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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Kasrils, Ronnie [Second Interview]
Conducted by Howard Barrell,
Johannesburg, September 13 1990.
Can you tell me about the daily routine in an MK camp, an account of a "day in the life of an MK cadre in about 1978?
OK, I'll first tell you that I've been in camps from 1963 to 1986 and the daily routine didn't alter that much. There's kind of a very set approach. In saying this, I
don't mean we just had our minds in the past. But it was pretty similar right through the period of time. First of all, early rising. I would say 5am.
How were the chaps woken up?
With some kind of bell system when the security situation allows. When the security situation is not in accordance with that, when it's rather sensitive, then, of course, the man on duty (which can be a woman of course) - there's always a staff on duty - will see to it that comrades are woken up through a structure. So, 5am start - we are talking about camps in hot climates, from Tanzania to Angola, parts of northern Mozambique (where we had a camp for some time), Zambia and the like. So about 5am, comrades are woken up and the first item is morning exercise, colloquially called jimming. It comes from the Xhosa-Zulu Gijima, which is to run. So you jim. And the comrades would put on for this purpose a sporting attire, basically a track suit with soft running shoes. And the morning exercise routine would be about half an hour, fairly light exercise. It could vary from 30 to 45 minutes. But let's say, approximately 30 minutes, fairly light exercises followed by a 15-20 minute run. So there has always been a little bit of a debate about that between the hardened militarist sergeant types who like to really work people. We've never had excesses. For example, I can't think of a fatality in the entire period of MK from 63 of somebody actually dying of exhaustion, or passing out. But there have been certain physical training instructors and commanders who liked to extend it to 45 minutes, maybe an hour, and go in for some heavy stuff. But then, those of us in leadership, in MK command, have always been rather scientific in the approach, to ensure that first of all it depends on how trained the comrades are, how fit - that one has got to look at them from that point of view. So that, new arrivals from home - it should not be more than 30 minutes of exercising. Those that are battle-hardened and trained, and might be being prepared for combat operations, long-term in the bush, etc, that will be a much harder routine. There's always been a little bit of a debate on this. And at times, I know, I have been in camps where I have said, No, I think the comrades are being worked too hard. So,. let's say, it's approximately 30 minutes. Which then gives them another 30 minutes for washing, ablutions, tidying their quarters, getting ready for the day, which will start with breakfast at 6 am.
Now, we have had a variety of camps, some very well established, main training centres, we've had other smaller camps. So there can be a bit of variety. But, generally, the breakfast with a bell signal will be in a mess area, which will be under camouflage conditions and under roofing, where as many as 500 will have their breakfast over a period of an hour. And that breakfast - again depending on supplies, could be on the meagre side, or it could be substantial. Generally, quite good breakfasts, except in periods where we have been under stress in terms of lack of supplies and great difficulties in an area where a camp is. But I can think in terms of breakfasts which consist of porridge with plenty of sugar, tea, bread with jam. From there, the comrades go and prepare themselves for their first lectures and classes of the day which will start at 7,30am. And these will go through till about 3pm. So, we are talking approximately of something like, say, an eight hour study day. And that will mean 8 classes of 50 minutes each with 10 minute breaks. And theses classes can be as little as, say, two sessions. In other words, two hour sessions or three, or four or six. At the most six hours. There will never be a day where you just have the one subject for the eight hours. Generally, the day would consist of about three subjects in which you are dealing with them in periods of three hours, three hours and two hours.
Now, those subjects would consist of lectures, theory, as well as practicals. So, what are the subjects? The main course - and again, it has changed over the years, but certainly the Angola period, the period 76 onwards - would be basically a basic six month training course for brand new trainees, the greenhorns. And the subjects covered would be as follows: firearms, explosives, sabotage (often just referred to as engineering), tactics
What sort of tactics would those be? Battle tactics?
Sure, battle tactics. Exactly. Ambush, raids, skirmish lines, defence, attack, camouflage and so on. So, tactics, topography, politics, military combat work - although that would be a specialised subject at a later date as well.
Not at basic stage?
No, there could be some aspects of it. Marching drill, and physical training/self defence/unarmed combat. OK. Just switch that off, I want to think a while.
