About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

02 Apr 2004: Maharaj, Mac

POM     This is the chapter on Vula, 'Starting Up and Getting Going' page 4, 'Who goes in?' I'm talking about the paragraph which begins, "While we were refining the concept in document form OR and JS selected other people, including Chris Hani, to go in." Mac, I was asking you about the development of the concept, what you presented to them and then the refinement of that concept into a strategy document for Vula.

MM     In the concept document right from the beginning the idea was put that the country, South Africa, should be divided into separate regions, that each region should have it's own Vula type of operation. It hadn't gone further than that, it hadn't discussed and it had been premised that each region would be in communication with Lusaka. It hadn't reached the point where it was discussing how each region should relate to the other within the country because that was another central problem about the survival within the country, premature linking up men across provinces. Now I assumed that parallel discussions were taking place between OR, JS and Chris because I certainly know that he was selected. And I assumed that similar discussions would be taken tapping into his experience as the ideas are discussed in my group around that document. I assume that when ideas are coming from JS and OR they are benefiting from discussions with Chris.

POM     Now you say 'and others'. Who were you including? Who else was mentioned?

MM     I got wind that Charles Nqakula was being sent. I got wind that Janet Love was in preparation.

POM     Charles was a member of the NEC? Or Janet was?

MM     I'm saying Charles when he's selected, I straight away realised it's like who am I selecting to go with me in my team because Chris's territory would be the Cape Province whether you broke it up into the Western Cape or you made it one Western and Eastern Cape, that is the territory that Chris would know like the back of his hand. When I begin to smell that Charles Nqakula is also selected and I say, which area does he know? The Eastern Cape. So you put two and two together and say well, this is going to be part of Chris's team, and when you begin to realise that I say, chaps, I'm getting too much information. I'm going home. I'm now beginning to know who else is going into the other regions. We shouldn't be talking about that in that way. That should not be raised with me. It's my assumption that no region's mission should be discussed with another region.

POM     You're preparing a document or a paper, sorry, a concept paper and then refining that paper with OR and with JS, this was a document that would lay out the requirements and plan for Vula for the whole country, or it was for a particular region that would be duplicated according to the circumstances of other regions.

MM     It was a general document how we would implement the decision of the NEC for the entire country, but the packing in of how you should deal with it was done by having a region in one's mind and saying this is how we will do it, and allowing for flexibility how you apply it in other regions.

POM     You were then preparing your plan for the Natal region?

MM     Natal and what is today known as Gauteng.

POM     Gauteng, OK. And then they were taking the model that was being prepared for those two regions and discussing that perhaps with Chris to see what modifications might be needed to apply it to the Western Cape.

MM     To his mission in the Western Cape.

POM     Now in your concept paper did you set out the basic minimum requirements that would have to be met in every region in order for the operation to be successful?

MM     When you say the basic requirements it would be that the structure has a means of communicating with Lusaka; that the people who go in have separately formed accommodation and safe houses for themselves; that the decision should be taken which front area or which point outside South Africa should become the communication node and the contact node. Now I insisted that from my experience I should be allowed to develop the communications method to be used by me. Whether they were going to use it in any other place or whether they were going to use other means in other places I didn't want to know. What I told them as I was developing it was, chaps, be very careful about using this in other cases so that it becomes so widespread that slip-ups take place and the enemy finds out. I have reason to believe because of that when they asked me to contact the Western Cape when I went down there it was very clear that they were not using our communications techniques.

POM     That they were not?

MM     No. Chris may have taken the position that he had lived in Lesotho, cut off from the organisation, that mission into the Western Cape would find ways to find communications with head office based on the traditional methods, couriers, etc. Now it doesn't rule it out, it did not mean that when they said to me, "You go ahead and develop the communication system", that they were saying, "No other machinery can work without that communication system." All the other machineries were working with their systems but they experienced what they thought was best.

POM     The one you were on, that was in its infant stage in the Western Cape.

MM     As far as I know that was the only one that Chris and I were selected but there was a hint that they were contemplating selecting another NEC member. I don't think they ever reached that point. My reason is that I have reason to believe that in OR's and JS's minds the possibility of Jacob Zuma being sent home was being considered, but then the issue that arose for them was that Jacob Zuma was being considered or had already been appointed to Intelligence head office. When that question of Intelligence head office had been discussed with me by OR I had said I would not be keen to take up a job like that without first going home because I felt that the primary task should be to find sources of information within the area, that there were other aspects to intelligence security, making sure that those who were coming out were not enemy agents, etc. That's fine, but I said the impediment to me is have we penetrated the enemy ranks? And I think I need to go home, get acquainted with the conditions with an eye to how we could find access to sources within the area.

