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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
10 Jan 2003: Maharaj, Mac
MM You see what I'm saying Padraig is that here's Joe, a leading mover in London, setting the rules of this stream and implementing them, and here's Joe in Africa with this huge change in his practice. I don't know how to explain it except that the decision, the correct decision, that you had to increase the African component in the leadership of the Communist Party was now being pursued by him in a way and he was influencing others to pursue it that way which said a different stand.
POM This is like bad affirmative action.
MM Yes. How do I explain the enigma of Joe? How do I explain the enigma of Dr Dadoo whom I still see as having been my leaders because against the good that they have done, which I can measure as the outputs of their life's work, I see the bad too. That's why you have this very sharp statement that I made to Joe and Dadoo in Moscow I think it was, outside the meeting. I said, "Guys, you've done a fantastic job but you've fucked it up at the same time."
POM That was the same conference where Joe approached you about having Lionel Gay?
MM That would have been the same one. There were several conferences so I can't be sure, one or two conferences were held in the GDR, we always tried to shift it around. We had at least two conferences - now I distinguish between a conference and a Central Committee meeting. The Central Committee began to meet once a year in full session, Congress once in four years, Moscow stands out because it is at Moscow that we adopt a constitution for the Communist Party because some of us had begun to question. I had been discussing with Joe, how come we've got no constitution?
POM I think we've covered that.
MM Have I talked about the decision on executions?
MM It's come to my mind now because, and I'll say it to you, we'll see how to handle this thing, names and all sorts of things we've got to decide.
POM But what we're doing now, I told you, is that in the end we will go through all this and then make decisions in terms of family, in terms of code names given to people.
MM Presently living. Some of them who died and you don't want to mess their names.
POM For people who are living, say political figures still in the arena.
MM One of the things that happened also in the Communist Party which is part of this process of how come we had no constitution? Interesting, Kathy has said, how can you expect an underground movement to have a constitution? What is this? Well that was the thinking all along. Underground you don't need a constitution. Where are you going to put pieces of paper as something that the enemy can capture and use? But the experience of the Soviet Union in particular and China under Mao and the experience of the East European countries had led many of us in casual discussions amongst ourselves to keep examining where did the problems arise, how do we explain these problems?
Joe became a supporter of the idea that we should have a constitution. He actually drafted the constitution. The idea that we should have a constitution was taken to the ranks of the Communist Party, through all its regional committees and its units, and we persuaded them that we needed a constitution and we explained that a constitution explains the rules by which you live and work, it imposed obligations on you, but we had to explain that it also gives you as a member certain rights. It was a very difficult thing to push down into our structures, to get the members of the Communist Party to absorb this idea that you also had a right as a member. The drafting of it was a very, very tricky, painful task and from time to time people said why? We don't need a constitution.
POM Now who were the committee doing the drafting?
MM JS was heading the drafting. I think he virtually single-handedly drafted it, but he would have taken it to the Politburo. Anyway having drafted it, discussed it, we get to the Congress, not a Central Committee meeting but a congress which is beyond the Central Committee. We brought in delegates appointed by agreement with the regions. Sometimes we used to do that and we used to call it an extended meeting of the Central Committee where we called in key people who were not members of the Central Committee. But at this meeting in 1984 in Moscow was a Congress of the SACP and we wanted the constitution adopted by a Congress.
The constitution went through but after the constitution was adopted and in the discussion over the rights of a member a problem came up which we shelved on the constitution. We said let's not discuss it in the constitution, Dr Dadoo said, "No, no, chaps this is now even more fucking dangerous." Dangerous not just for the survival of the party but if that fell into the hands of the SA government even that constitution would be used in trial evidence.
But the question that arose was around the rights of the members. I had already been very critical and rather abrasive in private discussions with people like Joe and Dr Dadoo, the late Dan Thloome, saying, "What the fuck is this?" Bartholomew Hlopane, a member of the Central Committee, gives evidence for the state, we execute him. Patrick Ntembu, a member of the High Command, gives evidence for the state, years later we execute him. Tennyson Makiwane sells out, goes to work for the Transkei government, we execute him, he never talked. Piet Beyleveld gives evidence and he still lives in the country. I said, "Joe, how come? Explain to me." And often I'm confronting Joe because he was in Central Operations so those actions are carried out somewhere, resourced, etc., by those structures controlled by the MK Central Operations. I said, "You explain to me." And he shuffles around, can't put criteria. We haven't executed him because he's fucking white, we've executed the others because they're black. We've punished the one in London and never brought him back into the Central Committee because he's not African. But when it comes to Africa we don't.
This debate had been going on, not with many people, just confined to harsh debates between JS and myself, sometimes Dadoo, but when this matter of a constitution comes up they say OK, you've got rights as a member. The constitution says you've got rights and it says if you violate the obligations there will be a procedure by which you will be disciplined, a procedure where you have a right to answer the charges. That goes with the right. Very good. Don't we also agree then, therefore, that the higher the position you hold and you make a transgression the punishment ought to be more severe. Yes, but we don't put that in the constitution, that will be the rule for the disciplinary mechanisms. Good. Now tell me what happens if you're in the Central Committee and you violate it? What happens if you're in the Central Committee and you sell out to the enemy and you break down, that's one thing, but you end up giving state evidence? That's the crime, not just the breaking down but becoming state witness, or becoming an informer. What do we do? They say, oh, absolutely deal with him harshly, because we're in exile. So in that debate I say, "Suppose he sells out to the enemy and we can prove it, what do you do?" They say, "That one, execute him." So I say, "Fine, what procedure? Do you give him an opportunity to defend himself?"
That becomes a hell of a difficult thing in our circumstances. You can have even a procedure outside until the point where that person co-operates and comes to your disciplinary meeting but if he doesn't come to your disciplinary meeting what do you do? If you were to draft, say, regulations and procedures now which don't go in the constitution it becomes contorted and Dr Dadoo gets very edgy, he's chairing the meeting. He says, "Chaps, do you know what you're now discussing? If anybody goes home tomorrow and talks this thing that we are talking here, that means just membership of the Communist Party justifies the enemy's courts executing you, hanging you."
POM Sorry, that means?
MM The courts can hang you because you're party to a decision adopting rules which would execute your own members. You cannot say now I did not intend to kill, so just membership of the Communist Party in the laws of SA would open you to a sentence of execution by the SA courts. Toughies, toughies. Then I say, "What about at home, chaps?" because I'm working on the home front. "What if a chap does that at home? There's no chance to give a disciplinary court, there's no chance to collect evidence and confront him, it will become even more complicated." Dr Dadoo said, "Put it away." I said, "No, no chaps. Minimum we agree here that while the procedures are complicated if a member of the Central Committee sells out and works for the enemy or gives state evidence, let us agree that such a member by virtue of his or her membership of the Central Committee will be executed. The decision will have to be ratified by the Central Committee whatever the detailed procedures." The meeting says, "Oh, you've got us out of this jam, we agree." Dadoo says, "Chaps, we've agreed but can we agree that that resolution be written up but will not be made part of these records? But we are agreeing that the decision is taken, it will be noted but it will not be recorded as a decision taken at this meeting so that there is no evidence that a meeting decided upon it." Agreed. That was round about the time the Jele thing came up.
POM Sorry, round about the time?
MM The Jele thing. It was subsequently the expunging of the records that the Jele thing came up. So my own views on this matter of the historical record became I was clear that I don't want to be part of falsification but I was also clear that the pursuit of putting everything on record could become a very irresponsible act.
POM This is after Jele or preceding it?
MM I can't be sure. I would suspect it was preceding it because I do not recall participating in that debate with any sense that I felt inhibited because my colleagues would say I would be open to the charge, yes, he's taking these positions because he's got an ulterior motive against another comrade. I don'tthink so, I don't recall any such inhibition. But I do recall that subsequently I have never forgotten that I voluntarily supported that that resolution should not be part of the record. And my reasons are clear, I would still support it. If we were living at that time, that resolution, I would never support it being of the record of the meeting.
POM If it's not part of the record then if the composition of the Central Committee changes, it's conveyed to the Central Committee.
MM It is a decision that is stored with the General Secretary and the Chairman.
POM But there's no record of it?
MM The decision is kept somewhere else, stored in some secret place, entrusted to the Chairman and the General Secretary. None of us would challenge that. There's a technical problem, the technical problem was that if that record ever reached the enemy's hands and as I say, if you were even charged for membership of the Communist Party, you would automatically by the courts, the prosecution would ask for the death sentence and if the accused took the positions that we were taking that often we went to court and said, "I've done these things. Yes I am a member but I don't regard that as a crime", then the court would say, "Yes he admits he's a member. Oh, we have overwhelming proof that he's a member and here's the constitution and here are the decisions which are binding on the membership and this one belongs to the transgression of your obligations and your rights as a member. Therefore we take it as accepted by the courts that as a member you were aware of the constitution and therefore you have been party to that decision and if you were not physically present you had accepted that decision on behalf of the members."
POM OK, to go back to, again, when you're on the IPRD and you're talking about - it's when you get to Lusaka there's a question of, do you then agree with my statement, and it's a statement which Joe Slovo seems to concede as well, that when you arrive in Lusaka in practice at that time you see military struggle as the means, really the sole means to effect some sort of advance inside the country and the reconstruction of some political base? You say in practice and even in the debates they spent their time saying they need the Internal but they categorically said it was to serve the military. In other words that political struggle is being seen as subject to the technical imperatives of armed struggle. You answer: And they go further, that when they see the Internal beginning to be built and I am resisting that it should simply be willy nilly to serve the military, they then set out to chop us, to chop us every inch of the way. And you say: To the point where they created in the Botswana machinery proves that by March/April 1978 that they had set it up, taking people in the Internal IPRD Committee in Botswana and they had taken one of the members that was there, an individual member, in effect to spy.
MM No, what they did was they put him in the Military Committee and they said to him, all the work in the military, what work it's doing at home, who it's working with, you are not to divulge to the Political. But everything that the Political is doing and whoever it is working with at home you are to divulge to us. So that the moment that we recruited a person at home and he or she was performing well he would pass that name to them, to the Military, for that person to be drawn into the Military.
POM Into the MK, yes. You said: I proved, having the man confess to this in Lusaka. They denied it, right?
