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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
15 Jan 2003: Maharaj, Mac
POM Mac, just a matter that struck me: three comments that you had made, and these are again from Howard Barrell's interviews, one was that when Masondo and Gqabi left jail they were out to destroy Madiba.
MM I can't provide hard evidence for that but I think I told you the atmosphere I found abroad, especially in Lusaka in December 1977 when I rejoined well at the first meeting of the Internal Political & Reconstruction Department around that draft of the leaflet where people wanted the removal of the name 'Release Mandela', which they couched in various arguments and then I told you the follow up of that December 16th meeting, MK Day, where OR asked me to address the people on the basis that there were rumours that as far back as 1969 Madiba had clandestinely been at Kaunda's State House. I think that that idea was also - that reluctance and edginess about Madiba I found also in individual members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
POM The edginess you found about Madiba?
POM You found also in the Central Committee of the SACP.
MM And I could not understand that how the two people who had left prison before me, Andrew Masondo and Joe Gqabi, and they had been extremely vigorous in their support for Govan Mbeki in prison and Gqabi had
POM Are you saying their support for Mbeki, was it that - ?
MM There was very heated debate and relations were quite strained between the two of them and Madiba and the reason was an enigmatic document that had been thrown into the public arena which purports to come from Robben Island, I think you will find it in Carter and Karis, the last volume that they've written on SA, and you will find that it is a sort of report if I remember they say it was found in the archives of the late Dr Dadoo, I think Andre Odendaal is the first one to have referred to that document in the public arena, which suggests in that report - it has been dismissed by Kathy as not an authentic document. I don't think he has tried to argue the basis for that, you'll find it in Carter and Karis that they say that Kathy dismisses that document. It certainly did not come from the Higher Organ and the authorship of that report, it purports to be a report from Robben Island, from the Higher Organ about the differences that arose on Robben Island with Madiba and Walter on the one side and Govan Mbeki and Mhlaba on the other side.
Who was the source of that report nobody knows. Certainly Kathy has raised it with me, it doesn't carry a date line but it was found in Dr Dadoo's records and documents. We can speculate who were the authors but it is in its tone and content (a) inaccurate about what had happened and what was happening in Robben Island, and (b) is structured as if Madiba was in the wrong.
POM Now was this still around the issues relating to the Bantustans?
MM It was around the issues of Bantustans and everything but suggesting that there was tension and problems inside the Higher Organ and that some other people were brought into the Higher Organ to resolve those issues and this report, as far as I can recall, purports to come from a person that claims that he was critical to resolving the issues. I haven't seen the original of that document. If it is in the handwriting of the person who prepared the report I would be able to say whether it is a particular person from the single cells, because I've dismissed it, it doesn't feature in history as anything significant but I am saying that such a report found in the files of Dr Dadoo
POM Where were his files?
MM They were in London, I don't know where they are stored, where they are stored here. They must have been brought here to the Mayibuye Centre or Fort Hare. Andre Odendaal would know. Now this one clearly in Dr Dadoo's file means that somebody who gave it to him was close or was in the Communist Party and was a person who came from the single cells. Of the people from the single cells who got abroad and occupied leading positions or got released and were in dynamic contact with OR and Dr Dadoo, who by the way never divulged this report even to me, the ones who I think were in dynamic contact or went abroad were Joe Gqabi, Masondo and myself. Then a few years later, because he was serving a 15 year sentence so he would have gone out in 1980, would have been Michael Dingake, now living in Botswana.
But as I say I've never followed it up, I've never seen the original, I don't know if it's in the original handwriting. I recall that in the books where it's referred to it doesn't seem to carry a date line. But Dr Dadoo clearly stored it away. He certainly didn't raise it with me in the Central Committee, he didn't raise it with me in the Politburo so I don't think it featured heavily in his own mind but it does suggest that even in the ranks of the Communist Party there were some people who held this view about Madiba. As I say I cannot think of any other people from the single cells except, first to be released I think was Masondo, very shortly thereafter was Joe Gqabi, both of them released in 1975. Then my release at the end of 1976 and then Dingake's release round about 1980. Others oh yes, there was one other who ended up abroad, M D Naidoo, but M D was serving only a four or five year sentence and he came there in 1965. Yes, there's a bit of an overlap but M D stayed in the country for years after his release and only went abroad after I had gone abroad. Could he have sent the report earlier? Yes he could, he knew Dr Dadoo, so, yes, I can't exclude him because he was there up to 1970, but it depends when the report is dated and M D had been drawn into the Higher Organ. Anybody else? Laloo Chiba gets released 1980, sentenced in 1964, so 1982, but he stayed in the country all the time. Joshua Zulu got released but he settled in Natal and he joined Inkatha so he wouldn't have had contact and by the time of the Harry Gwala trial people in that trial were looking down askance at Joshua Zulu and felt that he had crossed over.
POM Sorry, people in that trial?
MM There was a fairly large group of people but it's known as the Harry Gwala trial of 1973/75/76 and by that time already they were seeing Joshua Zulu as one of the ANC people who came out of prison, joined Inkatha but crossed over ideologically and in his commitment to Inkatha. He didn't leave the country and he died in the country after that.
So, OK, it's helped me to remember M D Naidoo as one of the people but I don't think M D Naidoo would have been communicating, if he managed to smuggle a message in those harsh days of the 1970s that he would have concentrated on sending that kind of report even if he wanted to give that kind of report. And I don't recall M D taking a stance. Debates had not yet reached a heated point when M D was leaving so I can't see that. So that's that.
So in answer to your question, there was an ambience in certain circles abroad, and I'm saying that the ambience which had showed how it was in the ANC, was manifest in certain leading people of the Communist Party. John Motsabi himself, my chairman, was a member of the Communist Party and a member of the Central Committee. John never raised those type of issues but he would manipulate information and he would manipulate confidences with different people but the unfortunate tendency was that in those clandestine days in that environment you never found him maintain a consistent position but there was a huge tendency for him to move around, fluctuating and seeking all sorts of individual alliances and the tendency of those manoeuvrings were more destructive than constructive towards the cohesion and the development of the unity of the organisation and in particular of its leadership.
POM Were they more to maintain his own leadership position?
MM Yes I think so. I think he was ambitious but I think in the early fifties I think there were indicators that he had a nervous breakdown and that the strong, positive qualities that he had were being overwhelmed by his negative qualities in exile conditions, certainly by the time I meet him.
POM The second thing that I want to ask you about when you were on the Island, did people in the single cells get news of the Chris Hani Memorandum?
POM And was this a topic for discussion?
MM We had first hand reports from the groups who were now coming into prison post-1970 and some of them ended up in our section and they had participated in Wankie with Chris Hani in the fighting when we made the incursions from Zambia. So they reported on the tensions, the grievances, that were in the petition by Chris Hani and we were very happy to hear that Chris had survived both Wankie and had made these complaints, led this petition inside the ANC and that the matters were resolved inside the ANC and they were resolved without any disciplinary action being taken against Chris.
POM But there was, he was tried.
MM He was tried but the point is that he survived it I said.
POM By one vote.
MM But we didn't know that it was one vote. What we knew was that he has survived and we were happy that he survived.
POM Did you know that the penalty could have been execution?
MM No we didn't know that. We didn't know those details. The point I'm making is that we had understood that he raised grievances that were real, that the end result of those processes was that his status in the organisation was not diminished, that he remained in the Central Committee, that he not only remained in the Central Committee but rose higher, that he remained in the NEC of the ANC and by 1973 our reports were that he had been sent by the organisation to settle in Lesotho and that we were very happy to hear that he was chosen by the organisation to go and settle in Lesotho and that he had done this by crossing overland. So we were happy with those developments. That it had been part of a tension and that there were attempts to kill him, we were happy that they did not materialise and any messages that Madiba and them would have sent out would have been to praise OR for resolving this matter without internecine warfare.
For instance the people coming in would not have come in from the NEC of the ANC, no NEC member from exile had come into the country, got arrested and landed on Robben Island. So the reports would not be - I am in the NEC, I know what happened, I know that there was a disciplinary hearing so this is what had happened at the disciplinary hearing. We were getting from the next layer who were coming into the country whether via Swaziland they got arrested, the Pietermaritzburg trial of 1968, the 1971 trial of the comrades who were in the Aventura expedition and came in via Madagascar, they were coming in and they were reporting to us and we would be asking them as much as they could tell us and when they told a story, their version, I know we would gently question them how first hand was their information? And when they could not say firsthand we would tend to look at it in a different light than if they said this is my firsthand information.