POM     Again because of resources and whatever, part of the kind of paranoia perhaps, was the Intelligence Department more concerned with trying to make sure there were no enemy agents within your ranks than with trying to develop contacts within the security forces?

MM     I don't think it's like that. I think it's based on the objective conditions under which the movement was developing. From 1964 there are a group of comrades who have trained, are sitting in camps in Tanzania, the possibility of their returning home has become extremely tenuous. They are sitting for years and they are facing some problems and they trained over time. Amongst them also there's been at least one enemy agent. Comes 1976 and a flood of people are coming out and in the screening and the problems we are facing in the camps we come to the realisation that amongst those refugees the enemy is pushing its agents. So that becomes the immediate danger and you have to address that immediate danger. The question of getting sources inside the enemy camp for the advance of the struggle inside the country is not number one on your radar screen. It doesn't mean it's an issue, it's not an issue, it has been an issue all the time. It doesn't mean there's an issue of paranoia.

POM     It just gets pushed to the back burner because the other things are more immediate.

MM     Yes. And it's right there. So you tackle that immediate problem and as it turns out by the time I get into the country and when I meet Mo Shaik, it turns out that from the time he visited London in 1985 he was then specifically taken to Zuma to handle –

POM     That was the time Mo Shaik was taken to London?

MM     Yes, to London, that McKenzie incident. When Mo Shaik got to London now I know that besides calling for me they called for Jacob Zuma, unknown to me. Jacob Zuma knew Mo Shaik, Jacob Zuma and Mo were to work together and OR ordered that this project be called 'The Bible' and Mo, instead of returning home, was immediately sent on a special training mission to the GDR arranged by OR. So they clearly had discussed with Mo, "You have made an opening for access from within the area. Project Bible is now going to be moved by you and Zuma and its objective is to penetrate the area and find out who are the agents in our ranks." So, clearly, that was happening when I was there and I am saying that should be your priority. So that's the framework.

     All I'm saying about the concept document is that it would have all the key issues, it would advocate an approach but it would argue that that approach must be tailored to the realities in each area, if you want realities.

POM     The key issues were?

MM     The key issues would be how you create a structure and how you insulate the different units and sub-structures from leading to a situation where everything collapses.

POM     How you create a structure within South Africa?

MM     Yes.

POM     OK.

MM     The second would be that you have to begin to relate to the mass organisation; that the nature of your relationship would depend on the level of development of the mass organisations within the country. If you found in your region a large area, a large segment of the area, with no mass activity that meant you would have to take a hand in how to ensure that mass activity begins to manifest itself in that area. On the other hand if you found an area, a vibrant area, with a plethora of mass organisations already very active, now you know already there is a seasoned leadership there attending to that problem. So there you would contact and you may only be discussing strategic issues that they are raising, you may now begin to discuss how you can avoid your underground hurting the mass organisations and the mass organisations' arrests hurting the underground, so you'd be discussing that relationship and so on. The question would be isolated, the relationship with the mass organisations and mass activity, communications, and saying that you need a clear commander. You cannot create a structure now that would be run by committees. You can have all the committees you want but your central body in each region must have at the head a commander.

POM     That's the person from the NEC?

MM     Be it the NEC, be it the Revolutionary Council.

POM     You've got the Revolutionary Council there.

MM     The PMC we have, PMC has replaced the RC and the PMC's mandate is the same as the RC's, that is the prosecution of the struggle within the country. So, whoever you send in make sure that in a region everybody else that you're sending in –

POM     But this goes back to – wasn't the mandate to send in members of the NEC?

MM     No, no, no, it wasn't just 'send them in'. You're sending them in for the purpose.

POM     I know, for the purpose, but you say - who's at the apex of this?

MM     It says 'even members of the NEC'. It doesn't say the only job is to send in NEC members.

