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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

15 Mar 2002: Love, Janet

POM     Janet, this is to pick up from where we had stopped the last time. I had been going through Tim Jenkin's articles on Vula that he wrote for Mayibuye back in the seventies. I was reading some of the statements to you and getting your observations on his statements.

     "Sending such leaders into the country, however, was only part of the solution. Even if leaders had been sent in the resources for carrying out the armed struggle still had to come from outside the country and how could the leaders have co-ordinated their actions and issued their orders to the soldiers in the field. The problem was not so much a political one about who was where and doing what but a practical one about an almost complete lack of decent communications. It's astonishing that so few were able to see this as communication is the most important weapon in any conflict situation."

JL     I don't know about that. It's put very strongly but I think it is true, I think if you're in a conflict situation and particularly one involving the kind of combination of underground political activity and guerrilla warfare the issue about communications is quite paramount in order to give cohesion.

POM     So when he would follow up that by saying: - "Poor communications had determined the shape of our struggle. It was because our fighters and cadres could not communicate with their leaders and between themselves that the underground had never developed and the people's war never became a reality."

JL     Again, I don't know whether I would agree with that because I think it would go into the essence of what one means by a 'people's war'. I think I mentioned to you previously if one defines a people's war in terms of guerrilla warfare, as an ongoing guerrilla warfare campaign where you actually take territory, I think that that would be a valid comment. I don't think that that was really the way in which our struggle was forged. It might have been the way in which at times it was conceptualised but I don't think, certainly from the mid-eighties onwards, there was anybody who would have conceptualised it in those terms. I think the people's war was conceptualised much more in terms of a combination of armed conflict which would have included not just the possibility for armed propaganda but also would have included the possibility of taking over key points, key economic and military points for prolonged periods of time. Nonetheless I think that the people's war was also seen very much in terms of a mass mobilisation through political and ideological supremacy which I think is what the ANC did achieve long before the 1994 elections and long before 1990 really. When I say long before, certainly during the period of the eighties I think the ANC's position as the political leader of not just the struggle but of the future of SA was assured by that kind of combination of both the political and the military.

     I think it's a question of emphasis. I don't think that were Tim and I to have a discussion about what took place in SA and so on, and not to get involved in semantics, I don't think we would be differing too much in the substance. I think that that kind of a statement he's looking at people's war in the classic definition.

POM     Did you ever think it was realistic to think that the MK could take over some key economic strongholds or geographical territory and hold it against the SADF?

JL     I think that the way in which that was thought about, because it was not thought about in isolation of the political struggle, was that if one had the combination of weakness both at the level of political and ideological hegemony of the state, it's also its increasing weakness at the economic level combined with its growing weakness at the level of its military and police hegemony. I think that if one looked at that, if the option for negotiation had not been pursued by that state, and I think that those reasons are the very reasons that were at the heart of its agreement to go along a path of negotiation, albeit initially not completely committed to negotiations without some sort of strength, but I think that had it decided, had the state decided, the apartheid state decided that that was not the way it was going to go, those signs – there was nothing that was indicating that that was going to be reversed. I think the degeneration was going to continue.

     In that instance the growing support of the ANC territorially speaking in the Eastern Cape, certainly in the then Transkei, that I think was quite clear, but also in other pockets of the Eastern Cape. As an example I think as a territorial example as being an area where the ANC would have been able to do a lot more systematic training of its cadres coupled with the possibility to take over certain key points including the possibility and those types of things were discussed, the possibility of taking over from the propaganda point of view the SABC, some of the points of production I think were not looked at that critically, ongoing production, but rather things like the electricity, the power stations, things like that, infrastructural types of things rather than production key points. At the time people, I don't think, looked very closely at the centres of money in the country but certainly the Mint and the banknote company are points which clearly would have been possible to take over.

