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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
26 Sep 2003: Maharaj, Mac
POM Mac, we had just been talking about I think I left you with the question if you had to contrast and compare the strengths and weaknesses of Madiba and Oliver Tambo.
MM Let's just go over what I've said about it.
POM What you said was, "I think Madiba would have insisted, that the whole question was if you had to compare Oliver Tambo and Mandela, you worked closely for so many years with Tambo and when you speak of him it's always like he was a wise man, a gentle man." How would you compare and contrast Madiba and Mandela in terms of strengths and even weaknesses? That's one, and two, if Tambo had been in good health would Mandela have insisted that Tambo be elected President of the ANC and become first President of the country? You answered the second part, "I think Tambo would have insisted that Madiba become the President. Each of them would have been prepared to play second fiddle to the other. I think the important thing is not the position. I think that if we look at the tasks that faced Mandela on his release, (i) he had to drive the negotiation process." And then you go on with the tasks he had to face whereas my first part of the question was if you had to compare and contrast Mandela and OR in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
MM I think that what I can add to that is that there is no doubt in my mind that all three of them, Madiba, OR, Walter, shared certain common traits but when I reflect on their relationships one of the common platforms was that their history was one of being able to discuss amongst themselves, no matter how much they have differed, within a certain band of understanding that nothing, no difference would interfere with their working together. Now this is a common quality that the three of them have had and it is a long standing quality, but when you look at OR you realise that the 30 odd years in exile had honed his statesmanlike diplomatic ability and those were abilities that came to the fore in keeping the movement together in exile because normally in exile movements fracture.
Now OR had demonstrated this immense capacity of holding the forces together even in the face of my earlier question of was there a point of a loss of revolutionary nerve in the left? In spite of those problems and the pressure of the cadres in exile simply saying we've come out to go home and fight, he held it together and the only breakaway group, the outback exile period, was the breakaway of the Group of Eight as a grouping. Even when the Group of Eight broke away he managed to steer the process such that the eight never became a hundred. The eight in fact became smaller and smaller and ineffective in their breakaway.
Now contrast that with Madiba. Madiba when he became President of the Transvaal ANC in 1952/53, when he replaced J B Marks, there was this episode when Walter was away at the youth festival and Walter would tell the story about how while he was in his travels in Eastern Europe and China would be seeing the news telexes that a group called the Bafa Bagiya, an ultra-left grouping - (Bafa Bagiya was led by a chap called McDonald Maseko, he was one of the leading lights) but it emerged from within the disbanded SACP when it was banned. Now even in the face of that what Madiba did, what Walter says, is that Madiba began in a very tough way to expel members of this grouping from the ANC.
POM Because they - ?
MM They were trying to take over the ANC leadership on a sort of ultra-left platform.They were trying to reduce the ANC to a front of the ultra-left.
POM How would you define the ultra-left at that time in terms of the Communist Party?
MM It denied the validity of the national struggle and sought emphasis only on the class struggle character. In the South African context ultra-left, because it denies the functionality of racism in the structure of oppression, it denies the denial of national rights of the indigenous people. It says the class struggle is the paramount issue.
Now Madiba as President of the ANC expelled batches of them and it succeeded as a mechanism. Contrast that with the way OR handled the Group of Eight. He tolerated their activities and when eventually they broke away he had steered the process such that they could not find a platform within the ranks of the exiled movement to develop. That does not mean that Madiba would not have reacted in the same way over the Group of Eight.
POM What happened with the grouping that Mandela expelled?
MM The grouping became totally ineffective. It fractured, it just disappeared.
POM So in a sense they both achieved the same result.
MM Both achieved the same objective. I am saying these were all experiences through which they were growing. Of course when he expelled the Bafa Bagiya in 1953 OR was around and they were able to consult so I am sure OR supported that. But when OR had to handle the Group of Eight he did not have access to Madiba, Walter, he had his access to only those people that were there in exile and I know that in prison we took up a stance of supporting the movement in the expulsion of these eight but we also constantly sought, Madiba and them, to try and get letters out to individuals in the Group of Eight to say change your positions, come back to the movement, let's resolve the differences amicably.
Now anybody else in that situation would have felt that such letters are undermining of his authority because he's already expelled them but OR never saw it as undermining because the posture that he took was that the Group of Eight have a home in the ANC provided that they do not conduct themselves within the ANC to divide the ANC. I am saying that these are examples together with the examples of OR interacting with governments of the east and governments of the west in mobilising support for the struggle. Now that honing of skills and those abilities that he had developed would have been an enormous strength in the post-1994 government. They would have also been an enormous strength and a sharing of burden in dealing with the governments of the world and this emergence of a unipolar world in the phase 1990 94, that is up to the negotiations and up to the elections. I have said what an enormous task faced the movement and how this burden almost fell exclusively on Madiba's shoulders and I think that that sharing would have come through.
When Walter states, "Who's left for Madiba to consult?" I think that whatever emerged post-1994 as to whoever was at the helm, OR if he was not a president, Madiba would have been consulting him assiduously and OR would have felt free to go and discuss with Madiba. The inhibitions that others who were not of that generation, certainly even people like Kathy who may be of that generation but were much younger, the inhibitions in reaching Madiba were - he would have been respectful of the position that Madiba himself (break in recording)
The next aspect which has been touched upon, that Madiba and Walter having been in prison since 1963 when the Rivonia arrests took place, now were faced with a situation that their knowledge of the leadership that had emerged in exile was only based on what they knew of the people pre-1963 and post-1990 OR's counsel as to who's who, what are the strengths and weaknesses of each of the comrades abroad, would have given Madiba a wider pool of counsel but not just wider, a deeper pool of counsel if OR was still fit and active.
As it happens Madiba has sometimes, I don't know whether publicly, reflected on how he came to construct his succession and who he should draw in to the government, etc. And he said, "I didn't know the people in exile. I didn't know how they performed. So I had to rely, once the issue of the leadership succession was settled, that it would be Thabo as Deputy President." He said, "I had to rely on his counsel."
POM On OR's counsel?
MM On Thabo's counsel.
POM On Thabo's?
MM So that meant he could not turn to OR whose knowledge of the people was continuous from 1962. So that strength of OR that he knew each person in the exile forces and each person in the support movement around the world may have been different. OR would have been at least deeper. When he gave such counsel OR was always very rounded. He himself had selected, for example, Thabo as his right-hand man. So there is no doubt that he would have said that Thabo should be a key player into the future post the Madiba/OR generation, but it would not have taken the form that in 1991 at the Durban conference Walter had to take over the national chairmanship and stand for it because of the determination of Chris and Thabo to stand against each other.
POM Why did that determination arise at that point?
MM Obviously part of that determination would be ambition but part of that determination of both the individuals would have arisen from the way their relationship had developed particularly in exile. I think that each one of them felt not only that the one was better than the other, each one of them, but also felt that the other had certain lack of qualities for the best of the future.
POM Would they have represented at that point Chris would have represented the more revolutionary approach to negotiations and Thabo the more diplomatic approach, if you want to use that language.
MM I don't go for the characterisation of doves and hawks but I do go for the fact that when people are immersed in one task, that task colours their views and Chris was to a certain he said so, he was very suspicious of negotiations. Thabo, the evidence seems to suggest, saw it as the only way forward but in the process the acknowledgement of the different arms got a little unbalanced I think if we look particularly at the readjustments that were made vis-à-vis the world solidarity movement. So I was saying that there had been a very powerful world solidarity movement, the adjustment to the mid-1990 situation left the world solidarity movement stunned.
POM This is the anti-apartheid?
MM The anti-apartheid movement. They had given also 30 years of their lives to supporting the anti-apartheid struggle and they suddenly found themselves without a role and undoubtedly it led to a demoralisation. Undoubtedly many of them would have felt that they can play a central, a crucial role in the new South Africa even as outsiders. So there was need for a readjustment but the readjustment took place, boom, and they became demoralised. They felt, many of them, that they were not embraced to engage in the process of realigning their functions and their role. They just felt that they were thrown away. It may be an exaggerated view. I certainly was not engaged in that part. There was no in depth discussion of it but I have seen how many, many people who were the heart of the anti-apartheid movement became demoralised and part of their demoralisation was a sense of marginalisation.
I am saying it may have turned out differently but I think OR would have been very deeply conscious that they had to be nursed into a readjusted role. I'm not saying that the abrupt manner in which it took place can be attributed to Thabo. All I am saying is that certainly it was not, to my awareness, discussed in the movement in a way that said how do we do it.
I think that there is no doubt that we were engaged also in discussions how do we readjust the mechanisms in the post-1990 period, e.g. with the UDF, with COSATU? I think at the end of the day the disbandment of the UDF and the manner in which it took place left all sorts of views to take root such as the concept, the paradigm of exile versus internal. And yet the evidence is not there. The Madiba government and the post-Madiba government has gone out of its way to ensure that it draws its forces even in the government from all sides. But if you look at the state of organisation of the ANC some of it is due to a normalisation of politics but the ANC's organisational status is pretty, pretty bad and that means to say we did not adequately pay attention to how we should harness what existed of the UDF and the mass organisations into the process of them being part of taking responsibility for the building of the ANC. Theoretically it was done. Sloganwise it was done, in practice it wasn't.
So I am saying this was one of the strengths that OR would have brought into the process. I have no evidence to say which way it would have gone. Would it havebeen different? But I only have a general sense and a gut feel that the government would have been richer and that Madiba himself would have been richer in his steps which have proved to be correct but would have been richer in the nuances in those steps with the partnership of OR as an active participant.
POM OK. The next is a simple one. It's almost on page 3, you say, "And he toys around with tactics", you were talking about the Bantustans, this is Madiba, "to avoid the so-called Bantustans spawned by apartheid becoming implacable enemies of the liberation struggle." He raises the question of the tactics that he 'used with the masses living in those Bantustans'. That should obviously be, 'that should be used', right?
POM "But he had no illusions that even in the Bantustans if you choose to create a legal vehicle to participate in elections - ."That's blank.
MM That's because I'm going back to his essay.
POM "He has no illusions that even if you choose a legal vehicle to participate in elections - "
MM Such a legal organisation would be at tremendous disadvantage vis-à-vis the Bantustan party that has opted to work with apartheid. It's there in his essay.
MM In fact I believe that that essay, that passage is something he actually has a paragraph saying
POM It's right there, Mac.
MM He has a paragraph saying
POM In Reflections in his essay.
MM Even when he discussed the question of tactics in the Bantustans and the possibilities of creating a front organisation to work within the Bantustan framework, he says to fight an election in those conditions is going to be an uphill task. You don't have the resources of the ruling parties and the parties that are surrogates of apartheid, you don't have control of the state machinery and you are fighting from outside.
