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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
04 Nov 2002: Maharaj, Mac
POM I spoke to Kathy yesterday. It was just an interesting conversation- he hadn't very much to add to what I don't already know, but he said that each prisoner had a prison file and that he has his and it came to 34 boxes and Madiba's came to 114 boxes. Did you ever ask for yours?
MM The reason for that is that I thought, as far as I can make out, the Rivonia group, just the group of Rivonia trialists, their boxes were traced to C-Max Prison and they were in disarray and from the time that Richard Stengel was working on Madiba's autobiography and when Anthony Sampson was working on Madiba's biography, combined with Kathy persistently looking for these things, he found these boxes in C-Max Prison and they were just littered on a floor in a basement room. He then rescued them and got people to store it properly, etc., but he didn't tell me that any of the sifting has found every prisoner's records and boxes and I from time to time said to myself, oh I'm going to battle to go to C-Max Prison, go to this place, and then in between that we have found a vital set of stuff in Madiba's handwriting that had been seen by them has disappeared. We have found that only three people, according to records, have visited that facility and we are busy trying to find out quietly who has taken these original hand-written notes of Madiba. What have they done with it? Why did they take it, etc.?
So in that context I just thought I don't want to go to C-Max Prison to see it, I know Kathy is fighting with them to transfer everything to the National Archives but you have the same problem, nobody is cataloguing and putting this -I went to the National Archives because somebody phoned me, Esther Barsel phoned me about a year ago and said, "Mac, in the course of looking for something there I have found a trial on you." I rushed off there, looked at the file, it was meaningless, there was nothing there on me except a few correspondence, the application to work after I was released from prison, the security police reporting to the minister about my job application and the minister saying not granted. Then in my files I find simultaneously an application by Johnny Copland's lawyer in 1977 for permission for him to work and he's granted permission. That is sitting in my file, but just four sheets of paper.
POM Did Caryl go through that?
MM Yes, I sent her, she's obviously been to the Archives. That's where she phoned me one day and said she has found a file on my wife.
POM Mac I want to go back for a minute, you know we have covered it, to the GDR, because what fascinates me is, of course, the relationship to the second world war. Here you had a country that was thoroughly indoctrinated by national socialism, widespread support among the population either through fear or whatever, but for Germany, for the fatherland. Then the war turns against them and they're invaded from two sides and the division of territory is a matter of who gets there first. You have many books with accounts of people fleeing towards the western side believing that the Soviet troops would come in and rape them and kill them and be far more abusive to them than the western allies. The country is divided almost arbitrarily. You have now two Germanys and one part that was pro-national socialism is suddenly under a communist state. The questions, one goes back to their own participation in the war, their support of Hitler, their impressions of being invaded, whether or not they saw the Soviet oppressors as a conquest. They had been defeated and an alien power was in the ultimate control of their country and the quick adaptation from national socialism to acceptance of communism, or is it acceptance of it or having to accept it? I suppose what I'm getting at is and then the Secret Police and the activities of the Secret Police and whatever, we'll get to that on your second visit in 1978 and your third visit in 1986 and the changing circumstances. You have the awareness factor, 'I wasn't aware of the concentration camps', 'I wasn't aware of what the SS were up to', 'I wasn't aware'. In the circles that you mixed there would have been underground communist cells, so that's a very select group of people not representative of the population as a whole.
So I'm coming to a world, obviously what I want to make a comparison to is whites when they say here they weren't aware of what was going on or the degree that the state went to to crush the ANC and other liberation movements, they weren't aware of the activities of the security forces, they weren't aware of there being hit squads and things like that. In many ways life here was structured in a way that whites were psychologically separated, physically separated from blacks. I mean if you were a white person going to work you didn't even have to see a township. If you didn't go out of your way you never had to see a township, you never had to see the way black people lived so they didn't enter your consciousness on a level of the way they lived and the conditions in their communities.
It's a long question but I'm saying this whole question there have been books written, one a controversial but an award-winning, I can't remember the title of it now, about four years ago which documents heavily that the average German had to know what was going on even though they could never admit it, talk about it to themselves.
MM I think the framework of the two circumstances have a convergence and then they have a dissimilarity. The convergence first. In the SA set up I accept that life was so structured, not just from apartheid in 1948 but preceding 1948, was so structured that the white community whatever the class they came from, whatever their origins in terms of class, whatever their station in the apartheid structure from a class relation point of view, they were overwhelmingly surrounded in a material arrangement and a psychological, ideological environment which separated them from blacks and they lived in this white society. They never saw a black person as a human except in the limited framework of a servant in their home and yet the servant was crucial, bathed the child, fed the child, cleaned the house, often did cooking too.
POM Most of them raised the child.
MM Yes, and raised the child. But the environment was that apartheid which had its genesis in support for the nazis and national socialism used that ideological framework of the master race and therefore it reinforced the view that the black people were sub-human and justified their treatment, benevolent at best in Verwoerd's time. Therefore, they do have a legitimate excuse to say, 'I was not aware', up to a limit.
Now when you look at Nazi Germany, sure, there was a German underground. Hitler in his rise to power had to stage the Reichstag fire as a way of emotionally mobilising the German population and he was elected but he used the Reichstag fire to reinforce his power. Even at that time the socialist movement, made up now I'm talking about the Communist and the Socialist Party, the second international, was a substantial force in German political life unlike the SA situation where the ANC was a force known in the black community but in the white community demonised just under a few labels and not known. To the extent that the white community got to know of anybody in the democratic forces it was the few names of the whites, the Bram Fischers, who were jolting to their conscience but had already been sealed off in their conscious as a few crazy kaffir boeties (kaffir lovers). And that was the term. If you at all fraternised or sympathised with the black struggle and you happened to be white you were simply called a kaffir boetie, a brother of the kaffirs. That was an ideological, emotional mechanism to simply isolate you, ostracise you.
In Germany there was no colour that could be used for that isolation. They were all Germans, even those who belonged to the socialist movement. But Hitler had skilfully used the word 'national socialism' as an ideological trapping to bring in the socialist element and he had projected the superiority of the Aryan race so any German belonging to the socialist side was still part of the Aryan nation and the Aryan people.
POM So they're like other human beings were of a lesser standing than the
MM But non-Aryans. But what it was saying is all of you Germans are part of the superior race, even those who are enemies of national socialism but who are German, it did not describe them as sub-human. But what happened is that, I think the framework was in the environment of the lead up to the full cold war. We talk about the cold war as a phenomenon of post-second world war but in fact pre-second world war the environment was one where even German people were reading that the Prime Minister of Britain, Chamberlain, agreed with Hitler on Hitler's actions on Czechoslovakia, he condoned it. In Britain he was seen as the appeaser. The United States was following an isolationist programme, it was not a feature, and the overwhelming news was Britain does not see anything wrong with this, Britain in fact is appeasing us so that we can deal with the communist, which is Russia, and the communist in our midst is not a problem, lock them up, put them in the concentration camps. And this was the start. The concentration camps were not a feature that developed in the second world war, they pre-date the second world war where the left were sent in. Then when the war opens it opens as an attack on Poland and who's your key enemy there? Russia. In the meantime when Hitler unrolls Barbarossa and attacks east and west, what do you have? You have a collapse in the west. Hitler's forces are just running rampage and a key country, France, has a government which is agreeing to collaborate with Nazi Germany.
So Europe appears to be acquiescent, and I'm talking about the environment from the German citizens' point of view. All he is being bombarded with is mass rallies at the Nurembergs and this reported control of the media that Chamberlain was with us, Churchill is the bad guy, France is on our side, it's got a Vichy government, every other country has just rolled over. Taken over Czechoslovakia, rolled over Holland, but our real enemy is Russia and the non-Aryans.
POM He didn't see the French as Aryan or the Belgians?
