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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Hilda Bernstein interview with Mac and Zarina

INCOMPLETE

First Recording MAC MAHARAJ and Second Interview with ZARINA MAHARAJ

MM:     … I think we should look at other experiences from the point of view of the impact of Britain. [gap]

HB:     Few people, Mac, can have had the sort of Scarlet Pimpernel existence that you had and survived it as a sane and sensible and productive human being? Do you think that's a right statement?

MM:     Well, I'm not so sure about few people, I think that the experiences thrown up by the South African .. involvement in the South African struggle, have produced a very large body of people whose experiences are not known. Mine falls into the category of experiences that are reasonably known. And that is why I get singled out. But I am aware of a large body of people, who have [gap] I was saying I'm aware of a large number of cases and I'm sure my knowledge is also limited, who have had similar types of experience, of leading a sort of schizophrenic life. And I think a very large body of that is to be found amongst comrades who were involved in the struggle ..

HB:     But let's talk about your experience, which is schizophrenic to say the least. How old were you, when this began, Mac?

MM:     Well, I got drawn into the underground by virtue of my membership of the Communist Party in the late 50s and finally, at that stage, then I was abroad in the U.K. between 57 and 61 and after Sharpeville, I was approached while still in the U.K. to go for training and that set me off into my fulltime part in the movement. I went for training ..

HB:     Where did you go?

MM:     I went in 1961, March, to the GDR and it was in the middle of my training that the movement decided to opt for the arms struggle.

HB:     But what were you being trained in?

MM:     I was initially being trained as a printer, when the decision was taken to launch the armed struggle, so in mid-course, I then went underwent a sabotage training course.

HB:     Also in the GDR?

MM:     Also. I did an eleven month's course and returned to South Africa in May .. on 2 May 1962. From that moment of course, I was now a fulltime activist, I was then deployed in Johannesburg ..

HB:     By Umkhonto?

MM:     By the Alliance, in fact, because my services were made available to all formations of the Alliance. I served in the printing side, at the disposal of the entire national liberation movement. I also then served in Umkhonto and after the Rivonia arrest, of course, my tasks multiplied. But I was arrested one year after Rivonia.

HB:     So you were arrested in 63?

MM:     I was arrested in 64. Of course, once I had landed in South Africa, I was already wanted by the Security Branch, and the decision of the Movement to deploy me in the Transvaal, meant that I already was .. had to live an illegal life. In those days, a person of Indian origin had no rights to live in the Transvaal, I'm a Natal born person. The security branch were already looking for me.

HB:     But for that reason or other reasons?

MM:     Well, the security branch were not satisfied with the explanations of why I had returned to South Africa. They had been aware of my background before I left for Britain and although I in Britain worked reasonably cautiously, in the sense that individually I decided that one day I would be returning to South Africa, I believed that we were heading for an extremely difficult struggle and I believed therefore that my involvement in Britain should be concealed. So I operated quite often in Britain under clandestine names, but when I returned here, the security branch interviewed me at Jan Smuts airport and gave me six hours to leave the Transvaal, and report to the security branch in Natal, which I failed to do. I immediately went underground. That was in 62 and they kept looking for me and eventually when they did capture me, they captured me not knowing who they had captured.

HB:     Where did they capture you? How did it happen?

MM:     They arrested me in the Transvaal, in Johannesburg, in Doornfontein and that was on the basis that somebody in the High Command in Umkhonto had spoken, in the ad hoc High Command, and had without knowing my identity and my me, my real name, had described me and had given the address where they had met me. And that was at Pearce Street.

     Now when I arrived at Pearce Street, the police were already there from 12 o'clock and when they arrested me, I had a reasonable alibi as to my identity, I had false identity cards etc. but that very night of my detention at then the Grays, Swanepoel, while asking me my personal details, noticed that I was interfering with my eye and he asked what was wrong and I said I an artificial eye. At that point, he brought the interview to a complete halt and he said, right we've caught the right man, lock him up. So the person had given a description, not knowing my real identity, but had said I had one eye. And they now realised that they had found the right person. But even then, it took them two months in detention to realise .. to find out what was my real name.     And that was because another detainee had now .. who really knew my identity, gave my identity and they realised that this was the person that they were looking for.

HB:     Was this the first time you went to Robben Island?

MM:          Ja.

HB:     When did you get to Robben Island?

MM:     I got to Robben Island, I was sentenced in December and I got to Robben Island on the 5 January. We had served a bit of time at Leeukop Prison and then we were transported to Robben Island.

HB:     Were you afraid, Mac? I mean people very often say, oh everything was fine or I was miserable, but how did you feel inside?

MM:     Well, I suppose its shaped by my whole thinking at that time, the background to that is that in the mid-fifties already, I had come to the conclusion that the South African struggle was moving in a direction which need professional revolutionaries, I had therefore become ambivalent about pursuit of my studies. I was clear that other interests would interfere with that involvement. I had grown up highly critical, for example, of legal .. comrades with a legal background in the struggle, I thought they often looked for legal ways out of our problem and they interfered with the necessary political decisions we had to take. I therefore got involved, I think, with an attitude that said that we must be ready for any eventuality and be prepared to pay the price. My experience in detention was one of the harshest in that period. I was tortured for sixty days and I think that that shaped my thinking. It removed all fear of my personal self and the result is that I went to Robben Island in a fighting mood.

HB:     What type of torture was it?

MM:     Well, I'd been through the whole gambit of the 63/64 torture. Electric treatment, beatings, .. beatings on my penis, being placed on a desk, that's when my neck was damaged, that's when my arm got paralyzed and .. well it was sixty days of that.

ZM:     And you were unconscious .. they threw you back into your cell unconscious.

