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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

17 Dec 2003: Naidoo, Phyllis

POM     The whole thing is - last night he said he doesn't know what he's going to do. I had told him to come out fighting because there are certain things that are right. What is right is that there was an investigation. What is right is that there was an investigation, that's a fact, the fact that the investigation found that he probably was a spy. That was in 1989.

PN     That's not fact.

POM     I got him to verify that and he has a verification of that from Zuma that was sent to –

PN     That was from Shaik to Zuma.

POM     That's right but I had him go and get –

PN     There's no verification in the Hefer Commission.

POM     A letter was sent from Zuma saying that not only had he seen the report but I wanted to get him clear on that he had looked at the report and verified the contents. Because what he had said before was that he had just seen the report and I said seeing the report means nothing, the contents have to be brought out.

PN     That didn't come to the Hefer Commission.

POM     It did, yes. He has it now.

PN     Now? But it's too late.

POM     No, no. It's part of it.

PN     I didn't hear that. None of the articles had that.

POM     Well you wouldn't have that because it was just sent to the Commission.

PN     Now, after?

POM     After, saying it was not open to -

PN     But Zuma's outside and Shaik is inside on the basis of his investigation. I can't see that. I can't see that. I think they made a balls up.

POM     They did but the thing is that that was in 1989 and they acted on the best information they had and they made a decision, which you had to do in those times, on the best information you had and the fact that it doesn't turn out to be correct 13 years later is different from the fact of the decision that was made on the information available then, or information available then that he was most probably a spy. Information available now would say that that was a wrong conclusion. They are two separate things. Was there an investigation conducted? Yes. Did it reach this conclusion in 1989? Yes.

PN     That can't be a fact though.

POM     Was a conclusion reached in 1989?

PN     Which came undone now.

POM     That's right. But it was a fact then according to the best information they had.

PN     And which they acted upon.

POM     That's right.

PN     I don't think so. You know, my son, it's all in the papers, Alfred Nzo said they were robbers that came to steal the money and steal the car and killed him off in the what you call it. But when I looked at it, and I showed it to a number of people, there was already this big article saying what had happened to him, where he had gone, all that. There had been a check on it and they said he was a spy but as he was kept away from people and then after a while with the shenanigans in Angola and friends coming in, a new battalion, he joined them and became an MK. But for me the whole business of security, Bible Projects and all these things, is crap. It comes out on investigation here but these things are not followed on and my son was killed for that and you expect me to have any regard for all these investigations?

POM     Then, no? No?

PN     No. I'm so sorry that Mac has taken us all. Nandha, if you saw him here for the three days that he stayed here, he was a mess, crying, he couldn't cope with it. How can this man Kessie Naidu interrogate Mac with Mac's record? But that's not the question. That's not the question. I didn't even watch the bloody thing.

POM     I stopped.

PN     It was very painful. But you see everybody says now, you can't use your liberation (whatever that means) now in this sort of thing. And what were we about? Were we about ourselves? If we had lost thing we'd have been still out there.

POM     Never has a country forgotten its past so quickly.

PN     You know that?

POM     Despite all the thing about – it's like what you are talking about.

PN     You have it every day, I hear that every day.

POM     Oh! Those people are talking about the struggle again. Aah! God!

PN     I mean the fellow phoned in on the radio and said, "What the hell is he talking about Vula, Vula, Vula all the time? Can it." I heard that. I don't know. I don't know what's he going to do.

POM     That's freedom of speech. It comes with it.

PN     It's awful times. I've got somebody coming here at 12 o'clock just now and she, her father and mother were in treason trials, both locked up. This is the daughter, and my memory of that is just the children and seeing their faces, motherless, fatherless children. Both parents have died and they've come to bury the father's ashes now and I've got to work on getting some activities going with regard to someone who died in March last year. Their records are long, painful.

POM     There's no justice in freedom.

