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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
14 Oct 2002: Naidoo, Indres
POM Indres, I'd like to cover a couple of things today. One, your own background and how you became involved in the struggle. Two, your family in Johannesburg because I believe your Mum was involved.
IN It goes a long, long way backwards.
POM Then we jump forward to, you had said I think on the phone to Judy that you had known Mac from the 1950s.
IN That's right.
POM Would that have been from his days at the University of Natal when he was working for New Age?
IN No. I knew Mac when he was on his way to Britain, but we'll cover that, on his way to Britain around about 1958/59. He came from Durban and he needed accommodation in Johannesburg for a few days and Ahmed Kathrada put him up at our house. Of course he was introduced as an activist from Durban who worked for New Age in Durban and so forth, that was on his way to London to study law and that's when we met him for the first time. But I'll continue thereafter from there.
POM Now he talks about when he came back to SA from he went from the GDR through London and he met Mr Vella Pillay who said, "Go to Newcastle to your home and await instructions, we'll be in touch", and about five weeks later Kathy picked him up outside his door and drove him to Johannesburg and then he arranged accommodation in your house, where he stayed in your house. Now he says that at that time he was underground and he was not to reveal to anybody that he was underground and that he stayed as a lodger in your Mum's house, well with all of you.
IN In our family home.
POM You were very involved at the time and you were telling him to come along to meetings and he was reluctant, saying, "I've given up politics, I'm out of all that stuff."
IN We could deal with all that. I mean let's start off from the beginning. You want a little background to me? Well to start off with a little background to me I come from a family that has been politically active for over 100 years. In fact my great-grandmother and my grandparents were a very close colleagues of Mahatma Gandhi. For that matter the family maintains that my family made Mahatma Gandhi.
POM One more family that made him. I've now run across fifteen families that claim to have made him.
POM A little Irish joke there.
IN Before the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg my grandfather, who was very active politically, he petitioned the President of the Republic of SA on a number of occasions on the treatment of Indians in the then Transvaal.
POM Now it was my understanding that Indians were confined to Natal and that in fact one of the things that Gandhi began was his first defiance campaign was to march these marchers across the border from Natal into Transvaal.
IN No, no. First and foremost Indians first arrived in big numbers in Natal in 1860, they were brought as indentured labourers to Natal. But even before that Indian merchant ships and Indian slaves were brought to SA, particularly to the Western Cape or the Cape but there is very little record to show the Indian slaves that were here. If one examines the slave history of the Cape, you'll find a lot of Indian slaves were brought here.
But coming back to the family, my grandfather was born in Mauritius and my grandmother, that's on my father's side, and for that matter on my mother's side they were also born in Mauritius. But on my father's side they were born in Mauritius and he came to SA round about 1890 and their first port of call was Algoa Bay which is now Port Elizabeth. They landed in PE and from PE my grandfather and the clan made their way eventually to Kimberley and while in Kimberley gold was discovered in Johannesburg and of course they decided to move to Johannesburg and that's when he and a number of Indians moved to Johannesburg. Indians started coming into Johannesburg, into the Transvaal, when gold was discovered. Then the Transvaal government passed a law prohibiting further inflow of Indians into the Transvaal. As a result a permit system was set up where Indians travelling from one province to another, that is Transvaal, Natal and the Cape needed a police permit to travel. In the Free State you were completely debarred, you couldn't live there. You were given in fact a 24 hour permit to cross the Free State but you couldn't live in the Free State, you couldn't stay there overnight. Ironically enough the late Chief Justice of SA, Justice Mohammed, in the sixties and seventies went to defend cases in Bloemfontein but couldn't sleep overnight there, he had to come into the Transvaal at night to sleep at night there and go back in the daytime. Ironically enough after the 1994 elections his office was established in Bloemfontein.
But coming back to the story, my grandfather who spoke English fluently, spoke French fluently, spoke Creole fluently, spoke Tamil fluently, now of course most of the Indian people living both in Natal and in the Transvaal were Tamil speaking. The indentured labourers that came along were from South India and my grandfather and others objected to the treatment of the Indian people and they formed what they called was the Transvaal Tamil Benefit Society to fight against discrimination and they fought by petitioning President Kruger. Kruger was President of the Republic of SA in the latter part of the nineteenth century. When Mahatma Gandhi comes to SA in 1894 Mahatma Gandhi comes as a barrister to defend a merchant in Pretoria who has been charged or rather there are two merchants fighting one another. He comes along there and he meets my grandfather and at the beginning my grandfather and others call upon him to write the petitions because after all he's a legal man, and to write the petitions in legal terms while my grandfather is an ordinary person. So this is how Gandhi becomes introduced to the political scene and Gandhi at the beginning is actually paid by the Congress, or by the people rather, for the petitions that he writes. It is at a later stage where Gandhi feels, wait a minute, that he should now be part of the struggle and gets involved and he becomes the Mahatma within a short space of time.
The term 'satyagraha' (I'll get the word for you later) is an Indian term meaning self-sacrifice, a broader meaning to passive resistance, it has a much more broader meaning. It actually comes from Johannesburg at a congress held in Johannesburg at the Empire Theatre which my grandfather chaired, the word satyagraha was first used in SA. So this is how it is and as a result when Gandhi opened his Ashram outside Johannesburg, Tolstoy Farm, my grandfather moved his entire family to live there. By this time my grandfather has lost everything he had because of the number of times he's gone to jail. Already by this time Mahatma Gandhi says that this man went to jail at least fourteen times and you couldn't hold him back from going to jail and as a result he lost his business and whatnot.
POM What had he been working at before that?
IN He was a little small-time merchant. He was selling horses, animal fed, what they call forage for horses. In fact he had a shop on the corner of Bree and High Road in Fordsburg. The building still stands, it's a chemist today I think. That's where my grandfather had his business. However, to cut a long story short that is why we claim that Gandhi was actually made by my family. When Gandhi leaves for India in 1914 my grandfather asked him to take four of his sons to India because he cannot manage the struggle and at the same time looking after all his kids.
POM How many children did he have?
IN Four plus and two girls that remained behind and two boys remained behind, eight altogether.
POM So four went and four stayed.
