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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
24 Sep 2003: Maharaj, Mac
POM Starting on what we call the 'Mandela sell-out' which we went through yesterday in part. I was going to ask you, this is on page 1, you said to Ayob that you had notes in his handwriting.
MM At that time, when he gave it to me, when I asked he sent Momo. I'll try and check with Momo too. It was in his handwriting. Of course I never stored it, I transcribed it, sent it off to Lusaka and destroyed the original because we didn't store inside the country. But I am saying that I have a very clear memory of his handwriting. But I will try and solve the sequence of that. What is not at issue, the only thing that is at issue is whether he taped it, that is all. So far as the content, the existence of that message, that it was for me to send to OR, none of those are in dispute so it's only the technique.
POM The same thing applies to the corrections he would have made to the Harare comments, that Mandela would have made on the Harare Declaration.
MM Yes, and those I cannot even remember the comments now because I think I had to consult at least 10 15 people.
POM Within the country?
MM Yes, and not say this is this one's comment, this is that one's comment. This is the general comment that has come up on the Harare Declaration.
POM You said, "On Sunday afternoon I heard from Ismail Momoniat that there was a widespread rumour that Madiba was selling out." When people were saying Madiba was selling out were they using it in the context that Madiba was talking to the regime outside of the structures of the ANC, i.e. that he was negotiating on his own rather than 'selling out'?
MM The interpretation was, and the rumours were growing and getting embellished, but the story was that he is talking to the regime in prison, he is negotiating, nobody knows what he is negotiating. Assumption that if you are negotiating with the regime you are going to cave in to the regime and then it got embellished, he's wearing a three-piece suit, he's drinking wine and he's living very comfortably.
POM OK. So Ismail had either given a copy of this letter to Valli, to Sydney, to Jay Naidoo or he gave a copy to one of them and he made a copy and gave it to the others? Did he call a number of people?
MM It seems he gave it to one person and the one person is likely to have been either Valli or Jay Naidoo. Now that person was working together with the others as a grouping. The grouping was, as far as I can remember, Sydney Mufamadi, Jay Naidoo, Valli, Kgalema Motlanthe. Kgalema was away that Sunday and arrived back on Monday morning.
POM He'd been to see Govan. Yes, we have that.
MM So that's the grouping that was discussing now and when I met Valli that evening he had a copy of that communication in his possession because he, as usual, like the others, said, "Have you heard, Madiba is selling out?" So I said, "What makes you say that?" And he says, "No, we have an actual record of the discussions he's having with the regime in prison." And I said, "Well where is it?" And he said, "We have a report." I took out my copy and I said, "Is this what you're talking about?" And he looked at it and he said, "Yes." So I said, "Well, let's go through it."
POM We've covered that. When you're talking to Valli he says, "Sure you can take it for granted it will be done." And then you say, "What other damage is happening?" He says," 'Mac, the word has come from Port Elizabeth too that he's selling out." You say, "From where?" He says, "From Govan." You said, "Where did Govan hear this?" Did he give you any response to that? This is on page 3.
MM That is subsequently now. Subsequently because I left them on the basis that on Monday when they met the damage control would set in and I went off to Durban. I began to pick up from everywhere that the story was the same and I think I discussed with the 'he' there, is that Valli?
POM You met with whom? Valli, yes. Spread vastly around the country. When you sent your memo to, the letter on to OR did you put a note in, "We've some problems here."
MM Oh obviously I put in a commentary and a background that these are the stories, these are the actions that I'm taking. It's necessary that Lusaka also consider interventions wherever they can because I have certainly discussed the matter with Valli and he's agreed that the contents of the letter show no sell-out. Now I'm involved in damage control but I'm in a limited circle. Lusaka has got other avenues of contact. They'd better exploit those avenues. At the same time they'd better analyse the letter and see if my analysis is correct.
POM You have here when Harry Gwala hears the same thing he is saying that Madiba is selling out. He is saying that a prison warder turned up at his home in Pietermartizburg requesting him to come to visit Madiba. He said this was suspicious, I don't trust it, it means Madiba is selling out. I mean that's a leap of fantastic proportions.
MM You understand what is being said. First of all the rumour is that there is proof that he is selling out in the form of some communication, secondly there is a decision to be taken that people begin to say don't visit him, and there is the story going around that he is living in comfort and why would the regime treat him like that, wearing a suit, three-piece suit, having wine for himself and his guests. Madiba was not a drinker. But Harry then sends a note to other people in the different centres saying in his instance a prison warder has turned up to say that there's an invitation from Madiba to visit him, and he's saying the way it's cast, a prison warder comes to Pietermaritzburg, what does that mean? Why use a prison warder? Couldn't Madiba, if Madiba was not selling out, wouldn't he use other channels to send a message to visit him? That's the context in which he says this is suspicious, it adds to the suspicion.
POM And had a prison warder been sent? You never did find out?
MM I never met Harry to find out this.
POM We can go through this pretty quickly.
MM If I recall I was shown Harry's letter circulating somewhere in the country, in one or other centres as I travelled, a letter from Harry reporting these developments and urging that the standpoint should be that when Madiba calls for people to visit Harry says that he wouldn't respond to that invitation and advising that others should not respond as well.
POM Is that an attitude that was there at the time after he was moved to Victor Verster?
MM No, no, that attitude came up around the question that he's selling out. It's not from the time he was shifted.
POM But that's an old one, that went back to the time you were on Robben Island.
MM Yes but at that stage there was no question of no visits, nothing. It's around this communication that the attitude is taken people should not visit him when he invites them.
POM But they were visiting him before that?
POM OK. But on those occasions, reading his own book he would have wine served to guests at lunch. Stories like that what I am saying is stories like that could have been out there and got embellished even before this letter. This letter was like the catalyst.
MM Before this letter. Catalyst. The evidence.
POM That's what I want to get at. There were already people muttering about things and suddenly all these mutterings galvanised into
MM Govan says in his book, in one of his writings that he was concerned when he was leaving prison he was taken to Madiba and Madiba was urging him to be cautious in how he conducted himself when he came out of prison and Govan says, or Madiba says that Govan didn't accept that viewpoint because he felt I think Govan says he felt that Madiba had not been entirely open with him, had not briefed him exactly what is happening. Govan's release was in 1987 and Govan would be telling some people in the country
POM 1987 or 1988?
MM 1987. Govan is released end of 1987. There's a long gap and Walter and them are released in 1989.
POM Just that phrase here I'm using again for quick clarification. It's Motlanthe coming into the meeting and he says, "Chaps, I've had it confirmed, Madiba is selling out." So they said to him, "Where do you get this from?" He said, "I get it from ANC head office." They said, "What head office?" So he said, "I've just seen Govan, I've just come from PE." This is on page 4 of this chapter. My quick question is, was there an inherent acceptance that Govan was ANC head office in the country?
MM No, there wasn't an acceptance that he's head office but if he said that he had heard from Govan the implication is Govan is the source.
POM Then Albertina went to see Walter. That's fine. You talk about here the three-piece suit. This is the Dullah Omar part where, again, Ayob is insistent that Dullah didn't accompany him on that visit. This is something that
MM I'll check that out with him because at that time when I tried to piece together the whole story, at that time my memory says that Ayob said that he had gone on that visit accompanied by Dullah.(break in recording)
MM "We must do everything to prevent this sell-out from happening." Have you seen Dullah on this matter?
POM Not since I saw him at the UDF celebration in Cape Town and I shook his hand and said I would come by and see him because he looked like living death. You can look at somebody and you say this man's not - this treatment isn't working. He moved with hesitant movements.
MM It seems to me, and I'll discuss it with Ayob again, but if Ayob is insistent then all the question arises somehow or the other the word reached Govan. But how? My reconstruction says it reached him through Dullah. And that's a reconstruction, it's never something that I've even gone to discuss with Dullah. But let me discuss it with Ayob and see.
POM We'll just say a lawyer well known to everybody or whatever. You met OR in Moscow, this was on your way, this was a bit confused yesterday. Joe Slovo was with him in Moscow?
MM And so was Ivan.
POM So was Ivan, OK. Then from there he hadn't exposed the contents of the letter to anybody so nobody had seen this letter.