PN     I saw it in Zimbabwe and that was why I didn't want to go to parliament here. There's a young fellow with honours, there were some big guys who had done some very brave things, and he was in my class and he came to me and asked me, "What should I do? Should I go into government or should I open up private practice?" Well for us our experience was government didn't employ us so it was always private practice that sort of lived on the criminals of the society to live. So I said, "Just a minute, with your record I think you should go to government and help." You know what he said to me? He said, "Hey, you know who's in government now, who's looked after Mugabe, it's all those chaps who went out of the country, to Germany, to England, to America, who got doctorates. What have I got? Nux. You think they're going to have me?" Maybe Mugabe was a guerrilla and maybe not. I think he was there for about six months and he came back and said, "I'm giving it up. These fellows, they know how to do it from the experience in these countries and Mugabe is very impressed. He doesn't even ask me what I've been doing." And that was that. He gave it up. I don't know where he is now. Probably somewhere in America or England. I believe there are about 300,000 or 600,000 Zimbabweans living there, and not whites only, blacks too.

POM     Just going backwards. When Mac was at college did he stand out as a student leader or was he more of a loud mouth on his own, whistling to his own tune? Or was he a leader?

PN     Leader would mean we had a big group and he led that group. But he was always the one who was on his feet. Quick responses, loud responses you know. He never organised into a group. When we did try I'm not sure whether Mac was around when we did try to get into the ANC asking them to call out the names in a group at university. I don't remember him being around because I was right at the bottom. I was one of those who went to see the ANC. It must be after he had left. But he was really vocal, take anybody on, take the lecturers on, take the students on, take the white students on.

POM     How was he regarded by people in your group?

PN     MJ would have been in our group but he hated Mac because Mac was going out with his sister then. So there was a lot of anti Mac going on as well. We were with Mac so we didn't have that problem.

POM     You were saying that MD was, or MJ –

PN     Not MD. MD wasn't at university. MJ was his brother-in-law, became his brother-in-law afterwards, but there was a right royal row going on between those two. Mac was a full time student. I was part time. I came in the afternoon but I would join them with table tennis and things, I would go there, they were always having it. He was in the SRC that I was in. Nandha would have known. Was he in the SRC?

POM     He says he was, yes.

PN     OK, then he must be one before. It was 1957 I think. 1957/58.

POM     He would have been before that.

PN     Nandha would have known.

POM     Was he regarded by others as being a leader as distinct from somebody who could take on anybody? Do you follow me?

PN     Yes. No. And I can't see the leader in the sense of who did he lead. He led us but we were a few and then Tim was close to me at the time. In fact I think at one stage I was her only friend. I can remember a meeting in Medical School where Mac took on the whole lot of us. He did that very well. He did that very well. I can't say about leader.

POM     You say he took on the whole lot of you?

PN     Yes. There used to be – now this woman's husband is Unity Movement, they are always very critical of us, anything we do, and her husband was on the other side and they usually had their facts and figures and everything. But Mac stood there tearing them to bits without a piece of paper or anything like that. I remember that very distinctly. That's the only one I can really speak of.

POM     So what would the politics be of group? Because it would be mostly Indian, right?

PN     No, there was Raymond Kunene, there was a coloured fellow I can't remember his name, there were two liberal whites from Natal University. And in a group that we went to there was Alan Paton's son there, there was another fellow who became a magistrate in Lusaka.

POM     But your politics would have been the politics of ANC?

PN     ANC. And SACP because a lot of our information came from The Guardian and New Age and those papers. What does Tim say? She would have seen a lot more of it.

POM     She doesn't talk about it much.

PN     He was always taking issue with who became the Ambassador to Britain.

POM     You said Dennis Worrall.

PN     Dennis Worrall.

POM     Are you sure? We looked him up and we are trying to find an Ambassador to the UK –

PN     Who became subsequently.

POM     Yes, who went to the University of Natal and Worrall didn't come up.

