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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
25 Sep 2003: Maharaj, Mac
MM The information and gossip that I was receiving was suggesting that at the Market Theatre there's a park there, I think it's called Market Theatre, that is where journalists and many ANC individuals used to gather. From that circle it came through that people like Aziz Pahad were amongst the people who were saying that.
POM Why would he say that?
MM I am puzzled by that phrase. As I said, the NEC had issued a statement but it was also confirmed in an indirect way when Madiba visited me in the hospital at St Aidan's Hospital in Durban in September/October, he had said to me that he was now angry with the apartheid government because when he left for his trip abroad, another one of his trips, he had left the matter in the hands of Walter Sisulu to interact with the then Minister of Police who was Adriaan Vlok and that he had been told by Walter that those discussions had reached a point where Vlok had assured him that by 17 September I would either be released or charged and he was happy with that situation. But when he returned he found that September 17th had come and passed, 17th or 19th, and I was still in detention. He felt in his own mind that it was time to mobilise a mass campaign for my release but he said, "Appreciate one thing, I am facing formidable opposition from my executive." He didn't name the people but he said the opposition is arguing and criticising him, Madiba, for spending a disproportionate amount of time on the issue of my detention. They felt that he should rather spend less time on that and more on pushing the negotiation process. And he said, "That's quite a strong sentiment" but he said, "I've just arrived back and I will be going back and discussing with my comrades. In my own mind I feel that the time has arrived to take this issue up of your release in front of me and at the public level. That told me that there were people, however well meaning, who in their mindset saw the arrests of Vula as an impediment and an obstacle and from that
POM To negotiations?
MM And from that it very easily slid over to a view, however much they were not prepared to articulate it, that Vula may have been a misconceived operation but they couldn't say that because there were enough first hand witnesses beginning to say, hey chaps, we had mandated OR as far back as 1986 and you cannot go down that road. So they didn't pursue the logic of that argument.
POM In fact it would have been the same NEC, right?
POM That mandated him.
MM To do that.
POM To do that, that would have been still in office in 1990, right?
MM Yes. Exactly. And yet what it showed to me is that when we passed that resolution in 1986 mandating OR, in spite of the way I have described some of the key points of the discussion where OR said, "But are you aware of the consequences, implications? It means I could call anyone in this room", it means many people were out of the mindset, that the priority of the leadership going home and taking charge of the struggle inside the country had disappeared from their focus. It may have been there when they talked but it wasn't there as a practical, necessary step.
POM They were saying in a sense their thinking was that, sure, but when you say Mac would be going home, they're already saying well it won't be Mac, he's right beside me.
MM But I've got to go to the United Nations and I've got very important work to do in this and that external arena and I am a camp commander that's very important that the camp commander should not be disrupted. So as an actionable item it did not sit high in their mind.
What I am saying, Padraig, is that even when I mention Aziz as one the people who was definitely among the names the journalists came and told me and they also, amongst those names, they also mentioned Thabo. They mentioned Thabo in a different context and I have now had it even said to me by Jakes Gerwel recently. Because recently we spoke on the phone and this time what was at the back of my mind was the way he handled the Madiba foreword, but I didn't raise that matter, we were talking about something else.
which contradicted the picture that I was given in 1990 by Thabo. I said, "What do you mean?" He says he remembers I was close to him in 1990, I'd been meeting him many times abroad at international conferences, including Dakar, and he had left me in 1990 with the feeling where he had even said, "Agh, it's a good thing they were arrested. I would have had to do the same to them had I been a leader on the other side." So he says, "That thing, that affected me and when Madiba wrote these things in the foreword about Vula, I felt it necessary to take it through line by line and that his response was you put it as it is." So he says, "That's the only time, for the first time I realised that no, he definitely saw the picture that was painted to me by Thabo in 1990 was completely wrong."
POM I remember you talking about this before, you said that Thabo had more or lessrubbished Vula completely saying it was a waste of time.
MM So I'm mentioning these names but at the same time I have to ask myself that it can't be a personal issue because I've repeatedly told you that never have I seen a personal issue arise between Thabo and I and yet there is this conduct. So how do I explain it? I think in a very narrow way some of the people involved in the international arena, involved in these discussions that were going on abroad, had become so pro-negotiation that it was clouding their vision and it's a problem that arose even post-1990. This question of a balance between negotiating and still prosecuting the mass struggle, it led to an opposite extreme, the so-called Leipzig option which was saying I have no faith in negotiations but I can't say that but let me do work at the mass level that is going to carve a different route to change of government and that is the Leipzig mass situation. So that was the opposite extreme.
Again, the appreciation of the realignment of your operational arms in the developing situation was not being debated. Yesterday I discussed with you how in that group of Madiba we had to discuss what becomes a redefined role of the underground and how I indicated to you that I was unhappy with the concept, nice phrase, 'insurance policy'. I said insurance policy was defective because it did not come to grips with the issue of redefining the role. An insurance policy says carry on as before but keep it suppressed and you'll unleash it. I said, no, in my view it needed a redefinition approach.
So I think it's in that context that people got caught up and it betrayed amongst those who were rubbishing Vula, it betrayed what I came to on Joe Slovo on Groote Schuur, the lack of that single clause dealing with people illegally in the country in the underground.
POM It's like in a way that if there appeared to be this Groote Schuur followed by the Pretoria Minute and then, bang, you guys get right in the middle and upset the applecart and kind of hand something to the other side, you hand them a card they didn't have that they can now bang you over the head with and it's like you become an impediment and in that sense dispensable.
MM Yes. Whereas the principle of doing some things that are necessary for the strategy that should operate at the level of the president is deniability. That's all and that deniability is not for the movement, it is for instance today the president of the country must not be so compromised on operational issues that he has no space of So the principle of deniability rests with that office but it doesn't become a deniability for everybody in the government. When it becomes deniability for everybody in the government it becomes betrayal of your comrades.
Madiba, never in this whole period, never repudiated Vula and he continued to defend the people but never in a way that he got implicated. And yet I know as a man if push came to shove he would on his own stand up and say, 'But I knew', and yet it was our job to say don't create an environment where he has to say, 'But I knew' because that's the last defence where your leader stands up and says, 'If you want to destroy us you destroy me first.' Deniability says I deny it but you're still one of us. I will do everything in other ways to secure you but I will publicly not say that this was authorised by me. That's deniability. But I am saying that in that environment it showed, to me, a shallowness of perspective and when I said to Joe, 'betrayal', it may have been a very harsh word because it was not looking at what made them ignore the need for that clause. Similarly what happened in the Pretoria Minute when the other side, armed with what they had captured from me and their intelligence information put in after we had offered unilateral suspension of the armed struggle, it put in 'and related matters'. It looks a very innocuous clause but the 'and related matters' simply made the definition ambiguous and so new skirmishes started.
POM You said, just to say, Vula did issue a statement, or the ANC, can you remember when that was about?
MM The NEC would have issued the statement shortly after our detention. It would be August/September 1990.