MM They are all Aryan, they belong to the Aryan race. The Aryan race was the white people. What was contradicting Hitler's ideological position was his axis with Japan but he portrayed his axis with Japan as an axis of convenience. So the Aryan race, the swastika comes from a Sanskrit script and the Aryan race was portrayed as the master race but its central pivot was western civilisation.
POM He was telling people in Belgian and in Holland and France for that matter, and in Czechoslovakia that they were being conquered for their own good.
MM For their own good and under the banner of anti-Semitism which was non-Aryan. So the enemy within was portrayed as 'the Jew'. All of you non-Jews, you're good Aryans. What I'm coming to, Padraig, is that here was a left movement existing in the Germany of the thirties, fairly powerful and the opposition So I am saying when the war ends the cold war environment is right at the forefront. You have a West Germany and you have an East Germany. The west is supported by the Marshall Plan, the east is supported by the communists, Soviet Union. Now the west outside of the Nuremberg trials set about officially, in ideology and everything, keeping a silence on resistance to nazism. In the east of course they had an interest, that's why it was not called the Communist Party of Germany, it was called the Socialist Unity Party and it encouraged the existence of other parties like the Peasant Party but firmly aligned to the communist world.
In the east that I visited in 1961 the historical memory of nazism was openly talked about, it was part of the school curriculum to preach against national socialism and Hitlerism. In the west that was not dealt with in the school curriculum hence if you read authors like Gunther Grass you will find this long delving, this agonised German people. The issue was the unity of the two elements but the alignments were overwhelming, pro-west, anti-communist, pro-communist, anti-capitalist. This was the environment. And of course you had the atomic bomb which concluded the second world war and a huge, huge position taken in the left and the anti-imperialist world that the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was unnecessary to conclude the war, that Japan was ready to surrender, that despite all the signs of its readiness to surrender the west unleashed the atomic bomb.
In that environment of this power-rivalry, this bipolar world, in East Germany they taught anti-nazism. They involved the socialist struggle of the thirties against Hitler as the only force in German political life that opposed nazism. They invoked even Pastor Neimoller, the man who when they came for him said, "First they came for the communists and I was silent, then they came for the socialists and I was silent." And he goes through the different oppositions and he says, "And finally they came for me and there was nobody to speak." Now this is a Pastor speaking. So the portrayal of that history was being actively done in Germany on the basis that it was the inheritor of that resistance to nazism and anybody who served in the second world war under the Nazi bosses was explained away as the conscript soldier rather than the voluntary supporter.
POM They were exonerated.
MM They exonerated and those Nazis, we now know, who were scientists, etc., and intelligence officers, were courted by both sides of the cold war and protected but in the west a large number of them, including Von Braun who went to Nassau, and then you had the Metzers and the Eichmanns who disappeared in all sorts of lives and many of them lived under different identities, now coming out that they were needed as the intellectual capital in the west to develop its weapons programme, etc. But similar things happened in the east, that people fled from Nazi Germany, the scientists, some went eastwards but they were not talked of, they buried their heads under this environment that East Germany was the logical state representing and embodying that resistance to nazism and therefore that resistance to imperialism, the resistance to capitalism and the alignment with the anti-colonial world.
In that context, as I said, racism, from where I come from, Germany was a refreshing environment, even more refreshing for me than England. But we come back to the Germans. Here was a body of Germans saying under the patronage of the Soviet Union, of Russia, here we are celebrating, here is the monument, this huge cemetery in Berlin celebrating the Russian soldier who gave his life to free East Germany and that this East Germany is the embodiment of the tradition of the anti-Nazi struggle in the thirties of Germany. It was being taught, it was being openly spoken about and the record of the concentration camps were made monuments.
You had Buchenwald. I visited Buchenwald and what did they teach you when you visited Buchenwald? You were shown here is the room where Ernst, this is the section where Ernst Tellmann the communist leader of the thirties was in prison, put in this concentration camp and this is where he was killed by the Nazi imprisoners. And this is where you now have where the Jews and the socialists were kept, this is where they were killed, this was the build up of the concentration camp. The concentration camp's inmates were made up of two streams, anti-Nazis and Jews. Jew, whatever your political alignment you landed there. Here is the room, I can still remember it, this is the one which has got a tiny railway type track. There is the box behind a sort of trolley, behind a curtain, and this is the room into which the person was brought and made to stand as if they are being measured for their height, stripped naked, under medical examination and made to stand against the height measure. So your head is to the wall, here's the measurement rod coming down, you're facing that way and behind this is a curtain with a hole and this is where they shot you and the moment you were shot they opened the curtains and dropped you into the trolley and the trolley took the body away, they cleaned the blood and the next patient came in. They showed you all these rooms but they didn't say this was a concentration camp of Jews, they said this is a concentration camp where Ernst Tellmann, the leader of the German resistance to Nazism was also killed, and they named all the people, the people who wrote books, Bruno Apitz, Naked Amongst the Wolves that I mentioned the other day. This book is written about experiences of Buchenwald and this novel, Bruno Apitz wrote this novel based on the experiences there.
So there was a lot of literature in German and translated into English available about the anti-Nazi struggle and whoever was in power now, even careerists that were coming through the system now in the political line, in the social line, economic line, all claimed, 'We are the repositories of that anti-Nazi struggle', to the extent, for example, Hans Eichler says to me he was conscripted into the army. When he was conscripted into the army he says, "I had no choice but I was captured as a soldier of Germany in Crete and I was taken as a prisoner of war to Egypt, but already in the army I was in an underground communist cell and when I landed as a prisoner of war in Egypt I immediately made contact with the guards of the POW camp who were British soldiers and sought out the communists amongst them and we then formed clandestine cells, captor and captive aligned on one thing, we stand for communism. We studied the socialist experience of both the Socialist Party which was larger and the Communist Party to come to a conclusion that these two needed to unite and therefore when we created East Germany we created an East Germany of a political party which was a unity of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party and called ourselves the Socialist Unity Party."
Now I come along as a young man, this is early days, this is 1961. The war has been over 16 years. The cold war is at its height. The west is doing everything with its Marshall Plan to regenerate life in the west and it has captured, by agreement at the conclusion of the second world war, inside the eastern part of Germany is the old capital of Berlin but Berlin is divided, this little island inside East Germany is divided by the four powers. Three of the four powers are west, so you have West Berlin and you have East Berlin and East Berlin and West Berlin, to pass through one to the other, there are check points, the famous Check Point Charlie. The west is flying in goods, consumer goods. West Berlin is gaudy but is presented as the bastion of freedom by the west. This is where you have Radio Free Berlin existing, the Voice of America broadcast. In the meantime the east is retained as the capital of East Germany.
When I come along the cold war is at such a height that it is while I am in Germany and I happened to be in Berlin that weekend when I wake up one morning to find the wall has been put up last night. And it is justified with all sorts of data and economics in the context of the cold war. This is justified to me as the peace forces and I buy into the peace forces as against the warmongers. You had that Berlin Corridor through which the western powers continued to replenish and supply West Berlin.
So, the emotions are high, the dividing lines are which are the anti-Nazi forces who bore the brunt of the second world war, who were the appeasers? Appeasers were Chamberlain, and that when the west came into the war and America came in, it came in for its selfish interests, that it needed the Pearl Harbour attack by Japan to bring the US into the war. But I've also told you that in the communist movement you had communists in Britain like Harry Pollit, the General Secretary, who could not switch and said in all conscience, "I have opposed this war as an imperialist war. Now that the Soviet Union is in the war we are saying this is a war in defence of democracy." He says, "I don't accept that thesis but you've decided as a party, please excuse me from serving as General Secretary because you need somebody who is wholeheartedly in support of that programme."
POM But he would not have known of Hitler's systematic eradication of millions of people.
MM He would have known.
POM He would?
