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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 Sep 2004: Maharaj, Mac

POM     We're talking about the coms.

MM     You see unmistakably that OR and JS basically were agreeing with me on Harry, basically were agreeing with me on Govan except that they felt that they should be kept in the structures. This line of Govan's role comes to a crisis after OR has the stroke, when I complained to JS. I also complained about Harry and it comes to a crisis with Jacob Zuma and OR because it turns out that the person who was liaising with Harry from head office was Jacob Zuma and you will see over Mo Shaik, Zuma's structures, as a result of our progress I have been saying Intelligence cannot run political operations. OR replies they are going to sort that out because Zuma is now going to re-allocate his people, some specifically to Intelligence and others out of Intelligence, political, they'll come back to us. Then there's a report that says, well you've already achieved it on the ground.

POM     You've already achieved?

MM     That separation on the ground. But in this, without a confrontation, Zuma emerges unmistakably as the person who has been supporting Harry's political positions and I have a clash. With Govan it emerges I've been clashing with Govan but we've neatly been outmanoeuvring him and it's only after OR's stroke that Govan jumps over even Walter.

     Now Zuma and Thabo were like this.

POM     They were?

MM     Yes.

POM     Crossed fingers.

MM     Sharing everything, they were like this. So they shared a commonality of interests, very intimate, but whatever happened to them that commonality, the common denominator that they could find was Mac. This is the man who was upsetting everything, was making his father look bad, who was fighting with Harry the stalwart. Right, and who is sitting at home, and when he's sitting at home he's intercepting everything even before it reaches Intelligence. Thabo talks to people from home in London or New York and I'm sending a report, "This is what they are saying Thabo said. Please tell me what did he say?" Because we can't afford crossed lines now. So inevitably Thabo would know but Thabo knew from the PB also that I'm home, so did Zuma. So when OR is raising it by innuendo, saying, "Thabo, what happened with so-and-so in New York because I'm getting reports from home that are saying, home is saying different versions." Thabo would say, "It's Mac who's sending that report." Right? That's the only thing that comes out of all this correspondence.

     That is why when the Mafikeng conference took place, this is where I was retiring, right? The Mafikeng conference is where we're now electing Thabo as the President in preparation. When I went to Mafikeng I was clear I'm going to be retiring at the end of 1999 but I hadn't told people yet.

POM     1999?

MM     1998 I think. I was also clear that I sat, I conducted myself at Mafikeng so that unmistakably there could not be a basis to say that I am mobilising or I'm lobbying or I'm part of any faction. So I stayed in my room and on the platform when I entered that hall, I went and took a seat and I never moved from that seat, Padraig. If others in the executive came we greeted each other when they came to me. You will see it on camera, that I would stand up and I would hug but I never walked over to anybody to speak. It's only on the last night of conference when everything was over, elections and everything, that I went into a room where Pallo and Alec Erwin and a couple of other guys were sitting and drinking that I joined them for drinks and left the next morning. That's the conference where Cyril came number one.

     I returned to my office in Pretoria. Monday morning the next week there was the word which Khetso brought to me.

POM     There was a what?

MM     There was a word spreading, Mac was manipulating Mafikeng and ensured that Cyril came number one. So Khetso comes to raise it with me. I said, "Where do you get this from?" I said to Khetso, "You know, go and get that video. I want that video of the Mafikeng conference. You will see my conduct there." Now that word, I started tracking, came from Durban. The rumour that I had manipulated in favour of Cyril at the Mafikeng conference emanated from Durban.

POM     From Durban?

MM     Yes. It came out of the ANC structures in Durban and I believe fed into those structures by Zuma and Thabo. So for some reason or other Thabo has felt I had been a backer of Cyril. Now there is the story that Cyril has told me that before the Durban conference of 1991 Thabo came to his, Cyril's, home with Sydney Mufamadi to lobby him to agree to a slate of officials and the officials were going to be: Madiba – President, OR – National Chairperson or Vice President, Walter – something, Nzo – Secretary, Nkobi – Treasurer General. Cyril listened him out and never said yes or no but now knew what Thabo was working for and quietly Cyril agreed to stand for General Secretary and defeated Nzo. Thabo never forgave him.

