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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
23 Sep 2003: Maharaj, Mac
POM I'm just going to go back to get a thorough picture of Vula in place. I raise this because one of the persons that Leanne met when she was at Wits said he worked in Vula, that he once hid a car for you for six months and he gave (would it be Derek Hanekom?) as the person he interacted with. So my question is the structures of Vula that you outlined before, how many people might have been involved overall in Vula, some of whom may not even have known that they were in fact working for Vula, were just carrying out tasks that they were asked to do?
MM If you take Natal alone, if you take the Durban region alone, my memory says that 14 of the 26 magisterial districts within the greater Durban area had already developed structures. Now if you took even one unit per area and you took an average of five people that makes it 70 people quite apart from the other overlaying structures of support people. Then you took people who would not be aware nobody was told that there's an operation such as Vula. Nobody was ever told that there was an operation called Vula. When we came in we didn't say we've come here on Operation Vula. When we connected with people in Durban we said we have come to set up the underground, the military, the overall leadership structures within that areaand to link up with head office. So besides people coming into a unit, functioning as a cohesive unit they too would not know they are Vula. They would know that they are ANC or MK or SACP. Now if you take that and then you add on others who were merely support, like providing a safe place to work, a person hiring cars, different people hiring cars, a person providing a safe place for meetings, a person providing a safe place for some group of people to work, you would go far beyond that about 100 people in the Durban region.
But then you come next to the mass organisations with whom I was interacting with the national leadership directly sometimes bringing them in touch with Siphiwe Nyanda and sometimes not. I've listed some of the people in COSATU, Sydney, Jay Naidoo, Chris Dhlamini. In the UDF structures and COSATU Cyril Ramaphosa. In the churches Frank Chikane, Smangaliso Mkhatshwa. And then I forget the name of a priest, a white priest who was from the Catholic section, very prominent in the eighties, he was quite outspoken, in the nineties he just went quiet. To give you another example, Murphy Morobe, Valli Moosa. I would meet, for example, one of the chaps in the facilities of the Marist Brothers under Brother Jude.
POM Would Mo operate as the go-between person arranging those meetings or how would they be set up?
MM Each go-between, each meeting was handled by separate people. For example, meetings at Marist Brothers were attended by Murphy Morobe but facilities at Sacred Heart, Eric Molobi was hiding there. So you wouldn't let one person go and arrange. This was a question of personal relationships, it's not a question that I have a personal relationship with, say, Joseph and I can say, Leanne, just go and speak to Brother Joseph. It doesn't work like that. Then you take in Cape Town, there was a lawyer at Mallinicks, she was in the party structure and when I got to Cape Town, again using another woman from the Five Freedoms Forum, she assisted and made her mother's place available during Groote Schuur for me to hide out there and then she was able
POM Sorry, was this when you were at Groote Schuur?
MM Groote Schuur meeting.
POM You were hiding out then?
MM I was in Cape Town in the vicinity of the Groote Schuur meetings so her mother who was a widow, her mother's home, the daughter made arrangements for me to stay there without divulging who I am. And because I stayed there she became the immediate point to get a message through other intermediaries up to Valli who was in the Groote Schuur team, support team, and he would get the message to Madiba. Now in that chain I don't even know how many people were involved because we had to have a chain such that if anything was detected it doesn't come bang straight to where I am staying. The woman who I'm thinking of at Mallinicks, a leading legal firm, is a lawyer because she eventually worked in she was a practising lawyer, member of the firm and I got word from abroad which arranged the signals so that when I went to meet Charles Nqakula and company I went to her in her offices, made contact with her and then she went through intermediaries until word came back to me that right now the person has passed the message to Charles and here's the venue set aside, be there and Charles and Little John will be there.
POM Could you give me an example of things like you would meet Cyril about, say Jay Naidoo?
MM I've given in my rewrite section, I've said how important it was to discuss strategy of the struggle to see whether we shared a common outlook so that what they did in their mass organisations or in the training was consistent and not contradictory. So unless through this sort of discussion we understood where we saw the strategy, what they did in their respective flanks may be cutting across.
A classic example is Buthelezi. Buthelezi, the IFP having started through interaction with the ANC and encouraged by the ANC, began to make crucial issues of difference. First was on violence, which was not a problem because he was living in the country and creating a structure within the country. But when he began to go abroad and oppose sanctions, oppose isolation and boycott, what was happening now you were dividing and working against each other. So it was imperative that the mass organisations and the unions and us should at least share that common outlook, not to make the unions an appendage of the ANC but at least to ensure that we were thinking alike and not cutting across. Secondly, I needed to hear their observations and criticisms of what we were doing as MK, as ANC, that was harmful to their space that they were creating and sometimes they could have a valid criticism which may be a very specific action but it would be illustrating the problems it's creating.
So that was a basic line and then after that what assistance can we give? Because we were ready to give all sorts of support to the mass organisations.
POM 'We' being?
MM The ANC.
MM And the ANC alliance, to support the unions to grow stronger, to support the UDF to withstand the blows of the states of emergency and still carry on. In a similar way when I came in, I think I have said, I heard that there were plans being made for the escape of Valli, Murphy and company from Modder B, but when I got in touch with the comrades who were doing that, preparing for that, I found that the preparation was inadequate. So, because it was in Johannesburg and I had access to the Johannesburg District Committee of the Communist Party, I took the matter there and asked them to make it a priority matter of the party unit, the District Committee, that we did everything to ensure that that escape succeeds and happens. And that didn't mean doing things anew, it meant pulling all the strands together with a sense of urgency so that it comes about.
POM Now when you say make sure that every element understood the strategy and yet one of the, I won't say principles, but one of the understandings was that Vula would put political leadership as first among equals, that all things happened under the direction of senior people, was part of the understanding with the UDF and COSATU and other affiliates, was part of that understanding that the ANC was now moving into a position where senior political ANC leadership on the ground would be the people to give instructions to other - ?
MM No, we never gave instructions.
POM Sorry, give instructions is wrong. Would it be the people under whom the ANC, MK operations would be conducted?
MM No, we didn't even say that to them. Often I would say to them, go to Lusaka and meet Oliver Tambo, meet Joe Slovo, meet the ANC and Political/Military Council structures because what I am saying and what we are discussing here is exactly what they would say so that I would send a report to OR and say, "This is what I have discussed and if you don't agree with what I'm saying, amend it."
POM So was there an increasing flow of people through Lusaka after - ?
MM Increasing through Lusaka. Yes.
POM Let me ask you, how would those people get passports?
MM Those people were in the mass organisations. Cyril Ramaphosa's first trip abroad was on a Venda passport when I met him abroad and they were continuing to interact, for example, invited by the Swedish government, by the World Confederation of Trade Unions.
POM So they wouldn't go directly to - ? They'd circle around.
MM They would go on a roundabout route. And then don't forget, the business initiative of 1986, where Gavin Relly of Anglo-American came, began to have the effect of legitimising people saying openly as a group, "I'm going to Lusaka to meet the ANC. What I am doing at home is not illegal but I am going to Lusaka to meet the ANC." And that began to be legitimised. For example, an inter-denominational grouping of the church and religious bodies, across faiths, Hindu, Moslem, Christians, went in a large delegation to meet the ANC in Lusaka.
POM What year would that be?
MM 1986, I was there in Lusaka at the meeting.
POM When you would be at Lusaka you would attend these meetings?
MM Yes. And OR would attend it and address them. But we would never address them and tell them you do this and do that.
POM What I'm getting at, Mac, is that Lusaka your days in Lusaka sound like one continual uphill battle that you were fighting, that is this tension between the armed struggle and internal underground organisation and every time even though everyone agreed, yeah, yeah, yeah, we've got to put the two mustn't work in parallel but there's got to be this kind of the underground must be the lead and MK slots in.
MM I didn't put it as the underground because the underground was not the sole political formation. I put it that politics must be supreme.
POM Politics must be supreme. It looks like even though everyone would agree time and again, like at Kabwe, that this is true, this is what we believe, that invariably everybody went back and
MM The practice would slide and then if you call it a constant battle, it's a constant battle to get attention and resources given to both institutions, the side that's managing the political side and the side that's managing the military side. Now that would constantly slip because it's not as if the people reading the military were not political people but the assumption was made that if you take Joe Slovo, General Secretary of the Communist Party, and make him Chief of Staff of the army, then that assures that the army will address matters in a political framework. Not necessarily true because the environment in which you work and the tasks that you have as immediate overwhelm your thinking and affect your mindset so you would like to see certain things given more resources than other things. It happens in government today. You have a minister today as Water Affairs and he wants all the resources for water. You shift him to another portfolio and he wants all the resources there. Yet when you ask him when he was Water Affairs minister, why didn't he give when the budget debate was taking place in preparation, why didn't he agree that Leanne heading the other ministry should have as much resources? And he wouldn't answer that question.
But to come back to this point, the interaction. Now another interaction which cut across the specific mass formations was when we began to sense that Mandela is likely to be released. Of course keeping on analysing, will it just be a release, will it be restrictions, will it be no restrictions, will it lead to unbanning of the ANC? For instance when Walter was released in October 1989 it's a very lovely press conference to see and I am surprised how many people don't notice it, Walter presided over the press conference, October 1989, and he opened the conference with the following words, "This is a press conference of the African National Congress." It was still banned. But coming out from prison after 26 years and saying that was legitimising the ANC even though it was illegal.
POM Let's keep on that track, on interactions.
MM But let me just complete one point. I say cutting across with the release possibility, on the ground a committee of nine was created to attend to the questions of the possible release of Mandela and the consequences. Into that committee we locked in at the level of Vula directly with Cyril, Frank Chikane, Smangaliso Mkhatshwa and one other person, four people. I met each one of those separately and I said, "Now, will the four of you who are committed ANC people act as a ginger group inside that committee so that the flow of ideas and plans are synchronised between what the nine are thinking and planning and what's the thinking of the ANC in Lusaka and us on the ground." So I entrusted that task, because it was such a big task and so fast moving, to a group of four comrades who were part of the committee of nine by saying, "Now you've got to bring a thinking that ensures the ANC has a say in what your plans are for Mandela and what your plans are as to what happens next." Now that cut across the unions, the churches by that time it was no longer UDF, it was called the MDM.
POM Mass Democratic Movement.
MM To ensure that all the formations were moving together, not to dictate and tell them what to do because sometimes very good ideas would come from them. So that's how it all worked.
POM Now how did you and Gebhuza work? How did you work you're both Internal, you're both moving around the country, in terms of your internal communication network with each other and with other people like Janet Love, the other key people, how did you keep in contact with them?
MM I used an adaptation of our external communication system only for Gebhuza and myself when we were apart and then I used pages, telephone systems, couriers and Janet, when we linked up with her, gradually became my key communications officer. She manned the equipment, she did the writing of the messages, I'd just dictate and she'd write it down, encrypt it, send it, find the places I'd show her where to send from. After that she would innovate.
POM Did Tim Jenkins do the adaptation of - ?
MM No, those communications between Gebhuza and myself did not go through London but I would turn to Tim Jenkins and say to him, "I need a system of enciphering, deciphering and communications inside the country with Gebhuza, would you people devise something?" Yes, they were involved in that.
POM So then you could do that directly with him and you didn't have to go through external connections?
POM How often would you be apart?
MM I don't think I personally would hardly sit around in Durban. Two weeks at a stretch was too much. Either I would be heading to Jo'burg to meet the couriers coming from abroad, like the stewardess on KLM, and I would arrange also to meet certain comrades in Johannesburg. I would have to meet Cyril, I would have to meet Jay Naidoo but Jay Naidoo I would meet him in Durban when he's in Durban. I would meet Smangi, Frank Chikane, Sydney Mufamadi, the District Committee of the party. So I was on the move all the time.