POM Page 54 is it?
MM Somewhere there it would be. And that that would be an enormous disadvantage to you in fighting those elections. So what it was presaging in my mind is an awareness that even in the 1994 elections we were fighting an election where in a certain sense the cards were stacked the wrong way, the playing fields were not level. This is why in the negotiations at the World Trade Centre so much attention was given to those separate independent machineries, on the independent broadcasting, so that the SABC voice would not be just rampant pro-government.
POM So to level the playing field.
MM The Independent Elections Commission, the Independent Media Commission. So there were all these instruments being put in place to contain the capacity of the regime but there was no illusion that that containment had now created a level field. So that's the point I was trying to make there in that paragraph.
POM You may have answered this in a way when you said, again page 4, "One of the greatest weaknesses of that period was the insufficient organisation of the ANC and its allies on the ground." Now you began on the organising committee with Steve Tshwete. What was that, do you think, attributable to?
MM I think it's attributable not even to individuals. It's attributable to the nature of the problem. In the negotiations phase much of our activity was still the way we had grown up, protest politics, oppositionist, and yet we had to simultaneously prepare the ANC member and machinery towards beyond protest, to ruling and governing.
POM But just through creating branches?
MM But with what tasks in mind? This is the issue.
POM So the question I suppose I'd put was the fact that the mass democratic movement was a mass movement so that when it was called upon it came out en masse, you didn't have to have individual branches organising people in the community. You didn't need that when it was all tomorrow we're calling a day of protest, a strike is on because the government is stalling negotiations, everybody just comes out so no attention was given to - OK, but you need to be party structures on the ground.
MM And relating themselves to the problems of how they would begin to bring development there. That was an enormous adjustment.
POM This is the chapter Vula Uncovered. Now I'm looking at the schedule of events. 11 February Mandela is released. Slightly after that the internal leadership is announced. Right after that you fire off
MM No, no, the internal leadership is announced before his release even.
POM But after 2 February?
MM After 2 February.
POM You fire off your letter of resignation, Madiba is released and Mandela goes to Lusaka. You rejoin. You, Madiba, Walter, etc., Nzo and Slovo meet and you form the internal leadership that will overlook the co-ordination of the activities of the underground and the overland.
MM Not announced. That is not revealed publicly.
POM 6/7 May you have Groote Schuur and you're falling out with Joe. On 19/20 May you have Tongaat.
MM And the indemnity issue.
POM And then 20th you have the indemnity issue. You go to Mandela, you get out of the country.
MM I leave the country end of May.
POM End of May and come back on the?
MM 15 June.
POM 15 June.
MM The NEC meets on the 16/17 June, somewhere round there.
POM The NEC is on about 16th or 17th.
MM Between 16th and 20th.
POM Of June. The SACP press announcement is also between 15 and 20 June. Shortly after that you have the Politburo meeting of the SACP.
MM Extended Politburo, yes.
POM Then on 20 July you have the NEC meeting that prepares the Pretoria Minute. On 11 July Siphiwe is arrested. OK, that takes us up to then.
Just on Tongaat one last thing before we leave it. Jeremy Cronin eventually arrived did he? No-one ever arrived?
MM He never arrived at Tongaat. I met him when I returned to Johannesburg on 20/21 May, I met him in Johannesburg.
POM The day after the event?
MM The day after the end of Tongaat. I met him and I said to him, "What happened? Why didn't you send the message, the opening statement? You didn't come?" He says, "I came in late, it was too late, I've just arrived now." I said, "The conference is over. Here are the minutes." I gave him a copy of the minutes because he was now going to be editor of Umsabenzi of the SACP. I said, "Here's the minutes." And now I'm on my way out to come and legalise myself and that's how I left him. I didn't pursue the question. But what you can do in your chronology is to end up 25 July, end, I am arrested.
POM Yes. This is on page 2. So between Nyanda and the woman cadre who was in charge of that accommodation where the disks were stored, was that Susan?
MM Susan Tshabalala.
POM Just getting sequence right here because it's all over the place. When 12 July Gebhuza -
MM It was 11th I think that they arrested him.
POM 11th. Now at that point, that's when you and Janet start clearing things out in Johannesburg. That's when you go to the Canadian couple?
MM Canadian couple and all the other places.
POM But the Canadian couple in particular because you talk about them later, that the police came to them and said, "Who lived at this house?"
MM They had a legend.
POM And at that point you later knew that at that point they had taken Siphiwe back to Johannesburg, or he had told them about that location that day because the police arrived right after that. This is where you and Ronnie, you were looking for Ronnie and Ronnie wasn't available while you were clearing that place out and the following day you and Ronnie head off to Durban and that's when you and Claudia clear out the house of the doctor. OK. We get to the 18th. That's fine.
"What had happened is that among the disks that were left unencrypted that the SP found was one relating to clandestine meetings the SACP had organised under my direction at Tongaat earlier in the month." That would not have been earlier in the month, but in May. Now when you were being interrogated, the man in charge of that interrogation all the way through was Frik Venter in one form or another, right?
MM He said his rank was Colonel.
POM When you were at Sandton you said, "Gentlemen, you be careful how you handle this matter." Were you saying that because you knew that Mandela had already raised the matter with De Klerk on 19 July?
MM I was saying that, yes, because of that, because of the fact that in negotiations we were pushing for were going to happen and also, thirdly, that they had found the draft resolution. So I was trying to exploit all three factors to restrain them in the way they handled us.
POM But you were under no illusion whatsoever that they were going to hand both the written and the other directly to the government machinery right up to De Klerk?
MM But I maintained the pretence. I knew that they would hand it in but I maintained the pretence that they had not handed it in.
POM "Of course they say we've got the jackpot, now tell us about Vula, look it's straightforward. I'm the commander, what do you want? Who's who? That I'm not prepared to address. This is where I forget, forget the name of the Colonel." You're still in John Vorster sorry, Sandton at this point. I forget the name of the Colonel. Would that have been Colonel Frik Venter?
MM No, no, that would have been the Colonel in charge of John Vorster.
POM But you're at Sandton.
MM Yes but he was Sandton was never my sleeping place.
MM Colonel at John Vorster Square.
POM Yes, because he turns up when you go there, it's the same Colonel but you never did get his name.
POM You said you were there a couple nights before they took you to John Vorster.
MM To sleep, yes.
POM "I kept demanding to see General Basie Smit." You say, now this would be on the evening of 25th, you kept looking for Basie Smit and Basie Smit turns up at eight o'clock in the morning. You've been interrogated all night and you say, "You found that resolution and you'd better be careful how you handle the problem." Basie Smit pretends, "No, no, I don't know, I'm police, I'm investigating a crime." Basie Smit tells me, "You're going to see violence that hits this country that will make all previous violence look like a picnic."
Now you say that there. You also say that when he comes back to you after Mandela leaves on 7th or 8th, now which time did he actually say it?
MM I cannot be sure but what I can be sure of is a separate statement that was made on 7 August. What sticks on 7 August is the statement he makes that you have people working for you, ANC, in the Security Branch. Forget about what I've said in front of Mandela, where Mandela has said, "You handle him carefully, no torture and no assaults." He said, "Forget about that, there is no way I'm letting you out until you give me the names of the moles." Now that stands out very clearly. About the violence, these were the only two times I met him, the morning of, I think, 26th and the morning of the 7th. In one or both, I think that it is in the first morning that he said this about violence, that you're going to see something that this country has never witnessed before. I think that the morning of 7 August was confined to this question of members in the Security Branch and that is when I responded to him that your answer, the way you're talking is giving licence to your juniors to assault me and torture me, because that's the implication of your statement, that there's no way I'm letting you go without you giving me those names. That's my bottom line. Now when you say that as your bottom line you've got to follow through the consequences if you're not getting the names. So that's when I say to him, "But that statement you are making is giving licence to your juniors."
POM When he said that to you, "We know you have agents", did you say to yourself I wonder how he knows that or wonder where that information had come from?
MM No it didn't worry me. It didn't worry me how he knew. I thought that there would be sufficient records to show that we had knowledge.
POM But you know nothing about being unencrypted at this point?
MM I don't know anything about unencrypted but I know sufficiently somebody can talk to say, hey, they didn't manage to catch us at Reservoir Hills, they didn't manage to find the garage in Chatsworth, anybody to get arrested. There were too many instances where we were outsmarting them and they were presenting information to me in their interrogation constantly trying to portray they know everything. Now how they got it became a small issue in my mind as against, hey, they do know that. Because in their interrogation they were not talking from a blank script. "We know you buggers, you crossed over, you did this, you did that." Now that suggests knowledge. There had been already the fracas over the demand of FW that Joe Slovo be dropped from the delegation. I'd seen the headlines, there was this whole thing of who is Joe, and I knew that, well, they had perhaps found the minutes of the Tongaat meeting because certainly I had left an unencrypted version with Jeremy. I don't know who else is picked up but I know that Gebhuza is picked up. I don't know who's talking or whether somebody is not talking, but I know from the questions that they are putting to me is that they are claiming the games up, we know everything you've been doing. So from that perspective it's not important how they got it but the most important thing is what do they know. And in the 'what do they know' when they say, "We want the moles you've got in the Security Branch", my assumption is they do know we've had moles and they want to trade now. They're not questioning, did you have sources? They are assuming that I have sources. So that's the frame of mind in which I was giving the interrogation.
POM OK, just since we're on that question it's good to deal with it here because it's under Vula, Operation Bible, its origins, what structures it was under, what role you played in it, who else was engaged it?
MM I was not aware that there was a project called Operation Bible. All I knew is that there's an intelligence unit headed by Mo. Now I interacted with that with Mo. In the course of that interaction I was getting information from him, information such as I would see the actual reports coming from the Security Branch. I got so close to that work that I knew the people who were taking the original reports, photocopies of the original reports, and now entering it into Mo's data base, computerised data base, stripping it all of their identifications and re-coding the identification. I came to know two of his people very close who were doing that work as part of the analyst team because he made available people from his intelligence team as also my drivers to drive me around the country when I travelled. I knew some of their workplaces. One of them that he acquired during the period of Vula where his computers were installed for entry of the data is a place that I frequented both to get knowledge of information without waiting for him to come and give it to me and, secondly, through that interaction Mo and I often discussed how he could improve and expand his work. In the context of that the incident that stands out is a more pro-active recruitment initiative that we undertook on Mo's behalf with Mo's participation to recruit another Security Branch member who we picked up signals was in an attitude of mind that was favourably disposed towards Pravin Gordhan.
POM How would you pick up a signal like that?
