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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
31 Oct 2001: Maharaj, Mac
POM Sorry Mac, we were just talking about how you had been sharing a platform with Fanie van der Merwe.
MM I think somewhere around 1995/96 after we were in government Fanie was still Director General of Constitutional Affairs and there was a function in Pretoria where he and I were asked to speak about the negotiations process and because Fanie was on the platform I thought that we should just speak freely. Now on that occasion I decided on my feet to speak about this thing that I keep saying which doesn't go down easily with people. People start off by believing that a negotiation process is first and foremost a trust building process and I have maintained that the issue of trust doesn't come into it. Trust is an in passing by-product that arises. Yes, there are confidence building measures but that's different from trust. I decided when speaking about my experiences to speak about Fanie and how as Joint Secretary moments arose which convinced me that I could work with him in a way where we both shared a joint commitment to make the negotiating process succeed. There was no longer any reservation that my partner's secretary would be working to undermine the process. I then referred to personal incidents which convinced me of the change that had gone on in him and in particular I thought that his commitment to democracy, which everybody was 'espousing', I began to detect when we were having discussions privately and in some committees on issues such as human rights and I began to detect a very thoughtful process going on in this man where he was reading past material from all over the world and was relating the issue in very congruent ways.
So that's the sort of theme that I took up and he too said some nice things because we were sharing our individual experiences. But when it comes to this pistol story, it's another incident that I think showed me a different dimension of Fanie because it was over the overthrow of Mangope.
POM Now he said he had to take you home and he got you dressed, you were
MM Yes. I had turned up to that management meeting on the Saturday after we had returned from Bop and had all these clashes I'd had these clashes with General Meiring. We had returned on the Friday evening and on Saturday morning the Management Committee of the negotiating process met in Pretoria and we reported back on our mission and we were discussing the situation and I recounted how Roelf and Fanie and Cyril were leaving the room periodically and I was urging that the Management Committee should adjourn its meeting and immediately fly over and meet in Mafikeng so that we were on the spot because I said the situation was moving at an enormously rapid pace and it was touch and go whether some forces would not intervene and reinstate Mangope.
This deal was arrived at, the Management Committee took a decision to adjourn but privately it was arranged that Fanie and I should go ahead in advance and we had negotiated with Roelf that what was the purpose of Fanie and I going in advance? The advance mission was in fact based on the fear that people like General Meiring may intervene and reinstate Mangope and given the reality that the masses of the public in Bophuthatswana had lost confidence in Mangope, law and order had collapsed, the police had disintegrated, the army had lost control, that the only way forward was to remove Mangope from power formally and that was agreed. So having taken that decision that Fanie and I should go and that we would be led by Pik Botha, when Fanie and I were now given instructions privately by Roelf and Cyril to proceed while making the arrangements for the meeting of the Management Committee in the intervening period we would also go and ensure that Mangope was removed from power.
We set off, we were waiting for Pik's plane to arrive at Wonderboom, he was somewhere within the country, and he was flying in. They made arrangements for General Meiring to be available. In the meantime Fanie and I were driving off to Wonderboom military airport. I was dressed in a track suit and a T-shirt and when Fanie and I get into Fanie's car, Fanie says, "Look Mac, you can't go like this, you can't go dressed like this. You've got to be better dressed, we're going to see - "
POM You can't overthrow a dictator
MM A President of a Bantustan. So we got to his home because it was nearer and he tried to get an outfit of his when he was younger and thinner to fit me. Nothing would fit, everything was too large. I think he insisted, I was wearing a peace T-shirt, so he gave me some shirt to wear with my track suit. But then he did something that was completely unexpected. In his lounge he came with his briefcase, opened it and handed me a pistol.
POM He handed you the pistol?
MM He gave me a pistol and I said, "What's this for?" And he said, "Well we are going on a mission where anything can happen." I said, "But Fanie, what's a pistol going to help? It's not going to help. And what about you?" He says, "No, I've got a pistol for myself too. This one is for you. I've got one." And he did that. Now it made me aware that in his mind this task of removing Mangope was fraught with danger and that in his mind our own lives were in danger. I was aware that it was fraught with danger but I was aware that Mangope is surrounded by a minimum of 60 120 specially trained forces, elite forces of the SA Defence Force who were protecting him and there was nothing the two of us could do as individuals and a pistol would be of no significance. All it could say when you're dead is that you tried to make the last stand. So that was my mindset, that there was no point in my carrying a pistol but what touched me was that he insisted that I take one of these pistols and that he was so aware of the danger to our lives that he was carrying a pistol. Of course the subsequent development was that when we landed at Mafikeng airport and we were sitting in the waiting room, the four of us Pik Botha, Fanie, myself, and Meiring and Meiring was running around in his General's uniform and I was chatting with Pik and we could see the right wing had virtually taken over the airport.
POM The right being ?
MM The AWB. They had taken control of the airport. A whole portion of them were still camped at the airport. The issue of the security of this mission was worrying me but the issue was how to raise it outside of this issue of individual pistols. At one stage I saw a lot of delays taking place so I said to Pik Botha who was seated and we were alone and I said to Pik alone, "Pik what's the delay?" He calls General Meiring when Meiring goes past, "What's happening General?" And the General says, "I'm still busy making arrangements with helicopters, etc., to take us", and we've established that Mangope is at his palace at a place called Motswedi. But it's getting into the evening now so I said to Pik, "Pik, we haven't received a report from the General. What type of forces, how many, with what arms, are guarding Mangope?" And Pik then says to me, Pik is a showman and very emotional, he says, "What are you saying? Are you saying that we can be killed?"
POM I read that in a transcript.
MM That's for sure, for sure. So he said, "Well what do we do?" I said, "No, the General should be giving you a report. You're the Foreign Minister in this country. You're leading this mission. He should be coming to give you a report that, Minister, we know the following about Motswedi, these are the type of troops that are guarding Mangope, these are the kinds of arms that they have access too and in regard to that I have taken steps to get my forces to accompany us, some to be placed in advance, some to be directly accompanying us, etc., etc. Well this is to frighten the hell of Pik, that's why I'm elaborating, and Pik goes green, pale. When the General comes past he calls Meiring and in his brusque way now in my presence, this is what I wouldn't do with my own Chief of Staff, but in my presence he says to him, "General, what is the position at Motswedi? How many troops are guarding Mangope? How armed are they? Are we going into a death trap and what measures have you taken?" The General is very calm and just says, "Well I'll go and ascertain all that and come back." As it happened there were over 60 soldiers guarding Mangope. I said we don't need elaborate measures and in the end what happened was that we landed in our helicopter but before our helicopter landed another helicopter loaded with troops landed, secured the perimeter and then our helicopter landed and we walked into Motswedi.
But the story is, what was touching was that Fanie with his perception of the danger, here he was giving me a pistol. At that stage it's appearing to me as if he's giving me his only pistol for my own protection and then I saw and when I asked, "What about you?" he said, "I've got a second one", and so he was saying let's both go. Eventually I didn't carry the pistol, I didn't carry the pistol, I said "I don't want to do anything, it's not going to help me. If I'm dead I'm dead." But he nonetheless carried his pistol.
POM How do you square that kind of relationship you had with Fanie who was then the DG of Constitutional Affairs with was Niel Barnard Constitutional Affairs? Had Barnard moved on to - ?
MM No, no, Niel Barnard became the DG of Constitutional Affairs. Fanie was advisor.
POM Advisor, yes. He's an advisor to?
MM Because he had passed retirement and he was retained as Special Advisor to the Minister.
POM And he still has his office in Walker Street.