Gebhuza was, by agreement between the two of us, to specialise and continue with the military side of the work and that meant, and as you saw the other day when I described the people, you will see that the military committee was still just beginning to root itself because its tasks were not carrying out operations, it's tasks were ordinance side, safe long term storage and medium term, vehicles to go in and out bringing in the weapons, bringing in other people to handle training on the ground in all the specialities of guerrilla warfare from weaponry and each thing needed somebody to be trained as a specialist and detonating devices and ignition devices were a separate speciality using available content locally. The explosives, etc., came from outside, that was a different matter. But we could also get the ignition devices from outside but our aim was that if you've got a bulk storage there don't let it be dependent on ignition devices that you've just brought from home and they are the most volatile element in the explosive.
And recruiting people, creating the structures, training them on the ground in rudimentary actions, selecting people then from outside to reinforce us as your structures began to grow. But the committee itself of the military side was a small one made up of Gebhuza, Charles Ndaba and I think Dipak Patel as earmarked. Kevin, the ignition man and the timing device man was not put into the military committee, he was kept separate because the first pressure was develop from local content ignition devices and timing devices. Get a store of those made so that we don't have to waste our time running all sorts of vehicles to collect those, let the space be reserved for explosives and weaponry.
So that was the work but Gebhuza's task was also from my point of view to get a handle on the political side of the work in Durban. So I would leave him in Durban more often and every now and then say, "Meet me in Johannesburg, there are some issues that are arising in Johannesburg where I'd like you to be present so that you can see how the things are handled", but I do not recall ever putting Gebhuza directly in touch with Cyril but I would report to him and we would discuss what to do as a team, both on military and political matters, and then I would leave him in Durban to keep running the structures, grooming him to the point where if I had to now move to Johannesburg it may be that I need him in Johannesburg but he would be the one running back up and down to Jo'burg while I would now give more attention to Johannesburg. So between him and I the division of labour was agreed but it was not a firm division. We made sure that we discussed matters political and military. So I tell him I've met Cyril, I've met Sydney, these are the issues that cropped up, what do we think, this is what I've said, and we would discuss and see whether we are in agreement.
POM Now these people who are being trained by Gebhuza, what did they think they were being trained for?
MM They were being trained to join MK. They were actually told you're being recruited to MK.
POM For the purpose of?
MM Eventually becoming armed combatants.
POM To overthrow the government.
MM To engage in guerrilla warfare as and when you are required to do so.
POM I'm asking this question specifically because I would say that of all the people you have put us in touch with, and I've been in touch myself who other people put me on to, a majority at least, maybe more, would say that if you asked what Vula was about that Vula, they say, was an operation which was going to create armed struggle within the country to overthrow the government.
POM They did not say Vula was there to ensure that senior people from the ANC could be brought into the country.
MM Never! We would never say that because what happens if I said that and somebody got arrested and told the police that? What are the chances that another senior person could enter the country? I would never say that. I would say here's the strategy of the movement, this is the strategy and tactics, we are busy promoting that strategy and tactics to engage in armed struggle which is a combination of the four pillars to overthrow this regime. If they raised with me, what about negotiations? I would say, "Chaps, concentrate on your job here. Stop running around the world. If you are approached by anybody in the country, the American Embassy, give me the report, we'll send it to Lusaka. Let Lusaka attend to the negotiations. Our job is that they are only coming to talk about negotiations because they see the mass struggle and the underground struggle heating up and the more we make that heat up the more they will come to the negotiating table. But don't you now start spending your energy and neglect your work of building the mass organisations."
POM So it would not surprise you that people would say this in response to what do you think Vula was about?
MM Not at all. If the NEC didn't know that too, because the NEC had authorised this operation by a general resolution which simply said we need to strengthen our work at home and for that we need to send senior people including members of the NEC, and somebody said, "Strike that out of the resolution", and we said, "We are mandating Oliver Tambo, assisted by Joe Slovo, we're giving you a blank cheque. You don't even have to report."
POM Vula and the conflict in KwaZulu-Natal, this was a point of fairly vicious aggression between the UDF and Inkatha assisted or not by the police or the army in KwaZulu-Natal. To what extent did Vula help train people in the MK who were also with the UDF, train them to fight Inkatha?
MM Certainly we trained them because the warfare on the ground was such that the Inkatha forces assisted by the state were on the rampage and there were no-go areas.
POM You weren't in a position to say to people, listen you're being trained for the long run despite the fact that around you you can see your comrades being killed in KwaZulu-Natal or wherever.
MM We gave assistance to them without drawing them into our structure. We gave assistance to them insofar as the immediate equipment and insofar as they needed guidance and how to train themselves to be better, we gave assistance, because that's an ongoing battle. You could not separate yourself. But at the same time at another level I was prepared to engage in debate, how correct are the tactics we are using? I gave you the example where, I think after Ronnie arrived, Gebhuza and I were in Johannesburg and a request came to us to release AKs from the arsenal and Gebhuza and I independently said no and said we're coming down to Durban, I want to prepare an all-night meeting with the military and political committee to debate this matter. And the outcome of the debate was that we're not releasing, that their intelligence information was not verified and that their tactics were wrong in that situation.
POM This was when you already would be in a pre-negotiation mode because Mandela was released, Groote Schuur was about to take place.
MM But my attitude to the tactics would remain the same, Padraig. My argument that if you got information that next week on Monday in this township a 5000 strong Inkatha grouping are going to be marching down the streets on the rampage and we should position six, ten snipers to mow them down, it's not on, that's not our tactics because I said out of those 5000 there are 50 committed people, there are 4550 people who are just taken up with this and there are women and children and youth. You mow them down there and you'll have three generations of grievance living in the people's memory. But then I said militarily it's not feasible because before that impi comes down you know that the SA security forces will come and clean out every shack on this pathway of any danger and weapons. Your snipers would be caught before they can act or would have had to flee sometimes abandoning their weapons. Then the march would come down. So you are planning in an unreal even military situation and I would keep raising that type of question which is tactics of warfare in an urban situation.
POM Now just for a minute concentrating on KZN where far more people were killed, the rough estimate is 15,000 people between when it started in the early eighties through the late eighties. Again from interviews I have done and research I have done it would seem to be that the role of either the army or KZN police is overplayed, that this was a dirty down war between two groups of people who, as you said, fought for the control of towns and villages right across KZN where one day they will be in the hands of Inkatha, the next day it will be ANC, a week later it would be Inkatha and that people took sides depending upon who was in control.
MM And depending on who got killed. You killed my sister therefore I will kill you, and therefore if I can't kill you I'll kill your cousin. Yes. But, Padraig, I don't know whether we are in a position yet to make a calm estimate of where we can attribute to whom the number of deaths. What I can say is that unless people like me had come in, if you sent in an MK unit to operate in Pietermaritzburg obviously for its survival it must relate to the mass of the people and in that environment it would be impossible for it to withstand becoming involved in what you might call tit for tat violence.
And then as senior figures our job was not to go and say don't do this, don't do that. Our job was to interact with the leading figures to debate tactics to be used so that they would come to an understanding that we were being driven into a no-win situation knowing that it is overlaid by support of the South African state, by Buthelezi's own position and stance and saying, "Guys, you are right, you've raised the boycott, you've raised the anti-Bantustans emotion, but that does not mean that we may not have to open lines of communication with Buthelezi."
And that would be an issue that would be like the burning platform of discussion, such that I would turn to Lusaka, to OR, as happened with the late Harry Gwala, and say, "OR, my sense tells me that Harry also is not seeing the point but I can't prevail on him, I am sending people to discuss with him. He's not working out." And he said, "Listen, I've been waiting to send a message for him but I can't get a safe courier, but since you say the situation is becoming so critical I am preparing a lengthy report." And I think it came to about 30 - 40 pages, typed, A4 size, single space. He says, "I'm preparing a lengthy report discussing these issues with Harry. I want you to deliver it. I want you to go and meet him."Because now the weight of Lusaka, but OR's letter would not be saying, "Harry, you are wrong here, you are wrong there", it would be saying, "Harry, this is our analysis of the situation and from this analysis the following imperatives are flowing."
POM What was Harry doing, because it arises later in relation to your retirement from the Communist Party, what was he doing that you found to be both tactically counter-productive?
MM My view was that Harry was taking such a hard line position that even differences of viewpoint amongst our own forces, he was beginning to encourage the use of violence against our own forces and I said if you've gone that far down the road that's a step too far for me. It's one thing to say you are mobilising and acting against the enemy in warfare but if you begin to use that technique amongst your own people and your own forces, and I complained and I raised it with Lusaka when I believed that he had instigated other youth to kill a leading youth activist who my knowledge said is a solid ANC man, and he died. Now I could not go in a court of law and say I can prove that Harry was responsible but he encouraged that sort of tendency and I said that leads to internecine warfare. It's wrong.
POM So did OR get the 30 page letter to you?
POM Now was that delivered through London, encrypted?
POM And delivered to you, to Harry?
MM As happened with Govan also.
POM Well let's begin with Harry first. What did OR say to Harry?
MM OR, my memory says, OR's style was to analyse, to praise the comrades on the ground for the work that they are doing, then to analyse the situation, gently bringing in the four pillars of the struggle, the absolute imperative of the mass struggle and the need for our tactics of the mass struggle not to become divisive but to broaden our reach and then to begin to discuss the IFP in KZN, ANC/UDF relations and COSATU relations and say that if this becomes the primary focus of our activity what it does is it gives the apartheid forces the chance to give attention elsewhere. So, these are the pitfalls and while you are doing very good work I'm relying on you as a stalwart to provide the leadership that does not trap us in their terrain.
That would be the overall framework. Then there would be specific issues arising, e.g. Gatsha is doing this, that briefing them then how the ANC has sought to work Buthelezi, how the talks broke down, where they are at and still gently indicating the need to prevent apartheid succeeding in its designs of making black fight black. So that would be the drift of it and the trick he was using was by asking me to deliver it, was to leave the impression you want a follow-up discussion? Now discuss with Mac. Without saying so. With me he would say, "I'm expecting you people to do everything in your power to make sure that Mac and the mission that I have sent him on, that Mac survives and doesn't get caught by the enemy."
POM So Harry's response in terms of you relating to him?
MM My technique after giving him the communication at the meeting, I gave it to him at the meeting as I did with Govan too, was then to engage in a discussion on nuts and bolts issues, e.g. Harry, what are we doing about propaganda amongst the masses? You say you I know, I can see you control in there. So our forces, it's a no-go Now are we consistently issuing propaganda so that the ordinary people in that township understand where we are going? Are you writing, are we publishing material in the name of the ANC so that others in another suburb can emulate your example here? So what are we doing? No we are talking. I said, "No, no, no, that's fine you're talking but you cannot use that as your sole means. You need the movement to be identified, the ANC, the SACP, and even the Communist Party now." So I'd end up by saying, "Right now, Harry, what do you need to produce leaflets? How many thousand do you think you can distribute at one go? Don't give me general figures, tell me. There's a publication called Umsabenzi of the Communist Party, written in Lusaka. If I deliver to you do you want it on stencils, do you want it on disk, do you have the capacity, can I train a unit of yours on how to reproduce before we come to how to write? But can we agree now that you will go back and you will come back with addresses where I will dump by pre-arranged signals as many thousand copies of Umsabenzi as you want and then you must tell me where you've distributed it." Because through that way if he did it I will get a measure of his strength at an organised level because my debate and discussion is beyond general. I am saying where's the organisational capacity that you've developed cell by cell, unit by unit, in that suburb, or are you just relying on a group that's composition is constantly changing of young people who if you disappear into detention they won't know what to do? So as it happened he said, "Well I can distribute", I don't remember how many copies of Umsabenzi. And I said, "Come back, send me through a courier, the DLBs where I'll put it and I'll tell you." He never came back.