POM Just to go back on one thing, you said you and Thabo never have had any sharp differences yet you also said that since you retired from politics you have never been invited to a single event, a single state function, you weren't even invited to the opening of the airport which was largely your job and you had stencilled in for him to do rather than Madiba who could have done it as a parting. Well then something is not right. Would Thabo never look around and say, "You know who I've never seen? Mac at any event, ever. Do we ever invite him to anything?" There has to be something.
MM I said in the case of the airport's opening, leading people in the Airport's Company board and leading people in the Department of Transport phoned me after the event to tell me from both sides that they had my name on the list.
POM And it was taken off? From the President's office?
MM And they said from the presidency, yes. I would think that the gatekeeper in the presidency was Essop Pahad.
POM So have you and Essop had a run in?
MM I've never worked closely with Essop.
POM He was on the Central Committee, right?
MM He came into the Central Committee quite late as a candidate member. I think that a candidate member to the Central Committee was done in his case somewhere around 1984. I have expressed views in the politburo disagreeing with that, not because he and I have had personal differences but because I did not agree with his approach and I felt that he was not a savoury person.
POM You say you didn't agree with his approach, you mean his - ?
MM His approach to politics. I've had too many incidences that I read and heard about not read, heard about of how he resorted to what I regard as thuggery, fisticuffs and all that in the ANC functions in London.
POM This would be before he went to Czechoslovakia?
MM Czechoslovakia. In London he invited me many times. I think I went to his flat only on one occasion. So as a person I wanted to stay far from him. Zarina will tell you her incident when Madiba went to London and took a disk from me, a private communication between Zarina and myself, how Essop wanted to prevent her from going to see Madiba.
POM This was when?
MM In 1990 while I am in the underground and Madiba is going over to London and Madiba says to me, "Mac, what can I do for you?" I said, "My wife is in a bad state, I have no way of confidential communication. The lines that I use for Vula, others see it so I can't send her a private communication." And he said, "Put it on a disk and I will deliver the disk to her and tell her to be in London when I'm there." So she went over to London.
POM She came from Brighton to London?
MM From Brighton to London and this was already at a time when the campaign for my release, the ANC Chief Representative had repudiated Vula, so she was experiencing difficulty.
POM The ANC Chief Rep in London?
MM Yes, Mendi Msimang, the now Treasurer General. He had gone on television straight after our arrest denying that the ANC had anything to do with Operation Vula and Zarina was on Channel 4 saying I was directly under OR's command. The result is that London, the campaign for my release in London was really taken up by the Anti-Apartheid Movement not by the ANC office and Zarina went along to Holland and Germany campaigning for my release through the Anti-Apartheid Movement. So when Madiba arrived there was first a meeting of close ANC comrades held at Adelaide's house, Zarina was not invited. Then she heard of a briefing, a gathering where he would meet South African ANC people abroad and she went there and in the audience she found that she could not go close to Madiba, it would be too overt. So she got out of the hall and went down the passage to go backstage and in the passage she met Essop Pahad and he said, "Where are you going?" She said, "I'm going to see Madiba." He said, "Who the hell do you think you are? You can't just go barging in to see him." And she had to resort to thuggery, she will tell you much better. She said to him, "Essop, you get out of my way otherwise I will bloody break your jaw." That's the only time he stepped aside. She went backstage and what she didn't know is that Madiba had taken the precaution that he may have difficulty in publicly contacting Zarina so he had given the disk to Kathy and said, "Kathy, watch out for Mac's wife. I don't know what she looks like." And Kathy said, "I don't know what she looks like." So he said, "You keep this disk and keep an eye out for Mac's wife and when you see her give her this disk", because I was still underground and it was important that he did not overtly seek this engagement. So this was illustrating Essop's attitude.
POM Was this before you were arrested?
MM Oh long before, before I surfaced. This is somewhere around March/April. As a I say, you see Padraig it's a funny thing, the movement survived in exile for 30 40 years conducting the struggle. I had the same problem when I was now surfacing. I'm in Moscow, this was when I was coming for the OR arrangement to go to Lusaka for the NEC meeting. I now have got to get from Moscow to Lusaka and I want to see Zarina so we agree with OR that I would head for Lusaka for the NEC meeting and that I would come via London both to see Zarina but also as a security mechanism to allow me to return to South Africa. My legend would be I'm taking a break from the drug treatment that I have been undergoing in the Soviet Union. I needed to surface via London so I needed to get a visa into London and I leave it to Shubin to speak to the ANC Chief Representative in Moscow whom I didn't want to see, Simon Makana because while he's Chief Representative they have blocked him from ever seeing me in hospital.
POM What's his second name? Mak-?
MM MAKANA. They've always said he's far out. Now I'm sitting in Moscow waiting for my visa and all that was needed was that there was an arrangement with the British government if the Southern African desk of the Foreign Office was told by the ANC office to grant somebody an entry they would just grant it. So my application is sent in to the British Embassy in Moscow and the British are playing games, they are saying, "We've sent it on to London." They're saying, when we're making enquiries, "Well tell Mac to come here." But in the meantime I'm busy growing my beard and moustache. So I don't want to appear with my appearance in question. I then phone London and I'm told by the London office of the ANC, "Comrade Mac, we are attending to your matter but you must appreciate there are large numbers of visas that we have to attend to all the time." So I keep phoning and finally London office says, "Look, please," one of the secretaries says, "Please understand there are urgent visas that we've got to attend to. Yours is a run of the mill one."
POM But you were a member of the NEC, right?
MM Yes, but you've been ill for two years, you are inactive, the reason why you're going to Lusaka is just going back to visit Lusaka. It doesn't say, listen chaps, I've got to go to the NEC meeting. So it's not being treated as priority. Finally what happens is that I then see Simon Makana and Simon says, "Mac, I've been trying. I can't get London to move on this matter." So I then say, "Shubin, buy me a one-way ticket to London." And I then say to Makana, or I phone the British Embassy and I say, "I'm flying tomorrow. With or without a visa I'm flying. I'm just informing you. You arrest me."
POM You weren't flying under your own name?
MM Own name, yes, my real name. So I said to the British, "I'm going and you can arrest me." That's when the British in Moscow suddenly jumped up and said to me, at five o'clock in the afternoon they phoned frantically, the Embassy is closed now, they close at about three o'clock, "Tell him to come here, we will give him his visa." But the condition they made is that I must come personally. So I went to the British Embassy, by this time my beard had more or less grown and the moustache, and they gave me my visa and when I arrived in London I said forget about this ANC problem. I dismissed it as, oh he's dying, he's now irrelevant.
POM But what was the game?
MM I think really in their minds it was irrelevant, it was unimportant. I was now no player.
POM Well then your legend had become super successful, you had killed yourself.
POM A dead man doesn't deserve a visa.
MM It was of no importance, he said it's for his personal fun, to see his family. Well, so what, so what.
POM Just on that, what was your relationship with Aziz Pahad?
MM Aziz and I had a number of very uncomfortable incidents. The sharpest one was it started over this question of the role of London. London, as I said, had been doing work at home from the time of exile but cut off from Dar Es Salaam and it was led by Slovo and Dadoo and the late Thomas Nkobi. So they were from 1965 making efforts, distributing propaganda, trying to send in people to get some work going.
POM You know we've dealt with Karl Edwards and he was close to Craig Williamson, so in a way he was Craig Williamson's he thought he had a little pot of gold in his hand with Craig Williamson.
