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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

20 Aug 2004: Maharaj, Mac

POM     Mac is talking about some of the means he went to to sustain his legend. You were saying that while you were in South Africa –

MM     No, before I left for South Africa from Moscow we took about 24 or 36 postcards in Moscow and each one was dated a particular month, forward into time, for example August 1988, another one September 1988, October 1988, going on for two years while I would be away and each postcard was dated that and written by me addressed to Zarina but addressed care of the ANC head office in Lusaka. So Shubin would send it on to Lusaka as coming from me in hospital, intended for Zarina, but it would go to the ANC office to the Administrative Secretary and they would make arrangements to have it delivered to Zarina or for Zarina to collect it. So because they were postcards it kept on reinforcing the thing that Mac is somewhere in the Soviet Union in hospital and he's corresponding with his wife and children. The Administrative Secretary and would be telling other people that. Yes.

POM     Now would you write something on the cards?

MM     Oh yes, wrote a message.

POM     Did you ever say you were getting better or were you getting worse all the time?

MM     Now and then going worse, now and then getting better, now and then fed up, missing the family or deeply loving them, etc., etc.

POM     And Mac when you were back in Lusaka a card didn't arrive for Zarina from – did Shubin remember not to post the cards then?

MM     No, the one thing, it's in Shubin's book, he refers to it, and he did that very well, made it a point to regularly send them. Anyway, what did we want to deal with here?

POM     How many different courier systems did you have going? You had the coms going, that's one way you received and sent information. Now you also had couriers going to and from Lusaka.

MM     To and from Lusaka via Botswana and/or Zimbabwe and Swaziland.

POM     Now who would that be?

MM     Oh that would be different people. Here you would see that Paul Simon is holding a concert in Harare, now tens of thousands of South Africans are rushing there. So we say, OK, we will send some people – amongst the people who are going to the Paul Simon concert we will send one or two people of ours with messages, not so that they transmit it verbally but with a hidden note or something or a disk to say give this over to somebody who will contact you. Secondly, you will see that there we were also considering, and maybe we did it, is to send a number of vehicles over to Harare as people going to the Paul Simon concert with the intention that they would be loaded with weapons and brought back.

POM     But you had a regular –

MM     We didn't have an individual.

POM     There was no given individual.

MM     There was no given individual on the frontline. There we sent people to Botswana, changing different people, because the people would not even sometimes know where the thing is hidden in their car. We had people in Botswana, if they knew a car was coming and it was delivered to them, we would have communicated from here telling them that it's in the car. It may have been in the tank, it may have been in the bodywork of the car and therefore the person taking it did not know.

POM     This would be a message?

MM     Yes.

POM     Or a bundle of stuff?

MM     A bundle of stuff, printed material, a disk from a computer.

POM     So in the same car somewhere modified for the movement of arms, those same ones where the petrol tank was removed and instead of arms you would take messages out and take arms back. There was kind of a two-way flow.

MM     And you could also conceal in the side of the doors, there are handles that are removable. In a car there are untold number of places where you can conceal. If you're talking about a little floppy disk of a computer, can you imagine the number of places it can be concealed without a sniffer dog picking it up. It is explosives that cause a problem with sniffer dogs.

POM     But you wouldn't be sending explosives out.

MM     No we would be sending explosives out. So you said, means of contact; yes the communication method, yes the courier through KLM, yes movement across the borders to Botswana and Zimbabwe and sometimes it was Swaziland. We seldom sent, I don't recall sending a car to pick up any explosives in Swaziland. We used Swaziland for some of the comrades to come in on foot and also for comrades to use it often as a starting point to fly into South Africa. For example, it seems to be that what happened with Katherine Mvelase, or with Susan Tshabalala, is that we had obtained for them, for one or other of them, a Lesotho passport so this person flew from Swaziland to Lesotho and then from Lesotho flew into Durban, disembarked at Durban and disappeared into the underground. Now we used Swaziland because while we could get those documents of Lesotho our foothold in Lesotho had become tenuous and people like Ivan could not just easily move in and out of Lesotho. So those were the means.

     Then there might have been some ad hoc mechanisms, meaning somebody mutually known to people on both sides happened to moving to SA or from SA abroad and we would give the person something to deliver.

POM     OK, you've dealt with Harry, let's deal with Govan in more detail. We can almost do it as I go, if you pull it out of your computer you'll see it's in Robben Island.

MM     We've seen that, the briefing from OR to Harry.

POM     Which date is it?

MM     12 December 1988 and it says, "Your report is remarkable for both its scope and detail. It gives us a clear vision not only of the immense potential of Vula concept but also of its tremendous yield in terms of what's been achieved within a short – " Then, "To Adam and Sylvester we say bravo."

POM     I have that.

MM     Number two: "Re Zizi." Zizi is Govan Mbeki. "Thanks for your valuable insights. We will do our best to give him a comprehensive briefing. The document prepared for him for this purpose was read to Xundu" (that's Reverend Xundu the courier who took notes). "We now hope document reaches him and we intend to keep him updated."

POM     Now that document was sent to you, right?

MM     Yes, but wait, let's just check it out. "(b) DM (that's Diliza Mji) is being told to come to Lusaka where Robin and Reggie will brief him inter alia to inform Zizi that Reggie has set up an APC in Durban and will handle the area direct. Whatever co-ordination Zizi may require with Natal should be done through Masher (that's Billy Nair) and Diliza. Three, has Masher been in touch with Zizi? Shouldn't Adam (that'sMac) find a way at some stage to make contact with Zizi. (d) As soon as we get a chance we will debrief Moss." That's Moss Ngoasheng, he's the one with Saki Makizoma in business.

POM     Where was he?