And we knew those tactics of Harry, those were not new tactics in the movement so it didn't frustrate me and make me angry. It just said you're aware, it just said Lusaka, you're aware, I have to tackle that region in a different way now, I have to slowly get people who know the activists directly, organise them into units on work before theoretical debate so that we have an organised presence there. Then I can have a debate. Because then if I debate the matter and he doesn't come back with the address for Umsabenzi he will wake up on Monday morning and find that, Jesus Christ, 10,000 bloody leaflets have been distributed here and he will say who the hell did that? In his mind he will say, that bastard Mac. But he will say, but how could they have done it? It means that the very people that I'm interacting with, many of them are involved. And he can't go to them and say that's not ANC, that's not the Communist Party.
So it depended on your tactics. I could have chosen to go into outright confrontation with him which I think was going to be wrong and I understand that when I retired from the Communist Party they proceeded on their decisions an I believe that they tried right up to Harry's death and even after his death to use his reputation to still try and bring people into a structured relationship with the ANC, because this is a man who rose to activity in the early forties, who in many people's minds symbolised resistance to apartheid. So you didn't want to debunk that legend but you wanted to use the legend and fill it up with a content which was in accord with the needs of the time.
POM Since we're on that track, you mentioned Govan Mbeki whom I was going to mention. Now he would have been released very shortly after you came into this country in 1988, he was released actually before you came in. So he already was working out of Port Elizabeth, right? Now he doesn't strike me as somebody who would sit there in fact I visited him in his office in Port Elizabeth. How did Govan see his role after he was released, how was he seen by the movement in the country? He now was the most senior person.
MM He was seen as a point of reference by everybody, all the activists in the country, leading and rank and file people. He took a hand, he was a fighter and so he became involved in problems of the UDF, tactics, strategies. I may not agree with his tactics and strategies but he was seen by them as an authoritative face of the ANC and yet now if one didn't agree with him one had to lock into a debate with him, but not just a debate for the sake of a debate, one had to make sure that Lusaka and Oliver Tambo in particular spoke to him to try and brief him and nurse him so that the role that he was playing becomes a more positive one.
POM Let's begin when he is released, he doesn't have any direct line to Lusaka, nor Lusaka to him.
MM He set up a line.
POM He set up a line?
MM He sent a courier, I know the courier that he isolated and I didn't have regard and I told OR on one occasion, I sent a message from Johannesburg. I said I'm in Johannesburg at the moment and yesterday I believe I saw Zizi's courier who was at a certain venue at a certain hotel and he was on his way to Lusaka. And I said this man's reputation is a very controversial one in the country. If he's bringing you a verbal report you have to assess it with a particular filter. But he was a regular courier of Govan's to Lusaka.
POM Now when you say he was controversial?
MM He was controversial because the stance that he was taking was often divisive. The UDF strategy was to broaden the reach of the struggle and it didn't matter whether you agreed entirely with the ANC strategy and tactics. It was to let the mass movements flower and let people get into action and activity. That's the first line of politicisation of the masses. Then not use the underground to command them what to do. There was a commandist streak that was being divisive, we operate on instructions and orders. I was saying that's not the way to go because commanding style divides. You have to tap into what the communities are thinking and what are the issues for them and from there develop them and lift them to national issues.
POM So Govan was in touch with OR and would OR have told him that you were in the country or would he leave it to you to make contact?
MM No. What happened was that OR in the face of my reports and assessments came back to me, I sent a person who was a confidante of Govan's from the Durban region to meet OR to hear first hand, and this was a person I had high regard for in Durban, I'd seen the calibre of his work, but he was of the younger generation, he grew up in the eighties, late seventies, within the country and I could see when I was discussing with him and I could sense from others that he was going and quietly reporting also to Govan and raising issues. So I said, "It's time, OR, that you reinforce this view." Now what I'm going to do is that this comrade I sense a hesitancy because I sense he's getting one message from you and translating it into action and a different one possibly from Govan. So I said, "I'm sending him to you. I want you to meet him, I want you to discuss with him so that he gets tuned and reinforced." OR when he met him knew of him and was very impressed with him, but OR too came to a judgement that it is necessary that this comrade is not put in a push/pull between Govan and myself. So what OR did to him
POM But Govan would have known at that time through this person that you were in the country?
MM No he wouldn't have known.
POM But how do you know?
MM Well I'm guessing it. I'll guess it and I'll come later to larger extrapolations why.
But OR decides as this comrade is, and apparently they talk for about three days, and this comrade wanted to make notes and OR said, "Don't make notes. When you get back to Durban the person who arranged your coming here will have a full record of my discussions with you in writing so you don't have to bother to smuggle it in." That was to impress on him that, look, the communications are independent of the verbal message or the interpretation you put. When he arrived back in Durban and came to see me we chatted, how have the discussions gone with OR? Wonderful, etc., etc. Then I said, "Here, there's a 30 odd page report, read it." He reads it. I say, "Is that an accurate record of your meeting with OR?" He says, "Absolutely accurate." So I know the warning bells are buzzing, that, hey, I've just finished my meeting there, I'm here but Mac has got the report. So the space for me to convey things with a nuance that is different has gone.
The next thing OR says, they had concluded on the basis that OR wanted him to go to Govan, so OR says, "Those notes that you will get there, those are the notes that you will take and use for Govan, deliver it to Govan." I said, "There it is. You agree it's accurate? Now, take it and deliver it to Govan because that's what OR has told me you must do. I presume he has told you?" He said, "Yes, yes." I said, "Well, take it." What we've done now, we've already reinforced his thinking but having sent that to Govan problems continue and I said to OR, "The mixed signals continue to come."
POM He still does not know you're in the country?
MM As far as I'm concerned. So he says, "What do you propose?" I said, "I propose I go and meet him now. He's had your briefing in writing, he's had time to study it, it's time for me to go and meet him." So we discuss the environment of Port Elizabeth. OR says it's very dangerous, his reports say Port Elizabeth is infested with informers and they are around Govan. I say I'll take care of that. So he said, "Well go ahead." So I then went to a leading member of the trade union movement in Johannesburg knowing that he's in touch with Govan.
POM And this man is?
MM Cyril Ramaphosa. My information said he's part of a head committee initiated by Govan. So I go to Cyril, I don't tell him I know this. Cyril and I are in touch with each other and I say, "Cyril, I've got a problem. I've got to go and iron out some tactical differences with Govan, will you make the arrangements? And just make sure that you don't tell Govan it's me." So he says, "OK, I'll do it." I say, "Go and sound him out, a person from outside coming in to meet him. It will have to be a safe venue, the rules of the game are that a person from outside is going to determine the rules and the venue and everything, but will he be available?" Now I know that in sending Cyril against a stalwart like Govan, Govan is no chicken, Govan's going to tell him, who the hell is this person from outside? And he won't be able to say I can't tell you. Govan will say, young man, you know who you're talking to? So I expect Cyril to divulge it but given that Cyril is taking the message and Cyril is part of Govan's head committee, he won't be able to say to Cyril, I refuse to meet the man. So I used Cyril and then I made my independent arrangements to get to Cape Town and surveillance and selection of venue and I met Govan.
POM You met him in Cape Town?
MM No I met him in Port Elizabeth, I met him in a hotel, I met him for about five hours. Met him, had long discussions, took it to the practical side, support that they need, etc., what work they're doing, what needs to be done at an organisational level, and saying to him, "You've got to separate the military and the political on the ground. You've got to avoid bringing the mass organisations' leadership into these underground structures so that they get all wiped out at one shot." And saying to him, "What support do you want? We'll give you support." Because you see, Padraig, you can't have those discussions just in hearing, you'll end up at war with each other. You've got to bring the discussions back to practical work.
POM So how do you explain your presence?
MM Oh no, I'm sent by OR, I'm sent by OR, that's all. I don't say to him I'm here indefinitely. I say, "I am here, any time you need me send a message. I will find my way here." That doesn't mean I'm living in the country, it does not mean I'm lying to him. I'm saying nothing about that. It's sufficient that I'm physically present and it's sufficient that if you give me timeous warning and you need to see me again, send a message in this way and I will be here to meet you. That's sufficient. I don't want to tell him that I'm living in Durban, I have this mandate and that mandate. No. My mandate is derived from the NEC through Oliver Tambo. I don't want to explain my mission. I don't say to him I'm making conditions for leading people to come and settle down, etc., etc. Oh no. "What do you need?" He says, "We've got MK units." I say, "How many units have you got? Who is the head of it? Can you put me in touch with him?" "No, I'll contact him." I said, "No, I don't want you back in jail. You're an inspiration coming out from jail, I don't want you to go back to jail. Tell me who's the commander, I'll find who relates to him. I'll attend to his needs of training and equipment, etc. Tell me who's your propaganda units, I'll arrange for propaganda to get to them. I'll arrange to train them in the production of underground propaganda. But you Zizi, you need to ensure that you stand above that because you've become a magnet in this country and an inspiration. So don't start mixing yourself with all those little details. Live in an environment where if your commander gets caught you're not linked to him. If it leads to me they still have to catch me but you, you're a sitting duck." Now how can he answer that except to say yes, yes, yes. Whether he delivers after that is another question.
POM Did he see himself when he was released as the head of the ANC in the country?
POM As such he would not be very amenable to suggestions that came from outside of himself if I understand him.
MM Not a problem. Anything that he didn't agree with me, if he wanted it in writing from OR I'd get it delivered to him within a week. What's the problem? If he said, "I don't agree with this tactic", I said to him, "Well, within a week I'll make sure that OR writes to you."
POM Did you keep that separate network of communication going with OR?
MM Yes, I kept it going, but he preferred to rely on his courier which tells you the problematic that when a person prefers that, no, no, no, Leanne is more accurate, what does that mean? You're going to discuss with Leanne, Leanne is going to filter it through her mind, take it to OR, meet OR, OR says things, it filters through her mind, it comes back to you. By the time it comes second, third hand it's changed its bloody meaning.
POM This is like the famous war trial you know the one, it went down the line of command?
MM It's one of the major problems of communications in human society.
POM Just as a matter of interest, given that Govan would have been such a magnet of attention from the security forces when he was out, that they knew where he lived, they knew just about everybody he was in contact with, surely it wouldn't have been very difficult for them to pick up this courier?
MM They didn't. The courier survived right through.
POM Well wouldn't that in itself raise questions?
MM Sure. But I start from the premise that he is surrounded by people who are informing on him. My problem is how to communicate with him bypassing all that. I told you gently that I identified the courier and said to OR that I saw this person, I saw him drunk in a hotel boasting that he's on his way to Lusaka. He didn't know I was sitting in the pub, as I did when I had to meet him. I did this, got a sheet of paper, a blank sheet, I did this here's the main road in Port Elizabeth, here's a tiny side street, this is a one-way, this is a one-way, this was a one-way, this is the main road, and this is a parking lot, several story parking lot. I sent in a car ahead to block. I sent in a car to monitor Govan's car bringing Govan here and said this is where you get to this parking lot. I said, "At the entrance of this parking lot you jump out", and I sent in a car to follow and block this road. Govan got out, somebody walks him across, brought him here and there was a car here, took him off here. In the meantime these two cars blocked the road so that no car coming out of the parking lot could go and no car following him could go. So that was the primary point of the switch. Here was a woman from Durban, Mo Shaik's wife was the driver. She picked up Govan here and took him to a hotel parking lot and dropped him at the hotel. In the meantime I had a car observing here, is he being followed? And if I got a message that he's being followed I wouldn't turn up to the hotel room meeting. So at every point I checked that given the environment he was living in, sent people to scout out the terrain and find that type of venue for the switch as the key element. Because up till then he's coming in in a car driven, I have no control who he's going to trust and who he's not going to trust. All I said is that the car that brings you must just have the driver and you, that's all. Conform to that rule, the meeting is on. And once his car stopped here the person came up here and said, "Please come Oom Gov, come with me", round the corner. Even if this driver wanted to follow him he couldn't because there's a car in front blocking his path and he can't see when Govan turns round the corner he can't see which car Govan got into. He has no idea that Govan got into a car even and he has no idea if he got into a car if the car went this way or that way. So that was the key to the switch because it assumed that he is surrounded and he's under constant enemy surveillance. When we met with Govan he said
POM Did he say, hello Mac, you again?