LS     He went to UCT.

PN     UCT?

POM     Yes. We're looking at somebody else now.

PN     Didcott then. Didcott. He used to worry somebody and I thought it was Dennis. Or maybe he just came there at SRC time but I have watched for my mind, because when I saw him many years later I thought, there's the fellow that Mac tore to bits.

POM     Was that when he was in the Democratic Party?

PN     No, no. Just students. John Didcott was good in the death penalty subsequently. He was a loud person, you had to listen to him and Mac would have a good go and we would listen to them going for each other. There's a lot of that in my experience. He made us really proud because sometimes we were too busy to articulate all this. He read a lot more than we did, a lot more.

POM     Seedat he mentioned.

PN     Seedat. Have you seen Seedat?

POM     He's dead, right?

PN     No. Hassim?

POM     No, no, I'm talking about Dawood.

PN     Dawood. I don't remember.

POM     Mac stayed opposite him and he said he used to go over there and that's where all the communists used to gather together.

PN     Possibly, I don't know about that. I know Mac stayed opposite him.

POM     Who was he? Was he a significant figure?

PN     You haven't read my book.

POM     I have. Yes I have read it.

PN     He's there in my book. In Dawood's case when I moved from one computer to the other I lost half of what I'd said and only half - in fact his wife before she died said to me, "You must correct that. You must tell the full story."

POM     Because it was rather short.

PN     Yes it was short. But half of it was –

POM     I was beginning something and suddenly –

PN     It went off. I got a shock when I saw it because I was so sure that this had come off. That's one of the big problems with that. But a drunk, you know that part of it? In fact the wife said, "Don't tell that part of the story." I said no, for me it's important because Govan when he came wanted to see Dawood and I said, "That drunk?" And of course I had to eat that many times. Govan, we went there and I'm a woman, he's African, we can't go into the pub and so we got a kid to go in, it's just round the corner here, to go and call him, "Dawood, come here." I can hear him now. And they came out hugging each other, sort of supporting each other and when they saw Gov they just straightened up and they were hugging and everybody was looking at what are these coolies and the Africans doing together.

POM     This is after Govan was freed?

PN     No, way back.

POM     So what was his significance, Dawood's?

PN     You see by the time I got to know him he was a drunk but reading through stuff and understanding what had happened, I mean he was in the treason trials, he called the British Empire a vampire. He went to jail for that, four months I think he did. They were so poor, they were so poor and had so many bloody kids. I remember going, the first time I was offered tea, and I don't drink tea, but I was fiddling with it in my mouth and the cup smelled awful, whether from the tea or the dirty cup I'm not sure but I never drank anything, never ate in that house. Kids crawling around. I don't know how they kept their sanity.

POM     His wife was very active too, right? They were an active family.

PN     She was also. Yes. But I mean how active can you be with eight kids?

POM     Eight?

PN     Eight. Eight. And I don't know, he was a bookkeeper and I think while he worked – but they lived in the family home and didn't have to pay rent and things like that. I don't think the main house would let them starve.

POM     He was banned too.

PN     Both of them were banned, both of them were banned for a long time and then as a communist, which he never denied, he would have had another banning, the liquidator, and that would have carried on till 1990. And then his refusal to move from the house in which they lived. The wife and the children moved off to Phoenix because that's where the Group Areas sent them. He refused and he said bring these things that come and knock the house down, you knock the house down. And he stayed there till he died.

POM     On his own?

PN     They used to come and bring him food from Phoenix. The kids were then growing up, nice kids, lovely kids.

POM     So despite everything he was a person of intense principle.

PN     Oh yes.

POM     What I'm getting at is that when I look at Mac's stand on principle, Dawood is one of the few people that he mentions during his days -

PN     You know at that period we said, "Over our dead bodies we are not moving." That was what the NIC said, the NIC mainly, ANC I don't think was involved in that. Yes, so when they moved from the areas to a new group area for Indians we said, "See the dead bodies are there."