MM We picked up, for example, we knew when we started checking with Pravin that this man used to frequent Pravin's pharmacy for several years and he was now turning up at the pharmacy and leaving messages with Pravin's then wife, who was running the pharmacy while Pravin was hiding, that he has some information for Pravin. At that stage we started off that he was trying to seek information that would enable them to arrest Pravin. We ignored that. Then came a message from a doctor, a female doctor, he was her patient and she had a profile of a supporter of the struggle. She was a leading, leading dermatologist, and she passed a message to Pravin, "Look, this man says he wants to see you. He's got something very urgent for you." People went and saw her, Pravin went to see her and to sound out, is this a trap? She said, no, she doesn't think it's a trap. She thinks he's genuinely wanting to see Pravin.
So we sat down and took stock, Pravin, myself, Mo. Then we came to a conclusion that, look, we're going to examine this how do we check this man out? As we went on checking we began to veer towards the view that this was not a trap to arrest Pravin. We didn't eliminate that. We then came to the conclusion that, no, he wanted to pass some information. We thought that the information might be insignificant but the fact that he wants to pass some information, how do we do that? He will not give it to somebody else. He has not given it to the doctor. So we came to the conclusion, let's go into a pro-active mode, let's arrange for Pravin to meet him with due regard to security in case it's a trap and at the same time if it is not a trap to use that as an opening gambit now to recruit him.
In the end we set up the meeting at the doctor's house that night because the venue was suitable in its layout that if there was a trap it would not be a very high, visible trap so that when Pravin is going to that house at night the police deployment would not be that overt, but in the meantime let's keep our own observation whether such a deployment is taking place long before the meeting. Then we said, "Right, now Pravin, you go and we will take these measures but in the meantime how do you, Pravin, conduct yourself to bait him further into working with us?" Now that was an operation intended to bring a source which we would not manage, we would hand over to Mo to manage, the Project Bible.
So the relationship, I'm saying, developed to the point where many issues facing Mo in the further development of his project was being assisted by us and he was increasingly assisting us not just in information but in personnel to protect me to enable my movement around the country. When I wanted to go and see Govan I asked Mo for information what the security set-up in Port Elizabeth was, in addition to my general political knowledge. And it was Mo's people who were used to find my hideout in case I retreated in PE, it was Mo's person who was my driver, it was Mo's person who was used to go and pick up Govan.
Of course I know, I now know as a result of what has been happening now, I now know more of the history of Project Bible. When Mo arrived in 1985 in London he had gone there to reach the movement with that intelligence information. As a result of those contacts
POM Sorry, when you say 'that intelligence information', what were you referring to?
MM The one of Keith McKenzie and other bits, he had come there with reports. He had gone to London to establish contact and he made contact with the movement through Aziz.
POM So Aziz was the man in London who had been in charge of intelligence?
MM No. You see I'm saying he made contact through Aziz. Aziz was publicly known as ANC.
POM But you told me yesterday that he was also head of Intelligence.
MM But at that time I did not know.
POM But then Mo would have gone through him?
MM Mo contacted him through a member of Mo's unit who seems to have gone to London to study. So this contact came via Aziz. Joe Slovo was in town and the fact that he had come with information that turned out to be of an intelligence character brought Zuma to London.
POM Zuma was?
MM Head of Intelligence.
POM In Lusaka in 1985?
MM Yes, so Zuma gets to London and there now, now I know, arrangements were made (a) to create Bible Project, (b) to give Mo intelligence training in the GDR. Then Mo returns home now running, under Zuma's command, Project Bible.
POM And my question to you is: would Aziz Pahad have been aware at that time that Project Bible was being set up?
MM No. At that time Project Bible is not yet set up. The first thing you do is you assess Mo. The second thing you do is when Zuma arrives, what is the potential for intelligence because he's got information that's relevant to military, he's brought information that's relative to political and he's brought information that's of an intelligence nature. Now an assessment is made and Zuma says, "This man, I need to develop this work as an intelligence operation."
POM But I'm asking you, would Aziz have been part of ?
MM Of that decision making?
POM That's right.
MM Possible. Quite likely, I think very likely because by the time Mo returns home the conduit for the reports to Lusaka becomes London and Mo says now that he ran his project here with a support mechanism in London and he was reporting to Zuma in Lusaka but via London.
POM OK, so all the information that he sent to Lusaka, Aziz Pahad would have had access to London before it got to Lusaka.
MM Would have had access to together with one other person who was from home, who was part of Mo's grouping and who, when he completed his studies, returned here to continue as part of Mo's unit.
POM And that would be can you name that person now?
MM We have to obscure the name because the person as yet has not been identified but is sitting at various he's now in the private sector. I don't know whether he's stopped working. [He's a chap called Shaheen Pawa, but we have to obscure that name.]
POM OK. I'll just ask you now because I want to get this one over. Does it give you pause, or give Mo pause at this point, that Aziz has knowledge of Operation Bible, that he had knowledge of all the reports that were going through and he's the brother of Essop Pahad who is sitting next to Thabo?
MM Well Aziz was close to Thabo also in his own right. Aziz and Essop studied at Sussex with him and they were close to Thabo. So to answer you, yes, Aziz would have known about Project Bible. Yes, the reports would have been passing through London and therefore Aziz would have access to them. Whether Aziz was now studying the reports is another question because that would depend on the internal arrangements where Zuma set up his own analysis sections and extrapolating from my experience I would say Zuma would have had an analysis team in various centres, in Lusaka, in London, in Mozambique, he would have analysts and working together with Joe Nhlanhla they would have a security section in Angola. I think that the conditions in Mozambique allowed for an analysis section to exist. The conditions in Swaziland and Botswana did not allow for it. The conditions in Zimbabwe in my view did not allow for it. But the conditions in London allowed for an analysis team to be located there and the conditions in Lusaka necessitated that there should be an analysis section.
POM In time would Ronnie Kasrils have inherited all of this?
MM No, Ronnie was military intelligence which was a separate outfit.
POM Sometimes one gets the impression that he was head of intelligence.
MM No, Ronnie was always military intelligence.
POM We'll get back to that much later.Your sister's funeral. "In the meantime Madiba sees you on 6th."
POM 7 August. Madiba goes off, then he comes back and you talk about I asked the same question there. When he comes back and said," 'We know you have agents", my question was, well where do you think he got that? But you've answered that. "In walked the Colonel, Colonel Frik Venter."
MM I think I mentioned that my view was that Frik Venter was from the Eastern Cape, in the recent episode I've confirmed that he was from the Eastern Cape. And the enigma why Eastern Cape headed it was interesting. One of the officers in the recent period that I've been questioning who is from the Eastern Cape says that the reason why Eastern Cape came to head it is because in the information that they gathered in the arrests of Vula they found that Raymond Mhlaba featured in some meeting and Raymond as an ex-Rivonia trialist, released with Walter and them, and because they knew that at Rivonia he was earmarked to take over once Madiba was arrested, they came to the conclusion
POM Take over MK?
MM To take over the command of MK. The Security Branch then came to the conclusion from the Eastern Cape that the real kingpin, the real lynchpin of Vula was Raymond Mhlaba so the investigation from the Eastern Cape became the investigating team. They were reinforced by people in Pretoria and Durban but Frik Venter from the Eastern Cape headed that investigation. It's a question of power games amongst themselves. Incidentally the Security Branch man turned up to see me over this episode and he came with a little pocket diary in which is note of 1990 showed that he had made a diary note of the night they arrested me.
POM That's an historical record. Did he say what was in the note?
MM He showed me the diary entry in his handwriting saying 25 July we arrested Mac Maharaj at the home of Valli Moosa at such and such hour and took him to Sandton Police Station.
POM So he was one of the people who actually arrested you. Mac, this is too much. You say here again it's more likely - if I put in 'you're going to see violence as you never have seen it before', I should put it in on the 26th?
MM 26th yes.
POM A question I asked before on which we had a verbal tussle, a whole page, it's more than the actual sentence, and that was when they inserted the phrase 'and related matters', now I raised the question with you that here's your team going in thinking that they're going to drop a big one on the government not knowing that the government has prior information. So they made this huge concession and the two guys are sent off to draft a resolution and the government, rather than taking this big concession and saying, gee that's very generous of you, you've moved further than we thought and whatever,says, "We want to make it even stronger, we want to add 'and related matters'."
MM I don't think it took place like that but it's my speculation. I have never sat down to discuss with anybody and say give me a ball by ball account. Remember by the time I am freed
POM Page 11 by the way, page 14.
MM By the time I'm freed it's the end of November/December, months have elapsed but events are moving at an enormous pace and the Nazrec conference is taking place and Nazrec conference has a major question. The Nazrec conference has a proposal put by OR to abandon economic sanctions and that proposal is defeated by conference. So all these things are buzzing and myself I'm saying my six months is up, I'm retiring. Once I go into retirement I'm not going digging into the past and when I return in July it's a year gone. So it's not a question that I've ever sat down to debate with anybody but all I know is that the Pretoria Minute discussion which started on 6 August, presumably in the morning, continued to the early hours of the 7th because when Madiba comes to see me he says, "We only finished last night at one, two o'clock in the morning and I've come to see you now", at, I presume seven/eight in the morning.
POM I thought you went to Johannesburg, you had a message to go and see him in Johannesburg the following morning?
MM No, no, we're talking about August now, the Pretoria Minute.
POM Oh sorry, OK. Not Groote Schuur.
MM So he comes to see me on the morning of the 7th. Now he's a man who wakes up at five but he's telling me, "Last night we finished late, in the early hours of this morning we finished." So what it tells me is that the meeting of the Pretoria Minute dragged for a hell of a long time and it tells me that there was quite a bit of debate and from that I extrapolate that in the drafting there were problems and I, because of the words 'and related matters' I can see how it is being used, tells me that the regime inserted it. But from my knowledge of drafting you don't fight over phrases, you take a sentence and the words 'and related matters' looks very innocuous and yet it was an issue that the regime kept on using without going back to the Minute and saying, 'and related matters' but it proceeded on the assumption and public went and said this means that you've got to stop gun-running, it was agreed at the Pretoria Minute. And Madiba is saying, "No, no, it doesn't mean that", in the public debate but the debate in public, the slanging, is not taking place over whether the Pretoria Minute has this phrase or that phrase. De Klerk's people are saying in good faith you should have stopped. Madiba says, "In good faith it did not follow that we should have stopped." Suspension does not mean that we had to stop and he's justifying it not on the Pretoria Minute but on the conditions, the violence that's going on and the lack of the regime bringing an end to the violence.
So to me if the technical argument produced here proceeded in any sub-committee government would have said, but read the Pretoria Minute, it says you were stop all related matters and you've not stopped. You see, it's a debatable matter. So that's my extrapolation which I have never investigated because who would I investigate it with even now? I would have to ask who were the drafters?