IN Four of them went to India including my father. They lived in Gandhi's Ashram in India, studied under Gandhi, took part in the struggle with Mahatma Gandhi. While they were there all of them contracted smallpox. In the Ashram itself there was an outbreak of smallpox and the elder of the four died in Gandhi's Ashram. My grandmother demanded their return immediately because she felt that they were being neglected and whatnot. My father had the honour of studying under Gandhi and studying under Rasindranath Tagore the great Indian philosopher. Let me get all these spellings for you.
Then of course it is not too clear how long they spent in India. The family legend says that they spent 14 years in India because my father was a boy of about ten years old when he went off to India and comes back as a grown up man. On his return he throws his entire lot into the struggle.
POM This would be in the 1930s when he came back?
IN Yes. My grandfather becomes the first President of the SA Indian Congress which was subsequently set up. In fact he's the founding member of the Transvaal Indian Congress and the President. My grandfather dies in 1933. Gandhi in his letter, he refers to my grandfather as a lion-hearted Tambi Naidoo, and Gandhi goes on to say that in the whole of India and in the whole of SA you would never find a more dedicated person than Tambi Naidoo. Both him and his wife and his mother-in-law have been in and out of jail. Gandhi said you couldn't keep him out of jail. The Johannesburg Fort, he was in and out of it. So was my grandmother and so was my great grandmother.
Then my father and my mother became very active in politics. My father at the time of his death in 1950 was the Vice President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, he was the President of the SA Peace Council, he was a member of the Communist Party of SA and very, very active. He also won a peace award, posthumous, which hangs there, the blue one there. It was given by the World Peace Council in 1959.
POM I'll get it on the way out, I'll just take note of what it says. Where did he meet your mother?
IN Well my mother and her family were from Pretoria and they were also activist so the activists met. Ironically enough two sisters and one brother on my father's side married two brothers and one sister on my mother's side. So that's how close we are. But my mother has been active all her life.
POM Is she still alive?
IN No, unfortunately she died 1993 on Christmas Day. The strangest thing is that she always said her friend and comrade, Helen Joseph, died on Christmas Day 1992 and Mum always talked of it and a year later, exactly one year later, 1993 Christmas Day, we were all gathering for Christmas lunch at a friend's home, Horst Kleinschmidt, he was out of town and my sisters were house-sitting for him so we decided to have a big Christmas dinner there. Mum came, she was quite joyful, talked to everybody. I was busy talking somewhere and the next thing I know they called me and said, "Hey, wait a minute, Mum's having a heart attack", and by the time I had dashed there, my niece was a medical doctor and was trying to revive her, they rushed to hospital and she died but quite peacefully at the age of 85. So you could see from that, and not only had my mother and father been in and out of jail, my father had been to jail from 1936 right up to the Defiance Campaign of 1952. My Mum was active, went to jail in the Passive Resistance, Defiance Campaign and active in the SA Indian Women's Association, active in the SA Women's Federation. At the time of the banning of the ANC my mother was Vice President of the SA Women's Federation, Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi and others were very close comrades of my mother's. As a result we five brothers and sisters, three brothers and two sisters, had absolutely no choice in the whole thing. We were taken to meetings.
POM It's in the genes.
IN We were taken to meetings way back, I mean I have a film which was filmed in 1946 where you could see me running around at the meeting selling the movement's newspaper. So I have been selling the movement's newspaper, The Guardian, which was the mouthpiece of the Communist Party and the Passive Resistance which my father was the proprietor of, which I didn't even know my father was the proprietor of but which actually gave news of the Indians involved in the struggle during the Passive Resistance struggle. That's how we grew up. I have seen almost every police station in the Transvaal, from Marshall Square, Benoni, Boksburg, Grobblersdal, Jeppe, Doornfontein, you name it, I was in all of them.
POM Did Gandhi have a great influence on your father's thinking, on the direction the Indian Congress was taking during those years both because of his time here and because of his role in Indian independence?
IN Yes there's no doubt. You see there were two separate organisations, the Transvaal Indian Congress and the Natal Indian Congress. The NIC which was established in 1894 and the first secretary of it was Mahatma Gandhi, now history says that the TIC was established subsequently but in reading Gandhi very carefully there seems to be some contradiction. However, historically the fact remains that the NIC was formed a couple of years before and they were both quite independent organisations. My grandfather was President of the TIC. Of course one must remember that in that period of time there was total segregation of our people, the Africans lived separately in what was known as their ghettos, the Indians were living in their Asiatic bazaars or their ghettos in Pretoria, in Benoni, in Boksburg, Germiston, Johannesburg, Vereeniging. There was an outbreak of polio in the Johannesburg Asiatic bazaar which was round about where Vrededorp is today. As a result that whole place was burnt down and you'd notice that while Pretoria, Benoni, Boksburg, Vereeniging, Heidelburg, Krugersdorp all had little Indian townships, called Asiatic bazaars at that time by the regime, Johannesburg never had one because of the outbreak of the disease.
My father was very active with the Communist Party. During the second world war my father led a massive campaign where shopkeepers were hoarding food, rice, sugar, etc., my father and others in the Communist Party would go and raid the shops, pull out the rice, pull out the sugar and put them out in the street and call the people and say, "Come and start buying them." Of course these shopkeepers were selling them at black market prices and by this method they would sell the food at the normal price, oil, rice, sugar, etc., etc. Communist Party members became very popular amongst the Indian community. Within a short space of time a number of Indians joined the Communist Party. My father, as far as I remember, never wore any other tie but a red tie. He refused to wear any other tie. During the Defiance Campaign of 1952 the ANC came out with a black, green and gold tie rather a green tie which my father had but never wore it because he always wore a red tie.
My mother on the other hand, of course, was very active in the Women's League and so forth. Then of course myself, I was first elected into the executive of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress in 1953. The people that nominated me into the executive were people like Ahmed Kathrada and Paul Joseph and ever since then I've been very, very active, not only selling newspapers now but actively participating in all the campaigns. When MK was formed on 16 December 1961 I was recruited into MK. I joined the SACP in 1960 and have been active in the Communist Party ever since.