MM But the question of their reporting to Lusaka was a tussle that it had dealt with. Now in that context Aziz was secretary of the Internal in London and yet was refusing to divulge information over Craig Williamson, the identity of the thing. That was one long battle which I overcame. The second one which was sharper arose around Beyers Naude and what was called a Halfway House group, Auret van Heerden. They were a group of comrades before the UDF who had cropped up in Jo'burg guided mainly by Beyers Naude and gathered around him who called themselves a Halfway House unit and they were under Auret, now mainly white students. I found traces in Botswana, etc. that there was such a grouping claiming to be the authentic voice of the ANC in the country and much of the evidence suggested not correct ways of working, that they were trying to determine all policy issues inside the country and using the guise that they are in touch with ANC head office. The matter blew up in a Revolutionary Council meeting in Maputo and I said I have a problem with this Halfway House unit. Oh the other one that was involved in it was Cedric Mason, the Reverend.
POM He was?
MM He was the right hand man of Beyers Naude. I had met Cedric's wife in Botswana, very warm towards each other but I detected, what is she doing here? And I realised that she was meeting a woman working for the Swedish Embassy, Inge. Between the two of them they had slipped up and indicated that they were, that Inge was running a special office for the ANC. So at the Maputo meeting of the Revolutionary Council
POM That would be a courier service to Lusaka or to London?
MM It was not clear. But it implied we are directly in touch with the President. So at the Maputo meeting I criticised the way this grouping around Halfway House was working and I said I don't know where to find these reports, I don't know who's in touch with these people at home. Nobody is telling me. I've been to London, I've questioned, I've asked in Lusaka, nobody tells me, but if it is work with the Internal I should know so that we don't run into cross-purposes. Quite a vigorous debate took place and in the end in that debate Aziz acknowledged that there were reports.
POM Aziz would be sitting on the Revolutionary Council?
MM Yes, he was invited to the extended meeting. It was an extended meeting now.
POM An extended meeting means that?
MM We would invite others, others would be invited yes. And Dr Dadoo had not come so he had suggested get Aziz. So Aziz in that debate said that they had so I took advantage of that. I asked the meeting to instruct him to make the reports available to me as Secretary of the Internal and it was agreed. OK, agreed. I then keep contacting Aziz, I say I need those reports, and in my communications with him he would deal with all the other issues but avoid answering this question. So finally I said to him I'm due in London on a certain date, will you have the reports ready? I get to London and I meet him and he says to me, "Mac, the records have been burnt." I say, "How dare you do that? There was a decision of the Revolutionary Council and you are telling me that after that decision you burnt them? That means to say you were determined that I should not get access to what was said in those communications." He didn't know how to answer. So I said, "But this is untenable." The matter never got resolved because I was not a person who would now go running to OR to complain because now if I complain what does it look like? I want him disciplined. I simply said to him
POM But this is a serious matter.
MM It's a very serious matter, very serious in my mind, but like I said I dealt with the Craig Williamson thing
POM Is this after Craig Williamson or before?
MM This is after Craig Williamson. And then the clash gets sharper. It's around this period that I am in London, passing through London, and Aziz I say to him I hear that Beyers Naude is going to be in Holland, I want to meet him. And Aziz says to me, "Well Beyers is going to be in Amsterdam in transit and he's agreed to meet us in the transit lounge at the airport."
POM This would be in London or Amsterdam?
MM Amsterdam. So Aziz and I fly together to Amsterdam to meet Beyers and Aziz now is busy telling me in the flight to handle Beyers gently. I said, "Sure, I'll handle him gently. But the one question, Aziz, that I want a very clear answer is who gives the mandate to Halfway House." He said, "Oh don't raise that question, don't raise that question." Now we're in the transit lounge waiting for Beyers to arrive in the restaurant and Aziz and I have a clash. I said, "No, Aziz, this is a question that I will pursue here." Aziz says, "You can't." I said, "I'm sorry, as Secretary of the Internal I'm going to." So Aziz says, "I say you can't." I said, "Well, you try to stop me. You can pursue the matter elsewhere but right here I am meeting Beyers Naude in my capacity as Secretary of the Internal and any view you have on this matter I overrule."
So we had a very sharp clash. He was surprised. I met Beyers in his presence, very polite meeting. I never had to ask the question because Beyers made it very clear that he did not regard himself as a member of the ANC but he regarded himself as doing things which were in sync with the ANC's thinking. He was defending the armed struggle, he was helping people, any activist who wanted to support the release of Mandela, unbanning of the ANC, who wanted to be involved in the mass struggle, he supported all that. But from his position he said, "I am not a member." To me that was satisfactory. So when we parted from Beyers I said to Aziz, "You've been describing Halfway House as under the discipline of the ANC. This is not a unit of the ANC. They cannot be the repository of the determination of ANC policy at home. They are a sympathetic group but you can't make sympathisers who are not under our discipline to conduct themselves with amandate that they are speaking on behalf of the movement. The matter did not need to be pursued with Beyers Naude." And he had no answer to that.
So there were clashes with Aziz and there were clashes with Aziz because of several aspects. This was one dimension. The other dimension which we never spoke openly about is that I came to the conclusion that Aziz was simultaneously head of the ANC Intelligence unit in London and I had a position on such questions. I never, never agreed with the view that Intelligence people should head political or military structures.
So I was trying to answer the question of my relations with Aziz. The intelligence angle only cropped up in my mind later. My concerns about when you combine and give a person a high office in, say, the political structure who is a key intelligence person, or even a junior, is that you have clouded the lines because Intelligence is picking up information and if it becomes the arbiter of what should be the political decision I believe that you can go horribly wrong.
It is a battle that I could not take up in Lusaka because I did not believe that the mindset was ready to address this question but it arose then sharply between Mo Shaik and myself when I entered the country in Vula. I insisted through open discussion with Mo, which Mo didn't accept ever, I think he now accepts it, that you cannot have that blurring of lines. In Durban I made sure that Mo's structure was not under the command of Vula and I made sure, therefore, that he did not sit in the committees which would take a decision of which was to proceed on general political questions. I used the information to crosscheck whether we were doing right. Mo, as I think I told you, was bitter about why I did not put him into the committee. I've explained this to him over and over.
POM Into the Political/Military Committee?
MM I said I would prefer a situation when a matter is discussed in a Political/Military Committee and after it is discussed what it thinks should be done you do a crosscheck with the Intelligence side to say does your information throw new light or suggest that this approach is wrong? But I did not want that information to be tabled to influence how you should decide to act politically because I felt that when people dropped these things in a dark way I had information that the enemy is thinking this way. You can very easily be swayed by that.
POM If the intelligence side said that?
POM So if the intelligence side was sitting there saying well we have information that would suggest other than what you're thinking, then it changes the whole internal dynamics of the debate that you're conducting.
MM And that in that debate if you said to Intelligence, what's the basis of your view, they would say they have to protect the source, whereas politically when you're discussing and you said to the political side what's the basis of your view, you would say it has the support of so-and-so at home, so-and-so at home and so-and-so at home. You'd put it on the table.