POM After you were released and went to Lusaka and you became familiar with events since your arrest and detention and imprisonment in more intimate detail, was there any member of the MK leadership other than Gebhuza who actually spent time in SA heading operations?
MM Oh yes. Not of the central headquarters of MK but of the regional headquarters.
POM Now the central headquarters would be?
MM Central headquarters when I got there was Joe Modise, Joe Slovo, Keith Mokoape, I think Paul Dikeledi. It was called Central Operations.
POM This took the place of the High Command.
MM Not really the place of High Command, it was in charge of carrying out operations at home. MK would have had other people, Mzwayi Piliso, Cassius Make in charge of the camps in Luanda, in Angola.
POM But they were in Lusaka?
MM No, no, Keith was in Botswana. Now I don't recall but Paul Dikeledi was settled clandestinely in Swaziland. The command of Transvaal under the direct supervision of Joe Slovo from Maputo was Gebhuza (Siphiwe Nyanda) he had been coming in and out of the country. The Natal Command was coming in and out of the country.
POM Who was that under?
MM I don't know the name, still under Slovo's supervision.
POM They would make an incursion and then come out?
MM And then by 1981 there was a project code named G7. G7 was initiated by the Transvaal Urban Machinery, MK Machinery, and the Commissar, a chap whom I knew by the code name of Leonard, he and his team had come and settled in the Gauteng area. This was the group that was surviving in the disused mineshafts and when we prepared the APC document in 1980/81 we deliberately excluded any APC arising in the country which would automatically have authority over groups like G7. The reason why we excluded them is that G7 was surviving in the terrain. The members of the Regional Command were settling in the country semi-permanently and we did not want knowledge of their presence and their modus of operating to be known to any other structure so the original APC document adopted by the RC consciously excluded an APC arising, for example, in the Gauteng area which would assume that if it heard about G7, even rumours of it, that it would take command.
POM I remember you once saying, well, before we get to that
MM Well let me complete the G7.So G7 was well settled and we had taken a decision at the RC that following on the successes, because the G7 I think had settled in for more than six months safely and was travelling periodically the Commander who was part of the command structure of Transvaal Urban would come out, one or other of them would come out to report back in Maputo and slip back and they were settling, as I remember, in one of the key places that they had found was disused mine shafts. So that became their accommodation and hideout and they now developed skills how to shore up those disused mineshafts so that they wouldn't collapse on them. Others became safe storage places for weaponry. Slovo and Modise began to train certain selected people now on building tunnelled facilities in different terrain because they found this means of survival an interesting innovation. They then began to look out, without divulging the secrets, but began to look at utilising that experience in other regions particularly in Natal and they began to look at more and more Regional Command leadership beginning to settle in the country. In their minds, certainly, if those techniques of survival were working sufficiently then after the Regional Command the military side would like at Higher Command people. So that was the position in 1980/81.
POM You referred to the Harry Gwala trials, the arrests in Pietermartizburg in 1975 followed by arrests in Cape Town.
MM Port Elizabeth as well and Jo'burg.
POM That left?
MM The Natal arrests, 1975. Joe Mati and a group were arrested in PE.I think it is Elijah Loza and his group were arrested in Cape Town. Loza was killed in detention. Then there was the Pretoria group, Gqabi, Ramagadi, Tokyo Sexwale and company, the Pretoria 12 trial. So there was another devastating blow covering the four main centres in 1975. As I say I inherited no records but I have reason to believe that those arrests were as a result of what we can call some mistakes made in the modus operandi and it became important to my thinking when I was made Secretary of the IDRP and that thinking was put very, perhaps in an over-balanced way my conclusion was that to proceed, I didn't put it that way, I didn't put it sharply, to proceed against the experience of 1975 arrests it was necessary to start with relatively unknown people because, and I put that very sharply at that stage because while I could not get a briefing of exactly what had happened and who was in charge, what became clear is that contact was made from outside with these convicts. Many of them were ex-prisoners like Harry Gwala and that contact was being maintained partly by sending in some relatively unknown people from outside the country and non-South Africans. I think a person who featured, as far as I could remember the stories that I picked up on the ground in my six months, and I had collected a fair amount of information in my six months in the country particularly with regards to the Pietermartizburg trial featuring Harry Gwala, the fact that the President of SACTU, the late Stephen Dhlamini, was likely to be subpoenaed to give evidence in that trial and I had been involved in the consultations that the way to handle that matter was to get Stephen Dhlamini to go off into exile clandestinely so that he is not put in the difficult situation of being subpoenaed to give evidence against Harry and them.
So in the course of all those consultations I had quietly been building a picture of where things may have gone wrong and I think what came out was that a German priest, I think a Father Wagner, somehow or the other people involved in this resuscitation of the organisation in these different key centres began to use Father Wagner as a courier to deliver money to the leadership in the different centres.
POM That would be he would come from Lusaka to - ?
MM No, he would come from wherever abroad, he was a German, I don't know where the contact was made but he would presumably fly in from Germany or somewhere.
POM But on the instructions of?
MM Of somebody from the organisation abroad and deliver the money to these people in cash. As far as I can recall now the SA Security got onto his trail because a chap in PE, another leading member of the ANC, Milner Ntsangane, was part of the group with Joe Mati and Milner, (had he come back to Robben Island sentenced?) but the version was that it is this priest who brought him the money in cash and it seems that SA Security were on the trail of this priest and were able to prove to these guys in detention that there was the money. They were arrested with the money in hard cash. Father Wagner, nothing seemed to have happened to him, he disappeared. He got away and there were suspicions about his role.
Be that as it may, the picture I developed was that partly operations mounted from Swaziland from the ANC in maintaining contact had been penetrated by SA Security and the common denominator I found was that leading people, ex-Robben Islanders, shortly after coming out of prison were the ones to be reactivated and I said in my mind we were reactivating the building of the structures and the organisation using people who were the most vulnerable and under the searchlight of the security forces and it was to me no ordinary coincidence that Natal, Durban, PE, Cape Town, Jo'burg got hit by the security forces almost over the same period.
POM And they all involved people who had been former Robben Islanders.
MM Ex Robben Islanders or very prominent people in the sixties, Elijah Loza had been a leading trade unionist, Joe Mati, Milner Ntsangane were leading
POM Joe Mati is now the - ?
MM Joe Mati, he's dead I think. Joe Gqabi, Ramagadi were leading people of the ANC. Harry Gwala, Stephen Dhlamini, leading people of the ANC and SACTU, ex-prisoners. Jacob Zuma was part of that group of that revival and he got away, he was one of the few who got away. In all these centres in detention, in fact of most of them, in Durban one of the detainees was killed. In PE one of the detainees was killed. In Cape Town Elijah Loza was killed in detention. So the enemy action, the state action, was extremely ruthless. But what became clear to me is that now that I'm appointed Secretary I don't spend my time who did what, it was saying strategically first phase of reorganising, don't integrate and don't place that enormous burden on the known people, the enemy is watching and it's now post-Soweto. You would be taking too much of a risk, the entire structure would collapse. So that's why I said in phase one avoid known people. You can reintegrate them later when you've created some stability and it was based on my understanding of what I thought were some of the gaps and mistakes made. I did not want to open that issue for debate because I felt that if I opened that issue for debate there would be a tendency to start doing finger pointing and who was I to do any finger pointing? I accepted it as an honest effort and an effort that brought out lessons of what not to do.
POM To go back to Joe Gqabi for a minute. In one response to Howard you said, yes, he was working for the enemy. Did you have ?
MM No, I had no information. Two things that happened with him. One is that incident we had on Robben Island and secondly, and I think it would be wrong for me to say yes he was working for the enemy. Then when he was killed in Harare, clearly by the South African Security, there were newspaper reports, one or two, which alleged that that hit was carried out by the South African security forces where one arm didn't know what the other was doing and that there was a possibility that the enemy were either really on his track, had him totally surrounded, or that from a credibility point of view he may have consciously or unconsciously been working with them. It is not beyond our experience that you could be unconsciously working. The classic case of that is one Craig Williamson, the Craig Williamson experience, where he was working for the SA Security and was recruited and was working in the ANC via London.
POM You say he was consciously working for them?
