed, who's at middle management, who's at top management, everything." I said, "I want you to come and see that and when you have seen I want you to have the guts to publish a correction but that's the condition that what you see you will report on and you will publicly acknowledge that you were wrong if the facts show you that. But if the facts show you anything else, don't apologise, you hammer me."

     Kaiser came and I followed him up after that. It was a very rough discussion. I really was angry with him and went for him. He virtually just came to the ministry, he didn't bother to go and meet even my DG and the department, he didn't bother to walk through. He came and sat in my office and I put the overall picture and the statistics and the reports, showed him other people who were black, and I showed him white democrats appointed who participated in the struggle and challenged him. I said, "Are you saying that I should appoint not that white?" I had by that time appointed the Assistant Secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union, I said, "Are you saying that because he's white he shouldn't be appointed there? Show me. Let's talk." I showed him African candidates. When I finished that report I said, "Now you can go through the department." He said, no he doesn't need to, and he published a mingy correction. He's part of the problems of this country, how to move forward.

POM     Let me ask you, it's a question I asked Vella and he gave me an answer. It's a question that I would raise with you. In a sense it has been the Indian community that has been at the forefront of organised struggle against first of all the British government and then against the government of SA and for the size of the population the number of people who occupied key positions in the struggle is disproportionate to the size of the population itself. Why do you think that happened?

MM     I think firstly the bulk of the Indian population in SA came as indentured labourers but even those who came as traders and teachers, etc., the so-called 'passenger Indians' who paid their fare, were able quickly to come together against the conditions they were experiencing here in SA through the intervention of Gandhi. I think Gandhi's visit to SA on a legal matter and his experience and the stage he was at his development led to his forming the Indian Congress in 1894.

POM     But he was demanding the restoration of rights that had been taken away from the Indians by the British government, so he was in a sense demanding –

MM     No, what he experienced in the 1890s was also the restrictions between the different republics before union. We were confined to Natal. People of Indian origin some of them had come into the Transvaal as traders, etc., but if you were in Natal you couldn't come into the Transvaal and settle here. Those in the Transvaal could not own land, they were owning it through white nominees. So he came on a legal matter but he experienced being thrown off the train in Pietermaritzburg, he experienced discrimination here in the Transvaal and those experiences, together with his having studied in Britain and the Indian experience, were all gelling together and he philosophically began to look at satyagrana, passive resistance, as a moral force and his experimentation with that was by the formation of the Indian Congress.

POM     Before SA was formed?

MM     Yes, before SA was formed. So he was bringing an Indian experience of India, an experience of living in Britain, an experience of what he was enduring and seeing other Indians endure in SA. So he brought a direct world view that he was developing and started the Indian Congress. Yes, confined to the actual conditions that Indians were experiencing that he could see plus the simultaneous onset of the removal of rights that were ipso facto granted when you change from an indentured labourer to become a settler in Natal. So he pushed it for the Indian community. He began to see the need for some relationship, for instance in the Anglo Boer War and the Bambata Rebellion when he began to form an Indian Brigade as first aiders serving both sides of the combatants. He had not yet evolved his own position towards what is the relationship between the Indian struggle and the African struggle but by the time of India's independence in 1947 the message that came from Nehru, the head of the Indian government and now head of the Indian Congress Party, was very clear. Addressing the Indian community in SA he said, "Your future is with the African majority."

POM     Did he come here?

MM     No.

POM     He said it in?

MM     He sent a message from India.

POM     To the Congress?

MM     To the Congresses. "You, the Indian community in SA, your future is inextricably linked to the future of the African people." He was saying you may be Indian but you have to see yourself first as South Africans and relate to the cause of the African people before you see yourselves as Indians attached to India. That's your future.

     Now we're trying to answer the question why proportionately a greater proportion. I think the Indian community also came from a background where they found it quickest to regroup themselves on self help as a community both from a religious background, be it Hinduism or the Moslem faith, the idea of charity and assisting the underdog in your community led to them, for example, to build educational capacity at their own cost. So that self help was strong. Thirdly, almost on a par with the African people but very early on it saw education of their children as a crucial instrument and then in the context of apartheid treating now the different race groups differently, whilst the Nats came in with the idea of repatriating the Indians to India, that measure of forced repatriation gave the Indians an even stronger need to stand together.

POM     Was there actual repatriation?

MM     Yes, yes, the NP in advent to power tried to enforce legislation which included carrots and sticks to say that the Indian community is a foreign community in South African society, that they would be repatriated to India and that they would be given an allowance, financial reward, if they chose repatriation. Secondly, the sticks – you were not allowed to even marry a person of Indian origin and bring your spouse over to SA.

     That was 1948 but it had campaigned on this thing for years. It had run boycotts in the Transvaal dorps against the Indian trader but the more it attacked the Indian community the more it forced the Indian community to think of itself and band together and yet the Indian Congress leadership by that time, by 1946, had already signed the Dadoo/Xuma Pact to say we stand together with the African people. So there's an educational advantage that we had.

     I myself, when I reflect on my life, I think I have said I had no schooling in the Indian culture, no formal schooling, neither the language nor the culture, and I am like a misfit even in my family that my brothers and sisters older than me studied the Indian language up to a level and I come along and then after me come my nieces and nephews who began to be encouraged to study the Indian religion and culture and everything. But I just grew up sort of in a hiatus.

POM     Why at school was the Indian language not taught?

MM     No it wasn't taught, you had to create your own school after the English school to go for your Indian classes.

POM     So your brothers and sisters did that?

MM     Yes, they would go to school, finish school and then go to another school run by the community where you could learn your language and religion. So I never saw myself as Indian. I'm more compelled to see myself as Indian by the circumstances which still put you in that category and for years I used to say I'm not Indian, I'm South African.

POM     When you were growing up?