MM No. Well I could see from him because now he's in the hotel room already and I walk in and I've got a report saying that, yes, he's in the hotel room, everything is safe. So I go to the hotel room and his instructions were, "Just leave the hotel room open." The woman who drove him was not supposed to be in the hotel room so when I get into the room I find her there in violation of the agreement but she told me that he was afraid to walk up alone and take the lift from the parking lot. It was in an underground basement. So I let her go but as I got into the room he got up and we both hugged each other and I could see that he knows that I'm the one that's meeting him and I therefore know that Cyril told him, but I never went to Cyril and said, "Cyril, you told him."
POM Were you in disguise?
MM Yes I was in, different appearance from what -
POM So he recognised you.
MM He recognised me. I even said to him, "Can you see? You've had an eye operation recently." And he said, "No, I can see perfectly well", and we sat down warmly, talked. So there was that warmth that's there amongst comrades even in the midst of differences. But if you want to know Govan's thing, his approach to organisation, see it in his book The Prison Note. Those were the lectures that he was giving how it should be organised, and try and make sense of it.
POM You want a little break?
POM You must have calls to make and things to do like that.
MM Let's have a cup of black coffee. Irish terrorist friend.
POM There are few of us left, getting more difficult all the time to be a terrorist.
MM All right, well shall I call you my Irish anarchist?
POM Well that would be you said your Irish anarchist, you see, the word anarchist would be redundant.Mac, when did you meet with Govan, just to put a time frame? You came in in August 1988 so he was out when you came in.
MM I would have met him in early 1989.
POM OK. Going backwards now, we'll go through questions, it'll go quicker. Just to figure out Conny Braam and the role she played. Did she play a kind of really a two times over thing, that is with you and Gebhuza and then with Ronnie where she did the outfitting for you say she wrote a whole book in Dutch on Operation Vula?
MM If you want to read Dutch you can get it.
POM It's in Dutch? Just have to get a Dutch translator, that's all.
MM Ivan Pillay's wife. No, the position is that Conny Braam has been the pivot of the anti-apartheid movement in Holland from the seventies and of course besides doing anti-apartheid work she did at different periods get involved in gathering resources available in Holland for all sorts of clandestine purposes. I think she is the one that blew the whistle with OR on Barend Schuitema who was involved with the Okela(?) Operation, Barend Schuitema turned out to be an apartheid agent.
POM Can you spell his name.
POM And he was involved in?
MM He was a South African agent operating in Holland. You must be careful, I think he was her boyfriend at the time when he got involved in all sorts of schemes and she smelt a rat and she informed OR about it. So she's been able to gather these sort of resources and she has helped the underground structures, different people in the underground structures, Ronnie and them, safe people, couriers from Holland for Mozambique/Swaziland side. She was also involved in assisting facilities for Ebrahim Ebrahim, now adviser to Jacob Zuma.
But when my time came with Operation Vula I tasked her resources with regard to disguises, in particular two aspects of disguises. I realised that she had access to the theatre world, the cosmetic artists, and sounded her out and found that she had direct access to wigmakers using human hair, she had cosmetic artists, dentists, etc., to change one's appearance. So I got her to do that for me without explaining my mission because I was operating in the frontline states. Then because of the competence, particularly of the wigmakers and the dentists, got him involved through her in helping the disguise of Gebhuza. And of course I connected them to Ivan and Tim Jenkin, connected her. Ivan already knew of her existence also, so did Tim. After Gebhuza and I were disguised and we entered the country it turned out that increasingly Tim and Ivan continued to use Conny for many other cadres coming in, Katherine Mvelase, Susan Tshabalala, many of their disguises were worked on with the assistance of Conny. Later on when Tim Jenkin needed to ensure that the signals were not just flowing from here to London and because she provided also The Nightingale, the stewardess, she accessed that person.
POM Anita, right?
MM No, Antoinette.
POM She married the chef, right?
MM I now realise why we nicknamed her The Nightingale, it's a very common nickname to give to people, Nightingale, but in her case her surname was Vogelson, birdsong in Dutch. So when they had to give me the real identity to meet her at Jan Smuts and they said it will be a purser by the name of Antoinette Vogelson, so in my communications I responded, I said, "I met The Nightingale." So she became the nightingale, but we forgot her real name, but Conny provided her.
Conny provided other Dutch citizens to come and settle in places like Swaziland to provide safe accommodation for people in the underground. So Conny that was the area of involvement with Vula and, secondly, I say latterly Tim Jenkin then got collecting outposts for messages, coming through from home signals, and Tim would collect it from her.
POM Sorry, when you say 'collect signals', she was on she had a transmitter?
MM I have reason to believe from Tim's writings that he then set up a safe telephone line in Holland under the control of Conny where the signals were picked up and re-transmitted without deciphering to him in London, to break the
POM Yes, OK. So when you were sending a message out you wouldn't know whether it was going via Holland into London or - ?
MM Up to my time and in my signals I never sent to Holland, I sent all the way always to London. But what we did was a latter day development in mid-1989, Saponet had been set up and Tim Jenkin alerted me this was like an Internet service provider but on the telephones through the Post Office. So you had mail boxes and you could dump a telephone message either in signal form and usually in signal form or voice, dump it in the mail box at the cost of a local call, and Tim would, knowing the mailbox number, access that from London. Now that became the technique round about April/May 1989. Then it became possible for Janet to send the signals from Ismail Ayob's offices, we had the spare keys to Ismail Ayob's offices at night so we just went in there at night and used his telephone lines and dumped a message on Saponet and then we'd send a pager message signal to Tim, there's a message waiting for you in the mailbox, and he would access it from London. Now whether he used Holland to access it I don't know but there is a hint that that network of signals now began to be broken from direct London/South Africa and began to use South Africa/Holland picking it up, probably dumping it into another Saponet, the European equivalent and then picking it up.
So that's what I gather, I have never sat down to discuss it with Tim, but I gather that that was her role. How much from that she extrapolated or is an 'after the event' reconstruction in her mind so that her book is called Operation Vula I don't know because she never discussed the book with me.
POM She never talked to you about it?
POM Was it an international best seller?
POM OK. That was on page 20 on Vula.
MM But make no mistake, she did a hell of a lot of good work. I had her wigmakers make me two, three wigs with human hair, hand stitched in one night. Those people worked and I had a fabulous dentist, I still remember his name, Diedrichs. The way he made teeth to fit on top of my normal teeth just to change my voice and to change the structure of my cheeks, two lower ones to slightly bring this out and four upper ones to make the teeth on the front look larger and therefore the appearance of the upper lip to change.
POM So the key to a successful disguise is go for the teeth?
MM The key to successful disguise is you've got to disguise the voice, the outward appearance, but they have got to be incremental and small. It's a fallacy to think that you need a dramatic change. But the biggest hurdle in my case is my voice. My voice is a dead giveaway. But then the next thing is your mannerisms and in Bram Fischer's case it was his walk that gave him away. All of those need infinitesimal adjustments.
POM So mannerisms, like what were you told to avoid or to use?
MM In mannerisms, no, they didn't help me there, that I helped myself. I sat in Lusaka week after week with Zarina saying, "Now, am I talking to you the wrong way?" And she said, "Stop flapping that hand of yours, that's typically you. Learn to get rid of that." And then I remember it was near D-day when I used to wear a wedding ring and I'd taken it off thinking I'm very clever, no ring, and she said to me, "Look, the clear skin colour where the ring was, different colour from the rest of your hand. Now you'd better get sun tan lotion and start working on it to darken that ring space." A dead giveaway. Voice I couldn't do anything except to say I've never been in acting, or simply to have a chewing gum in your mouth, put a little piece of a sweet in your mouth and talk with that in your mouth.
POM OK. I'm going to page 23, still on Vula 1A. There's a name of somebody who's a member of the Central Committee, Sizakele Sigxashe. I've never come across that name. That was a member of - ?
MM I don't think he was in the Politburo.
POM He was in the Central Committee. You didn't have him as a member of the Politburo.
MM By the time I'm leaving I think he was in the secretariat.
POM John Nkadimeng? Is he still alive?
POM He ran against the guy in Limpopo province.
MM I don't think so. John Nkadimeng after 1994 became Ambassador to Cuba. He finished his five year stint, he's now back in the country.
POM Is he still in Foreign Affairs?
MM I don't know. He's very old though. Old, should have retired. Amazing character. In the defiance campaign he was one of the best organisers. At that time he was a labourer and he had come from the north and he was wearing still the sandals that the African people used to make from the tyre of a car wheel with straps and it was a sandal and he used to play the concertina. He used to mobilise people, I think he was working out in Benoni at Coronation Brick & Tile and he was set out to come to the offices of walking, but as long as he had his concertina there was no problem, he could walk.
POM There was no - ?
MM As long as he had the concertina to play while walking the walk was no problem.
POM And he would gather people along the way?
MM He would gather people.
MM Founder member of SACTU.
POM Of SACTU? OK.
MM He was in the SACTU Executive Office.
POM You have a sentence that said, "The Lusaka region had - ", this is page 23, do you have it? "The Lusaka region had passed a resolution that all party members, particularly those who were identified in the Central Committee and the Politburo", and it just goes on, they never had the identity of the Politburo?
MM No what had happened was that Joe Slovo
POM It doesn't make sense.
MM Slovo informed me that the Lusaka region of the party, the Regional Committee, had passed a resolution calling for the expulsion of a number of us from the party, including Joe Slovo for non-attendance of our unit meetings and our duties in the party. Amongst the people that were due for expulsion were Slovo and myself because I'd disappeared from Lusaka. So he says, "We face another problem now, we've been expelled."
POM While we're on just there for a minute is that, just as we're talking about the Communist Party, is Vella Pillay said to me that Chris and Mac were very, very close. "Did he ever talk about their relationship?" And I said, "No." He said, "They were very, very close. I always wondered why when Mac left the party, I always wondered why Chris stayed in the party and Mac left."
MM It's true Chris and I had a very warm relationship. We met in Lesotho in 1978 and that was at a time when hardly anybody from Lusaka was visiting Lesotho and Chris was very thrilled to have a comrade like me coming in and out assisting him, supporting him, and right from day one we knew each other as party people, as party comrades. So the relationship between Chris and I has been a very warm one.
POM When you say 'as party people' what do you mean by that?
MM Just before he left to enter Lesotho in 1973 he had already been elected to the Central Committee for several years and had become the Assistant General Secretary of the party on the eve of his departure to Lesotho. When I went to Lesotho in 1978 I was aware of that background and of course I knew him to be a man who fought in Wankie while I was in prison. He, in the meantime, knew of me as having been in the country in 1962, having done my training in GDR and had come out of prison so that when he heard that I was coming to Lesotho, and he knew that I was in the party, so when I got to Lesotho from the very first meeting the relationship was very, very warm. We debated issues very openly and aggressively but we never held it against each other. He was the sort of person that I could debate with and he could debate with me.
So the relationship was indeed a very warm one and, of course, when I got arrested in Vula he was amongst the leading campaigners because he had to flee to Transkei because the South African regime put him on the wanted list. From the Transkei I know that he took up my case vigorously insisting with the party and the ANC that they should really be campaigning for my release.
When, of course, we debated the matter before my detention, of leaving the party he was extremely unhappy and critical of me. That is not a problem, it was an extended meeting of the Politburo. I took my steps, retired from the party but we still remained close and our relationship still remained warm although he was extremely unhappy that I had left the party. Chris was also very deeply suspicious of the potential of negotiations as a way forward. But again he adapted his position and came out in support.
POM Where would he express his reservations?