My brothers and sisters, all of them, I've got an elder sister, Shanti, who is a year plus older than me and I've got two brothers and a sister younger than me, they've all been in and out of jail. Shanti was arrested in 1969, arrested with Winnie Mandela and others and eventually when Winnie Mandela and others appeared in court charged with furthering the aims and objects of a banned organisation, they brought my sister along nobody even knew where she was and what condition she was like, and they brought her to court and they asked her to give evidence against Winnie. She made a lovely statement in court, she said, "I refuse to give evidence against my comrades. How am I to live with myself if I give evidence against them?" Ironically enough the Judge, Justice Becker, was the guy who sentenced me a couple of years before to ten years imprisonment, and he said to her, "Look, I sentenced your brother."
POM A couple of years before that?
IN Oh yes, before. My sentence was 1963. He said to her, "Look, I sentenced your brother in 1963 to ten years and I don't want to sentence you." She said, "Well I can't give evidence", and she was subsequently sentenced to one year imprisonment for refusing to give evidence against Winnie Mandela. And the trial of Winnie Mandela and the others collapsed because not only did Shanti refuse, so did another woman from the Eastern Cape on the same basis and the case completely collapsed.
My younger brother, Murthi, was involved with Bram Fischer when Bram Fischer went underground. He and my brother-in-law were heavily involved and they were both detained during the time when Bram was arrested and they were both released subsequently but my brother-in-law fled the country immediately. My brother has been since then in the country and has been detained a number of times. My younger sister, the baby sister, she was arrested for the first time when she was nine years old for giving out ANC leaflets. The ANC wasn't even a banned organisation then and she was arrested. Then my youngest brother, the baby brother, was arrested in 1982 and charged with furthering the aims and objects of the ANC, heavily tortured and he had contact with me when I was in Maputo and he helped in the escape of Stephen Lee and these fellows when they escaped from Pretoria Central and my brother was sentenced to one year imprisonment for that. His son was detained in 1985 and heavily tortured as well so it has gone down the line of the family. My son himself left the country when he was under two years old, lived in Mozambique with us for a long, long time, then went off to Denmark and lived in Denmark and returned to SA in 1991 with the unbanning of the ANC.
POM Was that the first time you saw him since he had - ?
IN No, no, he stayed with me in Mozambique. In brief I was arrested in 1963 for MK activities, sentenced to ten years imprisonment.
POM Were you arrested as part of a group?
IN Yes, we were three of us. We were actually four of us arrested.
POM Were you arrested before Wilton Mkwayi?
IN Oh yes, before Mac and Wilton, long before. Mac and Wilton were only arrested in 1964. I was arrested in 1963. In fact when I was being tortured Swanepoel said to me that the next guy they're going to pick up is Mac Maharaj. But I will come to that story as well. And I didn't know why they were going to pick him up but I managed to get word to him that they're gunning for him.
We were sentenced to ten years imprisonment. On my release ten years later I was put under house arrest in Doornfontein but in spite of all my house arrest and whatnot the ANC underground made contact with me and I worked in the underground with Joe Gqabi, Henry Makgothi, 'Squire'. In 1976 December Joe Gqabi got arrested and he sent out word that all of us from the unit must disappear and the ANC underground smuggled me out of the country. I then was based in Mozambique for the next ten years until in 1986 PW Botha threatened to kill us.
IN To kill six of us. In fact he wrote to Chissano telling Chissano that there were six terrorists in Mozambique that were responsible for 92% of all terror activities in the country and he named them: Jacob Zuma, Chairperson of the Political Military Committee, Susan Rabkin, the secretary to the committee, Keith Mokoape a member of the Political Military Committee, Mohammed Timol in charge of security, Sonny Singh, also known as Bobby Pillay, member of the PMC and Indres Naidoo who is in charge of propaganda in Mozambique, and if they are not removed from Mozambique immediately he will not be held responsible for what happens to them. Chissano called Tambo, our President, and after a lengthy discussion it was agreed for our safety and the safety of the Mozambicans that all six of us would be moved after ten years being in Mozambique. We survived even this Nkomati Accord for that matter. We were then moved from Mozambique. I spent a year in Lusaka while waiting to be redeployed and eventually I was appointed as representative for the ANC in East Berlin. By this time my wife and I split.
POM That would be what time? The year would be January 1987?
IN 1988. My son then went and lived with my wife in Copenhagen. She was working at the ANC office then and I went to Berlin and I worked in Berlin. In 1991 Thabo Mbeki sent a message to me that I should return home immediately.
POM You were still in Berlin at that point? Just before you had Thabo asking you to come home you were in Berlin when the Berlin wall fell?
IN Oh yes.
POM So you saw the sweep through the Prague Spring, the Velvet Revolution?
IN Not the Prague Spring, no, no.
POM Sorry, the Velvet Revolution, all the way across and culminating in the collapse of the government in the GDR and the smashing of the Berlin Wall. What was going through your head?
IN Well look, let me put it to you this way, the ANC office in East Germany was one of the few offices in the world that was given full diplomatic status. Cuba, Moscow, India and Nairobi were the only countries in the world that gave ANC full diplomatic status. While we had offices all over, we had London, Paris, Stockholm, New York, Toronto, in all these centres the ANC office had a tough time in existing. There was lack of funds, no support from the regime or the people who were in government excepting in Stockholm where SIDA gave them quite a bit of support. In Bonn, for example, we had an office as well and they were just living from hand to mouth while in East Germany we were given full diplomatic status, for the first time I was given a salary, a living salary in the GDR. I never had a bank account and they opened a bank account for all of us and we were given three vehicles with CD registration and we could travel anywhere and anyhow with our cars. We made contact with the church in GDR, we made contact with the trade unions in GDR, I addressed meetings in every district in the GDR and it was a very, very fine time. They gave us tremendous support, not only did they give us as diplomats support but each year, already from 1970 they accepted at least 100 students to come and study at university level, at school level, at trade level, so we had a constant population there all the time. Not only were the students studying there but they were also given a small allowance as well. Then they also gave medical treatment to our people. For example, Oliver Tambo came regularly to have medical check-ups and treatment in Germany. In fact just before he got the stroke he was hospitalised in Berlin and in Berlin the GDR authorities said to him, "Look, you can't go, you are not well", and he insisted on going to a conference in Africa where he actually got the stroke.