POM Well my reading would be that they put one over on you.
MM Yes, that's right.
POM You let it slip and they used it very cleverly thereafter.
MM It is like the traditional thing, it's the fine print part.
POM Just regarding the continuing importation of arms, when you were arrested Ronnie is still out there. Does he inherit Vula? Does he inherit this underground? Is he now in charge.
MM Yes. But half the first period is spent hiding and evading arrest.
POM Yes. But he says that in fact Vula went on in one form or another into 1994.
MM Quite possible, quite possible.
POM Why would it still be necessary to import arms if you had spent like 1988 and 1989 importing these caches of arms and they were stored all over the country, why were they not now be drawn on to supply the SDUs or was the importation of arms just a continuing part of what Vula did?
MM I think it would have been a continuing part but also what was in the storage, much of the equipment in the storage would have been irrelevant from an SDU point of view.
POM Because they were meant for larger - ?
MM First of all the SDUs would not need explosive for sabotage. Secondly, the SDUs were engaged in the battle in the townships where AKs, pistols, would be relevant but an RKG rocket launcher will not be relevant. So an 11 km range artillery, not relevant. Your demand would have been for AKs and pistols and cartridges. Now undoubtedly even everything that we had stored would not be enough for that situation and you would continue to import and smuggle in weapons but your focus would be on AKs and pistols.
POM Let me ask you too, if the guts of Vula in terms of its communication system and the top people have been torn out, what's there to inherit in terms of where are arms stored, where are personnel?
MM Who's good, who's bad.
POM Who's good, who's bad?
MM And then on communications
POM How do you communicate with whom?
MM Your key people are now in the country, your headquarters is here. All that's left is a communication system about bringing in weapons. Right? Any cadre you wanted would be covered under the rubric of the exiles returning home. You would not have to bring in people illegally. You would push them onto the list for people to enter from abroad from exile. So the only thing left for outside would have been smuggling in of weaponry. You may have continued sending out people for training but you would send them out as part of MK. Those are the only functions left and the communication function would have changed to how to keep contact with each other within the country and for that you just had to turn to Tim for an adaptation, saying now assume the enemy has got everything, how, using your knowledge, do you provide other equipment and re-tailor the communications? That's all that happened.
POM OK. Now we have a sentence on page 14. You were talking about, again, the Pretoria Minute. You said, "So in a sense at the time Pretoria took place the government had kind of discounted the decision of the ANC to suspend the armed struggle and they are moving on to a different terrain. They said, OK, that's out of the way, how do we use it now? And the hawks like Basie Smit were saying we're going to unleash this black on black violence on a scale that's never been seen. We will not be associated with it, the ANC will be forced to turn its attention to that problem. And indeed we did because it is in that period that the ANC decided to use its underground structures in the context of the Peace Accord to create the self-defence units. So that period was an intense period of contestation on both sides with ANC unaware of the extent to which the hawks were now trying to run this show and on the other side the government looking at how to change the balance once more."
Now when you say the ANC was unaware of the extent to which the hawks were now trying to run this show, are you talking of the hawks in the ANC?
MM No, the hawks in the government.
POM That's why I'm saying, "And on the other side", that is?
MM On the other hand.
POM The hawks in the government.
POM So then the sentence, "The government looking at how to change the balance once more", really becomes irrelevant?
MM Irrelevant, yes.
POM "That's the period where bilateral negotiations were taking place", OK.
This is on page 16. "I was removed from Sandton via Piet Retief to Natal." They said, "Do you know where you're going?" I said, "No." "Do you know Piet Retief?" "I've heard of it." He says, "Well I am sure you know that people who go to Piet Retief never come back alive." What is Piet Retief?
MM Piet Retief is a town, it's near the Swaziland border. The security forces gathered at Piet Retief were operationally running the security forces forays into Swaziland plus they were supervising and in charge of the patrol and intercepting of people crossing in and out of Swaziland and many of our cadres when arrested and taken to Piet Retief were most brutally tortured there and at least one that I know of was killed there because he was working in the political structures. They said he had committed suicide, we never bought it. But Piet Retief was the place where they kept people and were known to act in a completely lawless way against those people arrested. So when he says, "Do you know where you are going?" he is saying to me that that's a police station notorious for its harsh treatment and I'm taking you there, you're not going to come out alive. But as it turned out he was merely exploiting the image of Piet Retief against me. I slept the night there. We got there late afternoon. The next day we drove off from Piet Retief.
POM Now just stop for a minute now. So you're driven, I want to get your psychological frame of mind because later on you say after you left Piet Retief you kind of relaxed which says that you had the psychological advantage. But you're taken to this place, they've already kind of threatened you. You get there, they have succeeded in raising some fear in you, you're isolated, they changed the numbers on the kombi, no-one knows where you have gone.
MM And I'm trembling inside myself.
POM And you get there and you get to a cell and you turn round and you go to sleep?
MM I still go to sleep.
POM How do you go to sleep?
MM I don't know. That's me. That's fucking me. I don't know what's wrong with me. All I know is, and I don't think I've told you this, during my stay at John Vorster on one occasion I learnt that there were a number of detainees kept at John Vorster and I was then told by a policeman
POM This is in 1990?
MM 1990. The black policeman tells me when I'm chatting him up that there is a detainee there called Yusuf Mahommed, an Indian. And I probe, "Which Indian? Which Indian? What's his name?" "He's Yusuf." "Is it Yusuf Mahommed?"
POM The pharmacist?
MM Yes. He says, "Yes and he's in a bad way." So I say, "What do you mean?" He says, "The man is going off his head." So I said to him, "My friend, can I see him? Come on, just on humanitarian grounds if he's having a tough time." I eventually prevailed on him and one day he comes and opens my cell, he says, "He's in the bathroom. Go in there quickly and see him and get out. I'll cover for you." So I go into this huge bathroom and Yusuf is alone there. I see Yusuf, I have a quick chat with him trying to calm him, from what I know he's in a bad way so, "How's things? Have they tortured you? Have they beaten you? What's happening to you?" He says, "Well I'm trying to I'm going on hunger strike and I'm looking for ways out, of avoiding being interrogated." So I said, "There's no problem. Listen, I will take the rap, I'll cover for you, just be clear about it." Then I talked to him and very clearly I talked about his mother because I know that his aged mother lives in Harding, right on the south coast of Natal near the Transkei border and that she was ill and he used to worry about his mother. "How's your Mum?" So I assessed that, no, he was in control. He was shaking but he was in control.
So I bolstered his morale and then I said to him, "Listen." He said, "How are you?" I said, "I am in difficulty. You guys can put the blame on me, I'll take it, but I am in difficulty. With your knowledge how can I simulate a medical condition?" And his response was very interesting, he said to me immediately, he said, "Listen, it's easy to fake madness. All you have to do is for a long enough period keep blinking your eyes rapidly. It will disorientate you and you will not be able to walk steadily. You will even fall and collapse." So I said, "Fantastic!" But in the meantime the policeman said, "Come, come, come." So I raced back to my cell. I think this thing through and I say that's a very interesting gimmick. If the blinking can cause that I'd better keep it in reserve, it's ammunition. And of course I'm trying to think how does it work and I come to the conclusion that that blinking is going to affect your vision and disorientate your brain processing of the images.
OK, I am now being taken to Piet Retief and we're having this conversation and I'm saying, "Shit! They're taking me to Piet Retief out of the way to torture the hell out of me. How do I get out of that?" So as they are driving, after we've gone past Pretoria and I see Witbank I say, "Shit, it's true, they're taking me to Piet Retief." So I sit down, I think I was handcuffed, sitting in the back of the kombi and I said to myself, "Mac, it's time to start the blinking. By the time you get to Pretoria when they open the door you must be in such a state that you won't be able to walk." So I start blinking. I'm blinking and I'm blinking and nothing is happening. We get to Piet Retief nothing has happened. But of course one good thing has happened, it has shifted my mind from the fear of it all to now taking some steps and it's when they locked me up in Piet Retief, they give me my food and lock me up in the cell and I'm sitting and saying, "What happened? This fucking Yusuf has told me a stupid, useless trick." I know he's a pharmacist and then I say to myself, "Shit man! Shit! The trick only works for binocular vision because it creates a dysfunction in the images and I've got one fucking eye." I still joke when I meet Yusuf, I say, "Yusuf, you knew I had one eye. Why did you give me this trick, Yusuf?"
This is what was going through me and when I reflect on it even though it didn't work it removed the inward looking living in your fear because it focused your mind on something else. So that was the stay and that's a real incident that took place in that kombi. By Jove! I'm going at it and I'm thinking nothing is happening, looking at the watch. Shit! I've been doing this for half an hour. Maybe I'm not doing it fast enough but they mustn't see what's happening. If they turn around to look at me I must stop blinking. Nothing happened. So that's that one.
POM Are you always able to sleep in circumstances like that?
MM Padraig, even now, even now, there is something about my metabolism if you tell me now that I have an hour to sleep and I go to that bed and I lie down on it I guarantee you I will be asleep.
POM Mac we had just been talking about the night you spent in Piet Retief. They didn't touch you?
POM You slept and the next day you're on your way.
MM To the border and they knew the site of the crossing.
POM You said, "When I arrived at CR Swart I realised the Security Branch had found an unencrypted disk. When I looked at the state evidence, at the exhibits they had, it became clear they had access to realms of materials." Did they show those when you went to trial?
POM Are they locked up some place?
MM The trial never proceeded so the result was that whilst they mentioned it in the indictment they never had to produce them and lead them as evidence.
POM OK. Would that stuff be some place, since they would have it - ?
MM I'm at present told that somebody says they have found it and have promised to give it to me.
POM This is not the policeman? This is someone separate?
MM Someone separate, yes.
POM So two sources.
MM Hopefully we're going to get it.
POM OK, because I want
MM As soon as I get it I'll let you know.
POM OK, this goes back, this belongs some place else. This is when they take you back to when they say, "We take you to a flat in Berea. We'll let you go to Parkhurst." This is all done before you were taken to Durban?
POM You were never taken from Durban back to Johannesburg to look at places?
POM OK. This gets moved to the Canadian teacher who's working at Exclusive Book Store, that was in Johannesburg?
POM So while you were on your way, what I'm saying is that you've got people out of Johannesburg just as they were raiding the places, hours before they were raiding the places that you got people out of.
MM Together with Janet Love.
POM "But the Canadian couple had played a bigger role."
MM Who's this?
POM This is when you're talking about the Canadian couple. "Here was a teacher working at night. Who is staying - ? They don't know. The police left and Janet got a chance to say get out of the way now, and even said to them, 'Park your car, don't worry about disposing of all your property. Park your car at a certain place and fly out.' They flew out. They had hardly flown out when the police were back realising they had been misled but the Canadian couple had played a bigger role."