MM Oh he said so at public meetings, rallies. Chris was very much a people's man, so being a people's man it's very easy to descend into being described as populist. I don't think Chris was a populist, he was prepared to stand up against the tide at times but he was fundamentally a people's man, he worried about the ordinary soldier, the ordinary fighter. The second quality he had, he had a sharp mind. He may not have been as articulate as others but he was a very sharp mind and, thirdly, he was a very brave soldier, no danger deterred him. Those three qualities immediately endeared him to me, endeared him to me because there is a streak in me that if you don't worry about the foot soldier there's something wrong. I find it difficult to relate easily to people in high positions who forget the foot soldier.
That observation, I don't know where he, Vella, got it from because I don't think he has ever seen Chris and me together.But it may be that in Chris's travels Chris has spoken to Vella and Vella would know that I had high regard for Chris. It's possible.
POM There's something I want to get back to, not today but before we finish the whole damn thing, is on your leaving the party. To me it's like here from the time you went to Durban, the time you were at the University of Natal in the fifties right through 1990 you were imbued with one set of beliefs, you were an ardent Marxist, you were for the overthrow of capitalism. You were regarded as being on the front line, on the left wing of the Communist Party and yet when you left you just walked out of the party one day over one issue.
MM No it wasn't yes, I walked out over one issue but it was a culmination, a process. Yes I became an ardent follower of Marxism/Leninism in late 1953 and it became a lodestar in my life. But then I had the opportunity to live in Britain in 1957, I had seen the aftermath of Hungary and what it did to the British party, it reduced it from a membership of 35,000 in 1955 to 19,000 in 1957 when I got to Britain over the Hungarian issue.
POM Yes, but you went along with it.
MM I went along with it but I also met in Britain leading party members who left the party but with whom leading existing party members maintained social relations and many of them returned, I think Hobsbawm was one of those, Professor Burnell, Sam Aronowitz, so I got to know these guys. Then I get to train in the GDR, Czechoslovakia, but I get to prison and prison was a huge reflective period for me. I read a lot in prison too, I found ways to get books, Prague Spring, Art Against Endurance, Primitive Art by Ernst Fischer, you name it, Primitive Rebels by Hobsbawm, got them into prison and, sure, I was still an ardent Marxist/Leninist, but I was concerned about some of the issues. I told you about the debate that took place in the Syllabus Committee with MD Naidoo, that in a Syllabus Committee of the ANC
POM No you didn't.
MM I was serving on this committee in prison and MD was a communist too but my senior, had been in the struggle since 1944/45.
POM That's Tim's brother, right? The elder brother, the one who addressed the United Nations.
MM That's right, the lawyer.
POM He made some other remark to you when you when you turned down being Secretary General of the -
MM He told me I'm stubborn and stubbornness is good against the enemy but not against your comrades.
POM Of course you obviously took heed!
MM Learnt the lesson to be stubborn with your comrades and be amenable to your enemies. In that ANC Syllabus Committee big debate between MD and myself about the content of the course where I said
POM The content of the course on?
MM Marxism, to be run within the ANC. I say in the ANC alliance there is no fundamental principle of Marxism that is not open to debate. Its first premises are open to debate and he said no, they are not debateable.
POM He was really a Catholic and didn't realise it.
MM Unquestioned. This debate went on and on until I went to Walter and Madiba, they called, "What's happening in this committee? You guys can't even get a syllabus off the ground." I said, "But this is the debate. What do you guys think?" The interesting answer from Walter and Madiba was, "No, Mac, you're right, there is no sacrosanct principle or assumption or premise. If anybody in the class questions it you're free to put it up for debate."
Now it is in prison that I began to re-examine the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat as an extension of democracy, listening to now what has happened in Czechoslovakia and other places, listening to the usual rationalisation that we offered. Because when Hungary, when the Zinoviev trial happened in 1936, our explanations were always it's a mistake, it happened, it's a learning curve, but the problem is the recent one. But in prison I began to say no, no, no, the flaw was Stalin. By the time I had come out of prison and I am reading, I get involved in the party on the question of have we got a constitution for the party? And Joe Slovo piloted the writing of the constitution and of course there were people, like Kathy even now says, where does an underground movement have a constitution? But I was, Slovo was, saying we need a constitution. So that was fine, we needed a constitution, but then writing the constitution became a problem because all that the constitution was saying is what's the obligation of the member? And I was saying, what's the rights of the member? Yes, obligations, correct, but if we look at history now there have got to be some rights.
POM We've covered that. OK so move on from that.
MM So you move on from there and then you begin to see Gorbachev coming with perestroika and the problem, Joe Slovo wrote that pamphlet 'Has Socialism Failed?'
POM That was when he was back in SA?
MM No, no, Lusaka, 1986/87, before I come in. That pamphlet was agreed to by the politburo for publication but I said, "Joe, that's fine to put that question but you're still not going deep enough. What is the source of all these so-called aberrations in the construction of socialism?" We never completed that debate but it has remained an unanswered question in his pamphlet.
By the time I am here in Operation Vula I am still committed to the Communist Party but I am now of the view, quite firmly in my mind, that the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat was wrong as creating a deeper more meaningful democracy than parliamentary democracy. I am now of the view that while I could blame everything on Stalin, the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat was a construct of Lenin not of Stalin. And then I can see the collapse of socialism taking place.
Khrushchev, I was still abroad 1957/58 60, he was my hero even for taking off his shoe and thumping the table in the United Nations. But the point about it is that Khrushchev was saying, "We're going to prove the superiority of this system and we will outstrip and bury capitalism in 20 years." It looked glorious but that was 1960. By 1980 it was falling even further behind.
So all sorts of questions were arising in my mind and when the problem came up in 1990 of the surfacing of the party I had had many instances of leading communists, like Harry Gwala, conducting themselves in a way that said this is the old Stalinist model of behaviour, and I don't buy that.
POM The old Stalinist model being?
MM The Stalinist model was no toleration of any dissent and I am still supporting the concept of democratic centralism but I am beginning to see what it does, however noble the idea in practice it becomes an instrument to whip everybody in line and while it may be whipping you in line for action it ends up by being used as an instrument to whip debate, silence debate. So when it comes to the surfacing of the party the immediate issue was that I felt that how were we as an alliance to still move forward, ANC, the party and COSATU? How were we going to move forward as an alliance? My view was, and I said it at the time, I said, "Chaps, negotiations, it's a murky terrain. It necessarily involves compromises that we have to make and therefore we will be operating in an environment that is full of horse trading where you can easily lose sight of your principles and the morality of your struggle." I said in my view the ANC would welcome that its ally, the Communist Party, while it supports the negotiations takes the legal space that has opened up and sets itself up as a champion to uphold the morality of our struggle.
POM To uphold the morality of the struggle?
MM Yes. I said it would be a sensitive exercise but the ANC would welcome this support as a countervailing weight and therefore I said you can't put Harry in the leadership, and they said, "No, we have to put him there." I said, "Well if you make that compromise you've lost the space and you can make it but count me out, I'm not there any more."
So that was the immediate issue but it was a culmination and when I came into government in 1994 I just took stock in my portfolio of transport. What I inherited was a transport sector of the industry more than 60% controlled by the state. And I said I have to break this thing, it cannot be that it is state owned and therefore good. I have to re-examine what's the role of transport in the economy in this unipolar world and on the basis that we are to be part of the world economy. There was no experience of socialist construction that provided an answer to that question. So I came to the view, which I articulated to you many times, that I still use Marxism as part of my tools
POM It's your way of thinking.
MM But not as the answers. So it's not the answers but it's the analytical tools that you use to understand the world that is important for me and I accept there are new tools as well that have come into play.
MM without a trial, right?
POM Yes, and you were just for them being executed without
MM On the other hand I wrote an exception clause.
MM I wrote an exception clause which we agreed will not be put into the constitution but would bind us.
POM We're now on the chapter, Ronnie, and Mac will redo people in Vula, some of which we covered again last week when we talked about other people.Now you and I still have this thing that we have to clear up. You had told me you had gone back to Ismail Ayob and refreshed his memory and, as you said to me over the phone, "Ah-ha, I straightened him out in ten minutes." Well I went back to him again Mac and he still doesn't agree with you. This is what he says, he says he never tape recorded Mandela. He says that you came back to him and said, "Don't you remember?" and you said, "I have notes in your handwriting", and he said, "Well if you have notes in my handwriting that's fine, you must be right because I don't have those notes." To which I said, "Mac has never produced a piece of paper on anything in his life. He suddenly has notes?" I said, "Now did he say he has notes or he had them?" And he said, "I didn't ask him that question." A big difference.
MM Now there's a very big difference and the person that will give us confirmation would lie between Jay Naidoo and Valli Moosa because the point that I'm making is that
POM You brought to them - ?
MM No. He gave them a transcript. That's how I heard about it, intercepted it, called for it and got his written version. And what I remember very clearly is that is said when Mandela finishes there's another ten pages of this type of argument. Now in debating the matter with Valli, the interpretation of that letter, I took him through paragraph by paragraph. I showed him how Mandela was defending our path to taking on the armed struggle, defending the alliance with the Communist Party and urging the need for the regime to talk to the ANC, that he was not negotiating, and then said, "Where's the sell-out?" Now a long read in big handwriting of Ayob, ten pages of that, the tone of Madiba, you can't reproduce that from memory, you can't, unless Ayob tells me write now he can write a speech in the tone of Madiba.
POM He says he wrote the one in the stadium.
MM The Orlando Stadium was a three paragraph statement, "My father says how can a prisoner negotiate?" Very simple.
POM Well it's something you and he will have to reach common ground about. He would maintain that the way he communicated with you was through giving you the notes of his meetings.
MM If he made the notes of the meetings, all I'm saying to him is, Ayob, you could not maintain the structure of that argument of Madiba. That makes Ayob too Ayob would have to be more than a Slovo in his understanding of politics to have done that. Just imagine, you come in cold to prison to visit Mandela and he sits opposite you and he reads out a 20-page letter and you absorb the argument so well that you can fly back to Jo-burg and re-write it. Not possible. Unless he tells me now that what he was doing was taking notes, that I would find difficult under the circumstances because we said always assume that the room is bugged and videoed with concealed cameras. Subsequently it was established, and you can check with Kathy, that even when Madiba met Kathy and them and took them out under a tree to debrief them it transpired that there was a bug under the tree.
POM This was in Victor Verster?
MM Victor Verster. Now our memories might diverge and the big problem about this is I understand the blockage in Ismail's mind because I had criticised him very sharply, I criticised him for taking a private letter, communication to OR and giving it to Valli.
POM But then why would he tape record after never having pressed that button that you fitted on his case?
MM No. No button had to be fitted, there was a plan to fit the button but his environment was such that they never searched his briefcase.
POM He says he never used a tape recorder, Mac. You and he will have to figure this one out because it's like he is adamant, he is quite adamant that he did not record.
MM I can't imagine how he would bring out comments on the Harare Declaration just registering in his memory unless he has got an immense memory. Have you chatted with Ismail, even now, when he recounts the discussion, he tells you more about what he said than what the other person says.
POM Now you're saying also that he brought the comments on the Harare Declaration out on the tape?
MM No, how he brought the Harare Declaration comments. I never bothered as long as they were safe now. I wanted the message. But the point is that, again, you are debating a tactical document. That's a serious document. I would hesitate, Padraig, if I was having a discussion with you on a first draft of Harare which I haven't seen and you're giving me comments, I would hesitate if I left you an hour later to write down your comments. I don't have that type of memory. I have a memory for the substance of what you are saying but a memory for your style is another matter, it's a different type of skill.
But be that as it may, the difficulties are that I had to criticise him for giving it to Valli and them and Valli and them had a mental blockage because I had to call them and show them what damage they were doing by misinterpreting that message and saying that Madiba is selling out. Right? That was the problem in these people's minds. There's a sort of state of denial in them. But we will try and sort that out.
POM OK. The Ayob/Mandela chapter, Mac will straighten out. The key there is Valli who said again come and see him any time I want.
MM I'll phone Valli.