MM Yes. No the man had arrived, I had gone to the office, I had been raising this matter with Joe and them. The two Joes were denying it. Then one day I'm at the office, the two Joes are there, we bump into each other and then I spot this comrade who's on a trip from Botswana so I go to an empty office, I say to the two Joes, "Come here", and I call this comrade from Botswana, I say, "Come here into the room." And I say to the two Joes, "You've been denying to me, now here's this comrade from Botswana, you know him in the Military, let him tell you in my presence, have they recruited the man from the Political Committee? I'm giving you his name. Is he in this person's committee in the Military and did they tell him to report on all names featuring as activists at home to the Military Committee with a view that the Military Committee would keep on taking every one behind my back? Yet between us we have agreed, you want a person, we will discuss, we will come to an agreement, I don't want to block you. Tell your story comrade." He told it, he confirmed it. And in my presence he began to say who of them told him, so I said, "No, that's not necessary, we're not here fighting to point fingers and destroy each other." I said, "Now", to the two Joes, "Here's the proof. What I want is you say now that you're countermanding that order and you're sending instructions to the military structures never to do that." Of course they said, "Yes, sure."
POM But in practice?
MM In practice they must have gone back and had a meeting and said, that bastard, he trapped us, but fuck him, we had to say that for him but we'll just go on as we are. The same thing had happened with the development of the Wimpy bombs. Comrades began to put bombs in public restaurants, post Kabwe, under the name 'soft targets'. We had a meeting, OR called us, "This development chaps, this is not what soft targets were supposed to be. We're now indiscriminately bombing civilians sitting in a Wimpy Bar." OR was a diplomat, he had really learnt how to, in those conditions, build the organisation and hold it together. He wouldn't push it to blame. The meeting says, "No, no, no, it's an incorrect thing." It was an RC meeting, or PMC. "Yes, agreed." And some of the military comrades began to say, "Those might be the units doing it on their own." "So? Have you explained the decision?" So a decision is taken by the RC, it's now necessary for the Head Office people to go down to the frontline states and transmit the message, none of this indiscriminate civilian bombing. Explain soft target, a soft target still has to be justified in terms of that you are showing, for example, a farmer who is part of the commando network. OK that's a target. He's not in the military but he's semi-military. Civilians caught in crossfire, OK, but we're not bombing Wimpy Bars for the sake of just killing anybody. Take that decision down. I was part of the team because the meeting says, "Now Cassius Make", who was Secretary of the RC, "Mac", and we were the two who they knew. It didn't matter whether you said go to Lesotho, go to Botswana, go to Swaziland, go to Zimbabwe, go to Maputo, these two if you asked one or both of them they are gone. What problems they face they will resolve, don't make it a headache. Go down, explain.
I now come into the country no, before I come into the country, at these meetings JS denied that it was an instruction. So outside the meeting I said, "JS, what's wrong man? Why do you tell lies? Why don't you just say yes we gave the wrong instruction and we'll amend it and correct it?" "Oh I never gave the instruction." Now at that time Rashid used to visit my home from time to time in Lusaka and one day after this decision is taken that it's wrong, Rashid visits me and he's cock-a-hoop, he's proud that our teams are carrying out operations, increasing. I said, "Your chaps carrying out the Wimpy bombs?" "Yes!" So I said, "That's contrary to instructions." "No, not contrary to instructions." So we have a furious debate and I say, "How dare you say that that's in accord with the instructions? Haven't you been told?" He says, "By who?" I said, "By your commanders, JM, JS." And in that debate he says, "No, but I have personally been given instructions by them to do those things." And I say, "And you fucking call yourselves Special Operations? I don't see what crap this is. Is that what you call a special operation? Go now, the Koebergs and the Sasols, now Special Operations is just put a bloody limpet bomb in a dustbin." So it became bitter but of course I was furious.
POM This is post the meeting with OR?
MM Post, yes. The next time I meet JS I am livid and I say, "JS, what's happened?" And he denies. I said, "You bloody liar, let's go and call Rashid." Now JS doesn't agree to call Rashid but he goes and shits on Rashid's head, "How dare you tell Mac this?" Rashid comes running to me, he says, "Mac, I never told you this." I said, "No, I understand, I understand." It put a huge gap between Rashid and me for years, for years. That gap only closed up in the recent few years because it was like an injury. Somewhere at the back of my mind was the knowledge that he didn't have the guts to go through to confront it. I needed him to go through with it to confront JS and he in his mind knew that he had told a truth and now back-tracked on the truth. It created an awkwardness in the relationship and an inhibition because now you could not talk really.
I am only telling you this because I don't know why, you're causing me problems Padraig. I'm telling you this because when I came into the country there were still here and there some of these type of would-be bar bombings going on and they were primarily in the Jo'burg, Gauteng area. Now I had told OR and them that our intelligence capacity in Gauteng was nothing like Natal and I said that this is quite a muddy pool here, lots of enemy agents at work. So I felt that I should go very cautiously and that the Vula Operation should try and build an intelligence capacity in Gauteng. Natal had penetrated the Security Branch Head Office in Natal and through Natal had penetrated the Security Branch Head Office in Pretoria, but we had no penetration in John Vorster Square. So I was very wary and in particular I was saying we must link up with any MK or political activist by the political section operating within the country. We would only link up when we would carefully, if we detected one of them or a unit, we must only link up after we had assessed how they are working.
POM This is Vula?
MM The Vula structures.
POM So if you say, you're saying that if there was a political structure say in
MM Not a structure, a cadre who has come in from outside.
POM Coming into the country?
MM Into the country.
POM From outside.
MM Sent by the normal PMC machineries.
POM So he's in the country.
MM We must be very careful about integrating him in our structures until we've assessed how he is working, because at the back of my mind is they are not at fault, they are operating under the understanding of the instructions they received. So one day Sydney Mufamadi comes to me.
POM Who would be giving those instructions?
MM I've just proved to you that JS and them were giving the instructions contrary to the decisions.
MM Now who else was doing the same thing? So that caused me a wariness besides the infiltration and the police informer operating. The approach we were taking in Gauteng to build the Vula structures was even more cautious than Natal but one day Sydney Mufamadi comes to me and he says, "I have a problem." I said, "What's the problem?" He says a unit of MK, three or four chaps, who were operating in the country have come to him and others in the Mass Democratic Movement, because they are MK people, and made contact and want R6000, they are in a desperate situation. It is imperative. I said to Sydney, "Do you have this problem often?" He says from time to time. "What do you people do?" Sydney was operative in COSATU and UDF leadership. He says, "Well all we can do is we scramble around and give them that and say, please, this must never be known." So I say, "What's your knowledge of this group?" He says, "Mac, I didn't ask them because it's incriminating. If they get caught, you get caught and you're charged." If they get caught and they get tortured and they say that they got money from Sydney it's a problem. So I said, "Sydney, tell me what you know about these people." So he had some cursory information about them. So I said, "To my mind amongst other good things they are doing they are persisting with the Wimpy bombing. That's contrary to instructions and I can't intervene. All I can do is I'm prepared to send a message abroad so that OR and JS exercise their influence and withdraw that unit through whichever structure is in charge of it, and I'm not prepared to give you the money to give them." I think I ended up by saying, "Tell them to make contact with you in a week's time", because my communications were very rapid and I was working on the basis that once I got the message to OR and them in that period of about a week or ten days they would be able to quickly get that instruction because I knew OR was for this stoppage of all the Wimpy Bar bombings and that it had been resolved now, even though it had been resolved bitterly between Joe and myself, that they would make sure that this unit is withdrawn and that if it is to be sent back it must be after they had been properly instructed, no matter how good they were. I said I can't intervene, I'll be exposing my security and I have to identify who I am for them to accept my authority. Nor can Sydney even tell them effectively, so I need you all to get that message to them calling them out, not saying why, and what I am prepared to do here is to look at R500, R1000 and give it to Sydney for when they see him in ten days time, where he says to them, "Chaps, I've had very great difficulty, we can't raise money, but I have heard from Lusaka and they are saying that you have been out of touch for too long and they want you all to get to Botswana, and I've been told to give you this R1000 to enable you to get out."
My memory of this incident is a little bit shaky but I am saying this is how I would have been reasoning it, but the incident arose and that is when I had to tell Sydney, "You cannot give money or resources or assistance to anybody who comes into the country no matter how well you know him if that person is part of a group carrying out the Wimpy bombs. You have to find a way without endangering yourself. Phone me, I'll get it through to Lusaka but we have to get them out of the country so that they can be reasonably briefed again." A very difficult thing to do in our circumstances. How do you execute that order? But effectively the last of those type of bombings came to an end, the last one took place in that period 1988/89 and stopped.
That does not mean that it did not resurface in other forms and it also told me that even if Lusaka was giving the instructions there is an immense validity in the point that the decisions at the centre, whether military or political, are very short decisions, the resolution is a short one, but in transmitting it down the chain that resolution and decision has to be amplified and explained at great length so that the cadre who has not been present at the meeting understands that decision correctly. So you have this need that in every central structure at the central decision making point you cannot conduct your work without the decision being short, terse, concise, but as you pass it down the organisational structure those transmitting it have to amplify it and the next player gets it, more amplified, the next player below gets it even more amplified and the next player right down to the ground it has got to be amplified more and more and made longer and longer. The reason for that is so that they can understand it and absorb it and abide by it because if the opposite happens, which often happened in our situation, the decision at the top got transmitted in shorter and shorter versions until inside the country they got just a decision which said, "Don't do any more Wimpy bombing." They would say, fuck you, this instruction doesn't make sense. Why are you saying don't do Wimpy bombing? Now you are asking me to decide whether I canbomb a Wimpy or not and does that mean can I bomb a police station or not? I don't understand, where's your logic? So it's become so short that operationally it made no sense and therefore leave your ground forces uncertain about whether they are doing the right or the wrong thing whereas the men right in the danger zone need to act with deep conviction that he's doing the right thing so that no uncertainly of that nature enters his mind and his mind is focused on the operation itself, the security of the operation and getting away safely from the operation. Now if you created this doubt his capacity to give leadership is emasculated.
POM You also have the other problem coming from the top through various layers down to ground level and it's distorted.
MM Yes, it gets distorted.
POM So the story about the General who gave an order and by the time it got to - each one gave a different version. The commandos, were commandos regarded as legitimate targets after Kabwe?
POM Why didn't the MK units concentrate more on them since they would live in isolated farming areas, farmers would be isolated?