MM:     Ja, well, the point about all that is that it had inculcated in me, I think that without being melodramatic, I think that during those sixty days, I was brought to the point where I could have been dead. I was hung out by my one leg, outside Grays window at seventh floor. Hung by two legs and then one leg let go. I think that was enough to bring one to that sort of edge. And I think what saved me from breaking was the fact that Piet Beylefeldt had spoken and he was in the Central Committee of the Party and he had indicated to the security branch that I had the list of not only the membership of the Party and the underground, but had the list of all the people who were on fulltime salaries, even in MK in the Transvaal. And that confronted me with an issue that if I spoke, I would be destroying the entire movement and so there were no real options, any options for me, I had to avoid speaking. The price of speaking wad just too high for the struggle. So I think it conditioned me and I think that the sixty days of torture also conditioned me, in that it combined .. it flowed into a different experience of prison and that is that I treated prison as bringing me face to face, close up with the enemy in personalised form. I therefore …I think I was always able to submerge my fear for my personal self, against the aspect that if you succumb to fear, what would be the consequences for the struggle? We had the same problem at Leeukop and I think that other co-trialists with me, like Wilton McKwai, contributed significantly towards developing my thinking, because at Leeukop the same problem arose, and that is that the warrant officer in charge of our section, called for the three of us from amongst the body of prisoners, and challenged us, saying that we were the people who had trained militarily and that they were going to deal with us. And Wilton's response was to say that we had .. yes, we had undergone military training, yes, we had been to all these countries for training, and yes, we were going to fight, but he said, we had not started fighting yet and that precipitated another crisis at Leeukop Prison. I'm saying this because by that unapologetic and vigorous forward thrust, he was synthesizing our thinking that we could not succumb. The other body of prisoners that met there were people who had already gone to serve one year and eighteen months at Stockwell and there they were expressing a different attitude. You are now in prison, no confrontation, slide around the system. And we had entered in another phase. So .. and we were prepared throughout our detention to try and escape, not     with a view of running away from the country, we felt that post-Rivonia .people like Wilton MacKwai, Lala Chiba and myself were convinced that if we escaped, we would not be leaving the country, we would remain within the country, continue with the struggle. So I'm saying all this influenced the aspect of fear.

HB:     Hilda sees going to prison as a form of internal exile, in a sense, you still felt very much a part of South Africa, that you were locked away from South Africa, but you were still in it in a way?

MM:     Well, again I was privileged, because I went to prison without any thought that the regime was going to successfully isolate us. I happened to be put in the same section with Nelson and company and the moment we got an opportunity to communicate amongst each other, I immediately raised .. together with a small handful of comrades, the necessity for communicating amongst all sections of the prison and communicating with the outside world. And the result is that, whether by design or by accident, my entire prison life was spent intensely focusing on our politics, intensely monitoring what was happening outside and in the country.

HB:     How did you monitor what was happening outside?

MM:     Well, again I was privileged because I was part of the team which was then set up by the ANC in charge of communications and in charge of smuggling in newspapers and so that became part of the tasks that I was involved, with a small collective, and it kept me fully alive mentally because from that period, it meant that all the news first landed with me.

HB:     So you got newspapers from Cape Town to Robben Island?

MM:     Yes, we smuggled straight away. We reached a point where we even had a radio. We smuggled literature, books, I think we had one of the best libraries in South Africa.

HB:     And they didn't .. the warders didn't take these away from you?

MM:     They were illegal, the entire library was illegal in that sense and again I was part of the team responsible for hiding and concealing our library. So I'm saying that Hilda's concept of internal exile, is valid up to a point, but in my own case, I never felt a sense of exile. And this is also because even in my periods outside, from 77 ..

HB:     And you were on Robben Island from 65 .. ?

MM:     65, January to October 76 and then released in December. So outside also, in 77, when I was asked to leave and went abroad ..

HB:     Asked to leave by Umkhonto?

MM:     I was actually instructed to leave the country by a small group of comrades in Robben Island, Nelson, Walter and others, they had entrusted me with tasks outside the country, which necessitated my leaving the country and so that was the basis, and I was given six months in the country after release, at my request, because I felt that I needed to understand what was happening in the country before I left. I had asked Nelson to write a special note to O.R. to say that after I had fulfilled my tasks abroad, which I was being sent for, I should then be allowed to return. But Nelson insisted that that was something that the movement would have decide.

     What I had to do was to perform the tasks that they'd asked me to do, by going abroad.

HB:     Can you say what those tasks were?

MM:     Well, the tasks partly involved things that I can talk about, others I can't. The assessment of the situation, suggestions as to what should be done and then there were other very concrete tasks that would have taken up a minimum of one year's work. I managed to complete a portion of that in six months. I had to spend six months of my time in London. So in six months I had completed a major part of that task and I was ready to return home. But the ANC decided in Lusaka, the National Executive decided that I should be appointed the Secretary of the Internal ANC, involved in building the ANC inside the country. That was decided in December 77 and I took up that post in January 78. But I'm saying that I never felt in exile. I never registered as a refugee anywhere. My entire stay, I was privileged to be involved with prosecuting the struggle inside South Africa. And my work was in Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, and then later on, Zimbabwe, but concerned with building the ANC inside the country. I never had time to feel an exile.

HB:     You were too busy? Or you never had any kind of psychological feeling of I'm now losing my country?

MM:     I never had a psychological feeling that I'm away from home because I was engaged with prosecuting the struggle inside. I never had the time, I was interacting always with people coming from within the country, going back into the country. I was involved with practical problems of moving the struggle inside the country, so I never had a sense .. and I always knew that the section that I was working in, was concerned with laying the basis for others to return home and I accepted that part of that responsibility meant that I would be returning home one day and I knew that I would be returning home in the illegal days, clandestinely, so there was no framework to feel separated. For example, like comrades in London, or comrades in the camps who did not know when they. would go home, who knew they were out in order to go home but did not know when. Or people in London who felt that they were all part of the movement but never could see when they have to come home, they had to fend for themselves, they had to build a life of their own, they had to work for a living. I never had to do all those things.

HB:     All the time, since you first became active in the late fifties, you have actually been supported by the Movement?

MM:     Ja, I've been a fulltime member of the movement since 1960. I like to say I've never been "gainfully employed" and even things like money have not been my motivation. Whatever was available was given and that was enough. Here in Johannesburg in 62-64, my salary was £15 a month, my rent was £13. It didn't matter.

HB:     You weren't married at the time?

MM:     I was married. I was married. Those years, my former wife, when I went for training, I was doing an eleven month course on short notice, my wife was left in the U.K., she was training and in order to visit me during her holiday, she had to pay her own fare. When I returned to South Africa, she was still in Britain and in order to join me here in the underground, she had to work there until she saved her own fare. There was no conception that this is the responsibility of the movement. It was your personal responsibility and you adjusted your lives as best you could.

HB:     And she joined you when you came back?

MM:     She joined me in the Transvaal in 63, Easter and then lived with me for a while illegally in the Transvaal and in the end had to decide what to do about her legend and so she went off to Natal to do a refresher course in her profession and I had just collected her when we got arrested.

HB:     She was arrested with you?

MM:     She was detained for four months. And eventually hounded out of the country and she left on an exit permit in 1973.

HB:     When you were appointed to organise the ANC internally, did you actually secretly yourself come back into South Africa in the late 70s and so on?