MM Between him and Niel Barnard, Niel Barnard the intelligence man, the head of Intelligence, a very powerful advisor in the backrooms of the government, and Fanie a civil servant who grew up in the Justice Department, from the beginning in the discussions a very meticulous person, very competent, a very good administrator of the entire system and understanding the intricacies of the system that they were administering. A very competent draftsman. So clearly for government's side right from the start they selected Fanie from his Justice experience, legal experience, and between the two of them they often had to carry the civil service including the army into the process of negotiations as decisions were taken and agreed upon. They had do this but, be that as it may, a very interesting person, very self-effacing, very modest and deep down in a sense the story of some of the best values in the Afrikaner, simple, ordinary folk with a sense of values which got distorted by the colonial experience and the ideology of apartheid and was capable I think he became entranced by the personality of Madiba.
POM He's in awe of him. He says that in the interviews that I've done with him.
MM I think he just became entranced.
POM Off the record in interviews for background material, but he's in awe.
MM Totally. To meet a black person on those terms, a prisoner but yet conducting himself even in his prison clothes as if he was a free man and invested with such dignity and such ability to listen, an ability to reason persuasively, I think it was a shock to his system and that shock just entranced him and when he saw the manner in which Madiba was moving and thinking and talking, he just found it unbelievable. He expected, I suppose, from the old paradigm, here is this black terrorist leader, he's just going to shout and rant and rave. So they would say we cannot free you, we cannot take this country forward because we have a problem about violence by MK, and here instead of a person just mouthing a response was a person saying, "Sit down, let's talk about this, let me take you through the history, let me take you through the positions, let me explain to you how and why we resorted to arms. And let me take you through the processes by which we consistently sought to resolve the matter peacefully."
POM In the off the record interviews I've done with him, which are terrific background material, just mention the word 'Madiba' and Fanie becomes like a child. It's the way he uses words that are non-civil service words, he loses his caution, that kind of trained caution that
MM His loyalty shifted. Here he was, Special Advisor to the Minister, loyal to the government of FW de Klerk, but as the process went down it didn't arise as a split in his mind but it certainly arose in practice that he came to see Madiba as a complete idol and he had therefore reached a point where he was in his privacy just seeing defects in FW, he was seeing how FW could not even be measured against the calibre of Madiba. It was total.
POM In that context here you have a man who you were working with closely, getting to know better, both of you moving from that position of respect to trust. I should tell you offhand that I remember you saying that to me months back that at a conference in Cork, in Derry, I gave a paper on confidence building measures and I attacked them. I thought I would take confidence building measures, I'm tired of hearing about them and I said, "Wrong focus, the focus should be on building respect." I'll send you on the paper, but nobody liked it because it attacked conventional wisdom. If you make people think they don't like it at conferences, you just kind of give your paper.
MM It doesn't fit with the easy mode but the reality is when people talk about trust building you're dealing with a political problem and politicians have grown up to say things for the moment and so you're beginning to test each other's integrity in that way. No, you can't do it. You just say I have to work with this man, I have to work with this thing, yes they are my enemy. You have to sit down and resolve the problem. Now all you're first worried about is, is the chap behind what he is saying now or agreeing to, is he going to go out and subvert it and undermine it? And when I began to see that Fanie was delivering on what he was agreeing, because often we would discuss and the process would go into a zigzag and now it's going off the rails, it was our job to sit down, him and I. How do we keep it on its rails? And there I could see here is a man committed to keeping it on its rails. There's a partner. I don't care where he stands, what's his individual thinking, does he share the goal that this process must (a) stay on the rails and (b) must succeed? Yes he's committed to that. Well we can do business.
POM As you built this relationship with him and he being a Special Advisor to the President, how do you equate his commitment to making this process succeed and advising his President in ways that would help it to succeed with a dual strategy? Did you ever raise the question of that with Fanie?
MM I never believed maybe it's a defect in me. I believe that at times you could raise things confrontationally and I did raise it in the negotiating process but I don't believe that the need to raise confrontational issues is the primary need. The primary need in the process is to park the confrontational issues from the side. Yes, air them, sometimes it's necessary to tell each other the worst things but at the end of that you need to park it. You've made the other side aware and you have to move. I think in Fanie it would be really interesting because I don't know what Fanie thinks, I don't know what he thinks about me, we never sat down to discuss it that way. That meeting that I've referred to is the first time in the public arena that he heard me say things about him and the process and it's the first time I heard him say things about me and the process. Obviously in the public arena we were paying compliments to each other but I was very clear, I was in government, I was a minister, Fanie was in government, that I had no constraint from speaking frankly but whatever episode I talked about was not just talking to Fanie but talking to the others to say here's a constructive experience. So I was not interesting in pulling out things.
Now it would be very interesting for Fanie and I to sit and relax and just talk and begin to look at episodes which would begin to reflect on how he saw a particular moment, how I saw it and how he saw me and how I saw him in that moment because I think he's free from that baggage. I think he's free, I think his admiration for Madiba freed him from that baggage and that's why when he left Constitutional Affairs, when Valli took over as the minister, his moving away was amicably arranged, not like the vicious one with Niel Barnard and Valli and the acrimonious departure of Niel. Secondly, Fanie was put on the IEC. He took the appointment with no qualms and typical of him and what he had done at the World Trade Centre he didn't as a commissioner sit down and try to take the limelight, he set about getting the systems and everything going and ensuring that all the basics of that organisation functioning were being attended to. He said this is a new SA, new people are going to be here, new people are going to be the head, the head is going to be an African, no problem. But things are going wrong and there's all little problems but not the personality which says, "Oh this has gone wrong, whose fault is it? Let me sit and shout from the back." No, "Something has gone wrong here, what can we do to put it right."
POM I'll be seeing him a number of times again because I've got about half way through all the references, two are marked in green there, you and he. Fanie has this disposition of in the beginning he says, "Well we go through the rules, it's not for quotation, it's not for this." In the beginning his answers are like yes and no, then after about 15 minutes he begins to open up and after half an hour he begins to tell anecdotes.
MM He's got a good sense of humour.
POM He moves into it. He told me a great he turned off the tape recorder and I can repeat it because it's but he told me that he remembers having a meeting (I was asking him about the IFP and the ANC and the government) and he says he remembers a meeting with De Klerk and De Klerk was kind of frustrated and said that dealing with the IFP and the ANC is like dealing with a wife and a mistress, you make the one happy and the other's unhappy. And Fanie just said, "Mr President, I never knew you had such insights into a wife and a mistress", not knowing at the time
These are incidences that need to be checked.
MM I've now checked them. There were incidents that I felt needed to be checked with Madiba because, you will recall, I've been speaking over time and constantly I'm a person who puts it in a framework and tries to see where do things fit. Now the issue that we were dealing with was a reference that you brought from FW's autobiography in which over Vula FW says that when he told Madiba about Vula Madiba was surprised. We didn't have a date for that as far as I can recall but I argued that I was in detention at that time and I had seen the posters about the Joe Slovo incident, Joe attending the Pretoria Minute, the Pretoria meeting on 6 August and that De Klerk had opposed it and I knew that Madiba had refused to drop Joe but he had convinced FW, he had given reasons why he would not drop Joe.
POM This is at Tongaat.
MM Yes. My understanding was just on a snippet that one of the issues was that Madiba asked Joe whether he was at Tongaat and Joe said, "No and here's my passport." It appeared that was the only component. It's not true. When I went to sit down with Madiba he gave me a fuller version of what really happened.