MM Yes! Hitler's eradication he would know because in 1936 when the Reichstag fire trial took place the chief accused in that trial was a chap called Georgie Dimitro. Georgie was a Bavarian communist, part of the Communist International, and Georgie together with a number of Germans were arrested and so was the Dutchman Van der Lubbe. In the west and throughout the world already over the Reichstag it was portrayed in the late thirties as a fake fire trial to excuse, as a cover to attack the left. Here's a communist, Georgie Dimitro, accused number one, I forget the names of the others, I'll remember them, German party leaders, etc. But in order to build the anti-Nazi movement in the western countries the left movement led by a famous British QC (Harry?) Pritt, but he was a QC, Pritt, simultaneously as the Reichstag fire trial was taking place in Germany in the western countries Harry Pritt and company organised a parallel trial and there as this real trial was going on there was a mock trial going on in order to expose the truth behind the Reichstag fire. But of course the ruling parties in the western countries didn't support that because they saw that out of sync with appeasing Germany. They say that was a communist move but Harry Pritt and company were part of this alternative trial as a means of exposing what's happening in Nazi Germany.
So there was a lot of awareness in the left circles of the repression going on in Germany and the concentration camps. It was confined in the left movement and even in the left movement there was a lot of division and the communist parties were at the forefront of it. They were a small force in many countries like England. So Harry Pollit knew and he regarded the second world war as a rivalry between imperialist countries but when Hitler attacks in 1941, attacks Russia through Poland then the characterisation of that war in the left movement is this is now a war in defence of democracy and, yes, we have to align ourselves with the western countries' participation in the war even though we disagree with them in their agenda but it is a defence of the Soviet Union as well, so let's make friends with enemies for the time being.
Back to GDR. This is the environment. What is the second crucial environment? It's the economy. Soviet Union has been portrayed to have gone through a forced industrialisation in the thirties to build its economy in the face of an embargo that the west has imposed from 1917. So it is building this economy and has demonstrated a power, an economic power to sustain participation in the war where by all accounts at least 20 million Soviet soldiers died and yet that economy was able to produce the munitions, etc., to withstand this attack. So the model of state ownership as the equivalent of how to move the economy beyond capitalism is accepted. The poverty, the hunger strikes post the depression of 1929, are a demonstration of the bankruptcy of capitalism, that it had reached its maximum power of growth of the economy.
POM The hunger strikes or the suicides?
MM Yes, no I'm talking about the hunger strikes of 1930s in Britain, the hunger marches.
POM OK, yes.
MM The hunger marches, not the hunger strikes. So at the level of the economy it would appear that the Soviet way of running the economy is an alternative model and the GDR goes that way, state ownership of enterprises and in the initial stages, just as in the Soviet Union, this regeneration is taking place by your bootstraps, not by handouts by the Marshall Plan. The old Nazi economy captains who collaborated with Hitler, the Krupps, the Thyssens, are the basis of the regeneration of the economy in West Germany supported by the Marshall Plan covering up their Nazi association. The east says no capitalism, the state takes over and runs the economy. In the meantime, modelled on the Soviet Union, as is happening even now in Cuba
POM But most of it has been reduced to rubble by the Soviet forces.
MM And so there's a reconstruction of that economy taking place and people are getting jobs now. But side by side are housing regulations, rental ceilings, medical services being provided, education being provided free for everybody. These benefits are kicking through. As against that everything is saying in the west if you can afford it you get it, if you can't you don't. Here is a practical experience from the privation of Germany from 1919, from the Treaty of Versailles, even those who lived through the Nazi times are saying here for the first time there's housing with controlled rental, there are blocks of flats going up, there is schooling going on free of charge, there's medical attention free, there's social welfare. So even those hesitant voices in this cold war environment are saying here it's happening.
And what has happened is no movement of people is allowed between East Germany and West Germany, the boundaries are defined and even in West Germany no crossing. Why? In the east it's portrayed as trying to subvert the communist order and undoubtedly it was intending to subvert that communist order. But the result is that anything good said about the west was interpreted by the ordinary German citizen, by the propaganda machinery and in their minds, as only aimed at one thing, subvert this order that we are developing.
So the East Germany of 1961 was a Germany on the march developing its economy, developing its social welfare facilities, getting people jobs and doing so without a capitalist class sitting on top of them. You mentioned the Secret Police. There was no sign in 1961 at the level of the ordinary people's lives that here was a repressive force. To the extent that it existed it was seen as a benign defensive force of the people.
I have told you that one of the incidents that I took part in was the issue of persuading a young man who was refusing to go into the army and of course I took part in it not because I was asked to from the factory, I volunteered because I was interested in what's the problem. I was coming from a background, a country, that's moving towards armed struggle against apartheid so I had no in principle objection to be in the military. In fact I thought it's a good thing to go into the military but I participated in trying to persuade him by saying I will understand why this man, this boy, doesn't want to go into the army. To this day I do not know any more whether I got to the truth but what I have is an overwhelming memory that this boy in the end talked to me and said, "Look, Das, I'm in love and I don't want to be separated from my girlfriend. I don't want to go to the army and lose my girlfriend." And I thought, "Hey! Is that the measure of your unhappiness with this society?" In my discussions with him, "Are you unhappy with the way this country is running?" He said, "No, no, no, I'm very happy but my problem is my girlfriend." And for me it said I had an opportunity to glimpse at close hand what is the nature of the grievance. Remember I had come from Britain also where I am exposed to all the criticisms of communist rule, but I am not finding a resonance in the ordinary people.
Padraig, what I am saying is a long answer, I'm saying this is not an exercise at the moment to critically examine now the history of the communist world, it's an attempt to put myself into the environment of what I was seeing which, sure, was reinforcing my views of my commitment to the communist cause and, yes, I would have been looking at it through that prism but even as I was looking at it through that prism I was trying to look at it critically but I could not find the evidence. When you say then everybody was now anti-Nazi, no, I met people who said - I served in Hitler's army. I even met, yes his name is coming back, a chap called George Zincke who was in charge of the student programme in East Germany. He was a little older than me but he told me that he had been conscripted into Hitler's army at the end stages of the war as a 15-year old and he told me the harrowing experiences that he went through as a 15-year old who had no choice but to go into the army, who did not know how to fight and who was in fear of his life and all he and his friends did was to cover themselves with tree branches as camouflage and wait for the first opportunity to surrender.
Against that there was a body of knowledge that said that the Soviet forces when they came into Berlin had gone into the rampage, had pilloried and plundered and raped. This was the west's side of the story. But the west was presenting only the Soviet forces as the plunderers and the rapists. It didn't present its own soldiers as doing that. And what happens to me, I'm in Bischofswerda, 30 kilometres outside Dresden and when I visit Dresden the party leadership, the city governors come and meet me and they arrange to take me around, and what am I shown? I am shown the Oder River, I am shown these fantastic buildings which have been bombed, still dilapidated and bomb shells, and told, "This is where the west broadcast that Dresden was going to be under fire, aerial bombardment, people gathered near the Oder River for safety and then the bombers came in and strafed the Oder River civilians." They said, "This is where the Dresdeners were massacred and this was the west with its aerial bombardment." The picture of a Soviet soldier as plunderer, rapist, western soldier defender of democracy, was not standing up, was not squaring up and when you spoke to Germans they would say, look, there's the monument to the Soviet soldiers, they were our liberators. Had they not liberated us we would be like in West Germany and we would still be a left movement, eschewed by the west and treated as enemies of the west.
So that's the environment of 1961. When you try to draw the parallel you see a nuanced difference. At the moment it is growing up in SA where every white who says I was anti-apartheid, I've heard a nice variation recently where a white person says, "Listen, I was fighting on your side. The difference is that I was fighting it quietly within the NP and the apartheid structures." I've got black people and white people saying the same thing that those who served in the apartheid structures are now saying, "We were fighting a different terrain so we were fighting quietly, you didn't hear about it."