MM     Yes even when I was growing up. Remember I was playing at the camp with Africans, Indians, whites and coloureds. It didn't make sense and at home I would speak English and my father would be extremely critical. He used to call me an Englishman, "You go to hell, you're a bloody Englishman. We don't speak that language here." But be that as it may when I come into political activity the progressive leadership had imprinted one thing, don't worry about positions, just do the work. When the Indian Congress/African National Congress alliance began to grow up that culture was strong for everybody. Positions, unimportant, you just do the fighting. Rewards you never thought of. The result is I certainly did not see it as a problem that here I was in MK, active in the struggle, but position not there. But I remember debating with Madiba in prison were the conditions maturing for the ANC to be the sole home and he was arguing that there is still need for the separate organisations to mobilise under the specific circumstances of each of the racial communities. In fact he held that view up to the time I left prison and I remember saying to him, "But how is it that the political guidance of MK must come from the ANC, so I must fight in MK as a soldier and be prepared to give my life up, but I cannot sit in the body, belong to the body that takes the overall political decisions. Sharp arguments.

POM     And his answer?

MM     His answer was, "Yes, Mac, it sounds unfair but the reality is that the African majority has got to lead. I concede the need for us to work together and be acting as equals but at the moment the specifics of an organisation catering for the African people and an organisation catering for the Indian, catering for the whites and one for the coloureds, is necessary because the practical conditions that they experience are different." And that was easy to understand. The pass laws were ravaging the lives of the African people and were their first point of hostility to the system. The pass laws didn't apply to us.

POM     You didn't have to carry one?

MM     No.

POM     So even when you were banned from the Transvaal?

MM     All that was there was a permit to enter.

POM     And Indians did live in the Transvaal.

MM     Yes. But the point is that it was not the day to day pass that depended on your being in the urban area, your job, your harassment, your arbitrary arrests as you're walking on the pavement and your landing in jail and ending up as farm labourers, it wasn't. So if you see the African comrades, the older generation than me, Walter and all, absolute hatred for the pass laws and any time you tried to mobilise the African people you had to start with the pass laws. But if you went and spoke to an Indian audience about the pass laws it meant nothing, they couldn't understand. So if you look at the Defiance Campaign and you look at the six laws that were targeted for your defiance, they were selected because of their impact on the different communities. The pass law was number one. The Group Areas Act because it was openly said by the government it is to destroy the Indian people and drive them out. The Population Registration Act was to impact on the coloured people, choose – are you white, are you coloured or are you black, African? And splitting up families. So the six laws were selected so that one or other would have a resonance in the different communities.

POM     The other three were?

MM     I can't remember off hand what they were, but you'll see it.

POM     I'll find out.

MM     But you will see that each one, one or other impacted on one or other community. When the overtures were made by the United Party in the coming 1953 election to say to the Defiance Campaign, call it off and we will ride that wave as the United Party could overthrow the NP in the elections and when we come in we will repeal those laws. The one law that they said that they wouldn't repeal was the pass laws. They said they will repeal the other laws that we were defying but they will not repeal the pass law on the grounds that the mine owners needed the pass law system for their labour in the mines and they would not get the support as the United Party of the mine workers and business. And the ANC said, "No deal." So I am saying the specifics were different for each of the communities. They still are relatively different.

     Now brought up in that culture when in 1985, no before 1985, when I get abroad I don't ask, Padraig, I am brought up in this culture that there's a job to do, the leadership will tell you what job, you do it. I am just finishing transcribing Madiba's autobiography in London when Dr Dadoo apparently attended a meeting in Zambia of the Revolutionary Council. He comes back, calls to meet me in London and says to me, "It has been decided that you will be the secretary of the Internal, they want you in Lusaka and I'm arranging it." It was not a question who's decided because obviously Secretary of the ANC, that's a decision of the ANC. So I go.

POM     But moving again a little bit backwards, when you came back from London in the early sixties to a considerable extent your network was an Indian network, Indres Naidoo –

MM     No, Indres was not in my network.

POM     Well you were lodging there.

MM     You mean in a social capacity?

POM     Kathy perhaps.

MM     I had to live with an Indian family otherwise what would happen? I would stand out for the police. I'm illegal in the Transvaal, I can't go and live with an African community and expect to get away with it. The natural thing is that you are put in your ghettos and the place to merge and disappear is in the community that on site you'd be assumed to be part of.

POM     I put the question the wrong way. It's that there was, how do I put it? There was a cohesiveness about the way the Indian community, those who were active or organised, (i) a disproportionate number were active in the SACP or in the Congress and it seems to me that in many respects the Indian community seemed to be spearheading things. You were innovative, you were all leadership material, you were all risk takers to an extent, you were all enterprising, all things that are demanded in any successful –

MM     Which is a characteristic of a minority in any society. Take the Jewish community in the United States, intricately right to the top in spite of an incipient anti-Semitism. Take the Italian community in the US as a minority. Yes, big image of the Italians but intertwined open any corporate register, CEO's, Chief Financial Officers, they've got an Italian surname. Right now the current film, not an outstanding film, The Big Fat Greek Wedding, comedy, the reason why it's a hit all over and a box office hit is it's broken away from the Italian America to a Greek America and pokes fun at itself. So it caught a new way, created a new way, but it's a minority group. So I am saying minorities' survival in a society tends to make them group together very strongly, rely on helping each other and therefore sharpens their innovativeness and their drive.

     Maybe we mustn't make too much of it but when I come back in 1962 the issue of am I in the leadership is unimportant. The overwhelming thing is I'm back home to fight and I will do any job no matter how onerous because it's an honourable thing to be fighting. Circumstances brought me into the Central Committee of the party, an accident of history, namely the Rivonia arrests and the exile of Kotane and them so that they cannot come back, now needs a regrouping. So Bram Fischer invites me into the Central Committee. I am leaping not in the normal career path, the normal path would have been yes, I'm now in the District Committee of Johannesburg, you serve there for years and you move up, move up. But now I'm asked, please, turn up to this meeting. I get there it's a Central Committee meeting, and - listen, you're being co-opted onto the Central Committee. You sit there and you say why me? They said, "No, no, no, you're underground, you're evading police, you've got drive." OK, when I came into the country they look at where I should be deployed, I'm interviewed by the Communist Party, I'm interviewed by MK and a decision is taken, no, you concentrate on the Communist Party, you concentrate on the underground propaganda for the whole movement.