MM Oh, no, I meant it in the context that the police suddenly realised that the explanation that they had first given was a false explanation and that they were really active. That's all.
POM Seeing a doctor. We've got that. The building with Pravin's wife. OK.
MM Have I given her name?
POM You gave it later, but what was her name?
MM Let me just try and remember. Vani.
POM What date are you talking about now when you get to Durban, it would be about?
MM Not a clue of the dates there because I've lost when you are in detention there's nothing we know it's after August 7th that I'm taken to Piet Retief. I'm probably taken in September.
POM September. Now how many days did you spend, can you remember, in CR Swart before you said you've got to see a doctor?
MM I am put in Bellair Prison, a police station, Bellair. It's while I am at Bellair police station that I ask to see a I'm sleeping at Bellair police station and I'm taken to CR Swart for interrogation. I would think that I made the request for the doctor within a week of being in Durban.
POM In 1990 Madiba visits you. Now you were interrogated. Did they continue to interrogate you while you were in the hospital?
MM No. In the hospital they would visit me and they'd ask a question or two but no interrogation.
POM You had sent "My information told me there was a divided opinion inside the ANC after my detention. There were people who said I was concerned about my detention. I wasn't. I sent messages about my detention. I could have escaped, for the politics of it I needed their help. I could escape. I sent messages from hospital."You sent them to?
POM But Slovo never responded in any way to your messages. Now those messages to him were?
MM Basically two types of messages. One was from the politics of it, of any escape. The question was would it be damaging to the movement if I escaped from the point of view of where things are standing in the negotiations process? Would it cause any more problems for the movement? The second one was that if in their opinion it was not, I was ready, I was in a position to escape and just needed that response and I did not need any help, I would do it on my own.
POM "When I appeared in trial there were nine of us." Now it would be good when you're doing your little piece on each of the people, on people in Vula, to do a little piece on each of those people again, a human piece rather than what you remember about them rather than what they were as comrades. Obviously they were all good comrades.
Out. You go to Jo'burg. "I became aware of a problem. I was informed that the ANC had met and neither the NEC nor the Working Committee or the officials had instructed members of the NEC to go to the resumption of my trial. John Nkadimeng and Bob Munchie(?) turned up, both of them were members of the NEC, both had been formerly prisoners on Robben Island and they attended my trial." That would be when you were in Johannesburg how often would you have to go back to Durban?
MM I think there were another two appearances, each one for a remand date. Each time we appeared they would say the case is adjourned, remanded to another date.
POM And that happened until?
MM That happened until March.
POM Then they just simply said?
MM Then in March they said that in the light of the indemnity granted by FW the state withdraws the case. So no evidence was ever led. The case never really started.
POM "It does strike an odd chord that comrades like Slovo did not attend any session of the court where we appeared. After all he had featured so prominently in the media regarding Vula." Now what was he saying regarding Vula? He was saying it was an ANC operation? Was he saying that he was the overall commander of it?
MM I don't recall any newspaper carrying a report of what Slovo said at the time.
POM You said after all he had featured so prominently in the media regarding Vula.
MM Well he featured, the media carried the reports from the police side. Remember they had said that he was one of the masterminds of Vula, etc., etc., but there was nothing about what he was saying. And it would be wrong for him to say anything because it would have been self-incriminatory.
POM Then you get to the NEC. You said what was annoying you was some of the people who were in the know about Vula were not doing anything to get those who were saying it was a maverick operation, whatever, to kind of say shut up. Well, you're really talking about Slovo there and the people who would have been on the politburo Chris Hani. Was Chris around then?
MM I don't recall Chris being at that meeting. Chris had taken refuge in the Transkei.
POM You said, "Slovo and Nzo visited me while I was awaiting trial in Westville Prison."
POM So you were taken from St Aidan's to Westville Prison to await trial? For how long did you spend there about?
MM Probably about three days until we were given bail, not more.
POM And when Nzo and Slovo came to see you, that was a social visit?
MM Well they obviously asked the prison authorities' permission to visit me. They came there presumably as an act of solidarity and we discussed a few things, I made my criticisms. I said that I was hearing all these stories and I was concerned that these stories were coming from within members of the National Executive. They didn't explain anything, the circumstances of the visit were within the eyes and earshot of the prison authorities and we talked briefly that they would be bringing us up for trial and I took their presence to mean that the movement would support us during the course of that trial.
POM Just a small thing about Shubin. This is when you were in Moscow and you were getting your photographs, your passports or whatever, your photographs taken and somebody said these should be put in
MM Slovo wanted them put into the archives.
POM And Shubin was there. Now Shubin knew that you were going back to South Africa?
POM So when I say Shubin says that he was not aware of Vula and you say, "No he was not aware."
MM He was not. He was not aware of Vula as the name but he was aware that I was heading home.
POM I'm throwing all of Tim Jenkin's stuff out completely, we've cut that in the beginning. It doesn't fit in the book anyway.
MM It's far more economical.
POM Just to go back on one point, it's like a foreword to when you start saying you're trying to develop a communications system. You said, "At the same in Lusaka in 1982 we brought a computer purchased in Mexico and shipped it via Canada and Britain." You had begun in 1982 to experiment with computers for the - ?
MM Not just for communications. I was interested in computers both for data storage and retrieval. That's one of the interests that I had and the second one was with a bit of time the idea of communication, computers and communication came up.
POM Now this comes up a couple of times.
MM Remember the background of this is that Zarina's background at Xerox and computers had been in relation to the prototype of the fax machine. Now that was a communicating mechanism but my knowledge of computers was that it is important for data storage and retrieval and it's when I meet Zarina that I realise that, hey, computers take you into communications also. So I am urging her to experiment and we started off by getting the machine from Ohio from the point of view of data storage and retrieval and then in that interaction we are talking about communications, coding, decoding.
POM Now you talk about a group. "The military headquarters sent in the Broederstroom group headed by Damian de Lange." Could you just explain what that was?
MM It was an MK unit sent in by military. I think it was under the command of Ronnie Kasrils but the importance of this group was that I found out that they were using radio communications to send their communications back and forth.
MM From within the country.
MM Broederstroom is an area just outside Johannesburg. It's a farm area and after the arrests what came out is that they had rented a place, a smallholding, and they were operating from there. That was their hideout. But the necessity for such a place in my mind was they needed wide open space to rig up the aerial. Now one understands radio aerials as something you rig up straight into the air. Not necessarily. An aerial could be spread out on the surface of the land provided it had a wide enough space to lay it down so that when you transmit by radio that aerial becomes the antenna through which the signals are sent and when you are receiving messages it is that antenna that catches the message and gets it into the equipment, into the radio.
Now the Broederstroom unit was using radio signals between here and Luanda and my discussions with Ronnie showed that whilst they had solved all those problems, that is of transmission, etc., it was a cumbersome means. You needed a proper site. But secondly, it did not solve my problem of encryption and decryption. The encryption had to be done manually and punched in and then of course the transmission could be in a burst, in a small burst of time, but the manual encryption is time consuming and error prone, so is the decryption. Manual decryption is, again, very time consuming and very error prone. So those constraints may force you to send very short messages and that was not the direction that I was thinking. That is why I mentioned Broederstroom. In my knowledge it's the one and only unit operating from within the country that was sending radio signals via Angola.
POM Do you know how long it lasted before they were uncovered?
MM Oh the Broederstroom group seemed to have only survived for less than a year, a few months. It got uncovered because within the group tensions arose and one person broke away from the group and went and reported to the police.
POM This is chapter 24, decrypted as the attempt to assassinate Madiba. Now you mentioned two of these guys. Can you say who they were? You said two guys were competing with each other and what you were doing is you were setting up one to shoot the other.
MM Yes. These were two very senior officers in the security branch. I believe one is deceased, I need to check whether the other is deceased also. Let me check that for you. Now that I'm in touch with Mo I can check a little more carefully. Let me make a note of that.
POM And I'll send you an e-mail OK now that you're on line. I can see you didn't have a good day. It shows in your face.
MM You want some progress now and you don't see progress. Anyway.
POM There's one thing that you didn't do when you were doing the section on the decryption, unencryption, is you didn't say in what you wrote that you used a different book every couple of months, that you had to go to a certain page. You just have to explain that so that I can slot it into place.
POM Frik Venter we've dealt with. Now this is the bit about the car. This is on page 21 of what begins as chapter 24. You said, "I know that some time after my detention they got the shock of their lives because the car in which they arrested Siphiwe had a concealed compartment. The car had a replaceable petrol tank which was used to smuggle weapons across the border. Siphiwe had a rifle in the concealed compartment. They had found the tank and understood that but at the time they did not find the concealed compartment with the rifle. They found that concealed compartment some years after." After 1992?
MM Not years. No, they found that compartment during the time of the detention. It would be we were detained in July, probably round about September.
POM September, OK. Now was that the rifle, no that was not the rifle.You see I'm cutting Mac.
MM Very good. But I see you're cutting because you just write 'repetition'.
POM That's right. I know you can read backwards, I make allowances now for that. I write this one upside down because I know you can't see straight. See? Good chapter. This is on accumulation of weapons, we've already covered that. Tongaat, we've covered that, that was on 19 and 20 May 1990. Now you say at one point on that, just going through, you said, "It was a kind of revolutionary meeting. They talked about importing arms, the necessity to keep the armed struggle going." If one reviews the minutes
MM Let's put it this way, they talked about the possibilities of negotiations.
POM This is just page 1 of Tongaat.
MM And the fact that in spite of the possibilities of negotiation it would be necessary to keep our structures of the underground and MK intact. A paper was presented.
POM That's Gebhuza's paper?
MM Yes. And that was where there were those debates. Remember the primary purpose of Tongaat was to develop a view as to how the party should surface and operate but to discuss that question it was my view that you had to make an assessment of the situation, the potential for negotiation, the possibility that negotiations may not come about, the possibilities that even if negotiations took place it may still take a long time. So in that context now when you are surfacing the party how should you do it? Should you just expose everybody and let them be identified? Should you expose some and keep others unknown to the enemy? These were the type of issues that were under discussion.
POM So what was the do you remember?
MM The consensus view there was that the party had to surface, that it should become a public organisation but that it left the Central Committee to decide whether certain people should not be made known publicly as members of the party.
POM Mac, we are making great progress.
MM It looks like there's no book left. It looks like so much is cut out there's no book left.
POM This only the chapter on Vula, OK.
MM Don't start threatening me and frightening me.