POM     The dead bodies.

PN     We were terrible.

POM     I'm trying to get at something like – mostly you were a group of, or the students would have been mostly –

PN     No, when the treason trial arrests took place –

POM     That's 1956.

PN     1956. I was in the Unity Movement with this crowd and I said to them, I said to all the big chaps there, what are we going to do about these children because these three faces in the Mercury were bugging me and I was told by Billy Christopher and … who were the head of the Unity Movement then, "Hey, we're in politics, we're not welfare. If that's what you want, piss off." And I did, and I walked across and I went to, there's was nobody in the ANC office, the NIC offices were closed, but the New Age/Guardian office where MP worked, and there was Mac there already that morning when I went, must have been in the afternoon because I taught in the mornings, he was there already manning that house.

POM     I mean New Age was a big thing in his life. He distributed it and then he became a reporter for it and then he took over when M P Naicker –

PN     Yes, when he was arrested. He was there.

POM     I'm trying to get at, like in 1949 you had the riots in Durban and you had white people, according to the accounts that I have read, kind of cheering on the Africans who were attacking the Indians. Many Indians I've talked to here still have memories of that. What was the relationship between Indians and Africans in your day? Or was the community in a way so full of Indians here that Africans were in terms of university on the level of more peripheral than the majority group, because you would have been the majority.

PN     We certainly were at university, there were far more Indians than Africans. You could count them until 1959.

POM     So you had the influence on them – it would be you having the influence on them rather than very few having an influence on you. Do you follow me?

PN     Yes. I don't think you could say Raymond Kunene was influenced by us.

POM     But do you know what I mean?

PN     We would be more vocal.

POM     Like when you were articulating a view, to talk about South Africa as a country and there had never really been a South Africa as a country.

PN     I think at that stage – when did the doctors meet? Monty, Dadoo and Xuma.

POM     It was 1946.

PN     1946.

POM     The Pact, yes.

PN     You see at the time I wasn't political but things happened in my home which were very connected with the riots. I went to look after refugees at one of the places where Sonny was.

POM     It was 1949.

PN     Oh yes, I was working at the health centre and they sent us to the refugee camps in different schools and Sonny was a little boy and his experience I learnt only now. But my father was the headmaster of a school right in Cato Manor and that was the day he was going to close up his office, take all his stuff because he was being transferred to Umzinto, which is down the coast, as headmaster there. He went there and the riots started. I was working at the health centre and as we were coming down this mass of Africans were coming with sticks and all that and we had to run back into the centre. But at night they put us in ambulances and the ambulance had a call to Cato Manor and I saw an Indian woman with her stomach cut and a Nestles tin of milk and other tins all put into her. And I remember I just passed out and they dropped me at home. There were some terrible things. But when I spoke to a doctor, a medical doctor, an African medical doctor, she said, "Yes, but you didn't see how the Indians were killing the Africans in Clarewood." Clarewood was a no-go area for any African, and I didn't know about that. I didn't know about that. But I did know about a bus, because I travelled by bus and on one occasion a woman got into a bus, an African woman, and of course nobody gets up to give her their seat. She was charged instead of the equivalent of a tickey (five cents) she paid a rand, and I shouted at the conductor, "What are you doing?" And he said, "No, I didn't give her change." But people took advantage of that, people's ignorance of money and ignorance of change.

     The episode at the market that day I think was true in the sense that somebody was nasty to a little African chap, beat him up and then all hell was let loose. I think we were riding high, as we are now, as we are now. Here you have a people who with Group Areas have been moved and kicked around. When the elections took place they voted for the party that did that and Indians were in the majority at that time.

POM     Now why is that?

PN     Why?