Secondly, based on that incident I have replied in two places by dealing with this story about the allegation that I was planning to assassinate Madiba and I speculated that this was an issue that was put on because Madiba had told me in detention in Durban in September, October, that they had reneged on my release and he was very angry but they were saying that they want to charge me for murder. So ex post I was locating the Stadler propaganda of the Vula communication and speculating that that would be the reason that De Klerk would have told him that they want to charge me with murder and amongst the things he might have hinted was attempted murder of Madiba. So I thought it's all over now, let me go and sit down with the old man and ask him. I said to him, "Here is this incident, it has surfaced in the Afrikaans papers from time to time and it is in Stadler's book that they have a communication of Vula which indicated that I and Jacob Zuma, in their interpretation, were planning to assassinate Madiba." Madiba was surprised and I've thought about it. He had no memory of this and I said, "But it's been in the papers from 1994 onwards." He says, "Papers?" Now I know he assiduously reads the papers. So it's in this context that he had the chance to explain and it was a very relaxed thing because we had lunch from about 12.30 to about 2 pm and being an assiduous newspaper reader this incident, this allegation didn't stick in his mind at all. I had opened by saying, "I have never raised this matter with you because I have proceeded from the assumption that if FW had raised it with you it was something that you would have found so unbelievable that you would have just put it aside, whatever answer you gave him. On the other hand I've never seen you come and raise it with me and I've assumed that in your mind, Madiba, to come and raise it with me would be such an insult to me because it's something that could not even be dreamt of in our relationship. So for that reason we have not talked about it but today here we are both in retirement, we can talk." Now he gives me the explanation. It was never raised with him.
POM It was never raised?
MM Never. Yes, De Klerk had made allegations that there were very serious charges including murder against me. He says what happened with him and De Klerk was that De Klerk raised the matter of the Communist Party and alleged that the Communist Party was spearheading a move, as exemplified by Tongaat, to mobilise against negotiations. He checked with Joe Slovo and Joe Slovo assured him that there was no such move in the party. Yes, just as in the ANC there were people who were insecure and uncertain about whether negotiations would succeed, the party as a party had never taken a position to oppose negotiations. He says with that explanation he was totally satisfied. I was then able to explain to Madiba now the Tongaat and in the culture of the ANC and the party it was perfectly understandable to both of us - I said to him that the Tongaat conference was organised because the party asked me to take steps to appoint and get an interim leadership group to stand up in public and say now the party is legally existing, just as the ANC had done. I advised the party not to do it that way, that rather we would call a conference of key communists in the country secretly, clandestinely, and we would discuss the issue and we would canvass views about how the party should re-emerge in the public limelight benefiting from the experience of the way the ANC had emerged so that some of the negative effects could be minimised. That was the purpose of the Tongaat conference.
There were comrades in the party who were disoriented by the negotiations, the prospect of negotiations. So I turned round and structured the conference agenda in such a way that I turned to Siphiwe Nyanda and I said, "You prepare a paper, you have a view that says at this stage (this is 1990 Madiba has been released), you have a view that suggests that there is no prospect of negotiation, so as a discussion paper for that agenda item you do a lead paper on your perspectives for the future", knowing that he would present a paper that would not embrace negotiations easily. But I said, "You put up a strategy. If not negotiations then what? You're free to argue. That paper will be presented on that agenda item and will form the basis of the discussion." I said every item was structured that way so that I gave voice to what I thought was somebody who was going to strongly and passionately argue against me and that paper would provide the basis for a full debate. I was confident we would come out then through that vigorous debate to take a position which way to go. As it happened, yes, the conference did debate it and Siphiwe presented his paper under the name of Joe, he presented it from the point of view of people's war. The matter was debated and in that context then we came down and said negotiations must be pursued. So I said that's the way we always handled matters in the ANC and that's the way we handle it in the party.
But De Klerk had the full records of Tongaat, not just the 'Joe' paper, and he therefore had the resolution but his advisors were so excited by what they found that they thought that they could use it as ammunition to split the ANC as the party so they did not disclose the other parts because it was a verbatim report which was being typed as people were talking on computers and was transmitted to Lusaka the same night that conference ended and it ran into more than 300 pages. Another copy of it printed out was given to Jeremy Cronin as I passed through Jo'burg and then one copy was kept in the underground which was what was captured with Siphiwe Nyanda and his team at one of the safe houses. So I said they have the transcript, verbatim transcript, unedited, because I was sending to the Central Committee a complete version of what had been said so that they had a good understanding of what we would have to do with all our forces to move. So I said that's what happened.
POM So that if they had read the full thing it would have been apparent to them that the SACP was in fact entering the negotiating process and that the ideas of the people's war had been left behind and that debate was over.
MM And if they had read it carefully the only thing that I can think of that frightened De Klerk if he had an advisor who was reading it carefully would have been, hey, we thought that getting Madiba and them to shift to negotiations would split the ranks but these chaps have proceeded so meticulously that they are airing out in this clandestine environment all the hesitations in their ranks so that they are going to go systematically to deal with those things to convince everybody to move forward. Now that would have been a worry to them.
MM Because it would say any attempt to divide these forces from our side as a government is going to fail because look at the steps they have taken, they have called 20 people from around the country, powerful people sitting in the UDF, COSATU, all the structures of the mass organisations, not some group of conspirators sitting unknown to the public and they are debating and each one is airing their concerns and everything has been noted carefully and it could only be noted with a view that how are we going to ensure that our forces remain united else we will fall? So that legitimately should have worried an analyst but I think De Klerk's advisors, particularly Basie Smit, advised him that here's a chance to drive a wedge and his first shot of it was to drive a wedge with Madiba. Of course Madiba was concerned. Is this what's happened? Is it true? And the first thing he did was not just to talk with Joe Slovo about the passport but to ask him, "Joe, is the party hesitant about this? Are the party forces opposed to negotiations?" And when Joe, who was then the General Secretary said, "Madiba, no question, the party is united behind the ANC."
POM This suggests that in his autobiography when De Klerk says when he met with Madiba and informed him about the existence of Vula and Madiba expressed complete surprise, it's that in fact he's getting things confused.
MM He's getting things confused.
POM He was really talking about the excerpt from Tongaat.
MM Tongaat yes. And De Klerk is saying the party is opposed to negotiations and that surprises Madiba because after all he's been in touch with me, he's been in touch with Joe. We have not said we have reservations about negotiations. This is a surprise for him. In Madiba's mind it's I'd better check. Where I still think De Klerk has been dishonest is that the first meetings around the arrests took place on the 19 July, the day after Madiba's birthday when I reported to him.
POM You got to him, met him at the airport.
MM The arrest of Nyanda. And subsequent meetings took place. So that there was Vula in the country was no surprise to Madiba. De Klerk presents it as if the fact of Vula operation was the thing that surprised Madiba. That is not the issue. So that's from Madiba's side.
Because of this Stadler thing I began to extrapolate and assume that the story that we were planning to assassinate Madiba featured and I began to give you an explanation bit by bit, very reluctantly. I told you my reluctance was that I wanted to trap Stadler, that was my dream that I would trap him for stealing state property. I thought it over and I can now present you with the straight version, not the tortured way in which I talked about it.
The dates about that are very wrong because Stadler gives the date of 24 June of this communication. It's wrong. This incident in my view is before 20 May, before the Tongaat meeting, because Jacob Zuma was the head of ANC Intelligence in Lusaka. He was part of the advance team coming in and out of the country arranging the Groote Schuur meeting. He was part with Thabo of the meetings in London, the confidential meetings, and the meeting in Zurich with Mike Louw. Now Jacob Zuma was coming in and out of the country.