That type of debate, the danger, Padraig, is that because the Intelligence person is participating in the meeting with his undisclosed sources you can't evaluate. You can only use that as a crosscheck and with Mo, for example, the issue went to a small operational matter. The first time one of our working places got detected by the Security Branch was an outhouse used by Kevin, the man in charge of the ignition devices. He was a difficult character, difficult to keep in discipline but trained in Cuba and a very brilliant ignition and timing device manufacturer.
I come into Durban and as usual I go first to Mo's to get a reading and Mo says, "Mac, do you people have a clandestine house, working place in Reservoir Hills? Why didn't you tell me?" So I say, "What address?" He says, "No, tell me, do you have a house there?" I said, "No, I'm not prepared to disclose that." He says, "You see if you give me your houses I will keep them all the time screened from within the Security Branch whether they are watching them." I said, "No, not going to do that. You tell me the house and I will then decide and it may be, may not be, but I will then tell you on a specific house." So he came back and said, "It's a house at this address." By that time I'd started by checking and I said, "Yes, it's our house. But now, Mo, I need to know exactly what do the enemy know about that house." So he comes back and he says, "Listen, within X radius of that house, that area, they have (a) bugged all phones, (b) they have a surveillance team with a camera mounted somewhere observing." And this cottage, this servants' quarters, is up a hill but the parking for the car is at the bottom, you had to walk up. So he says, "They are keeping observation of who's moving in and out of that yard. The main house is at the bottom." So I say, "Go back. I want to know whether they have got a picture of the man if you say they have got surveillance cameras." He came back and he said, "The photograph that they have shows the person entering a car, the number plates are not visible and the shot is down the hill so it has taken a side to back view of the man."I interrogated all the information, went and took precautions that Kevin never goes back to that house, whisked him away elsewhere and a few weeks later whisked him out of the country against his wishes.
So to return to this matter. We took all the precautions and we saved the man and we made sure nobody got arrested. Now Mo was saying give me all your addresses, you can see how I can help you. And I said, "No, there's a principle involved here. If I give you the addresses we are reversing the order. It's your job to sniff out what the enemy know and it doesn't matter whether it knows real places and places of other people that are not connected with us. When you bring that information to me then I will tell you whether it's a house that we are using or not. Then your procedure becomes is it a house used by somebody else in the movement? But I cannot give you the names and addresses in advance. If I gave it to you I'm putting the relationship the wrong way round."
We continued that way in the relationship. I'm being very firm on it. How else do you persuade, in a movement such as we had, the very crucial importance of not putting the Intelligence person to be the Secretary of the Political. Often they would go, fairly legitimate in my view and I haven't thought it through, they would go you are working under me they would go to you to sniff out information of what I'm doing. I said, "Wrong chaps, it's wrong. I'm a member of the NEC and I'm the Secretary of the Internal. You want something about me you go to my senior, you don't go to my junior. Because if you go to my junior I've lost control of the discipline of that structure because I don't know now what is my relationship with my junior."
And I had this constant battle which took me towards my views about the relationship between political and intelligence. But in Aziz's case the matter never arose until now that I'm working on this whole Bible Project that it became clear he was a key man in London. Those were assumed to give Intelligence a strategic advantage but I am saying what is the heart of the struggle? Isn't it the political/military components? Intelligence is not the heart but when you make the Intelligence man the head also of the Political/Military you've reversed the order. So that's the context of my problems about Aziz and they're not of his own making, they're of the making of unthinking positions taken in the UK.
MM Positions. And I think that they are an inheritance of the training that we were receiving in the Soviet Union and GDR because Andropov, the head of the KGB, became the President of the country and whatever I may think of him in his short span of presidency, there's a problem there. It meant that the KGB through their informants were shaping their thinking as the primary way of how you interpret the political development. So it's my problem.
POM While Aziz was being taken to the cleaners by Karl Edwards and Craig Williamson he was also head of Intelligence in the UK for the UK.
MM And it means when he made a mistake he covered the tracks. It means when a unit that he was handling at home was taking him for a ride he had no checks and balances. When I tell him Halfway House is making tactical mistakes he says, "I know better, I know better because I have intelligence sources."
POM This question just interests me peripherally but comes up in relation to Craig Williamson, whom I did write to through his lawyer, who I guess the answer is no, as Judy would have gotten back to me by now one way or the other. Was he something in the other activities, did he have a close relationship to Thomas Nkobi?
MM In his position at the IUF, yes.
POM And he had a close relationship with Aziz?
POM But these were social relationships as well as - ?
MM I'm not aware of the social relationship, I'm aware of the close political relationship with Aziz and I'm aware of the close political relationship at the level of the IUF funding many ANC projects in which Craig Williamson, Lars Gunnar Ericson, the Secretary General of the IUF, were crucial players. And Nkobi when he met Lars would often meet when Lars is there with Craig and Craig was Lars' man of the IUF travelling through southern Africa. So Nkobi would have had a close relationship with him. Aziz would have had a close relationship with him through that unit of Craig's. And Aziz could have had a close relationship at the overt level in the IUF relating to the London office of the ANC.
POM There's no knowing what information they unwittingly passed on to Craig?
MM Sure. Let's stretch the scenario. Craig is a key man for a unit at home. The unit wants to understand, and it's distributing propaganda, putting up leaflets at home.
POM Doing a great job.
MM And the unit wants to feel that it understands your strategy well. It doesn't have to ask it crudely but in a sophisticated way wants periodic discussions, hey, what's the decision of the NEC about home? How should we approach it? Sure if I was in Aziz's position I'd say, "Well, you guys are reliable, you have been operating for two or three years, you're doing a magnificent job, listen comrades, there are some problems. We're not making progress but don't worry, comrades, we took some very important decisions, we're going to be taking the offensive. Well politically home is getting ripe. I think a broad united front will be developing soon. Discussions are going on." "With whom?" "No, I can't divulge with whom but we are doing that." "Aziz, what about militarily?" Was militarily also there's been a lot of criticism, a lot of casualties but we have found a lot of infiltration going on, we have asked the security department to tighten up. We can't afford to have so many agents being pumped into our hands and just having to feed them in Angola. We now have taken a decision to step up that work and to even screen them right at the frontline states and anybody who is a suspected enemy agent instead of dumping them in Angola, send them off to Tanzania, send them off for scholarships. Thirdly, we are facing problems with units entering the country and we are going on an offensive. He might even say we're going to have landmines planted.
Now such a briefing is not inconceivable to boost morale, to have them understand how the strategies are unfolding so that their individual work as a unit is seen by them as important and therefore is a little beyond what would be in the public arena. How far beyond depends on how close your relationships are and the fact that Aziz defended the identity of these people so persistently indicated how jealously he was guarding it but the jealousy in guarding it arose from a work style, which is what I said to you previously. But when I add the intelligence dimension then his attitude would have been that Mac's not an Intelligence department, I'm not going to tell him that, but I know better than him because I have verification from my Intelligence chaps, both my own sources in Intelligence and my discussions with the head of Intelligence.