POM How did suddenly you see this sea-wave of people, popular revolt against the regime, the smashing of the wall, the scenes of celebration?
IN It wasn't that way. First and foremost, let's put it this way, yes, people were not allowed to travel to the west but people travelled to the other east bloc countries. Hungary was a very popular holiday resort and a lot of GDR citizens went to Hungary for holidays. Of course a lot them defected from Hungary to the west, others came back, most came back. When the press asked, "But why are you coming back? Why are you not defecting?" they said, "But why should we? There is nothing wrong." So we had that mixed feeling. But in the meantime in Leipzig there were huge demonstrations taking place, once a week at least, let by a group of people who strongly felt that - not fighting against the socialist state but against the way it was being carried out, a lot of them felt it is wrong the method that they were using. They approved of the socialist state, free education, etc., etc., etc., and there is no doubt that the west fanned and supported this whole so-called uprising.
By 1989 December the government could no longer stand and the first government collapsed of Erich Honecker. They set up another government under Egon Krentz and that too collapsed and as a result the entire GDR system collapsed. Ironically enough the GDR, which had always been calling for unification, was now being forced into unification through the collapse of the wall. One of the first things that came into Berlin, which I saw, was Coca-Cola vans coming down the streets of Berlin throwing cans of Coca-Cola at people and people were calling it the Coca-Cola Republic. The ultra-leftists had a beautiful banner, the banner was the flag of the GDR but in writing, 'Deutschland' in the Coca-Cola script. It was quite nice.
POM This is the ultra-left?
IN The ultra-left.
POM A phrase not to be heard too often these days, it means many things.
IN I see what you mean. So that's it. I then lived on there for another year, two years for that matter. The Solidarity Committee which was our host was reduced in size in a very, very big way and even its financial backing was no longer there but they continued to maintain our office in Berlin until I left. When I left they actually closed our office down.
POM And that was in?
POM Yes, because I remember meeting you at about that time.
IN I arrived in Johannesburg, I flew Berlin/London in April of 1991 and from London my sister Shanti and I returned home. My other sister who was in exile had come home a few weeks earlier, and that's it.
POM OK, back to Mac.
IN I did not know Mac at all. I think, I'm subject to correction, I think it was in 1958, could be 1959, I'm not too sure, Ahmed Kathrada brought Mac home and asked if we could accommodate him for a few days. He was on his way to London. We said it was no problem. We lived in Doornfontein. It was my mother and my five brothers and sisters, five of us living in this house. The three brothers we shared one room, the two sisters shared one room and my mother so when Mac came we actually shared the room with him. I remember the first night when Mac was there, you know we were just talking and we went to bed that evening and I was shocked when Mac put his hand into his eye and pulled out his eye and he put it into water. I looked, I was a bit taken aback by this whole exercise. It was only then did I realise the guy had a glass eye, I didn't know that he had a glass eye until then. But to be honest with you we didn't have much discussion because Mac was just staying with us and a few days thereafter he left for Britain and we had no contact whatsoever with Mac. That was the end of Mac's story.
Then I think, again I'm subject to correction, I think it was 1961 when Mac returned to SA.
POM From the GDR.
IN Well from Britain as far as I was concerned. It was 1961 when Mac returns and again Kathy meets him and again Kathy brings him to our house to come and stay and of course since he knew my mother and knew all of us he was welcomed and he settled in with us. Now of course what we found very, very strange is that Mac would analyse all the political situations of what is happening in GDR, what is happening in Algeria, and would discuss politics 24 hours of the day and the family would sit and listen to him, including my Mum, and he was absolutely on the ball.
I remember the volcano eruption in Tristan da Cunha Island, I think it was 1961/62 there was this volcano eruption and the entire population were evacuated. A lot of them ended up in the Cape and Mac asked us what political significance there was to this damn thing. I said to him, "But listen, it's a very human tragedy, volcano eruption, and Britain did a wonderful job by evacuating the few hundred inhabitants." And Mac gave us an analysis of how this island was neglected as a colony, it was nothing else but a colony of Britain, Britain played no part in supporting and helping the infrastructure of the country and the people there were all dependent on Britain, Britain the colonial power, and he tore Britain to pieces on the whole issue. We were absolutely stunned at this wonderful analysis that he brought about. Of course there were daily photographs in the paper of people landing in the Cape and so forth and Mac would say, "Look at them! These are peasants, these are workers, these are people that were living there slogging all their life for the British colonial powers who cared nothing for them."
But now this is Mac. I was, all of us, my three brothers, my two sisters and I my younger brother of course was a little too young, we were actively involved. We used to attend demonstrations, we used to go to meetings. Almost every week there was some demonstration or other. Mac would talk about these demonstrations, he would talk about everything but never attended any of these damn things. So we got quite annoyed with this bugger. We said, "What the fucking hell, this guy is an armchair politician. He only talks politics 24 hours a day and does fuck all about it." And we were planning to donner him up, to really get hold of this guy and give him a good doing up, myself, some of my comrades and so forth. We actually discussed it within ourselves to beat this guy up. How can anybody be talking politics day in and day out and yet do nothing politically? Kathy, only now we realise, was quite worried by this situation and Kathy did everything in his power to prevent us from beating him up. In fact if anybody saved Mac from getting a beating it was Kathy. Obviously Kathy knew more than we did and we knew nothing about Mac's involvement.
What is also very interesting, our newspaper, The Guardian, was banned sometime I don't even know when, and within the next week it came out calling itself Advance and Advance was subsequently banned and within the next week it came out calling itself The Clarion. And The Clarion was subsequently banned and within the next week it came out under the name of The New Age. We never missed a period, the paper was always running at a loss. We had to raise, I was amongst those that raised a lot of money to see that it survived. Now the state was looking at ways of preventing this recurrence of other newspapers, registering of new newspapers, so they were bringing about a bill where once you register a newspaper you've got to give a huge sum of money as a deposit and once the paper is banned you lose this money. So, of course, now they were one on top of us. So what we did was we started re-registering old newspapers that used to be part of the movement. For example, we re-registered the Passive Resistance. I didn't know that my father was the proprietor of it until then because Kathy brought it to me and said, "Please sign here, we're going to re-open the newspaper." I said, "What for? Why must I sign?" He said, "Your father was the proprietor, therefore you're the heir to it." I said, "Oh my God! Really?" So we re-established the Passive Resistance, we re-established a number of other newspapers, one called Parade.