     What I am saying is, that's the kind of thinking, it wasn't a kind of thinking of the progressive taking over of the territory. It wasn't the kind of thinking that I think was informed by any sort of commitment to a non-negotiated solution but it was: should the state even in its general increasing state of decay still not opt to go this way, those are the sorts of things, combined then with mass political mobilisation, that would cause that state to crumble and not an overnight crumbling necessarily. When you say was it realistic, I don't think that people had done systematic game planning of what will happen from day one to day hundred or whatever it is, but I think that there was just an understanding that we were confronting at a military level a state which had enormous capacity but not a whole lot of resilience any more. I think it was recognised that we were confronting a state which had lost even amongst its own supporters the ideological credibility that to sustain real years and years of economic hardship wasn't going to be that easy for it.

     I think that those were the sorts of things that said, well, what do you do? You can't actually think of confronting a state of this ilk in the same way as one would confront or liberation forces had confronted and tackled places like Mozambique and Angola. Conditions here were very, very different. I don't know if that answers what you were asking.

POM     It does. Before it skips my mind, because Mac was talking about it the other day, you took Ronnie Kasrils to Durban, you were his driver and Mac was driving in front of you or behind you and when he was going in front of you he pulled in at the side of the road and had a couple of hours sleep and woke up and said, "My God! Where are they? Surely if they would have seen me, they would have stopped." It was in the Midlands, they could see whether there was anything around. So he went to Marionhill, the last petrol station where you were supposed to meet and you weren't there and he drove back to Harrismith and then drove desperately to Durban, went to a comrade there, convinced him that he was Mac, that he needed to find out where you were and was sent to the house of a Dutch couple who again he had to convince that he was authentic, and they said, "Oh yes, two people had come and they'd gone out for a meal." He got hold of you and you were at a beachfront restaurant, I think that's what he mentioned. You said, "Oh yes, we're having a meal." And he said, "Get back here immediately." A dressing down followed, asked what the rules of security were.

JL     Mac's recollection of something like that is probably more accurate than mine. I recall that Mac was supposed to meet us at Marionhill and that he wasn't there. He had stopped off on the way. He said he was on the side of the road. The side of the road means a lot of different things to different people. You can be on the side of the road or you can have pulled in to one of these, as you know, these very large garage cum motel type places which is actually where I think he did stop over for a while and certainly not on the side of the road. But that was neither here nor there. I think the difference really would be, for me, is that although the idea was that we met there and checked that everything was in order, when he wasn't there and the idea was that he would have been waiting for us as opposed to vice versa, we all knew where we were headed for, including Mac. So rather than draw attention to ourselves and stay on the side of the road we went on. He didn't find us in a restaurant, but anyway he found us where the final destination was and he was upset. He claimed to have been at the side of the road and so on but at the end of the day we didn't see him and I think that, as I say his recollection of it might be more accurate than mine, but I remember it slightly differently, not as having quite the same level of issues that were associated with it. But it was a tense time, it was a tense time for everybody so whereas for him the fact that we had presumably gotten there before him and not waited – anyway, I don't know.

POM     Janet, when you became the head of communications, besides of operations, who familiarised you the whole way the system worked?

JL     I think I mentioned to you in our last interaction that I was in a way part of an advance party and a big part of what I did in the initial period I was here was familiarise myself in collaboration with Tim in London and to a lesser extent Ivan and there were a couple of people who worked with Tim, in particular Ronnie Press, but I mainly dealt with Tim making sure that the system was working OK. So that was from the computer side. In terms of the mobile telecommunications equipment which I also described to you as being incredibly bulky and so on, I wasn't equipped with that before they came in. They were equipped with that shortly after they came in, Mac and Gebhuza, and the way of operating that equipment, I think if I'm not mistaken, Mac actually showed me how that worked. But the actual computer and the communication side of it was the work that I'd done with Ivan and in particular with Tim.

POM     We talked about the number of people that were probably brought into the country and you mentioned about two dozen or so, in the scheme of things where would you place Vula?

JL     Vula was definitely - by then the entire executive understood at the commencement, when I say commencement, by the time Mac and Gebhuza came in here, it was understood to be the central point of underground activity in the medium term. In the short term there was recognition that it had to all settle down and settle in. I think that the fact of sending other people in under the guise of MK was not in any way to detract from that but was just because at the time the MK machineries felt that they were ready to cope with sending people in and in a way they believed that there would be quite a lot to be gained by already having people in, but it wasn't because I think there was any difference of opinion as to what in the medium term would become the pivot of all of that. So certainly I think Vula was seen as pivotal.