POM The other parts got that high. These are statements that are taken from the Channel 4 programme. Charles Nqakula: "After the Zulu word for 'open' the idea was to open the way to what Mr Nqakula calls a 'people's war.It left no room for doubt about the operation's ruthlessness."That's just, again, he not knowing what it was really about, right?
MM And perhaps too loose a formulation.
POM "I viewed myself as a revolutionary, I was a guerrilla and I was going to kill. This would have meant that I would have killed people that we construed as our enemies. These would be the armed forces of the government as well as government officials which would include even government ministers." So, again, I'm getting back to because you talked about this before in a section that I don't have with me, about your talking to Rashid about whether or not too many units were coming in and beginning to hit, doing Wimpy Bar type of operations. As I recall OR had kind of called a meeting you attended? Slovo attended? And the other senior commanders attended and he said, "If anybody is doing this tell them that this is a misconstrual of my instructions." Then you talked to Rashid and you found Joe Slovo was in fact condoning this type of operation and that you and Rashid had a big bust-up.
MM Rashid is denying it.
MM He's in denial about it.
POM That's something we'll have to fix up.
MM There's no way to fix it up. He's in denial because, I can understand what he is saying, he is saying that he has had to take the responsibility at the TRC for the actions of Special Operations and it's not an issue on which they have asked for indemnity and therefore he's very vulnerable. Plus there's a black-out, there's a denial on the thing because nobody likes to say that, yes, even though we were being told we were still continuing. I did find when I was in the country, this was before I came into the country, but when I was in the country I remember an occasion where Sydney Mufamadi came to me and said there were some cadres in the country who had come to him for help and in particular for funds, they said they were cut off from Lusaka and they needed funds to carry on with their work. Now this was not an unknown thing that some known leading figures would find themselves approached. And I said to him, "Now what are they doing?" Well, he said, "I can't ask them what they're doing or what type of actions they're carrying out." I said to him, "My problem is that if they are doing the Wimpy Bar type of operations they'd better go out to Botswana and get fresh instructions." I said it would be improper to continue funding them for operations which were not conducive to what we were aiming at.
So it was a type of de-escalation and refocusing of the cadres' mind that was necessary all the time because people forget and people are under pressure when they are in the country and they begin to do things that are easy to carry out and a Wimpy Bar type of bombing was relatively easier than other things that we needed to do. You just put a limpet mine in a dustbin and disappear and the limpet mine has a timing device based on the pin and the density of the pin so that a pin with one colour, paint marking on it, would detonate within two hours, another type of pin would detonate within four to six hours and it depended on temperature because it was a lead pin that a cutter had to cut through. So the cutter automatically cut through that and the density and hardness of the lead piece was the trigger device. If it was a very hot day the lead would be softer to cut through so its timing was not an accurate one, it had a wide range.
So I am saying that type of operation was relatively easy but it was an operation that we had put down because it slipped over to consciously targeting civilians and that to me was a debate we had had at the beginning of MK, that we eschewed the terrorist route. We were for a revolutionary warfare which said the Algerian type terrorism was not what we were aiming to engage in, and yet we began to allow for certain exceptional circumstances. For example, if you were cornered would you be allowed to take civilians as a hostage? Yes you would in order that you could extricate yourself from that ambush. Civilians could be caught up in a crossfire. That was one type of debate. The other type of debate was, does a reservist constitute a civilian or an armed force? Does a farmer belonging to a commando system constitute part of the armed forces or a civilian? Post-1985 I was amongst those who were saying, no, they constitute not the civilian but the armed forces.
POM They constitute the armed forces. Well, like taking that logic to reservists and everyone who had served, who had been conscripted, could be called up at any time, well that meant that virtually every male in the country was a potential target?
MM Yes. There were males, exactly, it was moving towards that direction. But you had to first establish whether the person was a reservist or not. There were many people who were getting exemption from being in the reservist forces. So you just didn't assume that if you are white and male therefore you are a reservist. You had to establish that before you acted. But the actions like the Wimpy Bar type of actions were making the assumption that a civilian is a legitimate target and then ex post facto would argue but they are part of the reserve forces. But that you had no way of knowing when you were carrying out the action.
POM How about, or did this happen I know in Northern Ireland they would target pubs where the troops would hang out when they were off duty.
MM That was what the Magoo's Bar that Robert McBride was arrested for and sentenced for, was. But certainly it seems that in the Magoo's Bar case they targeted that bar because their information was that it was frequented by defence force and security force members. We didn't do actions like that. Magoo's Bar was an exception rather than the norm.
POM Now that operation would have been approved? Would that operation have been approved by?
MM In the case of Magoo's Bar it seemed to have certainly been approved by the Swaziland command structure.
POM They wouldn't have to check an operation like that, go further?
MM I assume that in the climate of the time the Swaziland command structure approved of it on the assumption that it would be approved in any case, it was not a deviation.
POM Now there's the period of time that is unaccounted for that Rashid talked about when you were in Swaziland well there are two things about Swaziland. One is that if I recall from some place there was a priest who handled cash for you to distribute cash to
MM Yes, that is Father that is before my time. That is about the time when the group of people in 1974/75/76 were arrested. Yes, that's the Pretoria trial, Joe Mati in the Eastern Cape, Elijah Loza in Cape Town, Harry Gwala in Pietermaritzburg trial. That was part of the arrests that followed on the attempts from outside seemingly primarily from Swaziland to organise the resistance within the country using mainly former prisoners. There the breakthrough, to the best of my knowledge, came about because the outside used a German priest as the courier to deliver
POM The outside being?
POM Exile. That would be from Swaziland?
MM Swaziland, wherever this priest I don't know where he was based but my memory says it was a priest of German extraction who had the opportunity to travel in and out of South Africa and he was used to transmit cash and resources to the people. Where the security slip-up happened I don't know but it did seem that the security slip-up was around the question of the priest, his identity and his role. So that's an incident that pre-dates my coming out of prison but I had mentioned it, I assume, in the context that all these were, however little I knew about them, they were experiences that I was using to say how not to do things, what mistakes to avoid. You will see in my Internal, when I discuss my secretaryship of the Internal, you will seldom find me sending in a relatively unknown person. In Vula, for example, the Canadian couple, the Canadian single person, the German, I did a fairly rigorous screening. I didn't say just because they are in the anti-apartheid movement they are OK. I went to the countries, I checked what was their background, their political background. Where I found the German, he was a member of the German party, had gone as a courier to South America. The Canadian couple were members of the Canadian party, longstanding members. I can't remember Susan's background.
POM You had two sets of Germans, right? Sorry, Canadians.
MM Canadians. And then there was a Dutch person in the Durban area who came in after I had already come in and that was being reserved as a resource for Ronnie. So we did a fairly in-depth check of who they were, what sort of background, to check their reliability. My inclination was to look for people who had a long record but were relatively unknown so that they could not be detected. That was part of this experience of saying, wait a minute, don't just see somebody who's in the anti-apartheid movement and assume that they will withstand the rigours of what is required of them. That's all I'm saying in the context, I'm saying one had to store and utilise the experiences of what had happened and say from those experiences how shall we go about our work that is more secure? That doesn't mean that one wouldn't make mistakes. That doesn't mean a member of the party of fairly longstanding would not make mistakes but it did mean that they were growing up and that they had served in a structure in their own country which had a fairly tight discipline that they had to adhere to.
POM Your time in Swaziland when you had this idea of blowing up the train carrying the recruits who would be going off for military training. How did you come up with this idea?
MM It arose in the context of the debates we are having at the Revolutionary Council. In particular it arose out of the fact that even at its height Special Operations was hitting installations, Koeberg, Sasol, and they were very important strikes, deeply hurtful to the apartheid system. But how were we going to get to grips with the enemy forces? The second thing was, we needed to act against enemy personnel where the blows would begin to have some demoralising impact on the armed forces and the white hegemony. It's in that context and in the debates of what is a legitimate and not legitimate target and the fourth element was that we were building up a movement inside the country linked to people in our exiles, such as in Holland and in England, the End Conscription Campaign in the country and the committee of South African war resisters. And here then and within the country there were rumblings in the white community about the conscription system.
POM What year is this about? What year is it?
MM 1981/82. So the question was how do we ratchet up the struggle and it's in that debate that the issue arose whether the people who are being conscripted would be legitimate targets. That is how I was asked to take charge of that possibility and that is how I worked in Swaziland, sort of seconded to carry out that task. I lived in Swaziland for six months pursuing that objective. Two things arose in the course of the pursuit of that objective. The logistics of the information necessary to hit such a train and the speed with which that information had to reach you ran into difficulties.
But the second one was that about a week before what was beginning to look like D-day, or two weeks before, OR sent me a message to say postpone. It was a very short message, postpone because the repercussions of such an action if successful would be so strong from the enemy side that he believed that the movement had not taken sufficient steps to withstand such an onslaught. That is, I assume that it meant that the South African forces would take reprisals on Lusaka and elsewhere and he was saying we are not ready, we're not ready for that. I was still arguing with him and saying, "No, I can't stop, you can't unleash a campaign like this, an action like this and, boom, switch off, switch on."
But it is in that environment that the information about the precise identification of the train did not reach me timeously and when it didn't reach me I knew I had missed the boat and I was not prepared to allow the cadres deployed to just hit any train. In my view it was better to quietly dismantle that operation because you would then have the possibility of carrying it out again provided you did not let the enemy know that you were doing it, that you had planned that. I don't think many people ever knew. I don't know whether I spoke of this to you or whether it has arisen from Rashid's side.
POM It's Rashid.
MM Yes. I haven't spoken about it because I had asked Rashid, I had used Rashid as technical consultant with detailed knowledge of the different types of explosives we had in our armoury and I had actually gone on to try and check his information. For example, the detonating device what do they call this thing here? The generator, we tested it with Rashid in Swaziland. I wanted it tested that it works and I wanted to see how it works over what distance of cable, etc. And it didn't work but it didn't work because the instructions were in Russian and it didn't work because we could not read the Russian instruction which had required you to press two buttons simultaneously. That was a security device. Similarly I had asked him about a particular type of explosive device that I had come across which is a conically shaped one which has a capacity when you put it against the wall here and when it blows up because it is conical shaped, the full force of the explosive is concentrated on the tip of the cone. It had a capacity to go through, I think, a one metre thick concrete wall. Its force would not be expended in getting through that wall. Its force would be unleashed once it penetrated that one metre wall and emerged on the other side. That's when you would feel the full force of the impact.
Now I wanted to know whether that particular explosive device could be adapted for the destruction of a bridge because if one could bring the bridge down over, say, a canyon by tackling strategic pillars such that the bridge would collapse then you could bring down that train safely because you would have set it up earlier and detonated it when the right train was going over. So we went down that route experimenting and obviously I had to question Rashid intensively about the capacity of this particular explosive device. I forget the name of it at the moment, the technical name. I came to the conclusion after weeks and weeks of interrogating this thing and searching for it in the armoury in Angola that it was not the right equipment.
