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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

09 Jun 2003: Maharaj, Mac

MM     I see that the chapter I sent last night kept coming back and Maria tried to send it this morning.

POM     Oh, OK.

MM     It keeps on saying 'not deliverable', I checked the address and everything, it was correct but it was just not reaching you. I think MWeb was down.

POM     That's been happening, Mac, quite a bit recently actually. Let me check and I'll get back to Maria. I'll be sending you on more stuff today.

MM     OK,but now I'm a little bit annoyed. I'm reading the chapter on Madiba and Ayob. Too much, your questions are too much. "Wouldn't the authorities have done this?" "Wouldn't the authorities have done that?" "Wouldn't they switch off the tape?" I'll discuss it with Ayob, as I say, these chaps have a blank – he agrees with me and I said to him, "How could you remember ten pages read out to you?" And he agrees, "No, you're right." But the point is your questions are all, "Wouldn't the authorities have done that, wouldn't they have done that?" and I'm trying to locate it by saying, listen, there's a historical fact here. The letter to PW, Madiba acknowledges that he wrote it. Two, we have the text. Three, it causes problems. I had a discussion with Jay Naidoo just now. He said to me, "Look, I didn't remember those details. I just told Padraig that we trusted Madiba." Now it's very clear from his answer, he does not want to be seen as amongst the people who entertained any doubts at any moment, yet the factual record in the country is clear, that this happened, there were huge doubts. I am saying I am giving a reconstruction of how I approached it and that it was successful, there was no arrest of us or anything like that.

POM     I think you're missing my point Mac, that it is up to me to anticipate the questions that will be raised.

MM     And I'll tell those people who raise those questions. I say this happened, finish, klaar.

POM     But I, as the writer and questioner of the book, have to raise them with you beforehand so that as much detail – sorry, it is my responsibility to ask those questions.

MM     But when you say - and Ayob says he never recorded Mandela nor does any recording exist, that proves that he did.

POM     Does any record exist?

MM     But who would keep a record like that?

POM     A tape recording?

MM     In the country who would keep it?

POM     Well if Ayob – did he destroy it?

MM     He would be a fool to keep it. He does not know what the consequences tomorrow would be. He has now clandestinely tape-recorded and he wants to keep the evidence? That would be a foolish lawyer. It would be saying, I am operating in a very legal state. Here I can start a national archive for future, for posterity. That would be a wrong assumption to make in conditions prevailing in the country and I wouldn't even ask him for the tape because if I did that then I would be saying I don't trust anything that's coming unless I myself have got it.

POM     I do but I don't see why you would get annoyed because I raised the question, that's the point.

MM     No, it's a question, I want to put time to answering questions but to answer a question: does a recording exist? Why not? Now that I find too much to keep answering because I said right from the beginning, these are assumptions that one makes. We make the assumption that we are bugged. We don't have to have proof that we are bugged. There is proof if you want to look for it. If you read the National Intelligence Services three volumes on me in Mayibuye Centre you will see there that they clearly had bugs. You read Madiba and you will see there that when he spoke to Kathy and them under a tree he subsequently found, Jesus! That place was bugged as well. He no longer has to each time analyse am I bugged or am I not?

POM     He just assumes it.

MM     Makes the assumption so you make the worst case, operate in that worst case. You see my point?

POM     Yes.

MM     Now the reader may ask the question. It's answerable but does not have to be answerable in a text like this. So I've answered this question over and over that, look in the previous chapter, took the trouble to phone Ismail and I phoned Jay Naidoo this morning, of course in the discussions with them I don't confront them and say, listen, you don't remember, why don't you admit? Because I appreciate that people today do not want to be seen, and even very genuinely they have blocked those things out of their minds.

POM     That I understand.

MM     So I thought I will phone you to explain this because I feel I should be spending more of my time on some of the things that really need a rerun.

POM     That's fine, but what I'm saying is that now that you have spoken, that is you have expressed yourself as you have, and I hope you put that in the chapter on Ayob which you said you had given some explanation on, is that that means that in my commentary I can push a commentary from the fact that of all the people that I talked to and the principals, they all operated from the assumption that everything they were saying was being bugged by the authorities.

MM     A reasonable assumption.

POM     Sure, and therefore the context in which they talked and the way in which they talked and the way in which they communicated were all put in the context, have to be put in the context of that assumption.