MM Because our briefing did not get lengthier and lengthier down the line. The lengthier is not just an additional set of words, the lengthier is illustrations of what you could do easily and what was difficult. When I came into the country, I told you the story about did I need a false identity, forged identity card? No, but similarly I saw many signs of the army which were so, so vulnerable and yet we were suggesting targets which when you came into the country it was a legitimate target but it was highly secured. For example, I don't know if it still exists, I haven't been there, if one travels on the Commissioner Street road going to the airport, the R28, you come to Bruma Lake on the left and you come to Eastgate shopping mall on the right. If you turned right off the R28 you'd then come to a traffic light which you have to take left to go to the Eastgate shopping mall, but if you turned right there was an army base. Besides the personnel protecting it it had a wire fence just this side and all the troop carriers and the Saracens were parked and I said, wait a minute, is this thing secure? At the same time when I drove in Durban past the oil refinery, the oil refinery had fences at this ceiling height and it had double wire mesh and I found out why the double, it had been a mesh tailored to make an RPG rocket explode when it hit that mesh, because the RPG rocket, the projectile when fired part of its detonating device was when the nose hit an obstruction of a certain force that pressure ignited the shell and they had worked out and put the steel mesh in such a way that it provided that obstacle so that it would explode at the fence. But here was this camp, this armoured vehicle station, a sub-base, completely vulnerable. How could you decide that in Lusaka or in Maputo except if your cadre, trained to look at those problems, at the vulnerability of a target, have been there and seen it?
A very simple problem, your target selection was not going to be just a generalised briefing. At it went down the line to the unit in the country you would be saying, these are categories, this is an illustration of what you should be hitting but within these categories you are given latitude to select which has got high security and which has got low and if you could hit an oil refinery rather than a military base because the oil refinery was vulnerable to an RPG rocket, use it. But if the oil refinery was protected against it but on the other hand there was available an army base that is vulnerable to it, don't worry, you are within your rights, hit the army base. Come back and tell us what the problem was with the oil refinery so that we can work out how to overcome it. But you are in the country, you've got these RPG rockets and launches, why just come in and go back? That's a huge risk, you're there, you get the RPGs for the oil refinery, we sent you for the oil refinery, hit that army base, use your equipment, get back, let's sit down and talk and explain to us why you didn't hit the oil refinery.
POM So as I see you explaining the problem it was that the people in Lusaka were identifying the targets.
MM Or taking a decision and the amplification, if it happened, ceased at Maputo and Gaborone. The rest of the amplification that should be happening to the unit on the ground was getting shorter and shorter. Do you see what I mean? Because in Maputo you could sit and discuss and often in Maputo you could go there and explain but you were not coming in to explain here, you were depending on the chap in Maputo to come in here.
POM Take the case of the army base. You're saying that it is impossible that an MK unit would walk by that one day, the way you did.
MM No, no, they would have to do reconnaissance too.
POM Oh yes, that's what I mean. They would do reconnaissance and say wow!
MM But within their mandate. Let's say they came to hit an oil refinery in a nearby area, they have all the reconnaissance, they've got the equipment and everything but they see, ah well, the RPG rocket that I've got is unsuitable for this. Now what do you do? Go back to Swaziland, hide these rockets and go back? I am saying no, you've looked at the obstacles, now take a little more time in the country, don't retreat to Swaziland, take a little more time, look at the contiguous areas, look at nearby, what can you hit that will be within your mandate and significant? Use up your rockets, get away. You've carried out an operation, you've hit the enemy at a vulnerable point, you get to Swaziland and you get to Maputo and you say, comrades, here's the problem we found with the refinery. The equipment we had was now not suitable for that. We did that other operation. Now we've come to discuss what do we do about the oil refinery.
POM This is crazy operationally. You're saying somebody in Maputo says to a unit, we have identified a target, it is an oil refinery.
MM No, no, it wouldn't be identified like that. Sometimes they identified for special operations the specific target and they are passing reconnaissance backwards and forwards. But I am saying if you sent in a unit, even if you've identified the general target, say oil refineries, and/or this, that or that, and they have reported back from within the country by courier that we're now moving on this one, we need an RPG rocket, you get the stuff. But as you go down the line you find, ah, for certain reasons the equipment I have is not suitable. I'm saying what do you do in that situation? Has your briefing given you the space to be innovative and not violate the policy? The highest point was to be located like we were, by being located on the ground and given a mandate that you are the leadership on the ground. I had no constraints. If my mandate had been to go there as a priority to push up the armed struggle, which it wasn't, we would have carried out dozens and dozens of operations.
POM So you were in a position to identify targets like - ?
MM And receive identification from others.
POM As a target that is unprotected and you could have been sending those back to Lusaka but that didn't fall within your mandate?
MM Yes. No my mandate was concentrate on the long term so to the extent we carried out any operation they were directed by the first need, this unit needs some training on the ground because out of these four people I want to send the one outside for training who is officer material, not just combat material because I want officers to be trained. I don't just want a bomber to be trained, I can train the bomber here and I can give him a simple task to see has he got the nerve, is he entering that environment, is he doing the reconnaissance, by just asking him to bomb a railway line of which there are thousands of kilometres and I can select a very safe spot but he's already getting involved in an action where all his nerves have become taut. And I am looking, what does the report say, how did they conduct themselves? From that I am seeing how does he interact with his colleagues in the unit, have they started quarrelling before they went out?
I remember one case, Gebhuza went out with one chap who had come in from outside and he was taking a person to train from inside the country, to go and cut a railway line at two points. They had prepared, discussed, planned, everything. One portion of the railway line was going to be cut by the chap from outside who had been part of the instructing team and the other one was going to be cut by the chap from home. When they got into the car a quarrel started. The chap from outside was questioning Gebhuza, "Is the number plate of the car false or real?" Gebhuza says, "Not your problem, comrade, I'm in charge, that's my problem, I've sorted it out." "No, I want to know." He says, "Look it's night time now, we've got a task to do." "No, I want to know." So they start that quarrel. When I get the report of the operation the chap from home is dropped off by Gebhuza, he knows his spot. The chap from outside is dropped off at a further point. Gebhuza drives on, he's worked it out, all the timing, comes back, picks up the chap from outside, picks up the chap from home, returns. The two bombs don't go off. What the fuck? What happened here? Gebhuza reports, he says, "Mac," because it was a training run, it's a live training run, he went back to the site at great risk, went to the site where the chap at home was supposed to put the it was a block of TNT, looks at the one, finds it, retrieves it. Hell of a risk, had to break the igniter connection. But, he says to me, "It was properly set, the wires were correctly connected yet it did not ignite." He went to the other side where the trained person put it, the instructor of the ignition, the assembler of the bomb, the checker of the assembly. At his spot the explosive had been put, the ignition device had been put but the wires had not got connected to the battery. And this is the instructor. Who is beginning to fall off the radar screen as officer material? The one from outside. Who is emerging as officer material? Both didn't go off, it's the one from inside.
So that type of operation we engaged in no matter how tempting this army base was. I said too complicated, that one we could carry out later on when I have units on the ground who have cut railway lines, done other things and begin to gel together as a unit and the chap who is in command of that unit on the operation, the operational commander, is showing that he has got their loyalty and has got them working as a team. Then at the back of your mind, yes, a target like this is feasible but don't spend your time on this matter, this is not your mandate at the moment. Our mandate was different.
POM But with regard to the is it the mandate of an MK unit, why wouldn't more emphasis be put after Kabwe on commandos?
MM It was supposed to be but effectively I do not recall any substantial development. I don't recall, maybe here and there one farmer was attacked but nothing was happening because I am saying the urban area became the easier. The reality was that the commando system, particularly the farms contiguous to the border on the SA side, even the labourers were getting bags of mealie meal delivered by the security forces to be part of the eyes and ears. That was their counter
POM This fitted into the national security system?
MM Yes that was their counter to our strategy. They said these chaps are crossing the border in remote areas, we've got the farmers knitted into the radio system, into the commandos and armed, but the farmer can't be there all the time. These are huge farms. We need to get these labourers not just into a terror environment of co-operating but into a character environment of co-operating. One of the techniques they began to use was to distribute monthly things like mealie meal, handed out by the security forces so that the labourers would tell them, hey, a stranger is passing through. Hey, a stranger passed through yesterday, and would go and tell the farmer.
POM Sorry, just to cover the point, you had said that people were not motivated solely by
MM Mischievousness or power struggle. It was a mindset shaped by circumstances and a key element of those circumstances was the inability of leading people to come in and out of the country. And that negative feature was spreading. For example, in LesothoLambert Ngoyi used to go in and out of the country but people in the Botswana command were gradually more and more not coming into the country. Swaziland, Maputo was more and more wanting to come into the country and people like Obadi head of Special Operations, Barney Malokwane, Rashid, to give just three examples, were people who were coming in and out in operations and slowly moving up in the command structures till Barney became the Operational Commander of Special Operations.
POM His name is?
MM First one, Obadi, he was killed in Maputo in the Maputo raid. Then he was succeeded by a chap called Barney Malokwane, and Rashid. Now these were a crop that were coming to positions operationally who were coming in and had experience of coming in and out of the country and they were slowly moving up into higher and higher positions. But as they rose into higher and higher positions I don't know whether they would have continued to come in and out. They would have certainly if people in the leadership above them were also coming in and out.
POM So in a way there was a tendency, you could almost say there was an inverse correlation between whether you got in and out of the country and where you were in terms of seniority so if you're at the bottom of the scale you were more likely to get in and out of the country whereas as you moved up the scale it began to decrease and by the time you got to the top you weren't coming in and out at all.
MM Unless you had people at the top who themselves were coming in and out so you were moving into an environment which said, yes, you've got more responsibility but you can't afford to lose that intimate expanding knowledge of the changing conditions at home.
POM But you're saying that wasn't happening. What I'm saying is what you seem to be suggesting is that the further up on the ladder of command you went the lesser the likelihood of you going back and forth as frequently as you did when you were at a lower level.
MM But, e.g., not the only thing, Vula was contrary to that and was reversing the trend.
POM Completely, yes. That's where we leave Vula aside because
MM Well don't leave it aside.
POM Sorry, when I say leave it aside, I mean it's not in this discussion of the moment.
MM Well I throw it in because I'm saying there's got to be a balance. An organisation learns and it sometimes learns bad habits and then it learns how to overcome bad habits and Vula was helping to overcome a bad habit that had set in, that's all.
POM Vula will have its place.
MM Not in a way that must take away anything from the
POM I very clearly see from the very beginning, I can see why an Ivan Pillay would be saying we've got to get into the country because you can't conduct a revolution by remote control and (b) you can't conduct it by sending a unit in, hit a target here and dash back out. You never establish a presence. You become a nuisance and that's all you really are. You hit something, oh we hit something, but it might take another three months before they send another unit in and if they keep following that strategy they will never establish a presence on the ground, they will never start
MM That was the problematic.