MM He was consciously working for them. But the point is that the comrades based in London who were working with him did not realise that whatever they were saying to him and whatever they were doing with him was going straight back to
POM So they were unconsciously working for the enemy?
MM Then there's the case of Olivia Forsythe, the woman who was captured by us in Harare. We captured her in the eighties. She was drawn into the ANC structures which were based in Harare and she was at home. She was an activist in the student circles. Now Harare contacted her and she came to Harare and met them, began to carry out what they were asking her to do and in their books she's a good person, she's a reliable cadre, she has a track record in the student movement. Some of the people settled in Harare knew her at home. She had been a woman who had driven leadership people in the UDF into all parts of the country as the driver, as arranging the trips. So everybody said this is a very reliable person and they recruited her to the ANC underground.
POM To which underground? Military? Political?
MM No, those people based in Harare.
POM So they would fall under your overall
MM They were supposed to fall under me. Next thing is she comes to Harare and some people working in the leadership, Zimbabwe based leadership, obviously are a bit edgy about her. This is the time when Jele is now the Chairman of the Political Committee. So I don't get detailed reports but in one of her trips, as far as I recall, and I think Intelligence began to recruit her too, in one of her trips she sees Howard Barrell who clearly was a link, one of the key link people with her, and she volunteers that she's been approached by the SA Security and is working with them. Howard panics. It seems Howard raised the matter with ANC Intelligence based in Zimbabwe. ANC Intelligence gets him to send her to Lusaka and she's making this in the picture she's volunteering that she's working for the enemy and somehow or the other Intelligence debriefs her, comes to the conclusion that she is an unwilling person with the SA Security, that they have pressured her, and they decided to presumably play a double game and they mandate her and approach her whether she's prepared to go back home and they brief her how she's got to conduct herself now working on the basis that she's genuinely working for us but an unwilling tool of the SA Security. So I don't know what their plans were but this seems to be what they did and they sent her back home.
A little later as they're checking they find, oh-oh, she may not be genuinely with us, she may be genuinely with the SA Security. They don't throw the suspicion to her but in one of the report backs she comes to Harare and they decide to capture her. So they apprehend her, fly her to Lusaka, house her in Lusaka in a safe place and now start questioning her and all the stories now about her are showing huge discrepancies which she can't explain. But she was an amazing operator, I never met her. Somehow or the other her personality was very, very attractive to people and the guards who were guarding her in Lusaka were now sleeping with her and she was manipulating it. They check, they find she was doing the same thing at home. She was driving prominent UDF people around the country and she was sleeping around with everybody. Oh! What to do? Ship her out to Luanda, put her in detention there. They put her in detention there, she started sleeping around with the guards there.
Anyway in the Military and in the Intelligence there's a debate going on what to do about her. I'm more or less at a distance from this case because when I think back now this is an operation that Intelligence has got to handle. That's why I believe that Howard, unknown to me, while working politically was also working for ANC Intelligence and so was his wife Jenny. So I am at a bit of a distance from it but that's about the time when the camp mutinies take place, post the camp mutinies or around the camp mutinies, and there's a problem about how to handle her. I don't know whether by that time it's in the newspapers in SA that Olivia Forsythe has disappeared, ANC has captured her and what has happened, but I remember Chris Hani and Ronnie Kasrils, Ronnie was now Military Intelligence
POM Was he head of MI?
MM Head of MI. They come to the conclusion, they've interviewed her, etc., they come to the conclusion that she's bona fide but they argue, I think in the PMC, they put in a report that they are going to in a phased way release her from detention and as she progresses they may use her. So they bring her to Luanda and they house her in a relatively unrestricted place and as I recall, boom, it's on the radio, Olivia Forsythe has fled to one of the embassies, I think the US Embassy, sought protection that she is being tortured by the ANC, etc., arrested illegally and she is an innocent, tortured person fleeing from the ANC. She's in the American Embassy, we can't do anything.
Boom, a little later she's in SA. Huge press conference. Olivia, Craig Williamson, etc., SA Security Branch agent penetrated the ANC, here's the story of the horrors in the camps, torture going on, she's been tortured, blah, blah, blah, and she's been a Security Branch officer and claims that she's come with masses of information, etc. Then the SA papers carried the saga of Olivia Forsythe, a special agent, hard on the heels of Craig Williamson.
POM They carried that story about when? About 1986/87?
MM 1985, 1984/85/86, somewhere there, well before I'm coming home. And of course there's silence in Lusaka. Why? The Intelligence section is going to handle it, all this wallop. Then the last I heard, big press reports about what a beauty she is in SA, beautiful woman, very attractive, wears the most expensive clothes, silk tops, etc., and the next thing is we hear she's married a lawyer and she disappears from the public limelight.
So I am saying people who were working with her from exile, and some at home, would have been is she working with us? Is she working with the enemy? And, sure, it's a legitimate technique supervised by the expertise of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence to take a person and see whether you can't turn the person into your agent. So whoever she came into contact with, trouble.
I similarly remember one in the political section in the early eighties, Sue Rabkin would know this one better, early eighties I think, we had a comrade who was in the leadership of AZASO, Azanian People's Student's Organisation, who had shifted to pro-ANC. There was one of its leaders, a chap called Iggy Mathebula, he had come out, he had been working with the political section, then he was sent out for training, particularly military training, etc., I think he was a black belt in karate and he was a very, very promising person. Maputo Political Machinery arranged for him to return home, didn't know the details of how it had been arranged, but Iggy is sent back into the country and disappears. I pick up reports from the Botswana side, I think, that a certain white woman, I forget her name at the moment, is a police agent and has been working with Maputo, with some machinery, with the ANC in Maputo. So I start tracking this down and I learn from Sue and then that indeed there has been such a woman who has been visiting Maputo. When I am checking with Sue, Indres and company, they tell me that this is a very reliable person. How? Why? They say she came originally bringing verbal messages from Sheila Weinberg.
POM Weinberg? Now she was?
MM She was Eli and Violet Weinberg's daughter Sheila. Now she had been arrested at the same time as her mother and her father and here you had a family where mother, father, daughter went to prison. She's living somewhere in Norwood. So Indres knew Sheila Weinberg personally from the fifties, as children they knew each other, and Sheila was living under restricted conditions in Johannesburg and so this white woman surfaced in Maputo bringing a personal message from Sheila to Indres and because she brought those messages they accepted her credentials and my information from Botswana is saying this is a policewoman. But as I'm making enquiries suddenly there's a convergence because up pops the information that when Iggy Mathebula was being sent back into the country this woman was the one who was supposed to receive him and the story is that she had received him and then he disappeared.
We are now satisfied, not even the TRC has found out the fate of Iggy Mathebula, but we were satisfied long before that, even in the eighties, that Iggy had been captured by the enemy and killed but that his capture in my mind the closure on that book was that he was captured because this woman was used as the person who had met him in Swaziland and who was the person who he was going to come and make contact with who would then be his courier linking him to Maputo.
POM Do you have her name?
MM I can't remember her name at the moment.
POM Would Sue know?
MM Sue would know it, Sheila would know it, because it became after that, it was confirmed that she was working for the police force.
I am saying all these experiences were building up and this is part of the experiences that convinced me that if we were to mount an operation like Operation Vula it could not depend on couriers going backwards and forwards taking communications no matter how good you could see them, because the ideal courier is somebody who's got a passport, can travel back and forth and lots of verbal interaction and would get to know lots of things that even though you don't expose them they would know where you meet them, begin to know where you're staying, begin to know what car you're driving, begin to know what's your appearance and who else you are seeing, etc. Now you may be sending a message but they are storing all this information and giving it to their handlers and I was convinced that coming in with Operation Vula was dependent on building a new type of communications system and not allowing such a communications system to be generally known, that it would be reserved at a certain level. And even when I came in I definitely had an undertaking from Joe Slovo that that communications method would not be divulged to any other Vula type operations, that they would have to use something of their own development and that I would only share my communications system if other structures had consolidated and were reliably based.
These experiences have suddenly come back into focus because I am saying my mindset was not to point fingers. You make mistakes, you learn. I certainly never I say I questioned pretty rigorously people like Sue and Indres who had linked up with this woman over the disappearance of Iggy, how could they just rely on the fact? But they said, no, they now were in communication with Sheila who was saying this is a genuinely good person. So unwittingly an enemy agent had penetrated you just as we were seeking to penetrate the enemy. We had penetrated the enemy certainly through the political section, through Hassen, to develop the man working at Military Headquarters of the Defence Force in Voortrekkerhoogte so that we were getting the telex communications, originals, coming to us regularly in Lusaka.