     Comes the Rivonia arrests, Ruth First is leaving the country, she comes to me, "Mac, there is a problem. Deep need for trained people in MK. You've done your training. In addition to your other work are you prepared to serve in MK?" I said, "But that's not a decision for me." She said, "Well there's a deep need." I said, "OK." So they say come and join the High Command. Now I haven't even served in a unit and I say, "No wait a minute guys, wait a minute", to Wilton Mkwayi, I said, "No, Wilton" - you can ask him.

POM     Yes I know we've gone through this. But I'm not talking of you specifically.

MM     But I think that that's a mirror of everybody's problem, that that drive came from a long political record, came from the close-knittedness, came from the culture which said the issue is to serve. When I get to Lusaka I am made Secretary of the Internal, I don't ask why am I not on the Revolutionary Council, not at all. It is in 1978, somewhere late in 1978, one day I visit Jack and Ray Simons, Ray is still alive in Cape Town. They were a home where the ANC gravitated, OR, everybody, and I bump into Ray Simons at her home and she says, "Mac, I have raised the matter with OR. I don't understand why you are not in the Revolutionary Council." So I said, "Ray, it's unimportant." She says, "But no, you are the Secretary of the Internal ANC. How come?" And she says, "I have challenged OR."

POM     Why you're not on the Revolutionary Council?

MM     Yes.

POM     But you are.

MM     No, that's when I'm put into it. I was not automatically put into it. I was made Secretary of the Internal in 1977 December, I served as Secretary, reports to the Revolutionary Council are to be written by me and taken by my chairman and then I would be called to Revolutionary Council meetings where they were interrogating the report. John Motsabi would come to me, "Listen Mac, the meeting has been grilling me on the report, I need you to come." So I would sit in the meeting explaining the report but I was not a member of the Revolutionary Council. And Ray Simons confronted OR about this.(She's hardly seeing people at the moment, even when I visited Cape Town I haven't seen her because she's very frail, she was the leading trade unionist. She was the person who created the Food & Canning Workers Union. Indres Naidoo would know where to find her. Whether she will see you is another matter.) But she says to me, "I have raised this matter with OR", and OR, she says, was embarrassed that they had never thought of putting me formally into the Revolutionary Council. So suddenly I'm told in late 1978, "Mac, you have been appointed to the Revolutionary Council, you now attend it as a member." Then in 1985 in the run up to Kabwe huge debates are going on in the branches.

POM     But you were made Secretary, you didn't just join it, you were made –

MM     No, not of the Revolutionary Council.

POM     Why am I getting confused?

MM     Secretary of the Internal Department and a member of the Revolutionary Council. Now when the Kabwe conference is taking place newspapers are commenting, huge divisions in the ANC between old guard and new guard, between militant and conservative, between left wing and conservative. But one of the debates is – should a non-African be allowed to be a member of the National Executive because Morogoro had decided that in the exile division of the ANC all races can be members but they cannot be members of the NEC. So this debate is taking place. I'm of course mostly out of Zambia but when my branch and people come to me to take part in this debate I said, "No, I'm not interested, not interested in this debate."

POM     Where would your branch be?

MM     Lusaka. That's my base. So I say I'm not interested in that debate. Let the matter be debated amongst the African comrades and I don't mind which way the decision goes. I am happy that I can serve the struggle in a way that is fulfilling to me. I feel it is stretching my abilities and I am quite happy. The debate takes place. When we get to Kabwe conference again there's lobbying at the conference around this issue and I said exclude me from the discussions. "Why?" I said, "It doesn't matter to me. I don't think it should matter. I think this is a decision that the ANC must take and only if the African membership decides that is it going to fly and be workable." So I never took part in that debate, didn't even speak on it. I only spoke on the Internal debate and on the political and military debate. That's where I felt I was doing my best, that's where I felt my contribution was. That they then elected me to the NEC, fine, but if they didn't it didn't matter.

     I think that's a culture that was there because that's how I was taught by my seniors, including the Vella Pillays. Listen, the future, if we see ourselves as Indians, your future is dependent on what you do not the positions you hold. And that's why I could challenge Kaiser Nyatsumba when he attacked me for being racially minded. I said no, no.

     And I had the greatest pleasure in Lusaka, my chairman of the Internal was a chap called John Motsabi. John Motsabi one day at a meeting of the Revolutionary Council bitterly complained about me. He said, "There's a problem with Mac, he thinks too much like an African. He's a bloody Indian but he thinks like an African." Now he was making this as a criticism and I thought, "Hey, this is the most wonderful praise that can be heaped on me." So that was his criticism, he says, "This is the problem with this bloody chap, he doesn't think like an Indian. His motivation in every debate it starts off with the African people's condition. His solutions start off with what needs to be done amongst the African people. And he relates to them on their problems." So I said, "This is fantastic", and poor John thought he was attacking me.

POM     He was an African?

MM     He is an African.

POM     So why did he see this as – you weren't fitting the stereotype of what you were supposed to be?

MM     Basically he felt that in the discussions and the debate that my solutions were being accepted by them. The proposal that I was putting was being accepted and it was hurting him. He said why isn't an African putting the proposal? So he gets mad at me and he says, 'The fucking problem is you think too much like an African." He used the words 'too much like an African'. It became a joke amongst us. Because it was alien to my whole experience to think of first what is in the interests of the Indian community. I had been taught that the future of the Indian community is inextricably linked with the future of the African and if you look at the South African problem if your solution is not grounded on resolving a problem for the African community it's an unsustainable solution.