Then you see this - from what Pat was saying, my experiences in South Africa in the early eighties, the British communists were firm supporters of our struggle, raised the question he was teaching in 1979/80 and knew Zarina and in spite of the sanctions wanted to visit South Africa and I thought it's good for him to visit South Africa so that we'd develop him for use in the underground. Padraig, he came here and spent three weeks and when he came back he had a glowing picture of South Africa, he had a fantastic time. I personally met him, "What's this? I hear you had a great time." He said, "Yes. Such warm people." And we chatted and chatted, he'd been to braai after braai in the northern suburbs and I said, "Ah! This man sees nothing wrong with apartheid." I said to him, "Did you meet black people?" Yes. "In what capacity? Did you meet them in any interaction besides seeing them in the streets?" "Oh at friends' places, houses, they were the servants and the gardeners." I said, "Is that the only perspective you had?" "Jesus", I said, "Did you go to Soweto?" He said, "I didn't have time."
I was speaking of it last night, she put it correctly, but what she was saying is that the foreign visitor coming there on some official mission, even from the unions, is living in an isolated, insulated compartment.
POM To be fair to her they went to Soweto, they had a whole day in Bara Hospital, they went to Alexandra, talked to all the community leaders out there.
MM No, she was talking about Harare. What she was saying is, "We didn't notice the shortage of food in the restaurants that we went to. The hotel that we stayed at we didn't see it. We didn't experience the fuel shortage because the unions picked us up and they had the fuel."
POM That's right.
MM But the taxis are not running. So you are living in an insulated capsule and you just cannot see what the ordinary people are experiencing and so we can extrapolate why aren't they rising up. Like Pat said, inexplicable why the people are not rising up with their suffering and she made the caveat that we haven't seen the countryside where it must be worse and you jumped in and said, "But wait a minute, the fear factor." But we've not interacted at the community level to understand what is the content of that fear and we are merely analysing and surmising from our past knowledge that the fear in Matabeleland is different from the fear in Harare and it's different from the fear in Chimoro. Yet if I was MDC I would be saying I need to understand those fears and how they differ and where's the commonality of the fears so that I can address the question of how do they overcome the fear.
So back it comes to the same problem, Padraig. The hat you're wearing and you can't wear two, three hats at one time which collapse the information and put you to make the judgement call. You will begin to depend on one or other information channel as the more reliable channel and you will kid yourself you're doing a crosscheck. In the meantime you are walking down a slippery path. The consequences of that slippery path you can see in countries like the Soviet Union, you can see it in the GDR. The Secret Services became the conduit through which the leader of the country was filtering everything to the point where the Secret Service viewpoint was the basis of his political position rather than what are the people feeling, what are they thinking on the ground? Because that's what your struggle is. But the Secret Service man says, oh! Alexandra Township, dismiss all those reports that the people have got grievances, their problem is that there are fifth columns and saboteurs, the DA is stoking those people up. And don't worry about it, it's irrelevant that people don't pay regard to the DA. What you're forgetting is that, wait a minute, the people are bitter about the fact that their water is not running.
We can carry on but let's shut shop now.
POM You have to run.
MM I've got to go and try and sort out Joey's passport.
POM We finished with Essop Pahad and the relationship between intelligence gathering and the place of intelligence in a decision making structure, any decision making structure. So now I'm still on page 9 of chapter 21, Appointment of Internal Leadership. We come to the little part where you and Walter have a chat, you're retired and this is when he says why don't you write. You say, "Walter, I can't write. The things I would write about would harm the movement."
POM You have here 'would'. So we'll make it a 'might'.
MM Or say 'could'.
POM "But Walter, I'll tell the truth." He says, "Tell the truth." "But the truth may hurt the movement." He says, "Mac, the truth would never hurt the movement but will grow stronger from the truth." And then later you go and you say when you're talking to Joe, you say, "But I told Walter that if I write there's a danger that some of the things I say might harm the movement and I don't want to harm the movement. I'm happy with my quiet life." "The truth will never hurt, it will always come out stronger." Slovo says, "What do you mean?" You said, "Joe I'm not talking about individuals, I'm talking about the left and the problems of the left." He says, "Like what?" I say, "Well listen, it's a legitimate question to ask whether the left reach a point in its lifespan or its existence that it lost its revolutionary nerve. Wouldn't that be a legitimate question?" And he says, "What do you mean?" blah, blah, blah. And I said, "Joe, the question is did the left lose its revolutionary nerve? If so when and why is an interesting question to debate."
Away you go. Did the left lose its revolutionary nerve. What do mean by revolutionary nerve to start with?
MM One of the elements that bugs me and for which I have a fair understanding, sympathy, but it's a question: how did a guerrilla movement led by the ANC in alliance with the SACP reach a point with all the difficulties at home that never once did its top military commanders, active military commanders in the topmost ranks, enter the country, even if it was for a very short stay? I have not known another guerrilla movement to have done that. Then I can understand the difficulties that were faced and I can understand the caution that became necessary in the light of those difficulties. But to the best of my knowledge the first who tried was Comrade Flag Boshielo and his insistence was acceded to, I'm told.
POM Who was he?
MM He was a member of the National Executive and Commissar in MK.
POM What period?
MM In the exile period.
POM Was he in Angola?
MM He was in the sixties, no that's before Angola, sixties and seventies. I would think it was in the late sixties, early seventies, can't remember the date, I was in prison at that time, and he disappeared in crossing from Zambia to Botswana at the Caprivi Strip. It appears that he was intercepted by the enemy and it seems they knew of his moves and he was picked up there and eliminated, whether in a gun fight or what but he disappeared off the face of the earth. His body has never been found, the circumstances of his death remain unclear. But I know we have named a dam after him in the Northern Province.
The second NEC member, this time with the support of the movement, full support of the leadership I'd better be careful, I'm not so sure that the entire leadership was aware was Chris Hani and that was round about 1973 where he crossed overland from Botswana and settled in Lesotho which was an enclave, the heart of South Africa but outside the reach of the South African state.
POM Joe Modise as the Chief of Staff of the army, especially from the time he was involved in Wankie, in fact from the time he went into exile never set foot in South Africa as head of MK until he came back from exile.
MM Not just him. I don't want to personalise it, the entire military command, nobody in that command structure came to South Africa. So I pose the question, why, why, why? Obviously I had to face this question when I was saying, chaps, we must send senior people home. The 'why' relates to my question, not a conclusion did the left at some point lose its revolutionary nerve?
I haven't gone further in exploring it but certainly when Walter asked me this question and when Joe took it up it's a question that was intriguing me and, sure enough that when I came out of the Vula arrest my experience in Vula had shown that, yes, I could have got caught but also, yes, if you took precautions you could have got back on a month, two month mission, safely back to base but with a first hand understanding of the terrain. We believed that it was a critical element that was missing in our planning, a first hand appreciation of the situation not just of what the enemy is doing but of the mood of the masses of the people that were rising in the front of the masses at different times so that you could make an assessment of the particular operational tactics that you would use. Did we understand, e.g. that despite all the cordon that South Africa had put around the borders with the commando system, the National Security Management System, you could penetrate that cordon and get deep into the country?