MM:     I .. as secretary of the internal ANC, I had to be concerned with both the practical problems of organizing but strategising that work. And I went through different phases in my strategising. The early phase was a total opposition to any wildcat moves towards entering the country. I felt that we had to learn from the experience of the arrests of Komati in Eastern Cape, Gqabi the [Gwana] Trial in Natal, the Pretoria Eleven of Gqabi and others and the Cape Town Mloza arrests. There the movement had tried to build itself using the old stalwarts who were extremely vulnerable to surveillance, and therefore, strategising, I had to map out a path of laying the basis for a reconstitution of the underground with people who would be faceless to the regime. I therefore for a long period opposed anybody entering the country just on a wildcat move. I wanted the process to be systematic and we began to do that under the internal structure in 78. I personally reprimanded many senior comrades in the neighbouring territories who went into the country from time to time, for doing so and endangering the entire structures. However, I began to encourage that process, and it is 1981, that I became part of a group of people, who strongly felt that the conditions had arisen now for senior people to enter the country.

HB:     You yourself?

MM:     Yes, I was prepared for that myself but my duties outside never allowed me to enter the country as a move that would be productive. I was concerned more with the whole entire process of creating the structures. So my activities in that period,.the main .. not on record, people have described me from the Government side in various [complications], holding various jobs and that was because I consistently tried to conceal what my real tasks were. So really the entry into the country can only be spoken of in terms of my entry on the Vula project.

HB:     As late-as that? So what year was that?

MM:     87. But of course, all my work was on the borders and the peripheries of South Africa all the time. I entered Lesotho when traveling to Lesotho was not the thing. I think the only person who had preceded me was first of all and Chris Lambert who had entered the country, Lesotho, on foot, via Botswana, that was around 73 and they were cut off because Lesotho was an island. I managed to get into Lesotho in 78 and I think outside Chris and Lambert, I had been preceded by only one person and that was Alfred Nzo who had used the cover of some international conference to get to Lesotho. I then went to Lesotho in early 78, mid-78. The purpose of that was really to look at the work internally and prospects from that end. So we had to use a major subterfuge and I remember the technique we used was to go to a United Nations seminar and to take a chartered flight, which the Mozambican Foreign Minister and the Angolan Foreign Minister were going to be present, so that if the chartered plane was brought down, there would be some prospect of rescuing me. So it was that type of work at that time, laying the basis on the neighbouring territories to create viable structures which would be moving into the country, backwards and forwards. And unfortunately whatever my wishes were, my tasks as secretary of that structure could not allow me to take up any action that I would just simply wish to do myself. But by 81 I was convinced that the conditions had arisen for senior member, including the people reaching into the executive of the ANC, to come into the country. But that recognition on the part of the collective, at that time the revolutionary council, for various reasons never got implemented in any systematic way and I think part of the problem was that you could not detach senior people from the structures ,that were outside of the ANC, without the regime getting wind of it and the problem was how to do it. And finally, I think we hit on a formula in 86 which made it possible for Vula to be implemented.

HB:     Can you say what the formula was?

MM:     Well, our problem was that .. how to do without the enemy getting to know and how to detach people without the work outside suffering. The National Executive met in 86 and we had gone through the same routine of reviewing the internal situation and the structure, organisational capacity of the movement, both MK and political underground and repeatedly saying that we were .. we had reached a sort of ceiling of development, of little pockets and units and these would be smashed and new ones would be built, but qualitatively we were not changing. Some of us recognised that at the meeting of the NEC that this repeated formula of assessment and unhappiness with the progress was caused partly by a problem that if you detach senior people, the move was so risky, how did you prevent the enemy from getting to know? We then moved in the National Executive that the President and Comrade Slovo should be entrusted with that task and that they would not have to report to the National Executive, except when they felt that the progress was sufficient. They would not divulge the names of people involved. That was accepted by the National Executive and immediately then we set to work. In my case, I was selected to enter the country and so we took our time to create the necessary legend, but in order to convince the regime that I was really ill, we had to convince our own membership. We used our membership and the leadership as a barometer to test how far the legend was holding.

HB:     The legend was the fabricated story?

MM:     Ja, that I was ill. And that took a long time to create that legend because one had to convince the National Executive that I was ill.

HB:     You came back in 87?

MM:          Ja. So it took more than a year to [CANNOT HEAR]

HB:     And where did you come when you came back to South Africa?

MM:     Well our immediate mission was defined in different ways. The President was implementing simultaneously projects through various regions, of the Vula type and in the strategising, together with him, I had envisaged that a link-up would take place on instructions and assessment from the outside. As it happened - and I was supposed to enter first via Natal, to spend just two months there, heading for the Transvaal, together with Comrade Mabuza - various things went wrong, security problems arose. We entered, in fact, through the Transvaal. We went to Natal, we found a situation that was so problematic for advance, particularly the violence that had hit Natal ..

HB:     This was 87? But how old were you then?

MM:     87, I was 52. We found a situation where .. and the situation was so rife for work, that the progress we made in two months was such that we could not detach ourselves and we received word .. assessment from OR and JS that we had to consolidate ..

HB:     But you were 52, you weren't a spring chicken anymore. This sort of underground work, leaping around the country, and living from hand to mouth, something you expect people in their twenties and maybe their thirties to do, come on Mac, talk about that?

MM:     No, the problem we had to confront and the reason why we came in, was to provide .. to become, to merge with the leadership that had been growing inside the country, provide an on-the-spot, on the ground leadership. Now this meant that we needed people who had synthesized the experience of underground, exiled, mass democratic movement, all the forms of struggle, and military forms of struggle.

HB:     So you had become a different human being, during all these years of struggle. You weren't in exile, you felt you were in the struggle, but hadn't it changed you as a person? What sort of person had you become?

MM:     Oh, I think it has changed .. my life has changed me tremendously and I think those changes can be traced through different points. For example, I think my detention, my experience in the sixties underground and wanted by the police, the arrest, detention, imprisonment, had already changed me as a person considerably, together with my thinking.

HB:     In what way had you changed?

MM:     I had come .. I had gone to prison a hothead, extremely
militant, very committed, yes, but essentially a hothead - I've described it in a BBC live interview in 77, to say that I went to prison only capable of killing in anger, I came out of prison, I like to think, tolerant, still harsh, sharp talker, sharp-tongued, but tolerant of different views but only capable of killing, as I described it, in cold blood.

HB:     And you have killed?