MM He had not given it to the National Executive. He may have shown it to one or two individuals.
POM I'm on page 6. We have here, before what you said was, "He had not disclosed the contents of the letter to anybody. He didn't want to disclose it and leave it like that, he wanted to disclose it in the context of a structured discussion at the NEC and in the context that he was preparing the Harare Declaration as a draft for the frontline states." Now had that Harare Declaration draft already gone to Madiba prior to this letter?
MM Oh yes. The Harare Declaration went through the following sequence. It is adopted by the National Executive of the ANC, then it is taken by OR and promoted in the frontline states.
POM What year?
MM 1989. The frontline states adopt it as their proposal, not as a proposal of the ANC. Then the frontline states promote it in the OAU and it is adopted with some modifications by the OAU as an OAU position. The OAU then takes it to the United Nations as a proposal coming from the OAU and adopted by the United Nations.
POM So it would be from the NEC. OR sending it on to you to get comments from - ?
MM No. Before the NEC has adopted it the draft is sent in preparation for the NEC meeting.
POM Got it, OK.This is where we got confused yesterday. You said, "I proceeded to Lusaka via London. I asked Adelaide's permission to visit him in the clinic. I was assuming that even though he was unable to speak he had indicated that he wanted to see me alone. He was in a private ward. Adelaide Tambo left the room after ushering me in to speak with him. His arm was paralysed. I said to him, 'As per our understanding I am proceeding to Lusaka.' He nodded and said, 'Good.' And I said, 'After that I am proceeding home'."So you were going from London
MM To Lusaka.
POM Yesterday we had you going the other way.
MM This is the more accurate because I would have once he said go to Lusaka, the first thing I would have done is to go to London to meet Zarina.
POM Yes. "I said, 'Good, I'm proceeding home'." Then you said, "I helped my wife and children move from Brighton to London, then I went to Lusaka and attended the NEC meeting."
MM I helped my wife and children move from London to Brighton.
POM "Then I went to Lusaka and attended that NEC meeting."
MM All right.
POM We've got that, that's page 6.I've asked you this question before. I'm asking, this is when you briefed the NEC and I was saying, "When you went there a number of people had been saying that he had been selling out and then when the thing was over and you had briefed them they all came around."
MM Not briefed them. The word would be wrong. I participated in the discussion and I had analysed the content of Madiba's communication to PW Botha and in that analysis shown that there was no sell-out, (a) that there was no negotiation, he was merely urging the regime to negotiate with the ANC, (b) there was no negotiation because he was then dealing with the reasons that the regime was putting forward why it could not talk to the ANC. And it's whys were based on the ANC's turn to violence, the ANC's alliance with the Communist Party. So he dealt with those obstacles in the part in the regime's mind to having any negotiations with the ANC.
POM This is page 8. I had a question there and it was, "Who can you recall being at that meeting?" You can remember Joe Modise as one of the first speakers who had been after Madiba and then he came around and you can also remember Joe Nhlanhla. I'd asked you was Thabo there particularly because (i) this was a very important meeting discussing Madiba's letter and (ii) that it would seem to me that Govan would have somehow been in touch with his son saying, "Listen, my belief from information and whatever I've seen is that Madiba is selling out." So my question is if you can cast your mind back, would it not have been almost an imperative meeting for him to have been at with OR in London with a stroke, he being the person he was in OR's office, being head of the International Affairs office?
MM I have no reason to doubt that Thabo was there but I don't think that ANC meetings were structured that way. People were constantly on missions all over the world. The meeting would be pre-arranged and sometimes people would be forced to be away because no matter how pre-arranged it was something might have cropped up in the United Nations or some discussion was taking place in Scandinavia and somebody senior had to go. But I also have no reason to believe that we should make the assumption that Govan was communicating with Thabo. Govan would communicate with OR, that's who he would communicate with.
POM But OR was in hospital.
MM No, but prior to his going into hospital and after OR he would communicate with Alfred Nzo, the Secretary General, not with Thabo. There is no evidence to suggest that Govan was communicating. Now I have also tried to check with Pallo Jordan, Pallo's memory of this NEC meeting is somewhat different. Pallo says that he recalls him taking part in the discussion, Sizakele Sigxashe and a couple of others. So it doesn't stand out in his mind the analysis that I made. Secondly, he could not remember the 180 degree swing in position of Joe Modise. But that to me is perfectly understandable. In each one's mind what sticks in is what they were doing and how they were seeing matters. Pallo himself would have come with a mindset of questioning the potentials of negotiation because he would be proceeding from the premise that any negotiation reverses or amends the problem of whether apartheid is reformable and arguing that apartheid cannot be reformed. But having taken that assumption he would have argued more sophisticatedly in the light of that letter, that, yes, there is no sell-out going on by Madiba.
That meeting did not have to decide which way to move, it had to eliminate the suspicion and recommit itself to pursuing the steps that flow from the Harare Declaration because the Harare Declaration by now had been adopted by the frontline states and now with it as a frontline state position which we have quietly sponsored, we now have to try and get it achieved. The achievement would be two-sided, (i) we would take it through its processes of the OAU until it becomes a UN position and (ii) we would use it as our guideline in any interaction whether with emissaries from the apartheid government or in meetings that are taking place with representatives of the apartheid government or in meetings with representatives of the powers of governments in the international community. That's all that would flow out of that NEC meeting.
As is very clear, is that the NEC supported that position and it became the first openly discussed basis for removal of the suspicions that Madiba was doing something that was harmful to the progress of the struggle.
POM Now you're on your way back. You get as far as Moscow. You said you didn't ask for a ticket on elsewhere because that instruction arose as a result of the discussion with OR.
MM We didn't ask for a ticket. What did you say?
POM Read it this way, "I had to work out how I could get out and come back. I found a passport, I could get a passport from Pretoria. I sent a message to London that I would be travelling under a secret name that appeared in the passport that would get me to Delhi, could London arrange another passport under the name of Robin Dash which - "
MM Robin Das. D A S.'Which' is a separate word.
POM "At the Soviet Embassy in Delhi, which passport I had left behind in Moscow. Could they arrange for that passport to be at the Soviet Mission and could they arrange for a ticket under another name so that the name of the person who had exited from Jo'burg and arrived in Bombay would have no connection with the name of the person that travelled from Delhi to Moscow. That's all I asked for. I didn't ask for a ticket on elsewhere because that instruction arose as a result of the discussion with OR."
MM No. I bought the ticket Johannesburg/Bombay/Delhi. Right? I collected a ticket and the passport from the Soviet Embassy for Delhi/Moscow. Right? OK? At that stage there was no question that I would ever go to Lusaka. I was going out for consultations with OR and at that stage my only hope would have been that if there is a way secure to do it securely either Zarina and the children would come and visit me in Moscow from London or I would see them in London because they were already in London.
POM But you have seen them in London?
MM I haven't arrived yet. What has happened in the story is that after outlining the issues we've gone back to the mechanics of how we got out and the mechanics precede the issues. What I was saying is that when I got the instruction from OR to meet him in Moscow on a certain date, how was I to do it? How was I go to out to Moscow and return safely back? And for that reason I investigated and found that I could get a passport in South Africa under a false name. I then communicated with Tim Jenkin to say, "Tim, arrange the following thing a ticket Delhi/Moscow under one name, my passport as an Indian citizen is sitting in Moscow, have that with the Soviet Embassy as well so that when I arrive in Delhi under my own steam I will be able to pick up that passport and the ticket and clear me in Moscow for arriving without going through the normal visa process. So do that." I made no arrangements what next because everything else that is what next in travels or anything will depend on the outcome of my discussions with OR. Right? So that's what I'm explaining there. It is not as if I had now gone already, gone to Lusaka and now was trying to get a passport and tickets. No. This is preceding all that, how to get to Moscow and I recall the name of the passport, it was Shaik. I'd better not put it now.
POM They'll say another one?
MM It was Shaik. By the way I met the person who got the passport for me about three weeks ago in all this fracas. I met him, it was interesting to find he's still around. I'm sure that if anything illegal had to be done at Home Affairs it would be possible to do it.