I ended up with the idea of selecting a site on the terrain that was favourable to derailing a train but not just derailing it to crash but derailing it over a terrain where it would naturally roll over a very steep incline. Now I was consulting Rashid about that. Now you cannot carry on consultations on that with such a focus without the person beginning to realise, hey, what sort of target are you trying to hit? Why are you interested in knowledge of these explosives in such a focused way?When I beganto explain to him and take him into confidence that what I needed was for the train and its passengers to be destroyed then naturally the question arose, hey, are you going for civilians? Because remember the route that we had selected was that the conscripts were going to Hoedspruit near Phalaborwa. So the train would for a significant part be on the same route as the Johannesburg / Maputo train. If you hit the wrong train, if you hit the passenger train
POM If you hit the wrong train then
MM You're going to hit the civilian train and the civilian train would be primarily black on top of it because whites were not using passenger trains and it would be most likely Mozambican migrant workers coming from working in the mines. That would have been political disaster. So you had to be very, very careful and therefore while Rashid got to know it that way from the explosives side and the choice of terrain side, there were a few other comrades that may have got wind of it also because I would be digging for information about the conscription, procedures, mechanisms, transportation of conscripts and beginning to put if Mac is looking at these things he's no longer asking questions about political mobilisation of the conscripts, what significance is it to ask how do the conscripts get shifted from their recruiting points, where do they assemble, how do they get transported? It's not the type of information that you'd be looking for for political activity.
But we kept a tight lid on the campaign, on the action and, as I say, the action never materialised. But it illustrated how in our environment you could spend, as I did, six months of concentrated activity on something that never materialised. So that's the story.
POM I'll have you out of here earlier than you thought.Vaal Triangle uprising - this is the chapter called, 'Ungovernability, Kabwe 1985, making apartheid ungovernable.'
MM By the way, can I put a footnote to it, to my comment? At the same time there were other actions which had as big a repercussion at home which did not take money and yet had a very powerful impact, e.g. Koeberg. Koeberg from planning to execution was something that just happened in months, just like that, because all of the pieces fell into place. We found the right person who had the plans, Rashid would have told you, it came from me. We found the person, not just the plans. The plans were so good that they were verifiable by leading physicists. We sent the man back, he got back, and we told him to try and get back to a job in Koeberg. He got it like that and the thing got speeded up (a) because the plant was due to be commissioned, to come into action, that's the Koeberg plant, but (b) he got wind that he would probably lose his job, he'd be retrenched. That completely changed the planning to do it now and he did it. And he did it and everything went on an ad hoc mode and he and his wife escaped from the country safely. So if you talk about amount of effort, amount of resources put in, that was a thing that led into millions of rand damage, delayed the commissioning of the plant but took place with, relative to other operations, minimal resources. It's the nature of warfare. OK.
POM This is the sentence, just a small thing, "The fact that the Vaal uprising in 1984 (this is page 3) was preceded by the formation of the United Democratic Front, rejection of Bantustans and black urban authorities, makes you realise the uprisings", - did take place in a power vacuum or did not take place in a power vacuum?
MM I think more correct would be 'took place in a power vacuum'.
POM The point, I suppose, I was making is that when the ANC saw the Vaal Triangle in 1984 it did not say, what's this going on here? They're making the whole place ungovernable in the Vaal, that's what we should be calling for everywhere. We should be calling on the people to make the whole country ungovernable. So what I'm saying is did the Vaal uprising inspire the idea of making an external call to make the country ungovernable rather than somebody strategising from within?
MM When was the external call made?
POM At the beginning of 1985, after the Vaal Triangle.
MM It would have certainly played a role in influencing the thought that there should be this campaign for making the country ungovernable but the Vaal Triangle also inspired the thought that what should you do then about a different type of administration for the area? And that was when the Revolutionary Council in 1985 made a call for the establishment of what it called rudimentary organs of people's power. Ungovernability and unworkability, there were two, make the country ungovernable, make apartheid unworkable, that was the slogan. And then very shortly thereafter the Revolutionary Council made those were both sort of calls of rendering everything unworkable then came the call, create rudimentary organs of people's power, that is organise yourself so that there is no just collapse of the administration and nothing to replace it. You needed to replace and assert people's power.
That, of course, had its own problems because having made the call unless you began to interact and discuss with the mass organisations each area began to develop its own things. That's how the kangaroo courts came up. That's how sometimes- the Soweto Committee, but then was that the model of what you were talking about?
POM That was Motlanthe's one.
MM Motlanthe. But I don't believe that we gave enough attention to that problem to develop an in-depth understanding of what we meant by rudimentary organs of people's power.
POM To get things on the ground in a certain way were running ahead of the people on the outside?
MM Sometimes you run ahead but you run ahead with a broad concept and you didn't flesh it out and people on the ground took it up and fleshed it out as they saw it. Other times people on the ground ran ahead of you and you didn't know how to catch up with it. It happened with the necklacing. It took us a while, it's true, Chris Hani did call for the increase of necklacing on Radio Freedom before we were able to sit back and say, wait a minute, wrong, let's be careful, this is a dangerous development, and then we came down to say don't do this, avoid it.
So those are the problems and they became larger because you were far away from the scene and when you said don't do it, people on the ground tended to ignore what you were saying because they felt it was not answering the real problems and that's a dangerous moment for a political movement.
POM And you had to get the 'don't do it' from outside to your underground or MK units on the inside and the rationale for it or everyone might say, well who gave that message, where did that message come from?
MM Yes, is it a correct message? Is it authentic? But also it was not enough to transmit it to the underground and MK, the underground was too weak at that stage. You needed to interact with mass leaders to convince them also because they were also being carried away.
POM And those mass leaders had to have control over the people, individuals in the organisation, that they were in charge of.
POM And again it's like going back to, I won't say an exact analogy, but when the mass democratic movement say in the 1990s, when the ANC was unbanned, when it called for mass action it got mass action but when it called for getting down into the trenches and building a local branch and securing a local branch it was something they were totally unfamiliar with. So the same kind of analogy would apply to even within an area where it had been made ungovernable for the leaders of the mass organisations in those areas to actually they might even not know how to set up rudimentary structures of people's power.
POM What the hell does that mean?
MM What does it mean? What a big word 'rudimentary'.
MM And then take the other thing because we talked earlier this morning about Madiba's leadership and Walter and OR, one of the immense problems that has come up in my mind as we're talking now is that to turn that mass action and mass political consciousness to accept the idea of negotiations, it needed people of immense stature to carry that message through countrywide and the real cap on it, establishing that Madiba had now earned that status in the mass mind, was when he spoke on the Chris Hani death. He had no way to judge, there were rumblings when Madiba and the CODESA bust-up took place with FW, the townships were hooting, for the first time they were saying, hey, he's not compromising, he's telling off De Klerk. That's the turn of the tide on Madiba's authority being stamped in the mass mind. When he went to Durban shortly after his release and he said to the mass rally at Kingsmead, "Throw your pangas", nothing. There were even boos. When he clashed with FW there was applause, resounding applause in the townships but when it came to Chris Hani's death and Madiba went on television and called for calm the masses listened. This country was sitting on a powder keg. Nobody could have done it but how much more and how much more quickly he could have established that position if he also had OR by his side. Open question.
POM "The PMC is an attempt to find a balance and to integrate the political and military. Integration seems to have meant different things to different people. Certain comrades in the military never abandoned the idea that integration meant serve the military. I don't think that the political side - ", it kind of stops. This is on page 6.
MM The political side understood, that the political side ever came to understand the key to ensuring that there was such a balance depended in their asserting an authority, producing a track record that correct advice and guidance was coming through from them. What I'm trying to say, Padraig, is that you just don't establish we've just seen it in Madiba's case, sure he was accepted as the leader of the country when he was released but whether the masses would listen to him depended on three nodes in that period. The one was when he said at Kingsmead, 'throw the pangas', they heard him in a way. When he clashed with FW and the way he clashed they attached themselves now emotionally to him, but when he gave the advice on Chris Hani's death, calm, steadfastness, resolve and moving forward, they listened. They didn't just listen to him out of the air because he said 'I am the leader', and that's what the political section needed to do.
POM Got it. OK. We're moving quickly along. This is on page 7, just before. "Central to the PMC's mandate was to develop a co-ordinated political/military struggle inside of South Africa which would evolve into a people's war. The military was feeling constrained by this development towards integration. There were grey areas. How do you run your line of command?Does the order go to the Secretary of the Senior Organ, does he give it to the military and then the military sends it to Swaziland to the Political/Military Committee which then passes it on to the military? This is a big problem. What was wrong was that suddenly we began to" - and there's a blank, "military headquarters, because these are the posts that belong to military headquarters and we began to fill positions irrespective of whether a person would serve there." And I have queries be physically somewhere? Carry out the duties of the position?
MM No, I think what I'm trying to say there is that
POM "What was wrong was that suddenly we began to" -
MM I think what happened is then
POM Do you want to look at the sentence?
MM No, I'm trying to remember the sequel. Now while we are having all these problems do we now create the PMC and sub-PMC's which are all bureaucratic organisational issues? In the middle of that I think the situation that arose is that pressure from Zimbabwe in our discussions with the Zimbabwean government pushed us to create a traditional military command structure. The Zimbabweans would say, I'm talking to you, Padraig, I know you're from MK, I know you're in the leadership of MK, but what's your military position? Are you the Chief of Staff? Then I know who I'm talking to because I'm the Chief of Staff of the Zimbabwe army. Is that one the Chief of Logistics? Is that person at the table the commissar? Until then we just had what we called a central military headquarters and we didn't allocate those positions. We had, yes, a commissar for the camps. But the Zimbabwean interaction and the promise of support from Zimbabwe was saying, no chaps
POM That's from the Zimbabwean government?
MM The government. Saying, no chaps, we are ready to assist you and consider how to assist you but we need to know that you've got a fully functioning army with the traditional army functions and roles defined. Now the promise of assistance from Zimbabwe was so important
POM Was that the way ZANU had run its thing, in a traditional, straight down the line?
MM Yes. You said we've got an army, then you appointed a Chief of Staff, Chief of Logistics and all those positions, you filled them out, Chief of Communications. So that pressure came and we then agreed to set up military headquarters in a traditional way. That's when for the first time you hear so-and-so is Chief of Staff, so-and-so is Chief of Ordinance. Now that requirement, I'm saying, shifted our focus from what we were discussing in the PMC of the need for some real integration between the political aspect of the struggle and the military aspects because now military became absorbed with creating that traditional military structure and every time every front area now had to have a replica of that military line. Once you set up those structures and those officers, obviously they had lines of command running. So it shifted the focus from what we were debating in the PMC and it took up the energy and of course that initiative was done so that we could interact and get assistance from the Zimbabwe government to get into fighting in South Africa.