POM     Why on the one hand do you have, for its size, you talked about this, that the Indian community given its size played a disproportionate role in the leadership of the whole struggle. If you look across at SACP and the ANC, whatever, and yet at the same time that it was a minority of its own community because it was conservative and ended up voting for the National Party or supporting the National Party rather than the ANC when elections came in 1994. You got almost this small group within a small group who became –

PN     I think it's partly our history, our history of a caste system, some of us thought we were better than others, and coming to South Africa where the rule was the white man was better than everybody else and if he kicks a black we could kick a black too from our position. And we have. We had a big commercial thrust. I mean my school kids, the Muslim kids, they'd know the answers.

POM     They would be passenger Indians, right?

PN     They were mostly passenger, mostly passenger. They came with certain skills. But on the other hand those same people opened up a lot of Natal, went into areas which hadn't had a shop, made roads, buses went there. They did that sort of opening. But you see we were all passengers in African territory. I remember Moerani was at the beach when I was allowed to take my children to the beach with my banning order, he was there and he was faffing around with a young lady.

POM     Moerani? This is the lawyer?

PN     Yes.

POM     The lawyer for Ngcuka?

PN     I said, "What are you doing here?" And he said, "What is the Indian beach doing in Africa?" I remember that so well. What is the Indian Ocean doing in Africa?

POM     Oh, maybe Mac should open up with that on Thursday. He's doing his own defence. They got rid of the lawyer at last. At long last.

X     I think he said that he would rather defend himself.

POM     He wanted to do that himself in the beginning but this guy was so bad. Anyway, that's a good opening line. I can remember, Mr Moerani, when you ask this question.

PN     No he was early in the morning fiddling with the young lady there on the beach where Africans had to go. I watched, irritating him, "What are you doing here?" And he said, "What is the Indian Ocean doing in Africa?"

X     He had a right to assume an Indian Ocean.

PN     It was the Asiatic beach, the beaches were all separated. That was where I was allowed and there he was sitting with his friend. I can't believe that we come from the Asiatic.

X     You know on the beach there was literally an invasion yesterday.

PN     Yesterday.

X     People were on the beachfront like bees.

POM     I saw that, yes.

X     15 children were lost. It's crazy. Just hundreds lying around waiting for transport to go back home.

POM     I went walking last night at two o'clock and there were thousands out. I walked right along the beach, up and down, and there wasn't a single policeman around and there wasn't a single incident of any kind whatsoever. Just people moving up and people moving down and people sitting there, you knew they were going to stay there all night. They were just walking around and saying hello to each other. It was very nice. Very peaceful.

PN     They will tell you that Old Year's Night is going to be hell of a fiasco and it never is, it never is.

POM     We'll see you later on.

PN     Errol Shamley's daughter is coming and she's brought Errol Shamley's ashes to bury and I thought we should get together and do something. No, no, on 25th because her other sister is to come. No, of January. She's doing some work in Aids but we must get together.

POM     The Freedom Charter. Now the Freedom Charter wasn't an ANC document per se, it was adopted by the ANC. After it was put together you had the Congress of Democrats. Who were the prime people?

PN     I remember Govan and the Moses working on a lot of these things. In fact I've been putting the treason trial, 156 of them, and I want them to do something with the papers for the 48th anniversary. Two lots of people and they've done nothing about it so I must check that up, probably leave it for next year. But because we say don't abuse women and give ourselves 16 days, must we be surprised that nothing happens afterwards? Things don't work like that. Look at bloody Christianity and Buddhism, all these religions that have been at us for so long, what has it done for the quality of our society? What has it done?

POM     But who were the initiators of the document? Did it come more from the SACP side, then it would be the CPSA side, because initially the ANC thought it more socialist and they kind of backed away from it and then they adopted it.

PN     There have been good people in all these organisations. Somebody was telling me about the row between Govan and Mac, more about that, and Madiba. I think there were lots of people working on it. 1957. I wouldn't say it was the preserve of any particular organisation, I wouldn't say that. A lot of people.