MM     He was studying at Sussex. So we told OR that a very good activist from the Durban region is busy studying at Sussex, could they contact him, keep in touch with him, get a debrief from him of the situation in Natal. They said they'll do that. Then next they say, "You will note from (b) above that we use the acronym APC, not RPC, not RPMC. This is deliberate. This is to emphasise the point that we are setting up political leadership structures under which all functions including the military will fall.Now, three, Madiba: "Thanks for progress report, things appear to be reasonably in hand. Sydney Mufamadi should by now have reported to you on the nature of our discussions with UDF and COSATU. (a) The briefing you suggest to Madiba is still under consideration. (b) A secure line between OR and Mandela is welcome. (c) Maximum collective functioning of Rivonia group is vital including special contact between Govan and Madiba." Now that never happened. (c) In addition to problems of reception it is vital to launch and intensify Release Madiba campaign. (4) Gatsha, read report ex … contains useful outline of situation. (b) Agree Madiba needs special briefing on Gatsha. We will do our best. (c) Please also get briefing from Sydney on Gatsha. Section three."No that's not the one.

POM     That's the one we have in handwriting.

MM     Is that the one we have? It then goes on to give a briefing what they have said to Govan via Xundu, they then tell me in writing so that I am aware of what they have said and they show you how they are nudging Govan away. Govan has set up a national collective and they say it's a recipe for disaster. It's 28/29 December 1988. "By now you should have received OR's message to Zizi which speaks for itself. The approach which characterised the first national get together organised by Zizi was clearly a recipe for another Rivonia disaster. I hope you consider our message adequate to cover both the latter point and the production of the structures that you are busy with in Durban."

POM     This is to you?

MM     To me. So they briefed me, the briefing to Govan –

POM     We don't have that.

MM     It's here. 27 December, "Diliza Mji has been met. What follows is line taken by us. Please make Diliza Mji copy of line which he is to take to Govan. For Diliza Mji to take to GM:" Here's the message and it runs from here, there, there, there.

POM     I have that, that's OR's and Slovo's message in which they say to me, I think if I summarise it is that he should confine his activities to the Eastern Cape and the Border area and that Natal and Jo'burg were out.

MM     And even Western Cape they didn't want him to touch.

POM     So that he shouldn't go – what they were saying is, forget about your national collective and stop pulling guys from Johannesburg down to see you in PE.

MM     Well OK, and creating a national structure. They were saying that's out. To me they are saying that structure approach was clearly a recipe for disaster.

POM     Now later on you have named both Kgalema and Dullah as being part of Govan's collective. Now when you're saying 'collective' what do you mean? This was in April. This is the time also, so when you're using the word 'collective' then?

MM     Meaning I'm not clear, I'm sensing that he has set up a national committee as an overall committee in charge of all work in SA.

POM     Even though he's been told to stop it he's gone ahead. Because nobody would know that he had been told to stop it.

MM     I would know.

POM     But nobody else, Cyril wouldn't know.

MM     He's not going to tell anybody. It's OR and them's job to tell them because if I tell people it looks like a power struggle. Now I'm hearing Dullah, he's at a meeting in PE, Cyril is at a meeting, Kgalema is at a meeting, and Diliza had raised the matter with me, I think it is here, that it would be difficult for him not to respond to Govan when Govan asked him about the situation in Natal, that is to serve in our structures in Natal and not divulge to Govan when Govan asks him.

POM     Where was Kgalema at that time?

MM     Kgalema is in Johannesburg. So now I know that Kgalema is there is when I hear about the Madiba letter, that when the collective present in Jo'burg met over the Madiba letter the next day when Valli is now asked to correct the problem, in the middle of their meeting arrives Kgalema to say –

POM     He's had an instruction from Govan to stop.

MM     When they question him he says it's an instruction from Govan. So it shows that Govan was persisting with his national collective but that's not unusual for Govan. So it doesn't matter what OR and them write to him, he would do his own thing and therefore while we made no fuss about it it was impossible to link up Govan and Madiba because Govan would not adhere to it. Madiba, of course, says, Madiba doesn't say in his autobiography, he says he met Govan before Govan's release. He says he gently hinted to him that he should take a low profile.

POM     That comes out in one of the new things I have. Just to refer that to the dons, when we're talking about Mbeki, one line says when he was leaving prison Govan was taken to Madiba and Madiba urged him to be cautious on how he conducted himself on the outside. Govan says in one of his writings that he was concerned that Madiba had not been entirely open with him, had not briefed him exactly what was happening. Which writing are you referring to? I need a reference for that. I'll make a note of it.

MM     Prison notebooks?

POM     I have those but I've been unable to find it.

MM     Oh wait a minute, can we check Allister Sparks? Have you got it here?

POM     Leanne piled up everything, everything's gone. Leanne packed up everything because she thought I was taking it all to Cape Town and then she got to the airport and found that it was too heavy so it's all sitting in her house and I'll have to get it out of her house and get all my files. Samson?

MM     The only difference is that he might have sourced it by saying he interviewed Govan on that matter. But my formulation says in one of his writings.

POM     Anyway I'll note it down there and think about it.You have given me a picture of Walter, you've given me a picture of Madiba and the other big gun in prison was Govan. Who was Govan in prison? And I know that you had a difficult relationship with him and you may as well say that up front rather than saying you didn't. Govan as you knew him off the top of your head. You did Mandela, you did Walter, you just talked.

MM     I went to prison with an image in my mind of Govan as a stalwart communist leader, intellectual, perhaps intellectual giant even, and a person of ruthless determination. I hadn't known him outside, I had met him once at Rivonia but that was just a casual greeting and I realised that that was Govan but I had gone to Rivonia for a specific meeting in which he was not part of that meeting. My perception of Govan was primarily based on the fact that from 1955 or late 1954 he was the PE editor of the left newspaper, New Age.

POM     You would have been in Durban, or you'd left?

MM     No 1955 I was in Durban. And so I was reading New Age and I was working for New Age and therefore would be reading articles by Govan and the Pondo revolt as well as the series of articles that he wrote examining the condition of the peasants in the Transkei which became the book subsequently published called The Peasants' Revolt. So here was this picture. I get to prison and of course the public record said that he was a member of the Central Committee of the party.