POM The person you had in - ?
MM Who was in the army, recruited by Hassen Ebrahim, a white chap who Hassen recruited while Hassen was at home and this man was working as a soldier in the SADF and was now based at Military HQ Communications.
POM I was just going to bring him up after one further question on Joe Gqabi. If you believed that he was an enemy agent, did you share ?
MM Conscious or unconscious?
POM Did you share Madiba's distrust when you gave the message to OR?
MM When I went abroad one of the first things that I did was to communicate Madiba's message to OR and as I said then came the trial, he's acquitted in the Pretoria trial, he's on trial, a very difficult thing to handle because you want to defend him and we mounted political campaigns to support the Pretoria 12 trialists. Then comes the repudiation by Madiba. I gave it to OR. Now in a situation like that I don't know what's happening and any reservation I had
POM Now you didn't give the repudiation?
MM I gave the repudiation to OR.
POM I thought you brought out the
MM I brought out the concern and then later on I told you that over the story that Madiba told Winnie, etc., Madiba was hauled over the coals, the Higher Organ made him write a communication saying that he apologises, he withdraws those things. It came to me, I gave it to OR.
POM Someone took it out of the prison.
MM Somebody else brought it out from prison and it ended up in my hands. I deciphered it, I gave it to OR. In fact there was no need for deciphering, it was in Madiba's original handwriting. It may have come out even with Eddie Daniels because Eddie was released 1978/79. Yes Eddie is released 1978/79 and again Eddie is given either a photograph or a file, it's concealed in there and he's told to get this to Lusaka. And somehow or the other it gets to Lusaka, OR doesn't know what this thing is, gives it to me. I find the concealed spot, open the thing, anything that needs to be typed out I type it out and like this note, what I remember is that it came in Madiba's original handwriting, just a short note, and I read the thing, I saw it was a retraction of his concerns that he had raised in the note that he sent with me, and it was meant for OR. I gave it to OR. From that point any reservation that I may have had about Joe are not things that I've got to mention. From that moment I dropped the issue. Joe Gqabi of course comes out of the country after his acquittal, reintegrated in Lusaka, joins the NEC, he's put into the Intelligence Directorate.
POM He's also Chairman of the PMC?
MM No he's not. He's put into the Directorate of Intelligence, three-person directorate, and through that position of being one of the Directorate he is then based in Harare.
POM So your suspicions, you can't afford to - ?
MM No, not can't afford, it's out of my mind. There has been a repudiation by Madiba, it was based on a singular incident over that communication thing. It could have been an accident, it could have fallen in the corridor and been picked up by the prison authorities.
POM It could also have been Masondo.
MM Anyway, so the issue is dropped for me. Not but it's also not unknown, Padraig, when comrades make a mistake, some slip-up happens, to deny there's been a mistake. No ulterior motive. So for me the matter has dropped plus there's a record that post-prison he was active, that he was brought to trial, there were very serious charges, he's acquitted and then it follows logically get him out of the country for his safety and integrate him because he's an experienced comrade and that's it for me, the book is closed. So, as I say, I took no further action and for me that is a matter where OR was privy to the reports and he has access to other reports.
POM I'm only bringing it up in the context of a firm statement that you made to Howard.
MM I would certainly balance that. And remember, I'm speaking to Howard because - I never confront Howard with the fact that when he was in Harare while he was in the political section I believe unknown to me he was recruited to Intelligence and I believe that Howard was sent home by Ronnie Kasrils who was stationed in Maputo, in the Senior Organ, political section, but again without my knowledge. And when Howard and Jenny settled at home they were carrying out tasks that I was unaware of. Right? Now rather than fight, was it Ronnie who sent him, what mandate, was Ronnie acting correctly? I dropped the matter. You are servicing him, you are attending to him, you know the score, you people live with that. But when I meet Howard in 1990, Howard has left the country because they were in danger against him and Jenny, they had been doing propaganda work but not under any supervision from me and with no supervision that I was aware of, and when they had to flee the country they shot off to Britain. Fine, they are saved, I hope the comrades who were handling them are learning from that experience and I dropped the matter. So when I was speaking to Howard I was aware, and I think he was aware, that having liased with me they were working with other structures of the ANC which they were not divulging to me. And I don't blame them because if you are recruited by Intelligence the first thing that Intelligence tells you is don't tell anybody. What about the political section that I am working with? Don't tell them, this is the most top secret operation.
POM This is going back to when the stream of young people were coming over the borders and wanted to join MK or they were screened, they were asked what they wanted to do, whether they wanted to go for training to MK or did they want to study. They were never asked whether they wanted to be trained in political underground?
MM The fact that you if you said, even if you thought of 'I want to go for political training', we would still send you for military training first because in the military training you got at least the skills to defend yourself and if you were recruited to the political section it was assumed that you would be ready to military service work if you were asked to do it. Now we trained people for certain underground work from people coming from home that we deliberately called out, we would train them in Maputo.
POM You'd train them in Maputo?
MM In underground work, in how to do communications, how to avoid surveillance, etc., how to slip over the border, how to conduct your political work.
POM This is without going for military training?
MM Without going for military training because you don't want to disappear from home for long. You'd come at different times, slipping across the border. That training we started doing in Maputo. If after that as you progressed in your work at home we now wanted to send you for military training we arranged with the military for a short course in Angola because it always had to be short. We wanted the person who could return home and not be noticed that you've disappeared and we began to do up to six weeks in Angola and if you then were so promising or your stay at home became endangered and you would have to return home to do political work as an illegal, then we would try to send you for a three months course in Angola. Sometimes that three months course could incorporate going to the GDR. But now you were taking the person not for political training in GDR but for training in certain underground conspiratorial work and for military training so that you could defend yourself, so that you could use a hand grenade, so that you could use a bomb, so that you could do surveillance and counter-surveillance.
POM Now you had a training school too in Lusaka where you conducted courses.
MM There too in Lusaka.
POM When did you set that up?
MM That would have been about 1978 because then in Lusaka you've done your military training, you've done political training. You may, like Joe Seremane's brother, you've been to Lenin School. Now you're heading home or you're heading to work in Botswana or Lesotho. For me you're working in as dangerous and as clandestine conditions as at home even if you're in Botswana. Now you're going to be deployed to do political work at home. The question that arises is how do you do that work? Whatever the theory you've learnt I now want to practically orientate you and these were the tapes that a chap called Oshkosh and, I don't know if this was Joe's brother, but the outstanding chap yes it was Joe's brother.
POM In this you called him Piper.
POM Now where does the name Piper come in?
MM Piper was a code name of the chap who had gone to Lenin School from being Commander of one of the camps in Angola and that's the person I think we are referring to as Seremane's brother.
POM Now you think but you're not sure?
MM Can't be. I did not have the real names. It's enough for me that whatever name you're calling me this is his record and if that is his record from Angola to military training to Commander of a camp to then being selected for Lenin School and being trained at Lenin School and the report says, 'Passed out well'. Now I'm told from Personnel, here is a good person, you are looking for good people at home, this is Piper. Oh, this is the reputation of Piper. Very good. So Piper and a group of people who passed through the Lenin School together, more or less the same time, about five of them were given to me and I took them and in Lusaka took them through a course of preparation for their political work. Now I did not know that this was being tape recorded. The tape recordings of my courses were found in the possession of Piper and Oshkosh when they were captured after they fled from Lusaka. They were captured in Botswana and brought back to Lusaka by our Counter-Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence comes to me and says, "In the possession of Piper are the following tapes."
POM They were video tapes?
MM No, no, tape recording. Here are the tapes that we captured with him. Can you listen to it, is this you who is delivering talks and lectures to them? Is this authentic? And I listen to the tapes, it's my voice, and when I listen to the tapes I say, "Good God! This is what I was running these five graduates from Lenin School. Who did you find it with?" They say with Piper. I said, "Well Piper was in that course. That means that Piper was recording unknown to me. That means he was taking it to hand over to the South African security." Now you ask me, is Piper Seremane's brother? From all that I have read of the story of Piper and all that I have read of the story of Seremane's brother, that he was a Commander of a camp, fits in with Piper. Am I sure? I cannot be until I go and dig now and say, "Piper, what was his real name?" As far as I know that's Piper.