     When it came to maybe a different view of Vula, I don't think that it arose within the context of who was being sent in and by whom were those people being sent in. I think it arose in the context of the perception of people outside as to the extent to which a negotiated solution firstly could be pursued and secondly the extent to which there was a need to pursue in parallel two possibilities until one really proved itself to be the mechanism through which the transfer of power or through which change would be able to be brought about in this country. That was also tied to the fact that although JS would have been part of that group and he was certainly in good form as far as anyway he knew and anybody else knew right up to the time when the negotiations proper started, but certainly I think OR's stroke had a big impact because I think OR, aside from being a remarkable leader in many other ways, I think he had an ability to – he had a notion of lateral thinking. I think he was a personification of it, he was able to pursue the same objective through a number of means in a very systematic way and without feeling, without being caught up in unnecessary ambiguity. I think he was quite clear on the desirability of negotiations but at the same time the need to pursue parallel processes until unconditional negotiations were able to be pursued and until conditions on the basis of which democratic elections could take place, could genuinely take place. I think that ability to see what those needs were and to at the same time really place a lot of emphasis on negotiations as a possibility was something he didn't have problems of pursuing and so his stroke, I think, had an impact because I think his capacity as a leader – others who had a lot and did give a lot of leadership were dwarfed actually by those types of ability of OR.

     So the combination of things, (i) insofar as people to be sent in the country and the people by whom they were sent, Vula was definitely pivotal. I think that changed out of a combination of a sort of a real optimism about negotiations coupled with the stroke of OR.

POM     As more and more people in your network were brought in were they all taught the details of the communication system?

JL     Not all, no, not all. In the different centres there were different people who needed to be informed about the communication but not everybody in every centre so in the now KwaZulu-Natal area, in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, that whole kind of nexus, there were three people, with Gebhuza the fourth person, who were aware but the entire network around them besides those four were not – they knew there was a communication system but some of them didn't even have an idea of what it involved.

POM     Gebhuza was in Durban, Ivan was in - ?

JL     Ivan was outside the country. In Durban it was mainly Soraya who the main person who dealt with communications. She was the wife of Mo Shaik, they have separated since then but at the time she was the wife of Mo Shaik. She handled the communications under direction obviously of people there and then Gebhuza was clear about communications and when Ronnie went down there he too to a much lesser extent was able to use the communications. Pravin didn't have all the details of the communications but he had an idea of the way in which the communication system worked so in a way he would have certainly been somebody who if he had needed to would have been able to step into that reasonably quickly.

POM     Now regarding bringing arms into the country, what was the mechanism for doing that?

JL     Well it was primarily as a result of people who were sent across and were told of places where the arms could actually be concealed, concealment had either been created for them or they created concealments. If the concealments were created in advance of their arrival then they were informed where to leave the stuff and people would go, travel distances to go and fetch stuff and then take it to other concealments closer or in some cases in town, or alternatively we were informed of caches that had been put in here by units not really associated with Vula, who weren't consciously associated with Vula, but we basically then had to remove stuff – we were just given the maps of the details and co-ordinates of where those caches were.

POM     To your knowledge were large amounts of arms moved or are we talking about mostly small weaponry, rifles, AK47s, grenades?

JL     Some explosives, yes, at time some explosives, detonators. Some, not really a major, major arsenal. There was a fair amount of small equipment, semi-automatics, that sort of thing, a couple of long range rifles that could be equipped with proper sights, some explosive matter, some detonators. You know what I mean, there were some. But also in addition to that a number of us had been trained to produce home-made explosives.

POM     This is why the question of decommissioning in Ireland is in one sense ludicrous to the extent that the importation of arms the IRA got from Libya, which were huge amounts, they made their own explosives from fertiliser.

JL     Exactly, I was going to say unless you ban fertiliser –

POM     You have to ban every cow in the country or something.

