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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 May 2004 : Moosa, Valli
POM How are you adjusting to post-political life, if anyone is post-political in the ANC?
MVM I still serve on the National Executive, as you are aware, so certainly you're quite right, it's not post-political life.
POM Are you taking a break before you decide on what you want to do with yourself or have you tumbled right into something?
MVM I have been unemployed since the inauguration of the President and I am hoping to be able to remain unemployed for as long as possible. I am genuinely unemployed in the sense that I don't earn an income so I think that's a definition of unemployed although I've been keeping myself quite busy and, yes, I don't want to rush into starting a new job immediately but I will have to and so I will do that in another few months, I can't tell exactly when. It's wonderful, I'm just taking it as it comes. I've never had this sort of thing, I don't have a diary. That's why I missed your phone call just now because I don't have a secretary and an office and all those sorts of things.
POM Now, I was calling. I am trying to verify something. This is relating to something that happened in 1989 and it involves Vula. This is where Mac says that a copy of the letter that Madiba had written to P W Botha got into circulation and that you or Jay Naidoo or Sydney Mufamadi had gotten a copy from Ismail Ayob and interpreted it as being that Mandela was selling out. Do you have any recollection of that?
MVM Not actually. 1989?
POM OK, let me read this to you and see does it refresh your memory.
MVM I remember the letter because I think it was published in the newspapers later on, if you remember.
POM No. He's talking about immediately after Mandela had gotten the letter out to Ayob and he says you guys had gotten a copy of the letter and read it to mean that Mandela was selling out. Let me read what Mac says and then you can see does this refresh your memory in any way.
"Momoniat collected the letter but he also learnt from Ismail that he didn't know where I was and realising that he had a very important document in his hands he had given it to either Valli or Sydney Mufamadi, or Jay Naidoo and Kgalema Motlanthe. I said to Momo, 'You said he had given this thing to Valli and company?' He said, 'Yes, that's the basis of the story that Madiba is selling out.' So I said, 'OK.' I then said, 'Let me read this', so I read this letter rapidly. It was now late on Sunday afternoon, I said to Momo, 'There's no sell-out here, I want you to go immediately and find Valli or Sydney or Jay Naidoo. Find one of them wherever you can now and bring them to a meeting with me this evening.' Momo managed to contact Valli and brought him to the Constantia Centre where the old trucks used to be. There used to be a cinema complex and an outdoor restaurant on the first floor in a sort of open area. There was a vantage point from which I could see anybody. So I got to the Constantia Centre and he came along with Valli. Valli greeted me and said, 'Have you heard Madiba is selling out?' So I said, 'Where did you get that from?' He said, 'We have proof, we have the letter that he's written to P W Botha.' So I said, 'Sit down Valli.' I think Momo went away and at this point I took the letter and I read it and he went through it." And he goes through the letter.
"I go through the letter with Valli systematically and I said, 'Where's the sell-out?' He said, 'Shit, no sell-out there.' He said you're having a meeting in the morning and I said, 'Meeting with whom?' Then he said, 'Sydney Mufamadi, Jay Naidoo and myself are meeting in the morning and Motlanthe will also be there.' I say, 'Are you satisfied there's no sell-out?' He said, 'Absolutely.' Mac says, 'Now at that meeting tomorrow morning, it's your duty, Valli, to go to that meeting and take them through the letter word by word as I have done with you in order to show them that there is no sell-out and to change the decision you have taken to spread the message around the country that he's selling out.' He says, 'Sure, you can take it for granted that is done.'
"So I say, 'What other damage is happening?" He says, 'Mac, the word has come from Port Elizabeth too that he is selling out.' So I say, 'From where?' He says, 'From Govan'. I said, 'Where did Govan get this?' I said, 'Jesus, something has to be done about this.' "
So then he goes to Billy Nair. Does any of this sound familiar to you in any way, manner, shape or form?
MVM What does sound familiar to me is an encounter I had with him at the Constantia Centre, I think that's what it's called. It's like a shopping centre. I met him there for some or other reason, it wasn't the first time I had met him. I'd met him at least on one previous occasion, maybe more, because I can't place exactly when that was. But I remember meeting him. What I certainly don't remember is this letter. I don't remember – it's unlikely that Ismail Ayob would have given me something as confidential as that because I've never had a political relationship with Ismail Ayob. We've never worked together on anything.
POM Do you recall a rumour going around at that time that Madiba was selling out?
MVM I recall – you know I don't, what I do recall is rumours about – I don't know, I wouldn't say selling out. But the debate about whether negotiations are the right thing or not and whether there should be talks about – whether talks are obviously not the right thing but whether talks about talks is the right thing, not anything around Madiba specifically. I can't. Does Ismail Ayob remember anything about it?
POM Well Jay Naidoo remembers the meeting that Mac alludes to that you guys had. Again, it's not dominant in his mind kind of memory but he has a memory of it. But you never recall going through a letter with Mac where he analyses the letter?