My reports to Tambo and Slovo. From time to time assessments of an intelligence aspect were in my reports and Zuma in coming in and out of the country I was aware that he was aware that I was in the country in Vula. Zuma is one of the people that was aware before I came into the country. I have always said Tambo and Slovo knew only. Not correct, there were another small selected group of other comrades who were aware. They became aware on the eve of my departure from Lusaka and they were deliberately made aware of it consciously. One of those was Jacob Zuma. So when I received reports and I could see that Jacob was moving in and out of the country, Lusaka linked me with Zuma so that when he came in quietly into the country from time to time I had secret meetings with him. At one of these meetings he informs me that there is an attempt inside the enemy forces to assassinate Madiba and I recall saying to him, "How reliable is your source?" He said this person who has crossed over and is confiding is from the defence force's Military Intelligence and that it is a very serious move to eliminate Madiba.
So two issues arise. The first issue is: what are we doing to ensure that Madiba is safe? That's item number one because this idea that he is under threat is one that you analytically would have already arrived at but now when you're getting practical evidence the matter became more serious. But the second aspect that arose then was, as I said, how reliable is your source of information? He says, "Well one of the persons assigned to be the assassin has come to us, to our Intelligence and informed us." So I said, "Are you satisfied he's talking the truth?" Zuma says, "Yes, he has even now come inside the country with the weapon that has been earmarked for the elimination. It is a rifle with optical sights." So I said to him, "OK. What have you done with the weapon?" He says, "I have a problem. If the weapon was given to me outside the country I could store it but this man wants to give me the weapon here and I don't know what to do with it. I don't want to take it because I'm officially meeting with Basie Smit, meeting government people, and I'm expecting that I'm being monitored so I can't take it, I might walk into a trap. If I accept the weapon and they raid me, and I don't know whether this informant is a double agent." So I said to Zuma, "If you can arrange delivery of that weapon safely and securely I am prepared to take that weapon and store it because I can put that weapon to use maybe because this is the type of weapon that I've been looking for." And he says, "Fine, we will look into delivering it to you." I said, "But Zuma, the man mustn't deliver it to you and then you deliver it to me because if that happens and it is a trap for us to walk into we get caught and I'm not known to be in the country at this stage. It will have to be collected and delivered in a very, very clandestine way."
The reason why I say it's before May 20th is because I immediately sent a message to Gebhuza to say step up the reconnaissance about this tension within the security forces and these two guys, one of whom I had always said we need to eliminate to plant dissension in the security forces. That's the message. The message is saying: given my discussions with Gebhuza about the tactics we need to use to disrupt the security forces in the pre-February days, I am saying now step up our reconnaissance because we may have to carry out that action depending on how things develop, but I am saying I have now got the right weapon because it is from within the enemy and if that weapon is used and if it is ever found it will not be associated with the liberation forces but will be associated with the internecine struggle within the security forces. So I'm then saying there is this prospect of getting this weapon and I say it is a weapon that was earmarked for assassinating Madiba.So I found a huge irony that we would get this weapon and use it in a different way.
Now I have stayed silent on this matter and so has Zuma. We have never discussed it, but as it happened that weapon never reached me because straight after that came the May 20th incident, the indemnity, I come here to Jo'burg, I am instructed by Madiba and Ronnie to get out of the country and come back by 15 June. So we slip out of the country by 30 May and that's very little time to organise all that while keeping all the forces intact. Slipped out of the country, come back on 15 June and the ball game has changed. The issue of the weapon has not become a problem, if it was a problem, for Zuma. It never arose between us and I never collected the weapon. What is intriguing for me is Stadler puts the date of 24 June on that communicationbecause putting it on 24 June is putting it after I have come back to the country legally. The discussion with Zuma took place at a secret flat in Berea when Zuma was coming in and out of the country clandestinely, not openly announced. So that's that version.
The next thing that arose with Madiba which needs a correction is that in your recent interviews we talked about the Madiba/De Klerk chemistry and I recounted what I thought was a critical
POM Sorry, whatever did happen to that weapon?
MM I don't know, I never raised it with Zuma. It never came to me. I had no need for it. That would remain then with Intelligence. If we were to pursue it, if the ball game hadn't changed, I would have gone to Zuma saying now I want the weapon. It was no longer necessary. The need to eliminate one of those Security Branch officers had now passed. If we then pursued that objective of eliminating them we would not be pursuing the negotiations strategy. So it became unimportant in my mind and something that I didn't pursue with Zuma.
The incident that I recalled about FW, after I talked about Madiba stating that he made a public statement that FW is a man of integrity, then I raised that somewhere in West Africa in Madiba's travels he called for support for the NP. Then I went on to show how slowly De Klerk eroded that respect from Madiba's side and I referred to the incident when they went to Philadelphia and said that Madiba had met the black caucus and business people to raise money for the ANC and then De Klerk had gone behind his back to tell them they shouldn't give money to the ANC, they should give it to De Klerk.
POM Or that they should give not just to the ANC but to De Klerk as well.
MM De Klerk as well. Now this incident I wanted to get it clear from Madiba. I raised it in the framework of De Klerk, while Madiba had been making these calls, these two statements of integrity and support for the NP, the need to support the NP, and I assumed that it was because of his perspective that in a negotiating process you want to negotiate with parties and partners who can deliver on whatthey promise. He agreed with that proposition but he said the incident in the US was slightly different. He said it had started already in the country, that Madiba would go to establish the business in the country and he would in his discussions with them ask them for financial support for the ANC and from time to time these business people kept informing Madiba that De Klerk, whenever he heard that Madiba was doing this, would come to them and say to them, "No, no, no, I hear the ANC wants money from you. You shouldn't be giving money to the ANC. The ANC has got a lot of money. You should be giving money to all the other parties, the NP, the IFP, etc. The ANC is the one that doesn't need it." Now he said this thing was beginning to rankle him. When the US incident took place and they were both of them invited De Klerk was hesitant to go and said he was not going to go. Madiba when told by the US people that De Klerk is refusing saw De Klerk and said to him, "You must go."
POM De Klerk didn't want to go because?
MM Because of the expected demonstrations in the US. So Madiba says, "No, you must go. Let's go. I will defend you." So they get to the US with that sort of persuasion that Madiba has done. In the US Madiba met business people on his own, not with De Klerk, and he also raised the question of funds for the ANC. A little later he heard that the very people that he had seen De Klerk now followed up by going to them because he heard that Madiba is raising money and he put the same proposition. "The ANC is wealthy, has got plenty of resources. It's not the ANC you should be giving money to, you should be giving money to all the parties including the NP." When he heard this Madiba's reaction within himself was that this thing has been happening over time in the country, now the same behaviour is going on in the US, "When I have offered and persuaded him to come and that wherever there is going to be a hostile demonstration against him I will stand up and defend him." He said this was to him unacceptable behaviour and that's when he says he became so angry that he picked up the phone, they were the next day going to see Bill Clinton, the President, they were going to call on him jointly, he picked up the phone and he said to Bill Clinton, "I'm changing the arrangements, I am not arriving together with De Klerk. I am arriving on my own." He said, "I didn't explain why but changing these protocol arrangements at this last minute was obvious, Bill Clinton realised that there was a problem between De Klerk and him." So he says, "That's the incident." So I was incorrect when I say they saw the businessmen together and then FW went behind his back. No, Madiba was seeing the businessmen on his own and whenever De Klerk found that Madiba was seeing them he would make efforts to see them himself and then he would make this appeal, "The ANC has got enough resources, don't give it to the ANC, give it to the other parties who are at a disadvantage."
Now those two incidents illustrate what I've been trying to check, cross-check, because they affected the framework in which I analysed issues and they arise in our interviews which took place after my retirement from government. Wherever they pop up we need to correct that.
POM What I intend to do, as I am doing with Valli, is where you mention other people that were involved in an incident or an action with you, I intend to go back to each of them to get verification.