POM But where would one find out?
MM You would find that out, who would know today? Joe Nhlanhla, Chris Hani.
POM Joe Nhlanhla, is he alive?
MM Yes but he's had a stroke. He used to be Minister of Intelligence. Possibly Ronnie Kasrils would know. Chris is dead, Cassius is dead, Mzwayi Piliso is dead. It would be the people in the Security section who would know.
POM Would the General who had this reconciliation with Joe, his name begins with M, it's almost like Masondo?
MM Yes, there would be a Camp Commander Timothy Mokoena. Now this is the guy who was injured in Angola, he was a Camp Commander, injured in Angola, sent to the Soviet Union for treatment, his treatment was very long, he's now a General, and possibly the current Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Che his code name is Che, like Che Guavara, and his code surname was Ogara. I think his real name is January.
POM He's Secretary of?
MM He's the Secretary of Defence. Used to be in Mpumalanga Province. Yes Che Ogara, because Che was at one time Commander in Angola, if not also Commander of, I must be careful about this one, might have been Commander of the Detention Centre, either the one at Quatro or could be Viana in Luanda. Yes, Che would know I think whether Piper is the person that we talk about when we talk about Joe Seremane's brother. But Piper is the man who I got into the political section, not by myself going and looking for a person in the Angolan camps, but by SACTU and the party machinery coming to me and saying, "Here are a group of Lenin School graduates, you are constantly looking for good people and here they are." One of them died in Lesotho, his code name in Lesotho and in the underground was Gizenga. He died in Lesotho in the Maseru raids. The other ended up Ambassador to UN or to the US, what was his name? Linus or Titus, I can't remember his real name but he's now become very obese, last saw him about two three years ago.
POM He's the Ambassador to the US now?
MM No he'd be back in Foreign Affairs now in Pretoria but he was in 1994 when Jo Jele was Ambassador to UN, Titus/Linus would have been Ambassador to the US.
POM Didn't Franklin Sonn get that?
MM Sonn got it next, post-independence. Sorry, you're right. He would have been the predecessor of Jo Jele at the UN. There were fine people in that group. Who were the other two? Gizenga, Titus, Piper. Another person who might know is a chap who is an MEC in North West Province, Jakes Tlolo. Because you see people working from Botswana side would have access to that information. Oh! The other person who might know is Snuki Zikalala who is now Communications Officer with the Ministry of Labour. Yes, they would be able to answer the riddle of what was Piper's real name and is he the brother of Joe Seremane. I mentioned Chris because I think it is Chris who post-1990 went and saw the family.
POM Went and saw?
MM The Seremane family.
POM No, that was one Joe told me very poignantly how close he had been to Chris and that when Chris came back how they embraced each other and Chris didn't tell him and he said, very poignantly, how after Chris was assassinated and there was the march and he marched on the pavement, not with the crowd because in some way he still held that Chris should have told him, should have let him know.
MM But I know the difficulty, I handled the Langa case, Pius Langa's brother, and I handled it simply because I was in Lusaka and I was called by OR to say, "The Langa family are here, you, I'd like you to meet Pius and explain to him the circumstances under which his brother was killed within the country by an MK unit." I know how difficult it was to handle this problem that an MK unit had carried out the killing of a person who they acted on their information but that action and that information was incorrect and that that execution was not ordered or sanctioned higher up. The agony of sitting face to face and explaining and how much more would the agony be if it was endorsed by higher up? Let's suppose the worst case, that I was sent now to make this apology and that the killing of Ben Langa had been ordered by a person in the RC or a division in the RC, you would have to say the truth and you'd have to make that apology against the truth. And of course you would be questioned how accurate was your information. And when you turned round and said that this is the information I have received, they'd say, "From who? Why didn't you bring that person here to explain to me?" So I have had that experience and I would say Chris would be - I know he went and made explanations to people, I've heard from people, not from him, but I can imagine how difficult it would be. And the first few times you just want to dodge the issue, you want to dodge the issue. You want to avoid the pain in the family and then you also want to explain in such a way that you must prepared to say - I was party. I spoke to Pius Langa, all the facts that I put on the table did not allow me to still say, even though I was not involved at all, did not allow me to say - I therefore am absolved. I had to accept responsibility in the name of the movement and therefore say I am also guilty and I am here to explain to you.
Now in Ben Langa's case there was no question that I could make the explanation as clean and without reservations. In Piper's case, if Piper is Joe Seremane's brother, in my mind Piper was working with the enemy, just on my personal experience. How do you explain then to a brother of the deceased that, yes, he was executed but he was an enemy agent. I think that's bloody hard, bloody hard, and you would be committing a crime against the family and the movement if you then fudged it by saying it was a mistake.
POM OK. Timothy, he's a General?
POM January, Secretary for Defence, and you think the best bet is January?
MM January, you would be able to find him easily but I think you would find January reluctant to tell you if he was the Commander of Quatro Camp because we went to the TRC to take responsibility by the organisation and not start saying, but this was the Commander, he's responsible for any misdemeanours, any violations. We went and said it doesn't matter who was the Commander, we take responsibility and we apologise. So we had to pull out comrades who did some of this work out of the limelight because it would be put them in the limelight. It would be like saying this is a butcher or this is a violator and it would detract from the positions that we were taking that, yes, we made mistakes and we take responsibility at the highest level. So I don't recall at the TRC them pressing me under cross-examination and pushing me to say names, but I know in my mind that I went there with an approach which said remove the names from your focus, we are saying as the leadership of the ANC, from the President to the NEC, we made those mistakes and we accept responsibility.
POM Now you went before the TRC in regard to?
MM The entire case of the ANC. I was part of the delegation, day one was led by Thabo. In the delegation was also JZ, Joe Modise, myself. I think we were the four and there were a few other people, but we were sent as the ANC delegation to appear at the TRC on behalf of the ANC and MK. All sections of MK. MK, Intelligence, camp command, political section, everything.
Another name who was in the ANC delegation, it was Thabo, JZ, Nhlanhla, Joe Modise, myself. These were the people who I think were mandated to answer questions. There were other comrades in our delegation to assist us with anything technical. Thabo gave evidence on the first day, was questioned and then left, just the morning session. The bulk of the cross-examination I had to answer and that is the time when something was put to me, after a period of cross-examination certain issues were put to me and the TRC investigator cross-examining me, that would have been Advocate Ganief Valli(?), he was like the leader of evidence by the TRC, Dumisane Ntsibenza was part of the panel. In fact the TRC commissioners, I think the full panel of commissioners was present when we gave evidence but in the cross-examination a point was reached where on my feet I responded. I unreservedly and unequivocally apologised for this action. Now as far as I remember that was the only time and the only party that went to the TRC and before the cameras under cross-examination made such an unreserved apology.
POM Did the question of Seremane's brother come up?
MM I don't recall that the question of Seremane's brother came up. There was a huge file on that thing dealing with the TRC's evidence against us on our Intelligence, Security Division. Joe Nhlanhla wanted to respond to everything in it in a detailed, meaningful way and I was equipped with that file but I said it's too much to absorb, but Valli from time to time would say to me, "Go to that file, page so-and-so, do you see that paragraph?" Yes. "Have you located it?" Yes. "Now, in relation to that paragraph - ." I'd say, "Hold on, just give me time to read it." I'd read it and he'd say, "Now in relation to that paragraph" and start questioning. Now I would rely on the fact that if the question became unmanageable I could turn to Nhlanhla or anybody for information but I would then respond. On rare occasions a question would be directed at Joe Modise, there were a few questions directed at him and I think there were one or two questions put directly to (Frank?) because it was too detailed for me to handle but most of the time it was by consulting my colleagues and then answering.
So the file on all those incidents that could be construed as violations was there. Seremane's brother's case would have been in that file but I don't recall being questioned about that particular case because my general stance was, guys, let me explain the circumstances, let me explain how we came to commit some of the mistakes and let me say here that even if there is a doubtful case as to whether the person was legitimately dealt with or not legitimately dealt with, if there is a doubtful case I am prepared to take responsibility on behalf of the organisation.