POM I'm now on a page called 'Weapons and the need for Leadership'. There's a phrase in here that says, you're talking about Ben Langa, you said, "Ben Langa was not just anybody, he was an activist in the mass movement. Now you could not reach a point of refinement unless your leadership was on the ground and in dynamic contact with Lusaka. I'll give you an example, you recall that Ben Langa, the brother of Pius Langa was killed by an MK unit, an MK unit might say that it was acting within its mandate but where would you allow a decision like that to sit? Ben Langa was not just anybody, he was an activist in the mass movement. Now you could not reach a point of refinement unless your leadership was on the ground and in dynamic contact with Lusaka." You could not reach a point of?
MM Not refinement. Could not reach a point of maturely handling such a problem.
POM And then later on, again this is just small things, "If units wanted arms for operations in another area Lusaka could simply contact and say do you have a cache nearby, a disclosed location, there's an MK unit that needs it badly." That was just 'we would say'? And that Lusaka would say please release those weapons? In other words if you had a cache nearby for an MK unit that needs it badly then Lusaka would convey
MM Lusaka would say to us release those weapons and of course we would give it because we wouldn't question that instruction.
POM At the end of that page, page 1 on the page called 'Weapons and the need for Leadership', there's a sentence, "I was part of the group that activated the suspension of the armed struggle." I've a note on the page here since this arose: when did the question of suspension of the armed struggle first arise and was there a debate between or among a small component of those in the NEC, like yourself and Joe Slovo and Madiba and whomever, before the question was put before the actual NEC meeting? It didn't come out of the - ?
MM The NEC meeting, Groote Schuur had taken place in April/May 1990. Now we were seized with the problem that the releases of prisoners was being staggered, the indemnity process was being staggered, the violence, 'black on black', was escalating. There were suspicions about the regime's security forces' actions and the question arose in people's minds, how do we push this process forward because we've not yet reached formal negotiations? Now Madiba is on record as saying that Joe Slovo came to him and raised the question that we should consider a suspension of the armed struggle. Madiba says that he himself was a bit concerned about such a step but as a result of discussions with Joe he was prepared to entertain it. In the meantime I recall discussing the matter with Joe as well and I am sure others were thinking what step do we take. So nothing was discussed in any group as far as I know, in any sort of four or five people sitting and discussing what do we do.
POM Would that not be something that Madiba himself would discuss with Walter?
MM It is possible that Madiba would have discussed it with Walter. Joe would have discussed it with Walter and Joe would have discussed it with
POM And Govan?
MM Not necessarily, Govan is in PE.
POM But isn't he coming for the NEC? OK he's in PE.
MM Because this is not something that is an organised movement or a faction that is developing, it's exchanging views in the course of your day to day work. Now we had our offices in Sauer Street. I was hardly in the offices because I had organising work to do in the field and my underground work to do but I would pop into the office for short periods but JS would be in the ANC office and in the party offices busy preparing for the launch of the party, busy interacting with the unions as well. So in the course of his rounds he would be discussing with individuals that he felt close to. Madiba may well have raised it with Walter. I certainly did not raise it beyond JS.
POM He raised it with you or you with him?
MM I certainly raised the idea with him, I was for the suspension because what I do recall is the issue that arose is that while the step looked good, should it be a unilateral or a conditional suspension? Secondly, if you suspend it what are the implications? Can you revive? No you can't. So what are the implications for the underground? My view was that we were now we had no option but to fully push the negotiated route but we needed to push it in such a way that we occupied the moral high ground. De Klerk was at that moment making a run around the world and therefore in the discussions with Joe I advocated that it should be a unilateral one and that it should be our opening shot at the Pretoria meeting.
The issue gelled around that the next meeting with the regime, a la Groote Schuur, was now being scheduled to take place in Pretoria on 6 August. For that reason a special meeting of the NEC was called, 20 July.
POM OK. We have it from there. I just wanted to fill out whether this came up at the meeting you were not unprepared, floored.
MM No. And Madiba was prepared because Madiba suggested from the chair that let the sub-committee made up of JS, Thabo, Ronnie Kasrils and myself draft a proposal.
POM OK. This is on the piece in here called '15th January 2003 continuation Tape 2.' It's about Hassen Ebrahim and Rocky Williams. You might just give me a paragraph which I've asked you to do when we mention people, if you can just give me a small paragraph on the person, not what position they occupied, more like their personality. He was very innovative?
MM Hassen was a very sociable person, very broad in the range of friends and contacts that he was making and he was a person who was innovative in that when he saw the opportunity he immediately tried to exploit that opportunity even though he did not know where it would take him because when he reported to Botswana that he had befriended this defence force member it is from Botswana that we said to him, "But you have to see whether you can get him for information gathering and you have to treat him now not as a person who must make an open commitment away from the Progressive Federal Party to an ANC/UDF alignment." It was not even UDF at that time.
POM So you at that point had three sources, main sources of information. That would have been (i) Mo Shaik's intelligence
MM That Hassen incident is 1979.
POM 1979. OK. So this would take place after you had been appointed to
MM The secretaryship.
POM The secretaryship, so your contacts with him, so the information coming to you is coming to you in Lusaka?
MM Via Botswana.
POM Via Botswana. It's coming through by Marius Schoon?
MM Marius Schoon, Andrew McCortie.
POM And you've got a military. You said, you have a story here that now military became interested, how Rashid's life got saved too. "I told you the story about the agent who's coming taking the fingerprints of Rashid." Now how did Rashid's life get saved?
MM That is the subsequent development, that is an incident in 1985/86, Rashid was now in Special Operations. That's when Mo Shaik arrives in London, meets Aziz, Joe Slovo, briefs them about information that he has garnered from the security branches and in that information, and that's when Joe Slovo calls for me to come to London, and amongst the information that Mo got was information of an enemy agent reporting that he was in touch with Special Operations and that he was then sent out by his handler to meet these Special Operations people and make sure that this particular individual, this individual's fingerprints should be brought back home. This was reported that he successfully brought the fingerprints and now they were busy identifying them. Who is this man Rashid? It had been a matter of interest for them for some time. Now with this information and with the reliability of Mo Shaik established, Slovo and all of us were able to retrace the matter to Special Operations, the matter of who Rashid was meeting, when he had met him and to identify the person as Keith McKenzie. Rashid and them were due to meet Keith McKenzie again in the near future in Botswana and so they took precautions, met Keith McKenzie and made sure that they whisked him off to Zambia with all sorts of ruses and false pretences.
POM They got him drunk I think along the way.
MM They got him drunk and all that.
POM He came with a truck full of explosives.
MM That's right. Now I am saying so too, the word 'too' applies, meaning getting information from inside the enemy camp enabled us to do many things. One of those was to save the lives of our cadres just as through Rocky Williams we were able to identify an enemy agent working in the military via Botswana, Shorty.
POM A guy called Shorty, yes, OK. So essentially in 1985 or so you handed Rocky over to Military Intelligence, to Ronnie's people.
POM You said, "Before Rocky passed out of our hands he had recruited these two more people in the army stationed in different places." What people would these be?
MM Soldiers and possibly I think, I can't remember their ranks at the moment, they were non-commissioned officers, but certainly he had recruited at least two other people in the South African army as sources of information.
POM So the route that this information would be travelling is that in a way Hassen was Rocky's handler, he would get the information from Rocky.
MM Hassen has already retreated to Botswana for his own safety's sake. Arrangements would be made how Rocky would get the information to Botswana, Botswana would send it to Lusaka. As long as I was handling it Botswana would send it to me. After we transferred it to Ronnie then it was Ronnie's job to maintain the communications. Whether he used Hassen from Botswana or Marius or others I had passed out of the scene.
POM So this wasn't information that was instantaneously coming to you. It had to go, travel a route.
MM It had to travel a route because there were copies of telex messages reaching Voortrekkerhoogte to head office of the South African Army and they would come periodically when a courier could smuggle it to Botswana because we didn't want anything else but the originals because if it was transcribed it would not tell us how authentic the information is. Up to the time that I was handling it original telexes were coming through.
POM Not copies?
MM Well what I mean by originals is, I don't know if they would be photocopied or what in Voortrekkerhoogte, but the point is that it would have all the encryption signals and all on there and laid out like a telex.