We did it on an ad hoc basis because our plan went askew on the crossing from Swaziland. We could have sat back and said, uh-uh, it's gone wrong, let's retreat, we'll do it another day. As it happened we didn't, we crossed. Our travels from the Swazi border through KwaZulu-Natal, through into Johannesburg was totally uneventful. No circumstance arose, there were circumstances of danger, but no circumstance of danger arose such that it was an obstacle that was not surmountable.
POM Did you send a message like this back to OR and Slovo saying believe it or not when we crossed the border we did it on an ad hoc basis and we madeour way from the border all the way to Johannesburg, no difficulties at all?
MM I didn't send a message. At that time the communication system was still very rudimentary. But certainly the man who brought us in, who made the arrangements in Swaziland, the Dutchman who brought us, drove us through and got back to Swaziland, would have reported to Ivan and Ivan was there supervising our crossing and knew the ad hoc measures we were taking. So he would have got back to head office and reported how it happened and how we improvised. Maybe OR and JS might have thrown up their hands and said, good God! What a bloody reckless chap Mac is, and Gebhuza. But the fact that we succeeded ought to have made a person, at least JS, sit up because he had been an operational commander for years based in Maputo.
POM He was sending other people in.
MM Sending Special Ops with a very great record of success. So his own experience would have said it and with mine, even if you dismissed it as an adventurous action, its success should have made some impression.
POM Would there have been any element among the command structure as a group that because they had been out of South Africa for so long that they had in one sense built up in their minds this myth of invincibility about the enemy and were exaggerating they exaggerated in their own minds the dangers that might exist in South Africa simply because they didn't know South Africa?
MM No. From my point of view, as I say I don't want to talk about these things in a way that takes cheap shots at the movement. I think it's very easy to take cheap shots.
POM Interestingly in one of my commentary chapters I have addressed this whole issue so I am just interested to see what you say.
MM What I have, Padraig, is what I gave you in the rewrite of Vula, the mindset change issue. Because there I'm saying unless you make those moves and implement them and even hit failures how would you understand that there was need for a mindset change? That's what I'm saying. But when I expand that question I say it raises a legitimate debate around the question did the left lose its revolutionary nerve at some point? And when you lose your nerve you're not aware whether you've lost your nerve. So you're right to raise the question in that debate: is it possible that while strategically you said we shall overcome, at the same time there was another part of your cerebrum saying that the enemy is invincible or the enemy is all-powerful and so powerful we cannot make this move. So the argument is to become: are the conditions mature for you to enter?
History has shown a different lesson. When Fidel Castro, when his boatload came, everything says, the textbook says disaster and only twelve survived on landing. But those twelve were the catalyst and the key to the Cuban revolution. So even what is adventurous and what is not adventurous is very easy to debate around an armchair. You can define it as much as you want and kill that horse. At the end of the day in terms of real history of social change, whether it was adventurous or not, the point is he delivered the result.
So these questions arise and I, for one reason or another in the mindset of the time, threw up this question with Joe. I haven't sat down to do a scrutiny of our history and answer this question but I say there were many, many pointers to raise a question of legitimate debate when you are now engaging in the historical work. At the same time bear in mind that the judgements of that historical work will be that the ANC and the alliance it led eventually brought about democracy in 1994. So you can also debate the what-ifs but I'm not a person who likes to debate the what-ifs. Would it have been shorter? Would it have been quicker? Would it have been a bigger disaster? Would the outcome have been different? I am saying I can't answer the question how come, putting our situation outside of the two instances that I have referred to, such a
POM Which in a sense makes it as a revolutionary struggle almost unique in the world.
MM Is it possible that the international support we were receiving, the breadth of that international support, shifted the balance of where we should put our energy in our practical thinking. So, possible. And the United Nations distinguished our case by saying this is the only place in the world where racialism is institutionalised and legalised. So the United Nations under pressure to do something made that distinction.
POM So, with the benefit of hindsight, just in broad reflective terms, do you think there did come a point where not so much that the left may have lost its nerve, perhaps more that it just became used to being in exile? Exile became, in a way, home and as the years went by South Africa was there but it was, I won't say becoming more of an abstraction, but the same as if you're away from anything for a long period of time it begins to absorb a different place in the way you think about it.
MM Yes, and there is a reality that exists any time, when you wage a struggle from exile a certain in the worst of times, even in prison you built a comfort zone and change is always a bit of a scary thing. So there is a sort of inertia that could have set in. I think that the bulk of the members and the leadership always thought of getting home but between the dream and the existing reality there is the issue of what you're doing about realising that dream.
POM It's like Scarlett O'Hara, what's the phrase, what she said? About tomorrow? Gone with the Wind, it's like, oh, I'll do it tomorrow.
MM That inertia is there in everybody because I say that change is what everybody wants but when change comes it's a bit of a scary thing. I don't want to analyse it in those terms. And yet when you're dealing with historical events in which you are a player, no matter how insignificant, it is inevitable that any writing of those historical events is coloured by your mindset. What I was saying to Walter is these are the sort of questions that are buzzing at the back of my mind but if I wrote I would have to examine that critically. Maybe it was a bit of a cop-out answer, was I ready to examine that critically? Because it's a difficult thing when you are yourself a player in that scene and you can be accused of being swayed by your narrow personal circumstances. That's why I say this is a class for historians for examine. We who were the generation who were part of the players of the time can take part in the debate but I'm not so sure we can lead that debate.
POM If there were a motion before the House and the motion was 'Did the left lose it's historical nerve', and you were asked to debate one or other side of the question, which side would you choose to argue?
MM I would choose to argue that on the large scale it delivered the result but in the smaller scenarios there are turns and twists and however much they can be explained away leave some questions open.
POM Just the most convoluted response I've ever heard in my life.
MM Convoluted because I
POM You're supposed to make this presentation before an audience to win your point. Which side - ?
MM I don't want to win any points, Padraig.
POM Which side of the debate were you on there?
MM I would be asking both sides of the debate to flesh out their arguments and I would myself say when you are doing that I'm amongst the people that you are putting under the microscope and I'm saying I'm inviting you to do so but don't do so with a pre-determined answer. That's all.
POM I'm going to add that to your list of tasks for next month, just for diversion's sake, when you can do this in a reflective way.
You have a reference here, page 10, "As it happened the party never explained it, the communist party. I had an occasion when the media carried a report to write a letter to Joe saying, Joe, you know the circumstances on which I retired." Can you remember whereabouts, the time that report might have been so I can dig it out?
MM I'm not sure, no, it was not a letter to the press, it was a letter to Joe, General Secretary of the party.
POM "As it happened the party never explained it and I had on - ", one occasion?
MM Yes, I had an occasion.
POM An occasion.
MM The media carried a report. To then write to Joe Slovo.
POM That's what I meant. Can you remember when the media might have reported it?
MM I don't even remember what it was but it was a media report that carried a hint which sort of implied or questioned the motives for my retirement. So I wrote to Joe and I said I think you guys ought to explain and I reminded him of the terms. What do I say? Did he ever respond to me? I don't think he wrote a letter back to me. He never wrote a letter back to me.
POM At the end of this you had, "I've lived through the period I've read about what has happened in many countries where revolutions have gone haywire. In my view the socialist countries ended the way they did because the experiment became badly flawed very early into the revolution." Does that go back to what we were talking about earlier? To intelligence agencies becoming the main instrument of policy making? Or did you have something broader in mind?