POM I just want to get into my mind
MM Who would have a very good memory of that, because she was watching how we would defend Special Operations and particularly Rashid, is Esther Waugh. She attended that TRC hearing as a reporter, she was not yet married to Rashid. So she attended it as a reporter and would have a pretty graphic memory of some of the questions that I was subjected to. But so would Charles Villa-Vicencio, Richard Lyster, Yasmin Sooka (the commissioner), they had a full panel.
POM I ask a silly question, where are those records supposed to be now?
MM I last read in the papers there was a big issue between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Intelligence. There was a whole series of articles in the Mail & Guardian that portions of the reports are missing and nobody knows where they are stored, etc., and I remember a statement by the Minister of Intelligence saying that they are looking at it before they release it for the public and the Mail & Guardian was questioning, is it in the Ministry of Intelligence or the Ministry or Justice and it was claiming that their answers are being fudged and it was raising the questions that portions of the records are disappearing.
POM Is this in regard to - ?
MM Not in regard to me. The commission in general. The one I think the Mail & Guardian was interested in is the Basson case and Project Coast and I think that Project Coast, everything that I know of it, it's featured in the TRC but would have gone into an embargoed section because as I understand it some of the formulas in that chemical and biological warfare were very simple and if they got into the hands of a layman it would give him the capacity to develop biological warfare. And now this thing in Britain, that ricin is manufacturable -
POM Everybody knows now.
MM Yes, but what is interesting about ricin is that you go and read the book by, I think he's called Fowler, the Rhodesian Secret Service man dealing with ZAPU who were the ones that passed the information to the South Africans on chemicals, they were developing ricin in Zimbabwe and so was the SA Security. I still want to know what was the chemical used against Frank Chikane and against Conny Braam from Holland where she put on a jacket in Harare at the Children's Conference and she has been permanently maimed. She's luck to have survived. And Klaas de Jongh from that Special Operations case, he has lost an eye. The chemicals used, I wouldn't be surprised if it was dusted ricin on the clothes.
POM A progression of organisations that were set up from the time you went to Lusaka. You went to the IPRD, you were Secretary that reports to the Revolutionary Council. In time you became a member of the RC. Then the APCs are set up.
MM No, APC's I saw in your notes, your draft, they feature so prominently. The APCs were a structural development in our underground. It does not replace the RC.
POM No, no, I am just saying they were set up after that.
MM Yes they were set up in 1980/81.
POM Yes, so then you have the RC setting up in operation but the APCs were set up.
MM The RC is there, it has the military and it has the political. Each of them, security and intelligence. Each of these have their own structures in the neighbouring countries. The Military would have called it Regional Command. Political would have called it Forward Area Committees. Before we decide on the RPC, APCs, we have now decided to get the Military and the Political to work closely together and we call the structures in Maputo and Botswana Senior Organs, that's sub-organs of the RC in which the Military and Political and Intelligence are present. From the Political side we motivate for a similar co-ordinating structure inside the country and inside the country we say take an area where there exists Military Political structures, bring those together to work together by creating an APC which would still report politically and would still report militarily but would get the machineries, the two structures to co-ordinate their work in the area inside the country.
POM Now would they come under the Senior Organ?
MM They would report to the Political at the forward frontline areas, those respective reports would be seen by the Senior Organ and the Senior Organ would report to the RC and still the Political would take its speciality and process it and the Military would take its speciality and process it because they were co-ordinating machineries.
POM Then you have the replacement of the RC by the PMC. The IPRD is still existence?
MM Yes, it's now called the Political Committee. When the PMC is formally set up to replace the RC the IPRD is now called the Political Committee.
POM This was the situation that existed in Lusaka when you left Vula. Now if I read correctly, and I will integrate some of Howard's material into the response but I will mark it separately so you will be able to separate it, I have gone through them very thoroughly but rather than go through every damn thing all over again, it's that all of these new
MM And this is the difference, by the way, this is the difference between your transcripts and Howard's, Howard never gave them to me to read and verify and cross-check. All that Howard did was to give me his manuscript for his thesis so I never had access to Howard's transcripts to say is this an accurate picture, would you like to modify because you are answering on the hoof, would you like to modify, amend, etc., etc. He never did it.
POM It was November 1990, weren't you in jail?
MM No I had come out on bail.
POM You were on bail? OK. So you were really on the hoof.
MM Yes, it's on the hoof. I met him one night a some place that he was staying and went to him for a drink and he said he's doing a thesis at Cambridge or Oxford, he's studying and would like to study the South African experience. And then, by the way, just to complete that, it is about two years ago that I heard that the records were at the Cullinan Library, that Howard had put it in the Cullinan Library and I heard from somebody at Wits to say that there's a queue of students going to read my transcripts. What transcripts? They said, "The Barrell transcripts." First they said the Barrell Report. What Barrell Report? The thesis? "No, no, no, it's transcripts of your interview with Howard." This was about two years ago. He didn't bother. Then on some occasion, I was now here, I had to speak to Howard on the phone and I said to him, "By the way, I understand your transcripts are at the Cullinan Library." Oh I heard from Gail Gerhardt. I bumped into Gail Gerhardt at Hyde Park, shopping, and we greeted each other. Fine. And she says, "Your transcripts are being read by all the students, they're queuing up." I said, "What?" She said, "The Howard Barrell transcripts." I said, "What do you mean? You know Howard has never given it to me to cross-check." She says, "No, I've been commissioned to cross-check those transcripts and I'm having problems what to put in the embargo section and what not to put in the embargo section." I was just shocked. How do you get Gail Gerhardt to decide what goes in embargo and what doesn't go in embargo? I walk away, let it lie. What's the point of complaining?
So when I tell Howard on the phone, "Hey, you filed my transcripts there." "Oh yes." I said, "But I haven't seen them." He says, "Are they open to the public?" I said, "That's what I'm told." He says, "I didn't know that." OK, fine.
POM Well all of these either modified structures or new structures were all set up for the purpose of creating a political underground or facilitating the creation of a political underground in SA that would become sustainable so that senior leaders from the ANC could start going home.
MM No, they were created, those adjustments were created to make us more effective and efficient in prosecuting the all-round struggle, military and political. Yes a good bit of it, sub-agenda, to make the political more viable and efficient but key item was to make the functioning of the military and political sides of the struggle more co-ordinated and more effective.
POM With the, at least, theoretical understanding and on paper understanding that the political (we've gone through this, we needn't go through it again) should be it was that the military was, I'll use the word subordinate, to the political.
MM It was to tilt the balance of what had been relatively neglected to be more effective but from an RC perspective the strategic issue that we would be addressing: how do we make the struggle more effective at home? And by 'struggle' we meant military and political. That is why we replaced the RC with the title Political-Military, with a hyphen, so as to emphasise do not understand this thing as just military, understand that the two things are part of one larger process and by now we are saying you cannot sustain and lift the struggle to another level unless you brought the Political and Military into more effective co-ordination and the background to that is the Green Book of 1978/79 which says what we want to prosecute and develop is a people's war and that the bedrock of that people's war is mass mobilisation which is pre-eminently a political task.
POM In one of your responses, again, you say the Green Book is full of generalities, that it never really got implemented in any was never really implemented.
POM You've a phrase that you use that I like but I would like you to elaborate on it a bit. It's when you say that when you underestimate the enemy you also overestimate the enemy. In what context were you making that, could you just elaborate on what you were getting at?
MM Did I say this to Howard? In what context did I say it?
POM It was about in terms of an indication of superiority or inferiority, that you think the enemy is more superior to you, that you're overestimating its capabilities.
MM I suppose I use the statement because I think that the science and the art, it's not just an art nor is it a pure science, waging a struggle for liberation. I suppose it applies to political struggle but certainly to the liberation struggle and in the conditions that we were waging it in, there is a tendency to use a phrase like 'overestimating', 'underestimation' or various other phenomena of the enemy, is often put as two separate things, underestimation, overestimation, as if these two things are like, in layman's term, people say it's two sides of the same coin. The two sides of the same coin is still a weak expression for me because it's like you have to flip over, you either make one mistake or the other. My view is slightly different in that statement, I'm saying it's not like flipping a coin from underestimating and overestimating. I am saying inherent in the underestimation is an overestimation because the enemy is not a single dimensional thing. It's nice ordinary language to say 'the enemy'. Enemy is a complex phenomenon and you cannot put underestimation, underestimation is a mindset that you a trap that you can walk into. And you can make that estimation on a whole lot of scientific information and data that you would treat as scientific but a the end you've got to make a judgement call and if your mindset underestimates the enemy I think simultaneously you're overestimating.