(break in tape)
Did nobody break for lunch?
Lunch, depending on the climatic conditions, could be between one and two; or it could be after 3,30pm. You could say there's a break for lunch between 1 and 2, and then two hours afterwards - we can work out the arithmetic, whether I'm talking sense. Right, lunchtime would be the substantial meal of the day. Under good conditions, there could be soup and some rice, some vegetable, and perhaps three times in the week meat, "inyama". Have you heard of the cult of "inyama". In the ANC, there's the cult of "inyama". Because, when I say meat three times a week, I'm talking about red meat. I was in a camp and, for three months, I was eating various tinned substances, including bully beef, and quite good sausage meat. And the comrade once said, We haven't had meat for months. And I said, We are having meat every day. And he said, You call this meat? It's not meat. It's out of a tin! If It comes out of tin it's not meat (laughter). OK, so, say meat about three times in the week. And therefore it means that on other days you could have some tinned fish or it could be tinned ham or sausage meat or beef. Perhaps in good conditions, twice perhaps three times a week, maybe some tinned fruit. And again, on other occasions, depending on the time of the year, some perhaps, banana, paw-paw, lemon, orange. So, at times, you could be eating pretty well. Of course, the ubiquitous cup of tea with the meal, always. And a lot of rice. But the meals could vary a lot. Because, if supplies weren't coming in you might find for a week that you'd basically be eating rice with a bit of tinned veg, like maybe some carrot and peas from a tin, with perhaps on a couple of days a bit of sardine. Tinned meats, tinned foods coming from many different countries. For instance, there's a certain food called Mao tse Tung - you can imagine where that fish comes from. There's a certain tinned meat called Mugabe, so you can imagine where that bully beef comes from. Bulgaria, the Soviet Union, East European countries in the main, but also from solidarity movements, particularly Finland, Norway, Sweden, Holland - a lot of very good foods. I can remember us gorging ourselves on tuna fish for quite a long period, and on one occasion I remember I met in Angola, the key people from the Netherlands Africa Committee. And he had asked what they could provide, and I'd just been in the camp for the first time for about three months and was really aching for something like raisins, nuts, and you know, within a couple of months, we got a huge consignment. By the way, Italy also provided a lot of stuff. So, tinned foods, spaghetti and so on - there was that kind of variety. But feeding 500, say a thousand people in one country, they're really consuming an enormous amount and we are providing foods for, say, local peasants whom we were assisting, maybe bartering food with them for fruit. And, therefore, there have been plenty of times when suddenly you have a lean period, and you are basically down to rice, rice, rice. And in the morning, maybe just tea and bread and jam, if you are lucky. And in the evening just tea again. And, if that goes on for two or three weeks, people start getting rather irritable. The ANC logistics department did fantastic work and Treasury did fantastic work on foodstuffs, moving stuff.
So, the evenings, basically, would be a lighter meal. And then - now that's about 7pm. I'll come to what happened in the afternoon. So evening it would be tea - of course, in Angola for some time, we could get coffee as well, as you know, big problems in Angola with the coffee. So, normally tea. On some occasions, powdered fruit juices which went down quite well, and very often, depending on the fruits available, the making of lemon juice which would also be very refreshing in that climate. The question of augmenting the camp diet by hinting, fishing and collecting of fruits - going right back to man's early stages. This was gone in for, as well as cultivation. I think one of our weaknesses is that we had basically townspeople - this meant that not enough cultivation was ever done. We were always trying at a programme of getting cultivation going. That was, I think, our biggest weakness. Hunting is much more difficult than it sounds, particularly if you're in a camp with hundreds of people and there are skirmish lines and firearms practices and the like. There are not so many animals around; they give you a wide birth. In fact, it's pretty tough going. But, of course, hunting takes place often in difficult periods, we would send hunting parties off, to go perhaps 20, 30kms away, come back hopefully with some buck, zebra, that kind of game. In some places, comrades were very good in terms of fishing, and I was one of a group of individuals who developed a great fondness for "makaku", or "mfeni" as we call it in South Africa, which is monkey. Which is quite delicious, particularly if you innovate. It tends to look a bit like stringy mutton. If you got some chillie around - and our comrades go for it, we would always grow chillie - a bit of curry powder, and you'd get a very nice curry going. But this wouldn't really be for the whole camp. They're pretty small blighters, and you might find that the command level, there may be a bit of a feast on a couple of monkeys.