MM:     I cannot .. my indemnity doesn't cover any activity that led to any deaths or injury, but I'm saying that already, in 77, I was deeply conscious of the process of simultaneously a humanization as well as a brutalization. I am on record at various moments in our struggle to say, I feared for the future by what the other side was forcing us to do in order to prosecute the struggle. I feared for the future because I'm concerned about the quality of what emerges from our struggle. I have gone on record in the eighties, fearing what was happening to our children. I gloried in the spectacle of eight-year olds standing up with sticks and stones against Saracen and Hippo tanks and the same time, I was deeply concerned and shaken by what this would mean for the next generation. When those eight-year olds became adults.

HB:     Now, what sort of human being were you then, when you finally came back to South Africa for the Vula operation in 87? Were you hard and tough and humane? What were you?

MM:     I said that there was a simultaneous process of humanisation because even as a communist, and I wonder why I say even as a communist, but I feel its a comment on communists too, but even as a communist, I was as deeply concerned that the quality of life that emerged for society in the experiences of building socialism, was far removed from the type of humane society we are really moved, to engage in struggle in order to create.

     I saw intolerance, I saw dogmatism, mechanical thinking, I'm on record in working in the internal .. or getting comrades who were trained in Party school and [comes from our school] and saying that that training was irrelevant to the work that they had to do, I had to retrain them. Because they were coming back with textbook answers and I said that the biggest problem, and one that I believed, that Marxism did provide the basis to equip people with, was the tools with which to analyse the problem, so that you never lost contact with the concrete reality.

HB:     Now the concrete reality in 87 is Mac Maharaj, aged 52, is coming back to the country he's never felt exiled from. What sort of person was he? Tough? Enduring? What sort of person? Frightened? What were you?

MM:     Well, I think my whole life is .. I'm first of all a workaholic, I was able throughout that period to work 20 hours a day without any idea of Saturdays or Sundays. I think I am in a sense, a very harsh driver of comrades, but I think that I managed to get away with that harshness in my driving comrades to work relentlessly, because I myself worked relentlessly and therefore they accept that authority. I think that I am also in another sense intolerant, because once decisions are made, I want them implemented. I am prepared to accept deviation from those decisions only when the evidence is accumulated that the decision has been implemented, sought to be implemented fully and when the evidence has accumulated that that decision is not satisfying the conditions, that otherwise I'm very harsh with that. I like to see [rigorous] implementation. I am .. I wouldn't like to say fearless, I think that what has happened is that I have learnt to conquer fear and in that sense I think that record, perhaps others are better able to speak to it, but I like to think that in all my work, I have shown a way, where my personal safety and concerns of my personal welfare are placed after the welfare and safety of others. And that is how when the Vula arrests took place, I chose, after thinking through the problem and consultations, that my task was to rescue and to ensure that the damage done to the Movement was limited and that the regime's tracks into us were broken and I think we did that effectively because my arrest was the last arrest and all that they had detained was a maximum of 16 people throughout the country.

HB:     What year was this?

MM:          This was last year. Was it last year?

HB:     1990.

MM:     And that they arrested no further cadres. That the only arms that they captured was the one training kit that they had captured in Durban and yet they have [excellent] records showing that we have brought in considerable amounts of hardware, they never found them. And that other comrades were very much hunted and whose identities they knew and who were in the country, survived throughout that period without being detained. So I think that the record does show that, given in that period, my objective was not to save myself but to save the organisation and the comrades involved.

HB:     When you were arrested, you then spent longer in jail than any of the other Vula people, is that right? What happened last year? Remind us?

MM:     Well, last year I was .. detentions had started in July, two comrades had been detained, around 6, 7, 8 July and then another group were detained on the 12 July and then Billy was detained round about 20 July.

HB:     Billy Nair?

MM:          Billy Nair and then I was detained on the 25 July.

HB:     And what happened to you? Where were you taken?

MM:     I was kept at Jan Vorster Square under interrogation and at Sandton Police Station, moved around various prisons, Piet Retief, Bellair, back to Johannesburg, then taken back to Durban.

HB:     But this was different from 64, in the sense that there was no 60 days of .. there was interrogation?

MM:     There was interrogation right from the day of arrest and without sleep etc. There were two occasions where I was assaulted, at Sandton Police Station, but as I say, those were minor compared to 64. The big difference is that I was detained this time with the full consciousness that I had a duty to perform in detention, if I was detained, and that is that I was going to protect the rganisation. I had a strong moral hand in, I knew what they knew, that is the security police, I knew what they didn't know and in detention I was able to confirm, by .. through the interrogation, what they didn't know and I was able then to use my detention to protect the Movement and head off the regime's direction of thinking in their investigations.

HB:     In what way?

MM:     Well, I was able to .. because I knew what they knew, I was able to lead them off the track, in many instances, where they were likely to tumble onto the tracks.

HB:     So you did talk to them? You didn't just refuse to answer?

MM:     Oh no, I took a different position this time. As I say, I had a strong hand, I knew that they knew that I was the commander of Vula so immediately when I was detained and subjected to interrogation, I said I was not prepared to talk, I was prepared to give a political explanation of what we were doing if the head of the security branch came.

HB:     And did he?

MM:     He came. He came the next morning but he was interested in a different problem. This was the 26 July. They obviously were working now on how to destroy the forthcoming meeting in August in Pretoria, they had found in my possession, the Resolution of the National Executive which had met on the 23 July, the Resolution guiding the delegation that would meet in Pretoria. So they had that in their possession from my briefcase and therefore I knew that there was a case that I could argue and that I would allege that they would misuse that information, so that is the burden of my discussion with General Basie Smith and his preoccupation was that they had noticed that we had penetrated the security branch at very high levels in various parts of the country and he was preoccupied with our sources and was even prepared at one stage, to trade sources with me. And again I had a strong hand because I said I'm not prepared to discuss the issue, until I'm free. But I said that you have to handle my detention very carefully because on the Government side, you know be careful of its implications for the possibilities of a negotiated solution.

HB:     You're saying that Umkhonto had actually penetrated the
security branch?

MM:     Yes! They had the reports, they had a number of reports showing .. from within the security branch, they knew that we had first-hand reports. The Weekly Mail exposures are not the first reports. We had developed consistent lines into the security branch. There was one newspaper report - I'm not saying whether it is true or not - but it certainly has a germ of truth, when the Sunday Times carried a front page article, to say that the police were looking for somebody by the name of [Moshek] because he's believed to be the controller of seven moles in the security branch in Natal. Now that's one newspaper exposure, clearly by a leak from the regime's side, when they had failed to capture Moshek. But I confirm that I did talk to Basie Smith - yes, we have infiltrated the security branch, but I'm not prepared to say where and who.

HB:     Then of course came the Pretoria Minute and the Umkhonto decision to suspend struggle. That didn't seem to affect the fact that you were still sitting in jail? I mean you sat in jail until when?