POM That's why, I'd asked you before and you ran through it quite quickly, is that as each country in (a) Africa and (b) in other colonial situations, as their struggles peaked and they became independent, were there almost like seminars on what they had done, what obstacles they had faced, how they had overcome the obstacles, what the political circumstances were and how they had achieved independence?
MM There were a lot of counteracting tendencies. As people came out of prison and got reactivated like the Jacob Zumas, then left the country and were put into the National Executive, they were bringing a knowledge of the ground and the leadership was incorporating this.So there were many things that were positively moving to change that negative tendency but it was going like this agreed, we need to do it but how to do it? You would agree and then it's right now, let's send so-and-so. Oh no, too important, if that guy was lost it would be a big setback, no we can't send him. Like happened with the Communist Party when I said let's have the conference in Tongaat. I said, "Yes, I can smuggle you in and out, come and address the conference." The Central Committee people said, "No, JS, you can't go." But because I was putting extraordinary pressure they said they'll send Jeremy Cronin. But having agreed that they'll send somebody, "We'll send him legally, we will get indemnity for him and then he'll go." As if to say you'll get that indemnity just like that, by writing a letter. And Jeremy never arrives on time.
POM Again, that's like a mindset that says we want to pick up the revolution but at minimum risk to ourselves. I'm putting it rather harshly but that's
MM The tendency.
MM Jeremy I said, "Send me the text of the speech of the General Secretary in case you don't arrive." "No, don't worry, I'll arrive." The night before the meeting is starting still no text, no Jeremy. We have to proceed with the meeting or cancel the meeting.
Yesterday I heard of a businessman who flew in from Berlin, phoned me from Cape Town complaining. He flew in by appointment from Berlin to go to have a meeting with a key official in Cape Town, not at the central government level, at local government level. He arrives, he gets to Cape Town, he goes to the venue, the man doesn't turn up at his office for the meeting. They ask where is he? Nobody knows. They have not received word that the meeting is cancelled, they don't get a phone call even at the appointed time or afterwards to say I'm sorry, I was on my way but I met a motor car accident and my leg is broken. Nothing and nobody can tell him. This is a huge international company and they start phoning me at six o'clock at night saying this has happened. The assistant is saying, "My boss is furious, he's livid." Part of the project is that his company is coming to invest R150 million into foreign direct investment.
POM The other guy was most probably at the golf tournament. Well I won't tell you how many times I had appointments between 1990 and 1999 that I would arrive, ring beforehand, have Judy ring beforehand, verify the person will be there. Yes, definitely. I'd fly to Cape Town from here, go in and a meeting that had been verified, find no-one, no explanation. So I can empathise with the businessman, but not for R150 million.
MM See how bad habits continue.
POM Joe Gqabi, was he was one of the six original people who were sent to China?
POM Joe Gqabi.
POM Was he in the High Command, or Ad Hoc High Command with - ?
MM No. Joe got arrested. When Joe came back from China, pre-Rivonia, I think he came back into the country February 1962 and he was then sent out on a mission, military mission to go and have discussions with the Algerians and he was on his way out when he was intercepted.
POM He wasn't with Raymond Mhlaba?
MM Raymond Mhlaba, but Raymond Mhlaba went on one mission. Joe Gqabi was going on a follow up mission and he was intercepted on his way out by the Rhodesians, handed over to the South Africans. He was charged in 1963 and sentenced for leaving the country illegally. He was sentenced to 18 months or two years. While he was serving that sentence the Rivonia arrests took place. At the conclusion of the Rivonia trial he was completing his two-year sentence and he was in Leeukop Prison when as a result of the evidence, information given by Patrick Ntembu in particular, he was charged again, this time for having left the country and gone for military training and he was found guilty and sentenced prior to his release to another ten years. So he got arrested before Rivonia and he only came out in 1975.
POM He was on Robben Island?
POM Was he in the - ?
MM Single cells. He was first, while he was serving the two-year, he was in the communal cells. Pre release of his two years he was taken to Leeukop, from Leeukop he was recharged, sentenced to ten years, brought back to Robben Island and this time put in the single cells. That's ten years in the single cells.
POM So did he play a role? You say here, "Two guys came out of the isolation section of prison working totally to destroy Nelson, Andrew Masondo and Gqabi."Is he not the - ?
MM Masondo and who else?
POM Gqabi. It says, "While Gqabi was in the country, Madiba made the mistake of passing a message", this is what? Back-up? You say, "Yes, I've got a problem about Joe. Madiba had sent a message that Joe Gqabi was trouble." Howard says, "Can you be more explicit?" And you say, "As a man, he's dead." And Howard says, "I know he's dead but there were all sorts of stories as you well know, there were all sorts of stories that came at the time whether they were stories about Gqabi's death but there were stories which I spoke to you about, I mean, and I don't know if it's that kind of trouble (with reference to a British intelligence leak to SA journalists based in Zimbabwe shortly after Joe Gqabi's assassination in Zimbabwe in July 1981). South African Military Intelligence has assassinated Gqabi because Gqabi was NIS's best agent in ANC. I mean NIS was very upset about it." And you say, "Two guys came out of the isolation section of prison working totally to destroy Nelson, Andrew Masondo and Gqabi. Mandela made the mistake of passing the message through Winnie. He had already given me a briefing of the understanding that I would only brief OR if OR asked me. Subsequently OR did ask me and I briefed him but Winnie gets the message that Madiba does not trust Gqabi." This is Howard, "Trust as in what, political security terms? Is he working for the enemy?" You say, "Ja." "Oh really? Is he co-operating with the enemy from prison experience? Winnie takes the thing and spreads it, it gets back to prison. With Govan Mbeki in the line-up with Gqabi raising the matter in prison and Madiba supports to send a message retracting that charge. Tambo is caught between these two positions, (i) having asked me for a briefing I had given him, Mandela's message through Winnie, now Madiba's retraction from the comrades in prison in the Head Committee." That would be the High Organ, right? That would be Kathy, Walter, Madiba?
MM It would have been Madiba, Walter, Raymond and Govan, maybe Kathy, I don't know.
POM "Insists that Madiba smuggle out a letter dictated by that committee and to their satisfaction repudiating his claims about Gqabi and he does it. The fucking thing arrives through me (that would be the letter I assume) and I have to go and give it to the chief. It's not revealed to the rest. The chief doesn't know what to make of it but Thabo in the meantime when Gqabi comes out gets close to Gqabi." You say Thabo tried to get close to you, maybe it was a mistake. "Zanele came and offered me free accommodation, blah-blah-blah."
"Now when it comes to the whole question of what happens to Gqabi, by the time of that extended RC meeting, Gqabi is a hell of a rising star", and no doubt Gqabi was an articulate guy. You say, "Up to a certain point, so he is also on the Strategy Committee. There I detect the chief is clear, he's got to put Gqabi in it and I pull back because I don't want to be in a fight with Gqabi because we have had our fights in prison and I don't want to perpetuate the thing." "Has he a portfolio at this point?" "No, but he's deployed on the home front, unstated portfolio. I think immediately after that he's put in the Intelligence Directorate. The Intelligence Directorate, that's the Strategy Committee at the end of 1978. It's the strategy commission that sits around March. Gqabi is in the directorate about June."
So what's the story with him? Why would Madiba make the charge and have you smuggle out the message?
MM I don't think we should go into that. [I don't want to put Madiba in a position where he has to confirm what Gqabi did. I don't want to put Madiba in a position where he has to confirm or repudiate what I've said. I don't think Madiba would say anything today about why he sent that briefing. Does that make sense?
MM He perhaps would be prepared to go so far as to say somebody, yes I did send that message and then he would say, yes, I did send a message subsequently repudiating my message, withdrawing it and apologising. But why he would not because that would be reopening the question, was there some event where in the conduct of Joe Gqabi in prison Madiba came to distrust him? What event? (a) The person, Joe Gqabi is dead, (b) the members of the High Organ who were there at the time of these events, one is dead, the other is 91 years old, the other is about 84 years old and Madiba is there as former President of the country and today necessarily not seen, not allowed to be seen, to revive old detailed issues. So if I explained it and somebody went to him and said is this true, I believe he would say, listen, I don't want to go into the past. And if the position arose where somebody, a journalist, won his confidence, came back to this thing and pushed him into a position where he felt he had to say something such as saying, 'Are you saying that Mac is lying?' he would say, 'Look, I told you, let's not discuss that.' Then he'd say, pushed again, 'Are you saying that we cannot rely on what Mac said?' He would say, 'I'm not saying that, I have great faith in Mac.' 'But are you saying that this thing that Mac is saying is not true?' Caught in that situation he might well say, having failed to evade the question, he would say, 'It is true I gave him that message.' Then you say, 'But what was the basis on which you did that message?' He'd say, 'I'm not prepared to go into that.' And if I then explained it the person would be able to say, 'But Mac says the following, now detail.' Now I'm creating a more bigger problem for Madiba. I'm tightening, I'm reducing the space for him to say, 'I don't want to go into it.' Because now the choice is becoming either tell us or repudiate that because he's given us the details, whereas everything in him would say, 'I don't want to go into detail, the maximum I'm confirming is I did send a message.' That's how I read it, that's how I see my situation.
POM OK. Again let's go through it on the understanding right now that this is off the record and how or if it's used
MM Put this one completely off the record, switch off your machine.]
MM So these were the leadership people. Now they return to Tanzania and are in the camp. You have no resources to be sending them on international work and in any event they are earmarked by their training to go home. They are living their daily routine with all the deprivation of living out in Congo Camp and they are debating what is happening, when are we going home? Now you see the mindset of the debate is when are we going home? Of course one assumes that it is predicated on a debate, what is the situation, what are the political developments? They are not just sitting and doing nothing. Some people are being sent in, planning is happening but it is more and more secretive because each time you send a person in, a few people in, they are very quickly caught. So you become more and more, you say this has got to be secretive because the enemy must now know. You're not being secretive because you say I don't want these people to know, they are very highly disciplined cadres. But you say, I cannot allow this information to get to the enemy. So more and more the people in the camp are also feeling excluded from what is happening and they are demanding of the camp leadership, inform us what is happening. And to the extent that the individual who is in the camp leadership but is in the know he can't tell them. So tensions are building up and some of the comrades, because a good number of those comrades were members of the Communist Party, so a whole group stood up and said amongst themselves, you know the biggest problem is the Communist Party is not existing as a Communist Party. If we could revive the Communist Party we would be able to influence the ANC to act the way we think, because we're getting a feeling they're not acting. And sitting there they are saying we do not accept this reasoning that says conditions are difficult at home, that look, our borders are too far.