POM     When you say the public record, what does that mean?

MM     Meaning that in court cases he had acknowledged, he said that he was a member of the Central Committee. Not everybody acknowledged those things. So he was a face that you put to the party also. Insofar as when I was in London and was working on the African Communist, etc., the face that we were interacting with was Michael Harmel. So one did not see anything there that said this is Govan. But he was in my mind a leading member of the party. I assumed that his membership of the struggle, of the ANC and of the CPSA dated into the thirties.

     Be that as it may, in prison we got together, we began to discuss at the quarry and my first shock came when I was amongst those who wanted us to discuss Operation Mayibuye, to discuss it as something – what was its status, its content, its concept, the validity of its concept. Remember, I had been drawn into various levels of leadership, the party and of MK, post-Rivonia and therefore with this document forming an important part of the Rivonia trial it was important for me to understand the document, to know which way our leaders were thinking so that we could carry on with the work. My reading of Operation Mayibuye was that it was a shocking document, not only was it amateurish, it was an adventurous document.

POM     Now had you seen the document before you came in?

MM     Yes I'd seen it. I'd seen it in the underground here, it was part of the Rivonia trial records. Be that as it may, in prison one wanted to discuss the thing and it is Comrade Govan who was vehemently opposed to any discussion of Operation Mayibuye. His vehemence was so strong that when I went and raised the matter with Madiba and Walter they advised against trying to get that discussion going because they said you won't get anywhere, Govan will not allow it. I said why? What's the problem? Now I understood part of the problem, or the main problem was its status as a document that appeared in the Rivonia trial. Had it been an adopted document that is a policy of the movement it could have meant the death sentence for the Rivonia trialists. So was it a tactical line that they were taking to say it had not yet been adopted?

POM     Didn't Govan insist that it had been adopted?

MM     Govan was of the view that it had been adopted. He justified his view on the grounds that Joe Slovo had taken it out to take it abroad but Walter was saying, no, he motivated to take it out on the basis that consultation should take place while the document is being discussed at home and in the context that a decision of MK could not be binding on a matter like this, it needed the decision of the political organisation. Be that as it may, Walter has now said, he maintained his view, Walter is now dead and before he died he said he made his peace with Govan, the issue has become history, there's no death sentence sitting around it.

POM     Was that Govan at the trial saying it hadn't - ?

MM     That's where Yutar made the biggest mistake, Yutar did not question.

POM     Yutar didn't ask?

MM     Govan, only Walter.

POM     About Mayibuye? And he didn't ask Walter whether he was a communist?

MM     Yes, and he didn't ask Walter what was the status of Mayibuye? Because had he asked that question of which of the accused who were in the box he would have got different answers.

POM     Some prosecutor.

MM     Some prosecutor. However, that was a shock for me and I couldn't understand why he wouldn't want it discussed. And of course people who were in the leadership at the Rivonia time could not give you a good explanation. Some of them wouldn't even give you any explanation and you will see it there in Kathy's book also, Kathy won't explain. Walter says that there were differences, it's not an issue from Madiba's point of view but Madiba was brought in and accused from Robben Island and he wanted to know, "Chaps, who drafted this document? Who adopted it? Is this a serious document?"

POM     Because he wouldn't have seen it because he was out of the country.

MM     No he was in prison. This is after he's arrested that Mayibuye is drafted. And he would say, "Wait a minute, what is this?" Basically Operation Mayibuye was saying that we've got to send out 7000 people for training who would be trained and would be flown in and parachuted into the country for an invasion which would take the country by storm and, voop, over. Who was going to provide the planes? Where are you going to get the pilots, the fighters? What about South Africa's defence system? You name it, it had all the country divided into sections and how many platoons you've got to have and how many trainers, all fantastic but totally unrealistic. Where were the arms going to come from for 7000 trained people? What were they going to fight with? So the assumptions behind it were of somebody who has not even done military training, but not discussion. You see there's nothing wrong in the movement having some crazy plan put forward but if it's being put forward discuss it so that it becomes a learning curve what's wrong about it. But there was this total prohibition and it struck me as incongruous that Govan, who I saw as one of my heroes as a party leader, and I was aligned to the party, was the one who was adamant – no discussion.

     That's the start of my disillusionment. My second level of disillusionment arose out of the political discussions that were going on. I found him very, very closed minded, what I call sectarian, dogmatic.

POM     He was in charge of developing the curriculum for Robben Island?

MM     No. You will find in Mandela's book that the curriculum was entrusted to a committee and in that committee were people like M D Naidoo, myself, and we tried to draw in everybody to say – I think at one stage we even tried to draw in Neville Alexander.

POM     In the early stages.

MM     There was no curriculum devised by Govan. The curriculum that he's talking about is after Walter and them have been removed from Robben Island and taken away to Pollsmoor.

POM     So the lectures that are in one of his books?

MM     Are after Walter and them have left Robben Island. They're not the lectures that were given at that time. He wasn't lecturing. We had a syllabus committee appointed and he was not on the syllabus committee. We would consult each other, we'd consult him. I told you that that syllabus committee never really kicked off because one of the debates that took place is that given that these were lectures in political education in the structure of the ANC, I had raised in the syllabus committee, what are the fundamentals of Marxism that are not challengeable in those discussions? My view was that any of the fundamental assumptions of Marxism could be challenged in those classes and those who were teaching the course would have to motivate and justify those assumptions. MD's view was that, no, you couldn't do that, there are certain fundamentals of Marxism that cannot be challenged.

POM     That's MD Naidoo. He didn't come in until?

MM     He came in in 1968 and conditions for classes only began to arise from 1966 onwards.

POM     So this is like a Catholic saying up for discussion is the infallibility of the Pope and you say –

MM     How can it be?

POM     Or that the Virgin Mary was a virgin.

MM     OK, that the dictatorship of the proletariat is an expansion of democracy. Is it? The assumption of Marxism is that it is a higher stage of democracy. That surely should be discussable, debatable, because you cannot start with the assumption that that person who is sitting in that class accepts your premise.