POM     I know what they're being sent in for but if an NEC person, the ideal was to have a member of the NEC in each of these regions, right? Would be at the apex of whatever structure you set up. What I'm getting at is –

MM     Let's take the Western Cape, clearly now when we look at it, with Chris's involvement they took a decision in relation to the Western Cape to send in comrades like Charles Nqakula and others to settle in the Western Cape.

POM     In Alice? Sorry, I don't know. You said Charles Nqakula and who else?

MM     Little John.

POM     And his real name was? I forget it.

MM     Christopher Manye, Tootsie's (Memela) husband at that stage.

POM     Tootsie's, OK, yes.

MM     From the Transvaal Urban Military Machinery. Now we know also Max Ozinsky was sent in.

POM     Could you spell his name?

MM     OZINSKY. He spoke at the launch of Conny's book in Western Cape. They approached that they took for the Western Cape, that Chris wanted, first send in a crop of cadres. He is going to come in. My approach was, I am going in, I am going to create the conditions for others to come in. So Gebhuza and I come in. What we have sent in is only the expatriates for safe houses. I have said I will build the structures primarily depending on people at home.

POM     Who did you send in, the expatriates you sent in?

MM     The Germans. Rob and Helen, Susan Grabeck, Anita Kreuss (a German). These people were sent in with only one purpose, just unknown to each other, they have safe accommodation without being told for what, if I myself need a house. We will start working on building the rest of the forces and calling for others from outside by ourselves creating those conditions. Chris's approach was opposite. Charles, you, Little John, you, Max you go, you start creating conditions and I will help you. Fine.

POM     So Chris would have been working on his preparations to go in just the way you were before he was appointed Chief of Staff of MK?

MM     But what I'm showing you is that his approach, we now know, was different from ours. The guidelines would allow that difference. The guidelines were not saying we now know the right way to do this. It says, let us learn from the concrete experiences. You can then generalise how you want to do things in other areas from a set of experiences rather than first shot putting down the rules mechanically. So that's the sort of issues that went into the guidelines.

     And we are now at the point where an issue that arises is that as now the guidelines have been drafted, they're happy with it, we're proceeding to refine it and I begin to learn, OK, Chris is going in. And I say, "Look chaps" –

POM     You say, "Hold on chaps."This is insertion 1, 2nd April in 'Vula Getting Up and Started."

MM     The guidelines didn't regard that process as 'Vulindela', as being named Vulindela. It was not named Vulindela, Vula.

POM     It wasn't named Vula?

MM     It wasn't. I had selected that name for the region that we were going into. I was working on the basis that for other regions commanders would select their own names so that if, for instance, there's an arrest in Western Cape and it comes out, Western Cape might have called themselves 'Project X', the enemy would then be looking for Project X, how far is it? And if it bumped into the name Vula it would not realise that it's the same type of operation. But now today all those who were in the country at that time in different regions are now regarding themselves as the Vula Operation. It's too irrelevant an issue to correct today. It is true that when Max said at Conny Braam's book launch, and said she was in Vula, the fact that he was in the Western Cape on a separate region or initiative, the fact that later on in the process when Chris hadn't come in and I was asked to go and incorporate that region into our structure it then became formally Vula. But we hadn't completed the process of integrating when the arrests came.

POM     Talking about - this is the end of 'Who Goes In?' on page 5, and the question I've asked is, "Mac has said, 'I now devise what should be in the course for the people that are being prepared'." My questions are:- who were you preparing this programme for; what were the contents of the course, how were the persons selected and where was the programme delivered or the training done?

MM     Two things began to emerge as I went preparing. One, the pool of cadres would come from (a) those who have already been abroad in exile, those who are already outside the country and in the camps, those would have already gone through training.

POM     These are MK people?

MM     Yes. And they would be in the camps, they would be all over, but they have done their military training. If I want a person for military work in the country that's no problem, but if I want a person to come into the country to reinforce the political section then I have to say what preparation do they do then? Similarly, if we start doing intelligence work then we would want an intelligence course available, but it was not to outline the syllabus but to begin to look at the shape of it and by the time we appoint Ivan – I think Ivan is appointed in 1987. The second category of cadres would be cadres from within the country that we would draw in when we are in the country. Now we would be sending them out for training, what would it be for? You had to begin to prepare the type of facilities for that.

POM     When you say cadres within the country, who are you referring to?

MM     Comrades that would come in here and we would recruit into Vula.

POM     You would go in and you would recruit them.