JL     Absolutely. There are various ways as has been well documented I'm sure but there are various ways to make home-made explosives. Again, it goes back to the question of what the conceptualisation was. If the conceptualisation had been sweeping across the country, territorially taking over parts of the country, I am sure that the equipment that we looked at would have been of a very different ilk. There was certainly no ground to air missile capacity or anti-aircraft missile capacity around.

POM     To your knowledge was Mandela aware of the existence of Vula?

JL     As I said the last time, to my knowledge he was aware of the decisions of the 1985 conference, he was aware that there were certain people who were being brought to be based into the country. He was aware of those kinds of things which were the key component of Operation Vula but I don't know, to my knowledge he wasn't aware that there was something called Operation Vula which meant all those things and I might be wrong but that's as far as I know.

POM     Was Vula able to get messages to him and get messages from him?

JL     Yes, a lot of the larger part of the communication around his views on aspects of the negotiations were channelled through Operation Vula resources.

POM     How was that done?

JL     Well I can remember more than once actually receiving documentation which had to be retyped for transmission which consisted of messages from him from within the prison, so that's how it was done from our side. How it was gotten out of the prison, I mean he saw people and people were willing to smuggle notes and documents and messages.

POM     It doesn't say an awful lot for a super state security system.

JL     Well no it doesn't and certainly that super state security system had its holes all the way and Mac I am sure on many occasions would have been able to tell you what probably only amounts to about a tenth of the real story but many stories about how even at its height on Robben Island they still were able to communicate from the single cells to the common cells, etc., etc. But certainly by the time the second half of the eighties came the great security system had begun to show some fairly serious cracks.

POM     Now when Gebhuza was arrested they raided where he and Mac had been staying and found the computer disks which had been not re-encrypted. Had people become careless? I remember you talking about it the last time as being a really simple operation to re-encrypt, it wasn't something that you had to spend hours doing.

JL     Had people become careless? You know, yes I suppose so. I don't know – the fact of not doing what you're supposed to be doing does indicate a level of carelessness. I don't know – part of it I think was because we had – it's difficult not to become convinced of almost your invincibility if you know what I mean. If you get past so many of the initial hurdles and you're able to really root yourself and pursue your kind of agendas and things go pretty well, I suppose it's just very difficult to keep up quite the same rigidity that you'd started out with.

POM     Tim says: - "1990 was a momentous year for the ANC, it was the year that the illegitimate apartheid regime unbanned the organisation and released its leaders from prison. Although this should have been accepted with jubilation as it was in fact a sign of capitulation by the regime, most of us were extremely sceptical and carried on as if nothing had happened. It was too difficult to trust a regime that had always acted with such duplicity. This was just another trick. Certainly there was no slowing down of the activities related to Operation Vula until much later in the year, well after negotiations between the ANC and the regime had gotten under way."

JL     I think that that's true in the sense that the kind of notion that we still needed to ensure consolidation of the underground, that we still needed to behave without a sudden faith, it was nothing to have given us a sudden faith. I think that's true. I think it was quite difficult to entertain a sort of real optimism about the sincerity of the people with whom we were negotiating.

POM     Again he says: - "The flow of arms into SA during the first months of the ANC's unbanning also did not decrease despite the changed political climate. On the contrary the number of contacts increased as the months passed. There was a great debate on the role of the underground in the new SA. If negotiations with the apartheid regime did not work out the ANC needed an insurance policy and this would be provided by the underground and it had to be a strong underground, not one that had no weapons at hand."

JL     I think that that's true again. I think the issue of the weapons being transferred prior to any sort of agreement being reached, sure, there was no basis to not do that. Again, I think that there was also a lot of work that was being done in terms of ensuring that both political as well as the military training and the political contact as well as the military training also continued. I don't think this was only really about weapons. Weapons were a part of it, I wouldn't have singled them out. I think everything, as he said initially, everything did continue as normal.

POM     You mentioned, I remember the last time that you initially thought you were going to Lesotho for two months, or leaving the country for two months, and you ended up staying out of the country for ten years.

JL     I went to Lesotho but that was before I left the country. Originally when I went out of the country to Europe it was initially intended to be about two months.

POM     You had no problems, you had a British passport?