Now of course we had to bring out a small limited number of copies of these papers to keep it going, so Mac was keeping Parade going. Parade was a newspaper that was supposed to feature non-racial sporting activities. You must know at that time sport was absolutely segregated to such an extent that even amongst the black community you had the Indian Association, the Coloured Association, the Bantu Association, the African Association, and we were really fighting against this. Mac, the bugger would never go and see a soccer match. Myself and my brothers would go and see the soccer match, we'd come back from the soccer match and he'll ask us how was the soccer match and we would tell him, "Oh well, first of all there were about 5000 people there", and there came a full description and this bugger would take notes and the next thing he reports in The Parade as an eye witness to the soccer match and gave a full account of the soccer match and that's how the paper survived. That's the only thing we knew that Mac was doing really but we didn't know what Mac's real role was.
He then got a job in 1963 with Mannie Brown, Mannie Brown ran an outfit called Bernard van Wyk & Brown. They were publishers of various magazines and so forth. I don't know if you know Mannie Brown?
POM No I don't.
IN Mannie Brown was an activist in the Congress of Democrats, he and his wife. In fact all people employed there were activists. Hilda Bernstein was employed there, a chap by the name of Fred Cousins who was a member of the Communist Party of SA was employed there, I was employed there for quite some time. Now Mac was working there. He actually did the editing of Parade from there. Now it was not too clear where the hell this guy is getting his money from. It seemed Mannie was giving him some money but there it is and Mac, of course living in our house, sharing our room with us, talking politics 24 hours of the day, doing fuck all in active political work really.
Of course I was recruited into MK in 1961 and I was involved in acts of sabotage. I remember one night I came home after an act of sabotage and you know I expected the entire family to be fast asleep but when I walked in I found them all in the lounge with Mac having a damn good time, laughing and whatnot, and I looked at them, I just greeted them and I dashed off to my bedroom and got into my bed. But Mac obviously was following everything very closely. Ironically in April 1963 I had to go out on 17 April, or rather the night of the 16th morning of the 17th, I had to go out on an act of sabotage with my colleagues and Mac's clothing that was lying there he had a lovely soft pair of shoes, one of those crepe soled shoes that was quite soft, so I looked at it and I said, "That's an ideal pair of shoes to wear." And I looked, he had a black jersey which I didn't have because I needed black, dark clothing, so I borrowed the thing. I borrowed, as far as I was concerned, and I looked, there was this pair of gloves that he had as well. Up till now we were actually using socks on our hands. So I thought, "What the hell must I use socks for when there's a pair of gloves there?" So I took the thing and off I went on an act of sabotage and of course I got arrested, I got shot, bleeding, coming down my jersey and whatnot. And here I got arrested with Mac's jersey, Mac's gloves and Mac's shoes and he said, "The bloody bastard! He took it without my permission." Under interrogation, as I said, Swanepoel then said to me clearly that the next guy that they're going to pick up is Mac Maharaj.
POM Were they able to fingerprint those clothes and find his fingerprints on them?
IN No I don't think it was a result of the clothing. I think they had been following him and they were keeping a tab on his movements. So of course at my trial itself Mac was nowhere near, he never came once to the bloody trial and this was quite surprising. All my brothers and sisters were there, all my comrades were there daily including the Pahad brothers and others, they were there giving total you must remember when we were arrested we were among the very, very first MK guys to be arrested and you could imagine the shock in the world that there were three Indian boys arrested for MK activities. We were the first in the Transvaal to be arrested. Nobody was arrested in Natal. In the Eastern Cape there were two small trials that took place, small in the sense that they didn't get much publicity. That is it. Andrew Masondo was arrested in the Eastern Cape and they got very little publicity for it. So our trial was THE trial. Mandela was arrested. Mandela had already been sentenced to six years imprisonment.
POM This was his first arrest?
IN Yes, for leaving the country illegally. Kathy, Walter and all these guys were not yet arrested but strangely enough Kathy was nowhere in court, but of course it's understandable about Kathy because Kathy was under house arrest, Walter was under house arrest. While appearing in court we read the placards, the placards said 'Walter Sisulu disappears, went underground'. Then we heard rumours that Kathy has gone underground and we thought what the hell is going on. Then our lawyer, Harold Wolpe, disappeared, he went underground. Now we were in bigger shit because our lawyer had disappeared. Of course subsequently his brother-in-law, Kantor, Jimmy Kantor, that is Wolpe's wife's brother, defended us. Subsequently we were sentenced to ten years imprisonment and that's it. I hear no more and the next thing, less than a year later, we heard my mother came to Robben Island and said to me, "Have you heard the news? Have you heard the news?" "No, what's the news?" "Mac has been arrested and they are in big trouble."
Of course while we were at Leeukop Prison the Rivonia trialists were picked up one after the other, Kathy, Walter and the others, and the warder, a black warder at Leeukop Prison said to us, "Hey, Nelson Mandela has been arrested with Walter Sisulu, with Ahmed Kathrada and all these people in Rivonia not far from here." So we said, "Oh you're talking shit man, Mandela was arrested a long time ago, what are you talking about?" He said, "No, no, no, they've been arrested." So we couldn't put the thing together but eventually through the grapevine we discovered what happened.
Now we were moved to Robben Island and my mother managed to smuggle in word that Mac was arrested and that Mac was involved in the Little Rivonia trial. Now things all fell into place. Now I said, "Oh my God! This bugger's living in our house all this time and was actually working in the underground without us knowing." How much of the activities of mine was he aware of? Was he aware that I was in MK? But you know now things fell into pieces and Mac of course will be able to tell you a lot more about the contacts that he made while in the underground, people like Amien Cajee.
POM I've talked to him, yes.
IN Wonderful old man. I don't know if he's still there.
POM He tells me, "I'm going to live to be 125." That was the first thing he said to me.
