This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
17 Oct 2005: Maharaj, Mac
POM. I believe you corrected this already, you actually went in to see you were questioned by the Scorpions, you and Zarina, on how many occasions?
POM. One. So they brought you in on those dates that you gave me, whatever it was, and then that was it. When you walked in where did they conduct - ?
MM. At their head office.
POM. In Pretoria.
MM. Under subpoena.
POM. Did you take the oath when you went in there? What did you do? And the oath was administered by?
MM. By one of the Scorpions members.
POM. Did you put up your hand and say, "I swear", what did you say, something like that?
POM. When you were going in there that morning, I want to put this in context, I want to know, I asked you yesterday, what thoughts were going through your mind regardless of content? Here you have been interrogated once in your country by Swanepoel, interrogated twice, the second time around, or attempt to in 1990 with Vula, here it is in the year 2000, the new South Africa is on its feet and you're walking in to see a government, your government, a government security agency in terms of an investigative agency who once more wants to interrogate you.
MM. Zarina and I went to the Scorpions each for a day in response to firstly discussions that I had had with Bulelani Ngcuka and, secondly, my counsel George Bizos had had with him. In my direct discussions with him on the phone he had said that the newspaper revelations had caused a problem but that he had found nothing to suggest corruption on my part and I believed him because he'd been a member of the ANC and he was occupying this high position. He also told me that the reason why he could not issue a statement clearing me was that he was part of the process where he had undertaken to parliament to do a further investigation of the arms deal. Remember, he, the Auditor General and somebody else had jointly presented a report to parliament and the follow up to that was that the Scorpions would carry on a further investigation. So he said he had to issue that report and it's in that context that he could clear me, he could not do it for me individually because then everybody would be pressuring him to clear them. And again I found this reasonably plausible, so I was there willing to go and answer questions in a trusting frame of mind, not like I had experienced before under apartheid. There the issue was clear cut, you were arrested by the enemy, it was the enemy, you did not trust them and you were totally on guard and they had to compel you to talk. Here I had voluntarily gone and said I am prepared to come and answer the questions.
POM. You said you came under subpoena.
MM. Yes well a subpoena because that's the only basis on which they can give you that protection, that subpoena is under Section 28 of the National Prosecuting Act and it means that if you give evidence under oath there, answering their questions, (a) you cannot refuse to answer questions that are self-incriminating, and (b) that the information, the statement you make will not be used in court against you. Now that's an undertaking and if I had just gone there and answered questions they don't have that power, they would have to say what a normal police authority would say you are suspected of this, that and the other and you have the right to remain silent and anything you say here will be used against you in a court of law. So it was a formality within the law that they had to then issue the subpoena and it was done in a very friendly way, they deliver it to my attorneys, they discuss the date when I would be available, there was no question of police arriving, arresting you and taking you under escort and serving a summons on you. So I am saying there was that trusting frame of mind, this is democratic South Africa, a South Africa that we have shaped.
. Then there was a niggling feeling, remember this is 19 June 2003, who leaked that information to the Sunday Times? And when I had put this to Ngcuka on the phone he had evaded the question. So my statement to the Scorpions started with a written submission by me, a written submission giving each of the allegations in the Sunday Times but preceded by a few paragraphs in which I drew attention to the Sunday Times report and I said in writing that the nature of the information led me to believe that the only source of that leak was from within the Scorpions. And I said this causes me worry because here I am ready to answer questions to the Scorpions but uncertain whether what I say will not be leaked again. Therefore I was saying I am here within those constraints but I will try my best to answer the questions as fully and properly as I can but I would hold them accountable for leaks. So that was the second frame of mind.
. But as I think back, as I try to put myself in that situation, that trusting phase, that sense that this was democratic South Africa, that it cannot be that the abuse of power in the leaks to the Sunday Times was something done right at the top or with the connivance or the nod of the top, which is Ngcuka, was not there with me. I was accepting his words. He was saying, "Come and answer these questions", and when I answered the questions he said, "Also please persuade Schabir to answer so that I can close this round of the investigation." Get Schabir to also come and answer questions so that I can close this aspect of the investigation. So it was that.
POM. This he communicated to you on the phone?