POM So nobody can ever say that a statement that is made or that you made it's undeniable because the other person or persons involved have verified it and I've got their verification on it.
MM I want that verification myself because for me it is particular when it comes to the interpretation that I put on it because to me most of it is not just recalling events but it's always recalling events in an interpretation of what had happened. So those were the two items that arose with Madiba. I don't think that there was another item but I can quickly just whip through this, you can just switch off for the time being.
POM Can you give the page numbers?
MM If I come across it now.
POM This is the manuscript, the original Chess Player manuscript, the one with 215 pages.
MM It's volume 2, page 134 where I'm dealing with Stadler and this so-called plot to kill Madiba. The issue of the relationship between Madiba and De Klerk and the trip to the United States is dealt with in the same volume 2, page 158, 159.
POM Mac and I are now just talking about circumstances surrounding the Vula arrests.
MM The Security Branch by the time they arrested me, in fact before my arrest, after the detention of Siphiwe Nyanda by 11 July, after that when they realised the nature of what was coming out they assembled a top level team. The head of their team was a Colonel Frik Venter. I've never seen him, I've never come across Colonel Frik Venter again but I deduce from his conduct with his fellow officers that he was originally from Port Elizabeth and that he was based in PE and had been specially brought to Johannesburg to supervise and head that investigation. Similarly he had a chap called Captain Nieuwoudt, now this is a notorious name, but I think one of the Nieuwoudts was implicated in the killing of the Putco Three.
POM Would it be the same man?
MM Can't be sure because these guys you couldn't be sure that you could only be sure of their identity, they never introduced themselves by name and they never wore a uniform but you could see the structure of command in the course of their work and their operations. That's how I deduced that the head was Colonel Frik Venter and I realised he was Venter, I just put bits and pieces together that gave me the rank as Colonel, the first name was Frik and the surname was Venter. Nieuwoudt I knew because he was one of the key interrogators, continuity interrogators, at Sandton but in his discussions with his colleagues it came out and stuck in my mind that this man is stationed in PE. Then there was a major Roelf Venter and that's now in Durban when I'm taken to C R Swart, there the interrogators included Davidson. So the team was assembled from officers from Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Natal and I am sure that they had somebody from Cape Town because subsequently they also picked up information indicating that we had linked up with forces in Cape Town. So it was a national team that they put together.
But to return to the part of Nyanda. Yes, even when I read that transcript I had written in the margin, I had written in the margin while I've given my speculation, I've written in the margin, "Isn't this coming out a bit too harsh?" And I had to sit back and ask myself when I read this last night, to say, "Hey? What is there in my mindset?" Because even when I read the transcript I could see that I was being very cautious in how I was speaking and this morning when I was driving here the thought came to me that I know why. I am not a person by nature when a problem arises, by my whole training and my whole operation in the underground I know that in a crisis my instinct is not who caused it. That's a question that sits but it's never uppermost. It's a question that I put to quietly look at but with everybody else my first instinct is what's the problem that we are facing? And very quickly, what do we do to move forward? Now that's a general operation but when I look back what conditioned me around my colleagues in trials when you are arrested is that in 1964 when we were arrested I see the part where I have spoken about my torture, etc., and about Swanepoel, in passing I've even concealed the name of the comrade who sold out. He's dead now, Piet Beyleveld, a white comrade, President of Congress of Democrats. He is the man that collapsed and talked which led to the most vicious part of my torture and yet I said, "How come I didn't even give this name?" I said I was busy working out as they were beating me up who had spoken so that I can understand the nature of the danger but I didn't just pop out with the name.
POM You didn't pop out with the name.
MM I didn't give you his name.
POM Yes, but you've worked it out for yourself.
MM Oh that I knew in 1964. Within hours of that interrogation I had worked it out which man it was, but when we came to trial we knew that one of our accused, one of the five of us, had spoken.
POM He was on trial too?
MM Yes, he was on trial, a co-accused. We realised that one amongst this five had spoken. Now I was the youngest of the five and inevitably I had to begin to play a role with the lawyers and everybody as a critical leader but the problem that arose was the knowledge that one of us had spoken and had still not told us, "Chaps I spoke, I said this." It caused immense tension amongst the five of us. We realised who the one was but the relations here you are busy defending yourself against a charge of death and here you know this man and he's not telling you what he has said so that you have a measure of the danger. It led to a very, very tense relationship with the five of us, there were two whites and three blacks, and we were housed separately, three and two. We could not get our defence co-ordinated, the ducks properly in a row.
POM Did the other three, did they know too who had spoken?
MM We knew, four of them realised and we would want to talk about it and we identified the person amongst us, the four of us. But of course people were very emotional and one of them wanted to beat him up.
POM Did you confront him with it?
MM No because my role was - stop it chaps, stop it. This is not going to help us. This is not going to help us, we are facing a death sentence, that sort of faction amongst us, and you are doing it under surveillance, you're in prison. You assume the enemy has bugged you. Any opening of those wounds is just going to hand it to the enemy. The only time I became very heated was when the prosecutor, the Attorney-General, said to our defence lawyers in the middle of the trial that, "If you pursue your line of defence I am going to produce a statement of 120 pages written by one of the accused, I am going to bring that as an exhibit."
POM Sorry, he would what?
MM He would produce that as an exhibit in the trial. Now the lawyer was briefing us, all five, together in the court cell and asking us, "How do you want to defend yourselves? We're already in the middle of the trial."
POM Did each of you have a separate lawyer?
MM Four of us took one lawyer. One chap insisted on his own lawyer.
POM Was that Beyleveld?
MM Yes but he used the excuse that he had family connections in the elite, in our country business elite, professional elite, and they insisted on a separate advocate. That was a point of friction already. You want to pull your own way, are you likely to go with a separate defence? When the lawyer says to us one day during lunch, he says the prosecutor is saying that if you decide, because we were debating it, should we go into the witness box under oath and give evidence and be subjected to cross-examination?
POM This was the five of you together?
MM The five of us, all five. We first took up the position, let's proceed as if we are going to go under oath and give evidence and be cross-examined. And this one when I said, "Chaps, now in your cells at night start writing your statement that you're going to give in court", when I saw his copy I got a shock because he raised an incident which would have certainly put the rope against us, on our necks. He raised an incident about our tactics that were contrary to the defence in the Rivonia trial and that support that saved the Rivonia trialists from the ropeand now he raised it.
POM What was that?
MM It was a decision to eliminate informers who broke our ranks. Now he argued that that decision had been taken in the High Command, in his statement, as a fact he put it, whereas the issue had cropped up in a different way. We had argued that post-Rivonia when you go out to carry out a sabotage action if you are intercepted by the police we now mandated you and gave you permission to fight back in order to protect yourself and escape. He turned that decision and said we had taken a decision to assassinate informers. With that decision, if it stood in court, we would have got the rope. Now that was in his statement that he had drafted.
POM And he shared the statement with you?
MM I had asked him, I had asked each one that's drafting. The lawyer said, "Mac will you vet it and co-ordinate it?" They gave me what they were going to say and we got into a discussion and of course I was telling Wilton Mkwayi, the most senior amongst us, and Wilton says, "That's the bastard, that's the bastard. He has talked to the enemy in detention." And he wanted to confront him. I said, "No, no confrontation." We then came to the conclusion that he could not be put in the witness box.
POM Did you even point out to him that that statement ?
MM We pointed out to him that that statement
POM That that statement would put the rope around?