JL     No, no, at that time I had a South African passport but the reason for getting me out at the time was because people weren't too sure whether or not the people who had been arrested, who had been assisted by me, would manage to continue not to be put under pressure. As it turned out they didn't in any way reveal where support had come from and were released about three months after – about six months in total after I had left. But anyway, so yes, I was able to leave.

POM     What were your activities for most of the - ?

JL     It was just support work. I was just a support and I used to do courier work, I used to do things like provide facilities for people to have meetings, facilities for people on the run to stay. I used to provide transport on occasion for people who were on the run. Nothing really – I was very much a foot soldier rather than coming into any more grand position. I used to liase with people who were on trial and people who were in contact with the ANC but I myself wasn't the means for the direct communication, I was more of a person in the middle.

POM     You said too that your job was beneficial or helpful.

JL     When I came back?

POM     Yes.

JL     Yes I think so.

POM     Because?

JL     Well because when you – it's more tiring but when you have a job and somebody who (it doesn't happen all that often) but somebody who stays in the same building as you or who bumps into you and just wants to make conversation and says, "What do you do?" you don't have to sort of be inventing perpetually new kinds of legends and layers and so on. There's an element of … When you've got to place orders for things or you've got to travel somewhere, you've got to give a phone number of where you can be contacted, it all more easily hangs together because it is together. It's just that there's a part that's not revealed as being connected to that particular issue.

POM     Now this is Tim's, I won't say indictment, but he says: - "The details of Vula that the regime released to the press revealed that indeed a number of important documents had fallen into their hands. It became clearer by the day that the comrades in Durban had violated all the rules of security that we had so assiduously tried to impress upon them. Data files of confidential information were kept in clear on disk, key words and key books must have been easily obtainable. The minutes of an entire underground conference were quoted by police as evidence of a plot to overthrow the government. Those of us in London and Lusaka were shocked by the lack of measures taken by the Durban comrades to protect information. What was the purpose of all the encryption programmes and security manuals that had been sent in at such risk? Such measures are of no value whatsoever if the rules are not obeyed. The entire communication system had been designed to withstand this sort of disaster but when the time of reckoning came the police found an open book."

     Then he says: - "Janet Love, now in charge of communications from the inside, made sure that all stored documents were kept in encrypted form and that the data disks were placed in the care of people who could only be reached through cut-offs."

JL     True. I can only echo every one of those sentiments. It rankles still because it really – it was one of the things that was just one of those supremely unnecessary things. I fully agree.

POM     You agree with that strong statement.

JL     I fully endorse those sentiments.

POM     These are just some notes I had. When you were in Cuba what was your impression of Cuba?

JL     I'd been to Cuba once before, that had been for a conference and was for a much shorter period of time. I think all in all it was just two weeks, and so the kind of complete, the overwhelming experience of being in a country that had symbolised so much by way of resistance to all sorts of forms of exploitation and oppression I think had to some extent, the sudden rush that you get wasn't there because it was kind of going there for a second time and also going there for a longer time and having a longer look. I think there was a deep sense of, by Cubans that we met, of on the one hand loyalty to the individual and it was loyalty to a whole load of symbols of Cuban revolution and resistance and it was quite widely expressed but there was also I think a recognition that life was not easy in Cuba, it wasn't a ball of fun, it was tough. Things like accommodation, it was very, very tough for ordinary people, young people in particular, the difficulty of having to confront the wealth and apparent opportunity that was expressed from the United States. It was not very easy at an ideological level for a government to contend with but also for a people to contend with at just a normal human level.

     I think I was aware of that level of difficulty. I didn't have as much political engagement in terms of discussing the politics of Cuba with Cuban people because we didn't, my Spanish wasn't beyond pigeon Spanish, but also we didn't have that much opportunity to really just get to know a whole lot of people there. Some of the people who I stayed with in the one house that I did who had been there for longer they actually knew some of the Cuban people because they had been there longer on almost a social level.

     I was just trying to work out how long those things lasted, not very long, 20 minutes.