MM. On the phone. I was relaxed, I was comfortable, I was not fearful oh, what will this all mean, what is he going to do to me? I was there in a frame of mind that says that I can be open, there is no problem, and when I can't answer the question I'll tell them I can't because we were talking about reconstruction from memory from so far back. So that was my attitude.
. Day one I answered the questions and there were some difficult questions. One of those was the hotel bill in Disney World because after I answered and said that I recall paying for it, they put some documents in front of me, letters between Schabir Shaik and some company suggesting that they had paid. I said, "No, that's not possible. I recall the discussion with Schabir in which he asked me to pay and I said but I have paid." Then they came and
POM. Did you have a discussion with Schabir?
MM. Long before that, after Atlanta, 1996. He asked me to pay and I said, "No, but I have paid", and he dropped the matter. They then produced the hotel bill and there appeared a Mastercard payment and I said, "This is the conclusion of the account, the settlement, that's my Mastercard but hold on, Mastercard, it's ABSA, I have a Mastercard." So I said, "Can I have a minute?" And I went out and I phoned my bank and I read the credit card number that was there and the bank said to me oh that's my wife's credit card. So I went back and said, here, this is the credit card. But then they said, look, the earlier payment, the deposit, is an American Express. I said but I had traveller's cheques from American Express. They said, no, this is an American Express card. So I said, "Whose is it?" I had been able to go out and phone, I don't have an Express card, American Express, neither does my wife. But even there, Padraig, when they were presenting some information that seemed to contradict my recollection I didn't feel concerned, I didn't feel afraid. I didn't feel that this can now be construed as proof and evidence of corruption.
. So that was the basic frame of mind and if you read the transcript, which I paid for and obtained because I had asked them whether I would be given a transcript of my evidence and they had said yes, so I got it, you will see that it was a very relaxed environment and yet they were interrogating me in an extremely adversarial way, adversarial and inquisitorial.
POM. Who conducted the investigation?
MM. Advocate Anna Marie van der Colff and then there was an Advocate C Bakkies and there was one other person who never opened his mouth.
POM. That was two Afrikaners.
MM. Yes. The names are there in the transcript. Yes I have given you that. What they were doing was they were asking you a question and then when you answered then they would give you documents from their side seemingly to contradict your answers. It was like trapping you. That's what I mean by inquisitorial and adversarial. I still didn't take exception. If you read the transcripts you will find the next day when they interviewed Zarina they were very aggressive and they were maintaining the stance of questioning you about an incident or a fact, you give your answer, then they put a document in front of you, then you give another answer to accommodate that and then they put another document. They were not putting everything in front of you. They like ensnared you which I personally, now reflecting, say that is, in my view, not the way in which we take into account the rights of the individual that are enshrined in our Bill of Rights. I don't think it is proper to be interviewing a person, even a suspect, in that tricky way. I think by the time you are charged the state has to put all its information that it has on the table so that your answers take into account all that, there are no hidden agendas and discoveries of documents are done. However, we passed through that and we felt comfortable.
POM. Did you discover then that you in fact had been under investigation from - ?
MM. No, I think they indicated that I had been under investigation for this is 2003, this was for two years already.
POM. So would you have been under investigation from the time they more or less conducted their raid on Schabir?
POM. You were not under investigation before that?
POM. So it would take place after that.
MM. That's what it seemed. But of course at Hefer, Bulelani Ngcuka, when questioned on this matter, covered his base after the tea break by saying that there were other complaints about me, but he never said what are these complaints because you know the score, since the transition in South Africa in any department any decision has a tendency to be challenged with all sorts of rumours and allegations being made. I just don't think that allegation per se is enough to warrant an investigation. First you have to ask yourself is this a wild allegation? Because otherwise your state agencies and investigating agencies are going to be completely tied up just investigating all the rumours in every story. I don't know of anybody who has been brought to court for just making malicious and completely unfounded allegations. It's almost as if to say it's open season to make allegations and then leak the thing at your choice.
. However, to return to this mindset and attitude. Clearly I expected the matter to be over by the time Schabir had given his evidence to the Scorpions but it didn't happen. Mr Ngcuka then sent the signals no, no, we then learnt of the briefing of the editors which took place on 23 July I think and within a week of that briefing rumours began to circulate in some of the media that such a briefing had taken place.