POM     Whopped him.

MM     Whopped him. Thabo never forgave him for that because he felt that Cyril had agreed with him and Cyril says, "No, I never agreed. I listened him out. I got a picture of what was happening and I just sat back quietly. I did not say I agreed."

POM     So what that would have done would be really to have entrenched the old order again for a further four years and there was still an open field as regards –

MM     It would have left him with the space to manipulate the players and in the meantime brought Sydney fully on board. So it is in this matrix that it seems to me that we will find what perception he has of me. The only other thing is what somebody said to me this past week, I'm trying to think who it was, said to me that the problem with me, of course it's you, that I express my views – no it wasn't you, says I express my views very clearly, very sharply and in a way that the listener hears me very clearly. They said that there was a television appearance where both Thabo and I appeared and the chap was saying, "I remember that television." I said I can't remember it. He says, "Thabo spoke a few times but you could not work out exactly what he's trying to say, but you, every time you spoke it was absolutely clear what you were saying." He says, "The problem is you do not give the other chap a chance to shine. You take the shine away. You may have intended it, you may not have intended it, but that's the effect in the person's mind. And when you're dealing with a person who says this is an African struggle, it's even more painful."

     So somewhere in this matrix we find this absolute lack of chemistry between him and me.

POM     So it's personal. You've always said that Thabo and you get on well.

MM     From my side I get on well, I don't have a problem. He's not a person who shows it. It's very interesting if you read Mujanko Gumbi in the Sunday Times. Have you heard of him at the Sunday Times? He's the international correspondent, foreign correspondent.

POM     Who is?

MM     Brendon Boyle. He's been set up by our President, it caters for 530 people. It so far has about 480 and what looks like a full complex but a real machine for delivery and then it has Frank Chikane who's the heart of it. So he says something and then it has Mujanko Gumbi who is his closest adviser and friend. In one of those interviews they say, Mujanko says he laughs, he jokes, he's very approachable, he's very friendly. Oh, it's Bheki Khumalo, the spokesman who says, and Mujanko, that he never, never puts you down in public. He doesn't show his anger, he's affable all the time. But I think it's Mujanko who says he doesn't put anybody down in public. What was remarkable about that statement is the way is came out. Why do you say he doesn't put anybody down in public? So that stuck in my mind. So when I from my side say I have nothing, I don't recall a meeting, I don't recall a clash, I don't recall a sharp difference of opinion, his perception of me.

POM     Well whatsisname says that it goes back to his belief that you were among those who were feeding rumours that he was a spy.

MM     Absolutely nothing. There is no truth to that. In fact in those years I was in Lusaka only a weekend a month.

POM     Where was he? Was he in - ?

MM     He was International Department travelling the world.

POM     At that point?

MM     Yes. Again, well that's interesting what you are saying, very interesting, because the very people who were impressed with him abroad, many of them when we met also took a great liking to me. For example Rockefeller's grandchild, granddaughter, Peggy Delaney(?), we got on very well. The Ford Foundation people, I got on very well. In England, got on very well with …All the people in the establishment in these countries, once you met, who were close to Thabo, who still think very highly of Thabo, and yet over the years without anything happening, my disappearance over Vula and my re-emergence, do you know when I re-emerged in 1990 I bumped into Peggy Delaney three times in the country, we've not even sat down to have a cup of tea. We've spoken to each other very nicely and warmly but it never comes to a point, "Listen, why don't we have a cup of tea?" It doesn't happen.

     The British First Secretary, Political Secretary in Lusaka, I went to his home during this 1985-1986 period, tried to come close to me, I pulled away quietly. I went to his house once. Made clear Thabo was seeing them, very close, they thought highly of me, they tried to get close to me, no quarrels, just – I used my work, I'm not around. But I think we're going onto insubstantials now.