POM     This is a continuation of my conversation with Janet Love. What about the politics of, when I say politics, on the one hand you had the ANC committed to the establishment of one person one vote, a democratic society, and in Cuba you had a dictatorship, that by western norms at least still was not in any way democratic. Did you find a contradiction that some of your best friends were people who didn't practice a form of democracy and in the case of USSR, the GDR, were totally repressive regimes themselves?

JL     I think that the aspect of the contradiction is there but I think that the notion of the Cuban party being an instrument of repression was not overwhelmingly apparent. Sure, when one had discussions as we did about the absence of an electoral system, the absence of a complete and unfettered movement of people and of expression, sure, those were things that were seen amongst ourselves, by myself as being constraints that really needed to be overcome but what had caused those constraints? I don't think the notion that they had been caused by deliberate deprivation of democratic norms and rights in order to perpetuate a form of government that had lost legitimacy, which is really – I don't think that that really came across as much as what were the forces against the Cuban government, what would an election involve in terms of – what were the opportunities for freedom of expression, those kinds of debates, I don't think that we really had them there. I think it was more a recognition that something was going to have to give rather than isolating it as being a sort of groundswell of popular opinion demanding to have a completely democratic form of expression and vote and all the rest of it. It was more that what you had, for want of a better term, and I am sure as a term of political science is completely problematic, but the notion of almost a managed democracy that comes with one-party government, that professes to express the will of the people through various mechanisms which fall short of a fully-fledged franchise, that that managed democracy comes apart at the seams when that government fails to be able for all sorts of reasons to provide and to fulfil what are the expectations of a good existence of the people it is supposed to serve. I think what was more apparent in Cuba was not so much that you had a groundswell of hostility and a problem of the people and there was that kind of – you know there was a sense of oppression in that sense – but rather that what the government of Cuba was needing to provide would not be within its capability to provide. The fact that things like accommodation, things like meaningful employment and so on, it just was clearly unable to meet the level of demand. I had a sense that something had to give more than really having a sense of an absence of democratic – and absence of governance without popular mandate. That could be totally wrong.

     I am sure that I would be able to speak with more authority to say either that is the case or that is not the case had I engaged much more with Cuban people themselves. We didn't have any restrictions on our movements, it wasn't that we couldn't go anywhere. We didn't have any restrictions on our ability to talk to people. I can't explain, in that kind of context you recognise (I think that's the best way I can put it) you recognise something has to give. I don't think that my – I haven't been so overwhelmingly convinced that the ballot box in a place like the United States has provided a wonderful outcome for the majority of people albeit that it pursues an agenda of the franchise that I'm very committed to. So for me then probably more than now the issue of the franchise wasn't the most defining moment. What was really important for me in a place like Cuba was the fact that the medical facilities available – and we were witness to this on one or two occasions – the medical facilities available to really all Cubans, that was just astounding, just that that kind of tertiary medicine was able to be provided to people who in this society, in this country now even with a democracy, wouldn't get a look in. Those are kind of things that really have counted for me.

     I'm one of those people who feels a bit like I crave for a sort of level of debate that enables a discourse which doesn't fall into the polemics. I think that what we understand to be democracy is so much linked to purely the ballot box and the machinations of the fourth estate and I'm not sure that we have embraced the meaning of democracy as it means people's access to basic human requirements and to employment, to things that I think socialism in its ideology and to some extent in its practice has tried to address so much more fundamentally. I'm not a great political polemicist. I'm side-tracking, you asked me about Cuba.

POM     The United States has something like close to 30% of the people have no medical insurance, they just fall right through the hole.

JL     I think what I'm saying is at that time, I had spent time in the Soviet Union and I'd spent time in the Soviet Union really at the height of the Andropov, post-Andropov period and a whole load of the contradictions there and so on and so forth, so it wasn't that I was inured to that but I think for me to find a solution really has to be a solution that doesn't say the ballot box and everything else is fine, but basically takes into account a whole lot of developmental needs of a society and basic needs of human beings in a much more fundamental way than the bulk of the so-called established democracies have ever really given anything other than lip service to. I don't have the answers and I think what's particularly sad at the moment is that there's a dearth of attempt to really find some answers. It won't mean that they're the answers but there's a retreat from intellectualism really and maybe because I'm a confirmed intellectual I feel that vacuum in quite a lot that I do.