POM Of what use was this information?
MM It was strategic information, it was operational information, it was useful in the military planning.
POM Could you give me one or two examples of where information gleaned in this way was of operational use to you?
MM Operational exposure of Shorty. The exposure of Shorty.
MM Shorty is in the military command structure, planning military work between Lusaka and Botswana into the country. It is vital that that operation be concealed from the enemy and here you have a person passing your plans to the enemy.
POM At that time you said you had taken people like Hassen and given them military training. You said, "We were saying that there must be a cross-fertilisation taking place. In the hand grenade squad they were conceptualised as being from within the political section." We haven't talked in full, you said you needed to get more information on the suicide and hand grenade squads.
MM Oh, let's put that in -
POM And also on the campaign on the mining campaign, the limpet mines.
MM Not limpet, it would have been landmines.
POM The landmine campaign. When was the landmine campaign adopted?
MM The landmine campaign would have been 1986/87. I know one the problems that has arisen for me on this matter, I did follow up on the suicide squads and it turns up an interesting thing because I believe that Mzwaki Mbuli was part of the suicide squad.
POM Sorry, that who?
MM Mzwake Mbuli the poet, he's presently in prison, the People's Poet, I think he was part of the suicide squad. The unit was called [colonist?] unit. I'll have to get back to the people to check that, I don't know where I made a note. On the landmine campaign what exactly was I supposed to get?
POM Was that an outcome of Kabwe?
MM Of Kabwe? Yes it would be post-Kabwe but it would not be a direct outcome. A campaign such as landmines or the suicide or the hand grenade squads would not be a matter for conference to decide. They are really tactical questions. There would be sufficient to be decided at the level of the Political/Military Council. If anything more was needed it would be that the NEC would have to put its stamp of approval but usually on a matter like that it did not need anything approved and the issue arises more particularly over the hand grenade squads. To allow the political section to engage in that type of activity was an extension of any self defence, it was not going towards offensive action using arms. That would have been pre-eminently a military task and it would have required the decision of the Political/Military Council. Landmines would not have needed that but I think landmines went into the Political/Military Council. Would they have necessitated going to the NEC? No, just accepted a briefing of the NEC to keep them informed.
POM Well would these not be slow progression towards targeting softer targets?
MM Well the Kabwe resolution had allowed us that leeway but we would have argued the matter far more tightly, e.g. on the landmines, that generally speaking the patrols around the border even if they were farmers who were part of the commando system and the commando system was an immediate barrier you found as you crossed into the country on foot. So you would be putting a landmine on a road, e.g. a dirt road, the chances are a civilian vehicle may come past but there were equal chances that even if it was a civilian vehicle it was a farmer. The issue that arose was that in the first case it was labourers in the back of the vehicles, the farm workers. That became the problem and therefore what could you urge? You could urge that people should put the landmines with greater care to their reconnaissance information so that you just didn't put it at night and it was just potluck which vehicle came along. Even the army was patrolling the borders. The real issue that arose at that time was not so much the civilian deaths which we hadn't sufficiently anticipated, the real issue was how close to the border were these mines being buried? And were you just sending people across the border burying into the road, because if you did that problems would arise for the neighbouring territories and, secondly, instead of pushing the struggle deeper into South Africa you were inviting it to the border.
Those were the sort of considerations that would have gone into the debate but again no mandate was passed such as you must not put a landmine less than X kilometres away from the border but as the landmine issue campaign began to unfold those types of problems arose. Many of the landmines were placed not deep into the country and of course the South African government began to complain to the neighbouring states, Botswana in particular and the Zimbabwe government, that there are people coming into your territory, planting these landmines and retreating to safety in your territory, this is not acceptable. So that pressure came out and when combined with the fact that in a number of instances a good number of labourers on the back of the vehicles were injured and even killed, the question came are we implementing that in the correct way? But all those things begin to surface as I am on my way back into the country on Vula and it did not impact on the work of Vula because our work was never focused on trying to do land-mining and things like that at that stage, although we began to accumulate stocks of landmines.
POM I'm back to the appointment of the internal leadership, chapter 21 which we've gone through yesterday. These are sentences. "Guys, you've put me in an untenable position. Thank you very much. I've served my purpose, I retire." "They told me that Nzo was not supposed to have made the announcement of the interim leadership, that he had done so inadvertently when facing media questions, but I didn't buy it."Who is 'they'?
MM Joe Slovo and them reporting to me.
POM Joe Slovo and who else?
MM Tambo is not there. Who is my commander? Slovo. And the communication that comes, it's got no hand signature.
POM So it would be Slovo, OK? No hand signature. "Lusaka told me."
MM Yes, Lusaka head office informed me.
POM You had to force a meeting with him and Sisulu, would that be JS or with Nzo? "I forced a meeting with him and Sisulu." You said, "But what are you doing? I'm here, I'm meeting you, I'm illegal in the country, and what you are saying to me is that I'm nobody, nobody must listen to me."
MM Now wait a minute, let's go back a paragraph. You say I forced a meeting with ?
POM Sisulu, with him and Sisulu.
MM And preceding that what's there? What precedes it?
POM "I learned it - they announced the decision in the newspaper and didn't bother to inform me." You said, "Guys, you've put me in an untenable position. Thank you very much. I've served my purpose. I retire." They told you that Nzo was not supposed to have made the announcement but that he did so inadvertently when facing media questions. "I didn't buy it. I had forced a meeting with him, with Sisulu. I said, 'But what are you doing?' "
MM Where's 'him'?
POM 'Him' is right beside you.
MM There was no committee established after Walter's release and before Madiba's release. After Walter's release I was in touch with Walter on a one-to-one basis and with Kathy. But in January 1990 Lusaka announced that it couldn't be January, it couldn't be January. This is where we are being flummoxed. It would have been immediately after De Klerk's February 2nd announcement.
POM Yes, that's what I was saying. They wouldn't announce the leadership before the ANC was unbanned.
MM When FW makes the announcement on February 2nd, Lusaka announces the formation of the interim leadership group service. It is then Madiba gets released. Post Madiba's release is the committee formed which includes me. So there's no question here with this note that I was already part of some interim leadership group, why didn't I go to Walter and go to that committee.
POM But you are didn't Eleanor Sisulu say in her book that you
MM Eleanor is wrong, Eleanor is wrong. She is confusing the Madiba committee with a committee established by Walter right at the beginning. This committee of Walter, Madiba, Slovo, Nzo, myself, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan, as bridging the underground and the surface, comes into existence after Madiba has returned from Lusaka but the incident that I'm referring to relates to the post February 2nd period. The 'him' that I'm referring to there is in the context of the problem that cropped up in Natal, here in this paragraph.
[There the individual involved, and we will again find a sensitive way to treat it, was Terror Lekota. So I had to force a meeting between Walter, Terror and myself which took place in Durban because Terror in the interim leadership goes to Natal, ignores Jabu Sithole, Mpho Scott, Pravin Gordhan, the lot, because there was already a substantial underground presence there, and he says, "I've nothing to do with them." And I come and say to Walter before the committee is set up, before the committee informed me, "Walter there's a problem." So Walter comes to Durban and I go down to Durban and a meeting takes place between Walter, Terror and myself in which I complain, I say, "This is the danger that has arisen and the signals that you've made, Terror's conduct is passing, are untenable." Now of course Walter tried to mediate for an ad hoc Natal specific solution but I say it was meaningless, it did not resolve the problem.
Things were moving at such a speed that the issue that Lusaka created by the formation of the interim leadership group without a linkage to the underground was that tensions began, people became insecure. Where were they sitting? If they come to me, what does it mean for us? What should we be doing? Do we fold our arms now? Have we become irrelevant? And when you look at the overt structures, to the overt structures we are not significant to be included in the structures that are being created in Natal, in the Transvaal. So I am saying that was illustrative of the problem and when I refer to the 'him', sure, it's Terror Lekota and the problem at that time is to give you names like that without having agreed how we will treat them when they are still alive.
POM Well we will deal with that but we have to get it in context with the people because to just embargo the names, call them X
MM We'll discuss that. We'll find a way.]