POM     Yesterday Vella brought up a couple of interesting points. He mentioned one thing that I had not known. He said that you and Chris Hani had been very close. In all our interviews and last night I sent poor Leanne when I came back to do a search of all the interviews, through all the interviews we've done to see the number of times you've mentioned Chris Hani. In half a million words I don't think his name came up three times.

MM     Yes. Chris Hani and I were extremely close and it's difficult for me to talk about him because when I was detained in Operation Vula Chris had to take refuge in the Transkei and he was one of the strongest voices that stood up defending me and demanding my release at a time when a large number of the NEC were saying that taking up the Mac arrest and the Vula arrest is a disruption in the process of getting negotiations going. So Chris stood up very defiantly but Chris and I had differed very sharply at that last extended Politburo meeting that I've talked about where I was saying what is the space that the Communist Party needs to occupy and I had differed with him over the appointment to the leadership.

POM     Of Harry Gwala?

MM     Of Harry Gwala. And he had recommended that I should abide by the decision of putting in Harry and that there would be a commission of enquiry on the conduct of Harry to meet my criticisms and I had said it won't work. Shortly after that I'm arrested. I come out of arrest, now I don't know whether we'll use it, we'll have to think very carefully but I'm speaking freely, when I came out and after the trial collapses I'd retired, before the trial collapses I'd retired in December 1990. Chris was very unhappy with that decision and he took up a position with me to say, "Listen I don't agree with your retirement, bloody hell, you're letting us down." OK. When I returned to activity in July 1991 when I am re-elected and the NEC is created we were still in very, very close empathy because I remember at the first meeting of the NEC Madiba said to some of us that he would like the appointment of the Working Committee not to be a free vote, he would like to balance the racial groups, skills, etc. Chris came to me, Chris was at that time General Secretary of the Communist Party, he came to me at the conference of the NEC, "Mac, this is what Madiba is thinking. I don't like it." I said, "No, I agree with you." He said, "But can you go and speak to Madiba because Madiba wants to put this also at the meeting. It would be better if we persuaded Madiba to have an open election in the NEC for who joins the NWC." I said, "I support that." So he says, "Unless we go together and you add your voice our chances of persuading Madiba are less." So we went to Madiba and saw him about it.

     Now this was the same thing that had happened in Lusaka over Operation Vula, the NEC had been discussing from time to time saying that the problem is senior leaders are not at home and nothing would happen and it's at one meeting where the same criticism is made in assessing the progress at home, it's the meeting in 1986, and I listened to Chris speaking and during the tea break I go to Chris and I say, "Chris, we're saying the same thing all the time. I've now realised as I listen to the debate this time that the problem is the security of the NEC and the way to get past that is that sending in NEC members into the country has to be a very sensitive operation because we haven't got an adequate infrastructure. So what I am proposing, Chris, why don't you add that this task be entrusted to OR and there is no obligation on him to report to the NEC?" He says, "Mac, that's a brilliant idea!" We're still having tea, the debate has been closed already and I say, "Let's talk to Zuma." He says, "Good idea." So the two of us walk over to Zuma and put this. Zuma says, "Yes, I think you are right." Then the three of us go to OR and say, "Chief, we're unhappy that the debate is over and we're moving to the next item, this is our suggestion." And OR looks at the three of us and he says, "Alright, when we resume at tea I'll give you a chance to re-open the matter." And we agreed. When we got back to the meeting Chris speaks and puts the proposal, Zuma stands up and seconds the proposal. The meeting agrees. That's how Vula starts. So there was that sort of rapport.

     But post the 1991 elections in July black on black violence became a very burning issue.

POM     Then did the two of you go to Madiba?

MM     To Madiba, yes, and he finally withdrew the proposal.

POM     So it was an open vote?

MM     An open vote, and since then the NWC is appointed by open vote of the NEC. But I am saying where did the gap open up? I never returned to the Communist Party and Chris repeatedly made the signals unhappy. But the second thing was the black on black violence. Now I've told you about the background before the arrest about is the underground an insurance policy or is it part of our integrated strategy. Overwhelmed by my inactivity Madiba called Chris and Siphiwe Nyanda to put them in charge of the self defence units and in my heart of hearts while I saw the need for defence I felt that that self defence unit formula was going to be disastrous because by instinct I could see that Chris was going to dole out the weapons without checking the political credentials. The theory of the self-defence units was you're going to be guided by the community leadership. The potential, if you were not screening the people that you were arming, for those units to go their own way was extremely high and indeed I think it did become something of a problem.

POM     He even said that himself.

MM     Later on. But it was not a discussable issue. Maybe I'm wrong, it was not discussable – my inhibition was that if I discussed the issue I always felt uncomfortable, as I now feel since I've retired, that if I open my mouth I think that my comrades are entitled to turn to me and say put your money where your mouth is. And I'm not ready to put my money where my mouth is on certain issues. I'm not ready today to say I'll return to active politics. There's no way and I feel that that is a self-constraint in my make-up.

     So this gap opened up where Chris and I hardly saw each other. In the normal routine you hardly saw each other socially. It now became more because there I was innegotiations, there was Chris in the Communist Party, there was the Communist Party debating the Leipzig option and everything, ranting and raving whether the negotiations would succeed, and I was feeling you're out of touch with reality. And in the middle of all this Chris gets assassinated. It's like a deep wound that says I should have gone out of my way to still meet him and not wait for the death to intervene. The result is that while I haven't been that close to even Chris's wife about nine months ago Madiba phones me, he says, "Mac, Dimpo is in trouble, your bank is going to foreclose on her mortgage." This is Chris's wife. "Can you do something about it?" Without any question I would jump into resolve the problem and I would jump in and do more than I would do for others. Sometimes I sit back and say, "Why?" And I realise I am prepared to do more for Dimpo out of a sense of guilt, out of a sense that it was a life that ended at a stage where this closeness and empathy that we had for each other had frittered away. So that's Chris. Of course I know that with all Chris's strengths, and he had an immense set of strengths, there were huge weaknesses as well, the key being that he was capable of reacting overemotionally to situations.