MM     And as I say the three volumes of the NIS that are at the Mayibuye Centre show that they retained photocopies of the letters going in and going out which they specially sat down and analysed for 'what does this mean?', 'isn't something cryptic here?', show also that they monitored visits and show also that they monitored business conversations in their cells – there in the records and that's a study done by Karl Edwards of the NIS somewhere around 1978 or so, 1978/79. A clear reading of that says it was actually happening. So it shows that the assumption was a valid assumption.

     It was the nature of the state but then all states that do all that surveillance, elaborate as it may be, it has all the built-in inefficiencies that go with over-elaborate systems. It has always got gaps in it because when I wrote to my former wife and I said in the text of the letter in order to refer to her again as a third person, I said, "How is Oom keeping?" Now they assumed straight away that that is some clandestine person but never that it was my former wife. They were so stupid that had they looked at her original first name they would find her first name was Oombragash, but because their mindset as analysts was, 'There's a ghost here', they looked for the ghost by assuming this must be some leading member of the Communist Party or MK. It never struck them that, hey, he's just finding a way to speak to her confidentially without them realising that I am speaking to her.

     So that's the nature of what comes out of those three volumes and I think - as I say, when you read later on I'm explaining as much detail as possible. Now Ayob up to now, while he concedes that it would have been taped, particularly because I've confronted him over the PW letter, I say, "You could not reconstruct ten pages just by Madiba reading it once. Have you got that type of memory?" And I wouldn't trust that type of memory.

     Secondly, with Jay Naidoo this morning he says to me what he said to you, he said he will e-mail me the stuff that he said to you but it was very clear that he was being very formal by saying, "No organisation, certainly COSATU, never took a decision not to trust Madiba." That's not the question I'm raising with him. The question I'm raising with him is, you were present at a meeting on the Monday morning attended by Sydney and Valli and later in the course of the meeting Kgalema came in having just arrived from PE. That meeting was discussing now with the text of the Madiba letter in front of them, disabusing of all of them of the view that Madiba was selling out.

POM     Just to clarify, the text of the letter, did Ayob give a copy to - ?

MM     Now he's saying yes, he believes he gave it to Valli and I certainly the night before that meeting when I confronted Valli and said, "Is this the letter you're referring to?" he said, "Yes. You've got it too?" Then I straightaway knew that that was Ismail's handwriting, Ismail had given it to him. And two, three weeks later when I was back in Jo'burg, now events have passed, we've got everything under control, sat Ismail down and said, "Ismail, these are confidential communications between OR and Madiba. It's your duty not to start handing it to anybody and everybody. Your duty is to get it to me so that I can get it to OR. I, myself, don't have the authority to start spreading it to other people and do you see how in this instance it was misunderstood?" He says, obviously, "Sorry", and I say, "You mustn't do that again, comrade." And finish, the issue is settled, no acrimony, because you're trying to culture people into working to the rules of the underground because if you lecture them they'll just tell you, "Sorry, who are you? We've been living in the country for 20 years now and surviving and so who are you to come and tell us?" You always want to tell people to follow lessons by praising them and by criticising them but also by nudging them in the right way.

     So that was an incident which showed Ayob had no reason to make the assumption that if he gave it to Valli it would come to me because there was nothing in the relationship with Ayob that said he can talk to Valli assuming that Valli knows me and he's meeting me, because I've never told him that I meet Valli. All he knows is that I was introduced by Ismail Momoniat and he can work with Momo to reach me. He doesn't know where I am in the country at any given moment and if he needs to reach me, contact Momo and Momo will reach me. His excuse was, "I didn't know." But I know what happened, he got too excited with that communication and therefore he passed it on to others. It's a subconscious thing of also saying to them, "See, I've got a very important communication", which is where the underground keeps getting caught and often finds itself arrested.

     Many people did this, Padraig. So Lusaka was concerned about my safety, too many people knew I'm in the country. But I had this out with OR on one occasion. Somebody went to visit them and they started discussing with him how I'm conducting my security. I wrote to OR, I said, "You've done wrong here. You should not have raised it with that person. You should raise it directly with me and I will tell you how I am conducting myself because when you raised it with another comrade that I sent on a visit to you what you have done is to make him privy to how I'm conducting my security, so that when he gets arrested he is in a position to tell the police these are the security measures that Mac is taking to survive. That's wrong. Secondly, I say it's wrong because you're undermining me with that comrade, because then why should he trust me because he realises you're worried that I'm acting sort of loosely. That's undermining. You must raise it with me. You must not do it in such a way that people at home begin now to be distrustful of working with me." And he accepted the criticism. I said, "Your job in Lusaka is to give me strategic advice and to give me the back up that I want."