MM They became later, to the best of my knowledge, my reading of, for example, the Soviet history, the intelligence service's predominance came up later, more likely around the thirties. But in the Soviet Union I've said that I don't think that the blame is aberrations of Stalin. I think it goes right down to before Stalin.
POM But we're talking about socialist countries in general, not the Soviet Union in particular.
MM Yes but in the Soviet Union I've said that I questioned the validity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, a concept that was coined and crafted by Lenin and that was pre-1917. He had put it up in a debate, it became an issue of division in the Second International and led to the establishment of the Third International. So, yes, I haven't kept abreast of the reading but that was pointing to the fact that, yes, we said Stalin was wrong in 1953, then we said it was wrong in Hungary, then we said it was wrong in 1936, then it was wrong in forced collectivisation, but we kept pushing and we kept saying 'wrong but - but good', and my view when I say that, that there was something not just in the international climate but in the internal dynamics that made the flaw.
POM Even though in May you had held, you said at the Tongaat conference as a way of making the party surface, you were setting, as you say yourself, you were setting that in a legal space, giving it a context in which the party should surface. Then a month later you quit.
MM And even at Tongaat in the absence of a statement from the General Secretary I then wrote in the early hours of the morning the introductory message, the opening remarks, and one of my themes or the central theme of that message was that please let's not clothe ourselves with a sense of infallibility. Even at the level of ideology I specifically said that people from the religious sector, which Marx said was an opiate of the people, in the different religions have made enormous contributions to humankind's progress and in our own country have been playing a very important role and we as a party must look, reflect and remember that there are good people committed to the ideals of socialism who are not in the party, who come from their own ideological, religious perceptions but believe in the equality of man. So that was my theme because it was tuned to the space that I was seeing opening up in the road. In spite of all that the developments subsequently over the choice of how we would launch pushed me to say, no, this is one battle too many to lose. And I said to my colleagues in that extended PB meeting, "I think you're losing the moment."
POM Losing the moment?
POM Just to finish with Tongaat, Tongaat would have happened I'll find it some place.
MM I can give you the exact dates.
POM You were out of the country. 20 May.
MM No not out of the country. 20 May is a Sunday. The conference is 19th and 20th.
POM Now I'm on a chapter called Harare to Mandela, Moving Towards Negotiations. Just going back to the Harare Declaration, beyond Mandela can you remember a number of the other nine or ten individuals you were asked to consult with, this is page 6.
MM They would have included the likely candidates would have been Cyril, Jay Naidoo, Frank Chikane or Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, Nair, Mufamadi.
POM OK, if anyone else comes to mind we'll pick him up later. We're now dealing with chapter 39 Reflections on Madiba's Release, page 1. I said what emotions were you going through. You said, "The second element that was very strong in my mind was that the burden to carry this forward was going to rest solely on Madiba and Walter Sisulu's shoulders." Why do you say it only rested on them? Let me read the previous sentence, you were hiding in a hideout. "The level of the country I was clear in my mind that the enormous opportunities that had been opened up at the unbanning and by Madiba's release. The second element that was very strong in my mind was that the burden to carry this forward was going to rest wholly on Madiba and Walter Sisulu's shoulders." Why did you think it would rest solely on their shoulders?
MM In the course of my involvement in the struggle Madiba, Walter and Oliver Tambo came up as people I had direct experience of which showed them to be standing head and shoulders above us. They, as a team, were outstanding and I thought that OR had performed immensely well through those exile years but his stroke robbed this trio and I looked around and I said who would they share the burden with? And I came to the conclusion that in the environment that had arisen they would have to be the innovators and they would have to carry the burden of that innovation.
POM What led you to that conclusion?
MM It's because of my admiration for their leadership qualities and their insight. I'll give you an example today, Padraig. I think that the question of traditional institutions is very, very (complicated). I don't think that the simple answer that it is anti-democratic shows the way to handle it. The answer that Madiba is sort of zig-zagging his way through this problem is because he's born in a Xhosa - Walter wasn't born into that but Walter is as appreciative of that mood. I have seen Mozambique, Angola, simply dismantle the traditional structures, say they have no place, Samora even said beware of the people who come with tribal markings on their faces. Angola abolished it. They had to reinstate it.A sizeable percentage of the population of South Africa still in one way or the other adheres to the practices of the traditional leadership. Whether you carve a space for them without undermining the democratic precepts that are the foundation for our constitution today - sometimes people debate, reinstate the old traditional authority. Which old one? Pre-colonial? Society has developed past that stage but the pre-colonial system has not evolved with changes in society except as an appendage to colonialism.
So I think that there is a huge problem and I think that the sensitivity and authority that goes with it needs to be exercised. That's why Madiba presently has been, in the recent years, has been articulating and saying to the traditional leaders that you have a place, and shows them a lot of respect. But at the same time he says if you want to be in the political area give up your traditional leadership for me, be in an elected government. But he says, bear in mind if you don't change you may lead the people to the wrong solutions. Look how the monarchy in Norway evolved. It is still a symbol of unifying the Norwegian people but it has no political authority and yet nobody says that Norway is not a democratic country but nor does the King of Norway try to intrude on the political terrain and insist that he must have a say and be the final authority in decision making. So Madiba cites these examples, the British monarchy, the Queen of Holland, etc.
I am saying the quality they brought at that time to me in negotiations. the potential had arisen but you had to drive it, how did you bring that with a balance, with the need for the mass politicisation not to be arrested? It had to be promoted. How did you set about then manoeuvring in the international terrain where the world was now the era that opened up in the nineties of a unipolar world in the midst of globalisation? How did you manoeuvre then inside the country around the need for the tripartite alliance? How did you manoeuvre then to attend to the work of organising the ANC in the space that had opened up and at the same time while pursuing negotiations show that the task of not weakening your forces engaged in negotiations but at the same time found enough resources to get ready for an election that could happen any time? And nowhere could you manoeuvre yourself and be put against the wall if De Klerk said, 'Agreed, let's have elections in six months', in 1992. How do you manoeuvre?
POM It couldn't have been done.
MM Yes, couldn't have been done, but you couldn't allow it to be said in public that you are saying no, no, no, hold on longer. How are you going to manoeuvre in an era when ?
POM Just hold on for a second because you have also said and many people have said that De Klerk wanted to postpone the election as long as possible. I would have argued, in fact still would, that the quicker the election was held the better off De Klerk would be.
MM De Klerk was going to be. True.
POM But then if that was in his favour then why would he say I'll postpone elections as long as possible so that I can divide the ANC and destroy them or whatever?
MM On his side his calculation was that the emotions were so high that emotionally it would not be good for him. He was still thinking that the outcome of the negotiations would leave some of the levers of power in his hands.
POM But there would have been more levers of power in his hand if he'd gone for if as you say the ANC was in no position in 1992 to engage in an election, you had Alfred Nzo's long report that he gave to the National Executive about, my God, the total disorganisation that existed at the end of 1991. In the early years, up until Boipatong, he was still Comrade de Klerk to many black people.