Generally, the command structure ate the same as the ranks. And we were very kind of strict to ensure that. But then there are certain differences because, at command level, people are there sometimes, two, three, five years - whereas comrades come and they are in the camp for six months, a year: you've got to realise that those who are actually part of the permanent structure, I think are entitled to have a slightly better living standard. But there is no very big gulf. We've got into the dieting, rather than the daily routine, but should be continue?
I want to actually go on. Would you have a news bulletin during the day at all?
Yes. Oh yes, I forgot. So, in the morning, after breakfast, comrades go and organise their preparations for studies, which means getting their books and things. They then fall in as a detachment. There can be an address by the camp commander, some announcements, and then there's a news bulletin - latest news, information. There's always an information department in the camp, with maybe three or four comrades working fulltime and listening to all the news bulletins and receiving printed material which tends to be late. So it's mainly through the radio, and they would compile a report from radio information and this would be presented for approximately about ten minutes, fifteen minutes, with our interpretation. And then the comrades would go off to their various classes in platoon units - so a platoon is about 30 comrades - and that is how they would study, as a platoon.
And what kind of structures are the comrades living in?
They are living as a platoon, everything is as a platoon.
In what physical structures?
They are living in some cases where the camp is overcrowded, or where we had not yet developed its infrastructure properly, they would live in tents.
Quite big tents?
No, sort of ten man tents. For a section. So, a platoon would have its three tents. People would live as a section with a section commander, a commissar - so a platoon was broken down that way. Other structures would be a more permanent fixture, built for safety against aerial bombardment and attack, and that would mean cutting a square in the ground at least two metres so that, if you are standing in it, it is higher than your head, and this would even be cemented. And then, above that, you could actually have canvas with camouflage over it. But, in the main, especially in the period post-80, when South Africa began attacking us and there were possibilities of aerial bombardment, the superstructure would consist of logs - we would fell the trees - and the logs would be placed, possibly even with tin under them, but in a particular way so as to reinforce the bomb proof capacity of that dugout, within entrenchments leading into it, and steps going down into it through this trench system. So, pretty safe, solid, with canvas above that as well, by the way, for drainage purposes and camouflage. So actually, quite pleasant, quite cool. And, within that wood be beds, iron-frame beds with mattresses - we had developed the set-up to that degree. This is within a well-organised. Of course, in other situations, you could have comrades sleeping on tents on what are basically called sponges, and that is basically a kind of foam rubber, sleeping on that, or on the kind of bedding rolls that people use for the beaches. I remember the Danes, the Dutch, the Scandinavians contributed a lot of that. It was quite comfortable actually. And, of course, adequate bedding, and pillows and the like. Comrades would keep their personal belongings under their beds. So, this is how and where they slept.
This central permanent structure in a camp: Would this be also where people had their meals? Or would it just be a place for sleeping, a kind of bunker?
No, all these places around the camp, under camouflage, in woods, quite dispersed from each other. So a camp of 500 people would cover several square miles. With their own particular entrenchments and fall-in areas, but with a main, central place where there would be a parade ground, the dining room, quarters like that. The classes would be all over the place, depending for safety purposes and depending on the activity.
OK, so you've got the theoretical classes where we are using blackboards and pretty rudimentary materials, definitely under a shelter, sometimes built with a lot of ventilation, with a canopy
Just a roof thing?
Yes. There's be a class, maybe built out of logs, with part of it open so there is good ventilation, with a roof on the top.
A logged roof. And sometimes under trees with a bit of canvas and stools, of course, very rough, rudimentary stuff. Very often benches, made from logs.
Did MK people build these things?