POM Now this raises your perennial question. Then you would not have resigned or sent your letter of resignation to the ANC, to Lusaka, at the end of January because the interim
MM It would have been in February.
POM OK. So now we have that the interim leadership is announced after De Klerk's statement. A week later Madiba is released, so is it within that week that you fire off ?
MM I've already fired off, I've fired off my retirement.
POM Within that week in early February?
MM I have fired off my retirement the day I read the article in The Sowetan and to my complaint got a response which simply said that Nzo had inadvertently let out the names. This was not acceptable to me.
POM Madiba goes to Lusaka, again within days, a week or two.
MM And he comes back.
POM And he comes back.
MM Meets me. Persuades me to withdraw my retirement.
POM Meets you to withdraw your resignation, and then there is a meeting with you, Walter, Madiba, Nzo and Raymond Mhlaba, Joe Slovo, and you form the interim leadership within the country that will co-ordinate the activities of the underground and the over-ground.
MM Let's put it, it's important, it would synchronise the activities.
POM Part of what that would involve is that where do you place people in the underground, where do you now place them in the overt structures?
MM No, the bigger issue was that that committee had to deal with what becomes the redefined role of the underground? How do you redefine the role of the underground because we are now heading for possible negotiations? How would you keep building an underground structure, with what tasks in mind, with what perspectives? And that is where the debate took place where I solicited the views of Durban and where I believe a very understandable phrase has taken over every commentator's explanation why we continued to maintain the underground. It is the phrase that Ronnie sent as his input from Natal to me to make it such a reading, because I solicited their views. I said, "Chaps, this committee is going to be discussing what now is the role of the underground? Can I have your views?" And the view that came from Ronnie was that we would maintain the underground as is as an insurance policy. And I said no. In my communication to Durban I said I disagreed with that view because an insurance policy strategy if found out would put Madiba and the negotiators in a difficult position.
I said, secondly, we cannot maintain the underground in the same old way as if we were totally illegal. We had to maintain our formation in an overt way but not known to be the underground. For example, I said we have been faced with having to secure the Madiba rally at Kingsmead. Now what did we do there? We took the marshal structure that had emerged in the mass democratic movement and we injected cadres with military training into it so that they would drill those marshals and the marshals were known openly in the media, that there are marshals. So I said let the marshals become a paramilitary structure and within them let MK people be the trainers and the officers, part of the officer corps. That would keep our machinery oiled, active in the overt terrain, not engage now in sabotage but still very active, maintaining communications, etc. I said if we get found out for that our negotiators and Madiba would have a legitimate excuse. They would say to the regime, you are unable to secure our rallies and we don't accept it even if you were going to secure them, so we have had to create our own paramilitary structures to secure them. I said that is the direction we have to start thinking and in the debate of the committee I raised this. I said the view being debated in the underground is one view that says insurance policy with the implication that the underground continues to organise itself as it did in the complete clandestine days and calls itself an insurance policy. And I said the other view which I have been putting is that it should not become an overt paramilitary force but not able to identify it for the enemy who are the real network within it that are organising clandestinely.
POM As we have that, the paragraph that I have here on page 4, chapter 21, is, "I met with Madiba, Walter, Govan, Raymond Mhlabla, Slovo and Nzo and confirmed the changed mandate of the underground. The underground would continue to train underground units, bring MK units into South Africa, smuggle arms and relate this to what was happening at the overt level. Mass mobilisation organising the unbanned ANC at the overt level and negotiations were now the primary focus and accordingly the underground should continue to be organised to support these primary focuses." Is that correct?
POM "The money for our operations is no longer delivered by Lusaka, it's delivered here at home, on Mandela's instructions given to me in hard cash, not in bank accounts."You said, "I have no problems", you're talking about how you and Joe began to break up over Groote Schuur. You said, ' with Madiba. And I said Madiba told Winnie to stop her activities in MK and to let her contacts get in touch with me, not with her. He told her that she was to resist any involvement in MK, saying Mac is here, that is his function. So Madiba had an understanding of roles we had to fulfil in addition to taking care of overt ANC activities in a circumspect way." My question was did you ever contact Winnie in this regard?
MM No I didn't. This matter arose sometime in May. I was part of organising the Tongaat conference, 20 May the Sunday Times announced that we've got indemnity. I rush over to Jo'burg, I meet Madiba who says Ronnie and I should we've got to make that preparation and sneak out and I said I will attend to the matter when I come back.
POM One of these days you'll have to track down more accurately because of so many dates collapsing so closely together. I'll put it down there on the list, the time when you had the extended politburo meeting, a list of these meetings. It goes from Ronnie's entry, Tongaat, the date that you quit, the press conference with Joe Slovo and the SACP politburo meeting at which you quit, the date you returned to the country, the NEC meeting where you became part of the organising committee and you gave your six months notice, and then the NEC meeting that drew up the resolution regarding the armed struggle. I would work on them too just to make sure our dates coincide.
This is where I'm going through the bit that you need to look at again because Ronnie's recollection of it differs not so much in content but differs in the manner in which things are expressed and that is you are talking about Harry Gwala and Ronnie then said, "What are you saying?" This is page 7.
MM That's the extended meeting of the politburo.
POM Yes, where he accuses you of being a traitor. This is the appointment of the internal leadership chapter, page 7. You say, "Stop there. To call me a traitor you personalise things. You know I have access to arms, you have access to arms, the logical conclusion of what you are saying by calling me a traitor is that you and I had better get out of this room and fight it out because I will not tolerate that from you. Let's fight it out."Ronnie just said, "I want to fight it out." Then you said, "The meeting tried to pacify me and they said Ronnie didn't mean it that way."Now he said, "Mac and I got upset but we didn't get that upset with each other because a couple of days later he and I are kind of grabbing a car and getting down to Durban as quickly as possible to unload the - "
MM He must tell you why he was sleeping in Durban while I was moving the arms. He did fuck all in that mission.
POM You took Claudia with you. Was Claudia there?
MM Sure, he's in the leadership, I'm not going to ignore him. He's in the underground. The clearing of all the rooms go and ask Janet, who cleared and saved all the comrades? He was not available. [I was paging him, he's at parties and meetings, overt meetings. The priority of saving the cadres, I don't want to put this down in the book because that is where my respect for Ronnie went.]
POM What date are you talking about?
MM We're talking about
POM One day when he was busy, when you couldn't get hold of him?
MM We're talking about post 11 July 1990. By 8 July arrests had taken place in Durban. What's our primary duty? He and I are head of this machinery and Gebhuza, I'm paging him, he's in Jo'burg. Gebhuza is in Durban. I sent messages to Gebhuza, clear out of Kenridge, clear out that. If Mbuso has been arrested and charged give up that house. That's first security, top line communication. Meantime 11th comes the news, Gebhuza is arrested. Now I am saying real danger, I am looking for Ronnie. Here are two people who should be in instant communication, he's out of reach. I page Janet, she comes. "Now Janet, move. I'm going to clear this place, you go and inform Helen Douglas and Rob (they were called Nigel and Jenny). Do you know where to find the Canadian lady, Susan?"
POM This is in Johannesburg?
MM Johannesburg. "Do you know the house in Parkhurst where those arms, we were building a basement? Let's go and start clearing out and tell the comrades who are external to take cover." No Ronnie. Then I come up with the idea hey, wait a minute, in the organising committee Ronnie is there. Now we've got to get to Durban so I reach Ronnie the next day and say, "Now look we've got to get to Durban." "For what?" I say, "We've got to take security measures there." We drive on Friday night. We arrive in Durban on Saturday. We get to the conference of the doctors. He said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm looking for a clue, I'm looking for a doctor. I need a lead." I find a lead, I find Yaj. I make arrangements that Yaj's place has got to be cleared at six o'clock, seven o'clock in the evening as it gets dark. Ronnie says, "I'm tired." It's Saturday night, because we've got to get back to Jo'burg on Sunday so that the enemy does not see us having gone down specially for some underground work. I said, "Fine, we've got to get back from Durban but tonight we clear places." "I'm tired." I said, "Fine, you're tired, you go and sleep." That's when I then get Claudia and I go myself and help Claudia. Is this the behaviour a commander? Is this a commander who says I'm tired when there's a crisis? It's not behaviour to me.