Obviously, despite the cohesion of the forces it is an environment where wherever you are in the world there is frustration building up. Those who are in London are feeling frustrated. Only the African comrade is able to move in and out of Tanzania but even so if you are a high profile communist like J B Marks you stay put in Tanzania. So I can imagine people like Doc and JS becoming very, very frustrated because they can pass a communication with each other but they cannot get to a point where they can sit down and debate and toss around the problems to work out how do we get past this. And London begins to try and make efforts on its own to re-establish contacts with home, not arguing that it's doing its own (break in recording)
POM When you say 'they' are you referring to the SACP?
MM Those who are there, some of them are SACP members, some of them were founders and leaders of MK like Joe Slovo, others have been members of the Central Committee like Ruth First, others are holding positions like Dr Dadoo in the Communist Party but had gone out earlier. OR in the ANC is passing in and out of London. The pressure in Africa is saying, ANC, your policy of the Freedom Charter, of non-racialism, we don't understand and we are dubious about it. We like what we hear from the PAC, Africa is for Africans. This Madiba experienced even in his trip in 1962, even with KK (Kaunda), he had to sit down with KK and explain to him. So that's the atmosphere in Africa. On the ANC side the ANC have got to manoeuvre in an environment where most of the continent's leaders of government whom you assume would be sympathetic to us are more inclined from a gut feeling to sympathise with the emotional base or position of the PAC. The ANC, even though it is impressive when it meets the individuals, they are dubious about this non-racialism. Then many of them are even more dubious and questioning of the ANC/SACP alliance.
The pressure then comes up within the ranks in Tanzania to say why hasn't the Communist Party regrouped, we have no sense that we are any more members of the Communist Party. Why can't we have our units functioning amongst us, have meetings? A similar problem to the one I outlined in prison, why do you need that structure in the same camp? So the pressure grows up in Tanzania, people like Dadoo and Slovo also begin to say it's time that the Central Committee met and I can imagine them saying, but if we meet Uncle, JB can't leave to come, and he was at that time Chairman of the Communist Party. Will Moses Kotane be able to come? But also more important, if we meet will people not realise who are the members of the Central Committee because suddenly on the turn will disappear six, seven people. What to do?
Eventually I think that the first regrouping meeting of the Central Committee takes place in 1971. Delegates attend from all over. I don't know what year Kotane gets to the Soviet Union when he's ill. They regroup, the Central Committee meets, expanded, many people who were not members of the Central Committee are invited. One of the issues they grapple with is that it should have a majority of Africans. We need to have a majority of Africans in that leadership. That is when people like Rusty Bernstein, people like Ruth First, who were in the Central Committee in SA say, "I will not stand for election to the Central Committee", to give place so that the Central Committee is not just expanded to a larger body. A first Central Committee is elected by that meeting, people like Ruth and Rusty have stood down, I think different people have different interpretations of that when they put it in terms of personality flashes, etc., but I understand this was part of the problem. But having had the meeting Kotane was arguing against such moves and people couldn't understand what exactly, where does he stand because he was
POM He was against such moves?
MM Because he was reluctant and raising objections to holding the meeting. He came to be described as leading the last years of his life on the basis of being a liquidationist, that is it is no longer necessary to have the Communist Party. This may well be a distortion of his views and I don't have memories of having read Brian Bunting's biography of Kotane. I have certain blockages about that book, I don't recall reading that period intensively.
Preceding this is another thing that has caused a crisis and that is somewhere in 1967/68 a decision is taken in Africa to mount the campaign with ZAPU to jointly sendforces into Rhodesia to fight, ZAPU to fight and stay and entrench themselves in Rhodesia, ANC MK forces to go with them, help fight but to carve out a route into SA. Two or three such expeditions are sent in between 1967 and 1969 and hardly had it entered into the then Rhodesia, across the Zambian borders, it encounters Rhodesian forces assisted by SA Police forces and they have to fight right there. A number of very powerful leaders of our movement, ANC or SACP and MK-trained soldiers, die in Rhodesia, particularly in a campaign that was in an area called Sipolilo. The other group that went was heading for Wankie, going south, is intercepted around Wankie and they fight their way and exit into Botswana, all the survivors. They are arrested in Botswana by the Botswana government and they are sentenced in Botswana to up to 18 months imprisonment. So there's huge dissatisfaction now, how could we do this thing? What did we think we were doing? How did you expect to fight your way to Rhodesia and end up successfully inside SA? Wasn't it a harebrained scheme? And many comrades saying, how come I didn't know? I wasn't in the decision making.
POM Who would have made the decision to send those people?
MM I don't know, all I'm saying is that in the face of this so-called disaster the climate was right, even for somebody who may have been in the decision, to say I didn't know, to avoid having to explain. So that major effort had not succeeded in its objective and any explanation of it was likely to run into enormous criticisms of lack of even adequate planning, lack of adequate foresight by those who planned it. So that added to the dissatisfaction but I think that that is what, that plus this issue of how to get home, why are we not getting home, what is our strategy and tactics plus the issue of the differences within the Communist Party lead to the Morogoro Conference in 1969 in Tanzania and that conference adopts a document on guerrilla warfare, it decides to set up the Revolutionary Council and it decides to bridge the isolation of the wide leadership and people like Dr Dadoo and Reggie September by saying even though you cannot be a member of the NEC of the ANC, in exile you can be a member of the ANC and up to serving in the Revolutionary Council and the mandate of the RC is to prosecute the struggle at home.
A rising star of the Communist Party, Joe Matthews, is made Secretary of the RC and he is a member of the Central Committee. So the feeling was in 1969 that the Morogoro conference had now brought about some cohesion, created a structure that will be devoted to prosecuting the struggle at home and in that structure had accommodated non-Africans, many of them communists, but had now brought about this sort of working together that existed at home. Be that as it may, while that structure and strategy may have been right at that time, or the best that could emerge at that time, the reality was that even that RC was not dispersed as happened in SA in this big country, it was dispersed around the world and its facilities were primarily in Tanzania and post-1969 began to be created in Zambia. In that situation Zambia became to emerge more and more because it was so located that your communications could run better.
So in this debate now things are happening. In the SACP should it exist as a viable entity? Kotane is saying very low key, accused of being liquidationist. Others like Tennyson Makiwane now argue against communists participating in the ANC and MK leadership structures but Tennyson was himself a member of the Communist Party and this is forgotten in the books that are written nowadays. So Tennyson and Ambrose Makiwane lead a group, create a faction publicly unhappy and opposed to the working together with communists post-1969. Eventually under the name of Group of Eight they are expelled somewhere around 1973 or 1974.
So you can see your conditions are driving you inwards, you've created the structures to go homewards but the disputes, the dissension, the lack of commonness of understanding has not gelled together. Even the regrouping of the Communist Party in 1971 has helped but it has not brought it about. In the meantime as the Liberation Committee opens offices in Zambia and we are given facilities there, there is even the bombing of the OAU Liberation Committee offices where people like Max Sisulu got injured. And from the Liberation Committee side with all the support they are giving in practice a tendency is growing up in Africa and its leadership that we support you guys but we'll tell you how to do it, how to wage your struggle.
1975 comes the independence of Mozambique, Angola and Cape Verde Islands. That development radically changes the climate of southern Africa, that development becomes a powerful impulse amongst our youth at home and both at home and in southern Africa the climate begins to change. Zambia becomes more disposed to allowing us to run facilities from there, Soweto takes place and the flood of refugees comes. Angola has become free, Tanzania's support has been stretched to the limit and we are now able to negotiate with the Angolans to open camps there. That is what changed the environment so that the dissension and lack of commonness of understanding could change otherwise I believe there was an inherent danger in the situation that, like many exiled movements, our movement would have turned more and more inwards and the cohesion of the leadership would have gone worse to worse.
POM Just to step back a bit, still on the question of the remark you made, the degeneration of the calibre and the process of exile like
MM By that I mean that even the best of the leadership was largely operated, separated from the ground in SA. All the reports were becoming second hand and third hand because they could not even get a leading person doing work on the ground to come over so that they could sit in a meeting. No leadership person was coming into the country even for three days to get to a particular place to meet a particular leading comrade and sit down and discuss what's the mood of the masses, what is happening, what's the space, what's the conditions. I perhaps used the wrong word, what did I say? Degenerate and - ?
Let me give you an example that strikes me. Lenin created and was leading the Bolsheviks from exile in Russia. He was even in exile in London but the Bolsheviks from within Russia got to London from time to time for a collective meeting as the Bolsheviks. It was not just the Bolsheviks sitting around Lenin living in London or some in France and some in Germany but it was those directly inside Russia also coming. They had meetings in Austria. Now they may be few and far between but if you read the literature of that period there were people moving in and out of Russia, getting caught, getting arrested, getting tortured, but that was happening.
In Vietnam Ho Chi Min and his group, they were trained in China, but as their struggle developed because Indochina was French and English occupied and all these different entities that eventually emerged, Cambodia, Thailand, etc., you find that very early in the struggle they were in the front line in the territory of the struggle. There are maybe anecdotal, maybe mythological, stories of Ho Chi Min unidentified while a group of people are being trained in the forest area. Here is this strange man nobody is able to identify wearing a peasant straw hat, dressed very modestly, sitting there, and they say that was Ho Chi Min. So the leadership was moving in and out of Indochina.
Here the situation as it existed, the disasters, the interception of cadres entering the country, slowly began to stifle the possibility of the leadership.
POM Stifle the what?
MM The capacity of the leadership to come in. I understand that the late Flag Boshielo who was Commissar in the camps of MK (last year or the year before a dam in Limpopo Province was launched and renamed Flag Boshiela Dam, he came from that province) he was a member of the Communist Party, he was a member of the NEC of the ANC. In the camps he was a Commissar of MK. I am told that Flag said somewhere around 1973/74 to his colleagues in the leadership of the ANC, "Guys, got to get home", and in frustration he goes and lobbies and lobbies and says, "I want to go home." In the end they agree but they say, "Flag it's wrong, we have no infrastructure for you to go in." And he says, "I'll create that." They say, "We have no infrastructure even to cross you into Botswana, forget from Botswana then into SA." He said, "I'll do that, give me the permission." And eventually because of his persistence they agreed, allowed him. He made his arrangements and he crossed from Zambia into Botswana via the Caprivi Strip. He disappeared. We believe that the pilot who was guiding him to cross or somebody close there was working with the South Africans and the South Africans intercepted him just as he crossed into Botswana and either arrested him and thereafter killed him, but the likely version is that they killed him right there because he tried to fight back.