POM. We're covering a chapter that we did. You've made amendments.
MM. No I'm not going into the detail on that, I'm going on to the mindset.
MM. That I thought was a complete breach of faith by Mr Ngcuka and that is what now changed my attitude because whereas previously one felt it was an aberration now one realised that, no, the leak to the Sunday Times was not an accidental thing, that the head of the NPA was himself abusing the information that he had and therefore anything done below him had his tacit if not explicit support and sanction and that changed my mindset. It now made me singularly concerned about the abuse of authority that was taking place. I had had the phone call, the first hint of that press conference was the phone call from Jovial Rantau which I had taped and presented at Hefer and I realised that, no, this state agency was conducting itself in a conscious way abusing its office. So my attitude changed and I have gone on since then concerned about this type of abuse and come to realise that, hey, whatever the gains of our democracy here are the possible seeds of a huge diminution of people's liberties and a threat to their freedom.
POM. OK. You talked about in the Scorpions there were members of the old order, you had concerns about members of the old order being entrenched there. Like who are you talking about specifically? You talked, as I recall, they were all trained by the Attorney General who later went on to be defence attorney for Magnus Malan, that trial of the Generals where McNally was the Attorney General in KwaZulu-Natal, right?
MM. South Africa never had a single prosecuting authority until democratic South Africa came into being and the constitution required a single prosecuting authority to be established. What I learnt when I began to look at the abuse of power was that that prosecuting authority was established under Mr Ngcuka by going and gathering the existing prosecutors from the apartheid era and bringing them into the prosecuting authority. The result was we had notorious Attorneys General, even up to 1994. For example the Witwatersrand Attorney General was Mr Klaus von Lieres. Now as the Attorney General he had the reputation of prosecuting political cases but he had the reputation also of being a tenacious prosecutor. He trained the prosecutors who went to the Scorpions like the Anna Marie van der Colffs, but others post-1994 who didn't go to the Scorpions went to the auditing companies to whom work is outsourced for investigation by the Scorpions. That was the pool of prosecutors.
. Then came the investigators and the analysts and it is in the analyst department that one found former Security Branch people accommodated there and some of them heading certain other special types of investigations. And these were not in the front coalface of the Scorpions. Then you also had a prosecutor, he gave democratic South Africa quite a run around, and the Minister of Justice, he was prosecutor in Free State, then prosecutor in Natal. I'm trying to think of his name. I think he was there during the Mitchell Trust Feed case, etc. Now again a man with a reputation that was not seemly. So what happened to the people that he was commanding, the prosecutors, they were just simply taken in and as I say the analysts which went into the intelligence division, considerable numbers, indications were, came from the Security Branch.
. Then came a third element, that they were entrusted also with post-TRC investigation of those who had received or not received amnesties and whether they were to be prosecuted and which ones to prosecute. There you found, again, a Chris McAdam put in charge of that investigation and one said what is happening here?
POM. Chris McAdam was?
MM. He was a prosecutor, Attorney General, investigator in Natal. And you said, but we have put him after we had the TRC, and you know that while government under Mandela accepted the TRC report, the ANC under Thabo Mbeki opposed that report and even went to court. Part of the opposition was that it seemed to have criminalized our anti-apartheid struggle. But now to decide who should be investigated and prosecuted you were putting a Chris McAdam in charge. I found that incongruous. Surely we have a number of legal people with legal experience from the Pius Langas to the Chaskalsons, you name it, who could have been put in charge of that with the legal expertise to investigate but with credentials that would not make one feel, hey wait a minute, you're putting this decision into the old guard.
POM. Billy Downer. Who trained him?
MM. I don't know, he could be from the old order.
POM. Leonard McCarthy?
MM. I don't know. But I just want to round up on the amnesty investigation to say one of the first things that they began to investigate under Chris McAdam was the fact that the ANC leadership which had collectively applied for amnesty and had been refused, the first thing they did was to look at those people, including our President Thabo Mbeki, to see whether they should be prosecuted.
POM. How is that verifiable?
MM. This seems at the moment recently an announcement was made during the time of Mr Vusi Pikoli, to say that there would be no prosecution. That is after the big bust-up and Mr Ngcuka leaves.