POM By the same token you may have had many socialists and communists who were participating in the Nazi system after the war, saying, "Listen I was quietly fighting from within the system." I suppose what I'm getting at is given the two contexts of (i) the superior race concept, (ii) the communist threat concept, my point is that each group, society, that is being propagandised or used or manipulated by the powers at the top
MM As what is a convenient rationalisation for the system today.
POM That's right. Each one is a human being and can find a convenient rationalisation.
MM And here you are witnessing it because as we try to move forward every attempt to re-examine our history gets a huge reaction from certain segments of the white community. 'Please don't cast us as the enemy. We were not all the enemy.' So whatever you do in the interests of unity and reconciliation show the two parties as locked in a war but don't make the warring parties, one side evil. Interesting formulation, don't make them evil. Now that's a moralistic term but under that guise even in the TRC the process was, the biggest protest from FW de Klerk was you cannot create, you must realise there's a moral equivalence here, don't make a moral judgement. That's the level at which they were arguing it and we were saying you cannot put the two sides as morally equivalent. In the end the TRC was confined to that space so that the way it portrayed the history was constantly to answer the charge: are you being even-handed? And in that context the atrocities of apartheid were said to be the counterpart was the atrocities of the ANC and don't treat these two things as different, don't explain one away in a different way. So you had that demand for even-handedness but the even-handedness can become a serious blockage to how you recover your past memory because you do not want to put guilt on the white community but you do want the historical record to be correctly stated because guilt becomes not a court of law guilt but a moral guilt. There is a danger in attaching moral guilt because at the level of morality the issues of equivalence become extremely blurred and confusing.
So you have that ongoing process and I remember when I was in government the war between the Afrikaner and the British was called, when I was a school kid, the Anglo-Boer War. By the time I was in prison Afrikaner historians were calling it the Second Freedom War and when we have democracy the question becomes: how do you categorise that war? We're in a coalition government, we're trying to build unity of our people and people say the South African National War. We say what does that mean? SA was not at war, there was no entity called SA. If we say call it the Anglo-Boer War the Afrikaners react and say, "No, it was our freedom war from British rule." And we say, "But it was no freedom war to us." Then they say, oh now there are historians showing how blacks participated in the war as trench diggers, etc., as messengers and couriers, and died. Yes, but you have not arrived at the characterisation of that war which was a war between the warring white tribes both united in the exclusion of the overwhelming majority of blacks. Even up to today to the best of my knowledge the characterisation of that war is a fudged characterisation.
That is why even in my introduction to Reflections I say in a very wide sense that there is need for the re-interpretation, there is need for bringing new facts but be careful, let's ground our interpretations on fact so that the debate of interpretation starts from a common set of facts. I said allow that in interpretation there's room for debate to carry on so that you begin to develop what belongs to that memory.
POM If you were to perform the same exercise of saying that the second world war, which was called in the west, 'the last good war, the war against evil', would you at that time in 1961 have made no difference in the moral equivalence of Nazi Germany versus the rest in terms of what each was standing for, in terms of values?
MM In terms of values the underwriting was a collaboration between the western powers, particularly Britain and the US and the Soviet Union. That was the reality.
POM Was Hitler evil?
MM Now the idea of Hitler being evil
POM Was nazism evil?
MM Nazism was presented from my side as the logical development of capitalism when capitalism no longer fulfils a historically progressive task, that it was the barest form of the naked rule of that power and it was built on racism and ideological superiority and division of humankind. The fact that the west was fighting in the war against it was that the west was a reluctant partner. Why was the west a reluctant partner? See Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler, see the US reluctance to take part until it was attacked at Pearl Harbour. In the meantime see that from the beginning Hitler was ranting and raving against the communists and attacking the communists inside Germany and as soon as he got the appropriate chance he said his real enemy is the destruction of the Soviet Union. So the moral equivalence between nazism and the values of the second world war were fudged. I did not buy into a description of the second world war as a war against evil. I bought into it as a war forced by Nazi Germany against itself in which the west was participating because it had no option but to fight Hitler and it tried as long as possible not to fight Hitler. So you could not say that the value system that was driving the alliance of the Soviet Union and the western powers against nazism was based on a moral value system but the value system that emerged was what is embodied in the United Nations Charter and their the Charter proclaimed human rights and self determination to be and to me that was the Soviet Union aligned with newly independent countries like India, pushing the west to insist that human rights and the right to independence and self-determination was a right that should prevail throughout the world.
POM Which is ironic in terms of the fact that human rights in the Soviet Union didn't exist.
MM Exactly. But I am saying, in answer to the question was this a war against evil, fought with a common set of values, I say no, the values emerged post the end of the war.
POM Those values were false in the sense that many of the parties who put their names to the Charter went about systematically eradicating human rights.
POM And then participated in the UN as though they were the protectors of human rights.
MM Yes they were presented as the protectors but the reality that there was a denial of human rights was not in that period the one that was the accepted version of what's happening in the Soviet Union and yet the reality for me was that one of the key architects of the UN Charter was the Prime Minister of SA, Jan Christian Smuts who was ruling us and denying us our rights here to the extent that if you had sat up with me and said, wait a minute, in the Soviet Union there are no rights, I would be showing the socio-economic rights and I would be saying why are you arguing with me, because your blue-eyed boy, Jan Christian Smuts, who claims he wrote the preamble to the Charter is the very man who's oppressing us in SA. So don't tell me about double standards. I would say your own western camp has got double standards and I would turn round to say Britain, what are you doing in Kenya? What are you doing in Nigeria? What are you doing in India? And US, what are you doing in Venezuela and in the Philippines? Double standards, chaps. I don't buy it. What I buy is this Charter, can we make it a living reality? And they say yes and I say, well in that case make Africa independent, give independence to Asia, don't be fighting against the freedom struggles, give up your hold on China, let China be free.
To me that was the way I saw the UN Charter. And who was blocking, be it China, be it Philippines, be it Malaysia, Burma, India, Africa, the whole of Africa, it's not the Soviet Union that's keeping us in bondage, it's the west that's keeping us in bondage and you are telling me that individual rights are not granted in the Soviet Union? I say my answer to that is look at the social rights that are coming through. Racism is not allowed, there is free education, there are jobs, there is social welfare, there is free health and in 1961 I said I've been there, I've seen it with my own eyes. I have, I have seen
POM Seen the future in a word.
MM Dean Hewlett Johnson, what was his book called, The Socialist Sixth of the World.
POM In the light in which history unfolds, what we know now that we did not know in 1960/61, 1978/80 and the year 2000 particularly with the opening of archives in Moscow and in Berlin and in Prague, in every country, when, and I think Kader Asmal states this in the book that he and Louise wrote, I forget the title of it now, it preceded the TRC I think -
MM No it was -
MM While it was sitting.
POM They say apartheid was a crime against humanity on the scale of nazism, the huge numbers, the millions that were killed in the Soviet Union during the Stalinist era, of the Gulags, what happened in China during the cultural revolution, do you think that apartheid can be equated to those, looking back on the 20th century or that by so doing, in the same way that the ANC was saying to the NP that we can never accept that you were morally equivalent to us, you simply weren't, can you say that to call apartheid a crime against humanity on a scale comparable to the holocaust, the millions who died of collectivisation in Russia, the Gulags, again can the same moral equivalence be made or not made?
MM I think there's a continuing thread in all that I have said so far. I do not like to couch the issues, social, political issues in moral terms.
POM Just in terms then of facts.