Now here's the first time you tried to send an NEC member. Dead. Yes you are sending in other people, all sorts of heroic stories come from that period, how other cadres were smuggled. A chap who just died in Natal the other day, code named Gizenga, real name Reuben Hlabathi, he had fought in Wankie, he had been part of the plans to send a ship called the Aventura from Mogadishu in Somaliland to drop people off at the coast, which had to be aborted. He had gone into Botswana where they built a false compartment in the base of an open van which was transporting fish on ice and poor Reuben in that confined compartment the Immigration Officer delayed them when they crossed into Botswana with the fish, made the driver unload all the fish and reload it. By the time he left there and when he got to the bush and took out Reuben from the hidden compartment, Reuben was virtually a block of ice. OK, he survived again and again in that Mogadishu group and when it was aborted he was flown to Madagascar, from Madagascar into Swaziland and re-infiltrated into the country and, again, this time he gets caught in SA and is sent to Robben Island.
So there are heroic stories of those efforts but all those things of that level of cadre trying to get in and being intercepted and missions aborted or captured, we sent in cadres with Frelimo from Tanzania on foot, through northern Mozambique to try and get to SA. Those things too ran into ambushes, some of the comrades of the ANC survived, dispersed, no longer a cohesive force, and individuals found their way back into Tanzania and safety again, in malaria territory, attacked by the Portuguese forces, Frelimo forces killed in that ambush some of the ANC, there were a few of them all scattered and slowly made their way back. All that is there but I am saying that the Flag case of a member of the NEC now allowed to go in even in this very difficult circumstance and his disappearance would have been paralysing. Even the ordinary cadre in the camp would have been saying, I will oppose my leader going in because I don't want you to go in, send me rather until conditions improve where my survival can now say there is something that suggests you, the leader, can come in.
And there was a desire in the leadership to go. When the Wankie group were crossing the Zambezi into Rhodesia OR took them right to the river and was present there at the crossing and always the urge was there, no I can't send the cadres, I must go. And others would say, no you can't, you have a job to do. So all these things conspired. My remarks must not be read, even when I isolate individuals, must not be read as a derogatory judgement of the individual comrades in the leadership. I am saying this was the environment and the environment only really changed with the independence of Mozambique and Angola because the climate in southern Africa changed and, secondly, those developments were a major catalyst for the upsurge of militancy in this country culminating in the Soweto uprising.
POM Going back. You talk about Joe Slovo and his self-centredness.
MM Yes. Within that framework, yes.
POM Wherever he is he's always got to be the centre of the struggle. But you say you tell Dadoo and Joe Slovo that they have fucked up the SACP.
MM Before that I tell them a very important thing that has just come to my mind. I don't know whether I ever referred to it. In my six months in London transcribing the autobiography, of course the first thing I do is to go and brief Dr Dadoo and Joe is there. In my briefing I say to them, "Comrades, from 1964 to now I am out of touch with the decisions of the Communist Party, can you give me a file so that I can read and acquaint myself and I will come and ask you questions whether it doesn't make sense or where it's not clear to me." So they gave me a set of documents of the resolutions, etc. In that set of documents I get a document on its own guiding the rules of conduct of the members of the Communist Party and I read it and maybe my mindset was influenced by what I had experienced at the time of my detention. Before I got detained the guidelines were don't assume you will not get detained, do not assume that when you are detained you will not be tortured. Take that as given in your work, it's highly risky. But it said when you are detained and even if you are tortured, do not speak one word. Now when I had seen that document before my detention I had said to Piet Beyleveld, "Piet, this is not realistic." And Piet said, "What nonsense you're talking, you've got to be strong." My own experience and what was happening around me with other detainees thereafter showed me we were unrealistic. That sort of preparation was a disastrous preparation because it was untailored to the reality because if you went in only with the view no speaking, when that torture reached a point where you collapsed, you collapsed completely.
Now I get to London in 1977
POM If you had spoken a little there is no difference between - you'd broken the rules, what's the difference between speaking a little or speaking a lot?
MM Yes. Now I get to London and here I read the rules for membership of the party which have been developed in exile and the rules say every member of the Communist Party, each and every one, undertakes and commits himself or herself that on 24 hours notice irrespective of any problems you may have, including personal problems, family problems, whatever they be, if you are instructed to go home you will be ready to do so within 24 hours of that instruction. I read this thing, I'm ready, I've come with that mindset, but I have now been meeting people in London, I've met people in Tanzania, I've met people in Mozambique, Maputo, I've met comrades in Lusaka and now I'm meeting comrades in London, and I'm looking at their circumstances. I go to Doc and JS, "Chaps, I read this document, it's unrealistic." "What do you mean?" I say, "Chaps, you've made a rule which you can't carry out yourself. We are living underground with a hell of a struggle in front of us, let's not make rules that we know are dead at the time of writing" And they argue with me, "No, it's necessary, you need that full commitment. We will not take anybody who is not committed to going home." I said, "But my problem is not the commitment to going home, my problem is this 24 hours and no problem of yours, of any personal nature is going to be accepted as an excuse." I was not yet integrated. That rule stayed in that document but died in practice.
Now I'm using this to illustrate that in the discussions, coming from prison and coming from home and coming from that experience of the guideline of how to behave in detention, I straightaway just said, "OK, I've argued it with them. What is the point? Drop the argument, this document is meaningless. It will not be implemented so rather ignore it than to spend your time arguing because the argument can become very bitter because it's so easy to say, Slovo, would you give up everything and just go home in 24 hours and not ask what are the preparations, how safe am I going to be, how am I going to retreat?" So I dropped it but it told me that there was an unreality about those rules, the way they were written.
POM So when you said to Dadoo and JS, outside of Central Committee, "You guys have done a hell of a job in carrying out the fight to justify and establish the need for the SA communist to exist, but at the same time you guys have fucked it up." What did you mean?
MM That was a different issue. I got out of the country, I had been preceded by many former prisoners. I knew the case of one prisoner, in prison I got to know him, and I knew because we shared our life stories, knew that while he was attracted to Marxism he had not at the time of his arrest even become a member of the Communist Party, had not yet been recruited. I saw him in prison, I think we shared about ten years, he served a slightly shorter sentence than me, in our classes and I could see his development. Yes, he was theoretically committed to Marxism. I too would have supported his being recruited, even if we had a Communist Party in prison I would have said recruit him. He was very articulate, he had a good academic training, and he left the country and he went abroad into exile.
When I get to the Central Committee meeting the first time in 1978 in GDR I find he's in the Central Committee already. So in casual discussions with Joe in Maputo, Joe was then based in Maputo and many times passing through we'd sit down, we'd be talking things of the party, I raised the matter with him. I said, "Joe, I came from a perspective where you guys taught me that membership of the Communist Party in this clandestine body was almost an elite. You tried to assess a person, tried, tested, then they came, and to get to the top you got there through service." "Oh yes, yes, yes." And I was a very abrasive arguer at that time, perhaps still am, I said, "But Joe, I have found out something, you recruited this man the moment he came into exile. You straightaway recruited him straight into the Central Committee." Joe says, "Nonsense, he was a member of the Communist Party." I said, "When did he join the Communist Party? Did you investigate whether he'd been a member of the Communist Party before he went to prison? Did you try to check any of those things because if you did, Joe, you'd have found he wasn't." He says, "No, he was." I said, "No, I'm sorry. The cadres who were in the leadership in the region where he was living before his arrest are here with you. You simply said he is articulate, he's academically qualified, he has served in prison, in MK. Right, do you support the Communist Party? He says yes. But in your mind you already said he needs to be in the Central Committee."
POM That is to fight the liquidationists?
MM No, to strengthen the Communist Party. Of course he was very embarrassed because I stood my ground and after that it became in an abrasive, outside the meeting debate I would say, "This is what you did. Day one of joining the Communist Party you made the person a member of the Central Committee." And I said, "But the real issue that I'm raising is, you have not schooled him, you have not put him in the environment of how the communists should work. You've just accepted his commitment and you've promoted him to leader." And of course subsequently this particular comrade's path was disastrous because simultaneously with that they immediately promoted him to become a very important head of MK and of course from the ANC side he went straight into the NEC and within two to three years the calibre of his contributions at meetings, the performance in the camps as Commissar (I didn't want to mention the word because I don't want to identify him, he's still alive), his performance in his MK command position, all were so disastrous that I think come Kabwe he was not elected to the NEC and come the conference
POM The NEC or - ?
MM The NEC yes. Come a meeting of the Congress of the Communist Party he's not even elected. So you put a person in a strategic position where everything to me says you haven't prepared him for his responsibilities, you've thrust it onto him and you've added on responsibilities because you were testifying in every forum and putting his name forward on the grounds that you said he was a very good man.
POM Let me give you the sequence here because that suggests something different than the sequence in your conversation with Howard. He asked, "Why did you say they fucked up, the Communist Party?" He asked, "In what sense?" And you say, "Because doing that job of maintaining the fight for the party not to be liquidated in practice without a constituency they had to grab any shit who was amenable to that task in Africa, they slip into that mould, unconscious behind the scenes kingmakers. And when you're doing king-making away from a constituency you don't know what you are dealing with. As long as the chap shows the qualities of articulateness and he follows in the right racial classification you pick him and you promote him because you reckon after that fight the sifting will take place." Then you go on to, "I had a fight with Joe in Maputo", and then you refer to this guy. So Joe was recruiting guys to bolster his position?
MM No. You see the liquidationist battle was over now. Kotane had died.
POM So what does the first part refer to?
MM What I am saying is, I'm extrapolating and saying in that exile environment you went correctly to recruit Africans into the Central Committee but your test was simply if he's articulate, if he's got good qualifications, if he says he agrees with you, to you he's already put into the leadership and by putting him there he's now become part of you in Africa and he is now assessing people exactly the way you assessed him and he is promoting people because he's holding strategic positions and he is promoting them based on his own experience. So what he's doing, he's increasing the numbers coming into the Communist Party but diluting the quality coming into the Communist Party leadership.