POM     He was hauled before a tribunal of the ANC, right? And was saved from being executed by one vote for his criticism of the leadership.

MM     His courage, his abilities, his commitment, no question. His ability to relate to the masses while at the same time his ability to emotionally react and whether when he reacted emotionally he had the capacity to realise timeously that the emotional reaction needed to be tempered is an open question in my mind.

POM     Going back in time, how did the relationship develop? How did you become close?

MM     It really developed because Chris was based in Lesotho. He had crossed the country from Botswana and settled in Lesotho in 1973 and in 1977 when I was made the Secretary of the Internal this land-locked outpost headed by Chris and Lambert … was spoken about but there was no contact with it, it was very tenuous contact. Now and then somebody coming out of Lesotho would bring out a smuggled message. In 1978 round about April, having gone to Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, the neighbouring countries, and looked at what structures we had for internal work and who we had, I then went to OR and said, "I've got to get to Lesotho. Our best leadership is based in Lesotho, closest to home", and Chris and Lambert were travelling in and out of SA from time to time clandestinely. I said I've got to get to Lesotho and he said, "Look, extremely hazardous", but be that as it may I found my way to Lesotho and met Chris and Lambert and straight away I saw here in Chris a person for whom no risk was too large. So quite apart from sharing a viewpoint I saw one of these rare people who was prepared to live in constant danger. And I think he saw in me a similar thing, so sharing an ideology, we were both members of the Communist Party, he had been sent to Lesotho having been elected Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party, he was this outspoken person who had criticised the leadership after Wanke in 1969, had survived that chance of being executed and stood by his views, had not balked at coming into the country and settling in Lesotho, under very harsh conditions, he was detained many times in Lesotho, tortured and still stayed on. So there was all the potential that the chemistry was right besides the sharing of a viewpoint and a commitment. So we got on from there.

POM     Would that have been that the primary, that central to the struggle was the armed struggle?

MM     The armed struggle was, yes, central at that stage.

POM     Because you gave the interview, it's one of the things I want you to go through because I integrated the interview you did in 1977 into the Robben Island stuff, OK, but I always put down IDAF after it so that you can see – you will even recognise the style because I told you it was done in a different style, but at that point you were saying, you were talking a lot about Madiba, he says we see the armed struggle as being pivotal to what was happening. So I would think that in 1977 you would believe the same thing and that Chris would have believed the same thing. I mean he was a military man.

MM     And he was one of those people who was in the leadership ready to go into the battle zone. He was not saying create the conditions and the infrastructure before I go in. He was saying there is no infrastructure, yes, but I go in. So there was a great meeting of minds because from the time I got out of the country one of my personal drives was get back into the country, that's where you've got to count. And when I was told there was no infrastructure, where are the units and all that, I said they're going to be destroyed from time to time, you have to be there, we are out of touch, we are not giving timeous response.

POM     Chris agreed with that? Of course because he'd made it - Why did OR not mandate him to go in with you?

MM     He was mandated.

POM     To go to the Western Cape, right?

MM     Western Cape, but at the same time shortly thereafter he was appointed Chief of Staff of MK and as Chief of Staff he had to be with the bulk of the forces and that now, while they sent in Charles Nqakula and others to settle in the Western Cape, for Chris's entering they chose a different approach to mine. Mine was - I'm sending in some foreigners to provide accommodation so that I've got different pockets of accommodation, and I'm going in and when I'm inside there I'll create the structures. With Chris what OR and JS did was Chris seems to have put the proposal, let's send in Charles Nqakula and a few others underground. Let them settle down in the Western Cape and they will create the conditions for me to come in.

POM     So Chris knew you were in the country?

MM     We were theoretically not supposed to know but as I said Joe Slovo informed the Politburo and it never came as a surprise to them. When I was asked by OR to prepare the strategic document he already told me that he would like Chris and Jacob Zuma to come and already at one stage they began to tell me of what measures they were taking with regards to Chris and I had to say, "Chaps, don't tell me, you will link us up when you assess us to be individually securely settled. Then you will do the linking but until then don't tell me because suppose I get caught and I am tortured, I don't want to have information that becomes one more burden that I might have to divulge."

     So the severance took place there, they didn't inform me thereafter but the means that they adopted I would have criticised. I would have criticised it because they combined sending Charles into the country with looking for foreigners but they did not see the significance of the foreigner coming and settling in the country for your safe accommodation, that once you were operating here even if you broke up the networks into separate compartments, isolated, the overlaps between the networks would unobtrusively develop and if you were in danger in this network and you sprung out of it and when it settled in another network, the chances that the enemy would track you into that other network were better than the chances that enemy would track you if you went and started living in a place that was occupied by an expatriate who was not active and who nobody knew about except you. I always approached the matter saying when danger arises at home we must avoid evading that danger by running out of the country. We must outsmart the enemy, he would expect you to run out of the country. You must move in the same area that he's hunting you but into a place where he cannot find you because he too will think that you've gone out of the area.

     That's where J N Singh came in, that in the Durban region not having expatriates settled there, except one which I handed over to Ronnie, I went to J N Singh to say, "Find me a person who will accommodate me in Durban. Find Gebhuza a person who will accommodate him in Durban, but don't let me know who's going to be accommodating Gebhuza and don't let Gebhuza know who's going to accommodate me." That accommodation would only be used when I know the enemy is hunting.