POM     It was like a group of organisations that came together and a lot of people had input and then –

PN     And people went out to different areas to collect those views. Have you read - ?

POM     Helen Joseph did a lot of that, went out collecting.

PN     I don't know about that. It was Raymond Suttner, he's done a book on that and I think he based his research on a number of people who were involved. Babla, you know when the thing was raided, he put the Freedom Charter into his socks and that was the only one that came out for publication the next day and the police thought they had cleaned it all up after they had raided. Errol Shamley will tell you that they put all these people together in the treason trial and it was a learning process for all of them. Here was a society thing, separate them, group area them, put them in their townships and then they put them together. The very thing. The kept them in separate cells of course but they did get together, they talked. I think New Age/Guardian, whatever was available at the time, had a field day and Hymie … said he sold more books then than he ever sold previously. He had a captive audience. And I think that in my mind, Mac might have different ideas, was a big learning process for everybody.

     Duma Nokwe, I don't know, brilliant, brilliant human being. The PAC had just come into being and he had come to Durban to see certain things and at about ten o'clock in the evening he took my brother and went down to the Medical School where a lot of the PAC fellows were living and even though there was a curfew then they managed to get in. My brother said again and again it was – this fellow tore them up, it was like Mac tearing up, brilliant. Now he was busy during that time and I remember seeing him.

POM     Just going back, we've talked about this but it occurred again and again since, and that's Mac's relationship with children. Everybody I've talked to who has children always say, "Mac loved my children." Mac had a gift with children. He would play with children.

PN     I don't know that. I don't know it.

POM     You don't?

PN     I don't know that at all. That might have come later. He was a young student, 17 years old when he came. So I knew him at the period when he was very young.

POM     But precocious.

PN     Extremely.

POM     And you say that he didn't get on with his younger brother?

PN     Yes. I don't know what the ins and outs were. I didn't know at the time but I didn't know what the ins and outs of that relationship were but when Kithar died he and his wife were there at the funeral. No I can't say anything about that. I can't think of any kids around.

POM     Was Mac close to anybody in his family? Any of his brothers or sisters?

PN     I think his sister. I think his sister Shanti.

POM     I love it when she says, I may have told you, she got a call – he disappeared and she said, "Oh, I got a call from Germany and he asked me whether Lucky and I could move to Lusaka."

PN     To look after the children. Yes.

POM     Yes. And they just packed up everything and went to Lusaka.

PN     That was horrible afterwards. I don't know if she told you.

POM     No.

PN     With Zarina, that was awful. I mean she ran to my house. That's how I knew about it, in Harare.

POM     Who came? Shanti did?

PN     Shanti.

POM     Because she and Zarina just couldn't get on?

PN     I don't know.

POM     Was this before Zarina had the accident?

PN     After, during the accident.

POM     During the accident?

PN     During the accident.

POM     So many memories. Why would Mac deny the Indian part of him and insist that he is either a South African or black but pay no attention at all to his Indian heritage?

PN     So do I. So do I. I was the only one with about 500 Indians in a hall, recently, two or three years back, when Thabo said American Indians, whatever they call themselves now, and Afro-Americans, what is it that you want to be called those South Africans of Indian origin? And everybody in that hall wanted to be tagged with Indian and I was the only one who said, "No, I'm South African." My two sons have died for South Africa and I've given my life to it. I'm South African. And it's so funny this award that I got, the Indian Consul who had just come in and he phoned me and said, I was so surprised, "I'd like to come and see you." I said "What are you wanting to come and see me about?" And he did, he came and had tea with me, he said he was so proud of me. But he had somebody else with him that I wasn't very sure of and we talked about everything else.

     The other day I had lunch with him and he said he's here as the Consul to look after the Indians and I told him, I said, "You don't know your job. You know it's government to government and this is a South African government you're dealing with, not the Indian." There were some bloody runts over there, one who had been in the tricameral parliament and one who is ethnically involved with Tamils in India and Tamils here and prays like some nincompoop. And they got a shock, they all backed away from their lunch. And I said, "Tell me if I'm wrong." He said, "No you're not wrong."