MM:     I was party to the decision on the 23 July of the National Executive that we would go to Pretoria offering a suspension of the armed struggle, so I knew that that offer was going to be made at Pretoria. I didn't know how my detention would affect that offer, but I was in detention throughout that period. On two occasions I met Nelson, he saw me at Sandton police station and he saw me at St David's Hospital, where I was hospitalised in Natal during my detention. That in itself was a move that defeated their desires. I think they thought that if they could get me out of hospital and back in detention, they would be able to work on me, but I was able to say to General Basie Smith, go and read your records of 64, what had been done to me, how I had been tortured, so that you should know that if you try those moves with me, there is no way you're going to succeed.

HB:     Do you think they are still torturing people in the same way that they were in 64? We're now in 1991?

MM:     I think that now it's become far less. I think that now .. at higher levels of ANC cadreship, they have to be a bit more sensitive about how they handle things, but I think in the Vula case, they ran into a major shock. And there was a shock reaction from their part in how they handled us in detention.

HB:     Shock reaction in what sense?

MM:     Well, they had never dreamt .. they had tumbled onto Vula and they had never dreamt that this move had been going on for two years. And they were shocked to realise the degree to which we had penetrated in the country.     They were therefore faced with a major problem of assessing how deep .. how did this take place and how deep was it? And it was basically an indictment of their own security forces, so that was a major shock for their system and I think that they were very nervous.

HB:     When were you finally released then?

MM:     I was finally brought to trial, I think in October. July, August, September, October, November .. I was brought to trial in November and they granted bail in December, so I had spent about three and a half months in detention.

ZM:     [CANNOT HEAR]

MM:     Ja, as I say, I was granted bail, we went to court several times., granted bail in December, back to court in January and the case dropped .. March.

HB:     There were reports that you were very miserable about your treatment by the ANC during this period?

MM:     No, I think that those reports are motivated by different things and complete .. consistenly ignoring of the facts. They are based on the fact that people became aware of my retirement in December, at the December Conference, the National Executive of the ANC did issue a statement, at that moment, to say that I had given notice in June of my retirement, that is one month before I was arrested. There had been an earlier notice that I'd given, from the underground, in writing, in March, that I would be retiring. Now these reports of my unhappiness are therefore .. completely cloud the issue and as the matter of course becomes difficult because I had never given my reasons. I had given my reasons in writing to the National Executive and I had said to the National Executive that they are free to give whatever political explanation because I do not intend my retirement, to be used by the regime or anybody else against the Movement. I have differences and issues that I feel very passionately about, but I'm not prepared to allow those issues to be used by anybody else against the struggle. Now my silence and the National Executive silence. has led to people to speculate what's all this about. And I think it is coupled with the fact that I'm a known communist. I've emerged inside the country in June as one of the people at the Press Conference, launching the Party. So I think tat that creates certain problems at a certain point. And therefore it gets wrapped up into questions of my unhappiness about my detention. It's not a problem. I've sat in jail for 12 years, I can sit for 20 years. My question is that all those issues, whether you sit in jail or in detention or whatever, is dictated by whether that is contributing to the struggle. I had met      Nelson on the 18 July, before my arrest, we had discussed     the whole thing. I had met him on the 19 July and he had gone and seen De Klerk. So we were discussing what to do. One of the factors was the possibility that I would be detained. Now I may differ, and others may have different views about how the detention should have been handled etc., as a separate question from being disgruntled or unhappy about the Movement - even now I may have differences with decisions we have taken, but I have to implement the decisions that we have taken, whatever my views. And that therefore is not a question of disgruntlement.

HB:     So you said you had announced your retirement to the NEC in March of last year ..

MM:          Yeh, and June, formally.

HB:     Yes, .. of 1990, but now in July 1991, you were elected back onto the NEC, so in other words you've decided not to retire?

MM:     Yes, I decided three days before the National Conference in Durban, to return to active politics, except (accept?) nomination, because I was confronted with a problem. Regions had nominated me independently of my wishes, I had been seen repeatedly by leading people to return, I had said no. But now here were the regions, grassroot structures, nominating me. I discussed the matter with Zarina, I remember it was a Wednesday at 11 o'clock, the week of the Conference, and she raised .. she alerted me to an interesting problem. I had given my reasons to the National Executive, the National Executive had not released those reasons.     To refuse to accept nomination, meant that I would leave the grassroots with no idea of why I had retired and completely confused. I could refuse the nomination, only if I went to give reasons to the membership. Now that is a different obligation and I could not withdraw.     [gap] .. all the time, of course.

HB:     I mean, here is this Scarlet Pimpernel retiring?

MM:     Yes, and I think that up to now, the problem with my whole retirement and the way it has gone through, one can always look back and see whether there weren't different ways to do things from all sides. The fact of the matter is that I don't think that the regime believed the story, the reality that I had retired.

ZM:     In fact, you used the word retired to avoid further problems for the movement. You didn't want to use the word "resignation". But effectively it was resignation. That would have provoked too many questions.

MM:     And I think that the regime side continued to believe that I was pulling some fast one. I think the membership in the Movement has also .. many of them, believed that my retirement was a ruse to mislead everybody and that I was still doing something on behalf of the Movement. The fact is it was a real retirement.

HB:     Did you feel ready to retire at the age of 55?

MM:     I don't think that's a major problem in terms of the concerns that I have. I said I'm a .. I've lived all these years as a fulltime activist, I don't know what it is to take up a paid job, I don't think I can take one up today. I remain a political animal. But aside ..and I believe that the prosecution of the struggle is the topmost item on the agenda, and its a very complex struggle, but at the same time, I believe that this is the time when the Movement has to address the questions such as the quality of the struggle. The quality of the society that emerges. I'm not so sure I'm not ahead of the times, because I think the preoccupation of everybody is to build the maximum unity and prosecute the struggle. And I think concerns about the quality, what comes hereafter, the society, is something that people are burying. I'm concerned with questions that don't immediately impinge on the agenda, but I believe that they should impinge now, because we should be learning from the experiences throughout the world, both of the anti-colonial struggles, of the socialist struggles, etc. Now I'm not so sure that those items are ready to be received at this moment.

HB:     No, I don't quite see how your resignation ties in with that? Do you feel any sense of conflict between your commitment to the struggle, whether you've resigned or not, and your position in the Communist Party?

