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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
19 May 2004: Love, Janet
POM I'll tell you what I'm trying to do, I'm trying to determine exactly how the transmission process worked, how communications were sent out and came in. It's almost, I guess, a step by step process. This particularly refers to communications that would have come from Madiba going through to OR at the other end or to whomever. So maybe if I just ask you systematically the questions it will help me.
JL Look, I mean there were various people, as you know, who saw Madiba in prison, from people who were essentially his warders, to
POM OK, can I just start and take it from the top and run through it? What I was going to ask you was when did you first become introduced to what I call the transmission system in the country?
JL I was given training on it out of the country. I went out of the country to receive training on it. The first training was in 1988, the beginning of 1988.
POM And that training was given by?
JL Tim Jenkin.
POM In London or outside London?
JL Must have been, it was in 1988 in London, yes.
POM OK. Now you come back into the country and the equipment is stored in?
JL Sorry, just to say to you, they had an embryonic system in 1987 which I was trained in first actually before I went onto the upgraded system and in terms of the upgraded system if I'm not mistaken it was Ivan Pillay who showed me the upgraded system in 1988 in Zimbabwe because they just modified it marginally but in theory the bulk of it was working in a similar fashion.
POM And that was, the equipment itself was stored in?
JL The equipment, what it was, I mean it was the computer, I brought in the computer, which was a Toshiba laptop, and there was also a portable phone which was this massive equipment.
POM Who could imagine that ten years later you could carry it around in your pocket.
JL Absolutely. Like one of those, you know it wasn't quite as big as a lawyer's briefcase, it was one of those in a briefcase which certainly was heavier than a lawyer's briefcase even when it's full and it was one of those that isn't squashy, it's one of those cases but briefcase size, substantial briefcase size. That was brought in in 1988. You could also do this transmission using the computer but then using a phone, an ordinary phone, but to use an ordinary phone you had to find a phone that you could sit at long enough to do it basically, and so as a result of that I had the keys and had the pick for locks to get into various offices that I used at night in order to be able to have sufficient time at a phone but one that couldn't be traced to me.
POM Now when you were given a communication to transmit, who would you be given that by?
JL It was usually by Mac. Some of it was just stuff that I needed to do anyway but it was otherwise usually by Mac. Sometimes it involved stuff that I was in any case submitting, let's say if it was technical stuff like on the communication side, if there was stuff that I was concerned about then I would send messages through to Tim just to get some of the technology right or if there was stuff that had been collected and sometimes Gebhuza would give me a message to transmit that material had been collected from a DLB safely, etc. But it was mainly Mac.
POM Now would he give you that in a written form? What form would he give it to you in?
JL There was not stuff written on paper, I mean any stuff that would have been in a written form he would have sent using the very same communication channel to me. But those kinds of things usually were given verbally and then I would just compile the messages.
POM So there was nothing ever on paper that had to be encrypted from writing or something like that?
JL No, we would put it in the computer and encrypt in the computer. That software and stuff we had from fairly early on with the system. In 1987 we did encryptions only for a very, very short time that involved that revolting laborious manual mechanism but towards the end of 1987 we had the software that you could simply type in a sentence and using a code generated from that sentence an entire document would be encrypted within a matter of minutes.
POM Now you say 'an entire document', let me talk about communications with Mandela. If there was a communication from Mandela who would give it to you?
POM Mac. Now in what form would it be?
JL Well it was in writing, it was in writing.
POM Whose writing, do you know?
JL No idea. There was one thing there was stuff that was typed but it was mainly in writing.
POM It wasn't Mac's writing?
JL I don't know whose writing. There was some typed stuff, there was some written stuff but it wasn't Mac's writing. No, I don't know whose writing it was but it wasn't Mac's.
POM How would you know it was actually from Mandela?
JL Well that would be something that Mac would because it would be in the communication that the attachment was from him.
POM Now when you typed in those so you've no idea how communications were taken out of Victor Verster from Mandela?
JL No confirmed information. To the extent that I did speculate, I speculated idly, I didn't need to know and didn't want to know in any confirmed way.
POM Who did you just speculate on?
JL No, you can get that from Mac.
POM Well everyone gives me a different answer. He says that it was Ismail Ayob who took it out.
JL That was my speculation, yes.
POM Ismail says he took it out. The question is
JL He would know.
POM OK. Now when you would get that message you would type it into and some of these were quite lengthy documents?
JL Yes, there was at least one very lengthy document. I don't know if there was more than one lengthy one but there was one lengthy one, yes.
POM Was the one lengthy one the letter, this would be in July of 1989, do you have a recollection of transmitting in July or August the letter, the memorandum that Madiba had sent to P W Botha?
JL I remember typing it up and I remember sending it.
POM OK. Now would that letter that you received have been in just a handwritten form?
JL You know I don't remember. I would imagine that it was because I do remember typing something a bit lengthy that was from handwriting but I don't remember if it was that. Do you know what I mean? I remember more the content than the physical action of typing it.