POM In that sense this is referring to something that we were discussing yesterday when we were talking about racial composition and you said, "Well then Joe Slovo was elected - "
MM General Secretary.
POM A majority were Africans and they elected him. But this would suggest that a majority of those who were Africans might have been people who had pre-selected by Joe.
MM Not necessarily Joe alone. I was showing him as a tendency.
POM When you said to him, "Joe, you promoted a person." Who are you talking about? Him?
MM Yes. I'm talking about him and the comrades. I have no evidence that Joe was the recruiter of this man. I have no direct evidence that Joe spoke to him and said
POM What's the correct word then? If I wanted to - ?
MM That the comrades who were involved in this regrouping, the leaders who were leading the Communist Party.
MM The names of the Central Committee as at 1975 are not known, nobody has put their names down and I think you'll be putting me in a little bit of an invidious position to name the Central Committee that I met with in the first meeting that I had in GDR in 1978. I won't remember all of them because they came with pseudonyms and therefore I did not know them and I would therefore single out those that I know. But the point I am making is it was not a personal fiefdom although I refer to Joe.
POM But this is very personal.
MM No but I'm using an illustration because Joe is a key member and I'm debating with him but my criticism is against him and Dadoo. I was saying it to both of them and when I said 'you' I was not just personalising it to Dadoo and him, it was to the main tendency in the Communist Party Central Committee at that time. I was using this example, a classic case is this particular comrade, to illustrate several things. Are you preparing them? Does membership of the Communist Party and you get into the Central Committee, is it a real badge of honour earned by service and absorbing an ethos? They would say yes and when you say to me the bulk of the members voted for Joe, so did I. In my opinion I would still have voted for Joe with all those mistakes because I think in terms of calibre and service of all those people that were in that room that day, at that Congress, he was the outstanding person for that job because I do not accept that there ever has been a communist in General Secretary who's been a perfect General Secretary.
POM You bring up the point, or at least I see you bringing it up and you brought it up with Howard perhaps because
MM Because Howard was a disciple, was at that time, until then had been a great follower of Joe Slovo and Ronnie Kasrils.
POM What I'm saying is you have ideology, you have commitment, you have the cause and you also have the desire for power.
MM No, you have the practice and then you have the individual personalities who are driven by power as well and that is why I keep writing about Walter Sisulu as the ambitionless person.
POM Ambitionless, I like that. Of course your computer wouldn't like that.
MM Well ambitionless. No, Walter was prepared to serve wherever but he was self-effacing in the sense not that he wanted no acknowledgement of him but he was self-effacing because he always promoted others where he saw quality, above himself.
POM That is not a quality that Joe necessarily had.
MM No, Joe didn't have that quality. Joe, I have said it the other way in that same document, wherever Joe was, in whichever part of the world he was stationed, to him that was the centre from where the revolution should be waged. He always felt that he should be at the centre and he should be acknowledged as having been at the centre.
POM You said the same thing happened with another person who was in the SACP, in the regrouping that took place and the fight back against Kotane, he was involved, "He was never moved through the normal party machineries. When I met him he was D category, therefore it meant you had to be separated from the others. But I met him for the first time when he was invited to join the District Committee post-Rivonia and he served only in one meeting of the District Committee of Johannesburg because we got an invitation from outside to say send people to parties who will be trained. We decided to send him off and as it happened he therefore does not attend any more district meetings, so he's not even been bloodied. As it happens he doesn't go out but comes the arrests and we are detained and he is detained and by every account he has made a deal because within three weeks of detention he is released. So he gets out and he says to the chap he made the deal, the chap is wise enough to say ship him out, but not on the basis to say, Comrade you've done something wrong, but he goes out, he does his military training, all sorts of things happens, he ends up with the party at a Central Committee meeting in 1971, in the Politburo and being actively promoted by Joe Slovo and Dadoo and then he has a fall out with Joe. I cannot claim that I am an objective observer of this thing because he turns out to be one of the biggest disasters of the movement.
MM Yes, yes.
POM Who is this guy?
MM He's still alive.
POM Well off the record, both of them.
[MM Off the record, Josiah Jele.]
POM He comes up all the time. You've mentioned him a number of times as being a disaster in these things. Whatever happened to him?
MM He spread a rumour in the party ranks and the ANC ranks, he became chairman of the Political Committee when the PMC was created, he was brought from Helsinki where he was representing the movement at the World Peace Congress and he had been doing that for years.No, let me just go back a little bit off the record just to brief you about him. He had been part of the group that entered from Tanzania into Mozambique and in that ambush he retreated on his own, got back safely to Tanzania, was down with malaria, was sent off for medical treatment abroad, to the Soviet Union, etc. The party regroups 1971, he's brought in from the East Africa side as a delegate, elected to the Central Committee, then appointed by the ANC as a representative at Helsinki, settles in Helsinki, did some good things, organised the Lisbon Anti-Apartheid conference, spoken of very highly. Then from Helsinki in 1985 I think he's brought over and made chairman of the Political Committee of the PMC. By now the RC was replaced by the Political Military Committee. I am retained as secretary. We start working and then he starts travelling because I urge him go to the frontline states, get acquainted. And I'm very happy that I've got a chairman now and I think we get on and that he's young enough, he's going to travel. So he starts travelling Botswana and Zimbabwe.
From Zimbabwe we get a report that he's met the Political Committee, he's met the ANC underground structures and he's briefing them that Slovo is a Stalinist. Slovo at this time is General Secretary of the Communist Party. By this time he and I are differing in Lusaka in the Political Committee and then I hear that in Zimbabwe
POM Differing on?
MM On how to do the work. He is not, to my mind, carrying out in practice what we are strategically focused on. I differ with him in some instances and I find he is not keeping me informed of what he is doing. For example, he took a white comrade in Harare and sent him home without my knowing it, a good person but I would not have sent him and I would not have sent him for the task that he sent him. This white comrade was a very committed guy, Peter Wellman, ex journalist, died recently, and Peter was married to a woman Peta Thorneycroft who was Rhodesian by birth, Peter had fled the country to avoid arrest for doing underground work and MK work, reconnaissance work. I felt Peter was a passionate and committed man but he was a bit volatile and what came out was that in Harare in discussions with Jele alone, Peter put forward the idea that he should be sent home to assassinate Swanepoel, the famous, notorious Swanepoel. Now Peter was well known publicly, he was a journalist in Harare. He had fled the security forces, fled the possible detention, had been in the Human Rights Committee, had been detained previously.
POM But he had no training of any description?
MM No, and living and known in Harare. Jele used to stay at their home whenever he was in Harare and Peter puts this idea that they talk about Swanepoel, "I know where he stays, I can track him down, he's staying on a farm." From that it moves to why don't we assassinate him? And from that it moves to, let's do it, and Peter is sent into the country by air. Arrives here, at the airport the Security Police are there and they grab him and they take him for questioning. I said, "What's this? Who sent Peter? Why?" Jele doesn't tell me. Eventually Peter is released and flies off to London, extremely nervous. Months later I get a message from Peter, "Please help, I am stranded." His wife Peta from Harare contacts me, "Please help, we are stranded." "It's not my responsibility, it looks like you went on your own accord." "No, no, we were sent home." "Sent home to do what?" Peta by now moves to London to be with Peter. I get to London, "What do you mean?" He says, "But I was sent by Jele home." I said, "To do what?" "To assassinate Swanepoel." "How are you going to do this flying in?" "No, Jele and I had worked it out. But from the time I got detained and I got to London after my release I've been appealing to him and he's giving me no help." Now I could have said to Peter, "Well fuck you, that's your problem." I go to raise it with Jele because I think it's our obligation to help. Jele wouldn't admit, he says to me, "Fuck them." OK, I said to myself, well I will never reincorporate Peter into the underground structures operating from London but I do send letters to Defence & Aid supporting that they should help him, etc.
So these are the sort of things we start clashing about but in the clashes I hear that not only is he saying Slovo is a Stalinist and mobilising against Slovo in the Communist Party, but he's now spreading the story, he says that I'm a British Military Intelligence agent.
POM You and I now share something in common. I was accused of that in Northern Ireland so many times that I virtually said why not?
MM Well I didn't reach that stage. I confront Jele thinking that it can be resolved. He denies. Now he's a member of the Politburo with me. I say this is the type of rumour-mongering that is of the worst order. I say to JS, JS flares. So I said, "Calm down. The problem with this is we have no evidence." And Joe says, "Yes, you've got no evidence. We say so-and-so told you but is he prepared to say it?" So I say, "OK, wait, don't make a noise now. I've raised it with him, he's not doing anything. He's not admitting, he's not even explaining." So I tackle the person in the PMC from whom I'd heard it, old stalwart who is also in the Politburo who told me this. I say, "Who told you?" So he tells me who from the party in Harare told him. I ask him to make a statement, an affidavit, so he goes, he comes back and he says, "The chap is reluctant." So I said, "OK, I'll go." I went to Harare, I sat down with the comrade. I said, "This is what happened, this is what we are told." He said, "It's true but I have been approached to write a statement and I am afraid to write a statement." So I patiently debate with him and I explain to him that to tell us that he saying this and not to be prepared to write an affidavit is to perpetuate what that man is doing. Well I discuss and discuss and finally he says, "I see what you are saying. One has got to have the courage otherwise when a person tells you things like that your duty is to shut up and not tell anybody. You don't perpetuate that rumour." And he finally agrees and says he will write an affidavit.
So he makes a statement. I go, I show it to Joe, I say, "Here's the statement. What do we do?" We call a meeting of the Politburo and that meeting was held in Lusaka. Moses Mabida at this time was the General Secretary so it was not 1985, it may have been a bit earlier, and Moses had had a stroke so he was somewhat incapacitated, hospitalised, in and out. He had been released from hospital. So we meet and he's not present and we say the way to handle it, and Joe is there and Jele, confront him, it becomes acrimonious, denies, now accuses the person who made the statement of lying. So we take a decision that we will appoint a Commission of Enquiry. OK, he's present, and then we appoint the Commission of Enquiry. Tell him, nominate. By agreement we appoint a commission and we give it its time limit within which it must prepare its report, investigate the matter, interview people, hear Jele's story, hear my story, if necessary hear JS, everything. The Commission sits, finishes its work, prepares its report and the report is presented at the Moscow meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee. All there, come from all over Africa, London. The report is tabled, some comrades, stalwarts, speak up. The Commission of Enquiry has found him guilty and now we debate the matter with Jele present. The Central Committee adopts the report. We now have to decide on the punishment. Some people, some of the stalwarts propose expulsion from the Communist Party. Others say expulsion from the Central Committee and go back to being a rank and file member of the party and rehabilitate yourself and desist from this type of destructive work. The meeting is swinging about the punishment and others are saying he's served usefully, etc., and served with commitment, MK, ANC.