MM Put the rope around and that's it not accurate and he became sheepish, became very sheepish, became uncomfortable. So I said, "Cool it, Wilton, we don't proceed this way. He is not going in the witness box, full stop. He's clearly going through agitation." He was a white comrade so we were not living on the same side where we could interact freely, daily, but I said to the lawyers, "He's out." Now when the lawyers say that the prosecutor is saying if any of you go in the box and take the oath and give evidence, he says, "In my cross-examination I am going to bring in evidence of an 120 page statement made under oath by one of your accused and I'm going to use that as a basis for cross-examination", so I realised whoever you put in the witness box is going to be asked about this execution squad, etc. The five of us meet with the lawyer and the lawyer raises this. That's the one time I got angry because I said just for that reason then it's necessary for one of us to go into the witness box. The lawyer said, "But you're taking a huge risk." I said, "I don't care." The lawyer said, "Why then do you want to go in the witness box?" I said, "I want to force that statement out because then once they bring that statement as part of the cross-examination they would have to divulge who wrote that statement", hoping that by making that statement and forcing this comrade to stand up amongst us. It didn't, they didn't stand up. It was a momentary lapse of judgement by losing sight of the main ball, the issue in court, a secondary objective was now overwhelming my thinking and I asked myself in prison, why did you want to take that position? It was like saying one of us has virtually sold out, he's hiding it, I want to smoke him out. And then do what?
POM Have yourself hanged.
MM And do what? You know it's him. What are you going to gain? You're losing focus that here you are in a trial. You're not just defending yourself, you're defending your organisation, you're defending the struggle, and now for the sake of smoking out a guy you're prepared to lose sight of what your main objective is because if we got sentenced to death every other trialist that comes after us is open to the death sentence. I said calm down.
With that experience behind me when the Vula trial comes I never even raised the matter with him. And it's glaring because you are pushing me in a corner in that interview. You're saying it's not just an indiscretion, this is a fundamental breach. And when I read the thing last night I say, "Shit, Padraig has got me in a corner here and I don't know how to slip out." So I put there in the margin, "Isn't this too harsh against Siphiwe?" But my mind was, OK, yes, I think he collapsed, I think he spoke. Forget it, put it aside, understand the nature of the child, you understand that it's now negotiations and you're on trial, it's going to put the movement at a disadvantage. Keep all your accused holding together. You know roughly what the score is, it's insignificant to me to have him exposed. But I did go to Madiba afterwards when I came out of trial and I did say, "Haven't you made a mistake in who you've appointed for the Self Protection Units?" But he turned the table on me. He said, "I know what you're going to say, you're going to say I have appointed some people who are weak. Don't raise that question, Mac, because you've already retired. You bloody swine, I would have put you in charge but you were not there so don't you come and question me about whether I've put a wrong choice."
POM This is the period when you were out of the six month period or whatever?
MM Yes. But that was the only time I tried to raise the matter and there too, very briefly, gingerly. Madiba's retort put me on my back foot, to back off. He said, "Shut up now, you've been asked to put your money where your mouth is. Back off." All I am explaining is when I read the transcript I realised that, oh, you are coming pretty close to the bone because your questions are pointed. That's a tough one. Now he and I lived close together, three years in the underground, two years in the country. We had to work so closely. Are you surprised that after I come out I hardly even meet him socially? I don't go to his home, he doesn't come to my home, I don't invite him to socials. He's tried once or twice to invite me to a social. When he was appointed to his present post he had a party celebrating, I went there. The other day he invited me to a social function in his official position. Yes we meet, shake hands, laugh, I will give him support in the work he's doing if he asks me for help but you can't say it is a friendship. You can't say there's any OK?
POM I've made my own judgement.
MM Your questions are very clear. What is interesting for me is going to be how has he reconciled it inside himself and I know many people how they reconcile it is by creating a mythology about it until they begin to believe the mythology. It's a psychological defence mechanism. I've known many people who collapsed who will today portray themselves as having never collapsed.
POM It's human.
MM And there's nothing wrong with saying collapsed. This is a problem about truth and reconciliation. The admission must be voluntary, it must not be forced out. The admission must be timeous, it must not be ten years later. The admission must not be in bits and pieces as if you are extracting a tooth without an anaesthetic. Then in the larger scheme of things the potential for reconciliation is immensely increased and maybe from a religious point of view you would say that that must be accompanied by some sense of atonement. At the individual level I don't put the atonement so high. I put the voluntary admission and timeous admission as crucial to your own colleagues. This is not wearing a sackcloth in public. If that happens it's a very painful thing for the person and it may lead to immense traumas for a while but the people who don't make that and misunderstand the capacity of their colleagues to forgive them and to help them to heal themselves because breaking down is a normal thing. People don't even have to go through torture to break down. Quite often it has an involuntary aspect like a nervous reaction, like a soldier soiling his pants the first time he goes into combat. So what's there? You don't find soldiers standing around and shaming themselves to say that I soiled my pants the first time I went into battle. They then begin to live often a macho, heroic image. But there it is. Not an easy issue to grapple with.
POM I was going to bring this up subsequently, and it would be a second conversation, but as I read through now more carefully Reflections and when I see the calibre, the intellect and commitment, the vision of all the individuals involved, I am sure there were many others on the Island that had similar visions and sentiments and whatever. I say to myself, what happened? What happened to the vision? What happened to the dream?
MM Somebody was in my office yesterday, a television producer, and I talked to him and said, "You guys, I don't see any vision in you guys. You're living in this new country, you're liberated. Where's the vision?" He had a copy of my book, he said, "Will you write me an inscription?" At the end of the thing he was so inspired, everything I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that. I said, "I don't even want to do that." And then he says, "Please put an inscription." And so I said, "OK. To you, lift your eyes, search for the horizon, because if you haven't got that how are you as a television producer, how are you going to inspire your viewers? You're not even exploring your art form. You're a bloody artist. I know what you're doing. You're just looking at a wonderful shot to open your documentary, a graphic shot, and after that nothing. What you've done is you've become a technician, you're not grappling with how all these memories are A younger generation is growing up, I see it in my children. Do they have excitement about the future? And when I sit and talk with them they see nothing inspiring, nothing on the television." I said, "What are you doing guys?" So that's why I said lift your bloody eyes, just look for the horizon.
POM Why do you think that is?
MM Oh that's a long one. One could sit down for bloody hours trying to tease that one out. I don't even have views on it yet.
POM I want you to think about it. And you know the first part that I asked you?
MM The first part, I want it, I want it now. I realise I'm giving it back to you but I want it.
POM No, you hold on to those for the moment because what I will do is I will collect and make all the changes anyway because I have to go through them and I'm going to have questions for you on what you said, what did you mean, expand, as we did before. But I had said what I would like you to do, remember the date you sat down to write to Blair and your fingers went dead on the keys, I'd like you to do an essay for this book that I'm doing.
MM I've noted that. That's why I said I must keep these notes.
POM You talked very well about the outline. People are beginning to talk about the outlines of
MM The problem for the world is how to impact on the powerful with a view that try and present a vision. There is no vision being presented. This is the problem that we had to grapple with in prison about our struggle. Walter Sisulu puts it best. He said, "It's one thing to know what you are against, it's a differentthing to present what you are for", and unless you answer that question what you are for you've got no vision.
POM This applies really to Thabo's government because Mandela was it really didn't matter in a sense what the government did. There was a vision.