     So Chris's approach was slightly different.He sent in an illegal cadre, he sent in several illegal cadres for them to create the conditions and it didn't come to fruition. I think Chris remained for a long time unconvinced of the potential of negotiations and I think he probably died still with reservations around that question and I feel that I should have engaged with him. I think it is an open secret that he had a deep reservation about Thabo's approach and sometimes people describe that reservation as rivalry, certainly at the 1991 conference of the ANC he was ready to stand if Thabo was going to be nominated and stand for election as – was it Deputy Presidency? And the matter was resolved by nominating Walter, they both stood off, but if that solution had not been found he would have insisted on standing to challenge Thabo for that position. I think that besides any personal rivalry he had deep reservations.

POM     When you say 'Thabo's approach' why do you call it Thabo's approach?

MM     I think Thabo probably moved to the – no I'm saying that I think Chris entertained deep reservations that negotiations would develop, deliver a result that was in favour of the struggle and I am not so sure, and he felt that Thabo's support for the negotiation process was flawed by that lack of sensing the dangers of negotiation.

POM     Now did this surface at meetings of the Politburo?

MM     Well remember I was in the country and I was therefore not attending Central Committee meetings so I wouldn't know of the debates there. But I speculate that he had that concern. Certainly by the way in which some of the debates which were positions and options that were put up in the African Communist post-1991, particularly around this Leipzig option, the underlying assumption was that negotiations could not deliver a suitable result and that there was a different way, it was what they called the Leipzig option. I think from that distance that I had from the party I could not sense that Chris had shifted away from a singular focus on suspicion about negotiations to how to make negotiations succeed. He himself did not participate very actively at the World Trade Centre, he left it to Joe Slovo and I don't think that he had debates with Slovo which convinced him. I feel I could have added to broadening his approach by engaging with him and I think in his mind he would be seeing himself at one pole and Thabo at the other pole of the approach and he would be seeing Thabo's approach as too trusting of the negotiation process. How Thabo saw him would be another matter.

     But I think also Chris had a kernel of central truth in his position from the time I met him and that was that the activation of the masses needed to be a crucial element of the struggle and, yes, in the seventies it was the armed struggle and I think that up to 1990 he was of the view that a bigger push needed to be made on the armed struggle side. That led to his position that he felt that one had to be an example if you are in leading positions of being involved directly in the fight and that many, many people, while they supported the development of the struggle didn't really push and were not really prepared to themselves go into the battle line.

     So that's where it was I think and that's – nobody has turned round to write about Chris, to examine the multi-faceted personality that he was but it is a thing that's outstanding. I mean over a year ago in the story of this plot of Cyril and Tokyo and Matthews Phosa all sorts of statements were made that there was an attempt to assassinate Thabo and Chris Hani was involved. I don't buy that but I do think that that seed of rumour-mongering rests on the perceived rivalry between these two people.

     In the Central Committee debates there were no real clashes between the two. Intellectually I went more to Thabo and emotionally I was more close to Chris. I don't know whether this is a meaningful statement.

POM     Vella talked too about what he called 'two poles' in Lusaka, two poles of both intellectual and struggle viewpoints and that at one end there was Chris and you and at the other there was Joe Slovo and Thabo.

MM     No. I don't think that's a correct reading. For me the debate as we moved forward was - my perception in 1977/78 was that the emphasis had moved to the armed struggle but it had moved the wrong way, it had moved to saying only the armed struggle is the way forward. I disagreed profoundly with that approach because you will see it in Reflections in the essays of Madiba, in the essays of Walter, that from the time we set up MK the political mobilisation task was the bedrock, that in fact in prison we were using the term 'people's war' when it had not yet become part of the dictionary in Lusaka. So this word, only the armed struggle was causing me problems, and secondly, yes, at a simplistic level I would say I had differences with Slovo on the fact that for him while he wrote fantastically about the armed struggle being a development of the political struggle, in practice in heading those operations and criticising Reggie Debray's views in South America of the focus theory that the armed struggle could become a catalyst for the revolution, while he criticised Reggie Debray he in practice was following that path. So that was a different debate.

     I don't think Thabo ever expressed a view on that type of issue around this question of whether it's only the armed struggle but certainly when the commission sat writing the Green Book, Thabo was on the commission, post the visit to Vietnam, the climate was right now –

POM     Who went on that visit with OR?

MM     With OR I think were Joe Modise, Joe Slovo, Cassius Make, but their coming back now created the climate for a balancing to be brought about without one or other accusing each other of wrong positions. I know because in the introduction it is acknowledged that I served as a consultant to that group and that when I was passing through Maputo they asked me to stay behind particularly to write the section on the strategy and tactics for the Bantustans. I did the draft.

     I think the commission sat in Maputo and worked continuously for about a month. I happened to get to Maputo, they had already worked two, three weeks down the line so they'd hammered out the general framework of the approach. They had been busy drafting sections and then they called me saying. "We are now debating the strategy and tactics to be used for the Bantustans. Could you please join us and can you lead the discussion?" Now I had not received a briefing of how they had debated the matter so far so I come in on a segment and I remember sitting at Zarina's flat preparing furiously saying, "Oh, oh, I don't know what they are thinking and they've asked me to lead the discussion." So it's like leading a discussion in a lacuna. And I get there and we start discussing. I found no problems, no major disagreement with what I was saying so it was almost like I was in tune with their thinking. Then I think we debated it for a day and at the conclusion OR says, "Well, will you go and prepare a first draft of this section tonight and come with it tomorrow?" So I went back to Zarina's flat, sweating it out, saying I don't even know how the rest of the thing is written, because she was saying, "What are you agitated about?" I said, "Whatever I draft has got to flow with what has already been drafted." She was saying, "But why should that be a problem? Are you saying it's a problem?" So I was being very agitated in drafting and unhappy but I knew that next morning it had to be put down. I took it to the meeting, there was hardly any alteration. They said, "Thank you very much, it will be incorporated in the document. Leave the text."