Why do I say simultaneously? Let me try and think of an example. Let's suppose you underestimate in 1964, let's suppose you overestimated the enemy in 1962. You overestimate how sophisticated they were. In fact in 1962 we would be more prone to the allegation that we were underestimating them. We had assumed that the security forces are so structured and so geared that they are bumbling along, they rely on unreliable informants, they really don't know what is happening in our inner circles. Why? Because we'd seen them in the treason trial. Even the officers who gave evidence crumbled under the questioning. Their techniques that emerged were relatively unsophisticated. An informant that they got, a thief and a criminal in jail, now becomes an informant who is making tea in the ANC office and he comes and tells them what the ANC is doing. All that emerged in the treason trial. Now you say, don't worry, we have survived in the Communist Party from 1953, they haven't even got wind of it. It's now six, seven years we've been existing, meeting clandestinely, code language over a telephone, we call the Communist Party 'the family', so when you speak on the phone and when you speak amongst each other and somebody is likely to overhear, never use the words 'Communist Party', talk about 'the family'. And you say all that has helped and the enemy does not understand.
So you were underestimating. So what was happening? You were now unaware and you were not taking seriously studying the enemy, not collecting information. Are they improving their capacity? Are they improving their techniques? But at the same time you began to, you read something in Time Magazine or some science journal that it is now possible to construct an eavesdropping device which is a bug in a pen. So I could walk into your room, put the pen there or have it in my pocket and it's recording. So there were rumours like that amongst us and so we said, "Chaps, when you're talking on the phone do this, keep clicking away as you're talking, it'll mess up the conversation, they can't debug it." But then you were told, "Oh-ho, this pen, if it can pick up and you are discussing here and this door is open, that chap across there on that balcony is picking up what you're talking about." You've read this in some science magazine, you haven't intensively investigated it. Why? Because you're not even investigating how the enemy is improving. But you read about this and you simultaneously now begin to conduct yourself assuming that he is listening to that and that this device is functional.
What's happening to you? Your mindset is integrating two things. One, such a level of sophistication and, two, such a level of lack of sophistication. You are doing two things simultaneously in your assessment of the enemy because both of them do not arise from you saying let me build our capacity, let me get facts, let me monitor the enemy carefully, let me keep on searching for information and integrating that information. We never opened, and I suppose it would be concealed in those years, we never looked at what was the budget of the police year by year, when did it leap and when it leapt if we did notice it we never said, wait a minute, this budget has risen by more than 50% but there are no more policemen that we are seeing. Why this 50% jump in the budget? Where is the budget concealed? It was only in detention in 1964 that I realised that some of the officers torturing me were on the payroll of the Railway Police.
POM How did that emerge?
MM It emerged when because I had been under interrogation for two months running, come end of the month they are talking about their salaries amongst each other because they are not beating you up and torturing you every minute of the day. And of course like ordinary human beings they are concerned. One chap is saying, 'Shit! I'm waiting for my fucking salary and my wife is going to use up that whole fucking salary." And then I find a policeman who answered the phone and somehow or the other he's put a query about his salary to some division, so I don't know who he's speaking to, but half an hour later a response comes to his phone call about his salary query and he answers the phone, one of the officers answers the phone, but the person on the other side is saying, "I want Captain so-and-so of the Railway Police", and a different person has answered. Let's suppose the caller says, "Can I speak to Lieutenant Coetzee of the Railway Police?" He doesn't get surprised by it but he holds the phone and turns to his colleague, he says, "Lieutenant Coetzee, they're looking for you, Railway Police."
I'm putting all this together and I'm putting it together against where are some of these guys popping up from. I hear them having a discussion, casual from time to time, that they beat the United Party when they took over power in 1948 by creating the Special Branch through the Railway Police because they took over the state owned enterprises. And in the Railway Police on the basis that a lot of theft was taking place on the railways they justified the railways starting their own police force but that they had unique control of because it was starting ab initio and they did not trust the people that they inherited in the police force so they did their training and skilling in the Railway Police and then brought them into the Security Police but retained them on the payroll of the Railway Police. So in the budget, the Security Police budget was not going up, the Railway Police budget was in Transnet, or its predecessor, SA Railways & Harbours, all of it being justified there on the basis of theft on the railways but a force being developed not to deal with theft but to take over the police force and the security forces.
So this came up and so I'm saying, trying to get an illustration of this issue that when you underestimate the enemy you are simultaneously overestimating it.
POM In the same regard if you were not looking at the budget of the police and how they were increasing, was anyone examining or how long did it take to start examining the changing demographic composition of the police force and of the defence force and the opportunities that this might present?
MM I'm not saying that there were no comrades looking at this from an economist's interest point of view but I become, more of us in the movement become aware when South African forces are confronting Namibian forces on the border, supporting the Rhodesian forces and then Angola and then we hear until then our picture is blacks in the army or police foot soldiers, never given positions of authority and if given a rank, a white of a junior rank has precedence and authority. But when the SA government now says it is facing a shortage of manpower in the army and is now going to actively recruit blacks into the army and the police and is dealing with the obstacles of recruiting them, then from my perspective the matter becomes something that I begin to look at because for the first time we can do two things.
We can look at recruiting blacks in the army because it's necessary in terms of people's war to weaken the army, but secondly, to take blacks and get them in the army to go up. For example, Ivan Pillay was responsible for cultivating and taking a person whom he encouraged to join the navy, this was in the late seventies, and the person was black, he was encouraged to keep rising in the navy to seek promotion, to study. Yes, working with us, in fact I think his code name was Timothy. In one instance he was used in some sabotage action but I have since then, post 1994, believed that he maintained his cover. I think he left the navy in 1992 or so but by 1994 went back and I think he is probably one of the few blacks who has now risen to command a ship. So you could do both things now and both of them were meaningful to your prosecution of the struggle.
We began to look at those changes in the demographics, the changes in the distribution of that demographic in the ranks, different levels of the ranks of the army and the security forces and you didn't go around advertising your interest even in the organisation. You bumped into an economist, you got to know an economist amongst your ranks, you encouraged him now to look at the budget and tease out what the implications of that budget were. I don't think our interest, maybe in Intelligence, maybe under Ronnie in Military Intelligence, some of that began to go in high profile in their functioning. From my side, the political side, my interest remained that it now became possible to do agitation in the armed forces in the classical sense, at a critical moment that they would surface as disaffected forces but it also became possible to access their security information.
POM Now you talked about having access to what was going through military headquarters, through a contact that Hassen Ebrahim had made. Three or four years ago he made the same point to me, he said, "I had a contact in the military and they were on my desk, or copies, before they were before the General or whomever they were made for had a chance to look at them himself." What role was he playing? He talked about having units in Gauteng.
MM In relation to this operation Hassen got linked with us politically in Botswana. Hassen has been a live-wire and he did not even conceptualise where he was going but he bumped into this chap, his name is Rocky Williams, at a Progressive Party meeting and I recall that he was wearing a uniform.
POM Hassen was? Rocky?
MM No, Rocky. Hassen had gone to this Progressive Party meeting and he sees this chap in a uniform, young white chap, attending the meeting, so after the meeting he befriends him. He's still thinking politically that he's going to draw him away towards us politically. When I see the report together with colleagues in Botswana that, hey, there is this white chap, he has met him at a Progressive Party meeting who seems to be possessing fairly progressive views, not solid pro-apartheid views, and disaffection with the army, he's being in the army. We say, "Guide him, keep that contact secret, don't let the enemy notice it. Find out more. What's he doing in the army? And tell him to be careful about expressing his views." As this interaction goes, and Hassen apparently befriended him quietly socially too, as he responds to our queries over time
POM Now Hassen is where at the time? He's in SA?
MM Yes. Hassen says, "Look, he says he's got a chance to go and work to shift in the army to the headquarters in the communications section." I said to him, "Encourage him please, encourage him." Then Hassen says, "Well, he's working in the division at Voortrekkerhoogte where the telexes (in those days it was telexes) pass through his hands, the arriving and telexes being sent out." We say, "Fantastic, we want copies of it, can he get it?" Sure. "Can he do it safely?" Yes. We then arrange a special method for that first sample to come to us. The bulk of it, you don't even have the battle orders of the SA army, but it's pure operational information.