IN I've got tremendous respect for him really. The problem is he's never been recognised for what he has done. You know he actually joined the struggle in the 1930s. There are photographs of him and my father. In the thirties there was this radical group in the Indian Congress that called themselves 'the nationalist bloc', Dr Dadoo, my father and Amien Cajee was amongst them. They ousted the conservative Indian Congress leadership.
POM Who were they at that time?
IN People like - the Indian Congress leadership was people like Cajee, Nana, all businessmen who believed in compromise and so forth and Dadoo and company threw them out in 1946 or 1947 when the more radical faction took over.
Coming back now with Mac to Robben Island, now of course when Mac was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with Laloo Chiba now ironically enough when I was arrested in 1963 three of us were arrested on the spot, the fourth one happened to be a police informer. Three of us were arrested on the spot but they picked up two of my comrades from their homes, Laloo Chiba and Abdulhai Jassat. They were both picked up at home and they were both put into our trial. Abdulhai Jassat, also known as Charlie Jassat. You know Laloo Chiba? They were both in our trial but when our trial proper started the two of them were acquitted because there was no evidence against them, that is Chiba and Abdulhai. They were both detained before they could leave the court and they were both held under the 90-day detention clause. Abdulhai Jassat was one of those people that escaped from Marshall Square with Mosey Moolla, with Harold Wolpe and Goldreich. They escaped from Marshall Square. Subsequently Chiba was released and picked up with Mac a year later and sentenced to 18 years. I always say to him, "You see you bloody bastard, if you got sentenced with us you'd have got ten years. Now you got sentenced with Mac and you got 18 years."
Nevertheless the contact between Mac and us in prison, Robben Island, was a bit difficult because Mac was kept in the isolation section with Madiba, Walter Sisulu, Kathy, Toivo ja Toivo, plus minus 30, 40 people, the leadership of the ANC.
POM And Laloo was on that side?
IN Laloo as well. Some PAC members and Unity Movement guys, the leadership were kept there while we, the rank and file, were kept in the communal cells. We numbered over 1000 so we had indirect communication. For example, some anecdotes whenever I got punished, which was quite often, and I was taken and isolated Mac would be the one that would come smuggling the food to me, come running to me saying, "You bloody bastard, what are you doing here?" And we would be able to share news and so forth. On many occasions you were deprived of food for the whole day, what they called drie maaltye, three meals taken off, but Mac would smuggle it to me. Mac would smuggle one plate of food regularly to me and this is how we kept contact.
POM How would he get his way from the single cell section?
IN When I was punished you see what happened the single cell section was like a U. The one section was where the leadership were kept and the other section was where we who were punished would be kept. So there was this passage running all the way down that way and Mac would make his way there. For example, you know it's a tragedy because no-one talks about it, our friend Dimitri Tsafendas, the guy who stabbed Hendrik Verwoerd, he was brought to Robben Island in 1966. I was in the isolation section, in the punishment section at the time when he was brought there. They actually took three cells and they put a partition at these three cells so that we could make no contact with him and these three cells were meant for him and he was brought there. Of course this bugger refused to eat our food. He said this is pig's food and kicked it away. When they brought him the warder's food he kicked it away as well and said that this is slightly better than pig's food. He said he's a white man he doesn't see why he's being kept in a prison of blacks. I am not too sure how long he was kept there but he was immediately moved from Robben Island to Pretoria Central where he was kept until 1995 when Madiba released him. Unfortunately history doesn't record this, I don't know why. Even Madiba in his book doesn't talk about it but Mac, as I say, we were there and Mac would smuggle food and smuggle news to us and so on and you could talk with one another as well.
Some anecdotes: when we started playing soccer, and of course I became the secretary of the Football Association, and I was referee and so forth and Mac and these guys, Madiba, Mac and these guys would all look out, they would come across. You see their cells were here and they would come across to the cells here and our football field was here so they would stand at the window looking at us playing soccer and Mac's favourite cry was, "Get the referee a jersey, get the referee a jersey." That's me, and I'd look at the bar and say, "Shut up man." They used to make fun. Mac also saw some rugby matches, Mac describes my first rugby match, my very first ever rugby match, where I was hit in the chest and I landed and I broke three ribs and Mac, of course, always says that was the beginning and the end of my rugby career.
POM Was that the first time you guys would ever have played rugby was it?
IN No, no, no. Me yes, first time I ever played rugby. I mean I was a soccer guy, I played soccer all my life. We from the Transvaal and Natal only played soccer, we didn't know about rugby, while the Eastern Cape guys didn't know soccer. The Steve Tshwetes and others, they only knew rugby. So there was a conflict in fact. We started off playing soccer and at the time Steve Tshwete demanded to play rugby. I said to him, "You can't play rugby, the field is too small." It was quite a small field, the cells were close by and if you backed up with somebody you would knock your head against the wall. They demanded to play rugby and of course eventually we had to share the rugby field, the soccer field, and Steve became the President of the Rugby Board while I was secretary of the Football Association.
Very interesting, I don't know if you've seen Mac's file, the police file. In the police file Craig Williamson is one of the guys that compiled the file and Craig Williamson analyses all the Mac letters that Mac received and all the letters Mac wrote and he says that in a letter Mac talks of Motar, Motar is Dadoo. In a letter Mac talks of Allah, Allah is Walter Sisulu. And he goes on in this way but he says in the letter he also talks about Tocker and we don't know who this guy Tocker is and he's always making reference to Tocker. Craig Williamson, no-one seemed to know who this guy Tocker is. In a letter he says, "How is Tocker?" So they can't really analyse anything about this guy called Tocker. You know who Tocker is by the way? Tocker is me. Mac writes to my mother and says, "How is Tocker? I haven't seen him for a long time." So Craig Williamson and company don't know who this guy Tocker is, you'll find it in his file.
But also Craig Williamson's whatever you call it, he says that while in exile I was Mac's boss which is wrong. It was the other way around, Mac was my boss. Mac was Secretary of the Internal Political Reconstruction, he was the Secretary of that unit based in Lusaka. I was under him based in Maputo but Craig Williamson says that I was Mac's boss. How they came to that conclusion I don't know.