POM Yes. I think we have his number, his private number. If he will talk to me, tell him it will take 15 minutes and he verifying it to you as you know from my point of view that's simply not sufficient, this stuff is too important.
MM But I will have to remind him and tell him that, look, there's no major historical blunder that they committed, it's always legitimate to misunderstand things. What's wrong with that? Why be in a state of denial?
POM OK. This is on page 1 of the chapter Vula after Walter Sisulu's release. This is October 1989 we're at now. This would be after OR is in hospital in London, we're talking about October 1989 when Walter is released, so you have a meeting with Walter, Govan, Raymond Mhlaba, Joe Slovo and myself in the country that's the leadership. I recall that group being told now: we constitute the leadership of the movement.
MM We constitute the internal leadership.
POM We constitute the 'internal'.'We' being who? Madiba?
MM Let's put it this way, we would function as the internal leadership combining the overt and the underground. That should be our job. And the members there were Madiba, Walter, Govan, Raymond Mhlaba, myself, if Joe Slovo was in town and if Nzo was in town.
POM This is October 1989 Mac.
MM October 1989, there's no Madiba. Madiba is released 1990.
POM the authority, he'd been to Lusaka. I know, I first met Walter one to one with Kathy and Kathy one to one. Then I recall a meeting. That would be a subsequent meeting, this is after Madiba got released. Now you already had we've got to go through this thing again of you send a letter -in January 1989, the last week, the internal leadership of the country is announced by Nzo, the interim internal leadership.
MM Of the ANC. January 1990.
POM We're searched every paper from The Sowetan, The Sunday Times.
MM It was in The Sowetan.
POM It's not.
MM Earlier then, a little earlier.
LS January 1990, I looked at December 1989 from September 1989 through March 1990.
MM Where's the stuff lying so we can find it?
LS At the university, Wits.
MM OK, what we have to do on that
LS And The Sowetan weren't helpful.
MM I know, I'll have to go and -
LS Perhaps there's someone at The Sowetan, if you have a contact there who could perhaps help us, but in their records obviously
MM But there is a complete file of The Sowetan at Wits?
LS At Wits.
MM What we have to arrange is, Leanne, I must go to Wits Library, that sectionand I must just go and look at those files of The Sowetan. I will do that.
POM What I want to get at, we have January 1990 the internal leadership is announced, the last week in January.
MM Interim leadership, called the ILC. Interim Leadership Corps.
POM This was the leadership in 1990. That's before
LS That's our understanding of the when the interim leadership was announced.
POM Going back to the sequence: in the last week in January 1990 you had advised Lusaka that in the interim leadership of the ANC there should be some members in that leadership drawn from
MM Linking to the underground.
POM - linked to the underground, OK. That did not happen, in fact you had to read about the interim leadership in a newspaper, a statement made by Alfred Nzo, and Joe Slovo tells you afterwards, "Well he really shouldn't have blurted out who the interim leadership was but he did." On those grounds you communicate with Lusaka and you say, "I'm out of here. I quit." And they don't respond. January, Madiba gets out in February. In March Ronnie Kasrils comes into the country. Now if you've quit in the last week in January 1990 but you still go on being head of Operation Vula so you've quit but you're still there.
MM What happens is Madiba goes to Lusaka
POM But he doesn't go until -
MM He goes in February.
POM He goes in February, OK.
MM He comes out on 11 February and before the end of February no, Ronnie has come in at the end of January.
POM No, Ronnie's clear that he wasn't in till March. I'll check that out again but the interview we did was on
MM This is his problem destination Johannesburg, you'd be there in a day's time. Mediterranean airport, he boarded either at Vienna or Rome, I think he came by Alitalia. Then on page 301 he comes now to 1990. "After my walk in Yeoville to make sure I had not picked up a tail at Jan Smuts Airport I met my underground contacts."And then paragraph 3, "It was challenging work but no sooner had I joined them than events began to speed up." That's after joining us.
POM That page, which page is that?
MM 301. "On February 2nd De Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC and the SACP." It's stated very clearly as an event after he has come into the country.
POM OK. I'll clear it up with him. He could be as wrong there as any other one. OK, let's say Ronnie is here. After you submit your letter of resignation you still continue to operate as head of Vula.
MM I'll tell you, reconstructing this thing, Ronnie entered the country in January 1990. I integrate him, I'll have to check this thing. When Madiba comes out on 11 February, Madiba goes to Lusaka. I have not yet met Madiba.
POM We can check when he went to Lusaka do we have his book here? I believe we don't because I have all my copies at home.
MM Shortly after I wrote the letter at the end of January
POM You wrote the letter at the end of January, yes.
MM End of January I wrote the letter to say I'm retiring, not resigning, I said 'retiring'. Madiba comes out and by the end of the first week he pays a visit to Lusaka. He's got to go and report to Lusaka.
POM We can check on that.
MM And it's at Lusaka Slovo tells him, "Hey, we've got a problem on our hands, here's this letter that Mac has written and you know what a strong handed chap Mac is. He's retiring." Madiba looks at this letter and he smiles, he says, "Leave it to me." He returns. He's been in Lusaka for about three/four days. He returns and immediately sends a message can we meet? We met in Ismail Ayob's office after ten at night and we met till about two/three in the morning because he told Joe, "You people don't know how to handle this boy, I know how to handle him. You people are making a mistake, you want to argue with him. That's not my way." And he sits down and he says to me after we'd greeted and hugged each other and I've enquired about his health and everything and he's done the same, he says to me, "You know, I'm an old man, I'm tired, I got up at five this morning, been on the go. Since I've come out of prison I've received hundreds of presents and gifts. There's one bloody gift I needed and no bastard has given it to me." So I'm thinking, hey, is he stuck for money? Does he need a briefcase, does he need a watch? And I say to myself, I've got access to underground, I can provide what he needs. So I say, "Well, what's it you need? I'll get it for you." He says, "No, I know you can get it for me." So I say, "Well what is it you want, that you're short of?" He says, "Withdraw your retirement." I said, "No wait, let's discuss the issues." He says, "No, if you retired you're not an ANC member, I can't discuss ANC matters with you. You first withdraw your retirement, then we discuss." So we go around this mulberry bush at two or three in the morning and he's saying, "Let's discuss the issues. First withdraw your retirement then we can discuss the issues." That's all the argument is, it's just a circle. In the end I say, "Well fuck you, for your sake, for OR's sake and for Walter's sake I withdraw, but temporarily till we discuss the issues." "Yes! Thanks Neef. Now I've got to go and sleep, I've got to be up at five." I said, "Let's discuss the issue." He says, "Later, later, not now."And he never came back to discuss the issues. So when Ronnie enters the country I'm actually in charge of getting him in.
POM We've gone through that.
MM Come the end of February/early March I'm back, assumed my position.
POM But you haven't unassumed it?
MM No, I just had to walk into
POM But during the period of - ?
MM During the period I left it to Gebhuza.
POM Did you say to Gebhuza, "I have retired"?
MM Yes, I went to Durban and I said I'm handing over command to you. Gebhuza didn't know what to say, he was shaking. I said, "Here, here's my letter and I'm handing over command to you."
MM Two, three weeks later I'm back, "Right chaps, let's get down to work. Where are we?" They don't even ask what happened. They're just too glad I'm back. So that's the sequence and that would have been a period of about three weeks. Oh yes, in my communication I said all I need now is agreement from Lusaka so that I can exit. I'm handing over, of course you walked off, you said you're no longer in command but you said I'll hand over in an orderly way but can you make arrangements for me to exit so that I can go to the UK and join my wife and children in Brighton?
POM This also applies to a chapter called 'Appointment of Internal Leadership', chapter 21. Then after you are safely on board again you well at some point you did discuss this with Madiba because you said you would stay on for six months.
MM I said that to him when I returned legally now, the Tongaat conference takes place at the end of
MM It's not at the end, it's the weekend of 20 May. 20th is a Sunday, the conference is just about winding up, the Sunday papers arrive before the conference resumes session and there I read that indemnities have been granted to a whole list of us in the NEC.
POM We've done that Mac already.
MM We've done that?
POM All of that, that's fine. We'll get to it eventually but we've covered that. We working now after you've met with Madiba, there's now been an interim first of all there was the interim leadership appointed by Nzo, by Lusaka. Then there was your resignation. Then there was Madiba going to Lusaka. Then there was Madiba's meeting with you. Then there was a meeting between Madiba, Walter, Raymond and Kathy. Was Kathy in that?
POM And Joe Slovo and Nzo and you recall being told that this group now constitutes the leadership of the movement on the ground but it would not be the leadership the ANC had publicly announced. So where does that now you've two leaderships?
MM Yes. The interim leadership was announced by Lusaka made up of internal people, exclusively. You now have Madiba and them come out, they are integrated into the internal leadership. Now Madiba calls this meeting with these people that you've named and he says, "Now we, we here in this room constitute the leadership of the movement which combines the overt work and the clandestine work. This is the forum where those two areas of work get discussed. They will not be discussed in the interim leadership." The interim leadership from the time of its announcement had nothing to do with the underground because the underground now is still illegal work. So this is a group of people combining prison and exiles but it is going to be looking at both areas. OK?
MM The follow up to that is then it is announced that in the light of the indemnities the National Executive will meet for the first time on 15 June 1990, 15 or 16 June. That is why Madiba says to me and Ronnie, "Exit from the country", that's at the end of May.
POM So you're back in time for that meeting, obviously, legally.
MM We're back in time but the meeting is not held on the 16th. I'm back on the 15 June, the meeting is held around 20 June. That is the meeting where the decision on the suspension of the armed struggle no, it's 20 July the meeting eventually takes place, but the meeting of 16 June takes place, it takes place but not with a full complement of the NEC and it discusses work at home and that is where the proposal is made that we will have an organising committee of the ANC, that's to organise the body. Steve Tshwete will head it but in his committee it would include myself and Ronnie Kasrils. Now the reason for that was a discussion in this body, in this six that you show, six or seven people, the discussion was where do we bury in the overt structures of the ANC, where do we bury you Mac and Ronnie so that you have the space to continue your underground work while you are doing overt work?
POM So this meeting would have taken place after the meeting in July?
POM Before, OK. So you're buried in the Organising Committee along with
MM And that's when I say when they elect me to the Organising Committee, I say, "Chaps, I'll do this work for six months because I intend retiring. So I will help you out for six months and I am out."
POM So Mandela, this is what I want to get at, persuading you to come back to the ANC, now you turn around at a meeting of the NEC and say, "Now I'm out again in six months."
MM I said six months and I'm out. Madiba is listening to this because I'm signalling to him that you haven't had the discussion with me yet. That's what I'm saying to him, you and I haven't had this discussion.
POM Why didn't you say to him directly rather than kind of how do you know he's getting your message?
MM We are so fucking busy, there is no time to sit down to talk, to have a cup of tea together.
POM Well then why should he if he didn't have the time to have the discussion, if you can excuse him on those grounds why are you going this circuitous route?
MM I've given him his present, I've given him his present.
POM You came back, now you're taking at this point you're saying sit down and discuss the issues with me, I'm leaving again.
MM No, I'm giving him his present that I stayed on to help bridge the period. I'm extending the bridging to end of December but I'm saying I'm still determined to retire. That's all I'm saying. I'm not saying if you do this I will stay. I've made up my mind.
POM Well let me put it this way, let's say, this is of course a speculation at this point, perhaps or perhaps not, if let's say Slovo and Nzo had followed your suggestions and included members of the underground, your political underground in the interim leadership of the ANC then you wouldn't have retired in January so you would never have had that discussion with Madiba so suddenly in July
MM I wouldn't have said I'm leaving in six months. I think I would have still said, my mindset was such, Padraig, I had done three years of stint now away from my kids, my wife had met an accident in 1988 with 19 fractures. She was no longer earning an income, she was living in Brighton, the kids were there, I visited them, I settled them there, and I said to myself it's time to hang up my boots, I've done my job.