POM But you have a recollection of typing that up. Now all these communications would be sent to London, to Tim?
JL Yes, I mean Tim could have been anywhere. They would have been sent to the address, they would have been accessed by Tim however he accessed them.
POM They could have been anywhere.
JL Tim was heading the communications thing.
POM He could have been anywhere.
JL I suppose I associated him at that time as being in London but I wouldn't swear that that's where he was.
POM But sending to Tim as somebody who was moving around and he had a laptop too.
JL He might well have been only in London. What I am saying is you'd need to talk to him just to get confirmation of that.
POM I will do that after I'm talking to you. Now there was another document, that was the Harare Declaration. Do you remember that?
JL Yes, and that I'm fairly sure I got in a typed form.
POM That would have been Mandela's amendments to it or whatever?
JL I don't remember exactly but I certainly remember typing that up and sending it.
POM When responses came back to you from Tim you would de-encrypt those messages, right? And you would give the unencrypted messages what would you do with the message when it came back?
JL I would save it in an encrypted form on a disk that I knew that Mac could de-encrypt himself or else if Mac was with me then he would read it on the computer. I at no time kept stuff that was de-encrypted.
POM OK, so if messages were going into the prison from say OR to Mandela
JL Then Mac would take whatever he had de-encrypted or that he had taken from me and he would then print out what he wanted in the form that he wanted as a message to go back to Madiba.
POM Who had access to would the messages be addressed to OR and Slovo or to Slovo exclusively or some to Slovo, some to Tambo as the case may be?
JL They were usually addressed to OR if they were addressed at all, not all messages were addressed with salutation, but they were usually addressed to OR.
POM Now do you recall there being a fairly steady stream of communications between OR and Mandela during that period?
JL No, I wouldn't say a steady stream, no. There were sometimes back forth, back forth interchanges and then a break, but definitely not a steady stream.
POM From the messages that you were encrypting and sending were you able to tell that Madiba was informing Lusaka that he was talking with the administration?
JL Yes, I mean the fact that there was a possibility that there would be some kind of process of talking was something that, without even referring to the specifics of any message, we were avidly discussing amongst ourselves.
POM The possibility of it or, sorry, when Mandela was conducting his talks in 1988 and 1989 with Niel Barnard and the others, were you able to tell from the messages that he was sending through to OR that he was sending through the substance of what his discussions were with them?
JL Not so much, not in all cases that it was a product of an actual sit down meeting, but it was the product of his having had direct or indirect interaction. So it wasn't this specific of, 'I met on such and such a day with.'
POM Oh sure.
JL It was more, 'This is what I think is feasible, this is what I am being told', that kind of thing. I certainly am not paraphrasing but it wasn't a question of certainty that this arose from any discussion as such.
POM But would he also indicate what his responses were to what he was being told?
JL In some cases.
POM Like, 'I am telling them that they must talk with - '
JL No, not in all.
POM 'Talk to Lusaka. I'm telling them I must talk to you.'
JL No, not in all cases. In some cases an opinion was expressed directly like, 'This was said and this was how I responded', but in some cases it was left open. So not in all cases.
POM Now who other than yourself would send messages?
JL Well myself and sometimes Mac directly but usually myself.
POM Now how about at the Durban end?
JL They would send messages to us but for anything outside via us, via me.
POM So you were the conduit for everything going out and only you and Mac were privy to what was both coming in and what was going out and you were giving it to him in the encrypted form.
JL Or if we were together I would de-encrypt it there and then. The thing that I'm saying is that it would have been possible for me to have saved stuff in an unencrypted format. I didn't because that was what we were not supposed to do and most people didn't. Unfortunately in some instances it did happen and that was essentially how a lot of information fell into enemy hands.
POM So when he sent out the minutes of Tongaat, now that was a long document, he said around 300 pages.
JL That's right, all encrypted. All were sent out in encrypted form.
POM He was very proud of that, everything going out one night, the meeting being held one day and being recorded and it was in Lusaka that night. Now when Ronnie came in, can you remember when Ronnie came in?
JL He came in, I think, in February.
POM That would be after Mandela's release?
JL Yes I think it was just after.
POM Believe it or not he can't even pin down even though there's a book on himself coming in and some period or area, he looks at it and says, "No, I couldn't have been in at that time."
JL I think it was just after. I think in fact he was already moving here before and arrived after. Something of that ilk.
POM Now would he have been privy to the manner in which the system worked?
JL He was certainly privy to the manner in which the system worked and when we went on the run he then also was in a position to send stuff out directly although he is probably universally acknowledged as a person with five thumbs, so his ability to manipulate the computer was questionable at most times at that stage but he knew the system. As to being privy to some of the arrangements prior to his entry into the country in terms of who was doing what and how messages were passed and all that, in a sense that was water under the bridge and I don't think we actually at any point really sat down and did I don't know that there was any kind of comprehensive briefing in that sense. I don't think it was needed, I don't recall it happening.