MM     No, I would create structures and recruitment would be by that operation. Right? I didn't have to go myself and recruit the person. The point is I would be in the country already linking up with comrades who are in that region who are active, who know the politics of the regime and many of them know the comrades in the region.

POM     When you sought comrades, that's the MK?

MM     No, the Mass Democratic Movement.

POM     Yes, OK.

MM     That would give you a chance of using the comrades that you had drawn into Vula to better assess who should go out for training and as I said we later on moved to a position where we said the military side will do the rudimentary training here, we will only send out people that we think have already begun to show that they have the potential to be officer material.

POM     We'll cover that at the end later on.

MM     Politically and intelligence-wise we would have problems. We sent people. Now when we brought Ivan in as an administrator that issue became urgent as I carried on preparing and I said to JS, "You will not be able to service me without a machinery outside." He said, "Service you?" I said, "Deliver the arms to the forward areas. We're sending people out, you'll be sending people in. You'd be sending others that I say get them and I want first from the camp. You'll have to arrange all the things from disguise to how to enter the country." You'd have to look at, we say train this person in intelligence, now you can't put that person in a batch of comrades who are going to go outside, for intelligence training. You'd have to take that person, get that person trained alone and sent back pronto so that nobody else knows that so-and-so from home came out, trained and went back. So I said, "Yes, we really need an administrator." And as he sees the work growing, the requirements of what Lusaka has to do, then he comes and suggests who should we get and we discuss it and we say Ivan is the candidate. JS discusses it with OR, they clear the matter, they say fine.

     I'm now working with Ivan and I'm assuming that all this knowledge that I'm giving, ideas, Ivan is absorbing them, making notes, preparing it and saying, "I now know that this is the type of request I'm going to get. Where would I send a person for intelligence training? Through what machinery? Where would I send a person for another form of training, through what machinery? Where would I be able to send a person for a short course because Mac and them are sending somebody from home and saying the person is only available outside for three weeks?" Because if a person stays longer than three weeks the person's job situation …He would be taking charge of all that and that is how he gets in touch with Conny; that is how these other people that feature on the cover begin to be disguised by Conny's outfit.

POM     So the connection with Conny is made through - ?

MM     Through me.

POM     Through you, and then you put Conny in touch with Ivan, or you put Ivan in touch with Conny.

MM     Yes, Ivan in touch with Conny.

POM     And you said to Ivan, "From now on you deal with Conny."

MM     Yes, "You attend to that problem, you and Tim, you attend to that problem. If you need disguising anybody now you know there is a capacity to do the disguising. If you want to find people to go home you already know that Conny was helping in Swaziland." Now I've separated him from the Swaziland work and there is the need to find people to go home. OK. She is one of the possibilities. I then tell him in Canada I've found Canadians through so-and-so. Now if you need to look at Canada you contact that person.

POM     Would Valli be in there because he says he was the connection to get the Douglases?

MM     He was not the connection at all. I was not in touch with John Bissell (or Bizell?). My contacts in Canada were through Jojo, the Chief Representative of the ANC at that time stationed in Canada, because that Chief Representative had established relationships with various Canadian organisations. So I got there and said to Jojo, "I need a person who already can be vouched for as reliable."

POM     So when you mentioned going to this conference in Montreal you were going to that conference not for the purpose of the conference but really to start recruiting, talk to Saluchi(?) about Canadians you would need as safe people to put into the safe houses.

MM     I went there, I think to the Montreal conference already, with a communication with Jojo who was telling me that there is already a couple that he has found through all his contacts who he thinks are suitable, but he doesn't know for what work. I haven't told him. So I said to him, "I'm coming to Montreal, I will come over to Toronto. You can, as Chief Representative, come to Montreal. Where between these two centres can you get that couple to come and meet me so that I can assess them myself, so that I can discuss with them what type of work I want them to do?" As it happened Jojo said, only when I got there he says the husband is able to come and he will come to Toronto. So I met Rob in Toronto, again through the arrangements with Jojo.

     John Bissell had been involved here in the 1960s and had escaped out of the country round about 1964/65, 1964. He and his wife settled in Canada, so they were reliable people that we could use. I was not in touch with them. I was in touch with Jojo and I was in touch with the secretary of an organisation called Canadians Concerned with Southern Africa. This contained a SA woman who was the secretary and she had her contacts in the trade union and left wing circles.