The late Marius Schoon was in Botswana, starts reading them intensively, sending them, drawing my attention, "Look, this is an operational bit of information but it's got significance." Everybody's interest jacked up in the RC when one day I went to Joe Modise and Joe Slovo, I say, "Have you guys sent a person into Botswana who is involved in the preparation of your incursion through Botswana in the Thuli Block area into SA, Ellisras area, Alldays?" They don't want to answer and I say, "Why? I see there's an enemy communication that says that their man is working with our man and that we are planning an incursion and that Pretoria, Voortrekkerhoogte sends a communication to some outpost to say suggest to that man in the MK that he should put the idea", because he's described as being in command, "he should put the idea that the MK unit going in should be dressed in uniform clothing, the guerrillas." So I tell them all this and they don't respond to me but a month, three, four weeks later we're sitting down casually drinking one evening and they say, "We've arrested the bastard"' I say, "Who?" They say, "Shorty." Now Shorty is a chap I knew. I said, "What do you mean? He's a good guy." "That's the bugger, you gave us the clue when you said we were dismissing everything as, bah, Mac is coming with crap, until you said he had put a proposal that the unit should be going in dressed in the same clothes as a uniform." They said, "We went back and we remembered that Shorty had indeed put that proposal." It was rejected and the operation was proceeding but it gave them the vital clue as to who was the enemy agent in the ranks and he was based in Botswana near Mahalapye and he was then called to Lusaka and arrested.
Now Military became interested, hey! can we see all those communications? Can you give it to us immediately? That's how Rashid's life got saved too. I've told you the story about the agent who was coming in, taking the fingerprints of Rashid?
MM I did. You've just forgotten, that's all.
POM Well I could have forgotten but start and I'll tell you whether I've forgotten or not.
MM We haven't got time now to go through that. But basically the story is Rashid for years operated with the name Rashid and nobody knew his real name because he had exited from SA clean with a passport and got to London and from London was recruited into MK. So Rashid came with a clean record and in the army they took up the name Rashid, hardly anybody knew his real name.
POM In the MK he took up the name just Rashid.
MM Yes. When he's in Special Operations the enemy had killed the commander, captured a number of people, tortured them and when they questioned them there is one chap who pops up amongst others, it's this Rashid and the enemy wants to know who he is, who's this guy. For years they couldn't find out. Then I intercept a report through this Rocky (Williams) the communications chap, which says the first time I intercepted his they have sent a chap, McKenzie, a coloured chap, they say his station wagon has now been loaded with explosives to be detonated and he is going to meet Rashid in Botswana to deliver this station wagon as a stolen station wagon. I tell JS this. Because it was true JS was able to send word to Rashid and them from London to say, hey, watch this, capture that guy, that's an enemy agent. So in fact he was captured after he had parked the vehicle and he was prevented from detonating it. Then a little later they still don't know who is Rashid, they sent an enemy agent, and this they did it successfully because the report came after the event, to say that another one of their agents this time got close to this unit and they sent him to Harare to meet Rashid and they instructed him to sit down and make sure that he returns with a cup or a glass or something that Rashid has handled.
POM No you didn't tell me this story.
MM Because they wanted his fingerprints. If I remember correctly the report said that the agent has successfully come back with a glass that Rashid has handled and they're sending it now for fingerprint checking to identify Rashid. But Rocky then, as the work increased, was passed over for attention by Intelligence, I think Military Intelligence, Ronnie, and Ronnie took Rocky over from us at a point where guided by Hassen, now Hassen had to retreat, he was settled in Botswana, but guided by Hassen, said, "Get Rocky to isolate all his friends in the army who are now remaining as officers to see which ones we can recruit." And indeed I seem to recall that before the handling of Rocky passed out of our hands he had recruited at least two more people in the army stationed in different places.
So this was one of many things that Hassen was doing.
POM So what structure did he belong to?
POM So he was one of your people.
POM Where did the military units come into it?
MM In the political section round about 1981 we discussed and agreed in the RC to allow the political units on a selective basis to also engage in the use of hand grenades in their struggle.
POM This is the hand grenade squads?
MM But in the meantime we had taken people like Hassen and given them military training. In the meantime we were saying there must be a cross fertilisation taking place and the hand grenade squads were conceptualised as from within the political section we would see on the ground whose temperament was most suitable for military work through the hand grenade squads and either the unit would be converted to a military unit or they would provide certain people for going out for training, not necessarily to return to do military work but at least now available on the ground, maybe still doing political work but capable of being switched to the military side if the need arose.
Now I don't think we articulated this approach and informed all the chaps in the frontline areas because people working in the frontline areas were capable of being kidnapped overnight. So our thinking on this matter was not conveyed but what was conveyed is that you are now allowed to engage, take units at home and give them the very little training that's needed on the use of hand grenades and under your supervision on the political side get them to do hand grenade work.
OK, that's Hassen. He had this enormous ability to interact with people who were not predisposed to you, to interact with them socially and draw them towards you politically.
POM There was a period when you were talking to Howard when you said you were out of the overt scene, you were in Swaziland. Well you weren't taking a holiday.
MM I merely said I was away from Lusaka continuously for six months.
POM Yes, you said you were on a special task. Well?
MM Well what?
POM What task were you on, for God's sake, what do you think I'm asking?
MM I thought you were saying, do I believe this man? Rashid will tell you.
POM Rashid will tell me? I was supposed to see him this afternoon and he cancelled.
MM Did he cancel?
POM Yes, he said he was busy till after 23rd. So why don't you tell me your version and then I'll check out him and his version.
MM It's hard to talk about.
POM I have to do it both ways anyway. If he tells me I have to come back to you.
MM We'll talk about it but not today, it's a big story.
POM OK, well we'll stop there then.
MM Howard wasn't surprised was he? On that transcript Howard is not surprised that I don't tell him what I was doing?
POM He just moves on.
POM You're proving difficult today, getting ornery.
MM Yes because you are raising another episode.
POM That's right, every
MM It's not your bloody business.
POM We've maps up on the wall now.
MM It's not your bloody business!
POM You see I can send that back to let's put it this way, I can send that back to New York and they will say, "Your contract is finished."
MM Don't use that excuse. That's your bloody business. No, we will talk about it, it's something one has never spoken about.
POM I will leave it there unless you're going to say
MM That's 1982.
POM Really I think what I just want to go through with you, two things, one is the people's war and two is you and the UDF. I have down here the notes of there's no time to go into them today. You had a sequence of events, let's see if I have the sequence right and then I can work from there. One the IPRD issued a set of guidelines for setting up a united front in 1982.
MM When was this? Before the UDF or after the UDF?
POM Before. You set out guidelines for what a united front should look like, be structured.
MM Is that what I'm playing?
POM Well you talk about a set of guidelines being issued by the IPRD in 1982.
MM I think it was straight after the launch of the UDF.
POM Well you talk about two sets, there were two sets. Let me just go through them:-
(i) The IPRD issued a set of guidelines in 1982, a directive issued calling for a united front.
(ii) You meet with Popo Molefe, you have a meeting with him in Botswana in late 1982, discussing what a united front blah, blah.
(iii) It's either you or Allan Boesak is invited to address the Congress, the TIC.
MM Allan Boesak.
POM That's where he makes his famous speech.
(iv) There's the January 8th statement from OR.
(v) There's the formation of the UDF, and
(vi) There's the second set of guidelines that was issued that encapsulates what was the real genesis of the UDF.
MM Well what would be useful is if you can just get some facts for me on all the questions that you've raised.
POM I'm trying to get the sequence right first.
MM That's why I need the dates. I don't have them on my hoof.
POM The IRPD would be 1982.
MM No, I'll tell you what dates I want. The date of the meeting of the Transvaal Indian Congress where Boesak made his speech. Secondly, the date of the launch of the UDF. Thirdly, the date of the funeral of Dr Dadoo in London. I don't think anywhere you will get the date of when Popo and I met in Botswana.
POM You say late 1982. I'll call Popo.
MM All the other dates you've got. Then for the first question that you raised, I'd like the date of the Gaborone raid, the Maseru raid, Matola in Mozambique and lastly the date of the Nkomati Accord. In addition to all the events that you've mentioned if you have these days when we meet it will enable me to deal with these questions in the framework. OK?
POM OK. I'll give you a break for the whole of next week.
MM You call that a break?
POM I mean I am, you won't see me next week. I'm actually going to try to write a book rather than talk to you.
MM You're so generous.