MM And whenever he saw even when he was doing something that didn't make sense within that vision, but wherever he saw a huge disjuncture arising he would just jump in like he's done recently. He saw how people within the ANC were beginning to become narrow in their thinking, questioning the whites and making it difficult for whites to cross over. He kept quiet. Then a criticism of business went on and he stood up and said but business is Then in Durban there was a bubbling up of African/Indian anti-Indian, suddenly I open the Sunday Papers and they say he's an arrogant black.And when I meet him I say if you go on making this statement twice now I think you'd better cool off, he says, "Never, I'm not going to cool off. I'm not cooling off on this." You see this vision of non-racism he saw, he wants it, he understands the feelings of the African people but he is not prepared when he sees the things are not pulling together right, he's not prepared to cower and say I'll manipulate this quietly, because he sees that the vision is becoming so blurred that it disappears. He is a person who had that space and is of that character that he stands up and sometimes it looks completely dysfunctional but if you sit down to discuss with him he won't just question you and talking about a way forward you suddenly realise that, no, there is a purpose behind what looks like the madness.
POM I want you to think about that because it seems to me, maybe again I've been too close to things sometimes, but I have become more disillusioned with the new South Africa rather than more inspired that when I say, God, you began in 1989 because I had a vision of what I wanted to do, I find that the way things are turning out, that the enthusiasm I have for my own work is diminishing. Do you know what I mean?
MM It's not just that the issues have become ordinary. It's beneath that ordinariness is a disappearance of the sense of cohesion and that you are sitting, that this country is sitting at the point where its contribution to the new world in an experimental way is still vital to the world, that sense is going, that sense is disappearing. You're asking a tough question because it comes back to why do I have this reluctance to write? I don't want to write my autobiography because I can't escape this question. I have to be prepared to grapple with it and there is a sense of, or I could call it foreboding, the country has begun to sit at a point where the future cannot just become ordinary but the future can turn itself on its constitution, those parts that come from the movement. I go to India, I ask them I spent July when I went to that wedding, I spent the weeks interacting with Indians in India asking them when did corruption become systemic in India? One of the things that I read, not this present trip, the previous trip which was a social trip, I kept asking Indians in India in the context of the whole anti-colonial struggle and India having become independent in 1947 with a very strong liberation movement that played quite an inspirational role on the South African situation, I'm not talking about corruption, it's there in many countries, but I said when did it become systemic? And you could see a number of them were saying, "We've never confronted this question." I said, "We've got to confront it, we've got to ask the question because how else do we read the experience of the past in other countries to guard against not falling into the same trap. You can see it here, and after making the excuse and giving the rationalisation that we've now a more open society, therefore more of it is revealed.
POM It's just rationalising.
MM It's not enough. It is necessary that somewhere in the leadership there should be a consciousness to say we've got to watch this phenomenon while we struggle against it. We've got to ask, are we attacking it at the points where it's likely to become systemic because otherwise you can tackle it at the surface and think you're doing a wonderful job and then wake up one day and realise you cannot get out of it, to make changes. It's a real danger.
POM I remember a time, the conference in Durban I think two years ago, and there it was identified as all conferences probably say the same thing as the biggest single threat to democracy was corruption.
MM I don't regard it as a threat to democracy, I don't even regard it in the context of investment because the problem is investment can go to any country even in a dictatorship. What does business want? Business wants to know the rules of the game. If the rules say things have got to be done under the table they'll do it under the table. Margaret Thatcher's son was involved in arms in Saudi Arabia and I am sure it was something else in the US and everywhere, all over the world. No, the real issue is having moved this society to this point of a democracy, and a democracy which we've been trying to root into a human rights culture, which is more than the way the general world has just moved to democracy, full stop. It cuts across the democracy, it cuts across the human rights culture and it opens the door to a state appearing to be democratic but in its central nervous system has become autocratic.
POM I'll put this to you in a different way. I think this is what has disillusioned me the most, a sort of real anger, and that is the whole question of HIV/AIDS. I believe your President is close to committing genocide. I really do and I find that the failure of cabinet ministers to stand up and to say there are more babies lost through forget the argument of retrovirals, which by the way he was incorrect on again I couldn't paste but I cut the essential paragraph out, and he did that in his correspondence with Leon, not that I'm defending Leon.
MM And he did that the other day.
POM He did it the other day. Giving Nevirapine to pregnant women is a one-shot deal. It's not a matter of -
MM And, yes, you had fought the pharmaceuticals, you got the price down.
POM He got the price down and you say 35,000 babies a year die, who died this year because women do not have this available. That's more than all of the people that were ever killed by the apartheid system. You actually are killing more of your own people than apartheid did.
MM The arguments, the factual things are so clear. When I was in government in the first term we already started on AIDS and a special sub-committee had been created under his chairmanship.
POM Under his chairmanship?
MM Under his chairmanship and we came, appointed people, they came with grandiose things. I said, "Guys, forget the grandiose. Each minister take responsibility for your sector." And I pushed ahead in the transport sector and I kept reporting back to the point of boredom because I told them, "How do we get this awareness going?" And they were coming with these advertisements. I said I don't care, you can do all that. In my sector, it's a primary sector, it's truck drivers are the spreaders. What I have done is I've gone to the Bargaining Council, the Wage Bargaining Council for the industry, confronted the employers and the unions, brought about a partnership between them on this matter, so much so that the Bargaining Council contributed money to the campaign. I didn't even go to the central fund. We started the training programme of peer group instructors and we said we can't tackle all the routes. I know all those grand plans. I said, "Guys, out of all our truck routes here are two primary routes. Let's get moving there using unionists, using shop stewards, let's do the work." If I were to tell you instances that were raised and spoken about, we won't go into that, let's just stick to the ANC.
I was saying, having built a partnership between the employers and the unions in the Bargaining Council, which is supposed to be a wage and condition bargaining council, and we came now what do we do? I said put the map there and put the routes, but I haven't got the resources for all the routes. I don't want grand plans, peer group instruction, work force becoming instructors, people suffering from AIDS in the truckers. Employers give backing, I want to see those here. And they came. I said I want you to be at the front of it. Unions, I want your leadership at the front, I want your shop stewards as the shop force. I want people suffering from AIDS from within the truckers. They said what about the prostitutes? I said I want those women from the roadside, we will find those women who have got AIDS and convert them to instructors but let's start with just two routes, from Messina to Johannesburg, from Johannesburg to Durban. Let's start putting these people on the roads, let's gather their experience, let's refine our approach.
I reported back to the government cabinet. This was too much hard work for them. This was not what they wanted, they wanted three rand to produce posters. I said, "Listen guys, you're getting condoms", I said to Nkosasana Zuma, then Minister of Health, she was on the committee, "You're getting condoms. You haven't got your distribution outlets. I'm ready to take it for 15 sites around the country." I'm responsible for the Airports Company. I found management is not putting the condoms in the toilets. I've met the management. Why? It's clear some of them have got religious inhibitions, some of them have got false impressions of what their boss is supposed to be. I can open the Managing Director's private toilet at the Airports Company and say how come there is no condom dispenser here?He says, "No I use it." I said, "But I'm using it too." I said, "There's a problem, you're not buying into this thing."
Anyway, when 1999 came I thought a change is taking place because the Minister of Health comes to me privately and she says, "Mac, will you give us a report, a two-pager, of the strategy you've been using and how far you've gone on AIDS." I said, "Wonderful." I had a standing committee every month meeting of the employers and employees in the sector, so I give this report. I just see a change suddenly take place. I ask that committee, the Bargaining Council, "Does your minister ever attend?" I used the chair the Bargaining Council meeting on AIDS. They said, no, he's never come. I said, "What's happened to all the projects that we put on?" They said, "We no longer have support from the Minister of Transport. What we are doing is unimportant to him, it hasn't got drama to it."
POM This comes back to vision. How can you have vision or create a vision for a country or even take the model of how you reached democracy which at one level that democracy is being used to perpetuate a genocide on the very people it liberated?