POM But the most important part, you've just said that if the issue which you didn't spur retirement in January you probably wouldn't have said the same thing in July.
MM So I didn't say that, I wouldn't have said that. I said I would have said the same thing that, comrades, I now want to retire.
POM But you were saying that you were signalling to Madiba that you didn't have the discussion and that's why you said you were going to retire in six months.
MM My signal is saying if we had the discussion I would say to him, Madiba, whatever the grievances this is a new phase, I've done my part, I want to retire.
POM And he would have said to you, Mac, for Christ's sake, I'm too busy to go through this babble again. This is the most important stage we've ever gone through, we have achieved the first stage of the revolution
MM But my mindset was still that I want to retire. I want to retire. It's become it became a huge thing with me. Padraig, I could not manage to live, I told you a very sensitive question, Zarina said to me when I met her in London, she said what were the percentage changes that you'd out alive? I kept dodging the question. She pushed me. I said 5% chance I'd come out alive, and she said, "And you leave me with the two children and you say it doesn't matter if you don't come back alive" How do you explain that behaviour?
POM But you said that before you went in in Vula one of the things you said to OR and Slovo was you had to discuss it with Zarina and Zarina agreed.
MM You will find her saying, you will find her when you discuss it, she doesn't go past that point with me, it's a point we can't discuss even now because she says it's one thing to say to me that we discussed it. She says, "That was my rational decision but my emotional decision, my emotions of how I felt and how I felt when I met the accident, how I felt when I had to be flown to Harare and leave my children with strangers, how I returned from Harare and the next day, that day I'm blind, can't see, and a few days later I'm flown to Moscow for four months and I don't know who's looking after the children, I don't know what's happened to them and I can't reach you and I'm asking the question, why doesn't he come out? Does this struggle depend on him alone?" She says, "It's easy rationally to say yes but the emotional havoc when it was playing", and then because of no medical treatment in Lusaka, she uproots herself from there and goes off to Brighton. Now no income but just simple university scholarship, bringing up the two kids, recovering her health and studying and saying, where's Mac?
One of the reasons why I have difficulties, I have a blockage about the Vula communications, is what I said to JS in my communications because I discovered Zarina's accident from Momo. No communication reached me from Lusaka to say that she's been in an accident with 19 fractures. Momo is in a delegation of the Indians to Lusaka, hears about the accident and they go and visit her at the hospital bed. A week later Momo is on his way back home and he finds Zarina in a stretcher being taken to the plane to Harare. He arrives here and he meets me, he says, "Your wife's paralysed." "What!" "Yes, she met an accident a week ago. She's been flown to Harare." "What about my kids?" He says, "I don't know." Off goes a message to JS and Ivan, "Chaps, what's happened to my wife?" They write back, "Don't worry everything is OK, the children are being looked after." "No, but chaps tell me what's happened to her?" In the end I send a message to them, "You bastards, I want a medical certificate, I don't trust you. I want a full medical report." They said they are sending it to me. They never sent it to me.
I keep saying to myself, what would I have done if I learnt that she had 19 fractures? I would have looked hook or by crook for ways to exit the country to go and see her, see the children even though I would have tried to make preparations that I would return. That's a wound we never talk about you know. But with that mindset going on and doing the work, going on and saying OK, OK, now Zarina you're settled in Sussex, I'll come and see you and help you to settle down, it's gnawing away and I'm saying as soon as this release environment is coming up, now I can return.
POM When you went to London, on your way back from Moscow you went to London to meet with OR before you went to Lusaka, right?
MM I also went by arrangement so that I would see Zarina.
POM But you didn't see her?
MM I saw her. No, I saw her.
POM You did? You told me in an interview you didn't, you didn't have time to see her?
MM No, no, in London when I went to see OR I went with her, I had already, now this is around October.
POM That's right, before you went to Lusaka.
MM In October I'm helping her to I'll combine my going to Lusaka with settling her in in Brighton because she just left everything in the house. We were renting a house, she was renting it as a - she just left with the kids. So I had to go back, pack up everything, ship it out to Brighton.
POM Yes, but from Lusaka
MM Yes, but I saw her in London. When I go to see OR it's when I'm now preparing to come back and he's now had the stroke.
POM That's right. He asked you to go Lusaka to interpret the Mandela -
MM That arrangement was in Moscow, not from hospital. When I went to visit him in hospital the only question he asked me, "Are you going home?"
MM And I said yes.
POM So in Moscow he'd asked you to do that and when you got to London you went to visit him and you could ask him one question and you said Adelaide was there, or may not have been there, right?
MM Then he asked to see me alone and he raised the question of are you going home. I said yes.
POM That meant that you were going to Lusaka to do this interpretation.
MM No, 'home' is South Africa.
POM OK but you still had to go to Lusaka?
MM That had been done already, Lusaka had been done.
POM OK, let me get the sequence then.
MM I'm in Moscow and I proceed from there within two, three weeks to Lusaka. OR has the stroke.
POM So OR is not at the meeting in Lusaka. So now you are exiting Lusaka to London.
MM Going to London, settling Zarina in Brighton and then seeing OR and now working my way back home. I go to see him in hospital to say goodbye to him, I don't even know whether he's in a state of mind where he can communicate or anything but he asked to see me alone, Adelaide leaves, and he just manages to mumble, "Are you going home?"
POM And you said yes. In that sense you answer your own question regarding Zarina.
MM No I haven't answered. Padraig, you are again failing to understand. These are the emotional issues that I'm grappling with and I haven't reached a point where I saw Madiba is not yet released, this is 1989, it's turning but it's not yet reached a point. I'm in turmoil, I've got to do what I have to do for the struggle but the issue is coming up, what do I have to do for my family? Because it's also saying you've got to do what you have to for your family. The point of reconciling the interests of the family, my personal interests, and my interests for the country are now beginning to jostle in my mind and I am unable to resolve this. I can't say to Zarina and the children pack up and come to South Africa. I can't say to them when I say to her stay in Brighton, I can't say to her I'm going to give you help, I'll be there to do this, that and the other.
POM Did you come back with her blessing?
MM I don't even know. By that time we are unable to communicate about some of the deepest issues because I haven't got answers.
POM You said, "Goodbye Zarina, I'm on my way back to South Africa."
MM Yes I did say that but I am unable to answer.
POM What did she say to you? "You bastard, aren't you going to take care of us? You're off again."
MM We didn't have that sort of fight, not that sort of fight, because of course the rules of that argument had boundaries and no boundaries because it's just as easy for her to say, well, fuck you. What does that mean? Can I just say, OK, you said fuck you and I'm gone?
POM That's what you said when you retired. Hey, I didn't get my way.
MM No, no, that's reconciling but my children are still going remain my children. The ANC will go on but if I say fuck you to her and walk out, what does that mean for the children? Does my responsibility stop. You can't translate my responsibilities to my family on the same level as my responsibilities to the ANC because the ANC will go on. My children in 1989 are seven years and five years old. My wife is now in circumstances where she cannot say how her health will turn out, whether she can even support them.
POM And you turn around and you come back to South Africa.
MM I turn around and come back to South Africa but with all sorts of turmoil inside myself and you cannot extrapolate from that that you've now made a lifetime choice. You've made choices of an immediate nature and you are seeking internally to find a balance in your choices and your sense of your own duties and responsibility.
POM One of the consequences of that is that she could have said, Mac, that's it, you've obviously made your choices in life and the choices are always the ANC first and us last.
MM She too has the same problem, she has choices about the ANC too, she didn't leave the ANC. She didn't leave the ANC. She didn't leave the ANC because of that but she too is grappling from her own standpoint how do you reconcile the personal interests of a family with the interests of serving the movement? My first wife had said when I got to London, "Why do you have to go back home? Why can't you be given a job in the London office of the ANC?" To her with no children and with the mindset it wasn't a a big debate. Life had separated us so far apart that it was not difficult to say let's break up. I couldn't say that to Zarina both in terms of my feelings and my sense of my obligations and duty. I couldn't say that to her.
Now I may be right, I may be wrong, but all I am saying to you, you can't extrapolate from the actions that therefore I had made settled choices. The issue was churning in my mind, don't you think you should retire? And the question was can I retire now? Oh, Walter and them have been released, can I retire now? Oh wait a minute guys, the path is not clear. But when Lusaka announces the interim leadership the air is full of one thing, Madiba is coming out any time, certainly the ANC is going to be unbanned. It's a different terrain now, you'll be operating in a legal environment.
POM Did you not think you had an obligation to Tim who had followed you back to South Africa, who had gone to jail, who had been tortured, who waited 12 years?
MM Yes but the obligation was different, life had separated us. Our emotional feelings for each other were different. My emotional feelings for her not ours, it was a different order from my emotional reactions to Zarina and the children. With Tim my sense of attachment had been gradually eroded over 20 years, 12 of which were in prison and when I exit and I stop in Lusaka on my way to London they say, OK, go and fulfil this task on the autobiography and what do you want to do? My overwhelming mood is I want to go back home to fight. But when I get to London Tim says, "Why can't you stay in London?" And I say, "Be part of the external mission going around the world? I won't go on that fight."
POM But she came as far as Zambia with you.
MM She didn't come to Zambia, she came to Tanzania. Yes, sure, sure. But I'm saying that our sentiments, my sentiments had changed. It wasn't a wrench breaking up with Tim. To break up in 1989 with Zarina would be a wrench, to break up today would be a wrench. I can turn round and say my son is 21, my daughter is 19, we can cope with the emotions of the separation and break-up and I can do something to look after her and the children and contribute, but still I can't make that type of move. It's because of my feelings.
So all I am saying is I returned to South Africa in 1989, this was my mindset, the sort of tensions churning away. Come 1990 this announcement is made and I say this is the time, goodbye guys. Madiba pleads with me, twists my arm. I said, "OK, but Madiba I do intend to retire soon." "We'll talk about that." And I am saying the talk about it is sucking me in and that's what happened. I then retire in December. Pressure is put on me to return. I go to the Durban July conference. In the end I stand for elections, I am elected, and the next thing is what work do you do? And finally become Joint Secretary of the negotiations. Now I can't walk out again. I have to do it and my kids are saying, "But we're back in South Africa and we don't see you."
Then we say OK, now 1994 elections, Madiba says, "Mac is in my cabinet." We say, "Great, we'll have a chance to see each other." Second fucking cabinet meeting we are discussing where should parliament be located. Madiba himself raises it in cabinet. "Chaps, should we maintain two capitals or one?" I'm part of the study group studying the costs and benefits. I recommend, the committee and myself, one capital in Pretoria. My own colleagues in cabinet shoot it down.
The reality becomes I'm living in two places. I'm shuttling between Pretoria and Cape Town and my children and Zarina say, "We can't move about, we've just arrived here in South Africa, your children haven't even built a network of friends." So we agree, stay put in Jo'burg, let's find a permanent home for the children, I will commute and we'll see each other. And the children say, "But we still don't see you." We can't even agree in government duty, they say it's just like the negotiations. You say to us on Sunday you'll take us for lunch and you get up on Sunday morning at seven o'clock and your phone rings and you say, "Guys, sorry about the lunch."
And by that time comes the end of 1998, I go to Madiba and say, "This is it Madiba, this time I retire." And he says to me, "Why?" I've got all sorts of issues but I say a simple thing, "I need a family life." He says, "When you put it that way I can't argue. I cannot argue against your view." But in his mind also a chapter is closed, whereas if I debated with him in 1991 he would have said, "But Mac I need you." But I'm put in a corner, "Yes Madiba, I respect you immensely." He says to me, "I need you to fight this war", and here's my family who are showing every sentiment that says we need you. And I can't get this question addressed by Madiba because he himself is sacrificing everything. That is why since I've seen him with Graça I've neverfailed to say how pleased I am to see him so happy. When he phoned me recently, about a year ago, he said, "I'm being interviewed by some people, a youth programme. These are the questions, what should I say? One question says what's your happiest moment?" I said instantly, "To hold Graça's hand and to ruffle your grandchildren's hair." "That's it, very good, very good!"
