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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

11 Dec 2002: Ismail, Aboobaker (Rashid)

POM     Perhaps we could begin with you telling me a little bit about yourself, your background, your parents, your growing up and what led you over the course of the years to become involved in the struggle, whether there was any kind of one moment or whether it was a gradual process.

AI     My name is Aboobaker Ismail, I'm also known as Rashid. I was born on 25 December 1954 in Johannesburg. My father and grandmother are both of Indian origin. My father was born in India, he came to SA when he was about six years old in about 1933. My mother was born in SA. My grandfather had come from India some years prior to that, I don't know exactly when. I'm the fourth of six children. I grew up in Johannesburg. The family basically was not very well off. My grandfather when they came to SA were tailors and farmers, came from Gujarati, India, and when they came into SA they didn't have very much of any resources. Initially my father and my uncle, from the stories that we've been told when we were kids, well he only went to school until Standard 4. My mother had never been to school. They worked in clothing businesses after leaving school and that is where they learnt about retail trade, that is my father and my uncle, and later in life they then started a business in the retail business and my family basically lived on a retail shop that dealt with men's clothing.

POM     Was this in Fordsburg?

AI     In Vrededorp. We actually lived in Vrededorp and for as long as I can remember - I was born in Newlands which is a few kilometres away from Vrededorp where my mother's family lived and they basically had a corner café which sold fruit and vegetables and milk and things. A lot of those kind of shops have basically died out in SA nowadays but that's where we were all born, all the kids, and we all grew up in Johannesburg. Vrededorp was quite a mixed area, I'm talking from a race perspective, and it is quite an area that was well known for its political activism as well in the early years. I basically went to school in Vrededorp, I did my primary schooling in Vrededorp and my secondary schooling in Lenasia.

POM     Were they both Indian schools?

AI     Yes. Basically at the time because of the apartheid laws there was a differentiation between Africans, coloureds, Indians and the entire area of Vrededorp was a mix of coloureds and Indians mainly and a few Africans but by that time most of the Africans had already been moved to Soweto. The coloureds and Indians were later moved, the coloureds were pushed to Newclare and Bosmont, which is also in Johannesburg, and the Indians were then later moved to Lensasia.

     My earliest political experiences go back to the early days when I was very young. In fact when we grew up there was a lot of political activity in the late fifties, early sixties. My father, whilst not being an activist, was someone who often attended the rallies addressed by Dr Dadoo and various other political leaders in Fordsburg at Red Square. I'm sure you've come across the whole issue of Red Square by now. He would go to those rallies and be quite involved and I recall my father when we were kids telling us a story that one time there was a confrontation with the police at Red Square when they tried to break up one of the demonstrations and he got involved in an altercation with the police and had managed to grab one of these batons and he had cracked the policeman over the head and then ran for dear life. I know that because he still had that baton years later because I've seen it. Unfortunately now I don't know where it is, I'm sure my family has it somewhere.

     But he was a bit of a rebel himself. At that time after his altercation he ran from Red Square in Fordsburg and into the Broadway Cinema which was in that area and he went and sat down in the cinema and held his breath because the police came in and searched for him but being dark, etc., and whilst the film was on they didn't find him so he managed to get away otherwise he might have ended up in other places.

POM     Just before you go forward I was going to ask you a question. When you were growing up as a kid were the stories that you heard stories of India?

AI     Not much. Basically when we were growing up what we spoke about was SA. We'd talk a bit about Gandhi but primarily we spoke about SA, about the oppression, about what was going on in the country. In fact I'm getting to the point that I'm saying that as we grew up in Vrededorp there were people like Mosey Moolla who lived a street away from where we were. There were various other people, Babla Saloojee and others. Babla Saloojee was killed in the early sixties, and we were aware of what was going on. In fact at the time when Babla Saloojee was killed I was a kid and we used to go to Madressa, afternoon school, because we're Moslems and we used to go to Madressa and at that time we went to Madressa in Fordsburg, so in the afternoon after primary school we would normally walk to Fordsburg and we went past the Fordsburg Police Station which is now just across the way from the Oriental Plaza. Even now when I go past I can recall that day very clearly. There were lots of people demonstrating outside there and some of the people suggested that we join the crowd and demonstrate outside the police station. We knew what was going on at the time. In fact one of my cousins who was much older than we were, was also involved politically. He was involved, I think, more with the PAC people, Professor Kabule, and the things that he did was to produce literature for distribution and often we would be given that kind of literature to go and distribute as kids from door to door.