     So I am saying Vietnam, the visit had changed the thing but it couldn't have changed it if, for example, Thabo was holding a contrary view because if he was holding a contrary view he was the key drafter and he would have taken the thing and polished it and introduced the ambiguities and the fudges to leave it open end. That didn't happen. Was he shifting in his views? I don't know because to say he was shifting you'd have to know what were his views before and I don't know his views before. What I know is that when I arrived in Zambia in December 1977 in response to saying that, "Come, you're attending a meeting, you are required here, you are the Secretary of the Internal and their first meeting is scheduled", when I arrived in Lusaka I went to the ANC office and Alfred Nzo and Thabo Mbeki called me, took me into a little car and we drove off and then they began to brief me on the structures. They gave me a picture, Thabo did the main briefing and there very clearly was the Internal Department and in that briefing they said, "This has been neglected in the work of the Revolutionary Council, the military work has been given lots of attention but this area of work has been neglected and this is the task you're being asked to perform. Get this work going, restore the balance."

     So was Chris solely thinking of military work? I don't think so, I think he and Thabo went to the same training in the Soviet Union in the early years. They went through a commando type training and in that commando type training the political work was great emphasis in those years, that's in the 1964, 65, 66 period. Chris's work in Lesotho had not neglected political work. Maybe there would be a debate as to whether he saw political work as ancillary to military work or whether he saw political work as the bedrock. But if you read Reflections on Madiba and Walter you will see that the political work was the bedrock. Madiba even criticises himself saying that in setting up MK they did disservice to the political struggle because they denuded it of its leadership and he says on hindsight that was a mistake. But Walter's essay I'm completely in tune with. It was a thinking that I shared in 1976 and if you read the documents of the ANC, 1976/77 there is a coinciding of the assessment of Black Consciousness but there is a creeping in in the exile of the words 'only the armed struggle will bring us victory', only the armed struggle is the way forward. So that was my difference and in that one I can't say that Thabo and Joe Slovo thought alike.

     Joe too was a very complex person because when I got out and I raised the question of our tactics for the Bantustans, Joe was taken up with my view and he was actually preparing a paper which was entitled, he did a draft for the Communist Party, attack the Bantustans from within them and from without, meaning go into them and attack them and also attack them from outside. Whereas the mood in the country was to have nothing to do with them.

POM     When you say 'go in and attack them' it was send the MK in to attack them?

MM     No, no, no.

POM     Join their administrations and undermine their administrations?

MM     Yes and even the question was should you stand up in the elections, should you sponsor another party to stand in the elections? This debate was taking place in prison also, it was the division between Madiba and Govan. Govan was saying Lobatsi conference says we boycott, we have nothing to do with the elections. But we were saying now here's a reality and you need a mobilising instrument and shouldn't you put up candidates even under a different name but putting the message because here's a buffer being created to us and while you do that don't get sucked in and become supporters of perpetuating it. Attack it from outside also, meaning have nothing to do with it, hit it politically.

     So Slovo had drafted a paper which he showed me but events outstripped us. That's the time when the Inkatha/ANC meeting collapsed in London in 1979 so the mood was not right but he had drafted a paper: attack the Bantustans from within and without and that statement 'within and without' is what I was using when I met him in the debate saying there's a gap in our approach towards mobilisation.

     So I am saying Slovo was a far more complex person. I think Thabo is complex too but I have never engaged with Thabo. I have engaged with Slovo, I have engaged with Chris and they were forthcoming in expressing their views. I have never had a relationship with Thabo where I have engaged with him even one to one.

POM     Never?

MM     Never.

POM     Why? How? I mean you're both on the Central Committee, you're both on the Politburo, you worked together in Lusaka, your paths crossed, you'd draft things together.

MM     We had this peculiar relationship that in a meeting of the Central Committee or the NEC if he expressed a view or put a question – he was not one for lengthily putting his view. He was one in a debate for putting questions. He likes to debate by putting a series of questions.

POM     Socratic.

MM     But when we look at each other often it would be like, hm, I see where you're getting to, and he would be looking at me, hm, I see where you're getting to and, yes, we're both getting to the same point. There was no difficulty at that. If in a debate he had to conclude a thing I'd see the fudges and we were looking at each other and it's almost as if we both acknowledge just by the look that, look I'm fudging this thing very deliberately. It was almost as if we were always on the same wavelength but without talking. Never was it a debate. If I said something I'd find him incorporate that into his view in what he was saying so I could see it's there, but to say a real intellectual exchange of ideas, no, it never happened.

POM     In government the question has arisen –

MM     At cabinet level one incident that stands out, I was making an appointment, he was chairing the meeting, it was the sub-committee on economic affairs, and after I proposed it, a little bit of discussion, he said, "I have received objections to your proposal. Can we postpone this matter and discuss it outside the meeting?"

POM     This was at a cabinet meeting?