POM     I assume that Govan was on the side that these things are not –

MM     On these issues I don't recall Govan taking a position, but the point of his narrowness arose over the Bantustans. Over the Bantustan debate it started with the fact that at the Gaborone conference held in 1962 of the ANC, that conference, held in exile with delegates from home, had to decide what to do about the forthcoming Transkei elections. Conference decided to boycott those elections because they were part of the Bantustan scene. Now here we were in prison decades later asking ourselves was that the correct tactic even now, now that Transkeian independence was coming up? And Govan's view was that was the decision at Lobatse and you cannot discuss it. That's it. We were saying, but let's discuss it, how do you organise in the Transkei? Let's discuss world experience because this is theoretical, this is not decisions on what the movement must do. It caused enormous conflict amongst us because those who wanted the discussion were accused of wanting to collaborate with the regime and those who didn't want a discussion argued that they were loyal members of the movement.

POM     So who would fall on either side?

MM     In the divide in the Higher Organ at that stage, Walter and Madiba were for discussion and were for a debate on whether one should participate and use the elections as a basis of organising while rejecting the whole system. Govan and Ray were totally opposed to anything to do with the Bantustans.

POM     Who broke down?

MM     Breaking that down to the next level you had Joe Gqabi, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Masondo as firmly on the side of Govan and you had a large body of others, Michael Dingake, Wilton Mkwayi, Andrew Mlangeni, Kathrada on the side of Madiba and Walter. And I was part of the communications committee and part of the committee determining and looking at the syllabus for education. I was on the side of Madiba and Walter's argument, but because I was in the communications committee which was at that time made up of Kathrada, Joe Gqabi, Masondo and myself, that split was there in the communications and so I was accused, because communications was also collecting news and disseminating news, there were accusations that I was part of the people doling out the news by tailoring the news to suit our arguments. So that's how nasty it became.

POM     That came from?

MM     That came from the grouping who were anti, totally nothing to do with Bantustans. Now in these debates, and the debates were pretty heated, in the unit that I belonged Masondo was part of the unit. So in my cell in prison –

POM     This would be your ANC cell? How many were in that unit?

MM     Four.

POM     That's yourself, Masondo - ?

MM     Myself, Masondo, I think it was Thomson Daweti, he's late now, he was serving 21 years, and the fourth member I'm trying to think who it would have been. It could have been a chap called Dangala or it could have been – hey, what was his name? He used to sing a song called A Certain Smile, Bunga Molobolo. Yes. One of them could have been the member. But the split was there again because in the unit it was Masondo and myself and yet Masondo and I were in the communications. So I was very intimately involved in that debate and controversy and through that controversy my views about Govan Mbeki changed radically. I could not see how these were the views of a leading member of the party.

POM     When you say 'of the party', again, you're referring to the Communist Party?

MM     The Communist Party. I thought that the communists were supposed to be open to facts, scientific, they had an analytical framework but if facts contradicted it you had to bring your tools of analysis to it but you did not deny facts. So my relations with Govan went to an all time low. My own understanding of him began to change radically and I, of course, began to ask how is it that a person of his standing sits in that position, holds those views? I again had a framework in my mind, in my mind the SACP born in 1921 had gone through an enormous process of zigzag development until it came to terms with the goals of the national liberation movement. Its goal of socialism and the goal of the national liberation struggle of liberation from national oppression seemed to always have a tension where communists were perceived as wanting to use the national liberation struggle to capture power. Often the communists' history reflected sometimes the tensions that existed in the world communist movement, such as happened in the thirties. But the great, great merit of the SACP was that after it was banned, and even before it was banned, by the time Kotane became the General Secretary, and I think that was in the forties, Kotane began to lead the party in a direction which made it possible for the party and the national liberation movements such as the ANC to work together, to co-operate. Kathy's book will tell you about tensions even as late as 1950.

     But by the time 1953 comes and the party reappears in the underground as an illegal party, not announced, it has begun to develop even more that close collaboration with the ANC and the Congress movement. Then you have the 1962 programme of the Communist Party called The South African Road to Freedom. That provided a theoretical framework in terms of stages of development which showed a basis for co-operation between a body such as the Congress and a body such as the Communist Party and that was manifesting the formation of uMkhonto weSizwe. There was no effort by the communists to, by subterfuge, capture power and manipulate that power of the congresses for the benefit of the communists. There was a genuine co-operative framework and I felt that Govan's position did not take into account that tradition.

     Now Govan's attitude was mirrored by the attitude of Harry Gwala in the other section of the prison. To them the Mandelas and the Sisulus were petty bourgeois leaders and by petty bourgeois they meant Madiba was a lawyer. But they would forget that they themselves were teachers and where in the classic definition of classes does a teacher sit?

POM     Remember what your father had said about lawyers. No son of mine.

MM     Yes. So that's the way they were discussing it and that was a shock but you will find that I wrote a pen profile of Govan in Reflections in Prison. I was not lying there, I was speaking with careful reflection. I thought that in the best understanding of Govan that I can put out and removing any concept of attributing evil or ulterior motives, I think he was essentially didactic, he was a teacher by profession and he remained so throughout his life. And teachers, you know, like to tell you – do as I tell you but don't do as I do.

POM     Now you said that - he was born in 1910 as far as I recall.

MM     1907.

POM     Well give or take. But you said yesterday he didn't become a member of the Communist Party until the 1950s.

MM     There is certainly no record that Govan was a member of the Communist Party before it's banning, before it was banned in 1950 by the Suppression of Communism Act. He was not on the list of people named by the government in terms of the Suppression of Communism Act as a communist and therefore precluded from participating in various organisations.

POM     That was in 1950?

