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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

January

Sent Tuesday 10th January 1989

Following + transcript of phone mesg from Gemma [Zarina] in Moscow: "Dear Adam [Mac]: After much deliberation I concluded that I owe it to the children to send you this message. Initial tests reveal that my right eye's blindness is not merely the result of the traumatic cataract but of certain possible damage done to the nerves affecting that eye during the 12 hour period of unconsciousness following the accident. So I shall have to undergo further extensive tests before any proper diagnosis is made, which means a minimum of one month here possibly leading to two. I am deeply disturbed by the traumatic effect this long absence of both of us is having on the children who are after all only 6 and 4. As you know children's psyches are highly vulnerable & even though they are now in the care of a woman who is really good, she is nevertheless a stranger & they have never reacted that well to strangers….CONTINUES

Sent Tuesday 10th January 1989

It takes time for them to adjust, especially now that they are home. Robin passed through here accidentally for one day & I have asked him to get hold of my sister to check if she can go to Zambia for two months to help ease this very heavy burden such young people are having to bear on their own. I deliberately had not revealed this on my previous communications to you the extent of their recent pining but I think in these new unforeseen circumstances you have to be aware so that in your planning of time schedules for the various phases & tasks of your project you may try to strike some sort of a balance if at all possible that takes into account these new circumstances. Of course if I or my sister or someone totally acceptable to the kids were there now there would be no need for this message, but it is only fair to them to let you know their emotional state especially with S's sudden disappearance. Since you have better access to Ken than I have, please keep track of what is happening there. I only hope that my sister can make it there to see us through this patch. Hope you received my TK message date 1st January 1989. Wishing you evermore strides in your endeavours, all love, Gemma. PS. (Couldn't hear name) is aware of these new developments so perhaps you'll hear from him at some stage or other.

Sent Wednesday 25th January 1989

Letter from Elsa [Zarina] dated 12.1.89 : "Having been seen by 2 senior ophthalmologists here (Moscow), I was finally seen today by the Professor, Chief of the Eye Dept., himself. This is what they have decided: After proper treatment of the inflammation in my right eye, they will do an operation to remove the cataract. Since there is no damage, as previously thought, to the optic nerves or retina, my eyesight will be restored, but they will give me a contact lens to increase visual acuity there. The operation will be done only in about 2 or 3 weeks time. It then takes between 6 to 12 weeks before the stitches can be removed, whilst the eye heals properly after the operation. Since they are aware of my deep concern about the children, they have decided that once the eye is properly healing, I can wait out the remaining weeks back in Zambia, if there is a qualified ophthalmologist there to remove the stitches. There are such people in Zimbabwe, so I won't have to stay here for more then, say, till about the second week in February. The great news is that my blindness is temporary, and they are determined once and for all to knock out the inflammation. Love etc"

[ ff Ivan Pillay] Please ask Tony [Mac] to respond to Elsa [Zarina] soon as it's becoming embarrassing to tell her on phone each time that there's been no response. Fin

Sent Friday 27th January 1989

Letter from Elsa [Zarina] dated 12.1.89 : "Having been seen by 2 senior ophthalmologists here (Moscow), I was finally seen today by the Professor, chief of the Eye Dept., himself. This is what they have decided: After proper treatment of the inflammation in my right eye, they will do an operation to remove the cataract. Since there is no damage, as previously thought, to the contact lens to increase visual acuity there. The operation will be done only in about 2 or 3 weeks' time. It then takes between 6 to 12 weeks before the stitches can be removed, whilst the eye heals property after the operation. Since they are aware of my deep concern about the children, they have decided that once the eye is properly healing, I can wait out the remaining weeks back in Zambia, if there is a qualified ophthalmologist there to remove the stitches. There are such people in Zimbabwe, so I won't have to stay here for more than, say, till about the second week in February. The great news is that my blindness is temporary, and they are determined once and for all to knock out the inflammation. Love etc"

Phone 26th : "Operation confirmed for next Wednesday. Have meanwhile had the time and mind to absorb your superb TK installment and birthday card. Paul briefed S extensively before she went down there to your end in case of questioning so don't worry unduly about this. Longing to hear from you. Alongside you forever, Gemma. [Zarina] " [ff Ivan Pillay]: (Also received telegram today saying much the same thing.)

Seems you didn't get following (21st phoned) : Says sister on way to kids. After assessment eye problem not serious & will see again OK after operation. Operation delayed as they're waiting for inflammation to go. Only simple cataract; no nerves affected. She waiting desperately for your reply & can't understand delay. Says she's lonely cos can't venture out as snow up to window ledges!

Expecting more telegrams in following days. Please respond to Elsa [Zarina] as she's worried.

Received Saturday 28th January 1989

Dearest Elsa, I share your elation & am delighted to hear that blindness will be cured & the inflammation knocked out. I presume they are going to embed the contact lens. Also pleased with news that Shirene is with kids, & that Shanthee has also joined them. Do you think Bax will now release you? Like you, I have been frantic about the kids, and as much or more about you. All my msgs back and forth leave me with deep gratitude for all that cdes have been doing for us in this period of great stress and difficulties. And it also appears that your current hosts (and I suppose big S personally) have been as accommodating . Am truly buoyed and humbled by your sentiments of deepest love and support. When you have the chance to do so safely, advise whether the TK installment stopped after dealing with crossing or at the start of it. I feel I may be able in the near future to continue the writing. Need to know where to pick up as I did not keep copy! Hope the op goes well & will be back with kids soon. Meanwhile I hug & caress you. And when you see the kids squeeze them for me. All love, Tony [Mac] ends.

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.