     That's my thinking at the moment. It says, no, no, no, it is possible in the way he sees people and the way he holds his views and the way he acts thereafter that it is possible he has the perception of me which he has never put to me but which is part of the rumours that go on about me. Everybody will tell you I am difficult and I accept all that. They will also tell you that I'm very, very sharp and cutting, etc. But, Padraig, I don't understand, how come I have comrades who have worked with me who have such loyalty? How come? People who have experienced my tongue, unless that tongue is counter-balanced by one thing and that is that they all know one thing, that I will never ask them to do a job that I won't do myself. So they know that you'll get it straight and it's gone. I don't know.

     OR, I think I told you that I asked, and I've written about it in the profile of Walter or somebody, when they gave me this mission I went back and said to Walter and Madiba, "Hey chaps, I know OR from London briefly but I go and all these sensitive messages, what happens if he says to me, asks me, 'Are you a communist?' " And the first day they dismissed me and said he'll never ask you that. The second day, "Listen, I've thought about this", and Walter says, "If he asks then you must know he already knows but he's just doing one check to decide whether to trust you and you'd better answer yes because he knows the answer before he asks you that." Then Madiba says, "I think you're right."

POM     Walter said that?

MM     I think it's in Reflections, but he never asked me that question, he never did. Yet I told you about in GDR that when we visited the GDR in 1978 I put myself in that mission because I wanted to go and ask for certain technical assistance in Germany and I said to OR, "I need to get there." And OR said, "I'm leading a delegation, I'll put you in." I get in this delegation, we get to the GDR and at the airport there was a chap called Comrade Scholtz, Scholtz was a sort of protocol reception man for OR, and he's at the airport and I'm arriving on a different flight with comrades from Africa. OR is coming from somewhere else. But when I arrived with a group of us there as we get off the plane and get into the building there's Scholtz and he rushes to greet me now, the others don't know that Mac has ever been to GDR. He greets me and for the rest of the trip –

POM     How do you spell his name?

MM     S-C-H-O-L-T-Z. The rest of the trip, besides the discussions, we were taken sightseeing, etc., the whole delegation and one day we stop at a restaurant at lunch time and Scholtz, usual very polite and proper German, we were all seated in the restaurant, he comes and he address OR, "Comrade President, what would you like to drink?" And OR in his usual way, "Don't ask me, ask Mac, he seems to be the drunkard." Joking. But what he's saying is, I've picked up that Mac knows all the drinks of all the districts of Germany that we are passing through, he's always joking, "You guys seem to know each other from a long time." Now this is my first trip since I came out of prison so it's very clear I came here before I went to prison.

POM     Scholtz is the guy you used to talk to in the party house, is it?

MM     No that's a different person.

POM     Different guy?

MM     Different guy.

POM     Old guy.

MM     About 60 then, that's a different guy. This is a young guy. But the point is that OR had sized up the scene, "No, no, this guy knows", and every night he used to say to me, some days he'd say, "Are you attending – is your thing going alright?" I said, "Perfectly, perfectly." He says, "When do you find the time?" I said, "They come and pick me up at eleven o'clock at night and I go and have my discussions and sort it out. It's fine." No question from his side that this is now you are hiding something from me. It's accepted that you're doing something, you've got the contacts, it's a detailed thing, it doesn't matter if he doesn't know. But if he asks me I will tell him. So I am saying that's the relationship. There wasn't any distrust. That is why I could tell him, "Chief, your instructions. Can I see you alone?" He was sending me to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. "Why in your executive of thirty can't you find an African comrade to send to Natal, because of the Indian/African problem? I don't want you to answer, just think about it." And that's how I left it. Looking back they should have said to me, but I think, I don't know how it would have worked out, they should have sent Zuma to Natal but would he have done the work? Maybe he would have done it better.

POM     I think that's – I think I told you that I found minutes of a meeting in Fort Hare, a meeting in 1971 and they were discussing the struggle and the prevailing view they wanted to be put across was that this was an African struggle and you guys were being allowed to participate because by being allowed to participate and freeing Africans you were in effect freeing yourselves, but it was their struggle. Now I look at you, my thing is that you didn't come into the struggle that way. You came in saying we're all equal.

MM     No, I didn't come in saying we're all equal. I just came in to say this is a fucking struggle.

POM     That's right.

MM     And I'm going to serve it.

POM     That's right, so you didn't in a way know that there was in effect a hierarchy.