MM I have said so. I think I've said it to you in one of the discussions. I said, Jesus! If De Klerk had looked at the problem differently, let's say on February 2 he announces and February 11 he releases Madiba, he's unbanned the ANC, the Communist Party, MK, everything, and with that if he said I'm inviting Mandela and six of his people selected by him to come into my cabinet for the purposes of elections to be held in 12 months time, or created some interim body, if he said - while I continue to rule the country I'm setting up an interim body made up of six/six from both sides who will supervise the elections, where would we have been?
Look at what happens in Burundi, in Sierra Leone, in Liberia, the moment that issue of elections is put on in a year's time.
POM Everyone says terrific.
MM But everyone starts stalling. Everyone starts stalling because they are afraid that from a position of disempowerment they are afraid that the other one has controlled the state structures and resources and now looks like the champion of freedom. So I agree with you but I say publicly you can't say no.
POM Because that arises when you say at the end of this, on page 6 of this chapter, "But when I look at where we are today I'm convinced that if we could have concluded the negotiating process by 1992 and had elections early in 1993 this country could have been saved a lot of trauma."
POM The country wasn't, or the ANC wouldn't have been ready for elections in 1992 but by early 1993 they would have been or might have been. You had, as you call it, the unravelling of the social fabric that began to take place in 1990 and continued on right through 1994 and into the transition in fact.
MM What was happening, the trauma, as I say we could have shortened. I say even if the ANC would not have come out as strong as it came out in 1994 it still would have come out with a majority but what we would have saved was a whole destruction that was going on the ground of the fabric of society. And I am saying in my view even at the risk that the ANC majority may have been much smaller less of that destruction would have paid off more for us, for the country. That's all, that's all I'm saying. For that of course I do end up saying, for that I blame De Klerk but I say from my side if the negotiations had been concluded in 1992 the ANC would have had to find ways to gear itself ready for the elections, however inadequately, but De Klerk had gone into a postponement mode. I think the thing that tipped De Klerk was the referendum of 1992.
POM Gave him a false sense of
MM It gave him a false sense that the white constituency was intact behind him and that now he just needed to make a little more inroads and in 1992 he felt his alliance with the IFP was still on. It is in 1992 through the Record of Understanding that we unravelled that. So he had a false sense of where he could go and that false sense led him to conduct himself in the negotiations, his team to conduct itself in a way that slowed down the negotiation process and the negotiation process kicked into gear again after the Record of Understanding, which I think is September 1992. Then we were faced with a bit of a skirmish coming from the IFP side but I think that it then moved fast.
POM Anyway, what role did Walter Sisulu play? Was he there as counsellor to Madiba, the one person he could always turn to and absolutely trust?
MM Yes. It is clear from Madiba's own recollections and stories and writings, he used to, up to 1994, make it a point no matter where he was at whatever time of the night, he would just almost invariably drop in at Walter and wake him up at his house and talk. And he's never divulged to talk about what. He's rather jokingly told stories about how he recalls he was returning from some place and it was eleven o'clock at night and he said, "Oh where are we? Go past Soweto, go to Walter's place. Stop there." And he would have no compunction waking up Walter. Now you know, I know, when that happens you're going to a confidant, you're not going with necessarily an issue and what Walter might ask you might be a completely different thing from what is sitting in your head but you know that if I stopped at Padraig's all these things that are whizzing through my mind, even in a state of exhaustion, just 20 minutes with him would be helpful. So Madiba was doing that very regularly. We can only surmise what was happening and nothing like a decision taking but a clarification of thought, a sifting was crucial. That's it. And it is reflected in post-1994 Walter said one day to me, "Mac, why don't you and others, Kathy, find time and go to Madiba. He is living in an environment who does he consult?" And I'd say, "But he's busy, he's the President. You can't walk in." He said, "But you should. You are leaving him alone and he therefore has no option but to consult whoever drops in on him. What you are robbing him of is a secure set of comrades not to plot and determine but just to exchange views." So that was a criticism that Walter made to me. I know he made this criticism and observation to Kathy as well. I don't know who else he made it to.
POM It would be like you would be providing him with a comfort zone. He didn't have to be president, he didn't have to act in a presidential manner.
MM No, but just relax, talk and be relaxed with us, not on the basis I have to do something, I have to do something. So that observation by Walter is a clue to the type of interaction that Walter and Madiba had been having earlier and he was virtually saying, "I can't do it any more both for my age, health and everything and circumstances. But you people are sitting in that ship in the control tower and there are people in that control tower who ought to be going to Madiba and providing him with that sounding board."
POM When you said that you were concerned that the regime in order to demystify the legend around Madiba would kind of not attack him but start attacking his family, I assume you're talking primarily there about Winnie?
MM Winnie, possibly the indiscretions of the children as well.
POM On the Winnie factor, to what degree was he aware when he came out of her philandering, the activities of the Football Club?
MM Oh he was quite, quite clued up. He was quite clued up.
POM Who had done this?
MM The Crisis Committee had gone and seen him, lawyers, including George Bizos, had been to see him. He was reading, he had made interventions himself to see Winnie. He had had some very uncomfortable meetings with Winnie when she visited him. He had said to her, "Dismantle the whole Football Club", and she didn't do it and she had come back to see him and they had a pretty tough discussion during her visit. There was an American chap, Brown, who appeared. Madiba was aware, Madiba had forbidden her
POM He was from South Carolina I think.
MM Yes, aligning herself with Brown and relying on him. He could see from the newspaper reports that after forbidding her she was continuing. So he was pretty clued up.
POM On her philandering?
MM Yes, he was pretty clued up on that too. The prison authorities had started this in the seventies. They used to put newspaper articles on his prison mat so that when he got into his cell he would see it, stories about her that were being spread in the media, and he would read it. So he was not unaware of those things too. But I think that he was trying to steer a path and living in the hope that the reunion would, through their closer interaction, enable her to correct some of those issues and I think he failed in that enterprise. I have never discussed the issues. He used to, in prison, call me his nephew so he wouldn't discuss that sort of thing but I do recall that a little before he announced his formal separation at that press conference where he called and where he asked OR to come and Walter to flank him, and that very painful press conference, but just before that on one occasion, I suppose he was extremely agitated, and he confided some of the personal issues. I found myself in a very strange situation that he was speaking very freely and describing what she was doing and I could see the pain in him. It's the only time I heard from his mouth the degree to which he was aware and therefore I was not surprised at all when I saw the press conference. I hadn't been told there would be such a press conference and the next thing is I'm there watching the TV and there's Madiba speaking and making his statement and then not answering the questions by saying, "You will understand." That told me that he has now acknowledged that it's not working, it's not working politically and it's not working at the personal level.
POM I remember that most extraordinary statement he made when he was in court and he said for a period of, when he came out of prison, that he was lonelier in his house than at any time he had ever been for any period while he was in prison. So conclusive.
Tambo and Mandela, you answered this question once for me in one way but what I'd asked you to do was how would you contrast them in terms of strengths and weaknesses?
MM We'll continue tomorrow. I'll find some time..
POM OK. Let's just deal with their strengths and to contrast them in terms of not who they were but if you had look and say how they complemented each other in terms of strengths and weaknesses so that the two, the sum of the two is greater than the whole.
MM OK, I'll try to reflect on that.