MM At the Presidency in Pretoria I invited the key person from Thailand who was behind the successful campaign in Thailand, had all the people in the transport sector, had the media in the Presidency room, to come and chair this seminar. I got the Ugandan to do the same. And I said in the committee, I said, "Guys we don't have to keep running around the world. There is work to do here. There have been countries, poor countries that have been successful in their campaign. We just have to look at how to do it right in our country."
POM Not only is it not being done right
MM It's not only that, it's misleading.
POM It's misleading, and the bodies in about three or four years are going to pile up here. The average age, will the legacy of the movement be that they managed to reduce the average of the population to 41 after 14 years in power?
MM No, no. I had Khetso Gordhan, he used to be my D-G and became Jo'burg City Manager and is now with the bank.
POM He's with the bank, this bank too?
MM While he was manager of Jo'burg City I had a social at my home, he tells me we're talking about the issues around this country and he tells me, "Mac, we're having problems with the cemeteries. We are now beginning to bury people upright." And I read that the President the other days says people are spreading rumours that there's no cemetery space. Has he checked?
POM I've got out to a couple and they're full.
MM Yes, they're full. Khetso told me that the crisis had reached the point where we are beginning to be forced to bury people upright to save space.
POM My question is, what happened in cabinet in the leadership of the ANC that can't it see that it's killing its own people? Can't it see that it's inflicting I mean if I was harsh I would say, I got a new title for my book and it's From Apartheid to Aids, and to say that the irony is that those who liberated the country ended up by perpetrating on the people it liberated more injustices through its lack of action, its lack of commitment than did the apartheid government on people it oppressed.
MM That's where a major contribution in democracy not as a formal structure but democracy which was driving us which was both the formal aspect of democracy and the elections and all that, but together we're trying to make it a living thing on the ground, becomes a problematic issue. We came to power with that vision but the environment we walked into it may be partly because of the negotiating transition, the coalition government, etc., but we tried to tackle the issues but we left all the chandeliers in the corridors of power hanging. Our view was that what's wrong with that? But in the process the temptation was there to demobilise the people because the hierarchical order of things and order from top down looked like an efficient way of getting things done. But effectively a process of demobilisation began to take place. We rationalised in the interests of delivery. Well delivery is still not happening. When people come to me and say the bank must donate I say, "Chaps we've got R40 million budget a year for charity, we put 1% of our profits a year into the charity industry and it comes to a minimum R30 R40 million a year. Don't come and ask me now, (a) I'm not in that section, I'm not in this position for that but (b) I don't want to say publicly a very harsh truth that just by efficiency in your spending in government you could save 30% of the budget and 30% of the budget in a budget of R250 billion is something that you won't even collect in charity anywhere. Just that."
POM There's no excuse, money is available for I mean Thabo will say poverty is the issue yet the moneys available in the budget to fight poverty are not spent. All the moneys available for AIDS in the country are not spent. So then to say that money is the problem, but that's not my point. My point is a plague has seized this country, it's like a huge struggle else you're not going to have a country.
MM And it's a struggle where you want to get every individual citizen mobilised.
POM That's right. You need your townships with the same passion that they had during the eighties and after the Soweto uprising.
MM It's a tough question because, I think I've mentioned to you in some discussions, I said that my sense already in 1994 when the election took place was that Madiba made his victory speech at the Carlton Centre. I wasn't there I saw it on TV. But before the final election results when De Klerk conceded defeat Madiba made a sort of four minute victory speech, very dignified, very good, hit all the buttons right, but one of the buttons he hit was: tomorrow morning, after all this celebration, every member of my National Executive will be at Shell House at his or her desk at work, they've got a job to do. And I've even told them that by 1995, "Guys have we missed a moment?" Because we didn't take that statement and put it before the public and say, chaps, we've won but now the real work starts and in this work we want everybody, not just the usual business and labour, we want every person, adult and child, you've got a job to do. Now roll up your sleeves and get down to work because you're building your future. Inspire them and make it into your catching theme. Two or three years later Valli comes with Masakhane. Wonderful idea, never worked. Why? Because it became wrong focus. Masakhane from 'we build ourselves' became a thing that said 'here's a top down thing guys, here's a propaganda tool'. It lost the activism, it did not say, 'People here's your activity'. It was seen now as a mechanism to make people pay their electricity bill. The payment was going to arise incidentally around the theme that we've got to build our country. It would be a consequence of your campaign that people would begin paying, but you made the consequence the central purpose of your exercise. I said this to Valli. Why did this happen? Valli you were Secretary of the UDF, you have a practical experience how to mobilise and activate people. You're leading Masakhane and you've lost focus on how to activate people.
So my son called me and I said to him, "Don't quarrel with your sister." He said, "I can't find these crucial parts for this afternoon." I say, "Don't attack her by saying you're the cause of this, where's this stuff placed?" Ask her, 'Joey, I need your help, there's an important thing we've got to do today. Can you help us to find these parts?' I was only saying it to him because if you start off by saying, 'Joey, you mislaid the parts', you demobilise.
POM There's no chance of ever getting the part. Why, again I suppose I'm making the - my comparative models are the people in Reflections, it is my belief that if in their era that you had a plague like AIDS sweeping the country they would be as committed to go to jail for life to save the country on that issue as they are to free it. But there's none of that today.
MM We would have stood on that issue from the apartheid rulers and made it our issue to show that we were governing ourselves. I'm telling you, that's what we would have done, and that was what we were supposed to have started doing between 1990 and 1994 because we were the primary voice saying AIDS is a problem. Nkosasana herself was saying it.
POM That's right. In fact Leon Wessels told me a story that when he was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs that an appointment had been set up for three women to see him and he didn't know why he was meeting them. It turned out that one of them was Nkosasana Zuma and she wanted to talk about AIDS. What I don't get is why - is there nobody left in the entire echelons of the ANC who will stand up and say, like Edwin Cameron for example, that my voice will be heard. This country is in a state of national emergency and unless we mobilise all our resources to fight this we are not going to have a country?
MM We're going to lose the future that we fought for.
POM Yes. Where is that?
MM You saw how Edwin got into trouble.
POM But God damn it then, what's happening?
MM Well you will find in Reflections also, you'd have to be a pretty careful reader and you will see how even in the ANC, in the people who wrote in Reflections, there are people who are demobilisers, if you read one of the essays very carefully.
POM Make it easy for me, tell me the essay so I can go home and read it, OK?
MM Govan Mbeki. That was the most difficult profile to write.
POM OK that's fine but you haven't answered my question.
MM No I haven't answered your question yet. It's a question there's an easy answer which is going to be a glib answer and precisely because it will be glib answer it's not grappling with the problem.
POM Everyone says oh well, this country is in denial. Screw that.
MM No, we have to go back and ask not only the questions, what we have to keep probing and in our probing what we learn has got to keep forcing us to revisit the questions we've asked. I think it's Walter Sisulu who says in his essay, "There are no intractable problems." Often in the issue of social movement and political movement we haven't asked the right question. When you ask the right question what seems an intractable problem is not intractable. In asking what has gone wrong we need to refine that question by what we find out as we examine the problem. Your question has gone to what has happened in the ANC, what is it thinking in the cabinet, why no voice in the cabinet? I have not asked my colleagues. I'm sure if I asked some of them privately they will tell me they have reservations and then when I ask them, did you raise it, one or two of them will say yes, somebody raised it. Then when I ask them, well, if so many of you think that way why haven't you been able to prevail? You are really coming right against their problem, how to get support. Having got that far we have to start retracing our steps. We have to ask, where did this phenomenon of silence or lack of rigorous discussion in cabinet arise? Where did it arise in cabinet, but more importantly is a similar phenomenon taking place in the leadership structures of the ANC?