POM     What was her name?

MM     Fatima Bhyatt. So these are two people that I know personally and one is the Chief Rep. So I say, well because I know them personally I can speak to them not to divulge to others. That's how I used them.

POM     So you got, just pulling this one out, you got the Douglases.

MM     Douglases, Grabeck, Susan Grabeck.

POM     Susan Grabeck, Canadian also?

MM     Canadian. She was from –

POM     There were two Canadian girls, right? Or just one?

MM     Robin Evan, Susan Grabeck and then from Germany Anita.

POM     Anita Kreuss.

MM     Yes, those are the three that I sent in before I came into the country so that I know now things are right. Then I transferred, when Ivan is appointed, that task of finding other people. It's your job, Ivan. I know I have put in the minimum requirements while I was attending to the work to my satisfaction.

POM     So the Douglases were here in Natal?

MM     No, all concentrated in Johannesburg.

POM     Sorry, in Johannesburg.

MM     Because our target was to come via Natal and start working in Jo'burg but because of the developments we came in first to Jo'burg, then I went to Durban and when I found Mo and his Intelligence capability I now said, no, tactically we will start with getting a structure in Durban because we are doubly safe, not just comrades in the struggle, like the Pravins, OK provide a third, both had facilities to stay, and people, structured people and are involved in the mass organisation, but also Mo who's getting us intelligence information. And thirdly, if danger arises in Natal I'm known to all the comrades. We can keep Johannesburg because we've got these three people here and the enemy would not find us because nobody in Natal will know where we've gone and he would retreat leaving bits of evidence to suggest that you have fled out to Swaziland so that the enemy begins to concentrate on looking for you in Swaziland. That gives you time to properly take cover in Jo'burg. So that's how it turned out in practice, but the plan when coming in was that I would come in with Gebhuza and go to Durban, make contact in Durban, look at Johannesburg, head for Johannesburg and begin our work by rooting ourselves in Jo'burg.

POM     Why, just given what appeared to be the strength of the mass, the Durban - go back to the anti-Republic days where a lot of the action was in Durban, why did you choose to start in Johannesburg rather than in Durban given that it appeared to be that there were more established, trustworthy structures in Durban at the time?

MM     Throughout the history of the struggle history period the Witwatersrand has been, even now, the industrial heart of the country. It has been the centre of all the unrest, it has been the area where most of the organisations maintain their head offices. It is the area where the key people active in COSATU, running COSATU, running the UDF, are settled. Now in my mind setting up a relationship with the mass organisations was one of the keys to doing our work relevant in providing leadership. If all you were doing was being in touch with three MK units and six underground units on the political side distributing leaflets – if your reach was extended to a person or persons who are in the hostels in the mines, because when you get that one and he becomes the distributor, you can distribute ten times what you could distribute by going from outside into the hostel.

POM     You'd also had the uprising, the Vaal uprisings beforehand.

MM     All uprisings. Soweto was still bubbling.

POM     Who were, in terms of making preparations for setting up in Jo'burg, who were the key people there that you had figured would be the contacts you would make when you came in?

MM     At the clandestine level I would be able to contact abroad and say to the party, "Party, who are you in touch with in Jo'burg."

POM     Who would you have gone to?

MM     They would have informed me from Lusaka. I didn't want to come in with all the names in my head. Secondly, all the mass leaders, Jay Naidoo, Cyril Ramaphosa, Sydney Mufamadi, I knew them and they knew me, or at least they knew of me. And when I did settle here in my forays from Durban, those are the people I started making contact with because they were key to acquainting me with what is the thinking in the head structures of the Mass Democratic Movement and they were the key to whom I could find out the reliability of other comrades less prominent than them who I could depend on for other acts of … As it happened because we came the other way round to Jo'burg, I went to Ismail Ayob and said, "Who is in hiding?" There were lots of people detained, there are lots of people evading the police, it's a state of emergency. "Now who do you know and can reach who is in hiding and trying to evade the police?" He starts putting a set of names, I reject, reject in my mind. When he writes there Momo I say, "Who's this?" It rings a bell that wait a minute, Momo has been a very active person in the MDM but not occupying the top position. He has been detained previously with Valli. Thirdly, he has to my knowledge, been in the Communist Party underground.

POM     He has, sorry?