     The sabotage campaign which started in 1961, one of the first places that was hit was the Post Office which was a street away from where we lived so we were aware of that. During that period, and I can't say exactly when, but during that entire period this cousin was also being sought by the police and I recall that my mother and aunt, because we lived in semi-detached houses in just one property, not very big homes, and this cousin lived in the centre, it was made up of three parts, three semi-detached homes and he lived in the centre one. We lived on the one side and my uncle lived on the other side. The police got the information wrong and they raided my uncle's home which was on the other side and in fact they were looking for this chap who lived in the middle house. When they raided that house they turned my uncle's home completely upside down but of course they didn't find anything because my uncle was not involved politically. That afternoon after the police had been there my mother and aunt actually helped this chap get rid of the typewriter that he used at that time for typing the stencils and things which were subsequently roneoed in this little room, the kitchen of his home. They shoved it into the yard where we had – in those days we used to use coal stoves so they shoved it into the coal shed and threw coal over it because the police were sitting out in front, in the street. My mother and aunt helped him jump over the wall to go into the other street. We lived in 12th Street, he was able to get into the neighbour's yard and from there managed to make a getaway from that area.

     For me I'd say the political conscientisation started at a very early age and continued through the years. In 1961 was the Declaration of the Republic. We were going to school in those days and at school they had given all the children flags, a Republic medallion and also sweets as part of the celebrations. When we came back from school that evening usually my father used to talk to the kids and we showed him what we had been given at school and he called all the children around and said to all of us, well he talked to us about apartheid and what it represented and then he took the medallions, the flags and the sweets and threw them into the fire. He said, "That is what is going to happen to apartheid in the future."

     Now if I were to talk of my mentor politically I'd say it was my father. My father often talked about communism, about apartheid, about what was happening in the country, about the oppression of people, about people being brought up. Through the years we were always spoken to about the political issues in the country. The early sixties when Mandela went to prison my father would speak about it because he knew about it, he read about it and he would often talk about it. By the time we got to secondary school we were very conscious and when I say 'we', especially the boys in the family. For some reason my sisters didn't – but they also went to school.

     An important facet of that conscientisation came from the secondary school in Lens (Lenasia) because to go from Vrededorp through to Lens we had to pass through Soweto on a daily basis and that was a very important conscientisation for me whilst being exposed to the newspapers and things and that was the time when there were lots of trials going on inside the country and in later years you also had a lot of union activity, I'm talking of in the seventies. But especially in the late sixties there were lots of times when as we drove through Soweto the question would be asked, or I would ask myself the question – why is it that Africans are living in one area, why is it that we live in different areas? You would look at the conditions of living of those people and I think that made an intense impression on me.

     We also used to have debates in our home about political issues, about race issues. Being Moslems one of the things that my parents always talked about is that they wanted us to marry within the faith and we started challenging these stereo-types with my parents and we'd say, well if you marry within the faith it doesn't matter whether you're black or white, whatever. I think a lot of the biases start coming out. It was preferable to marry within the Indian community. If you married a white person it was OK provided the person converted to the Moslem religion but when you said you wanted to marry someone of African origin then my parents would balk at it. And that in itself, despite the previous political upbringing, their own biases would also come to the fore.

POM     I can identify with that coming from Ireland where if you were Catholic you married a Catholic. In other words the marriage was not even valid, no matter by church standards, it wasn't valid by state standards until into the 1960s. Of course in Northern Ireland inter-marriage between Catholics and Protestants is virtually non-existent. It's an interesting parallel that you're drawing.

AI     I think you'll find that many societies go through that and many societies today still have those kind of problems. I think in some senses societies are overcoming those barriers but in many ways they don't break through those barriers.

     I must also tell you that through our upbringing in Vrededorp, whites lived in Vrededorp as well on 11th Street, that was one street away from where we lived, on the other side of the street were whites and then all the lower streets, the lower numbered streets was a white area. So you had the white area, you had the coloured and Indian area and with some Africans still living in those areas through to the other side up to 25th, 26th Street, that's where you had more of the coloureds and Malay people. I also recall that one of the things – if ever we walked through the white area we would be beaten up by white children and of course if they came into our area we would then, in turn, have a go at them. Not that these were very intense, it was very much a kid thing, but also race based because the separation was obviously there. You will also find that 14th Street in Vrededorp was the street where all the shops were, where you had the shopkeepers mainly of Indian origin, where people came and shopped and this was a place where people really got bargains. In fact the Oriental Plaza that exists in Fordsburg today is a result as 14th Street because all the traders that were in 14th Street have moved to the Oriental Plaza and my father and uncle had a joint shop in 14th Street but when they moved everybody out and they wanted them to go to the Oriental Plaza my father decided not to move to the Oriental Plaza but then moved on to Roodepoort. By the time that happened, of course, I was out of the country already.