MM     A cabinet sub-committee. And I said to him, "Fine but I the law requires me to make an appointment so can we agree that you and I will meet and discuss this matter in time to table it at cabinet next week", because it had to go to the sub-committee, "So can we make an exception?" Another minister began to argue still for my proposal. Thabo cut him short. Now he didn't disclose who had objected and I assumed that he was going to call the meeting and that whoever has made representation to him objecting would surface at the meeting. That's a Wednesday morning. Nothing happens until Monday, don't get a word from his office, so I phone him, I say, "We've only got tomorrow, we haven't met." He says, "Oh yes, I've been very tied up." I say, "Shall I call the meeting for tomorrow in Cape Town?" He says, "Yes, yes, go ahead. Make it at my home at ten o'clock at night." He still doesn't tell me who's objected so I take a guess and I say, "Shall I invite so-and-so?" who's not in government. He says, "Yes, yes." So I invite that person to fly over to Cape Town and we get to Thabo's place and we debate the matter and indeed I'd guessed correctly who had objected to it and in the course of the meeting he says, "Well, so-and-so, you say you have objections, Mac has motivated why that position, appointment. Your objection?" And the person outlined his objections and I responded to his objections and I even said to him, "But you were in the Evaluation Committee processing the applicants and your Evaluation Committee has sent me that recommendation that I'm motivating here. How come you never came to me?" So we push that abrasiveness aside. Thabo is still unhappy and this third person suggests somebody else to be appointed to that job. I say, "That person? A major flop which you are aware of." Thabo says, "What shall we do?" I said, "What do we do Deputy President? All the criticisms that he has made are flawed, I have to tomorrow motivate and get an appointment approved by cabinet otherwise I'm in breach of the law. If you, Deputy President, want that person that this person is recommending to be appointed and I tell you his flaws I have no problem, I'll back off. But if the thing goes into the public arena and you are criticised for that appointment, which will be made by me, I want you to answer it, the criticism, because I will not be making that appointment in clear conscience. So if you want it that way we can have it that way." But basically I was saying you're undermining me as a minister because you can hear that this man was chairing the Evaluation Committee of the applicants and they reported to me against the candidate he's now putting and in favour of the candidate that I'm putting and the mistakes and the flaws were known to that Evaluation Committee and he has not briefed you about it. So I was saying you're going to be undermining me but also if the political flak comes you take it, not me, because in conscience I won't be able to take that political flak. He quickly terminated the meeting by saying, "Go ahead." And I said to him, "I'll make a compromise, I'll make that appointment for two years instead of five years." OK. We get to the cabinet meeting, he's chairing, I put the proposal. Passed.

     Yes there was an unease in that experience but I did not have an experience that says if I stood my ground I wouldn't prevail. I had a similar incident with him over another matter involving a parastatal and a decision taken by one of my agencies granting an aviation licence and he called me. He said, "I've received complaints from the parastatal. Your body has granted a licence to a rival." I said to him, "What do you want done?" He says, "Can we have a meeting?" I said, "OK. Where?" At his home. Get to his home, there's his legal adviser, there's his Special Adviser and him. I call my DG over to the meeting in Cape Town, sit down, we hear their case. I said them, "Wait a minute, Deputy President, this is an agency with autonomous legal powers, the criteria by which it grants licences are clear. The process by which it does it allows for objections, the objections of the parastatal were heard and in terms of our policy it acted correctly within its criteria in granting that licence. Now what am I being asked? Reverse that decision?" I said, "What's the message going to be in the international investor market? Secondly, if the parastatal has an objection it has still an opportunity to appeal." His legal adviser says no, I must reverse the decision. I said, "No, I'll be committing a breach of the law. Why doesn't the parastatal take my agency to court? If the court rules in favour of the parastatal we can say to the whole investor community that, look, we've acted in a proper way. We're not shutting off competition, we are abiding by a court decision." The debate goes on, goes on and he says, "But Mac, can't you do something?" I said, "No, I cannot interfere. I support the need for that autonomy. I cannot undermine their decision and I am saying there's a viable way forward, parastatal go to court, take that commission to court, let the court judge it and the parastatal can put its arguments." His adviser and legal adviser keep arguing and I keep showing them that even the legal adviser is talking nonsense. I say, "All you're asking me is to overrule this body and on a basis that I cannot justify." The debate went on for hours and he says, "What do we do Mac?" I said, "Deputy President, tell the parastatal to sue me, take me to court. If the court overrules me I agree." He says, "Is that allowed within the law?" I said, "Perfectly allowable, they are still within the time and I will help them to draft their case in court. I will show them all the loopholes that they can use to justify their case but let the judgment be made by the court." He said OK but I could see unhappy.

POM     What did you learn just taking those two incidents?

MM     Oh I had criticisms of process in my mind how he handled the matter. I thought it was in the first instance undermining of me that a person serving in an agency in my committee was not told, "Listen, comrade, you're unhappy, you go to that minister. Have you been to him? Secondly, how can you be the chairman of the Evaluation Committee?" I said to the chap, at one point I said, "I have your scores", because in the Evaluation Committee the rules I made when you evaluate a person for a job each one independently scores on a particular heading, no signature, puts it in a sealed envelope, puts it in a box. Then the chairman opens all the envelopes and tallies the scores and reads out the scores for each candidate. I say, "I have the individual score sheets. It doesn't have names but unanimously you all disagreed with the candidate you're putting to me now. Unanimously you all supported the candidate that I'm putting and you sent me that report."

POM     So why did he want to appease the other person?

MM     On the question of colour. And the other person was deeply flawed. I watch now what is happening to that agency. It is in immense trouble because a year after I left government the minister appointed that person. It is in deeper and deeper trouble.

POM     This is all about colour?

MM     All about colour. And it's not as if the other person was not of colour, he was of colour but a different group, not an Indian, he was coloured. So they appointed this other person a year later. So I am saying process-wise I thought that to get machineries working, I thought it was his duty when he received the complaint not to be able to know the details but to say, have you gone to the minister? Do that and if you still are unhappy then my door is open as Deputy President. But he didn't do that and he pulled it off – I felt a bit ambushed because it just cropped up in a cabinet committee meeting and he says there's an objection and he doesn't tell me who's the objection by. Maybe when we looked at each other eye to eye we both knew who the objector is but I think it was a duty to call and tell me. Then having said yes we'll resolve it, he felt I hadn't given him time to sort it out differently, meaning abide by that representation and that person's record, different from my record. He didn't have my record in the struggle and I was the minister and that person was not and he was listening to that person.

     But the other side of it was, stand your ground, have your grounds and your grounds are solid and be prepared to discuss it and stay firm and motivate correctly and he backed off. Maybe he didn't feel happy but he agreed, he backed off.

POM     I'll leave on that word this time, I'm catching a plane. This suggests that he doesn't like confrontation. You've mentioned that before.

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