MM:     No, I have not found any conflict. My position at the moment is that my retirement from the ANC has been withdrawn, I've gone back into activity. My position in the Party is that my retirement is still there. I've retired from the leading organs. There was a deep desire in me to remain an ordinary member. But life didn't allow me during my retirement, to remain an ordinary member. I was hoping that my retirement would be effected in such a way that after this Conference that the ANC held, people would accept the idea that I'm just going to be an ordinary member. It hasn't worked out that way. It would have given me the space to speak more freely. When I'm not in a leading organ. On issues that concern me. As a member to speak about it, to try and put them on the agenda. And not be accused or faulted of using privileged information from my membership of the leading organs. I think I still hanker for that. Because I think that there is a responsibility that belonging to the leading organs places on you. You have to distinguish between what you can talk about and how you use information that you get as a member of the leading organ, without breaking confidentiality etc. and discipline. I find that a problem now in life. I was able to speak from within the leading organs all these years. I'm not so sure I was sufficiently productive insofar as immediately prosecuting the struggle, I think yes I was productive where I headed missions like Vula. But on those other issues, I'm not so sure.

HB:     You seem to me to have emerged from 30 years of struggle, as a very strong person, capable, strong, sure of yourself and ready for fresh tasks? Is that a silly thing to say?

MM:     Yes, I'm .. once I withdrew my retirement and accepted standing for the National Executive, I'm ready for any tasks. I think I'm more directed in the way I want to use my energy but I .. the zest, the drive, is still there. It perhaps makes me a little more into .. I have become more visibly introspective to people because of the type of issues that agitate my thinking.

HB:     But as a member now of the National Executive of the African National Congress, you are not now a fulltime employee of the ANC, are you?

MM:     As of this moment, I am not a fulltime employee. What may happen in the future, I don't know, but I have led my life always on the basis that I do what the Movement asks-lie to do and I've always taken up tasks without regard to what it means to my personal circumstances, so much so that it has often, I think caused problems for Zarina and me to understand where we are going.

HB:     It seems to me that you are very well directed towards the next phase of negotiations and interim government?

MM:     Yes, I think its an issue that I remain intimately bound with because, as Vula, I think we played a very quiet but very significant part. We had opened communications with Nelson, we saw our role at that .. when those problems arose in the country, outside, to ensure that the movement moved in a uniform way, that no breaches would open up in our ranks, and I think that the Harare Declaration was the one document that the movement adopted with active and very rapid contact inside the country. We carried out that task and even from the under-ground, at that time, the issue that became buried for a long time, until now, the issue of interim government had already featured in the way we were working. So I remain … I'd like to think sensitized to the complexity of the resent phase of the struggle and I remain very confident that we have people within our ranks, who can meet the challenge of this moment.

HB:     Do you feel safe now? I mean, you've been granted indemnity, you presumably now have a South African passport of some sort? Do you feel safe? What have you got?

MM:     I don't have a passport as yet. They confiscated the one passport that I entered the country with, when they detained me, they haven't returned it as yet. It has expired, it's an Indian Government passport. I have applied for a South African .. they haven't yet given it to me, they only gave me an identity card the other day, after I had applied for it in December last year.

HB:     You have got your ID, which is a recognition of the fact that you are a South African citizen and there's very little they can about that?

MM:     I'm a South African citizen. But it hasn't bothered me because from the point of view that once they'd arrested me as Vula, they could do nothing to me. They could never kick me out. I don't care whether they give me citizenship or not. But from the point of view of personal danger, yes, I think the problem is there. It has been simmering. They had set up the scenario to assassinate me even while I was in hospital, in detention, but to make it look like it emulated from a group within the movement. And this was the security branch. I have said so to them. They made two efforts to assault me using criminal gangsters in Westville Prison. We went through that. After my release, my bail, there have been various indicators that they have been trying to act against me. I think they are constrained, they cannot act freely. But Zarina and I have discussed this problem. They put a bomb in my car.

HB:     When did they put a ..

MM:     This was in February, .. February, March ..

ZM:     .. and     the kids were here with him.

MM:          The kids were with me.

HB:     How did you find the bomb?

MM:     I found the bomb because it was .. they had to do a job that at one level was sophisticated but at the other level was unsophisticated, so that it would look like from within the movement. It was sophisticated in where they put it and when they put it and how they got access to the car that I was using. It was unsophisticated in the nature of the explosive device. It was based on cutting the top of radiator pipe, so that the engine heating would trigger off the ignitor of the bomb. Fortunately the car heated up before the bomb went off and I realised the car had heated. I was able to immediately have the car checked. They had tried. I believe that during the Hillbrow bomb, that night I was going to be detained again.

HB:     When was the Hillbrow bomb?

MM:     When did this take place? April. April, May, this bomb at Hillbrow, that blasted the restaurant. They had set me up for that, because my detention then would have been blazoned in the headlines "Mac Maharaj detained suspicion of these bombs". We hadn't done it, but they wanted to lock me up to get the political mileage. I believe that bomb in Hillbrow was planted from within the regime's circles. Whether knowingly at the top or unknowingly, I think at a certain level, the security forces, they knew and that they hoped to arrest me. They had done a lot of things that night. It is the fact that I had ..

ZM:     .. come here as well, checking us and .. that night, before the bomb went off. Then while he was at Hillbrow they came and parked outside, had our house under observation and he was in Hillbrow at the chemists and I phoned him at the chemists and said don't come home, they're waiting outside. Two hours before that, they'd actually come into our house on the pretext that they needed to use the telephone, so it was all very, very funny that night and, as Mac says, had he not been in Hillbrow and had an alibi that he was with other people, they would have blamed him that night.

HB:     Mac, you sound singularly un-sort of paranoid, un apprehensive, you sort of accept that this is all just part of the Pimpernel role that you have played?

MM:     Well .. I even applied for a firearm through the ANC to the government in December and I went and saw the head of the liaison officer of the security branch working with the negotiation side, and fifteen applications went in, fourteen were granted, mine was refused and it's still refused. Now the problem is different here that a) it's easy to become paranoid - where does that lead one? I think that this is a government and its security forces and elements within the security forces, if one wants to be diplomatic, are such that they can only do things when they feel they enjoy the protection of the state and they have the space. And I believe that

End of second side, beginning of third

HB:     What month was this car bomb?

MM:          May, I think. April, May.

ZM:     No, I got back at the end of March, it was on Mother's day in England, because I phoned you that day. But it wasn't day here [South Africa].

MM:          That was February, March.

HB:     So you took the car to the garage, they found the bomb.

MM:          No, to a private person.

HB:     And they found the bomb and dismantled it?

MM:          Ja. Ja.

HB:     Now, what have you done? You haven't reported this to the police? Why not?