     Now I finished school in 1971, I was quite young, and I started school at a very early age when I was five and I had finished school by the time I was 16, just about turning on 17. At the time there was very much attitude that you had to become a professional but to many of the people in the Indian community at the time, the professionals, you had to become …

     This is my wife, Padraig O'Malley – Esther Waugh. By the way, Esther also worked with Mac. She was a journalist with the Independent Newspaper Group, or now Independent Newspaper Group, the Argus Group, and when Mac was here with Operation Vula in 1990 –

POM     I'll have to talk to you.

AI     She's just talking about Mandela's – the signed copies of Mandela's autobiography, because I have my own copy and she's got her copy signed by Mandela and it seems that she gave them away by accident, or might have. Where were we?

     My father or my family would have wanted me to become a doctor but at that time only about six Indian students were accepted into Medical School and I was not amongst those six. I had decided to go to study at the University of Durban Westville and I went and studied for a BSc degree with majors in Physiology and Microbiology. I was at Durban Westville from 1972 through to 1974 and at Durban Westville you had people like Yunus Mohammed at the time, Pravin Gordhan and many other political activists as well. In fact my direct involvement then with the ANC came from that period.

     Maybe I should just backtrack a bit as well and say that by the time I was in secondary school, Standard 6, Standard 7, that would be very political because all the friends we kept and there were many other people in the street as well, were all very political people. We had access to banned literature, political books, we had the speeches of Mandela in prison which we listened to on a regular basis, we used to have discussions with friends and some of those people are still in Lens, have been involved even peripherally politically.

     Ahmed Timol was killed by the apartheid state at John Vorster Square and I know that at the time when we were writing exams, our matric exams, a call going to the Vrededorp sports ground where there was a small memorial service held also addressed by – so we attended Timol's funeral in 1971.

     At university, to go back to university, I was quite involved politically, I was involved in discussions with all of the – also involved in the boycotts, of other activities. Durban Westville was seen very much as an apartheid institution and at that time there were various boycotts going on from 1972 through to 1974, this was the rise of union activity and you had the re-emergence of trade unions after the lull, the arrests at Rivonia, Lilliesleaf Farm. I think the entire political movement had gone into a bit of a lull in the late sixties. The early seventies, with the rise of the union movements at the time, saw a re-emergence of the political movements and it was through that period leading up to – and the Black Consciousness Movement. I never really got involved in any of the BCM activities or anything because I didn't quite agree with black consciousness as an ideology but I used to go to many of the political rallies and things and the SASO rally that was held in Durban at Curries Fountain in 1974, also I can recall very clearly where there was a rally in support of Frelimo which was called the Pro-Frelimo Rally … by the police and police dogs, etc., and many of the political people that were involved were all present at that time. I think that many of the SASO and BCM people were arrested during that time or shortly thereafter, including Steve Biko and various others.

     During that period I got involved with Yunus Mohammed and Pravin and company and from that grouping, because I think they were also constantly on the lookout for people who were politically conscious. When I finished university in 1974, my BSc degree, I came back to Johannesburg and I was then put in touch with the Naidoo family, with Indres Naidoo and Prema Naidoo who at the time had formed the Human Rights Committee. The HRC comprised of the Naidoo brothers. Of course Indres Naidoo who had just come off Robben Island at the time would not be involved openly but he was a bit of a father figure for the HRC. The HRC also had people like Peter Wellman, Sheila Weinberg, Mohammed Timol, the brother to Ahmed Timol who had been killed in 1971. We used to distribute a lot of political literature. We produced a number of leaflets, the Freedom Charter and various other documents and did a lot of political work. In fact at that time it was possibly the only political group in the Transvaal area at the time that continued to do a lot of political work.

     One of the things that I did was - a lot of that literature I would be responsible for distributing. My brother with whom I attended school had a record shop, many people came to the shop and I would have political discussions with people and try to suss out whether they were all right or not and I would then distribute this literature, all of which was banned. I must say I had a good feel for people, I would discuss with them, and when I sold them a record or something I would slip some of the pamphlets and things into the sleeves of the records and invariably they came back for more and sometimes they'd say, "Can't you get a whole lot more?" because they would, in turn, distribute this. And all of the clientele were people who went back into the townships, into Soweto and things so that became an excellent conduit for us to also pass literature around and things like that.