MM Of facts. I think that the larger issue, and I haven't read Kader and Louise's book because I have some blockage about that, I thought we were arguing the TRC again as an empirical issue of how to move forward and I had left the Communist Party and I was finding this tendency to couch it as an answer for the future, problematic, because I felt it should be put as an experience to finding the answers. I was deeply conscious that what we were doing could not have a final imprimatur to say this is the model, and I still resist that. So when you come to the facts, yes I think the facts show that the scale of the horror in Germany, in Russia was far beyond anything that we can talk about on the scale of numbers. I've also said that when I came out of prison and I saw a programme in Britain about what the San Salvador freedom fighters were facing, I found that far harsher than anything that we had been through and far more brutal and inhuman. But I have also said consistently I don't like sacrifices to be put on a scale. I find it a wrong way to discuss and distil lessons about the way forward.
POM There's a difference between putting sacrifice on the same scale and putting the level of atrocity.
MM I even find atrocity difficult to put on a scale because I think that the issue that we've got to grapple with is the question of power and the question of what constraints you put on power that would not allow it systemically to degenerate into a dehuman system. That's what I find is the issue. I find anybody who couches their positions in moralistic
POM Millions of Germans dehumanised themselves, average Germans who participated in the enormous infrastructure that went into maintaining concentration camps. Goods had to be supplied, it was like a manufacturing industry.
MM Yes, it was a factory.
POM It was a factory, it had to be supplied from the outside by people who knew where they were taking goods and services to and would talk about it. So they dehumanised themselves in their knowledge of what was going on in a way that would be equivalent to the way whites dehumanised themselves.
MM In SA. Yes. My problem about that is that if it is put up as the model of human atrocity it leaves out learning how similar human atrocities perpetrated by Britain never allowed Britain to descend into a permanently characterised state of being a society founded on the gross violation of human rights. I find what Britain did in India, in Ireland, in Kenya, equally horrendous but I find that unless you acknowledge that part of Britain you will not understand the good parts of Britain. I find the same thing in the US. These moral guards prevent you from looking at the blemishes in yourself. What the US did at My Lai in Vietnam and in South America and over the killing of Lumumba goes out of the scale, goes out of the vision to say, hey wait a minute, there is no society that is impervious from descending to atrocity. What you have to ask is what are the values that we are inculcating and testing ourselves and those values should not be put under a religious, moralistic set. It must be put as individual values that hold together irrespective of the religion so that it cannot become that type of crusade. I would rather the crusade be around democracy, around resolving conflicts without going to war so that they have a concrete shape and that I can test whether your values are coming through.
Now that is where I am sitting at the moment. It's not a new one for me, it's something that has been there. It's a funny thing I'm saying, I'm not sure I'm clarifying myself because I'm a person who's also saying that part of the crisis of the world today is a disjuncture between politics and morality and I sometimes go on to say fairness. I'm not speaking about this thing morality is always normative but I'm not speaking of it as a closed system of thought. I'm wary of anything that has that crusading, holistic sense to it because I think they are just as repressive, be it Catholicism, Calvinism, you name the religions. They all have a tendency to become a closed system of thought and they all become prescriptive across your entire life and across your whole day.
POM In that sense you lived the major portion of your life under the theology of communism.
MM Communist though, communism. And I am resistant to anything being put in that closed system and yet I am mindful that the current world, e.g. in political life, has a disjuncture with value base and I prefer to distil at the moment particular values even though they raise sharp grey areas but I would like to raise particular values so that you can test your conduct and not your conduct from every moment from waking to sleeping. I am trying to look at the problem by avoiding a closed system of thought and therefore while I invoke morality I slip into words like 'fairness', it's because I have not got a clarity on that and so when I am dealing with this particular aspect, as we have been talking this morning, I am trying to say what are the value systems that guide our conduct in public life and I have to admit in private life too. I am scared of putting it in such a generalised version form for public and private life that it becomes closed. That I want to avoid.
So you will find in what I am saying all sorts of grey areas because I acknowledge them. I acknowledge them as grey but I say if we are to measure human progress let's not try to create something that is like Hitler's final solution. I think there's an evolving set of solutions and just as I say that the 20th century bequeathed to us democracy, I think it bequeathed to us unresolved problems and I am more interested in what are the challenges that the 21st century is facing and defining those challenges in such a way that we can take it, human society, a step forward. Yet I'm very clear that that step forward is not the end of the evolution of our society and of humanity.
That's where I get into a sort of fudge, a fuzziness about my own thinking. When you push me, be it apartheid, be it nazism, be it communist experience, I am not throwing the West's experience of Britain and the US onto the table as a measure to try and defend that past of communism and apartheid and nazism, I'm saying you will not get a perspective if you confine that atrocity simply to that system. I think it's very easy when you look at those three systems to say anything based on race superiority, anything based on ideological superiority, has a danger of descending to atrocities. I don't think that the lesson is good enough because it does not warn us what it is in danger of, what has allowed western countries to descend to atrocities and close its eyes.
I don't think that the history of the brutalisation of British society is understood vis-à-vis Ireland. I don't think I've ever told you that one of my mother's brothers' only child was a young lady who I really got to know when she visited Britain while I was a student in Britain. She stayed at my flat for a while. I have lost all contact with her. She sent me a message when I was on trial in 1964 of support. She went to Britain to do nursing.
MM From SA. She called her parents over, she was the only child. She went and served in the British army in the Nursing Corps, she rose to the rank of Lieutenant by 1977. She married a British officer in the British army serving in NATO who was holding the rank of a Captain in 1977/78. I visited them in Britain after I came out of prison. I found our lives were being separated. Her husband was then stationed in Ireland and the next time I saw her when her father had died and I passed through Britain and I found she was totally anti-Irish and anti-Catholic. We sat down to talk and she told me about the dangers that she and her husband and her children were living under in Northern Ireland as part of the British forces. To her the Irish question was resolved, not in terms of freedom but in terms of Britain and Northern Ireland are one and what is happening there is that there are these mad Catholics who just are not interested but are just brutes and atrocity-minded people. She realised that our lives had moved so far apart that she discontinued all contact and right now I have tried to find out from the relatives, and my mother comes from a family of 13 children, none of them know where she is. She has become British.
POM So you met her in 1978?
MM I first met her in 1959/60 when she came to Britain. I came back
POM She used to support
MM Oh yes, she used to go out to demonstrations with me in London. She gave me support in my trial. I come out of prison, I meet her. By now she's the wife of a NATO Captain, we were beginning to move different ways. I was excited when I heard that her husband's a Captain in NATO, I thought he would be sympathetic to us and maybe there are some services and things I could learn. I never made an approach to them because just by visiting them I realised that life is separating us. Subsequently I saw her after her father died, probably somewhere around 1981/82 and she had now come back from a stint in Ireland. Her mind was closed. Now I'm not prepared to say that she was brutalised but ideologically she had completely shifted position. There was no basis that she could sympathise with any freedom struggle that said, 'we also sympathise with the Irish struggle'. That became the touchstone of her life.
There's a bit of a tragedy in her life because after the father died, the mother and father were very deeply into Hinduism and I met a mutual friend who knew her and I enquired about the mother, my aunt, and I was told, look, it's going to be uncomfortable if you try to visit her. You're going to make her life more difficult. The daughter is insisting that the mother give up wearing saris, give up all traces of her Hinduism, wears a dress and behaves from food to the rest the way a British person would behave. Her children, she didn't want them corrupted by us and the mother was living a very unhappy life and I passed a message to the mother, as my aunt, of greetings, etc., and the next thing is I heard she died and once she died all linkages with this cousin of mine were gone. I know if I tried to search for her in Britain I will find her but I know that she would find it uncomfortable that I'm visiting her because in religion she had become a practising Christian, her children were being brought up that way, she didn't want to eat Indian food, she didn't want to wear Indian clothes, Indian jewellery, the mother must not wear any of that.
