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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Jele, Joe [Notes]

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Conducted by Howard Barrell,

Lusaka, 17.8.89

1. Early training by Soviets and others of ANC cadres involved significant amount of training in mobile and semi-conventional warfare. Soviet advice to Chinese on upgrading struggle from guerilla warfare to mobile warfare relevant to this. Joe was trained in Odessa.

2. Wankie Campaign with Zapu, 1967. There was tendency to want to use mobile-type warfare, warfare of position. Ground had not been properly prepared politically, unsustainable. Enemy was very powerful; none of ANC people got through to SA.

3. At same time as Wankie campaign, there was similar attempt by ANC cadres to get through Mozambique into SA. They fought together with Frelimo. Two ANC units of about three men each, one in Niassa province, other in Cabo Delgado (Jele in former). None got through to SA. Again, political ground had, at that stage, not been properly prepared by Frelimo.

4. In 1967, there was Military High Command, in a sense a carry over from old MHC which had existed inside SA headed by first Mandela, then Wilton Mkwayi. The external MHC was headed by Joe Modise as commander, Moses Mabhida as Political Commissar and Zola Zyembe as Chief of Operations.

5. At Morogoro Conference, there was bitter debate over reasons for failure in Wankie. Realised lack of political preparation was crucial. It had been felt up till then that MK was going to be some sort of army which would march into SA. MHC, which had continued up to Morogoro, is disbanded at Morogoro. RC is created there, an integrated structure, with integrated "senior organs" in other centres. Military represented by a military administration. There is no Military HQ.

6. RC chairman is Tambo; deputy is Dadoo. Joe Matthews is first secretary of the RC. His successor is Mabhida, with Mbeki as assistant secretary in charge of administration. Thabo's successors are Makana, then Cassius Make. Mabhida's successor as RC secretary is Nkadimeng (under whom Make serves as assistant secretary in charge of administration).

7. The form of military command then changes shortly after the Soweto Uprisings in 1976. An "Operations Unit", in effect a military command, charged with giving emphasis to military work, is set up. Headed by Joe Modise, with Joe Slovo, as deputy.

8. Problems of parallelism starts with the formation of this "Operations Unit". But is initially not serious problem. It starts armed propaganda campaign. Political section says this is mistaken way of going about armed struggle: no use sending people into the country to blow up Sasol or assassinate traitors; point is to get the workers at Sasol or other elements to do the job from inside the country. There is, says political, wastage of unnecessary time on surveillance etc, infiltration of professional guerillas, whereas it more sensible and "economical" in the broad sense to get the people in place to do it. More serious charge from the political is that this form of armed action is sidelining political preparations; encouraging people merely to wait to be liberated by professionals from outside. People are waiting for the "big bang"; they are not being encouraged to involve themselves in their own liberation. Military response is that involving mass of people in this form of activity not possible because of lack of political base (because political side has not been doing its work); armed propaganda is necessary to encourage atmosphere in which political mobilisation can take place. Military also argue that they cannot move beyond armed propaganda phase because of lack of mass political work, although they want to move beyond it. They cannot wait for political preparation; they must maintain series of military strikes. Political argues that military side must come under political guidance at every point: such and such form of military activity necessary in X area now for Y reason; armed propaganda of current type not suitable. Problem also that political units and political work being endangered by autonomous contact being made by military units, operating under separate command; no coordination. Political arguing

9. Next change comes in 1983, when PMC is first created. Parallelism here is entrenched. There is separate Military HQ and Political HQ, with two distinct lines of command/directive to separate Military and Political Committees in the forward areas. There is no coordination except at PMC level. Military arguing that this separation necessary in order to enable security of military operations; because soldiers need commands, not directives which allow debate etc. In addition, new possibilities for military work from Zimbabwe, etc, necessitate re-establishment of military command. Modise is commander, Slovo Chief of Staff, Hani commissar.

10. Repeatedly in build-up of problem of parallelism, relative weakness of political personnel in Political HQ, relative to heavyweights from military, is factor militating against integration. Additional factor is illusion of advance caused by "big bang syndrome". Political have Jele, Zuma (who is away mainly in Mozambique) and Florence Mophosho, an old lady mainly tasked with work on women's mass organisations inside country.

11. But, in early 1984, there is seminar of the political committees in Maputo, who say it is absolutely vital for there to be integration at every level. Later seminar of military committees in Luanda comes up with same opinion, particularly those military cadres with experience inside the country, who argue that they cannot survive inside the country without help and work of political.

12. As a result, an integrated structure set up in early 84 (or is it late 1983). Former political HQ and Military HQs are disbanded. They are transformed into military and political "processing units". Second major feature is establishment of more powerful secretariat through which all communications must go to secretary of RPMCs which have also just been created in forward areas. RPMC secretaries then distribute commands or directives to military or political structures in forward area concerned. Third major feature is that individual senior military or political men are placed in charge of a particular forward areas, where this individual is responsible for the success of both political and military work for that area. Modise is in charge of Zimbabwe, Maharaj of Botswana, Jele in Lesotho, Kasrils (?) in Swaziland, Slovo (?) in Maputo. Nhlanhla is head of secretariat at the time.

13. But, mistakenly, political are forced to concede a degree of flexibility to military again. Kabwe Conference endorses fully integrated approach, but a Military HQ is again established in about August-September of 1984. Military argue that armed campaign flagging in midst of uprisings; urgent military action needed. Again parallelism is re-established. It continues like this until end of 1986.

14. Changed back to semi-integrated structure in recent period.

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.