POM Did that assistance ever materialise?
MM It never materialised to my knowledge up to the time when I left for South Africa and came into the country with Vula. It never materialised to the point where it was real and meaningful because, of course, the South African government, picking up that information, put the screws on the Zimbabwean government. They began to carry out bombings in Harare and they began to carry out their counterintelligence work. For example, Vula would not have needed to be collecting arms from Botswana, it would have been able to go and collect the arms from Zimbabwe. But to the best of my recollection we never collected substantial arms from Zimbabwe. Yes, it was more convenient to flying in and out from Lusaka than it was to go to Botswana and come back or to Swaziland and in the light of the Nkomati Accord it looked important that we should develop that front. So it was not just a foolish decision but the effect of it was that it diverted energy and of course others could argue that if it worked it would have given the struggle another big lift.
But I am saying, in that paragraph what I'm saying is those discussions with the PMC as to what we were going towards in grappling with our problems arising from the practical escalation of the struggle got sidetracked in focus by this pressure, by this creation of these structures. And very understandably those structures began to be more focused on running the country.
POM Let's talk about the camps and what went on there and what role, if any, you played in either the realignment or the restructuring of the camps, of the command. Masondo was there, you had this pressure you had a period when it appeared that there was, looking at the TRC and whatever, when there was a group who would go to a camp and decide, almost arbitrarily decide who was a troublemaker or whatever if you were identified as a troublemaker you were taken out and taken to the Quatro camps and beaten, abused, tortured, often very severely. There were executions, there was fear among the cadres. Things got totally out of hand. You had questions with how and why.
MM This is not to make any excuses, I'm the person who has to defend and appear at the press conference with Madiba on the publication of the Motsuenyane Commission Report, but my relationship with the camps and Angola was extremely peripheral. My primary question was the content of the training, that the content was primarily military and to the extent that they received political training the political training was theoretical rather than tailored to our situation and our needs. And I needed recruits for home.
POM Now did you have people there doing political work?
MM No. No.
POM This was being done by military
MM Commissar, by the commissar of the army. I don't think I sat in any lecture except a celebration on one occasion that I was passing through Luanda where at one of the residences, Ronnie was commissar at that time, that there was a celebration of the battle of Isandlwana that I attended that celebration. It was all correct stuff, inspirational. But that's not the political training I'm talking about. I felt that political training had to deal with the underground, its role and functions. However, I used to visit Luanda and visited a few of the camps. The question of the treatment in the camps only came up on our radar screen at the level of the Revolutionary Council when the first mutinies took place. I think I've recounted the story that I was there during one of the mutinies.
MM I'm sure.
POM You haven't talked about the camps at all.
MM I haven't talked about the camps at all?
POM No. The only thing you talked about was the two guys, what's his name? The guy who had gone to Lenin School and tried to Piper.
MM Oh that was the start of it. That was the start of that mutiny issue because it is after that, I think Piper's case is 1981, Piper and Oshkosh. The mutiny is round about 1982.
POM Isn't it 1984?
MM Possible. 1984.1982/83.
POM But you've two waves.
MM And when the mutiny took place
POM This is the first one?
MM The first wave. I think I was in Lusaka when the news came through and we despatched Chris, amongst others, to get over to Luanda. Secondly, based on that report we appointed the Stewart Commission to look into the treatment at the camps and the grievances there.
POM What did Chris come back and say?
MM Chris was reporting that the mutiny had been crushed and he was reporting on the people that were executed and we said, hold on, hold on, you cannot just go executing, there's got to be a proper procedure, and that's when we appointed the Stewart Commission, having said, no, please, if there are mutinies, you brought it under control. Very good. But you cannot just go the route of executing anybody who was identified with the mutiny.
Shortly after that, I think it's after that, when things seemed to be calm, the Revolutionary Council or the NEC was due to meet in Luanda. I think it's the Revolutionary Council, and we arrive from different destinations. OR arrived that afternoon and suddenly news came through, I think through our own command structure, that there was a mutiny in the camp in the north, I forget it's name. Was it Nova Kitenga? Near the border of Zaire. And OR then summoned an evening meeting, everything was put aside. We met in the evening in a tiny little room all of us who were there for the Revolutionary Council. What the President of Angola was saying, and he offered all assistance, we received Joe Modise's report of what was the latest and then we received the report from our Regional Commander of Angola based on the Angola side, our office, Timothy Mokoena, about the state of the mutiny and the reports were saying that they have taken over the camp. I forget how many cadres were in the camp. The Angolan government was saying they are prepared to step in but they would prefer us to resolve it.
I think it was probably two or three in the morning, we came to the view that this matter had to be handled politically, that it was not a question of just going in there with military force and crushing and overrunning the camp and so we decided that we would send a delegation and we sent three people, I think, it was Chris Hani, Joe Nhlanhla (he became the head of Intelligence) and one other person, possibly Caesar We mandated the three of them to go over and we advised them to try and approach the matter politically rather than by show of force. They went over, they set off by road, it was about an eight to ten hour drive, and in the meantime we took a decision that OR would liase with the Angolan government and see what could be done with their minister. In the meantime Chris and them have set off, just three of them.
In the meantime OR reached an agreement with the Angolan government who were happy that we were taking the initiative and that we were seeking to resolve the matter politically rather than by force, but contingency plans were being made on force side and, thirdly, the Angolan government made available a plane to fly us to the nearby camp which was run by us, the nearest camp from the one where the mutiny is taking place. So we all piled into the plane now, the entire group, and flew over to the nearby camp. By the time we arrived there we received radio messages that Chris and them had successfully negotiated termination to the mutiny. We learnt later that they were already on their way back to Luanda. We converted our stay at this camp to addressing the cadres in that camp on the developments and OR insisted that every member who was present there from the Revolutionary Council address the people, the cadres, and then we flew back once we got confirmation that the mutiny was over and had been resolved politically.
We then learnt that Chris and his delegation went over to the camp and in spite of the danger to their lives, and this was a characteristic of Chris, you could not predict how he would act, but armed with the need to quell this by political negotiation he drove into the camp ensuring that they were unarmed, Chris and them. Obviously he must have reasoned in his mind that even if three of them and drivers and all were armed what would it do if there's a whole camp that's armed and has a whole armoury? So he walked into the hall that was set aside for the meeting and the cadres were all piled in but before the start of the meeting he got up and said, "I'm here and before we start these discussions I want all of you to get back out of this room, this hall, leave your weapons outside. We cannot discuss what happened and your grievances or anything unless both sides are unarmed." That action led to everyone trooping out and leaving their arms outside and then they came back into the room and he addressed them, he negotiated with them, he listened to them, to their grievances and with his delegation agreed on procedures that would look into their grievances and also got a discussion going in that meeting that some of things that they had done in the course of the mutiny were unacceptable, namely the murder of the existing Camp Commander no matter how real their grievances may have been against particular individuals in that camp command and on that basis resolved the matter having undertaken a mechanism to address the issues. So he restored order without arms.
Now, what did that tell us? It told us that not all the people and that it was maybe one or two agitators and troublemakers in the groups, but not all were like minded. There was no solidly prepared conspiracy to take over the camp. This is the time, I don't think the Stewart Commission had finished its work, and yet Chris who had supervised some of the executions in the first round was the arch negotiator and peacemaker in the next one.
My firsthand knowledge - of course later on we received the Stewart Commission report, we received the security report and we agreed as the outcome from the Stewart Commission that any misdemeanour in the camp could not lead to arbitrary actions being taken against anybody, that there would have to be proper trials and we asked the Legal Department of the ANC to set out the rules and create the mechanism where there would be proper trials and we stipulated that executions could not take place without review by the National Executive. That was the outcome.
So when people say, and most of us say it loosely, that there was a moment when we were caught up with the danger of a paranoia about enemy agents, when you look at this thing in sequence we didn't allow that paranoia to take hold. Of course the problem we faced, which we did not address, was the corrective actions against those who had done things that were wrong. The corrective action was taken post-1990 where we appointed the Motsuenyane Commission to look into the way those things were handled and the Motsuenyane Commission came out with a report which showed some understanding of the reality in which we were living at that time but made some very harsh criticisms of some of the leading comrades.
The result was that the leading comrades felt that we were betraying them but Madiba called me from the World Trade Centre and confronted me with the report and consulted me, as I am sure he did others, as to what should be done with the report. My view was, after I had skimmed through the report, was that we had no option but to publish the report. He told me that that was his view but that there was lots of rumbling amongst individual members of the leadership. I know it was a report that was quite harshly critical about the late Mzwai Piliso.
POM Ironically he was the person who saved Chris Hani's life in 1964.
MM That's right. It's another point. So it was harshly critical of Mzwai. I said, "No, it's critical but that does not mean if you read the report properly that we should take harsh, punitive action against the comrades who were named in that report." Madiba said to me that the issue we are facing is it's known we had this commission, it's known that the report had been handed in. Do we try to put a lid on it and appear to be prevaricating or go public? So I said we have to manage those problems but I think we have to put the report in the public arena. Madiba then said, "Well, I'll schedule a press conference. It's taking place today at this and this time and I want you to be there. I believe you are the right person to be there to explain the report to the media." He says, "I was in prison but I'll align myself but I need you to be there." That's how you see that photograph in my pool room where Madiba and I are addressing a press conference. He's sitting there and I'm busy sweating it out.
So, yes, we did that, but the question that was raised in the media what did we do to punish the comrades that were named? We didn't do anything because we were clear that the full drift, the broad drift of the Motsuenyane Commission was that this happened at a particular juncture of time in a particular situation and, yes, mistakes were made and people were named, but there was an understanding for the situation. So no punitive action was taken against any of the comrades nor a mechanism set up and of course partly nothing happened because we were in the middle of negotiations.
So that's my knowledge. My firsthand knowledge of Angola was extremely limited because to me going to the camps was of no value. The bulk of the comrades there were trained militarily and many of them came over to the political side but it was enough for me to send a report to request the command structure that I am looking for such-and-such cadres, will you select them and send me. Because if I went there, as I did on a couple of occasions to select people, it didn't help me. You couldn't do it in just a flying trip and just read a record and meet a person and say this is a suitable man. It's the people who are in command who knew them and so I was not prepared to expend energy on the camp site in the light of my duties as secretary of the Internal. That is how I stayed on the peripheries of the issues of what was happening in Angola and the problems. So that's it.
POM OK, Mac. You can go home now. I can go home now.