POM He's still chairman of the PMC?
MM He's chairman of the PMC Political Committee, he's a member of the NEC of the ANC, etc., he's been an MK fighter. Moses Mabida intervenes suddenly and he says, "Let's not be too harsh, let's just suspend him from the Politburo." JS supports that. I say, "Guys, a suspension from the Politburo is not an expulsion from the Politburo. A suspension means after a period you're back."
POM He will be reinstated.
MM JS comes to me outside the meeting, he says, "Look, Mac, this is a touchy subject, let's handle it very carefully. The suspension will mean that he will never return to the Politburo." So I said to him, "Joe, the problem about your line is he has not made an admission, he has not made an apology even against the Central Committee adopting the Commission's report and I'm very unhappy."
POM This is like a precursor to the Truth Commission.
MM Yes, and I say, "But because I'm involved and because I'm one of the injured parties and I'm more injured, I feel, that this man said I was an agent and he made it worse, it's one of the things that really causes an enormous problem between Zarina and myself. I couldn't tell her what was happening in the Communist Party but the allegation was justified on the grounds that my wife was working for the British government and she had got in Zambia, when she was working for the university, the British Overseas DevelopmentCorporation began to fund her and she became an overseas volunteer which was useful for us because she got paid in foreign currency and when the Zambian government wanted her to come and do the training for the Zambian government, for the Education department and do the computerisation and training, they said, "We can't pay you, we will raise the money from the British." And because she had a British passport she qualified to be a British volunteer Service Officer and this was now used as proof. I said, "This is the worst thing. What I feel hurt about is say it about me, I can stand here because I'm part of this and defend myself. But say it about my wife, she is not here, she can't defend herself, and I find that absolutely unacceptable." But I say, "When the meeting resumes I'm going to keep quiet, you guys decide on the punishment." Ray Simons persists, "This thing warrants expulsion, not suspension, expulsion from the Central Committee and the Politburo." Joe now motivates for suspension, holds his ground and as the meeting moves in its thinking to say OK, OK, let it be suspension. Just as we agree on that Mabida says, and he'd had a stroke so he was not very able to speak as fluently, he says, "And I think that this should not be made known to the party membership, this decision. Secondly, I think that the records of this whole episode including the Commission report should be obliterated from the records of the party."
By this time because of whether persuasion but also exhaustion of debate over suspension from the Politburo, we said OK, and because it's Mabida, the General Secretary speaking it's like he's speaking of the consequential decisions resting on the suspension of Jele. That night I say to Joe, "I've never seen a thing like this in my life." I said, "I told you I would keep quiet, I've kept quiet, but this is the last time I will ever participate in a destruction of historical records." Because after that decision was taken as just a decision, a statement from the General Secretary, nobody challenged it. I said, "We have all lived through the record of the Stalin era where history, documents were falsified and we say this record of the basis on which we've arrived at the decision should be now destroyed so that no record exists. This I don't like. I kept quiet but I'm telling you privately, it has brought up so sharply inside me the record of the Soviet Union under Stalin and how good comrades got executed by Stalin. I lived through reading the record of the Zinoviev trials, it was claimed to be the verbatim records and supported their execution, to find after the 20th Congress that they made statements of their torture, that those were false reports, the record of the trial." I said, "I've had to go through that shock of being an ardent supporter and now find that I have been a supporter of execution of leading comrades by comrades. Never again."
Be that as it may that led to all sorts of slow disappearance of Jele from the scene. When I came into the country in Vula he was still the chairman of the Political Committee.
POM But he was just suspended from the Politburo so he would not have known that you were in the country?
MM No, he didn't know. Didn't know at all and I would not have agreed. But he continued with some of his activities. The problem was we had taken a decision not to inform the membership so this decision was a secret to the Central Committee that met there and only those and you were not allowed to tell any other member of the party.
POM And there was no record.
MM Therefore anybody outside that meeting could not even in any other forum where Jele's name was being proposed for any important task, could not say they have reservations about his appointment. It remained like that. He came into the country in 1991, he was in the NEC of the ANC. I don't know how it happened because I had retired and all that sort of thing and I was not interested, even when I resumed in 1990 in the June meeting I was just happy he was not in the organising committee and he disappears, no longer getting profile jobs in the ANC. Comes 1994, 1993 or so he is sent by the ANC to New York to head the New York office. 1994 he is made Ambassador to UN.
POM To the UN?
MM Yes. He finishes his stint in the UN and he returns to SA after his four year stint and I hear of him in the investment arm of Joe Modise's initiatives in the arms sector. I see he's now head of the Association of Security Officers, that's all these private security people, he's chairman of that association. I see his name now and then in some other investment groupings, business and I don't know whether he was at the conference. I don't think he was elected, I don't think he was nominated but now and then you see him coming into profile and disappearing.
POM What was his motivation?
MM To put the best construction I think he thought that just as he was part of the group in the party being re-established in 1971 and being part of that group brought him into the Central Committee, I thought now he had developed ambitions that he should become the General Secretary of the Communist Party and I think therefore motivation was deep personal ambition.
There was one big difference in the environment in Africa vis-à-vis the environment in the UK post-Rivonia. I know of comrades of the party who went to London after detention, they took exit permits or fled or just went across the border but ended up in the UK, under Doc and JS in the UK and in the early period I suppose Rusty and Ruth, was there an African comrade there in the party's Central Committee? No, most of them were able to live in Africa. They set up a procedure where if just the fact that you were detained, doesn't matter what level you were in the party, Central Committee, you had to be screened, you were questioned about what happened and if there was a shadow of a mark that you may have spoken in detention or that you broke down and if you had been a member of the Central Committee at home you were not brought back into the Central Committee. You were given tasks at other levels and I know one comrade whose matter I had to handle at the request of the Central Committee in SA before I became a member of the Central Committee, before the Rivonia arrests, I was seen by the Central Committee because I was heading for Durban on some task and I had been in the District Committee. They said to me there's a comrade who's just been released from detention recently, he's a member of the Central Committee, and our information is that he has spoken in detention and he's acknowledged that he's a member of the Central Committee. Now there is a great danger that he is going to be re-arrested and we fear that his release is a prelude to re-detaining him and even maybe using him as a state witness. You know him very well from the fifties, Mac. Will you go and meet him, he knows you're in the party, and tell him that we're urging him and you are persuading him to leave the country. You will take it up for the safety of the organisation and the safety of himself. So I went to Durban and I had a chat with him, he was my senior. He broke down and he confessed, told me openly confess is the wrong word, he volunteered. He told me that he had not been tortured but he felt that they had so much information on him, including his membership of the Central Committee, that he should make an admission. So he admitted. I said, "Did you identify your colleagues?" He said, "Yes." "Did you sign a statement?" He said, "Yes." And then he broke down when I said to him, "Comrade, head office is saying time to leave the country. We'll smuggle you out." He broke down. He said, "Look, yes I did give this information. I did harm the organisation but I have also destroyed my family's name and worse, my younger brother has given state evidence in a case so he has completely ruined my family's name." He says, "I now am driven by one thing only, give me a chance comrades, give me a chance to redeem my family's name."
OK, difficult discussion but I held to the view, "Comrade, all those things you can do but even your motivation has gone wrong. You want to do something because the public knows that your brother became a state witness. You are motivated by removing that blot from the copybook. Wrong motivation. But the issue is you know you are completely vulnerable, you can be brought by the Security Police to court and charged for perjury. Worse, you can be detained and further broken. You've got to leave, comrade. I'm your junior but I'm telling you you've got to go and you can do everything in exile to redeem yourself and your family."
OK, I prevailed on him, it was almost like an all-night discussion between him and I but in the end he said, "OK, I'll go." I came back and reported, the arrangements were made and he left the country. In London I am told they discussed with him, asked him what had happened, he told them openly what had happened, he admitted he had talked. They promoted him in all sorts of jobs because he was quite a dynamic and able chap, but they never made him a member of the Central Committee again.
When I came out of prison and I was under house arrest I got a letter from him, from London smuggled through to me in Durban, he didn't know I'm heading out of the country, pleading with me to come abroad to London, saying that he's got this task, a major task that he'd been given, he's heading that and he really wants me to come and work with him in this project. Before I could leave the country he was on a flight to the GDR and on that flight he had a heart attack and died. Big memorial meetings were held for him, etc. But I'm telling you his story because there was fairly rigorous screening going on in London and if you had made those mistakes in the fight you were openly told that these are the mistakes you've made, you are now no longer in the Central Committee, and they kept on assessing and they never brought him back even though he was doing fantastic work.
POM If there was fairly rigorous screening going on how could - ?
MM Now that's in London. I'm coming back to Africa. The very people who were leading that screening in London were practising no screening in Africa. But generally the ANC was not screening the comrades who were coming. As long as they knew you to have been in the ANC you hardly went through a screening and in this particular individual's case that we were talking about they never screened him, because I am saying he was detained with us and released within three weeks. He was detained before me, he was released within three weeks, he went to one of the senior comrades in the underground who was his link man, confessed to him that he had made a deal with Swanepoel and the deal with Swanepoel was that he was going to arrange a meeting with this very comrade that he's confessing to so that they could catch him because he was ducking and diving.
Now this chap was working closely with me, he was in the secretariat of the ANC and the NEC and he was in the District Committee of the party, so he came straight to my home and said, "Mac, I'd like to take a decision on my ground, on the feet." I said, "What happened?" He said, "Josiah met me, came to sort me out. I went to meet him and he's told me this, that Swanepoel and him have come to a deal, he would be released but he must now find Mike, make an appointment with Mike, inform Swanepoel so that Swanepoel can arrest Mike." So Mike says, "I had to decide immediately and I've taken the decision straight away, I told him you're not even going back home. Right now from here, for your own safety, I didn't tell him he did wrong or anything, right now comrade you're moving out of the country", and shipped him out the same night. He came to inform me the next day that this is what I did. I said, "You did right."
I don't believe anybody in Africa asked about him and I don't believe the Slovos when they met him in 1969 at Morogoro, in 1971 at the Central Committee meeting, asked.
POM So he was shipped out and arrived in Lusaka and said, may have gone to Joe and said, "Hi Joe, I've shipped out."