So in 1999 he was no longer in a position to say to me, I deny you the right to hold your wife's hand. But in 1990/91 he would be saying, Mac, I appreciate that but by golly we've got no time for that, we just have to push this last mile. And I would be saying push it but count me out. And he'd be saying, no you have to be there. And I'd be saying why do I have to be there? You've got other good comrades. I don't know how the debate would have gone because at the time I have very deep respect for him and Walter and I know Madiba, Madiba has said it publicly, he says he'll send Kathy to talk to me, I'll kick them out. He'll send Walter, I'll debate with him and he'll lose and then he'll come and he won't argue. He would prepare one question and around that question he would have hooked me by miles, such as he did in prison, and tell me as a communist when your colleagues in the leadership decide when you're there and your view is A and they decide B what do you do? You say I implement B. Wholeheartedly I said yes. He says, "Now, explain why you're standing out on this."
POM That's when you were a Stalinist.
MM Why are you behaving the way you're behaving? Is that right? Is that acceptable as communist? No it's not acceptable. Wait, come here, come here old man. No, not going back there. He goes and tells them, "See, I put him in his place." So this is the problem, Padraig, try and understand that.
POM Oh yes. But the part of in all of these conversations what you don't give is an emotional response.
MM But I've told you, I've told this bugger these emotional issues.
POM Sorry, you have now.
MM What do you want me to do? You want me to elaborate?
POM It's enough on that one.
MM You're asking me something that I don't believe in discussing publicly. I don't believe in discussing that.
POM No wonder Zarina wants to write a book. They will love her book.
MM What right do I have to discuss this thing in public?
POM It's not discussing it in public. It's discussing it because, and we come on it later, we'll come back to it, is that in your conversation in the period in between when you were doing nothing, you went to the office one day and you went to Walter and he said, "What are you doing for a living?" And you said, "Well, I don't know." And he said, "Maybe you should write the history of the movement." And you said, "Gee! If I told the truth it could be hurtful to a lot of people." What did he say to you?
MM Don't tell me about Walter. Last week Zarina and I were having an argument because in the middle of all these problems that I'm having at the moment she says to me I say, "You know what? I've said so publicly, I retired in 1999, I'm not returning." She said, "I think you should return. You should not write off that idea that you will never return."
POM She said that to you last week?
MM Yes. And I said to her, "Zarina, no, there's going to be a war. I just want you to switch off that thought, don't entertain it. I'm telling you you don't understand what's going on inside me. My parameters are set. I'm not going back." And we carried on arguing and I said, "Why don't you understand that I want to die in a rocking chair, not with my boots on?"
POM You see I'd look at you and say well I don't know about that. It will be a small rocking chair and a very big pair of boots. So you can fill the rocking chair his own boots.
MM I am an extremist in trying to reconcile. My youth, one of the Marxist classics that I was brought up on is this book that Mandela was supposed to have translated at Rivonia, Liu Shao Shi's How to be a Good Communist. Mao Zedong in the Cultural Revolution had it burnt. But he said there a good communist puts the interests of the party first and all his or her other interest are subsumed. There is no such thing as allowing a contradiction to arise between your personal interests and the party's interests. That was Liu Shao Shi and you see it in my political activities. It's all or nothing.
POM Still is.
MM Shut up.
POM There's just more 'all' now.
MM And I want all today my all is my family. I say to Zarina in the recent period when she discusses income, I don't care. She says, "You can't say that. I saw you, I heard you on a radio programme saying 'I don't care about money'." She says, "You can't say that." I said, "But I'm meaning it in a different sense. Yes, money has meaning, has some relevance, but what I'm trying to say it's not the focus that drives my actions because I assume that somehow or the other we'll keep living." That's all. My son's psychiatrist, she's going there on Thursday, she phones me last night, she says, "Mac I am leaving home at five o'clock, I am returning home at eight at night on Thursday to go and see your son. How should I bill you?" I said, "Shana, I'm just grateful you're going to see him. I don't care how much it is. Just send your bill. I no longer can rob a bank but I'll find a way and you'll have your money." She said, "No, but I have got to be fair to you." I said, "Don't talk about fairness, just charge what you have to charge." Finish, it doesn't matter to me that the bill is R30,000, I'll find the R30, 000.
POM This is like your conversation with Laurie when he was asking you about the raise.
MM I can't handle this issue of talk about money. I wasn't brought up to deal with those issues. It didn't feature in my life and I just don't want it to become the
POM Be all and end all of all.
MM Or even a key driver when considering what to do. I've been brought up to say ask yourself what is the central issue, what has to be done about it and just do it. Your life will go on.
POM Now when you say you were brought up that bringing up would apply to when you went to Durban?
MM It would apply also to Newcastle, my childhood. My Dad said all of us, because extended family, when are you going to work? And when each of us went to work you had to bring the pay cheque home and give the whole money. And, yes, it was a poor household and he was a cripple, but it was not every day sitting down and saying where's money? My Mum never said, I have no money to feed you. My Mum would get up and there you would find that she's gone into the veldt and collected herbs, wild herbs and they're there on the plate to eat. She'd find time to go to a plot of land and plant, cultivate a garden. She'd bring up chicken. She'd work in the shop. She'd work in the house. So it wasn't as if to say we would be sitting down and saying, hey, we haven't got money. It was half an issue. The issue only arose, oh you're now working. Where's your salary? Hand it over to Dad. No but I earned it. No, hand it over to Dad. You are contributing to the house and you will get your needs attended to as part of the whole family. Finish.
When I matriculated and I wanted to study law the question was not, hey, we are poor. I'm off to Durban guys, I'll find a way to study. First thing I did was to pay my first year fees by gambling.
POM You covered that.
MM So it's not a problem.
POM We're back to -
MM Because you know I can't rig that type of
POM OK. Today we got some emotion from Mac. Let's make a note of that.
MM That's why I've said to Zarina, write but don't show it to me because I don't know what she's going to say there. I only know one thing, that I have reached a state in my thinking which says she has a right to say how she sees things and I'm not worried about political correctness. Now if I was still in politics and in the National Executive I'd be saying, hey wait a minute, can I see what you've written, change this thing, make it politically correct. That's not an environment in which I want to live.
And again, Padraig, I tried to make that marker in 1998 when I was retiring. I said it was a privilege to serve these five years in government but this is the era of normalisation of politics and I know one thing, I'm not a politician. My nature is not the nature that says politics is a career, that's not the choice I made. The choice I made was a freedom fighter's choice. Now you can then push me against a corner and say, but a freedom fighter after you've overthrown the system has a duty to build a new system, you're still a freedom fighter. But in the era of normalisation of politics all sorts of issues are at the top of the head, look at the ministers behaviour, including Thabo, can't you detect one of the uppermost factors in every crisis, every issue is his survival in power? That's not an issue that I can talk about. It's not part of me. In the freedom fighter stage the issue of survival was not a consideration. The issue was what has to be done and then do it. You try your best to survive but you don't sit down and say will I survive, won't I survive, and that decided whether I will do the job. That's where I come from.
I agree, it is in a certain sense I have schooled myself and the way I grew up in politics to say what I come to rationally as a viewpoint I must force my conduct to conform to rational decisions. What happens to my emotions Zarina says it's a male phenomenon, we hide our emotions. I say, well, OK, you're right about that, don't come to me on that.
POM Well would it not be a matter of that in an odd way that you've been trained to hide your emotions?
POM And having been trained in that way it's rather difficult at this time in your life I was going to say age, I shifted, I recognise I'm getting on myself at this time in your life that it would be very difficult to undo the lessons which have been a long life of training.
MM Yes it's a training, rather than training I would say it's an acculturation.
POM When you were tortured if you allowed much room for your emotions to begin to interfere with the way you would react you were a sitting duck.
MM You were finished.
POM So in a way people who were able to suppress their emotions were more valuable to the movement than people who couldn't.
MM Yes. As happened with the Rivonia arrests. I told you the story? That Thursday I was due to meet Ruth First to go to Rivonia, the arrests take place I think on Tuesday, Thursday morning I'm outside in Empire Road at the appointed spot and Ruth being Ruth drives past and when she picks me up she says in the car, "You fucking bastard, I want to hide also but I said to myself this bastard is going to be there so I've got to push myself, risk or no risk, got to go and pick him up."
POM When you were working the lino press you worked, you said, with your back to the door so that anybody could walk in and you wouldn't know who they were.
MM Yes, opened the door, a corner door, a double door, just open it right out on the corner of the pavement and work at the linotype with my back to it because my reasoning was you were doing something that is clandestine but do it in a way as if you're doing nothing clandestine. So don't start sneaking and looking and position yourself so you've got a view.
POM All that has to do is suppressing your emotions as well.
POM Just the carpentry.
MM I learnt nobody told me that you have to carry - my first aid kit in the underground in 1962 started at that lino press. I used to never carry a first aid kit, it was a luxury to carry a first aid kit. But I'm at that linotype press, I'm fucking up the setting, those old linotypes if you miss set the whole slug comes out, you've got to re-set, tons of useless slugs, there's the pot of boiling lead, you go and put it back to melt it. This time I'm so angry I just throw the fucking thing, the lead splashes on my face. I'm not wearing specs, the lead hits me on my face, can't see but I know there's a pharmacy around at the next corner. So I work my way to the pharmacy and I get in there and I see the pharmacist and I say, "Boiling lead." He gets the acriflavin tube, smears my face and everything, examines my eyes and says, "Don't worry, your natural reaction, you closed your eyelids so your eyes weren't damaged. It's surface wounds, you're fine." But he says, "You're working with boiling lead, you keep a tube of acriflavin." It was an anti-burn ointment. The result is never would you see me in that period without a tube of acriflavin in the house, in the car, everywhere. That saved me when Amien Cajee and I blew up the gunpowder in Doornfontein at my place.
POM You blew it up. Jesus! He just got out you blew it up, OK, and he was saying, "You're going too fast, you're going too fast."
MM But he was with me, he was a partner in crime.
POM He thought he was, then you blew him up!
MM All right, he was an accessory.
POM He just found himself on the floor.
MM But I just picked him up, took the acriflavin, smeared it over him, got the windows open and then went and made a call to the doctor. And that's what saved him.
POM He'll probably be glad to know you saved him.
MM Don't worry, he was lying in bed with bandages on his face and hands and still having a bottle of
POM A bottle of sulphuric acid.
MM - sulphuric acid in the bed with him.
POM You've got to meet this guy. He'll live to be 125. What's the name of his wife?
POM I told you that story didn't I, when I visited him? He was telling me the breathing exercises he does, that's going to keep him alive to be 105. He's wrapped in a scarf and he's coughing like hell, he's sitting there and he says, "Look how young I am. You see she's an old hag." She used to bring him food in prison every day?
POM I must go and see him again. Listen, Mac, that's a lot for today. We've covered an awful lot, we've got a lot more to do but this will be the last round. We'll get it out of the way.
MM Now today has been a bit of a tough session.
POM Yes. They have to be tough Mac. The ring of truth has to come through.
MM You know one of the biggest criticisms amongst the comrades of me when I retired in 1999? My own comrades all began to say who the fuck does he think he is to retire? How dare he do this? Are we the ones that are supposed to go on with our boots on and he can afford to retire? Who does he think he is? I never chose to debate the issue because I say you are entitled to the way you think and there is no way you will understand what I'm thinking, what's going on inside me. So what's the point of debating that, what's the point of trying to explain? They are not in a frame of mind to even begin to grapple with the issues that are inside me and you've done the same thing over this book. You cajoled, crooked and bribed me into it.
POM I did what now?
MM I told you there's no way this fucking book is going to be written but you cajoled, crooked, manipulated, intrigued.
POM It was Doha's fault because the ammunition blew up, OK. It was my fault because -do you discern a pattern here?