     But you see I've never been to this office here but the ones that go, and lots of them that go, and when you see the newspapers you see so-and-so and so-and-so was in the Indian Embassy or whatever they call it. But it's people who want to go to India for business, get saris and sell here and get all that. That's the crowd. And the crowd that never contributed to the struggle in this country. Never, never.

POM     Then if Thabo said, "What do you want to be called?" and you were one of 500 people who said South African.

PN     They didn't decide.

POM     But then is it still among the Indian community that they feel different?

PN     Oh yes.

POM     I mean you're different because you're actually South African, so you're the odd one out.

PN     I'm the odd one out.

POM     You're not the odd one in.

PN     That's why I'm telling you, one against 500. They thought I was crazy.

POM     If you take away in your mind, if you have one singular memory of Mac, and you wrote to him all the time, you wrote to him in prison, I've been able to have access to those letters and they're all very chatty. I'll put this in a funny way, I've put it in the same way to other people, if tomorrow morning Mac, while he's just getting ready to make his final presentation to the Hefer Commission and being the lawyer he always wanted to be, if he just popped over and died on the spot and you were asked to be part of a group who would give a eulogy to him or say something about him at his funeral and you had five minutes to get up and give your memory of Mac, what would come into your mind?

PN     My story? No, this is very painful for me as much as I'm fighting with it. Mac was my friend. Mac is my friend. If anybody asked me can he still be your friend now? Yes, he's my friend. These people I disagreed with in the Unity Movement, right? Her husband and I we write to each other, e-mail. He sent me something on the Russian elections now. We write to each other and he's my friend because when the Special Branch deflated my tyres he came, when both of us were house-arrested people, we're not supposed to communicate and I was fiddling with the bolts, and he just pushed me off, that's communication, and he fixed it up. Now that took great courage, that took great courage and if anybody said you will have to deny this fellow, I'll say, go to hell. I can't. I have a friendship with Mac which I don't have with his wife Zarina. But Mac always. He's very hard working.

POM     Do you love him? I mean in the best sense of the word.

PN     Yes and no. Yes in the sense that I'll fight for him, but I know he's a shit cunt as well.

POM     He's a what?

PN     A shit cunt. You know after giving his evidence, I think I told you about this, a young lady came here to see me and her father had been on Robben Island for 16 years and she said, "You know, Ma, only Mac was in the struggle." I said, "Where do you get that from?" "If you listen to the Hefer Commission. Only he was in the struggle. My father wasn't in the struggle." I don't know how he gives that impression but there you are, she's not extremely political or anything like that, very comfortable. I couldn't bear to watch it. Now and again I watched. I watched Mo because I didn't know him and for me to watch Mac in that was very painful. You know still at the back of my mind, my child's been killed by an agent and I think, don't tell me how clever you fellows were when you let my son die. How clever were you? I don't talk to people, I'm just talking to you because you're asking here.

POM     They weren't very.

PN     It was different, different circumstances. I mean how many times haven't I been called a police spy? Oh yes. And I think I'll go on being called that till I die. We were fighting with Nandha, Nandha I love beyond – you know, and I said to him, "Why don't you wait instead of messing yourself like this, wait till it's all over and then make up your mind about it? Why with every piece of evidence you get involved, twisted up like this." He was in tears sometimes. He phoned me from Cape Town and said, "Send me all the cuttings."

POM     A glutton for more punishment. Well I'll let you get ready for your lunch.

PN     It's not going to be lunch. I wish it were lunch. There's so much of pain here, I've got to deal with that and sometime this afternoon I must get some sleep, I'm tired. This is what she says here.

POM     This is written by a woman named?

PN     Nina Hashem.

POM     And she, her husband was?