MM     The Act was passed in 1950. It came into operation, I think, in 1951 or 1952. So in terms of the Act, that Act, there were a large number of comrades who were named. It said: you are a communist, you belong to the CPSA and you are now prohibited from belonging to this or that organisation. Or you were banned. Govan's name did not appear in that list, he was not banned, and yet I had this perception of him as left. So actual membership of the party, Govan seems to have become a member post 1955.

POM     If the government knew him to be a communist would his writing for New Age have been prohibited or was that underground?

MM     He was never banned for his work on New Age.

POM     Bunting, was he named at that time?

MM     Bunting was named.

POM     Was he banned?

MM     Bunting was not prohibited in participating in publications until quite late but he was named as a communist without the ban being put on him. And Ruth First was a known communist, she was on the District Committee of the Communist Party in the late forties, early fifties. So the people who were first banned were people like Kotane. But I am saying there is no record that Govan's name appeared on any such list and there's no record of him having been a member of the Communist Party, holding any office even at a district level or a unit level. I'm not aware of anything like that. So in my view it seems he became a member of the Communist Party, the underground Communist Party, sometime around 1955 or after.

POM     He became a member of the ANC?

MM     The ANC regarded every African as a member of the ANC. You did not have to fill in, you did not have to pay subscriptions, etc., etc., but be that as it may again there is no period at which it says Govan was elected to the ANC in the province or in a branch or in the national body until -

POM     He wasn't part of the ANC Youth League?

MM     No, no, he's not a member of the Youth League in terms of the leadership names that were there. His name appears in the leadership of the ANC, again post 1955. How that happens – yet there is information, for example, that somewhere in the thirties the Guardian newspaper which was run by the Communist Party but through its own mechanism had its own board of trustees, etc., Govan was a trustee of that Guardian newspaper. He was one of the early graduates in the Transkei. There is evidence that Govan was, while running his shop in Idutywa, involved in trying to set up a co-operative movement. There is evidence that at some time, some stage in that period, he was a representative in the Transkei Bhunga which is the equivalent of the Bantustan, the Transkei Territorial Authorities Council. He was on it for a while. Of that there is record. And then he left and he became an ardent critic of the Bantustan system in the fifties. There is evidence of that.

     But I haven't researched the matter. That's my knowledge. But that wouldn't affect my approach. What affected my understanding of him, my relations with him, was my disappointment at his unwillingness to engage and allow for debate to take place in prison and, secondly, for a rigidity of approach and a sectarian approach that closed and a repetition of a really top down approach to organising.

     Why wasn't Govan warned about Reverend Xundu?

POM     Yes, why wasn't he?

MM     He was told but he continued to trust Reverend Xundu.

POM     Xundu was?

MM     He was an unreliable guy. The fact of the matter is Xundu was an alcoholic but Govan trusted him. In fact there's a report in this batch, there's a report that says that Xundu put a paper at some meeting inside the country, it was rejected completely. He purported it to be a paper from Govan on proposals on the way forward. Chucked aside. But Govan would send Xundu as his man.

POM     Well was it a paper from Govan?

MM     Yes. And it got rejected but Govan trusted the bloke.

POM     I'll tell you that he impressed me in 1985.

MM     Who?

POM     Xundu, impressed the hell out of me.

MM     Did he?

POM     Oh yes, I made a point of tracing him down in 1989. I didn't get him until 1990, I didn't know where he was, no-one could tell me where he was because at that time he was in Natal, he was in Lamontville.

MM     Yes. That's where he hit the limelight, then he fled to the Eastern Cape.

POM     At that point he was dynamite.

MM     Yes, dynamite.

POM     I remember him showing me, standing outside his church, you could see across from the church the hostels. He described in detail the conditions of the hostels, the way the men had to live. I've a tape of it, it'll be on my website, from 1985. I remembered his name and said, "Dammit, I've got to see that guy again."

MM     And when you found him again, how did you find him?

POM     Completely different and I dropped him from my list of people that I interviewed. He had been moved to PE, he was in a parish in PE.

MM     And Govan comes out and he worms his way to Govan's heart. That was it. Xundu was his courier. You can see Lusaka telling me, "We've met Xundu."

     I've said so, because I'm expecting that even though I'm telling Cyril don't disclose, I'm expecting that when a person of Govan's status meets him and given Govan's tendency, Govan will say to Cyril, "Who's here?" And when he says that I don't expect Cyril to be able to resist not disclosing because he will tell Cyril, "Who are you, young man?" And Cyril will cave in and tell him. But we will leave it as a pretence because I too when I meet Govan I'm not going to say to him, "Listen, you were busy extracting information that you shouldn't have been doing." It's not the style that he should be employing in underground work. In underground work if OR sends a courier and you trust Cyril, Cyril is in your structure and Cyril comes and says, "There's a man sent by OR", you have to accept position because you don't start taking up everything yourself, because then you must ask that I must know everything. There's no 'need to know' principle operating for you, you are above 'need to know'. But what happens tomorrow when you are caught and you are tortured?

     So that's the problem with underground work. So I am assuming that they would have told Govan but I will behave with Govan as if I don't know he knew and I know he will behave like I don't know that he knows. So we keep that record closed at that point but if it is too esoteric leave it out because it will confuse readers. All that is necessary here is to say that I sent the person who I know was working closely with Govan and therefore Govan trusted to secure a meeting. I did that because my problem was that I felt that Govan – my reports were saying that in the Eastern Cape he is under very heavy surveillance and I've got to meet him bypassing that surveillance, so I'm not going to rely on any of his staff or his structures, I'm going to create my own panel of people to do that work from outside that area, outside of PE because I don't want them to be people who are well known to the Security Police in PE.

POM     OK. Just hold it there for a sec.