POM Is this in Williamson's testimony?
IN No, no, it's in Williamson's report to the Security Branch. Mac has got a copy of the whole file.
When Mac was released in 1976 he was released in Durban and my mother, who Mac has always regarded as his mother, he was very close more close to my mother than anybody else, my mother went down to Durban to welcome him and that he was very, very pleased about. She was amongst Mac's family that welcomed him in Durban. Of course, as you know, Mac was put under house arrest in Durban.
I skipped the country with the ANC's assistance beginning January of 1977 and while I was on my way to Lusaka in December of 1977 Mac skipped the country and we both landed up in Lusaka at the same time and both made applications to the ANC to go to London to see our families in London. I've got two sisters in exile in London whom I hadn't seen in ages, for 15 years. Mac's ex-wife was also in London, so the ANC of course sent the two of us off to London. We got a tremendous welcome in London when we got to London and in fact the ANC in London organised a massive welcome party for us and all our old comrades were there to welcome both Mac and I. Mac and I then went on speaking tours all over Europe and finally in December of 1977 both of us landed back in Lusaka where Mac was appointed Secretary of the Internal Political Reconstruction and I was appointed as the head of the Maputo Branch of it, which in effect makes Mac my boss.
We worked together and I found working with Mac incredible. The man was very methodical in his work but what I liked about Mac a great deal, Mac would come and meet our unit. My unit consisted of Susan Rabkin, Sonny Singh, myself and two others and Mac would come regularly to debrief us and brief us of what is happening. What I found very, very good about Mac you know in his discussion Mac would never instruct us of what to do and what not to do. He had such a wonderful manner that he would simply say he will talk about something. Mac would talk about a project but he will put it in such a way that you will be the one that eventually comes out with the project, the details of the project. He's put it all into your head so that you eventually say, 'Ah, that's a good idea, I think we should do it this way.' Little do you realise that Mac actually put it into your head. I think that's wonderful, wonderful suggestion. And this is how Mac was. Mac could put things into you, he would never instruct you and he's a good leader that acknowledged what you did, gave you praise but also tore you to pieces on everything. While he'll praise you on the one hand of doing a wonderful job he'll also dig holes into it like mad. I worked under Mac from 1977 right up to 1982/83 when I was eventually transferred to work with Joe Slovo and others. Throughout our exile days we worked very, very closely with Mac.
POM Were you aware of Vula?
IN Now I must tell you that in 1986 when Botha threatened to kill us, all six of us were moved to Lusaka. We of course met Mac on a regular basis. Mac was based in Lusaka. By 1988 Mac, I saw him walking around with a walking stick all over Lusaka, his back was bent and I said, "Oh my God, this bloody bugger has had it. I don't think he's going to see the next year." And Mac of course told me that he is going to go to Soviet Union and GDR for medical treatment and so forth and I thought, oh well, this poor fellow's really had it. He's a brilliant man, I haven't come across anybody that debates like him, who has got a clear concept of what we should be doing and here this man is literally dying. I went off to GDR and I told people there, I said, "Mac is finished."
I had a niece who was studying medicine in Moscow. The next thing she communicated with me from Moscow to Berlin saying Mac had just pitched up at the hospital and she is, of course, in charge of the ANC students to attend to our patients and so forth and, "I saw Mac and Mac is OK." Fine now, well he's getting medical treatment. Little did I know that it was the first and last time she saw him because thereafter she tried to find that bugger he had disappeared. They said to her that he's been sent off to some Black Sea resort or something of the sort, so everybody took it for granted the guy has gone out there. We heard no more of Mac. I'm trying to trace this bugger, where the hell is he? Is he still alive or what? It is only after 1991 when I returned to SA and when Mac was detained in SA, I said, "Oh my God, this is what has happened." Even my niece got the shock of her life, she said, "Now I know that Mac had come into the country." But the way it was done was absolutely incredible. None of us ever, ever thought or suspected that Mac was actually making preparations to enter the country.
POM Did it ever strike you that he was put in a hospital where they would have known your niece would have seen him so that she could have gotten the word back that in fact he was in hospital in Moscow, that is was part of the plan?
IN Absolutely. The propaganda value of Mac being sick and Mac being put into hospital in Moscow. By the way my niece, her name is Natalia, and who named her Natalia? Mac named her Natalia. So he is very close to my niece. She today is working in Johannesburg. I think she's involved with the AIDS programme. She qualified in 1991. She was one of the last ANC students to qualify from the Lumumba University.
POM He tells the story of him having been sent by OR to an anti-apartheid conference arranged by the UN and he was just out of jail so they thought he should go because he could talk about conditions in jail and that they outfitted him with a suit. This was the first kind of suit I think he ever had and he came back from New York and he was in Lusaka and he was being ribbed about having this suit and you were there and he said, "Indres, I think this suit might fit you, I've no use for this suit. Why don't you put it on and see does it fit?" And it fitted you well and so you marched off in the suit.
IN Yes, that's true. You see, I'd forgotten about that. Actually what happened is when both of us landed up in London Mac was sent off straight away to the UN to talk about prison conditions and Madiba and so forth. And, yes, he was fitted up with a suit. I don't even know what happened to that suit, really. It did fit me because Mac and I are almost, maybe I'm a bit more pot-bellied than he is. Yes I remember that he gave me that suit. I subsequently went to the UN as well. I went after him to the UN. You see Mac talked about conditions prevailing in the isolated sections while I talked about conditions in the general section. When I left the ANC also fitted me out with a nice suit which was also the first time I had a suit. I always liked to dress well so it wasn't anything out of the way while for Mac it was something out of the way. He wouldn't accept wearing a suit. I've never seen Mac otherwise in a suit excepting now recently in parliament and so forth. But those days Mac never wore a suit.
POM That's very enlightening and very like what Mac would be like. What I was thinking, there are two things, when Mac talks he talks very little about Tim and yet she was a significant part of his life until they broke up in 1977/78. She stood by him all those years and yet she doesn't figure in his you have to push him and say, "Mac, you were married, where was Tim?"
IN You know who Tim is? She is the sister to M D Naidoo, the last M D Naidoo.
POM He spent five years on Robben Island.