MM:     Why must I report it to them? They're doing the job. I mean the only reason why I have to go there is to have a face to face discussion and say, look gentlemen, if these are the rules of your game, then it's easy for us to play the same rules. But we are not playing those rules. We want a negotiated solution. But if you want to force those rules, I happen to be a person whose background is such that if I wanted, as an individual, to go along bombing security branch cars, I can do it. Its not a problem for me. But it doesn't take the struggle anywhere.

HB:     Haven't we all been, to some extent, hardened and brutalised by the struggle, as they have forced us into it?

MM:     I had .. although I am conscious of the brutalisation in myself, I never, never deviated from matching every action I take with a political decision, what is politically right. I have said to the security branch, and they know it, that on two occasions that they know, they captured a house in Durban, in Reservoir Hills, what were we hearing in the underground? They videoed people walking in and out of that place. They waited to kill us there. We slipped away. We knew where they were stationed, we could have killed them. Then came a house in Chatsworth, three of their top officers, including a captain, entered that building and sat there for 30 days, waiting to us to walk in. We discussed every option of what to do. One of the options was that we could not turn it into an ambush of them and we could have killed three officers and got away. We politically opted not to do that and quietly melted away from the scene. And let them capture equipment in that house and leave it.

HB:     So you have been tough, but you don't feel that you yourself, as we progress towards a better South Africa, have been actually turned into a brutal rough and violent person?

MM:     No, I think I've never moved into an anarchist position. I've remained a very collective-minded person, but above all I remain .. even above the collective-mindedness, I think I remain politically directed in my thoughts and my actions.

HB:     So violence, as a necessity?

MM:     Violence as a necessity, violence as a feasible part and not individual violence, but organised armed struggle, is a different category from violence. I do not even use the word violence, because I think violence permeates all our lives and each of us, as individuals in different ways, are violent. I think there is very little difference between a person who unthinkingly and brutally kicks a little puppy dog, and a person who slaps a child, or a person who abuses the personality of an adult human being, verbally abuses, I think there very little differences, I think they are all violence. And I don't believe in violence. I believe that things like armed struggle are different from violence. And then I would have to say I'm anti-war. I'd have to condemn the Second World War, I'd have to condemn the First World War, I'd have to condemn the American War of Independence and I'd have to condemn the French Revolution, if I just equated all those with just violence.

HB:     I think one of the reasons I asked the question is not only because you have been so active in Umkhonto we Sizwe, but also because for myself, coming back to South Africa, it seems to me it's a place where people turn to the gun, the stick, the whip, as readily as most people turn to speech. And that this cuts .. goes all the way across society. In other words, this nationalist regime with its terrible violence, that in a sense I wonder if we haven't all been brutalised by it to some extent, that's all?

MM:     Yes, I accept that point of view. I accept that point of view, and I'm saying it is precisely that recognition that makes me a person who tries to square his individual conduct and his personal conduct, with his beliefs. I think even in my family, when I react in a brutal way, it affects me. And for a long time after that, I try to say to myself, I have acted wrongly, I have to change my behaviour. Now, I don't .. I believe that may be happening with me, I don't think it happens with many people. I think people unthinkingly slip into this atmosphere of brutality in this country. I think it's a brutal country. I think apartheid and white rule, not just apartheid, has brutalised not only the oppressed, it has brutalised the oppressor. And I think a way has got to be found out of it. But I would not hesitate to support an organised political decision to engage in armed forms of activity, if the political moment required that.

HB:     Let's get the reaction of Zarina to this because you've now known Mac since you met him in Mozambique in when?

ZM:     1978.

HB:     Do you think he's been brutalised by his part in the struggle?

ZM:     No, in fact, over the years that Mac's been involved in Vula and even a little before that, I detected a change in him. I think Mac's concern with morality, to use phrase because I can't put it in another way, his concern that politics and morality no loner mix well and he's concerned to bring them together, was one of the motivations for his having left the Movement recently. I think that Mac has become more sensitive as a person over the last few years, in     my opinion, more humane and more concerned with how     people are affected by actions such as he engaged in.

HB:     So this could have something to do with his resignation from the SACP as well?

ZM:     Absolutely, but I don't think he wants to talk about it, I don't know if I'm stepping over lines, but ... the dogma of the SACP, to which he has been .. I mean he has been a devoted member of that organisation for decades, has even got to him.

MM:     But let's be fair, Beata is asking about your impressions of me. I think that from your side, you do have a perception of me as a very cold-blooded person.

ZM:     No .. at one level, yes. But not at another level. I mean it takes some commitment for Mac, who's absolutely devoted to the children and to me, to have come into South Africa in 1987 knowing that he might never come out alive. And one of the ..

MM:     But it takes a commitment from you to have agreed to my coming .

ZM:     Absolutely! That I don't deny, I mean. We discussed it and I felt there was no other way forward but for him to come as Vula's commander and I don't regret that decision, although it half killed us as a family and the children went through a very bad phase as a result and are still recovering. I don't think at that moment we had a choice and I'm actually glad he did it. But just to answer your question, I felt Mac was much colder, more cold-blooded before he was exposed to working inside this country underground with people, the sort of people he's been working with. I think he's become more sensitive, more humane and that has contributed to his falling out, if.. I shouldn't actually use the phrase, because you want to keep it all nice with the organizations because he feels there's actually no morality in the individual actions of people and that that should be built in now and not as a separate phase after we've gained liberation.

HB:     You said he was more cold-blooded outside? It was as though he was divorced from the reality of things inside South Africa, when he was planning things outside, and being confronted with the actual situation is what's helped to humanise him?

ZM:     Yes, possibly. Outside South Africa he was absolutely obsessed with coming back in and his whole thinking was dominated by that . Every action was dominated by that and he became a bit remote. And     in that sense, cold and distant, but one he got in and actually unleashed all that feeling in him and was able to carry out all those actions and implement all the decisions that were taken in Lusaka and so on, then he changed, as I'm concerned.

HB:     Maybe Hilda is right, this fierce determination to get back into South Africa could be partly a sense of his exile from South Africa, not just his political [belief]. Maybe he did feel a bit of an exile?

ZM:     Well, at the risk of contradicting. him, I would say that in Lusaka there was a phase, around 1983 to 85 when I felt that he was suffering from exile. In Rhodes Park, after Milou was born and that there was …. but I may be wrong in saying that he was suffering from exile. I may be saying things that I shouldn't be saying which are rather sensitive, but he was so disillusioned with the leadership in Lusaka and you were part of that leadership that at certain points, you felt that the struggle was never going to move, with people sitting outside and doing nothing and concerned how many cars each department has got and how much allowance each individual gets and so on, that was the main concern in Lusaka. And I think 83 up to about 86, I felt that Mac really needed to do something. That it wasn't enough to be coming to Lesotho and Botswana and traveling to the Soviet Union and the GDR and going on these missions .. all disjointed. It's as if there was a lot of activity but no action. That's how I've seen a lot of work that the movement was doing in Lusaka. A lot of activity but no action.     Buzzing around very busily, catching planes, going to meetings, addressing this and that, and nothing happening! It's only when we came inside, that we could see that at last something was happening and that kind of .. because it fulfilled him. Ja. It thawed him, it mellowed him, I think.