Oh yes, the comrades - breaking open a new camp you'd have ( I did this in Quibashe, which is north east of Luanda in September 1977; 30 of us went there and with you know, pangas and cleared the place, organised the camp; and later about 250 comrades came; we used initially tents). Very often in Angola, we based our camps on an old deserted colonial farm and these were actually very useful because you would find that kind of farm had some houses for the owner, for the manager and so on, which would be used as command posts. Very often there were workers' barracks and maybe also ablution blocks which we could use. We would clear them out and clean them, make them much more comfortable. And use those blocks for sleeping. But even a big farm wouldn't have more than a hundred workers for coffee harvesting and so on. But, in such cases, we would be able to make use of the structures for classrooms as well, or for logistics, storage places, etc. And some of these old, abandoned farms would have watchtowers, very romantic, where you could organise the command post and maybe the camp administration command, and half a dozen people would be sleeping there.
How big would your command staff be in relation to your trainees?
There was always a central administration, with a camp commander, commissar and staff which would be about eight to ten key people: personnel officer, chief instructor, ordinance, logistics, communications, chief of staff, and so on. And then under them, under the chief instructor, you'd have, depending on the size of the camp (never more than 500 trainees in a camp; sometimes a smaller camp of about 200 would have a smaller command staff, but let's talk about the basic camp of 500), you'd have about 20-25 instructors, of course specialising in the subjects mentioned. Then, under each of those people with their portfolio, the ordinance chief is going to have half a dozen people working under him - he's got his arsenal there, place where the equipment is stored and so on. Of course, there's also a transport chief for every camp, who'll have under him, for a camp like that, maybe three trucks, two jeeps and drivers and a maintenance man or two. Then the political commissar will have the commissariat, usually taken from the trainees themselves. Perhaps he would have three permanent commissars of each company under him, and they would have commissars from the trainees, you know from the platoons, the platoon commissar, the section commissar and the like.
Can we move on? Time is getting short. What happens after 3.30pm when lessons are over?
So, lessons end, comrades have rest, a siesta for an hour or so until the afternoon wears out and it starts getting a bit cooler. Then there are certain duties, labour duties - there's a lot that has to be done. The comrades participate. If there's cultivation, some will go into the fields and cultivate from four to six. Others will be involved in fetching water, fetching wood. These are the key things. That means it will be rotated. Some of the platoons will simply be told they can rest from four to six, four-thirty to six, maybe twice a week, which is quite nice. But there is this duty that is taking place. The will have rested at least for an hour before. Clearing the camp, cleaning, developing, building new structures - there's always development taking place, fixing the roads, terrible problems with them given the rain and so on, always having to be improved. So this is the kind of activity taking place then. By about five, that kind of time - this labour would have been about an hour or so - by about five, comrades again are free. And you will find them now doing certain sports training, going for runs, kicking a football around - although there will be special days for the games. Which will be on the Saturday and Sunday, and maybe Wednesday afternoon, sports training. But, the other afternoons, a little bit of running and sports training of that kind. Which will then bring the comrades to the seven o'clock dinner. After dinner, 8 o'clock, the camp is very busy. 11 o'clock is lights out, on a signal. And, in those three hours, comrades will be involved in studying. So, study will involve going over, revising, what they have looked at that day - like in a school where you have prep. But you also have at the same time other activities taking place like the cultural groups may be rehearsing songs or theatre; there might be some special classes in politics for those who are more advanced and going through some special advanced preparation in politics because these are comrades who might be singled out as being potential future instructors or as political organisers in the country. The commissariat may be meeting - maybe all the commissars are called together for a meeting to discuss some future national event and they are beginning to prepare the programme. There are bulletin boards. Every company must have a daily paper, or a weekly paper, rather; so you might find comrades working on that. Yet others will be busy dealing with art, an art group. There's a lot of relaxation as well. There will always be a games room, with chess and others, monopoly, scrabble, these are popular games.
Monopoly as well?!
Yes, scrabble and chess are the most popular - chess first, followed by scrabble - there used to be debate in the early period as to whether monopoly is a game which should be played (laughter). So, quite a range of board games and the Dutch anti-apartheid groups were wonderful in providing these kind of games. So, tremendous activity going on until 11pm and then lights out.
Now, what I haven't mentioned in terms of the camp structure: obviously, there's the dining rooms staffs, the cooks, etc - that will be a group of about a dozen. Then, there's the security of the camp. Now, here again, this is the permanent staff. And the camp will have an elaborate system of defence from ground and air attack. So, you'll have comrades who are manning anti-aircraft guns, machine guns and even ground-to-air missiles. So we are talking here maybe of a group of at least a company strong which are trained comrades.