     Through all those years we would go out on poster campaigns, we would organise political meetings and things like that, many of which were banned.

POM     Were you working now?

AI     Yes, well initially I worked with my brother in the record shop and then in 1975 I started working at a chemical firm that made epoxies and polyurethane, cable jointing materials and paints and things like that and because of my science background I think that was something which served me well also in my later years in the liberation forces. From 1974 when I came back from university I was working and in the evening we would also be involved with the HRC and we used to go to the Naidoo family home in Rocky Street in Johannesburg all the time. In fact every weekend we spent there.

POM     That's interesting because Mac used to board with them a decade earlier and distribute literature.

AI     Yes. Mac came out of prison on 1976. I'd known of Mac and we often talked, because Indres who had been on Robben Island often relayed the stories about Robben Island, what was going on there and we used to spend time talking until the wee hours of the morning about Robben Island, about the struggle, what was going on, and also be involved in the poster campaigns and things. I recall one night we were out on a poster campaign, putting up posters around the city, we'd glue these things and paste them all around the city and I came home at about 2.30 or so in the morning and my father was awake and he called me, so I was trying to dodge him because my hands were full of glue and I was trying to get into the backyard where we lived to go and wash my hands and he says, "Come here, I can see what you've been up to. You're going to end up in Robben Island if you continue the way you're going. You chaps think you're too smart but you've got to be very careful about what you're doing." He also spoke to me at the time and he said to me in those years already, "You know, you need to think about … when you will realise that weapons and violence will come to naught."

     But of course we were young and I would just say to you that by the time I was in Standard 8 I had read all the books of Che Guavara, Fidel – in fact there was a book that I got from the Johannesburg Central Library at the time which was not on the shelf but we would often go through the index cards and I spotted that there was a book called The Military Art of People's War and they had it but it was in a separate section of the library which shouldn't have been put on public display. It wasn't a public display and all I did was I went to the librarian and said, "Can I get this book?" And she wasn't very bright, she got it out and gave it to me. So I was able to read that which I got from the central library. We had read all the books Time Longer than … by A D Roux(?) and various others. Oh, I must say to you, even in Durban there was this bookshop in Grey Street that we used to go to which often sold a lot of banned literature, political literature and things and in Johannesburg.

     By the way, also the other person that was on the HRC was Rokaya Saloojee, the wife of Babla Saloojee who had been killed in the late sixties. I don't know if you've come across the name Babla Saloojee? He was also one of the underground operatives of MK at the time.

     From my involvement in those days, we're talking the years 1974/75, in fact on December 10th 1974 because of my political work I had gone to town and we were distributing literature and things like that, meeting in Fox Street in Johannesburg, and after that meeting which finished at about four or thereabouts, or maybe a bit earlier, I was walking back to my brother's shop where I was assisting him in this record shop and I was with Yunus Mohammed at the time and it was the police, Security Police –

POM     Plain clothes?

AI     Plain clothes. So this chap says to me, "What's your name?" So I looked, he was tall, I said, "Why do you want to know my name?" So the chap says, "Hey, he's hardegat", it means you're one of those difficult chaps. So I said, "Well who are you, what do you want?" He said, "Oh, OK", and drove me off to John Vorster Square where they took me up to the 10th floor, beat me up, pushed me to the window and said, "Ja, you coolies like to jump, why don't you go and jump like Timol, like your friend Timol? Go and jump." And he was pushing me. He beat me up quite badly, I was bleeding from my ear. I think he cracked a few ribs and things and that day, 10 December 1974, was the day which to me was a critical turning point in my life. My earlier years of political work, political discussions and things often with friends and political activists, we often talked about and said we would go for the armed struggle. That day I didn't go to the meeting, we were supposed to have had an HRC meeting, I wanted to be on my own, and I sat back and I thought this through and I thought either I'm going to be cowed by what was happening or I was going to continue with the armed struggle. I made up my mind that day – because often we said we'd go when the time is right. So that day I made up my mind I would not be cowed, I would go forward.

     I continued with my work, political work from there on, and often I discussed with Indres and with Rokaya about wanting to go for military training, leaving the country to go for military training and then coming back.