MM     He's part of the Communist Party underground. So I say to Ismail, "Try to bring Momo in." And when he brings him to me it turns out he is in fact well monitored, he can find and reach the Civics or anybody, the Frank Chikanes, all he's been in touch with, and thirdly, he belongs to a unit in the underground which was treated as the District Committee of the Communist Party for Johannesburg. So well grounded and also knows the communists in Natal. Oh no, I know them. Which ones? He knows them, all of them. "Now can you get a message to Natal and make arrangements for me to travel to Natal?" He says, "Sure." Momo became one of my critical links for Operation Vula in the Transvaal. I would not come to Johannesburg without on arrival within hours making contact with Momo, just as I would not get to Durban without first going to Mo Shaik to get an intelligence reading and to go to Billy Nair to get a reading for the politics, then go to Pravin, then go to Vusi Tshabalala; here in Jo'burg I'd go to Momo and get an idea what's happening. Where are the guys? What are they grappling with? Then I would start my work here.

     That was in answer to the course. I think the key thing here is, I now began to devise what should be in the course for people that are being prepared for home.

POM     Insert 2. 2 April, inserted on page 5 after sentence, "I now began to devise what should be in the course for people who are being prepared." This is insert 3? Is this a short one I can just put in?

MM     Yes, it's already here, you'll see it.

     Underground work. I trained as a printer in the GDR, I trained in sabotage work. Now I come out of prison. I pick up knowledge as I visit the camps, I'm seen as a senior person in MK but I've not gone for training, I'm now heading for home. My focus is going to be the urban areas.

POM     Your focus is going to be?

MM     The urban areas because our strategic concept has begun to move towards the idea of people's war and you have to take the ball where it's taking place as your starting point. So said, "Chaps, I don't want to do a six month course in military work. I want to do a short course on urban warfare and the focus on urban warfare must not be to make me a damn good shooter and a soldier. The focus of the course must deal with issues of command and control so that when I have somebody assigned to head the military committee deep in the underground at home, I can relate with that comrade and come to issues that should be his or her problems. Similarly I don't want to do the Intelligence to become an Intelligence officer myself. No, I need to understand the nature of the work and I need to understand how to create a relationship." In fact in the GDR –

POM     How to create a relationship?

MM     Between the different structures. How does the information, if it's operationally valid, get transmitted without exposing your intelligence operation? In the GDR I called different people because I put a question, I said to them, "Are you teaching, when we send comrades to you, those that come as MK, do you teach them that it is necessary that MK should have an intelligence section?" They say, "Yes." I said, "Now, when comrades are sent to you for political training and they are from the ANC, do you teach them that the ANC should have an intelligence section?" They said, "Yes." I said, "Now when the Communist Party sent you people for training, do you teach them that the Communist Party should have an intelligence section?" They said, "Yes." I said, "When SACTU, the trade union, sent you people, do you teach them that they should have an intelligence section?" They said, "Yes." I said, "Comrades, I have a problem. Are you aware, are you taking into account that our thrust of operations are just for the neighbouring territories? So, there's the MK comrade recruiting people at home for Intelligence, there's the SACTU man recruiting people for Intelligence, there's the party, there's the ANC, and how do they know that they are not recruiting the same person? You've made this task such that it is a recipe for disaster." "Oh, I don't know, sorry, I can't answer your question."

     Next day another question arises. I realise here's a more senior person. He sits down, he says, "Comrade, you've raised certain questions with the comrade yesterday and he was unable to answer. I've come to hear your questions and to see if I can be of help." And he starts, you can see he's been briefed, he starts by saying to me what they had done in Germany in the 1930s under Hitler.

POM     What the Communist Party had done?

MM     Yes, under Hitler. So I listen to him, "But I have this problem, you did not have an alliance the way the ANC has with the Communist Party. You did not have a military section that was led by the ANC and you were operating in a terrain where the leader of the Communist Party was the leader of the Red Brigades so he could create the balance and ensure that there's no crossed lines. We are in a different situation. These comrades that you are training are just all the comrades that are coming through." He said, well he disagrees. About a week later another gentleman arrives. Now with him he says, "Here, maybe we are wrong. We didn't realise the conditions but the problem is we've been asking you before to tell us how to improve our courses. Nobody has raised this problem. You are right, if the conditions are what you have described then what we are teaching is the wrong lesson." I realise this is a person high up in the intelligence structure and as it happened, year before last December, the head of the GDR Intelligence section was on a visit to South Africa, he has written a book, I forget his name at the moment, I have met him.