POM Well I can verify that he was missing for 24 hours. OK? In other words well it does, because it matters in the sense of what you said on the first day when you were looking for him, he wasn't available and I know that he wasn't available because I know where he was.
MM He was enjoying this hero's welcome but we were put in the organising committee to manage the underground and the overt, the overt was a cover for us, but overt work, the glamour work overtook his duties to the underground. And I say, "But chaps, when you are saving a mission, when casualties are being hit, it's the speed with which you are one jump ahead of the enemy that counts." As happened at Yaj's place, we cleared that place that evening, six, seven, possibly latest eight o'clock in the evening. Next morning that place was hit by the police. Had we not cleared it Yaj was caught.
And when Ronnie says, "How could it be? We were together." Sure, it does not mean that I've had this argument and said you've called me a traitor now. I've taken my stand, I will leave the party, but that does not mean that I must carry my quarrels in such a way that I would refuse to carry out my command work in the underground. I've withdrawn from the party, I haven't withdrawn from the ANC. I'm fulfilling my duties there with him and maybe it affects my mindset that I become a little more hypercritical of him but when he says he's tired
POM He would say that he drove on the way down and that you slept.
MM Ronnie, it doesn't matter to me Padraig. When I work I work day and night when there's a crisis. I have a sense that you have to be one step faster than the enemy. This is crisis time. If he told me he wanted to sleep in the car, from Durban to Jo'burg is a five-hour drive, I'd let him sleep for two and a half hours and I'd sleep for two and a half hours. That's the basis of it. You do without sleep but you don't say when the hard work, the dangerous work arises now with moving the arms, you don't say I need to sleep. Tomorrow is driving, we can share, but the driving is not the hard part of the job. The hard part is to go and carry those suitcases of arms and you might be caught. That's the risk. When a chap tells me that he can't do that because he needs to sleep for tomorrow to drive is a problem in my mind. If he told me that we both are exhausted I will find a person from Durban to drive us because you can find a driver but you can't find a question of replacing you with a knowledge of where it is and directing and pulling out the arms and telling them where to take it. You can't find a replacement for that.
And it's been a pattern. You've noticed my criticism of Ronnie when he entered the country. It's the same pattern. Everybody has got to be around him to save him and his comfort. Go and ask the comrades that you've spoken to about me, ask them if I ever raised the question of my comfort. Yesterday, besides my breakfast yesterday morning my next meal was at half past two in the morning, this morning, because it was work, work, work. We are dealing with a situation of great urgency and I was sitting down in a meeting in Pretoria with Mo, with Yunus, meeting people and saying, "Let's go through what you're doing, how far are you in collecting that information? What next? What are you going to do?" The chap says, "I'm flying off tomorrow." "But you haven't done your job. When do you come back?" "Excuse me, sorry?" He says, "Too late, you've got to do something on these tasks. Only you can do it and you do it." Then he says, "OK I'll postpone my trip, postpone my trip abroad till Thursday now." "Good." In those situations, Mo orders pizzas, you go and ask Mo, he's eating pizzas as we're discussing. He says to me, "Mac, have a pizza." "No." I haven't got the appetite. I'm focused on, guys, are we getting the pieces right.
So people come and you go and ask them, am I a person who looks at that sort of thing? I wouldn't walk into this room and the first thing I say, "Where am I going to sleep tonight?" This is a working room, I work, and if at two o'clock in the morning, "Right, time to sleep chaps", and they say to me there are no beds here, it's not a problem. Is there a blanket? An overcoat to sleep on? And I believe that that is necessary. I may be extreme in it but wherever you go and check about me you will not find evidence that a man says, hey, first thing my safety, first thing my food, first thing my comfort. That has always got to go last because you're commanding men who are doing things for you not out of respect for hierarchy and the sanctions you put but out of respect that you are doing the work and when you ask them to do something they know that if push came to shove you'd do it without hesitation and they rally to free you time to do your work.
So all I am saying is that Ronnie's explanation that he was driving is a bit of crap.
POM You say he drove down.
POM And you slept on the way down.
MM I'd just wake him up and say give it to me. And I was clearing up the bloody places. I'd been clearing up Jo'burg, all the venues, with Janet. Now I'm heading for Durban and in Durban I'm going to be at the conference looking for people and I say, "Come with me because if I get hit you must be able to pick up the pieces and you're new to this terrain, you've just been here a few months. Here's the work." And he wasn't the sort of person that I could say to him, you go and do that and believe that-
POM Just a simple question. "When I came out on bail after being arrested in connection with Vula." Do you remember when you got bail?
POM In December.
MM Early December, before the courts went into recess. It could even be end of November. I think early December, first week of December if not last week of November because I think Zarina and the children arrived back into the country, then once I got bail then we made contact again and arranged for them to come over. I think Zarina and the kids arrived back about the 15th between 15 and 20 December and it would have taken me a few weeks for them to now get tickets, arrange flights and everything and arrange what happens when they come back.
POM And I have a question here which deals with emotions again. I'm talking about the end of your relationship with Joe Slovo after first being deeply scarred by Groote Schuur. Here you're with Joe Slovo, my question, somebody you've worked with for years on all kinds of projects, all kinds of exchanges, ideological, personal, whatever. You'd fought and you'd made up and then you make a cut, here in a movement to which you have dedicated your entire life, on a question of principle you make a cut. Here you were in the ANC, a major role player throughout that struggle and again it's something, seeing your advice ignored you walk, come back but conditionally for six months. Just as the real action, the things you've worked for, dreamt of, got tortured for, endured 12 years on Robben Island for, just when the realisation of the dream becomes within your grasp you sideline yourself. You sit in Johannesburg watching the action rather than being an integral part of it. My question was what did you feel on these occasions? And your answer was, "Nothing, I just simply felt I had done my job."
You can't feel nothing. You have this forty years of your life of total, utter dedication and you cut it, kind of saying 'I cut it', and you walk off but you're still in the same environment of where all this activity is going on, you're surrounded by it, the country is immersed in it and you feel nothing? It's not possible, Mac.
MM It was, Padraig. Look, I certainly feel what we've discussed yesterday, I feel that I am now in an environment, in an objective environment where I can look forward to being with my family. Zarina has come over with the kids, the kids have said they want to stay behind, Mum go back and pack up. I get them admitted to Sacred Heart. Zarina goes off to Brighton to pack up and do something about the house. So on one side even though I have no resources I have a number of friends who come and rally around and support me, amongst them Vella. Vella got his brother to provide me with a car on almost indefinite loan, as it turned out the brother had to hire the car. Then when I learn it's hired and I return it to him, Joe Mohammed's girl friend, Maud, gives me her Toyota Conquest to use. Joe Mohammed stands guarantee for me to buy a house in Yeoville and, yes, we had no furniture, we just had mattresses on the floor. We had no pots and pans but I'm putting that house together and I'm happy that I'm with the children and I'm looking after them and I'm looking forward to Zarina coming back. How long it will take her to settle in Brighton, is she going to sell the house, is she going to rent it out, what's she going to do with all that, what's she going to do about her studies? We don't know how long it will take.
On the other hand I've had a bitter quarrel with JS over Groote Schuur. I'm still very hurt at that stage by the substance of the quarrel. I'm hurt in two ways and I don't want to take the problem to Madiba. I don't want to take the problem because I feel to take the problem to him now is to leave him also feeling bad. I'm hurt that my criticism of Slovo on the formulation of the Groote Schuur Minute and the lack of even a subordinate clause dealing with the necessity for indemnity for people who are illegally in the country is like the overall commander letting down a section of his forces. But I am also a bit ashamed of myself. I am ashamed of myself that that quarrel with Joe Slovo became that bitter. Like I say when Ronnie said at the politburo meeting, "If you take that stand, Mac, then you're a traitor." And I say that was like the worst insult. Similarly I insulted Joe because when I said to him, "This is what you have done. You were in that delegation and our confidence was that the delegation would come out with a communiqué which would include this and you are not even telling me that you have fought for such a support clause to be put in. Because you assumed, means that you've betrayed your own forces." It was a similar charge as Ronnie made against me.