IN Who spent five years on Robben Island, who was an activist in the Indian Congress and the ANC, who went into exile as well and returned. M D Naidoo of course is the ex-husband to Phyllis Naidoo. Yes Mac married Tim Naidoo in London before he returned to SA in 1960/61. When he was staying in our house she was still in London and they were in communication. She was nursing in London. In 1963 she was due to return to SA and he was making preparations, in fact he was now looking for a house to live in in Johannesburg, not squatting with us, because Tim was on her way. In fact Tim arrived a matter of a day I was arrested in the morning of the 17th so she could have arrived either on the 16th or the 15th of April 1963.
She said, "I've got a bottle of whisky for you." I said, "Fantastic. Tomorrow we will break the bottle and we will drink it." Unfortunately that night I got arrested never to see Tim again until I got to London in 1977. When we arrived, both Mac and I arrived in London in 1977, we arrived at Gatwick, we arrived from Lusaka to Gatwick Airport and to meet me at the airport were my two sisters, Shanti and Ranni and my brother-in-law and my nephew and my niece. To meet Mac was Tim and a couple of his nephews and nieces that were based in London, and of course we were given a royal welcome and the party that was organised by Dr Dadoo, our welcome party, Tim was there and for all intents and purposes the marriage was still on track. When we left for Lusaka their marriage was still very much intact.
POM When you left Lusaka to go to London?
IN No when we left London going to Lusaka the marriage was still intact. But while we were in Maputo Zarina got a job at the University of Eduardo Mondlane and she pitched up in Maputo. Of course, as I said, Mac was a frequent visitor to Maputo and that's where he met Zarina. Zarina, of course being married to Laloo Chiba's younger brother.
POM Laloo Chiba's younger brother?
IN In fact while Mac and I were in London both she and, his name was Chips, they called him Chips, Laloo Chiba's younger brother was called Chips, Chips and Zarina entertained us quite often, took us to restaurants.
POM You and Mac?
IN In London. We were treated like heroes in London, everybody wanted to take us out to restaurants and so forth and of course Zarina was there. And then, as I say, Zarina subsequently got a job in Maputo where she moved and started living in Maputo and Mac, being a frequent visitor, met her again in Maputo. The break-up with Tim was pretty difficult. Tim didn't accept it. Up till today Tim wouldn't accept it. From time to time I hear from her and she will say, "How is that bastard?"
POM That's what she will say? I was going to write to her. I told Mac that I would, I told him, "Listen, I can find Tim on my own or you can tell me. Which is it going to be?"
IN You should meet her.
POM And he pulled it out.
IN She's in London.
POM No he said he had an address for her in Durban on the Esplanade.
IN Is she back? Look I know that after 1991 she did intend to come and settle down in SA but she had difficulty and she went back again to London. But I don't know where she is.
POM Who would be able to tell me? Mac gave me an address on the Esplanade.
IN Could be, could be. I have lost all trace of her. The person that would be able to tell you where she is is Phyllis Naidoo.
POM Do you think she would be receptive to talking about their years together?
IN She's a difficult woman.
POM She's a difficult woman?
IN Oh yes.
POM Mac has a problem of hooking up with difficult women!
IN Oh she's a very difficult woman. She's very straightforward, she will call you a bastard straight in your face. She'll say, "Fuck off man." That's with her. I am not too sure whether she will want to talk about it.
POM But I'm more interested in, not the way they broke up, but the role that she played when they were in jail together and she was in solitary confinement for the better part of three months.
IN Well look, try.
POM I'll try anyway.
IN Who else are you going to see?
POM Oh anybody I can.
IN Are you seeing Wolfie Kodesh?
POM No I am not. Give me that name. Well, could be, I have this name. Wolfie, yes I am, I am, yes.
IN Because I know when Judy phoned me she actually asked me for Wolfie's number. But I haven't been in touch with Wolfie for some time, I don't even know where he is. But, yes, Wolfie will be able to give you quite a bit about him. Laloo Chiba?
POM Yes, I have him, I think, fixed up for next week, and Kathy of course. I've been interviewing Kathy for years.
IN You've already seen Amien Cajee. You know what is his nickname?
IN Doha. Oh I see you do know that. You know what Doha means?
IN It means old man. You know why he got that name? He was a member of the Youth Congress in 1936, Indian Youth Congress. In 1960 he was still a member of the Youth Congress. When I came out of jail in 1973 he was still a member of the Youth Congress. Wonderful man.
POM Yes. Just one last thing to jog your memory on, what I will do is I will send you on a transcript of this interview so you can go through it and correct names, spelling, etc. Mac left or resigned from the SACP rather abruptly in 1990, the end of 1990 or beginning of 1991.
IN When he came out of detention. After Vula, the Vula detention. He was detained during Vula and when he came out of detention, I think he came out of detention in 1991 if I'm not mistaken and that's when he left the Communist Party.
POM When I talk to him he talks that the party was his life, the struggle was his life.
IN Yes of course it was. Absolutely.
POM Why would he turn around and leave?
IN That is a mystery to all of us. I tried to ask him that question and he wouldn't talk about it. He just wouldn't talk about it. Why he left the party is only him and nobody else that knows about it. As far as I know, I'm subject to correction, it is only on his release from detention in 1991 that he resigned from the party, no reasons given, no contact with the party whatsoever since then.
POM Is that right?
IN But he doesn't speak out against the party. In 1991 I went to his house when he was living in Yeoville and myself and my two brothers were there and all three of us tackled him on that issue. He just said, "That's my business and let's forget about it", and he wouldn't talk about it. Up till today I don't know, I can't give any explanation.
And yet, you are quite right, up to then the party was Mac and Mac was the party. To him it meant everything. He was on the Central Committee of the party, the Politburo of the party. He was one of the live wires in the party. While I was in the Maputo region of the party he was an absolute live wire in the party.
POM How did he get on with Joe Slovo?
IN As far as I know they got along fantastically well. Joe had a hell of a respect for him. There was no conflict with Joe and him. There was no conflict between Chris Hani and him.
POM Thank you ever so much. That's been really entertaining and very informative. Thank you.
IN Give me the script.
POM Yes, and I will get back to you.