PN     In the Unity Movement. She too. He was detained, was on Robben Island for eight years. Mac will know him, must have had dinkum fights in prison with him. In the end it all boiled down to whether old liberation fighters have immunity to do as they please and whether they can use their past record as a shield. That too is buggering me. Once somebody gave my name as a referee who applied to go into the Scorpions and she phoned me, this lady from there, and said, "I'd like to talk to you." I said, "About what?" I thought, why me? Anyway, it took about three hours, certainly three cups of coffee I had with her, questions, very detailed questions about why she would want to join. I said, "The only thing I know about this woman, she's white, and during the apartheid era took on a child of a so-called terrorist who was black, coloured." I said that took guts, that took guts to do that at that time. Now it's nothing. Jenny has adopted a black child, quite normal. But at that time – and she pressed me, "But why do you think?" I said, "I don't know what the Scorpions are about, I don't know why she gave you my name to be her referee. I have seen this child, this child of my friend, and I've seen this woman and I think it's a brave act for her to have done at that time." But I was surprised at the amount of questions, about six to ten pages. I don't know from that if they gained the truth or what.

POM     Or just gathering information. It's spying. Well, again, thank you for taking the time.

PN     Wish Mac well when you call him.

POM     I will. He said, "Are you going to be talking to Phyllis? She's going to be damning me."

PN     Part of me is angry with him, part of me is so sad.

POM     I did talk to Tim and I did clear up one thing and that is that she was ill before she got her hysterectomy. She didn't get the hysterectomy because she didn't think she could have children with Mac. She was ill beforehand and one of the things she was angry with Mac for was that he never bothered to enquire. He never asked what had happened to her, never asked, "What did you go through for all those years?" Never said, "How did you make out?" He was just getting on with his own life. There you are. But thank you, it was very good. I always will come back to you with a transcript for your own files. You've been very kind.

PN     So what now? You publish the book and you stay on?

POM     Yes, I've got another five to do.

PN     Who are they?

POM     Another five to do. One after this on Aids. That will be quite different. Then one on – like my own version of ten years later. Again, it will be different because I'll go back and I'll interview the people I interviewed in 1994 and re-interview them again in 2004. It will be a commentary on where I think South Africa is going. Then one after that is really on Cyril and Roelf, a more in depth look at the negotiations that have been done in the past. There's a lot of stuff that wasn't covered, that was just glossed over in the first rush of books. Then I have up and running by April, I'll have this global web site and I've just applied for more money to do three different projects that are all audio for the 10th anniversary. One on the run-up to elections, taking the voices of people back then. The one I love is Judge Kriegler when he talks about driving up to Nazrec on the night they were going to count and it's raining and it's dark and he's driving and as he looks out the window all he can see are ballot boxes and they're open and they're ballots all over the place. He said, "My God! Oh my God! Oh my God what's gone wrong?" And just what he tells and his voice is so good.

PN     Where is he now? He was fired, hey?

POM     He quit. Yes. Then I have the story I have to verify that was told to me by Ismail Ayob and out of the blue he said to me a year ago: You know one day Madiba said to me, 'Do you know when I was President why I never went after PW? I left him alone and said don't drag him in front of the TRC?' I said I've no idea. And he said, 'Well, he brought democracy to our country.' He said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'Well, about a month before the election we had very good information that senior people in the army were going to go over and join Viljoen and I went to FW and I told him the information we had and I said you're the Commander in Chief, do something. He threw up his arms and said, 'I can do nothing. The army won't listen to me. I have no control over them, none at all.' But you're President. So in desperation when he went out he called PW in George and told him what was going on and PW picked up the phone and ordered all those Generals to get back into line. The man brought democracy to our country.

     Now I told him he's got to verify that story. He told me on tape. He's got to go back and verify it because that is truly history. Was the old man pulling your leg? But it sounded like PW. I'll find out for you. Hard to believe, right?

PN     Hard to believe.

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.