MM     First I sent somebody to do a reconnaissance. I don't know who I sent for the reconnaissance, if it was Claudia or Serina or Mo's wife Soraya, to do a reconnaissance, get road maps of PE, see one-way streets, see the location of hotels and I was particularly looking for a one-way street where I would be able to switch Govan from one car to another and break anybody following him, and for that I needed a one-way street. So they came back with a one-way street which was parallel to the main street of PE, it was one-way and it was such that when you got into that one-way that is the way you came out of a car park and it is straight after the exit of that car park into that one-way street that we ensured that the car that was bringing Govan would stop there. Behind Govan's car we would have our own car unknown to him so that no other car from the back could come through. We'd snap Govan out and make him walk round the corner to a waiting car into which he would jump and it would drive off so that anybody following him in another car was now blocked by our car. Right? And that would give us the opportunity to have transferred Govan into one of our cars and move him out without anybody knowing where we've taken him. From there he was taken by Claudia or Soraya, I think it was Claudia who was the driver, who then took him to a hotel.

POM     Can you remember the hotel?

MM     It was a minimum six/seven storey hotel, it would probably be a Sun hotel in those days. It was one of the posh hotels and it had a place where you had to get up onto the ramp, first floor, like you're going into the parking, but on the first floor the person jumped off and walked straight into the reception area from the back of the reception area to the lifts. Then I think the meeting was on the fifth floor.

POM     Let's just go through, we can stop the thing there.

MM     Obviously we had a number of pleasantries – how are you, how are you keeping? I've read in the newspapers that you've eyesight problems, I read you had an operation. Is your eyesight OK?

POM     Is he talking about you or you about him?

MM     I'm talking about him and how his wife, Piney, how is she keeping, is she still in Idutywa, is she in PE? All those things I talked about. Those pleasantries for a few minutes. And then to sit down and say, "Right, now, here I am. OR has sent me. We're trying to push the struggle. I would like to see PE well organised. What help can we give you both in advice in how to organise structurally, what are your needs, propaganda, etc.?" That's where he says, "We've got MK units here."

POM     Let me get down to that. "We've got MK …tell me who the commander is?" Did he tell you?

MM     No. Because you see here, he says to me, no, he will contact him. I said, "No, I don't want you to go back to jail, Govan. You're an inspiration to people here just by coming out of prison. I don't want you to go back to jail. Tell me who the commander is."

POM     What did he say?

MM     You know, "I don't want to disclose the name for the safety of that comrade." But you see what's happened, why am I dropping the subject? I've now ascertained that he is involved in trying to do military work. What I said earlier, don't combine military, political and the mass organisations, you have a very known quantity sitting here. Look at OR's communications, it says this is a recipe for another Rivonia disaster. And for me his statement that we've got MK units is confirming it, that the style is still this, the approach is the same. So I dropped it.

POM     This is still dealing with Govan, Vula dons. What have I learnt?

MM     The answer to that, how things worked out is to be found in that communication from OR briefing Govan which is copied to me, which is saying no national head office, work in your region, if you need to liaise with Natal or any other region do so through Diliza or Billy for Natal or through OR. For Harry, work with Mac and them in Natal and Billy, it's not working out but the nudging of that structure, the nudging of these comrades to pull together not to do things that are going to lead to security disasters.

POM     So you meet with Govan and you find that he essentially is not exactly following OR's instructions, he's involved himself in military work, MK units.

MM     Nothing is happening at MK, not getting into a flap about it, there aren't many units living in PE. There aren't many units operating in PE. If you read the records of those times there's hardly any military activity going on in PE so nothing to panic about that. The issue changes, you now see that Lusaka is pushing that way and then so far as they are in touch with Cyril, they are in touch with this one, we are pulling it together from head office and from the ground, we are pulling them. The Harare Declaration, I see Dullah. So Dullah is getting into a different environment. The space for them to do their own thing is closing up and by 1989 the Harare Declaration has come out.

POM     That was August.

MM     Yes but after that there's a lot of work to do in the country. There's a Conference for a Democratic Future to be organised and mobilised behind the Harare Declaration. There are the hospital boycotts that were unleashed. Do you recall that?

POM     Yes but you're out of there at that point.

MM     Yes but I'm saying these comrades here, they've got no time to do other things. They're caught up now in this wave of things which is what the movement wants them to do.

POM     Well it's like the comrades here, like Cyril and Sydney and those saw the future lying in the kind of activities they were engaged in, not in setting off the odd bomb here or there.

MM     And their contact with Lusaka and with us. There was no problem in the contact with me. The support that they were wanting, the lines of communication became unnecessary post-February 1990 and you won't find what happened to the MK units of Govan that he claimed to have in PE. Gone.

POM     OK. End of Govan.

MM     I entered the country either on the day of Madiba's release or the day after so my first meetings with Walter and Kathy would come after Madiba's release. This interim leadership group, or this overall leadership group, would be made up of Madiba, Walter, Raymond and Govan and myself and it would also have –

POM     Who would have set up that group?

MM     Madiba and Walter.

POM     Before they left?

MM     Well Walter I would have met already, he would have been back from his trip to Lusaka and he wouldn't even tell me that this is what was decided in Lusaka.

POM     It couldn't be decided in Lusaka because Lusaka didn't know you were in the country.

MM     It didn't even know I'm in the country.

POM     So it couldn't put your name there.

MM     So I am not clear, but it's there in the book and I'm saying yes, there was such a committee, we did meet in Johannesburg. It says there Madiba, Walter, Govan, Raymond and then visiting in the country and able to attend some of the meetings were JS and Nzo and myself and this is the group that was bridging the underground, the military and the overt, and this is the group where I had to put forward what do we do in this situation. As we go for negotiations, as the ANC is legally created, how do we maintain our structures and how do we move forward with what objectives? Now again I canvassed views, I asked Ronnie, Gebhuza to make an input, this is going to arise. I conveyed what the decision was and the thinking and said that we would be assigning the functions as we go on and these would be subject to how the changes go on in negotiations. So that's how it was put.

     Now you say questions have gone unanswered, which questions have gone unanswered?

POM     Where is this now? Where are questions unanswered?

MM     Were the underground structures ever consulted? Yes they were.

POM     Yes we've got that, we've established that.

MM     Did you ever meet again as a group? I would have gone down to Durban and met. You know that we had the Tongaat meeting on 20 December. So, yes, we had meetings.