POM Now if Gebhuza was arrested in Durban why would the disks of the machinery be in Durban if they were being kept with you?
JL Well, you know, the messages in encrypted form had been sent to them because there were certain things they needed from that. The fact that they were then stored in an unencrypted form is something that I don't think he'll ever completely live down. So it was copies. In other words it was on the system, he drew it down because he needed to, he needed to work with some of that stuff as well.
POM So if you stored this stuff on the system in Johannesburg could he sitting in Durban - ?
JL The stuff that was sent to him he would draw down and then he could store it on disks, none of it was stored permanently in the system as we might do now with some sort of Internet system. So you would either delete it or store it for a period and delete it. The whole idea was that at any time aside from when you were actually reading or actually working with it, it should be encrypted and unfortunately that didn't happen. So he had needed to have it, there was no question about that, but he should have been walking around with it in an encrypted format.
POM Then there would have been two records of that material, right?
POM The disks that you had, were they all destroyed at the time of the arrests?
JL The disks that I had were at the time of the arrests, OK they were in a dead letter box near where I was and they were not destroyed, they never had to be destroyed, they were in encrypted form but they never fell into the hands of the Security Police either. The set that fell into the hands of the Security Police was the set in Durban which, as I understand it, primarily most of that material was not encrypted.
POM Now the ones that you had put in the DLBs, what happened to them?
JL I've probably still got some but anyway they were handed over I mean I didn't keep many so there were probably about three that I was working with. I might still have them, I don't know. They were of the floppy disk kind and the stiffy disk kind but I don't know, I gave some to Tim many moons ago because he was putting together some documentation about it. I think I might also have the one disk that enables the encryption but it all used operating systems of many moons ago.
POM So are you saying that it couldn't be - ?
JL Unless one could actually figure out what operating I mean Tim would be in a position where I imagine he would be able to do that kind of reconstruction from the disks that he, I am sure, might still have. Then I think in about 1993 I cleared out the last of the DLBs and safe houses. There were a couple of disks remaining. I don't remember whether I gave those to Tim. It was also where I retrieved the portable phone from and the portable receiver and stuff like that and it hung about for a while.
POM And, I'm just asking out of curiosity, what happened to the portable phone and receiver? Is that still out there some place?
JL The portable phone I left with somebody who was one of our support people who actually helped in fact at the technical end with some of the support stuff, who is still one of these electronic boffins. He has that. Some of the other gadgetry
POM Belongs in a museum.
JL If any museum wanted it they could have it. Absolutely.
POM Was there a constant flow of communications going back and forth?
JL When we were on the run?
POM No, before you were on the run.
JL Sure, yes, sure.
POM Were these all short communications?
JL Yes, yes, even communications to sort of say, 'I hate this system', yes.
POM Then Mac would do his reports to Lusaka. OK. Now I don't want to detain you much longer. When you received a message you would give it in the encrypted form to Mac.
POM And Mac then would put it on his own computer, or the same computer?
JL On his own. If we were together then he would read it there and then.
POM And unencrypt it.
JL Well he'd read it unencrypted and then we would if my machine is turned off there was nothing unencrypted on the machine.
POM What I'm saying is that if he wanted to, say if he wanted to send a message back to Madiba from OR, what would be the process of that happening?
JL Again, if we were together he would talk and I would type it out and then we would get that printed and then he would take that and hand it over in order to be given either verbally or in the form that he gave it to Madiba.
POM So that would go through the same channel back, presumably, as it came out? But this would now be in a written form?
JL Yes, that would be in a written form.
POM Were those messages usually short and brief?
POM Oh, after June 1990 when the whole thing fell down, when you guys are on the run what Tim essentially did was to move to a different form of the system.
POM And you just continued on as before and that system went undetected right through until everything petered out.
POM And that would have been, can you remember when you ever sent the last message?
JL I can't tell you when exactly in June, it was June 1991.
POM June of 1991. Were you in the intelligence loop?
POM So you wouldn't have been privy to information delivered on Bulelani?
JL I was privy to most stuff. I was privy by virtue of being in the communications so I was cleared for all security but not actually part of any operation of gathering stuff and most of the stuff that I sent, because you're either sending it you're privy to parts of it, bits and pieces of it.
POM OK, were you privy to the fact that Mo had conducted an investigation and probably found that Bulelani was a spy?
JL No, that particular information did not go out through the system.
POM OK, that went out through London or that would have gone through his system. I think I have finished bothering you for the moment. Aren't you thrilled? It's just so hard to pin down, I'm having a big row at the moment, not a big row, there's a big difference between how Mac says information went into and out of the prison and how Ismail Ayob says it did. You'd think these guys lived on two different planets, not just a little bit apart. We're talking planets, not continents. Not OK there's a little gap here we have to bridge.
JL Well any time you want. What you're doing, as I've told you many times, is wonderful so just let me know if you need to get hold of me.
POM Terrific. OK, thanks a million Janet. Take care. Bye-bye.