What's a company?
About a hundred. Three or more platoons. So, you will have a company of comrades who have gone through this and have been abroad for intensive training in anti-aircraft defence. The camp security group will have patrols and guards, so the patrols will be going out during the day to check the surrounding area. And at night, of course, sentry duty, for which comrades who are training are also involved in sentry duty - once they can master the weaponry. That more or less makes up the camp. I'd say that in addition, you've got the weekend, which is obviously different. By Saturday midday, the instruction is complete, and weekends are wonderful periods of activity. You have on a Saturday night definitely a camp concert, a cultural occasion in which all comrades participate, and this ranges from drama, sketches usually depicting township life or peasant life, or guerilla situations, or historic from the history of the movement. Saturday afternoon. Sunday there will be sporting events, football being the most popular. In a camp of five hundred you will have at least 10 football teams, the Mandela II, the Sisulu United, and so on. And there will be athletics competitions and the like. The instruction outside of classes, the theoretical, is within that day, it doesn't mean that everybody's under a roof listening to a lecturer. There are other classes that are being conducted in the bush - topography, firearms, explosives, tactics and so on and that can actually be taking place in a vast area around the camp, at the shooting range and so on.
The different detachments in the ANC: there's the Lutuli Detachment; is the next detachment the June 16 Detachment, then the Moncada Detachment?
Don't worry, it's just the cops going past. Yes.
Which were the subsequent detachments - the June 16, then?
OK, so there is no such thing as the Sasol Detachment. You've got all the names there except for Madenogu.
Is there no such thing as the Sasol Detachment?
Where does one get this from then?
Who told you there was a Sasol Detachment?
This guy called Afrika from the Security Department in Zimbabwe.
I've never, ever heard of it until I read it in your thing.
I'd better take it out then.
So you've got what started off with June 16, then it was Moncada, which was the anniversary of the Moncada attack. And there was a very, very clear reason for it as well. The Cubans had been supporting us a lot, and this one main camp we had in the south of Angola, we had our own structures, but the Cubans were instructing as well. The Cubans were giving instruction as well in Angola. And that was 78 and then in 79 was Madenogu. Madenogu was this woman, one of the female heroes, I think the chieftainness in Sekhukuniland or Zeerust in the uprising of 57. Then the question of naming detachments ceased.
And in the post-76 period, how many camps were running at any one time?
We had about five at one stage in Angola. That was the huge camp we had - I used to call it the university of the south, it was near Benguela, it was actually on the Benguela railway line, and I used to see these trains going by, and comrades would whistle and wave, at the time when it was claimed there were no trains on that line. That would hold 500. Jack Simons was a political instructor there. I cam as chief of instructors and then commissar for Angola, actually. And then, at that time, we had Quibashe, where Forsyth was kept later. OK Quibashe. There was a camp called Funda outside Luanda, which was a finishing camp for comrades who had gone through six months basic, or it could be a crash course place, where they would get intensive training for, let's say, a speciality like urban guerilla warfare. Later on, we opened a camp in Melange and another one about sixty km from Melange with the help of the Cubans. And Soviets were part of the instructors there. So, and then we had another camp at Caxito which is about 60km from Luanda, a very hot place. We closed it down because malaria was too bad there. But it means that, given these camps that - Oh, in the Quibashe area we then developed three different camps, around the Quibashe town. One was at Pango, which was called the David Rabkin Centre; then there was this other camp somewhere else in the Quibashe area in which I participated in opening up, and then there was a camp called Fazenda (phonetic) which was another 60km from there, which was a camp where we specialised in survival for combatants who had really now done all the training and, before coming home, they would be there for about three months and they would actually survive in the terrain; We had a camp where they would come to, the centre, but they would basically go into the terrain and go on long marches, they would be involved in mock ambush situations and raids. So, not all these camps were kept going at the same time. In all, I would say you could count nine camps that existed in Angola. At any one time, the most would have been about six camps. So, that means you are talking about a main camp of about 500, and you are talking about other camps which would have approximately 150 people in it, or a smaller camp like Funda maybe just 40. So, at any one time, I would say about 1200 comrades undergoing training just in Angola.