POM This is another starting point I was thinking of. You were brought up in what would have been in the 1930s a fairly small town in Natal. You lived in a predominantly Indian community, a poor community but where people got by. If I read the interviews of the environment in which you grew up as a child until you went to Durban there was nothing particularly oppressive about it, there were no police banging on the doors, it was a normal childhood of - I like soccer, I like being out with the lads, I like skipping school as often as I can or whatever. Your contact with the larger SA would have been extremely limited, particularly your contact with Africans would have been limited to the few that were living among you and then they kind of were living in a way that was not much different than the way you lived and yet there was this separation that in part was a voluntary separation between Africans, Indians and even among Indians in terms of intermarriage and things like that. Where did this nexus come from? Then if I associate that with two things, the Passive Resistance Campaign of 1946 when the Dadoo/Naicker leadership had taken over and the NIC had become more radicalised, that seemed with people like Mandela and Walter Sisulu coming to the fore and the Youth League in the ANC to almost be a spark to them to move in a similar direction resulting in the Defiance Campaign of 1952 so that my questions are multiple.
There was and still exists to this day racism between Indians and Africans, yet in a very tiny community where they first began to look for redress of their grievances in terms of organisation, where did the bonding between Africans and Indians come from that on the one hand allowed for a common struggle but on the other hand even to this day persists in a level of racism between the two communities? Indians would still tend to live and marry - not unnatural, it's the same all over the world with any tribe or group of people, they do it from within, they don't cross boundaries. So that's the large question.
MM The bonding has its bedrocks in the shared life experience. Beyond the culture and the languages that separated them the overarching system saw them, African and Indian, as people who had no political rights, were not to have any political rights, and who were steadily being consigned to be the working population.
POM The Indian Congress wasn't set up to address African rights, it was concerned with Indian rights.
MM Because every grouping, as the African Congress, grew up in 1912 amongst the African people and it posited itself not just in the generalised experience but in the specific experience that it saw bringing them together and there was separation. There were no Indians living in the Transkei. There were no Indians allowed to live in the Transvaal. They were an insignificant force in the economy. To the extent that they were visible in Transvaal, they were visible as shopkeepers and traders but the point is every political force has grown up either in its ethnic, cultural, linguistic formation and it has first sought to address its condition.
What Marxism brought, and this is the specific contribution of Marxist thought, it brought a class concept of organisation. It said as workers you have a common identity with workers even across national boundaries and the commonness arises out of your exploitation in that system of society. So it said we may never have met a person from Malaysia as a worker but we hold out our hand if there is a person in Malaysia who's a worker. It acknowledged that there will be differences. That's why Marx, the German, could live in London and be the Secretary of the International Working Man's Association. So it is that class based concept that snapped you out of the confines of ethno-cultural, religious centredness of your action.
But I am saying in SA there was a commonness of experience in my childhood that had built over decades, that we were all to labour in this together and we were to have no political rights and to the extent that we got any services from the state many of those services we had to fight for and do self-help, as for example our education, we had to fund it ourselves as a community.
Now in the SA context this natural tendency to gravitate to your ethno-cultural, religious, linguistic grouping was reinforced with an ideology of race. If you're a stranger, let's say you went into a remote village in the deep, deep rural areas of China, just for my appearance or your appearance you'd been seen as a stranger and everybody would want to come and touch you and look at your hair and the colour of your eyes and everything, but they'd also be welcoming you. If you lived in that village you could end up marrying in that village and settle down as long as you adopted their culture. I think this is how the Anglo/Indian population grew up but once racism becomes a dominant force in thinking to distinguish and preserve your jobs or your benefits all sorts of problems arise.
Today Britain I would imagine has a very large body of cross-cultural and cross-colour marriages going on. What are the conditions that allow for that? Yes, sure, your culture, your religion, your language, but more important where are you going, where are you living, is your living area, your residence, confined by law or is there movement allowed? That freedom of movement becomes crucial where you're staying. When you go to work do you go to work in a West Indian factory or a factory which may have a large number of West Indian workers but there is no way that a person who is non-West Indian can be precluded from getting a job there? Are you in a school which accommodates everybody? Do you go to class, social activity, to the park? You may congregate the most in like the pubs in England that are Irish but that does not mean that if a non-Irishman walked in you'd be kicked out and if anybody did try to kick you out they would be contravening the law. So some people would respond to you over a period of time and integrate you and be friendly with you. Now it's those environments, the schooling, the religion, the non-exclusivity and non-discrimination that lays the basis, and in the economy, that lays the basis for that common experience and that diversification.
In SA one of my biggest fears is that as we're going on in the changes the communities are closing in on themselves. I have a feeling that there's a funny thing going on of wild openness as communities are retreating in themselves. Sometimes because I'm of Indian background I wonder whether I am saying it because of that but I think there's a heightening racism. I explain it away to myself as change, it doesn't move in a linear curve upwards, but I worry about whether we are providing the adequacy of leadership to help steer our people past those shores. So I think if you talk about Indo/African I think there's a retreat into little bits of pockets based on cultural, linguistic, religious exclusivity. And yet there should be nothing untoward about it as long as it does not treat itself as superior to other cultures, religions or languages.
But I fear when I say racism, I fear that that is present even now pretty strongly in our society. And that, by the way, must not be seen as just an indictment of the Indian community. I think it applies even to the African communities vis-à-vis Indians and Indians vis-à-vis the Africans. My daughter will tell me about how in many places she's been to as a teenager at one level African kids of her age would find themselves hostile to her white friends and ambiguous towards my daughter, sometimes very hostile and sometimes accommodating but she gets frightened by the hostility when it comes out. I am saying that's part of the process of change. But let us not think that because we've got a constitution based on democracy, based on rights of people and individuals, that therefore we're just sailing now and that diversity as a strength is growing stronger and stronger as a strength. No, the divisive element of diversity is there as well. That is why I worked on the supplement because I saw a basis to stimulate debate by putting a bit of a distance between what was written and now. I am saying I hope that this allows you to think, not just in terms of your immediate experience but locating in terms of a longer term experience and also I think that to locate it in world experience but not to locate it in such a way in world experience that you lose all specificity.
So those are the problems that are there, Padraig, but when you say when did the commonality come, I say by living, by working together, by going to the cattle camp, in spite of the separation that had already come about in the schools, etc., there was a commonality that bounced off me when I read about the resistance by the Indian Congresses and about the unity, the Dadoo/Xuma/Naicker Pact saying let's work together for a common goal of freedom and that's why I found such a resonance in me when people say freedom is indivisible and I found it so frightening when people who claimed to be on the side of freedom so easily forget that freedom is indivisible when they face an immediate problem and they define it in terms of their communities, or nations.
That is why I've had to work through from my communist youthful upbringing of anti-imperialism to avoid thinking of every person in the US as enemy and to learn and to understand and that's why I still say Marxism helped me there because it taught me not to see American imperialist ambitions and actions as a charge against all Americans and that applies around the world. But I find it frightening how easily human society runs behind the national laager and the ethnic and linguistic and religious laager and forgets to live by the precept of that freedom is indivisible.
POM That brings us back to a previous conversation where you were adequately but not totally evasive and that was what I find very disturbing here is Thabo's or the ANC's frequent use of the word 'enemy', that there is an 'enemy' there, there are 'enemies' out to get us. They are 'they', not Mac Maharaj or Padraig O'Malley, they are 'they', they belong to a this or a that or the other but they are the enemy because it exactly identifies the problem that you have been describing, confuse individuals with systems. Therefore that way you dehumanise the person, they live in that society because of the way you characterise the society.
MM No I'm not being evasive. I am avoiding making those elements of the President's, the elements which I don't like and I worry about, for example
POM You're avoiding that or you worry about them?