POM     I thought about the group of you and Walter and Madiba.

MM     Oh we met again, yes.

POM     "Some folks said the underground – that they continued with their activities through election day, so the underground - "

MM     Now I wouldn't have gone to every structure and every unit. I would have discussed it with Gebhuza, Ronnie and Billy, possibly PG and them, and Mpho Scott and Jabu Sithole. It would be their job to take it down the structures.

POM     Now Kasrils says that when you were arrested he had joined you in SA as your deputy since he was given to understand -oh, forget about that. But he ran the underground after you were arrested?

MM     Yes. Accepted.

POM     That you were out of the underground loop.

MM     Sure. I was sitting in detention.

POM     But you had come out.

MM     I'm still on trial.

POM     You're on trial and then you said to me the last time on the phone that you were shovelling money to Mo, right? So Mo was still running his intelligence unit, was Mo's intelligence unit now reporting to Ronnie?

MM     I doubt it.

POM     So Mo wasn't part Vula per se?

MM     Yes.

POM     You had an arrangement with Mo.

MM     Sure.

POM     What would have happened to his intelligence unit?

MM     Still under Jacob Zuma.

POM     But Zuma, that's before, he's not shovelling any money to him?

MM     Shovelling the money was one thing, he said, "Now attend to it", and Zuma is now coming into the country as well.

POM     OK he's there, it's now December, he's at the Consultative Conference but Mo is still underground, you're out. Are you in contact with Mo when you're out?

MM     I'm in contact with him indirectly from while I'm in prison, while I'm on trial, because I'm in contact with all the comrades that are there in Durban. I don't see Ronnie and them but people were coming to the courtroom, Zak, I can reach people. I can send messages through the visitors coming there. Soraya, we can get messages to her to take to Mo. Mo can get messages to us. So we're keeping in that sort of contact but when I talk about Mo now, about further money, that's at the World Trade Centre time when I am Secretary at the WTC. Mo and them are at the WTC, they're doing intelligence work at the WTC. The intelligence function has got to continue; what's your reading chaps of what's the intention of the enemy? What do your sources say? Are you collecting the information of what the enemy's thinking is behind all this? It doesn't matter whether it's wrong or right but they've got to continue cultivating those sources. We cannot say, oh, because Thabo has met Mike Louw therefore now the enemy's thinking is known to us, or Madiba has met Fanie and these guys.

POM     OK, we needn't go into that because I'm not going to do negotiations at the moment.

MM     Where did it all end? It ended with Ronnie being hunted, the underground such as it existed being maintained by Ronnie and them and Janet, and it ended with my continuing even though I'm in retirement going to Madiba and making arrangements for them to surface. That's when they surfaced at Soweto, the press conference was held, I spoke at the press conference and we presented Ronnie and them. There was a debate. I don't know whether we can say - I don't know what underground was being done at that stage but I do know that I interacted via messages with Ronnie and them about their surfacing. It was a long saga. Ronnie and them were saying that they need indemnity before they surface. It affected Ronnie, Janet Love. I said, "Let's talk about it. Can we defiantly make them surface?" Can we defy? Can Madiba produce the comrades and say, "Here they are", and dare FW to lock them up? That idea came to naught because Ronnie said he cannot see how they would surface and run the risk of arrest.

POM     This is after you'd been given indemnity? So you were given indemnity in March?

MM     Yes. My indemnity was withdrawn. After I was indemnified, the court case –

POM     In March 1991 when all charges were dropped.

MM     Yes. Then I'm having discussions helping the underground, Ronnie and them, how to surface and how to stop being hunted, discussing it with Madiba.

POM     So you were doing this via Mo?

MM     No not only Mo.

POM     Who were you interacting with?

MM     Janet and some intermediaries, I've never told which are the intermediaries. But the issue was, I think I even met Solly Shoke, the issue was how do these comrades surface? Do they carry on just lying low and being hunted by the enemy? One proposal came up that Madiba should present them in public even though they've got no indemnity and dare De Klerk to lock them up because Mac and them have got indemnity now. That one was rejected by Ronnie. So the machinery of the ANC discussing with government was ordered by Madiba to keep pushing for the indemnity of Ronnie and Janet. Finally when it was granted we had a press conference at Madiba's home in Soweto.

POM     That was in June of 1991.

MM     Yes, at which I and Ronnie and others were present and Madiba then announced that these people have been given indemnity, they were hunted and here they are now free people going to function in the ANC. I then was asked to say something about Vula and the surfacing of these comrades and we made a statement there focusing on Mbuso Tshabalala and Charles Ndaba and saying that although these comrades have now got indemnity and have surfaced but there are two people who have disappeared and that needs accounting. So that was the closure.

POM     OK, that's the end of that.Three questions, these were the three questions I had at the end about –

MM     Walter was all the time General Secretary of the ANC and as such next to the President. Was Govan reintegrated into the SACP? You've seen the Tongaat minutes that we discussed inviting Govan. I think he attended a very short session and had to leave. When he met Walter one on one, did you inform him re your mandate? No. Walter accepted that I was in command from outside living in the country, underground, military and political. Yes I think that they were given a briefing, there is a communication there. Would this have been OR, after OR got ill? No I don't know who gave the briefing – I think JS and Nzo gave the briefing.

POM     Gave the briefing to?

MM     To Walter.

POM     Yes, he would have gone to Lusaka.

MM     Yes. And they sent a message – no, they sent a message through the underground communications welcoming their release.

POM     That's right, we have that.

MM     And telling them that there is a mission, without naming me, and that it will serve as the communication channel.

POM     Now you've gone through these communications, these are the ones that we've gotten from your friend?

MM     Yes.

POM     Are there any ones in there that – there's one on your resignation, that gives the exact date of your resignation. Have you gone through the others? Have you read them?

MM     Let's have a look.

POM     That would have been sent when?

MM     24th I sent that and I said in a few days time I will be sending you a fuller communication. About 3 March.