And then what about Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique?
And then Tanzania, there were survival camps, quite battle-hardened places where Tanzanian army officers would participate.
This is also post-76?
Yes, we had training in Tanzania in the earlier period, the 60s, which we did ourselves. But later, post 80, the Tanzanians were providing training.
To how many?
Not more than 200 to 300. And then there would be comrades training abroad - Soviet Union, GDR, countries like that, and Cuba. So, as far as that is concerned, it's difficult , that's a bit of a state secret, I'm afraid. Time is short.
OK. There are one or two questions we can answer very quickly. What ballpark figures can we get for the strength of MK?
OK, I would say that, given what I've told you, you can work it out. You would have in a main country, say a thousand people being trained in a year, probably more I would say because you've got six month courses, going off to abroad, some going back into the country, others arriving. So, I would say, multiply something like 1250 from 1977 to 90, no, not 90 - 77 to 87, that kind of decade, multiply that by 1250 for Angola. And add another 250
Yes, because, you know, a lot of comrades would go abroad and maybe come back and be in Tanzania for a while. So I would say 15,000, at the utmost 20,000, 15 dash 20,000. I think that's not a bad estimate.
And what is the ballpark figure for the number of people actually infiltrated at various times actually into South Africa?
I would say a good three-quarters of those.
So we are looking at, what, 10,000 to 12,000?
And what's the desertion rate?
Well Stadler gave some figures recently for that decade. In which he said something like, I think, 250 and 400 dead. I would say that desertions, not more than 150 to 200 in that period. And bearing in mind that people were arrested and then through arrests people were then forced to work with the enemy. So, I would be estimating loosely - it's difficult - but perhaps 250. The thing is that, when there was a major desertion we would know because of the repercussions. And, in that whole period, I can't think that it was happening, that kind of major desertion. Of an individual, but where that individual really had damaging information which would lead to the arrest of people.
Are you now talking of desertion as crossing to the enemy?
Just going over to the enemy - of perhaps a dozen a year.
But what about people who just come in and don't do anything? Just bury their arms and sort of just...?
Ah well, now that's a little difficult to say how many that occurred with. It's a very difficult figure to give.
(break in tape: end of side A)
So, are you saying that, in South Africa at the moment - if you take away those figures that you mentioned, that we have an MK establishment in South Africa of 10-11,000?
Well, an establishment, no, because an establishment is a different question in terms of having been able to keep in touch with individuals; comrades in jail, that went to a couple of thousand, 2,000 or 3,000 MK; others who lost contact
The figures are much lower than that, though, I think about 1,000.
In terms of jailing?
Well, I mean you can use that figure. I think there would be quite a number who have just, basically,m over those years, become absorbed in ANC structures, or maybe MDM structures, keeping their heads down. But we are not in a position to...
Because I heard some estimates from another MK person recently which were horrifying - a 30 percent desertion in the sense of guys coming back, not going to the enemy, but 30-40 percent just not doing anything.
That's absolutely impossible to estimate. I think that is very subjective. I'm not even saying to you it's five or ten percent. There is no way that I can say this.
OK. But certainly, we don't see any evidence of 10,000 people being actively engaged in armed struggle?
No, No. Definitely not.
No, once an MK guy has undergone his six-month training, does he invariably undergo some specialist course?
We like to do that because we understood and saw that we were involved in a protracted struggle. We'd like to give comrades a greater degree of training. That the great advantages to sending somebody abroad for six to nine months to do specialisation in terms of , say, artillery training or engineering, or politics, or military-combat work - because you are now obviously going to have somebody who is much more efficient and effective. So, this was the aim. I would say that at least 50 percent of the people we are talking about would have gone abroad for training. Where we wouldn't send people for training was because of the pressure of events in the country, to train them and send them back in to carry out operations.
In about 85 or 86, I asked Chris Hani about how many MK people were active inside the country, and he gave me a figure of 500 to 600, or something like that. And I remember speaking to you and you thought that was a bit high. Now, how does that tally with how many had been infiltrated by that stage - presumably 5,000 to 6,000 people? And it is possible to say that only about 600 are active inside the country? I'm having difficulty in understanding the disparity.