     So eventually a situation arose where he picked up from somebody that a person from home had gone outside and told a third person that I was in the country and he immediately sent me a message saying, "Get out of the country, you're in trouble." I didn't go out of the country. I took stock and assessed who could it be that has told OR this? And I said this is a normal mistake that comrades will make. They go on a visit outside, they meet another comrade that they knew years ago, they confide and the word spreads. And I called the comrade in the country, in Durban, put him in a room and said, "Have you done this?" And finally, first he denied, but finally when he agreed he said to me, "Jesus, I am ashamed." I said, "Now here's a lesson. I'm not here to destroy you. That way of conducting yourself spreads the message uncontrollably and you did wrong. Let's correct it, let's make sure you never make this mistake again." And that's how we handled the problem, otherwise you wouldn't survive, otherwise you'd want 100% security before you step into an illegal zone. You see my point?

     OK but it becomes boring to write down. It's like writing a bloody manual on underground work.

POM     Well you see I never saw a manual on underground work, OK.

MM     Because even as you finish writing the manual it becomes outdated. Basically underlying all underground work is a need to keep – never drop your guard with the enemy, keep assessing them and all the tricks are known to everybody. It's which one out of the bag of tricks you pull out at a particular moment such that the other side has not anticipated that you will be using that one, that's the key. It's not the sophistication and pure technicality, it's the way even in a warfare, the General on one side outmanoeuvres the General on the other side by getting the General on the other side to move his troops into a position that the General can ambush them.

POM     I know you said on one occasion that –

MM     All the tricks are there. What you have to say is, how does the other commander think? How would he think in this situation? And you start off by saying he would suspect me of leading him into a trap, and so you outmanoeuvre him and come to him from the blind side because he hasn't put – that has not become the main preoccupation. He's so preoccupied that you're going to ambush him that he actually now tries to think and move differently and your reconnaissance and your assessment of him becomes the crucial element.

     You asked the question, why wouldn't they search Ismail's briefcase? Look at it from the regime's side.

POM     That's right. Because I've been in prisons and I've been searched from head to toe and put through machines and upside down.

MM     No, not when you are busy discussing with him and moved him to Victor Verster. You have to give treatment to Madiba that suggests you trust him. Now here's a lawyer that's been visiting him for four, five years and you haven't subjected the lawyer to a new set of searches. Your instruction to the warder in charge is, "Ayob comes by permission of Pretoria. Now please handle him nicely, don't make Madiba feel that we are putting impediments in his way." That warder would be scared to do something more harsh because Madiba would immediately react and say, why are you people treating me as worse than a prisoner who was in Pollsmoor with my five colleagues? You're now treating me in Victor Verster as if to say you've shifted me to put me under more hostile conditions. That would be disruptive of their move.

POM     To try to co-opt him.

MM     Let's talk, let's talk. They couldn't afford to do that to him. So it's not as if to say warders have this right and power therefore they would be doing it in the same way all the time.

POM     I've got you.

MM     And they would have selected Gregory because they would have felt that Gregory has got the way and the relationship to handle Madiba gently. Gregory would cook for Madiba, would be like a friend and Madiba treats him like a friend even now. That does not mean that Madiba somewhere at the back of his mind does not estimate that tomorrow Gregory might, when pressure is put on him, say different things to his bosses.

     So I am saying even from the authorities' side they could not just go by a text book in how they handled Ayob and obviously one of the things that I did in debriefing, I was to look at how they had treated Ayob so far and say, now would they tighten the screws even more on Ayob? I said in my mind, no, they wouldn't tighten it more.

     So that's the environment and it's always a changing environment and the worst mistakes happen when you become mechanical or you become too cocksure that you are reading the other side clearly. That why every time he visited Madiba and he comes back and when I get a chance I would meet him and I would go through with him exactly what happened, but what I am looking for is how are the authorities conducting themselves?

     That's the problematic area and just a boredom from having to re-write and re-write. Read on. So I've dumped my anger.

POM     I'm glad I'm getting to you.

MM     It also says that I've got time to be angry. My kidney is hurting more at this moment.

POM     How is it? How did the test go?

MM     I've got to go right up to Thursday with tests. This morning I got up with a very sharp pain in the kidney region.

POM     Oh dear.