POM     Sorry, you returned to the organisation. About a week? It's nothing.

MM     It's ten days, a week to ten days.The names –

POM     The names for me, OK.

MM     I think they became no problem. The key things are the different names that were there for OR and for JS. Am I right?

POM     Yes. I came across in the coms that you were keeping a journal on Vula.

MM     I think that early on with the entry and when the coms began to work there was an idea of keeping a journal which I wouldn't keep here, I would send out to be entrusted to Zarina. I think her accident was in October, it put paid to it, just died away because it could not be maintained. Remember she was manning the communications section before her accident. 7 October she has the accident, she's out of touch, and after that she's no longer in the communications section, she's from hospital to hospital. So we couldn't maintain it and that would have been going through – the idea was mooted and we talked about it, we had agreed that there would be such a journal on the sort of understanding that nothing would be kept here, everything that's going on, send it there, finish, klaar.

POM     Now you'd send that up by courier?

MM     We'd send it on a disk, same communications channel but a separate coding system.

POM     Same communications system?

MM     But with a separate code. I have a memory that it was mooted, it was perhaps started.

POM     You refer to it because you say, "I'm going to continue on - "I just thought it might have been destroyed with –

MM     It would have been left to Zarina to keep and I don't think it got kept.

POM     You don't think it was? Or you never asked?

MM     Padraig, where was the time to ask about all these things?

POM     Is there any place it might be now? Might it be in the house? Might it be in a box?

MM     No chance. No chance. We moved house. Since then we've moved house – from one place in Lusaka, we abandoned a house, she went to Harare, she went to Moscow, she went to London, she moved to Brighton. From Brighton she moved to Yeoville, from Yeoville to Observatory, from Observatory to this place. Sometimes I say to her, "Is there something in the attic in Brighton?" She says she doesn't know.

POM     In the attic? Has anybody been into your attic?

MM     Above the ceiling.

POM     Yes, has anyone gone up there?

MM     No.

POM     I'll go up there.

MM     38 Gordon Road. One day I'll go to England and see who's living there and say, "Can I come in please."

POM     The chapter on communication with Mandela. When I was going through this yesterday with Ayob I was reading the com that you had sent to OR. You had begun by saying that you had given two documents to these people, one was a nine-page document with Mandela's – the date on which he sent it to PW, and the other one was a five-page document from OR. Now that document had come how? That had come in, OR had sent Mandela this document, it was a message. So that message, how would it have come? It would have come through the encoding system?

MM     Over the communications and I would give it to Ismail to take to Madiba.

POM     Would you do that in your – you said five pages, so that would be in a regular size?

MM     It would have been reduced to the five point type for giving to Madiba.

POM     You said five pages.

MM     Yes, five pages reduced to – it would have come as a com like this which would take five pages.

POM     Why don't we have that one?

MM     I don't know. We don't seem to have – to me it's two thirds that's in your records, it can't be all the communications because, for example Padraig –

POM     Sorry, to you it's two what?

MM     It's two thirds, maximum two thirds of the communications, or half, because what is missing there is where are the reports where I'm saying now in Durban we have set up so many units, we're covering the following districts. There's a hint there that we've bought printing machines, right? I would be giving minimum quarterly reports, how many we are circulating, which areas we are circulating.

POM     This is of what? Circulating of?

MM     Umsabenzi, the leaflets, and I would be reporting how many units we've created in which areas. I wouldn't be naming who's who because I have a memory that we had a target. Durban is made up of 26 magisterial districts and I have a memory at one time saying we're now established in 14 out of the 26 districts. For me crossing that halfway mark was an important moment because it said now you've got a reasonably viable structure in Durban. For me the big question was when do I move on to Transvaal? When do I pass over command? When has the Durban command structure now matured to handle it so that my presence can become less and less and my focus can now be on the Transvaal and just keep contact, now and then get down to Durban and work on issues? And to me crossing that line to reach 14 districts, magisterial districts, was saying, right, time now to move on.

     Now that report is not there. Is it possible that some of those reports were going by courier? Possible, possible. But even if they went by courier, why isn't it in Tim's records in what he's doing? Is it possible that he sent the disk on to Lusaka from the Nightingale? Then there is evidence here that sometimes disks would be given in Botswana. Now if it was given in Botswana it would go straight to Lusaka so it wouldn't get stored in London. There are lots of things missing there, lots of things. For instance, the OR, they've given us the briefing, we have found the briefing of the OR briefing to Govan. We haven't found the OR briefing to Harry. We haven't found the OR briefing to Madiba except there's a reference there, "We're thinking about it, we're working on it." Where is it? It was definitely done. The Harare Declaration. We haven't found it. The first draft that was sent that was shown to people like Cyril and Dullah and Madiba, it's not there.

POM     I thought that was there. No? There's a draft of the Harare Declaration in there.

MM     Yes there is a draft but that is about the time of the Conference for a Democratic Future.

POM     You were done by then.

MM     Yes but that has reached Gebhuza.

POM     Now we're not in this pile, in the pile that you have there is a draft of the Harare Declaration.

MM     Be that as it is, the point I'm making is that it's not a complete set. That's all I'm saying. I am saying that there are very clear gaps there and certainly my organisational reports – remember there's one where they are responding by paragraph, by reference re your paragraph 7, your paragraph 7.1.2., now my reports would be structured very succinctly under different groupings. There would be reports to the party how the party units are performing, how many party units. There'd be reports to the ANC how many propaganda units, what type of units we're setting up. I think certainly we had a military committee, we were on to ordinance committees, we had a training committee going, we had a propaganda committee going. Both production and ordinary units had the job of distributing.

     So all that was going on and there would have been very clear reports. You can see, for instance, they say give us your budget, and there's one communication from me to say I gave you the budget, you don't want to waste my time repeating it. It's not there. And there's a very clear statement from JS and OR, "Please let us know what you need." It's like they were not stinting us for money.

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.