Well, in terms of the actual operational side, I think we are talking about people we were sure of and were in touch with. And I wouldn't like to say that the other 50 percent, or whatever it would be if it's a thousand or more at any one time, were people who were just folding their arms and not carrying out activity. Because of the great problem of contact, communication. And this is why it is frankly difficult to give any scientific figure. I think we have got to work out what looks best to make it sound feasible. So, if we are talking about something like a thousand or so, 1250, upward of 1500 being trained each year, and what were we saying, Fifty percent were coming back inside?
No, you said three-quarters.
Three quarters. Which gives a figure of what?
Gives a figure of about 9,000.
9,000 inside. I am sure it would be that, Howard. But, you know, we had such weaknesses in terms of the communication. And comrades were coming back inside and, OK, we wouldn't hear unless they were caught, or there were some operations and they came out. And then what are we saying: Most of them, 50 percent (which is higher than the figure you say, which is 30 percent) just come back and kind of disappear. I think that it is very difficult to say that that is what they were doing. So I think you've got to find a ....
But certainly, 30, 40, 50, perhaps even 70, 80 percent - contact was not maintained with headquarters?
(break in tape)
I'm trying to think what other questions we can still do.
The thing about the daily routine we have done. The ballpark figure...
The kind of training...
The detachments... [general conversation about questions that have been answered]. The usual size of deployed unit: it's two to four - operate in two's and the most in fours. [general conversation continued].
(break in tape)
I'm thinking of this main thing, in terms of your accuracy, it's a very difficult thing, the figure. The only way it can be dealt with is by looking at records, so one has got to estimate. I would say, maybe I think a kind of comfortable figure would be a thousand a year, and some years it could have been 1500. So maybe the safest is talking about 1250 a year. And then to explain that, because of the great distances that comrades had to cover that it was not possible to set up the required communication links which could also be very dangerous from a security point of view. To set up a communication link meant that a unit, once established, was able to ask for reinforcements, and we found that this could be very dangerous...oh shit ... oh I think we need to move from here, you know... I won't move right away
What are we doing here if they [the police] come?
We are waiting for a girlfriend (laughter)
There are still people who are coming. We have got somebody who is in a restaurant.
Can I raise one or two other questions.
Sorry, Howard, so, you know, this kind of communication problem. And we had bad experiences. So there was no way that we could provide that for everybody. So it meant we were saying to comrades, Right, your role is to go in to organise, to try to create a basis for your survival, to teach people weaponry etc. And, it's going to be long-term. And it's those kinds of comrades where we have got great problems, estimating what did they do: Did they just come in and did they simply forget to carry out their mission, or become a bit tired and bored, or was it out of fear. So there could be quite a percentage that basically over the years tended to get re-absorbed into the society and in work, etc, and gradually forgot about their mission. Given the particular situation I've described, I think that could apply to about a third of the people.
Where is your car?
It's just back there.
On this side?
Yes. If MK came home tomorrow, how many people would come home from abroad?
Well, that depends on the situation, how it's worked out. Because we might perceive that we can't bring everybody else back as MK.
Well, if you did bring everybody back, what ballpark figure could I use?
I think about 5,000.
Yes, that's what I've got. So that would be 15,000 minus 5,000 over the 77 to 87 period?
Sorry, I'm just thinking of what to say to the cops if they come back. I'll say, I am waiting and using this phone here. Can you repeat the question.
That five thousand abroad now, that you've estimated, that would be part of this 15,000 that we were talking about?
Right. Is it possible for you to give me some indication as to where people might go abroad for particular kinds of training - or is that a state secret area? Would one, say, go to GDR to intelligence, or would it be widely dispersed?
I think that the SA govt and police [laughter] have talked about training in the Soviet Union, where people go for military combat work, for politics, for specialised military training such as anti-aircraft skills and specialisation, engineering specialisation, that people have gone to Cuba for rural guerilla warfare, suburban guerilla warfare, that quite a large group every year would go to the GDR (over a long period of time, that's 76, even earlier until the last couple of years) to train as instructors and to train as general commandos, and their training was very good.
By commandos, you mean sort of special forces type of stuff?
[End of interview]