Now Ronnie may have made that charge against me and forgotten it the next day but I made that charge against Joe Slovo and I've never forgotten it. It remains with me even now years after his death, that how could a friendship that spanned that period in the trenches be terminated so harshly primarily by me because I then remember saying to him, "Joe, what this means is that it's not possible to break bread with you." Now that was a very harsh thing to say and I really regretted it.
If you ask me how was I feeling at that time, in the context of those issues together with the issue you are raising, you've given forty years of your life, this has been almost your raison d'être for living, now you give it up and you say you didn't feel anything, I think I was in a state of denial also. I didn't want to re-examine those issues. I didn't want to re-examine them because a re-examination at that time would have involved a pretty harsh criticism of myself. So I was in a state of denial for that. I may have been in a state of denial also that, as I said to the party, I will not give a public reason for my retirement, you give the explanation, whatever is politically convenient for you, because I still didn't want, and up to now I still take that position, however much I may disagree with the ANC or the party or COSATU I don't want to air those grievances publicly. I don't want to hurt these organisations. So I said I will leave it to you but the only thing I will do is that if you make your explanation personal against me I reserve the right to respond.
So I think there was a state of denial in Joe too. I told you about the discussion one day when I went into Sauer Street and Walter said why don't you write?
POM We'll get to that, yes.
MM That's in that period of retirement and it shows that when Joe and I met that day, it's possible, both of us were in a state of denial because that short repartee Walter says I should write but there's a problem in writing, it could be very critical of people, and he said, "You mean it's going to be critical of me?" I said, "It's going to critical of the left." He says, "You mean it's going to be critical of me?" I retort, "I didn't know you are the left." It shows we were skirmishing, we were both hurting yet we were not in that environment. It might have been different if we had met privately over a drink and this thing arose because we would have been sitting there a little longer and then we might have found an opening to pursue that discussion a little more. Because it was a superficial discussion, it was a point scoring discussion for me to say, 'I didn't know you're the left', that's point scoring, but it's a point scoring that has got a barb in it to shut him up and therefore when he withdraws into silence you needed an environment that would allow a little more time for him or me to turn round and say why are we being childish now, what's the issue? But we didn't do that.
When people used to come and see me to return to the movement and want to know why have you taken this step and I say, 'no explanation,' now these were not hostile people, these were comrades looking up to me and believing that if I gave an explanation, believing that I have some explanation which they might disagree with but it's granted me the benefit that I have an explanation, but I was refusing to give them an explanation and so the result is it drove me more into a state of denial because I had tied my own hands and to simply say to them, 'go and ask the party', was like a cop-out to them.
So that period was a state of denial. It's going to be maybe interesting what Zarina will say because when she came back and joined me she is amongst the people who raised the question, hey, what are you doing with your life? She's amongst the people who said you'd better go back. But we never discussed, even here, she and I, we never discussed in any depth the reason why I should go back. The result was that when I was invited to attend the ANC conference in Durban, I accepted the invitation and once I accepted the invitation as a delegate it unfolded another that I was back but it was not 'I was back' after a careful examination of the issues. So I am saying that that whole period, if you ask me what my feelings were, I think at the moment I would describe it as a state of denial. And the state of denial endured right up to the conference because I never emerged from that state of denial to confront the issue that you are raising, that here is your lifetime.
POM Do you ever think that, you know you've talked about it in relation to Joey to a lesser extent, but that given what you had gone through all your life that you were unwittingly suffering from or exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress? It's like, how would I put it, Madiba is released and suddenly it's like, my analogy might be if you took, say, Yugoslavia under Tito, you've no dissension, you've no ethnic strife, you've no nothing because he is a cover on top of everything and keeping everything down. Take Tito away, lift the cover, and suddenly all those things that have been suppressed by these Serbs, Croats, all of these things come bursting to the surface. Do you think that when the pressure in an odd way began to come off with the impending Madiba release, the movement towards negotiation, that certain things long suppressed within you for the nature of the struggle itself began to pop out, made you behave in ways that were more reactionary perhaps. I'm not trying to be a psychiatrist here, I'm just throwing it out, did you ever just consider that you too could be a victim of post-traumatic stress?
MM Obviously I was living under stress and obviously trying to manage the three pillars, not enough support in Vula of the cadreship to share that burden, was very, very stressful. You had to be diplomatic, you had to be decisive, you had to do things by persuasion and therefore you had to drive yourself.
POM But you could never, given the nature of the job, appear to be under stress?
POM You could appear to be driven but not under stress.
MM Not under stress. Now the environment was one where you were not sitting at a place where structured reports were coming, it was an environment full of rumours and gossip. So it was not hard information that you could inform your decisions. What was happening was that, I told you about the Jeremy Cronin incident in Tongaat where I said to the party we would organise a conference of about 20 30 activists, party activists from around the country and brainstorm how the party should legalise itself.
MM So, Lusaka says fantastic. And I say to open this conference, Joe, come in. "Oh I'm not so sure it's safe to come in." "All right come in illegally." This is now May, Madiba is released, the ANC is unbanned, the party is unbanned. "I'm not sure."
POM So he hadn't an indemnity at that point?
MM I think he had got his indemnity by 20 May.
POM Well then why was he not feeling well he wasn't, OK.
MM No, no, the indemnity hadn't come through. Then I say, "Well, can we have a statement from the General Secretary of the party for the opening of the conference?" And I mention some of the points that should be in his opening statement and we'll read it out. A message comes back we're trying to get Jeremy Cronin to come to South Africa, he will deliver the statement. "Hey, guys, how are you trying to get him in?" "Oh we're applying for his indemnity and for permission to enter." I said, "What happens if he doesn't come through? Where are we? Can you not transmit the text of the message? Because I haven't received a message from you to say Jeremy will be arriving on this day, will you collect him at this point. How will he find us where we are meeting? It's a clandestine meeting. So please, guys, while you're making those arrangements send me the text of the message so that when we open this conference one of us will read out the statement of the General Secretary." "No, don't worry, Jeremy is coming."
I get to Tongaat. Of course the first thing is after viewing the logistics and the security of the conference, the venue, the logistics - how are we going to be recording, who is attending to collecting people, bringing them there safely and exiting. Check all that. I go to my machine, to Janet, "Any message from Lusaka, from the party?" No. "Janet, send a message now." This is the night before the conference, about ten, eleven in fact. "Send a message: we have no word when Jeremy is arriving, we are opening tomorrow morning and we've got to be over by Sunday." Saturday/Sunday, this is Friday night. "Can you send us the text of the message? Urgent." Silence. Twelve o'clock at night, twelve, one. We've reviewed everything, it's all in place and look at the agenda, opening statement missing. OK, "Janet, sit down, typewriter, come on chaps let's draft the opening statement."
Now what's going through your head? What's in your head is are the chaps taking seriously the re-emergence of the party? Because to me it's nothing if Jeremy is coming, he's coming with a statement and it's nothing for Lusaka to sit down and type it into a computer and shoot it off to London and it's with us in an hour. But they are totally ignoring our problem. I say, what are they worrying about? Oh, perhaps Jeremy has got the text in his pocket and he's still busy trying to see if he can get a flight, his indemnity. It's not looking at the interests of the party. So that type of stress- (break in recording))
I come back June 15th, now JS and all, the indemnity is there, JS is here in Jo'burg.
POM Wouldn't Groote Schuur have been at the beginning of May, 6 May? Tongaat isn't until 20 May.
MM Yes. You see he's flown in for Groote Schuur and gone out. Gone.
POM Do you think there might have been any connection with your massive blow-out after Groote Schuur? Fuck Mac.