MVM I definitely don't recall that. I definitely don't recall that and I definitely don't recall any discussion with Mac about this matter. I don't recall any such meeting as is being referred to. It could have been. You know my memory is like a sieve by the way, I must tell you that at the beginning. I don't recall that either. What I do recall is a hint of, a hint that there were people who were of the view that something wrong was happening. I do recall that. A hint, nothing to do with Mac, nothing which I would feel at liberty to talk about even now, but not anyhow, not in any way related to Mac.
POM Was it related to Madiba?
MVM Well it was a time when there were lots of – remember it was a time when there were people who were spreading rumours about the leadership in exile, that there were some kind of wrong things happening. I mean that continued even until after the unbanning of the ANC when there were people of the view that negotiations was the wrong thing to do and were more or less saying it's tantamount to derailing the struggle. So it was a time of rumours and this would have been rumours about people in prison too.
I don't remember seeing it. The letters I know of are the letters which were published. When I saw them I don't know, whether I saw them before they were published or not, but those are the ones that I know. And probably the ones that are being referred to because as far as I can remember the Madiba letters all became public knowledge.
POM Pretty quickly?
MVM I don't remember. Were they published in the newspapers?
POM I'll have to check. I don't think so.
MVM They were published in the newspapers as far as I can remember. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but I think they were published in the newspapers.
POM Anyway your memory is that it's vague, you did meet him at Constantia on a number of occasions.
MVM I met him maybe more than once but I know I met him at least once. Then I met Mac in a hotel on one occasion, I met him in some or other flat in Johannesburg somewhere in the flatlands, I met him in Durban on an occasion. Yes.
POM But on this you draw a blank?
MVM Yes. I actually don't remember it. I wonder. You know my suspicion is, the sort of names that you are mentioning, Jay Naidoo, Sydney Mufamadi, Kgalema, I don't think Mandela's lawyer would have leaked a letter from a client of that nature to any one of those individuals. I would be very surprised. If he was going to leak something he would have done it to somebody much more important in the ANC at the time. Remember you're talking about a long time ago now.
POM Well we will leave it at that.
MVM I don't think so personally. I don't know what you're writing about but of course you would be aware that there was written communication going on between Mandela and Tambo at the time about all these matters.
POM Yes, well this was the letter that had been smuggled out. Ayob had gotten it and he was sending it to and it did go on to Tambo.
MVM I haven't seen any of those letters but I am aware that they were in written communication with each other on this matter. I didn't see it then and I haven't seen it even up to now, any of those, but I am aware that there was such a thing going on.
POM Did you guys get a copy of the draft of the Harare Declaration?
MVM I saw a copy, yes.
POM Were your comments or the Mass Democratic Movement's comments on that relayed to Lusaka through the Vula communication system?
MVM I don't know. I don't think there was any meeting of any substance of the MDM that I can recall that would have sat down and discussed in a considered way the Harare Declaration and sent back a considered response representative of a body of people. I can't recall any such thing. What I do know is that we were very much in favour of promoting it. We organised a Conference for a Democratic Future, we were determined to make the thing work. Of course you would have the records of this Conference for a Democratic Future which was the big push internally to popularise the Harare Declaration and to indicate strong support from organisations in the MDM for the Harare Declaration, support going beyond those that would have been considered to be obviously aligned to the ANC.
So that was that and there would probably have been some or other meeting in Lusaka at which the MDM leadership would have attempted to discuss the matter before the Conference for a Democratic Future, I would assume. I can't recall specifically but I'm sure we did that because we had been going up and down to Lusaka at the time.
POM So you guys were popping in and out to Lusaka like people are going from Johannesburg to Cape Town, back and forth today. You had to almost queue up for a flight.
MVM Yes, well, remember when Murphy and I escaped from prison and we then got our freedom negotiated by the US Administration at the time, if you remember. And the first thing we did was we got onto a plane and went to Lusaka and said, "Right, what's happening?" Then we went on I think a number of trips subsequently. That was the period when most of what was happening in the MDM and the leadership of the ANC was coordinated.
POM It was coordinated?
MVM Yes, there was like a regular ongoing discussion. The discussion was no longer difficult and long before one could – it was more open. Remember it was a time when businessmen were going –
POM To Dakar.
MVM We were doing that, yes.
POM What role did Vula play or Mac play?
MVM Remember I was never involved in Vula. I wasn't even told about it.
POM But in terms of his meetings with you, did they relate to matters of strategy or relaying messages he had received from Tambo or keeping you informed of the communications between OR and Mandela and what was going on? What was the loop into which he fitted, Vula fitted, even though you didn't know it was Vula?
MVM As far as I understand, I mean Vula was an underground, part military sort of thing. I've never become part of the military side of things ever, not even in the smallest way. So I wasn't part of that. I met with Mac from time to time while he was underground, usually, and talked about what was happening. It was an exchange – usually it wasn't in an organised, structured sense. It was like I would meet a comrade and talk about what's happening.
POM Well listen, Valli, I won't take up any more of your time at the moment but in a couple of weeks I'll give you a call and we'll have a nice social evening, OK?
MVM That will be very nice.