MM     That's why I said let me phone this bastard now and get him off.

POM     I see. The remark you made when we were on the phone when you were telling me you would talk to Ayob, when you went to Lusaka after OR had the stroke and you still went on, you'd visited him and gone on, I understood it that the NEC at that point wasn't particularly interested in negotiations.

MM     The NEC was, the mindset was that –

POM     That the armed struggle would do it?

MM     There's nothing showing that there's genuine - and that is why OR was at that stage in the middle of promoting the Harare Declaration. The Harare Declaration was not only taken to the UN to set the terms vis-à-vis apartheid, it was also to move our own forces by saying first create the climate then we negotiate a cessation of hostilities, then we get to negotiations about the future. Those were the sort of steps of the Harare Declaration by saying create the climate and it said that part of the climate is release prisoners, unban, etc., etc., was to carry our own forces also to say, no, we are being very clear of the environment in which negotiations will take place. We will put aside the theoretical argument whether anybody in power has relinquished power voluntarily. By creating these conditions we are improving the space to prosecute the struggle because what we have effectively done is got the regime to go back to pre-1960s. Right? Pre-1960 meaning pre the banning of the ANC. That's a positive development. If only that happened and we didn't move to negotiations you could say it's a positive thing. It improves our space to mobilise people and none of your forces then would say I don't agree with that.

POM     But when you went to Lusaka, I was going through this last night and it hadn't come through, was they hadn't seen the letter, right?

MM     They hadn't seen the letter, they were given that letter at the meeting.

POM     Was their first reaction to it that - ?

MM     My memory of it is the first person who reacted, or probably the second or third but the one who stands out in my mind is Joe Modise because Joe Modise got up and clearly he hadn't read the letter but he got up and made a powerful speech about negotiations cannot be done by any individual, it doesn't matter if it is Mandela in prison, it's a very dangerous thing and we hear stories about Madiba which leave one very unhappy, it's necessary to tell Madiba that if he's negotiating he must stop. Now as the discussion goes on, why he sticks in my mind further, is that after in the discussion I have analysed the letter and I actually said to them, "I've been in detention, many of us have been in detention and under torture. Have any of us had the guts to defend return to violence, to defend the alliance with the Communist Party, the way this man has defended it from prison?" I said, "I believe this is one of the most powerful defences of these two questions."

     When I concluded discussion went on and JM sticks again in my mind because he has to speak again and this time he came out in fulsome praise of Madiba and changed his position 180 degrees. This was not abnormal in an NEC meeting. JM was prone to those switches because by nature he had a demagogic streak. He had a great sense of where the gallery is sitting in their thoughts at the moment and he would move with the gallery's thoughts. He always had this urban township cunning that he would take a position, and yet I have seen him at times take a position contrary to the way people are thinking, but again couch it in a way that had that demagogic streak of carrying them with him.

     Now in a team it's good to have a person like that, just as it's good to have people who are doubters and others who are deeply analytical and others who are listening but uncertain which way to go. That's what makes a good team. If a team was made up of all good analysts they'd get nowhere, they would be analysing to kingdom come. Do you agree?

POM     Somebody other than yourself, Mac.

MM     Yes obviously. That's a team for me, that's how I describe a soccer team, each one in the position where he's best suited to play, where his natural talents rest. That's why you have a left back and a right back and a winger and a centre forward. Not everybody can play centre forward.

POM     OK, so you're going to move in now to coaching the national team as well.

MM     It will be too much theory.

POM     OK, Mac.

MM     OK, pal.

POM     Thank you. I hope your pain – have you got to go back for tests, right?

MM     Yes, I'm going back, the whole week until Thursday. Then that will give them a chance to assess the results of this battery of tests. The specialist will give me his opinion, the last test is on Thursday. He said I must contact him three days after the tests are completed, so probably by Monday he will be able to give me an assessment whether we have to move on to another set of tests or whether there's no cause for concern.

POM     Do you have the pain now?

MM     No, no. This morning I got up with quite a bit of pain but I've taken anti-inflammatories and everything and now that I have shouted at you –

POM     You feel better.

MM     The pain is subsiding.

POM     Listen, shout at me all the time.

MM     OK.

POM     Have a good day.

MM     Don't worry, keep sending stuff – in all my little bits of time.

POM     Don't worry I will. I will pick something out to get you pissed off.

MM     If you didn't do everything to piss me off there would be something wrong.

POM     That's right. Bye.

MM     Keep well, ciao.

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