     The HRC was targeted by the Security Police. As far as they were concerned this was just a front for the ANC and they would constantly follow us around, trail us, look at what we were doing but we had our ways of also going off and doing our political work. The kind of work that the HRC was involved in was semi-clandestine. On the one hand it was organising political meetings and things like that to kindle the political consciousness of people and all the literature of the HRC invariably got banned, in some cases got banned even before it was distributed or anything. We would always get the literature and continue to distribute it and I would do it through my brother's shop and I would give it to various people.

     I, in late 1975, started working at the Elite Chemistries (Chemicals?) which was a company that dealt with epoxies and polyurethane. They made cable jointing material as the main product and they made road marking paints and things like that and I was working in the laboratory there. In the factory I would often talk to the workers about political issues and things and I would suss out who were the people I could talk to. There were others that one had to be careful about, whether you spoke to them or not. But I was always able to talk to people on political issues and in 1976, the 16 June, the management of the company had gone of to play golf and had gone off to various meetings and I ended up being the most senior person in the factory. So they left me in charge to see what was going on in the company and by about midday or so we started – some of the workers I could see there was a lot of agitation and they came up to me and said, "Hey, there is trouble brewing in Soweto, some people have been killed." People listened to radios and the workers came to me and said, "Look, we've got to go home. Our children are being killed in Soweto."

     My brother rang me also during lunchtime and said that the Security Police had come to the shop looking for me, so he said to me that he wouldn't advise that I go back to the shop that afternoon. What I used to do was I used to walk from Selby where the company was back to my brother's shop every day and from there I would assist him until closing time and then we would go home together. That day I didn't go home and later on we heard more news – or I didn't go to the shop but I went home. We always kept a little bag ready because we said should the Security Police ever pitch up we would jump out of the back window and try to get away.

     As it happened it was the Soweto uprising. That day as Soweto burnt I made up my mind that I had to leave the country so a day or two later I went to my father and I told him that I wanted to leave the country. I said to him that I wanted to go and study and that there were possibilities if I went to London the ANC would assist in getting me to university but the intention was, clearly, I wanted to go for military training because to me the time had come. I had made the determination on 10 December 1974. I decided very quickly thereafter, I said to my father, "Well it looks like there's a lot of political turmoil, I should leave." They assisted in getting me organised. I had a passport at that time and I left the country. As it happened I left on my passport, I was destined for London but when I got to Heathrow, despite being politically involved I was also very young. When I got there I thought, oh well, free world, was not too thoughtful about what the world was like out there so the chap said to me, "What are you coming for?" I said, "I'm coming to study." I had also applied to a medical school in Nigeria. So he said to me, "Have you got a visa for Nigeria?" I said, "No, I'll get in touch with them. I'm going to a meeting of …"

POM     Going to a meeting of the IRA!

AI     I was going to a public – so I was going to go there as well. That was foolish. But anyway it's one of those things you do. So I was refused entry into London. I tried to get hold of Shanti Naidoo, the sister of Indres, and couldn't get hold of her because I only had her home number and she was at work. Once you're in those detention centres you're under a lot of pressure. I had flown on a cheap ticket on Sabena so what the Immigration officials did was they put me back onto the plane back to Brussels. I had two hours in a detention centre, off back to Brussels. Then on the plane I decided to just get off the plane, I had my passport, went to the Immigration official and he just let me in. In Belgium they didn't ask any questions. From Brussels that evening I got hold of Shanti and I spoke to her. I just booked myself in a hotel, so I was quite devastated because here were all my plans going awry. Shanti then put me in touch with Conny Braam. After two days she said stay on, she got hold of Conny Braam the day after and from Conny Braam they put me in touch with the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Belgium called AKSA, Aksie Committee Zuidelike Afrika.

     So I then stayed in Belgium for a while and whilst I was in Belgium I initially studied and I decided well I would study anything or do anything just in order to be able to stay because the people said, well, you'd better do something otherwise after a few months you have to leave again. So I started doing some nursing. I thought anything would be useful, nursing especially, and taking on from Samora Machel who had also been a nurse I thought, why not? It might stand me in good stead in the future when I'm in the camps or something. So I studied nursing for a while and then I heard that many of my colleagues, Mohammed Timol and some of the others and my brother had been arrested in SA and had been detained in about October. That's when they had this huge clamp down of political activists, October 1976. I was advised not to come back to SA otherwise I would also end up in detention.