MM I worry about them. The other night, two nights ago I was at a social gathering and I bumped into a number of comrades from the ANC, four or five of us. Just happened to be walking around on the lawns and then met each other, greeted each other and we were chatting. I said, "Chaps, just tell me, with the majority that we enjoy as ANC are we under any serious threat of being deposed from power?" And one of them, a parliamentarian, said, "Why do you say that?" I said, "I don't understand how we are talking. We're not talking from our strength, we're talking as if we are in a weak position. We're in such a strong position." So while I could completely identify with Thabo's 'I am an African' speech, I could not as completely identify with the 'Two Nations' speech. Why? The 'Two Nations' speech describes a current reality. We cannot deny it. But it describes it without taking you after that objective description into a mindset of the 'I am an African'. I know in a debate it can be said read the two together but I am saying the listener is not able to read the two together. We have a duty to put that objective reality and always you are simplifying something complex. There's a danger with simplification but always the task of leadership pointing the way forward to overcome that 'Two Nations' reality is there and I found therefore I could empathise and respond in a different way to 'I am an African' to the way I respond to the 'Two Nations'. I find people want to grab, people who grab the Two Nations are left without a way to articulate where next.
POM Doesn't the same thing, doesn't a speech that says there are enemies out there whether they are on the right, who are on the ultra-left, who are trying to undermine us, even take over the ANC, there are enemies without and within and we must
MM Close ranks.
POM Yes and get rid of them. Is that not an enormously disturbing trend?
MM Yes, I say yes it's disturbing but I say for me I would not challenge you but as I said, the other night I challenged my comrades in the ANC, but not by saying Thabo is wrong, I say let's get to the heart of the problem chaps, "Is the ANC in danger of losing power? Is it in danger for the next ten years, fifteen years?" And they said no. I said, "Then why are we behaving as if we're in danger? Explain that to me." Rather than just debating one point you would come and say proof, why do you say us and them? Why do you say enemy and we? I am saying, to my colleagues I say to them in an off the cuff discussion, "Tell me, are we seriously in danger?" If we're not in danger ask ourselves how should we exercise our power. How should we be the force that never loses sight of the objective reality of the 'Two Nations' and yet provides the leadership taking us, gathering both sides of the two nations forward to the one nation.
POM To a common 'we'.
MM How should we? We can describe the objective reality as us and them but I am saying if we do that as a leadership we have an obligation to say how we become 'all us'. The 'all us' can be based on no give, no take, you fall in line with my terms, or it can say here is a grand human enterprise which has lots of failures to it and we have to do it in a way that bases it on value and on caring and does not give a definition of the enemy that is capable of being used by any demagogue because to me that's beyond being an academic but to a practitioner of social change. So I have concerns.
You will have gathered from what I've said I am as concerned at what I see, not a resurgence but a development of racism even in the community because sometimes I wonder whether they aren't becoming more racist than they were in the past. Why? Because our constitution gives them more space to express themselves. Be that as it may the worry is there but it's not a worry that you turn round and say all is lost, I don't believe that it's all dependent on one person. I think leaders come and go, I think society has a way of absorbing them, sometimes responding to their most negative features and being manipulated by demagogues but often enough it has a capacity to move forward. I still believe that that capacity does sit in the ANC. I think the ANC has got this immense capacity of rising to this type of challenge.It may not meet the challenge in the way you and I think it should do today.
POM I want to go back to something and it goes back to roots, I got Ismail Meer's autobiography and I have been re-reading Gillian Slovo's book and at the same time going through 117 Days. One part makes no difference at all because I think it was whites editing, but Gillian talks about in fact I talked to Kathy about it and he said, "Well I was the go-between." I suppose one would call it today an affair or whatever, relationship, between Ismail Meer and Ruth which lasted for four years and she appears to have been, at least from Gillian's account, the passion of her life and so of course I went to the index in Ismail Meer's book and she gets one sentence. They shared the same values and had mutual respect for each other. Well I would think that's maybe white editing there.
MM It was a big battle just to get that sentence in.
POM But Gillian mentions that her mother had an affair with an architect, Donald Turn
MM I forget his name.
POM 1960 64.
MM In the state of emergency period.
POM My question is not that she had the affair but that here was a woman who knew that she was under observation, has an affair with somebody who may in fact be working for the state, God knows what she says to him. He was certainly aware of her
MM Who she is and why she's hiding.
POM Who she is. Then she is detained and one of the first things that Swanepoel says to her is that, "We know everything about you", which, if I were her, would have immediately suggested to me, gee, they know I've been having this affair for four years and they're going to use it against me, use it against my family in some way. My question is, was she not exposing herself to enormous danger by engaging in a sustained relationship like that which could in fact and may in fact, for all we know, have been used as a tool to extract information from her? It was setting her up to be blackmailed.
MM Sure. What's the problem about the question? I say yes.
POM The problem about it is that it would seem to be that if you are an integral part of a struggle that you take precautions that don't expose you to unnecessary dangers or particularly to situations that might lead you to a betrayal of other people.
MM Yes I think many, many, many revolutionaries have made that mistake all the time. It's in the nature of the human being. You make those rules of what is rationally right and then circumstances, your own personality conspires to make you transgress those rules and endanger not just yourself but others. I'm not here to sit in judgement but if you had a Rivonia hide-out and you were a high profile person like Mandela and Sisulu and you disappeared into the underground and then you arrange for your wife who's very high profile and under observation of the police to come and visit you in your underground, isn't that a similar level of danger that you're bringing others into?
POM Depending upon since people in the underground were meeting each other all the time I would assume that those meetings took place under
MM Lots of security.
POM Lots of security and precautions taken as distinct from a situation where you are not in a position to take those precautions.
MM Sure. But there are two things at work there. There's nobody who can say was the security right, that's adequate, but both events are taking place under certain normal human impulses. In Ruth's case, I don't know under what impulses she got into that relationship, had she put it under the human category. I should have exited the country at the moment I heard that Zarina had met this major accident in Zambia. I should have exited it and gone to be by her side and the children's side. I can make all sorts of excuses why I didn't but I don't know whether the end, the effect of the decision not to exit at that stage was the right decision. The collective will say, have no doubt about it, it was the right decision, it was good for the struggle. But I, the individual, the partner of my wife, the father of the two children and they as individuals, my partner and my children, in terms of that experience and the outcomes of it, who was right and who was wrong? The question was posed to me and I have never had an answer. I just had to accept that I could have said, in the end I could have said to the organisation, I don't care what you say, I'm coming out, I'm going to be there and the consequences of whether I can come back, etc., we'll face up to it. Be that as it may in the end I didn't go out immediately but I am saying who's to judge what would have been the right action? Because of course there were security considerations. If I exited at that stage I had no infrastructure to go out again, cover my tracks and enable me to come back again without anybody noticing it. Same problem. Security.
So you come back to Ruth. Yes, it was endangering, it was greatly putting her and the movement in a vulnerable position. Yes, it looks like a foolish affair.
POM Foolish actions, not a foolish
MM Well even the affair sounds foolish because what Gillian has written, I have never met the man, she says that they were two such incompatible people even in their outlook, in their lifestyle, in what I knew to be her. But I've known people to fall in love with most incompatible people but there was nothing in it that said there was any excitement except perhaps the titillation of 'illicit sex'. I don't know Padraig, I don't know. I can say in theory these are the correct conducts. I don't know in practice.
You know that even amongst revolutionaries, Che Guevara was a big womaniser. He died in Bolivia with his German girlfriend. I have no illusions that she was the only girlfriend. Somehow or the other he solved his problem by saying, "My girlfriend comes with me as a revolutionary partner." I was in the country, I couldn't bring my revolutionary partner with me. What would have happened if I got into an affair with somebody? Should we define it by any clear-cut rules of what's right and what's wrong.
POM We could say that if you had done that with that absolute knowledge of the security of this person that you were endangering your entire operation.
MM Would I be entitled to take a decision myself what's the absolute danger to the security of the operation or should I have handed it to a collective to decide?
POM Well if you had, let me put it this way, if you had done so then you would have been - somebody made the wrong decision to choose you to head Vula. OK. I just moved the book.