POM. He said there will be no prosecution of members of?
MM. Of that group of the ANC.
MM. It's something you can ask him tomorrow: who was in charge of the investigation of people to be prosecuted post-TRC?
POM. Interviews you talk about, this is going back to money, but you talk about bringing bags of money, you yourself were bringing bags of money into the UK in nylon bags. Were you travelling from where were you taking this money from? You were in Lusaka, this would be prior to your entry into the country in 1988.
MM. There was a huge amount of money that was required for operations at home at the level of MK and the underground. When operatives came into the country clandestinely they needed cash and we needed to give them cash in small denominations. You couldn't walk into a rural area, a town like Rustenburg after you crossed from Botswana and take out a R200 note and walk into a general dealer shop and then you were dressed like an ordinary farm worker. So we needed money, usually in twenty rand and ten rand denominations and it was the Treasurer General's responsibility to find that cash in rands. In this particular instance that I'm giving you I was crossing through London returning to Lusaka.
POM. This was in nineteen eighty -, this was when you're coming back from Lusaka to London.
MM. From London to Lusaka. The ANC office under the Treasurer General's department says to me, "Comrade, will you take this bag of money to Lusaka", because it is intended for the Treasurer General to give it to the PMC and when it is given to me it's a million rand in ten and twenty rand denominations.
POM. This was when you were out on sabbatical.
MM. No, no, this is not the sabbatical, this is pre-1987. Some task has taken me to pass through London and the London office knows I am heading for Lusaka and they say, "Will you take this and deliver it to the Treasurer General."
POM. You talked about when Govan was released Mandela asked him to keep a low profile but when he comes out the NEC said he was to take a high profile. I thought that happened in the case of Walter, Madiba had said it's just that I remember I can check on it.
MM. We discussed in the NEC in the case of Walter, very clear, but in the case of Govan the regime was nervous and that is why they arranged for Govan to visit Mandela and Mandela tried to suggest to him, without saying you do A, B, C, tried to suggest to him that he was in talks and that it would be useful to conduct yourself bearing in mind those talks. Govan is on record as saying that Mandela refused to tell him what was he talking about. When Govan came out clearly he sent a report to Lusaka, I don't know about that, I was not in the country at that stage, and I was preparing to enter the country under Vula. But when you look at the records now and the recollections in The Long Walk etc., you do see that Mandela tried to suggest to him to be a little bit circumspect. Govan reported to the NEC to say he does not accept that, he finds it questionable what Madiba is doing and he wanted them to instruct him to stop. In the case of Walter and them's release, it is even more explicit because Walter and company actually say that he did suggest that they should act in such a way as to take that view. But Lusaka, now that is during my sabbatical, Lusaka reacted by saying no, they must be high profiled. But Walter being Walter conducted himself in a way that managed both positions.
POM. It just stuck in the back of my brain the way these things do. You said that lately at the time you went to visit Madiba with this document that you wanted him to decipher, I think you referred to something that he said he would do, or if he had been condemned
MM. If he was sentenced to death.
POM. If he was sentenced to death. This might be a nice little thing to add in under our Mandela section.