     I then was advised that I should take political asylum in Belgium. I applied for political asylum and it took about eight or nine months for me to get political asylum in Belgium and during the time I had been in constant contact with Shanti Naidoo. At the end of this period when I got a refugee passport in Brussels I then went over to London to go and see the ANC and I told them quite clearly that I wanted to go for military training. That's what I wanted to do and they then, when I spoke to Reg September who was the Chief Representative at the time, I spoke to Shanti and a few others and they said they didn't want me to hang around London, to be exposed there, maybe it was for the good to go back to Belgium and wait. They were making plans for me to go for military training and thereafter they would call me back and let me know what to do.

     I went back to Belgium and then I found myself a job in a psychiatric hospital. I had previously, and then I had studied for some time - I didn't complete the diploma course but with my medical background I was able to perform very well so I managed to survive on the earnings there. In December 1977 I was called back to London to say things had been arranged and I went back to London and from there we stayed for a week or two together with another comrade who was in London at the time, we were then prepared and sent off – we were bought tickets and we flew off to the GDR. To Amsterdam and from Amsterdam straight on to Berlin.

POM     That would have been 1977, right? That would have been the period that Mac would have been in London.

AI     Now I met Mac in December, he had just come out of prison, he'd been operating in SA and I met Mac in London in 1977. My recollection of Mac was that he was someone who was very intense at the time, someone who spent every available moment – if he wasn't having a discussion, a political discussion of some sort or the other with someone, he would be sitting there reading. He spent all his time either reading or having discussions with people, etc., and clearly someone that was on the move. We had discussions on the political situation, about political issues and I told him what my plans were, what I was going to do, etc., and he said OK. I came back from military training, he was sure we'd meet again.

POM     Did he tell you that he had been training in the GDR?

AI     At that time not but I knew that he had been trained. I think in later years – Mac and I worked very closely, I knew Mac very well in later years, got to know him very well, got to know more of his background, that he had gone for training.

POM     1960/61.

AI     Yes, in the run up to the Sabotage Campaign, during that period. Exactly where he trained I don't know all the details of that. I went off for military training in 1978, the beginning of 1978, January, in the GDR, a Commander's course, Infantry Commander's course which was a six-month training course, infantry, and at the end of that course we were also put onto a specialisation. Ten of the best students were taken for an advanced course in military engineering and explosive training and sabotage training.

POM     When you lived there did you live in a military barracks?

AI     This place that we worked in, or the training camp that had been established especially for the ANC MK, was an old building which was outside a race track, a motorcycle race track in northern Germany. We were basically confined to the area, we were not allowed to go into the town. It wasn't a military training institution per se, it was an old building that they used for the purpose. We would basically be taken for our training exercises into the woods. At the end of that training period I was the best student and already at that time – various of the ANC leaders, Pallo Jordan whose wife Lisa and a few others would come and talk to us about the political issues, the history of the ANC, etc., because it was part of the training programme, and at the end of that training programme Mzwayi Piliso who was the Chief of Personnel of MK at the time made the decision, they needed instructors in the training camps in Angola, and because of my science background they decided that I should go back and become a military instructor in military engineering and explosives in the training camp, in fact in the finishing training camp of MK at Funda.

     I was then sent back to Angola at the end of that training period. From the GDR we went straight back to Angola, Luanda. Funda is a place just outside Luanda. In fact Funda was located on the river where the South Africans when they invaded Angola in 1975 had gotten to up that river. We used to train our people in the fields around Funda and the tank tracks that were used by the South Africans, because what they had done is instead of simply driving over the land they had built up a road for the tanks to drive on. What they foolishly did not realise is that they had created a highway for themselves but when the Cubans and the Angolans attacked them they were forced to stay on these straight highways that they built for themselves and they couldn't escape from it because they were built up and they were driving on this single lane track. So it made it extremely difficult for them to escape and in fact that resulted in one of the routs of the SADF at the time.

     I stayed in Angola for almost two years as an instructor. Initially as an instructor and after about six months I was made the Chief Instructor at this camp. Now Funda was one of the camps which was used as the finishing school for all the military cadres who had gone for training in the other camps of the ANC in Angola, MK camps in Angola, and they would then be brought to Funda where we then were required to make sure that they had all the requisite skills, make sure that people were ready for it. But it was also the place where we started in a sense demilitarising them because we were sending people back into the underground in SA to fight and my job as Chief Instructor was to certify that many of these people were read to go back for their missions.

POM     Do you want to hold it there for this evening?

AI     We could.

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.