MM Could be.Fuck him. Could you? You're right. But the point is I come back on 20 June and it is as the Tongaat meeting said, don't launch the party just by calling a press conference, launch the party on 29 July, the anniversary of the formation of the party and launch it at a rally in, I think, Jabulani Stadium. People say, would you fill up the stadium? We say we will fill it up. I think Jabulani Stadium accommodates 30,000. We say we will fill it up, not a problem. We will do the organising work but give us time. June, July, two months to do it. We'll liase with the unions and everything. OK, I come back, 15th. The NEC meeting takes place on 16th of the ANC and I think round about 20 June Joe and I meet, launching of the party. Joe says, "Let's announce the rally." I said, "Yes, sure. Correct." Announce that this event will take place on 29th, take the form of a rally, announce that we are now starting the process. You're the General Secretary. He says, "No, I want you there with me at the press conference. You and I must do it." "OK Joe." But what's running through my head, hey, why can't you do it? He says a bloody press conference. Why is it every time something has got some danger to it you say, Mac, come, why don't you call Jeremy Cronin who you were sending to deliver your address at Tongaat? Call Jeremy Cronin to announce it and let me carry on with my work. But it's one more thing that you've got to do. Whenever something has got to be done that is fraught with some danger, Mac, will you do it? And it's pissing me off. It's pissing me off because it's saying, hey, when do I get a sense that somebody says I have to worry about Mac too, what are the number of tasks that he has got to do? All right, that happens.
I think I told you also, if you talk about the stress, my arrest for Vula, when Iappear at my trial, first day, there is not one single member of the National Executive or the Central Committee in the audience in the courtroom, not one.
POM Is this for your bail application or - ?
POM For the bail application.
MM For the remand. It's the first day we are appearing in court. We've been in detention for six months. Yes you fought campaigns 'Release Mandela', but now this is the first day the nine of us are going to appear in court. Don't you think that in spite of the multitude of activities the General Secretary of the party, the General Secretary of the ANC, the General Secretary of COSATU could have been mobilised to say be at the courtroom so that when these comrades come out of the basement and walk into the dock in that audience are sitting three key people. Nobody there. Applied for bail, I think the first day we were pushed in remand or the first day bail application, the matter is argued and they say R180,000 for Mac, and the rest of the nine accused the total came to another R50,000 - R60,000. So R240,000 has got to be raised. The court grants the bail before lunch, the lawyers come. "Chaps, we are pleading with the police to keep you here in the court cells because we've now got to go and raise the money. Jo'burg promised us but it's not here so we've got to find the money and you cannot be released until we find the money. So we are pleading with the court officials and we are now going to run around Durban to go to individuals to chip in money." And they come to us at about five o'clock in the afternoon, "Phew! Although Jo'burg kept saying the bail is there nothing arrived from Jo'burg so we've gone to individuals in Durban raising R10,000, R10,000, R10,000, R50,000, and we've just managed to raise the money. Sorry chaps, you've been sitting here from one o'clock till five. Right now we're paying the money and as soon as the receipt is made out you'll be out." OK. It passes. The case goes on remand.
POM Did the money ever come from Jo'burg?
MM I don't know. It must have, must have come some time later to pay those people. But the case goes on remand, we've got to appear next week. We appear next week and it's remanded to the following week. We appear the following time and some comrades begin to ask, "Where's the leading people? Why don't they attend?" Because it's an event that would galvanise people. Then one day I appear in court and I hear that the Working Committee has discussed and instructed that at least some members of the National Executive better find time to be at the trial. I get to the trial, look around the courtroom, I see Comrade Nkadimeng and one or two others. I don't see Joe Slovo, I don't see Nzo, I don't see Jay Naidoo of COSATU. And I say, oh, they're having a problem how to explain Vula. But it sits in my mind.
Then Padraig, comes December, I don't go to the national conference. When the papers enquire I say, "No, I'm retired." I've retired. My wife has gone back to Brighton, my children are now at Sacred Heart, I'm living at Yeoville and I'm driving the Toyoto Conquest of Maud's. Comes Saturday morning my kids have got swimming galas, it's their first school activity and I'm there and around as a parent. So I take my two kids to the swimming gala. There are not very many parents in the swimming pool stadium, but I'm sitting there and I heard a car alarm go off in the car park. It didn't strike me that it's my car. OK, the gala is over, the kids and I are having a jolly time, we jump in the car and it's less than a kilometre to my house. I drive out and within 200 metres I see my heat gauge go from zero to boiling and something says, hey, wait a minute, you didn't pay attention. There was a car alarm in the car park, what the hell is happening.
This is 1991, my kids are eight and six, and I try to put up a façade for my kids that everything is normal. So I put up a façade. I've got to stop this car, has it got an explosive? So I stop the car on the roadside. The kids say, "What's wrong Dad?" I said, "Just get out of the car and stand away on the pavement. Some mechanical problem." I go and open the boot and I find the hosepipe to the radiator is cut. What the hell's happened? I examine the body of the engine and I find at the bottom a plastic bag stuck to the side of the engine. I'm thinking, don't panic but also don't make the children feel that there's anything untoward. So I look around and there's the roadside drainage, they have these drainage covers with grilles on them. So I go and take this thing, this plastic container, I take it and I go to the drain and push it down the drain. I very calmly lock up the car and say to my kids no I didn't remove the plastic, I didn't remove the plastic. I just saw the plastic, closed the car, said to my kids, "Kids, why don't we walk home? The car seems to have some mechanical problem." Made it into a joke with them and we walk home. Get home and I phone Yusuf Mohammed of Hillbrow Pharmacy. "Yusuf, do you know a mechanic? Please get a mechanic out to that car. I think that there's a problem, there is something on the side of the engine. Be careful." I can't think of the police, you don't turn to the police for help. OK. A few hours later Yusuf phones me. He says, "Hey, there appears to have been a bomb attached to your car but the mechanic panicked and took it and threw it down the drain." OK.
Madiba is out of the country. I phoned for Walter, can't reach him. In the end I get Walter. I say, "Walter, here's a problem.""Call security branch." "I don't want to saddle you with the problem. It's my problem, I have retired." "No Mac, be calm." I said I'm very calm. He said, "What do you want? What are you going to do?" I said, "I intend to take some action." "What are you going to do Mac?" I said, "No, it's very simple, I'm phoning General Basie Smit, head of the security branch to tell him he'd better stop." Walter reads it as a complaint to our system. Yes, maybe you could file a complaint there. So, OK, but I can sense that Walter's mind he doesn't know what to say I must do and also maybe what's running through his mind is, do we have to find resources to protect Mac? He can't just order it. We're just legalising, we've got no resources.
So I pick up the phone to Basie Smit, I get hold of him. I say, "Hello, it's Mac Maharaj here. General, this is what happened today." He says, "What did they do?" I said, "This is what happened. I'm just telling you the facts. What apparently was a bomb was attached to my car and the hosepipe cut out and my children were in the car. I'm just phoning, just listen to me. If your rules have changed that you don't care whether you kill my children who are six and eight, you know from your information that in my period in Vula in the country (i) I have access to explosives and arms, (ii) I have the addresses of many of your top security branch, their home addresses, the vehicles they drive, and I am telling you when you find them dying one by one and getting blown up that's your problem but if it is that type of war we'll have it and don't come and complain if their wives and children are dying."No further threats emerged until I returned to the negotiations.
But once more I didn't get a leading comrade come to me and say, "Hey, I heard this has happened to you. What can I do?" I didn't get a Ronnie come to me. I had to stand on my own. I didn't go to them for help but I certainly expected them to do something, even if it was to come to my home to just show support. And they may have their reasons that he's retired, they're pissed off with him, etc., etc., but I didn't get that support. I got it from the rank and file people who came to show support, what can we do. But from the leading people, no.
It's like now over this incident, outside of Madiba no leading person has come forward, no cabinet minister has picked up the phone. Although I hear what they are saying, they're saying he has done a good job, he's really worked Bulelani, but to stand up and show it is a different matter.
So you ask state of mind. That bomb at that time directed at the car with my children in it, it was another extremely stressful period, a stressful period which said you're in retirement, you have to fight this battle yourself. Don't turn to anybody for help in the movement. You will have to do this one yourself. Now maybe I was wrong, if I had turned to the movement and asked for help they would have all come forward and maybe my expectations are too high. But these were the sort of stresses and strains and no income. Who came to you? [I don't want it mentioned, Vella Pillay's brother comes to me and he says, "Will you manage a petrol station for me? I've just got a licence for a petrol station out in the road about 30 kilometres out of Jo'burg, you'll get one cent or half a cent per litre of petrol you sell at the filling station as your income." I said, "You're offering me the job?"]