POM     One last question. It just struck me, you said that you led a very lonely existence for the ten years you were here. How did you deal with that loneliness?

JL     You mean for the initial period that I was here, that initial period that I was here?

POM     Yes.

JL     How did I deal with it? In different ways. I suppose one of the things that I've always been quite fortunate with is that I can actually close the universe off by reading absolutely meaningless novels and thrillers and stuff like that. If I read actually anything that is certainly well written and absorbing, it sometimes applies to non-fiction but usually to fiction, I don't hear other people, I don't see anybody. My mind goes into a state of rest and I suppose that was some of how I coped with it. Then, I don't know really, you bear – you store up maybe some of the cost of what that does to you, you store up I suppose – just within yourself for times to come. I think that there are a number of people who have gone through whether it be prison, exile or underground activity who just haven't – I would say I would be one of those – who find you've got quite a reservoir still of grief, of anger, of that kind of stuff to get through and maybe you never will, maybe it all comes out in odd moments and in odd ways. But that's a sort of 'storette'. Beyond that, like I say, I used to read, I used to get busy, that sort of thing.

POM     OK. I think I've covered everything. When you worked here did you have much actual communication with Mac?

JL     Oh yes. Once Mac and I started working together we worked together very closely, very well, and we communicated extremely regularly.

POM     Oh sorry, I forgot you were his secretary, administrative assistant.

JL     I don't have any major concern with any of those terms.

POM     What was he like to work for?

JL     Mac's always been a very demanding, a very challenging and also a very difficult human being to work closely with. I think he was all of those. I'd always had a respect for him but I grew to really, as a human being, like him and I think develop an understanding for him that he can be full of shit and I'll still like him. It's gone beyond a point where that wouldn't happen. I think he's a really, truly excellent human being. I think that sometimes he's completely unnecessarily over-sensitive about other people's opinions of him because I think who and what he is speaks for itself but sometimes he's overburdened with the need to in one way or another account for himself and maybe that's just because he's, I think very often he's done things which have been such – he's needed to make such overt statements in various people's faces that they've either deliberately or unintentionally obscured some of what his reasoning and his motivation has been, that he felt a need to kind of rise in protest about that and I can understand that at one level. But part of me just feels – I wish he didn't feel he needed to do that because I think he sometimes gets himself into a twist just unnecessarily. He is who and what he is and I think he's a person who's probably hardest on himself than anybody ever could be. He's fundamentally a very, very good human being. He can be full of shit. To work with he can be completely impossible. We used to fight quite wholeheartedly. I give as good as I get. He's the kind of person who – he wears his moods on his sleeve and you have to take in that sense the rough with the smooth. Like I say, I kind of give as good as I get so we used to have a lot of very, very good times where a lot of them were punctuated by these really – even when I met Mac before he left the country, I think that's the one thing, intellectually I always found him such a stimulating human being and during the time of Vula as well. So in that sense it was quite a privilege to work with him. He also, he's not quite as bad as my mother who can completely dispute the content of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Oxford Dictionary all in one day, but he can get pretty close at times so you eventually want to strangle the man. He's demanding as well and sometimes, as I say, moody, demanding, all of those things. It doesn't make a person very easy to work with but can be intensely satisfying to work with at the same time if you don't let it get you down. He didn't get me down. I hope that answers your question.

     I think the fact that you're writing a book that's focusing on him is, for me I think it's a good thing, it's a good story to tell.

POM     He tells a good story too.

JL     Oh absolutely! He's a wonderful story teller.

POM     A great interview because he inserts himself and other people and says 'I said', 'He said' and 'She said', uses that kind of wheel, whereas other people are so dry, it just comes out and you read it afterwards to say, my God! This is so boring. But I know the person wasn't boring, it's just the way they come across.

JL     Yes, put the thing across.

POM     Put their thoughts together.

JL     Yes he's a wonderful story teller. When he gets going about stuff, whether it be in prison or in the early days of MK I used to find it really fascinating.

POM     Thank you ever so much for your time.

JL     That's my pleasure. All the best.

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.