MM     Yes, and a hierarchy dictated by your birth.

POM     Yes.

MM     Not even your birthplace. I grew up in rebellion against even my own family. I mean Walter used to laugh at me in prison, he thought I was crazy because my thoughts were taking me to a time and place to say, "I don't like the idea that my children must carry my surname." Because why should my surname and my name be a passport for my children, this whole inheritance thing. I one day said to Walter, "I want to make my children each one with a different surname."

POM     You were like a kind of a rock 'n roll star. They name their children Penny and Flower and Daisy.

MM     It's a complex question and yet the remarkable thing is that it is in South Africa that that issue is made so big. In Tanzania you have Salim Salim. In Kenya you had Indians as ministers, people of Indian origin. In Lusaka the first mayor was a chap of Indian origin.

POM     But Indians in this country have always been treated differently.

MM     Yes. No, no, but in Uganda they were the capitalists. In Kenya they were the capitalists, East Africa, and Tanzania. Here the bulk, 80% of them were working class.

POM     They weren't perceived as that. They were perceived as being what we would call in Ireland, 'the gombeen man', that is those on the wretched scale of poverty and whatever who make money out of other people. You're the Jews of the poor. The people with the money to micro lend and -

MM     And yet if you go and look at my place and go and look at Govan's place, Govan had a more comfortable material life.

POM     Well that's what John Kennedy said, "Life's not fair." You should know!

MM     Be that as it may. Anyway, where are we? What's the time? Two o'clock.

POM     You go. I will come up again. I've got to come up to see – because I'll be adding these on afterwards anyway. I'm sending off what I have.

MM     This matter with Slovo. Now I didn't even ask myself to what extent is there an element in that relationship where because I have been labelled as part of the Indian and he's white and then there's African and coloured. How much of it is an underlying anti-whitism, how much of it is dictated by saying I'm consciously black when he's white? Is there an element of that?

POM     By whom?

MM     By me.

POM     You see I saw it differently and in relationship to, how would I put it? I'm just conceptualising this, OK, is that an African would take more from a Slovo than an African would take from you.

MM     Yes.

POM     Because Slovo is a man of privilege who came down to join the struggle so he is to be admired and welcomed whereas –

MM     Like Beyers Naude and Ray Alexander who has just died. Ray from 1929 has been all the way. Beyers, he used the shift in 1960, huge political benefit by observing Beyers at an official funeral. Not the same huge thing for Ray Alexander.

POM     Not the same thing for?

MM     Ray Alexander. So you've got a point there but I'm not so sure if any of that – I'm just saying how much it causes me to try and understand this relationship which looked easy.

POM     The relationship with?

MM     Between Slovo and myself.

POM     No it's not. You were both bright, you were both competitive, you were both – I mean the impression I get from whom I've talked to is that Slovo was not one to engage in – I mean I can see you in argument, I can see you being sharp and all those things and dismissive of other people's views or sweeping of them or whatever. But it was something that Hilda Bernstein said to me, well the two things she said, one about Slovo and Ruth that Ruth was just so far ahead of him, quickness and agility and all of that, but then she talked about Joe coming to their house in England and she said all the kids used to call him, "Oh, oh, what do you know Joe?" It was like he was Uncle Joe, it wasn't somebody who kind of stormed in and the kids would say, "Wow! Joe Slovo has arrived!" It was like an amiable guy who kind of came along. I think there are complex things there but I can see you, I can see you if you were the first – you were the first elected Indian to the NEC and I would think you walked in there and right away you began to behave as though you'd been there for 20 years. You just said what you thought and this is the way we've got to do this, what we've got to be doing, and you didn't –

MM     That's a remarkable thing you're raising. I got to Lusaka, I'm appointed Secretary.

POM     The first one, first Indian to a position of – OK?