POM     What was the name? You mentioned it.

MM     Man Without a Face the book is called. He was the head, I can't remember his name at the moment. I sat down and chatted with him, straightaway when I described the comrade he says, "Oh yes, that was my deputy." So they had sent the second or third most senior officer in their Intelligence to come, think through the question and acknowledge that they were teaching us in the wrong way.

POM     Were these the guys in STASI?

MM     Yes. So, that's the type of issue that I was discussing. Then it comes to Cuba. In Cuba's case I knew that there was the July 26th Movement and there was the Communist Party led by Blas Rocco. Comes the revolution the real force is July 26th but the force that implemented the strike in Havana, the worker's strike which simultaneously converged with the takeover of Havana, was the left wing and a little later the two organisations came together and formed the United Socialist Party of Cuba. How did this happen? What was the relationship? Surely they must have worked in a way that even though they were separate they respected each other, even though they differed they respected each other. Blas Rocco had written an article when Castro and them started their armed struggle.

POM     What's his name?

MM     BLAS – it's here. Blas Rocco had written an article that we had been studying in which he characterised the July 26th Movement of Castro at its beginning as an adventurist action. That's a serious charge. Then how come at the time of the revolution Fidel Castro and Blas Rocco are working together? So these are the issues that I wanted to discuss with them.

POM     What happened to him afterwards?

MM     Blas Rocco lived a normal life, came into the leadership of the United Socialist Party. They took the forces of the Communist Party and July 26th Movement, they integrated them into one structure. Castro became the head of the structure, Blas Rocco went into the leadership but they carried on. I said, "Tell me, how did it happen? I want to know from your experience", because I'm saying to myself I'm going to face similar problems. Not exactly the same but I'm going to face similar problems. How do you bring different formations to work together?

POM     How did they do it?

MM     Well the point is that they had great differences between each other about resorting to their own struggle. Those differences left them separate but as Castro and them began to entrench themselves and begin to score success after success and when they sent emissaries into the urban areas, in Havana in particular, to try and make contact because they realised in the bush that they needed something in Havana, they went to the unions and when they went to the unions they found themselves touching the Communist Party. That was the problem. The Communist Party, July 26th Movement, do we assist them? But by now they are scoring successes from the initial disaster of the boat where only twelve survived. They had now rooted themselves, they were taking on the Batista army, defeating it in battle after battle. A decision is taken, give them support but remain separate. We control the decision what happens in Havana. Castro will say, "No problem, we want you to act. Can you get action going in Havana?" Now because they acted the great benefit was the Communist Party of Cuba did not claim that it was the one that created the revolution, it acknowledged that Fidel and them were the architects and when they united they accepted that Castro should be the leader, that they had played a secondary role and that they should accept a secondary role in the merged entity.

     So these were amongst the lessons that began to emerge reinforcing our own experience. To me it was important because even at the mass level the issue of the UDF, how it functioned, the issue of the unions, the issue of the unions and the UDF working together, the issue of the friction in different structures, the issue of somebody claiming to be uniquely in touch with ANC.

POM     Who has claimed ownership.

MM     These were problems here and by studying the Cuban experience firsthand with Cubans I was better placed. So that's that.

POM     When would this have been?

MM     This would have been 1986/87. The party delegation goes to Cuba, I'm part of that delegation so that I can get introduced to people in Cuba. We meet Fidel Castro and Joe Slovo introduces his delegation by telling Castro that I have been in Robben Island for twelve years.Castro starts chatting with me, telling me about his imprisonment. I think it is Castro that gave me the book, it is inscribed, with the story of the Cuban struggle. In his handwriting, an inscription something like, "… man among men."Then I go to Raoul, there starts the same thing and Raoul Castro, the Minister of Defence, says, "Have you been to the prison where we were kept?" So I said, "No." Immediately he says to his officers, "Take a helicopter, fly this man to the island where the prison is." So already that introduction was setting up the links that you knew later on when you came back and said, "I want to have a discussion on intelligence", they would produce a person at the level that was required for the type of discussion that you wanted.

POM     So you had gone there first, you had met Raoul Castro before you went back to Cuba to do your course there? OK. That gets things going. Nice little anecdote.

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