MM. It came to light in the biography of Anthony Sampson that Sampson unearths in the prison records, or some records, a five point memory note in Mandela's handwriting of what he would say if he was sentenced to death. Point four, according to Sampson, could not be deciphered. Point one, two, three and five were easy to decipher, and that he and Mandela tried to decipher it but Mandela couldn't read his handwriting. I, when I read Sampson, thought I could decipher some of the key words in that point four, but as a result of working in a project recently in which Tim Couzens, the professor, has been also involved in interviewing people, Tim phoned me one night saying have I seen that note?I, in the meantime, have independently regarded that note as occupying historically an even more significant place than Mandela's speech which concluded, 'I am prepared to die.' My reason, as I have said in an interview, is that about seven weeks elapsed between making that statement from the dock, 'I am prepared to die', and the conclusion of the case and the judge then making his judgment and, two, the next day the sentence. So he had seven weeks to think of the consequences of 'I am prepared to die.' And notwithstanding those seven weeks when all sorts of thoughts, because it is one thing to stand on the ramparts and say I am prepared to die, but now when D-day is arriving and now that reality of being executed begins to dawn on you a whole set of thoughts start entering your mind: your family, your duty to others, etc., your children, consequences, what would happen, and the struggle are you doing the right thing? So I believe that with those seven weeks of careful thought, and it's interesting, all the Rivonia people have a mental block about that period on this question. When I ask Kathy did you think for those seven weeks what happens if I die, if they execute me, you will find that he doesn't remember thinking about it. Here pops up this note and it says there: point one, everything that I have said in my statement from the dock I stand by; number two, the number of marchers in the service of this struggle is growing; point four, the army of freedom is expanding; and point five, if I have to die then I will meet my fate like a man. So there was no question of a hesitancy, he had worked the problem through, and now faced with the reality he's been found guilty, tomorrow is sentence, are you going to stand up tomorrow and put a statement that he's going to help you to evade the gallows? His was very clear I have to set an example, this is how I am going to stand and this is how I will face the gallows. So I have said to me historically that's the most important document and when Tim Couzens and I and Verne Harris took the document to him recently, located the context and showed him an enlarged photocopy of it and said and joked that previously you couldn't decipher your own handwriting, now look at this and look at clause four, he looked at it and he said, "Hah! That word is that." And we said, "Are you sure?" because this was the crucial word, that army is beginning to grow. He said, "Yes, look at the A, that's my A, look at the R, that's how I write an R, and look at MY, that's how I write it." So he instantly recognised it and it resolved the problem of the structure of those five points.
POM. Jumping ahead, we are post Schabir Shaik trial, we have post Zuma being charged and then there's a knock on your door one morning and the Scorpions have arrived again. What date would this be?
MM. Round about the end of July this year, somewhere round 28th, 29th, somewhere there.
POM. This time they're back with?
MM. A set of questions in writing, one for me, one for my wife, in sealed envelopes and a whole drama. It's one person who has come, got to open the envelope in my presence, I must read it and I must sign an acknowledgement, a copy of it. Then he takes it and puts it in an envelope and says, "Look I'm sealing the envelope, I haven't read the document." I actually said to him, "Why are you doing this?"
POM. Can you remember who it was who came?
MM. It was a chap called Pieterse.
POM. An Afrikaner too?
MM. Yes, and he said he's been 26 years an investigator, policeman.
POM. His first name was?
MM. I don't know. But I said to him, and this is the mindset I looked at this charade and I said, "Why are you doing this elaborate charade that you have not read the document, it's a sealed envelope and my signed copy you're putting it in a sealed envelope?" And he said, "No, it's because his experience, he just wants to be sure that he's doing it properly." But I was already suspicious. My suspicion immediately said they've done it this way so that when they leak it to the media they will blame me for talking about it and I have made sure that since then I have not talked loosely about it. I have talked to my legal team, I have mentioned it to you and I have mentioned it to Mo Shaik and Schabir. That's it. And kept it tightly contained to the point where I was saying to myself, "Don't trust them." You asked me earlier about my mindset. Now I was suspicious, totally on guard, even though it is an institution that we created under democracy I was not prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt or trust in it. I was now seeing it almost parallel to the way I reacted to the apartheid police but with this difference, with the apartheid police I was aggressive, with the Scorpions this time I was measured in my response and saying the public still has faith in them, the media has refused to open its eyes to the threat caused by the abuse of power. They have actually in the media mobilised more support for the Scorpions as if to say I have to account and it's a good thing that they are investigating me and just the mere fact of the investigation means the good guys are doing something right. Nobody is asking is it wrong. So in that situation I say to simply stand up and say look at this abuse, the reaction is oh, he's being investigated, that's why he's saying it. This question was put to me at a press conference and I said to them, "But society has never corrected itself until people whose shoe is pinching stand up." So it's always the affected party that is in the brunt of the forces that comes up to challenge it. And yet at the moment it is seen, because I've been investigated for corruption, Mac must be a partisan who is unjustly accusing the Scorpions of abuse of power. So I've had to be measured and on guard to say don't allow them to throw a curved ball at me and be very cautious and careful of what you say and how you react because simply to stand up and shout -(break in recording)
POM. It happened what I would say in the Section 28 interview, they haven't said whether you are being asked
MM. They denied, we queried whether these questions that they put in writing were still under Section 28 and this time they denied that it is under Section 28, which was quite alarming because it meant that they were asking questions where they said they are doing so properly within the law, but in my view when you then say they suspect you of a crime they have to tell you that you are not obliged to answer and anything you answer could be used against you in a court of law so that you are well aware of the rights and the dangers that you may create for yourself. So they have said it's not under Section 28, it's another question whether they can keep coming back to you under Section 28. Remember, I was questioned, Zarina was questioned, both of us, on 19 and 20 respectively of June 2003. There's 2004, 2005, July, that's two years and one month later after total silence they come back. What is that?