MM     I'm not in the Revolutionary Council, I have not been brought back into the Central Committee, I'm not in the NEC. My chairman is John Motsabe who sits in the Revolutionary Council. All reports, I'm the Secretary, John Motsabe gets me to write the reports. I work with him, I give him the reports. He goes to the Revolutionary Council and every time the Revolutionary Council met you will find him that evening rushing to my home like, "I've been asked this question. Are they criticising this? What's the answer, what's the answer?" After about three meetings I'm told, "Please attend the Revolutionary Council meeting. You're not a member but attend." And they actually said, "Sit behind Motsabe to help him to answer questions when the discussion starts." It carried on like that, I never said anything. Ray Alexander, I go to her home one day, she says, "Comrade Mac."

POM     Was she in Lusaka then?

MM     In Lusaka. I go to Ray's house, she says, "You know, Mac, I'm fed up."

POM     Was she on the Revolutionary Council?

MM     No. She says, "I'm fed up." She was in the IPR with me, Internal Political. "I'm fed up, I've raised it with OR." I said, "What have you raised?" She says, "I've told him, here you have Mac who is Secretary, who's outstanding. On the other hand you've had Robben Islanders come out and just about every one of them you've put into your National Executive but this one here who is doing the work you haven't even put him in the Revolutionary Council." And she said he was ashamed and he said, "You know, Ray, you're right, I'll have to correct that."

POM     Who did she say this to?

MM     OR. That is when I'm invited to the Revolutionary Council. With the Central Committee I come out in 1977, I've been co-opted in 1963 at home into the Central Committee, after the Rivonia arrests. I come out I'm not even put into a unit but Doc knows me, JS knows me. Suddenly they come after about a year and they say, "You know, get into a unit." And I'd just had a fight with JS in Maputo and I tell him, when he says we want to invite you to the Central Committee meeting, I say to him, "You have a member of the Central Committee who never spent a day as a unit member."

POM     That's Josiah Jele.

MM     No. Masondo. Andrew Masondo. And we had this fight and I say, "You, Joe Slovo, are responsible for that." So we had a big fight but I'm brought into the party and the Central Committee at the 1978 meeting in the GDR round about October, November.

     So my integration in those positions came up at no behest from my side. I just carried on with my work quite happily. Once Dr Dadoo told me in London, "You're going to be the Secretary", my only question, observation, was that you're putting me with Motsabe, you're putting me to have a chairman who's a troublemaker, whose history is trouble, five arrests is trouble. And he said, "You'll have to manage it. That's your responsibility as Secretary. Don't complain to us." And Motsabe was in the party also but an impossible member of the party.

POM     Let me just ask you a question. Let us say in some way positions had been reversed and Joe Slovo found himself being Secretary of the IPRD, do you think that when he would be invited to attend the meeting of the Revolutionary Council with Motsabe, do you think he would be asked to sit behind him or beside him?

MM     He'd sit beside him.

POM     Thank you.

MM     And he wouldn't accept to be behind him.

POM     That's right. We're equals, what the hell are you talking about? You are buying in - I've got to be sensitive. It's in the back of your head subconsciously whether you know it or not. It affects. And this is the way race relations work here. It's all subconscious.

MM     Well that's a problem that even Zarina would say. She says, "Why aren't you pushing? You've got to push." I said, "But I'm not interested in the position. I'm interested in the content of the job. Now you will see it even in the regrouping. There's an interesting communication after Tongaat where now Joe Slovo is at home, in and out, and he's meeting people and getting briefings and each one is giving their own nuances and I'm saying, "Guys, I'm not so sure", I'm writing to Gebhuza and them, "I'm not so sure that JS appreciates what we really decided how to go about it." I want to sit down with him and go through the whole issue with him because he's now getting snippets and he's reacting to the snippets, each one, as that's the way to go. But he's not realising, wait a minute, you've got to get a proper overview of the thing. For that, that is why we ensured that at Tongaat there was verbatim transcription and we transmitted the thing the night the conference ended, to Lusaka, to say, guys read this thing because how else do I put you into the situation where you can hear the different voices and the different nuances coming out. You've got a big job, you're heading for negotiations, you're brought up for three decades armed struggle, you even suppressed for three decades that the settlement will not negotiated, settlement will be seizure of power. Now you've got to change this formation, thinking, you'd better listen to every nuance because you'd better understand who you're shifting. It didn't mean anything.

     Be that as it may, Padraig – enjoy.

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.