HB:     Part of exile for a lot of political activists was sitting on their bum?

ZM:     This is it. And using the movement as a begging bowl I mean I'm very critical but I don't want to come out that way, but yes, a lot of people went out and posed as politicals and in fact have never really done anything.

MM:     Well, Zarina puts it in a different way and I think in a far better way, in different discussions with me, even in Lusaka, she was observing and made observations about the changes that we were bringing about in our membership and cadreship unconsciously. She raised with me because she stayed at homes where I was busy with people coming from within the country and going back and she said, you are making people lose their initiative because everything ….they become dependent. When they've got a headache and they need to go to the clinic of the ANC, they don't go, they wait for transport. When they want food, even if they've got a plot of land in the house they are living in, they don't want to plant tomatoes, they want tomatoes delivered. And she said, what was happening here, is that at every level the initiative was being destroyed, for understandable reasons. But she was saying, this is the type of cadreship that you are developing and she was saying that this was one of the byproducts of exile life and I would admit that and yet, disagree with that. Because I would say, what else can we do if we are not to lose sight of the need to get to grips with the struggle inside the country. If we then became preoccupied with getting people to do gardening and exercising some initiative, people wouldn't move to the head office to go and work unless transport took them. They wouldn't take a bus and the same thing was penetrating people's lives all over.

ZM:     Everything had to be laid on in exile. Everything had to be laid on. Food, transport, entertainment, and one began to wonder why people were really in the movement, if that was the main objective, to have an easy life.

MM:     But I think that from my point of view, when you raise it in that way, from the point of view of an exile dynamic, when I look back, there was .. there were periods in prison also when I chaffed against my imprisonment, I wanted to escape and I make plans repeatedly to escape. I know that when I was about 35 years old in prison, I suddenly felt, I went through a period of tremendous mental ennui, because I felt that I was losing the best years of my life, when I was at the peak of my mental abilities, and I am a person of….had been a person of [Catholic] interest, very wide interests.. Now .. but I think that the framework of that, I still .. I react against the exile concept because I was reacting against that phenomena that Zarina says .. As I say, I never registered as a refugee anywhere.

HB:     But I was really .. what we're talking about is how you actually felt inside. Its not a question of whether you were dependent on handouts or anything like that, it's a question of how you felt inside? I felt like an exile for a long time, when we went to Britain, and quite clear that consciously you didn't. But Zarina is suggesting that maybe unconsciously you were actually responding in that way. That it was linked to action, which is a very healthy thing but that ..

MM:     So when I'm bringing in that concept .. and I'm saying is that for me, my framework, my frame of reference has been slightly different. I have always accepted, once I saw the need in the mid-fifties and I was opposed to at a certain stage, to the non-violent struggle. By about 55 I was chaffing against non-violence. I felt it 'had become a principal line of action. I'm saying that I     divide in my framework, terrains of struggle. For me when I am detained, detention is a terrain of struggle with a different set of rules. So I don't ee it as something that is just holding me. When I am in prison, I saw prison as a terrain of struggle. So I don't feel I'm now powerless. When I was asked to go out of the country, again I saw it as a terrain of struggle but I was fortunate, I actually told the National Executive when I arrived in Lusaka, they were meeting and they interrupted to receive me, and they asked me to say a few words,. I didn't reveal to them because my mission was directly to OR, so I simply said, and OR knew that I'm on a mission, but he called me into the NEC meeting, welcomed me and asked me to say a few words. I said, comrades I'm here, I didn't reveal the tasks, I've been sent out on tasks, I will do them but I just want to say one thing. Whatever you decide, don't deploy me in international work. And I make a joke of it, in the context of the expelled Group of Eight. I said, if you do that to me, what I will do is I will lead a one-man rebellion, I'll expel all of you, but I will be alone so that nobody can expel me. But I'm not going to accent international deployment. So it's again a terrain and when I was given internal work, it became a terrain.

HB:     Well, it seems to me that one of the ways you avoided feeling like in exile, is because your life has been based on action and activity whether you were in prison or out of prison. Your prime assumption was that you were working for the movement, so in a sense, if you were behind bars, it was slightly irrelevant and in that sense, you have also avoided some of the worst pitfalls of being in prison and being in exile, because your whole philosophy has been based on doing. And so coming back to South Africa, may have been more in conjunction with doing than with exile?

MM:          Ja.

ZM:     Definitely.

MM:     And because I had felt that [CANNOT HEAR] in the movement's work is .. I think that the South African movement is in a certain sense unique in its capacity to make very good .. to take very good decisions and very good analysis and interpretation, but its capacity to implement is a very large problem. And I have always wanted .. I have always resisted separating my intellectual theoretical development from work of practical prosecution of the struggle. Even today .. yesterday we were talking about Zarina's studies, and she was saying how she feels like just engaging in the theoretical side of her studies, and I said, but [Boxie], if you lose contact with the concreteness of it, your theoretical development will be one-sided.

HB:     What are you studying now that you're back from exile?

ZM:     Oh, its a long story. My background is in mathematics and computer science, but having been through the last five years of turmoil in our lives and having had a severe road accident in Zambia when Mac     was underground in the country, and gone to England with the children, I decided to do something totally different and I was accepted by Sussex University to do a course in Gender and Development studies and this is what I'm doing now. But its really .. I don't know where it's taking me, I just needed a break from fulltime work.

HB:     Is it an undergraduate course?

ZM:     No, it's a post-graduate course. In fact, I don't even know .. I don't need the degree, because I've got a post-graduate degree anyway but I'm doing it because it was the only course that I wanted to do, I'm interested in gender issues and I'm doing it because they allow…they call it a bridging course. It's for an undergraduate from any discipline, or even a post-graduate, to come and do this course, in order to do further studies, and that's why I'm doing it.

HB:     You're both leading active, energetic and fulfilled lives?

MM:     Maybe at this stage, given the way my life has moved, I cannot say it is reasonably fulfilling. Only for one reason, in that my willingness to serve in the struggle is at a point where I cannot independently decide on the path that I want to take. There are a number of ...

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.