POM. To your knowledge have they gone back and re-questioned anybody in the Department of Transport, have they re-questioned anybody in the National Roads Agency, in the Tender Board, have they to your knowledge gone back to any of those people?
MM. In 2003 they had questioned everybody and taken every document and they have known, they can see that I have had no involvement, no contact with either of those contracts. They know it. And they had gone back to the Roads Agency and the Tender Board in 2003 three or four times.
POM. Did they do that in the period from when they started going to the Roads Agency, had they gone to the Roads Agency and the other agencies after that or before?
MM. They went initially before.
POM. Did they go after the allegations in the Sunday Times were leaked or before?
MM. They went for the first time after the Sunday Times article and then they went after the spy allegation and then they had gone I'm not sure whether they have gone after Hefer. There's no indication they've gone after Hefer. But I know that they had access to all the documentation both at the Tender Board level and it was during my first round enquiry in 2003 my lawyer wrote to the Tender Board and to the Roads Agency to ask them for the documents and the Tender Board replied, and at the Department of Transport, and they replied to say the Scorpions had taken the originals. When I wrote to the Scorpions they did not deny that they had taken it but they refused to give it to us. So they refused to give us crucial documents that would be used in our argument.
POM. In your argument with the bank?
MM. No, no, in the bank enquiry.
POM. Let me ask you, why would the bank have any authority to request documents?
MM. I gave them the authority. I, as a director of the bank, which banks have to be regulated by the Reserve Bank and the Financial Services Board, and because of the allegations, I was a director of the bank and therefore questions were arising whether it is prudent for the bank to still have a director in me who is facing these allegations. I said there is no way I can clear my name, the Scorpions are not going to say anything, can we have an enquiry on these allegations at the same time? And I then wrote through my lawyers to say, Tender Board can you give us the documents, Department of Transport can you give us these documents, because these are the allegations and I need these documents to show what is the truth. They came back and they said the Scorpions have taken them.
POM. Now since the Hefer Commission have you been able to get any gainful employment in South Africa or are you a pariah?
MM. I've had small little bits of employment, income earning here and there, but nothing on a regular basis. One that was looking regular after the Schabir conviction again I had to walk away from the job because people became newspapers carried an article to say I was next to be prosecuted. And so I have not been able to have stable employment and a stable income in the last three years. There have been instances, and I don't want to say I cannot say who, but there have been instances where I have been involved in possible income earning activity and before I could conclude it one got a sense that somewhere word had been put out that I was not persona grata in certain circles and therefore people walked away. In other instances, like I say in one case I was going to be non-executive chairman of the group, I could see their nervousness after Schabir's conviction and the newspaper headlines in The Citizen, 'Who's Next?' and noseweek, not in a question but saying definitely Mac is going to be charged. I realised they had become nervous and I went to them and I said it's only fair, I hadn't joined them to destroy their company, and it's only fair that I left them and they were so grateful that I had volunteered to leave them because they didn't know how to say leave. So that's the score at the moment and that's how it goes on.
POM. I think we've done enough for the moment and I won't use you for anything, I'll keep in touch obviously tomorrow or whatever.
MM. Yes, it doesn't look like I will be going on Wednesday.
POM. My bet is that you will go. That's my bet.
MM. What I'm going to do tomorrow is to speak to my travel agent to make a booking for Friday. What else can I do? I can't pay the ticket you see.
POM. You may not be a frequent flier but you are a frequent booker.
MM. Yes, frequent booker.
POM. Booker of the year. There's the Mann Booker Prize and there's the
MM. I know how to crook the system you know. Before they say pay up your ticket I cancel the ticket and book it for another date.