MM You moved the book then. No, what I am saying is when you hand those things to a collective what's the test by which it acts? If I had said I want my wife to join me, they would have said you're endangering the mission. If I had said I've met another person I wish to have a relationship with, they'd say, what crap is this? But anyway, let's suppose I said I wish to have a relationship, they'd say, oh, who is she?
POM Establish a committee, pass a resolution. Do we have a majority decision?
MM And the question of whether she's the right person then is now put in the wrong box. Impossible to guide. I never asked Gebhuza whether he was having a relationship with anybody or not, didn't want to know.
POM Just on that question of personalities, when you were in the country I remember that during that period one of the things that got enormous publicity abroad was the press conference held by the UDF, I think it was Murphy Morobe.
MM Valli and Sydney.
POM Yes, dissociating themselves from Winnie, saying Winnie's conduct was despicable. You would have been in the country at that time. Can you talk about the circumstances around that?
MM Sure. I was disappointed. Let me put it this way, I was aware of many, many problems around Winnie politically, not working within any collective. Secondly, taking unilateral decisions politically and thirdly being quite divisive in her political stance.
POM When you say divisive, you mean?
MM She had a fractious relationship with the UDF. She used to even call Murphy, Murphy Patel on the grounds that he belonged to an Indian cabal, so she gave him the surname Patel. Just an illustration of the extent of fractiousness. Then security-wise there were lots of problems around her and in her personal conduct.
POM When you say security, you mean?
MM That lots of Security Branch people were close to her, had relatively easy access. Paul Erasmus is one of them. Thirdly, about her personal conduct, all of which all worried me not only from the political situation directly in terms of the ongoing struggle but it worried me about the implications for Madiba as well, for the ANC. So the concerns were there and I was interacting with OR from time to time urging him, and then the football club thing had blown up. I was in touch with OR and urging him to make some intervention and saying that my circumstances did not allow me to make an intervention.
POM Was this before or after the Stompie thing?
MM Before the statement.
POM Was it also before the Stompie thing?
MM The Stompie thing really comes before the UDF statement but it fully blows over afterwards, but the Mandela Football Club is really an issue of dissension and the conduct of the football club members already. The Stompie incident had arisen before the UDF statement. So I was in touch with OR and he was replying to me from time to time of the interventions he was making and I recall him saying that on one occasion he sent me a communication to say he was now going to personally sit at the phone and phone her, that she was avoiding him, that people were answering the phone and saying she was not in. But he says, "I know her voice and I am going to keep phoning until I reach her and get her on the line." That was how seriously he was trying to make intervention from that distance. But he was equally clear that if I went to see her directly, as I did with Govan and with Harry Gwala, the risk to my safety and the mission's safety was extremely high.
That's how things were standing and people like Frank Chikane were flying to Lusaka to consult over the football club incident but I was in Johannesburg and if I remember correctly the UDF had this press conference on a Friday or a Saturday, I think on a Friday. I was on my way out from Johannesburg on the Sunday morning and Claudia was driving, no I was driving, exiting from Johannesburg, heading for I think Durban. I stopped at a street corner and bought the Sunday Times and as we were driving, still in the northern suburbs area heading for the M2, the highway, I said to Claudia to read the newspaper for me aloud. The very first thing she read was this statement by the UDF, a big splash in the Sunday Times. She had hardly finished reading the article when we were near Zoo Lake and I turned off Jan Smuts highway into Zoo Lake, it must have been about seven in the morning, six or seven in the morning, turned off into the Zoo Lake precincts, parked the car and left her sitting in the car. I didn't say anything to her. I needed to be alone because I needed to absorb this development and I was extremely distraught and disturbed. I know I thought about Madiba and I felt that I had personally failed him and I thought that this statement had blown wide open a huge, huge issue and I began to blame myself for not having intervened more actively.
POM The huge issue being?
MM The UDF in its statement repudiated Winnie and even urged that nobody should have any contact with her and even lawyers should not go to her assistance. That's my memory of the statement. I'll come to why. Anyway I had my weep and I went back to the car, Claudia I think could see that I was very, very agitated. She had the presence of mind not to say anything. We got off and we drove. I think that's how I got caught by the traffic officers in Heidelberg because I wanted to be in a hurry to get to Durban and I was going to use the trip now to think through what I send to Lusaka and what I do about it. I don't know whether we discussed it in the car but if we did I would have been very curt towards Claudia because it was an issue I did not want to discuss too widely.
I got to Durban and immediately composed a message to OR. I said to him here's the statement, gave the full text, and I said we're mishandling this thing. I would urge Lusaka to release a different statement and to exert pressure on the UDF quietly in a different direction. I then gave him the outlines of what I thought Lusaka should say and in the process I then critiqued the existing statement of the UDF. My first criticism was that the enemy, the apartheid state is at fault here, it has manipulated in every possible way, using all sorts of dirty tricks to create this situation.
POM Create a situation of division between Winnie and the UDF?
MM Yes. And that in the process Winnie has made a lot of mistakes but part of the blame for the mistakes must be located in what the state was doing to her and how we had failed her in that we did not succeed in putting her into a structured relationship so that she had dependable people to be consulting. I said this is a weakness of ours, we simply assumed that her commitment will carry her through and show her how to steer through all these problems of life and struggle and I said that by putting our repudiation, which we cannot deny now, it's public, our repudiation leaves the door of how to redeem her and that if we could get her into a structured relationship we would work to redeem her. I said, therefore there are elements in that statement that are just too much. To say no lawyer should defend her, etc., etc., was going too far down the line and I also said in my comments to OR, I said I'm guided by what we need to say also by how we would face Nelson. I can understand that from his circumstances he would expect us to assist her but the developments have reached a point where we have to distance ourselves from her but leave a door to be able to assist her and I wouldn't, therefore, make it impossible for a lawyer to defend her, a good lawyer like George Bizos.
I sent this off to Lusaka and I began to engage the comrades in the UDF in discussions and I told them that I felt they had gone too far.
POM Did it surprise you that they had not contacted you beforehand or that in any of your previous contacts with them that they had not raised the issue, or had they raised it?
MM They had raised the matter from time to time but it was understood that I could not make an intervention and that there were comrades who were in a position to travel to Lusaka to meet OR and the leadership and discuss this matter. So that was the agreed definition of how to handle the problem. Therefore they were not reporting back to me everything that was being discussed in Lusaka because I said this is one issue but I can't as a mission get involved.
POM But whilst you had been reporting to Lusaka the fact that she was too close to security people, the fact that
MM Her personal conduct was questionable, her political positions were being questionable.
POM Was this being passed on to Mandela?
MM No. At that stage we were not in touch with Mandela. I don't recall that we were in touch. I don't think so. But if we were I do recall, I think I did indicate to Madiba that there were problems about Winnie's conduct and it was clear that he was intervening because he had instructed her to disband the Mandela Football Club which she didn't listen to, and I was hearing that her visits with Madiba were extremely fractious. So it may well be that I sent him some report but I didn't send him a report on this UDF development. My concern on the UDF development was to (a) ensure that Lusaka released a statement which undid some of the extreme positions of the UDF statement and (b) did so in contact with the UDF so that the UDF in its stance would modify a bit in its practice. For example, I was very clear that in the threat of arrest and trial that she was facing I was very clear that Madiba would want George Bizos to defend her and I was very clear that the UDF statement was saying that if a George Bizos goes to defend her that will be a hostile act to the movement. I needed that out of the way.
Lusaka did release a statement substantially in line with what I had recommended. They sent it to me, OR sent it to me. He was pleased with my report, he said to me that the NEC had discussed the matter and this is the statement they have released through the media and that, yes, he would be making interventions with the UDF and the Crisis Committee. In the meantime I myself
POM The Crisis Committee was?
MM Frank Chikane, Murphy Morobe, I don't think Valli was in it, Smangaliso Mkatshwawa, not so sure whether Cyril was on it. But there was a Soweto Crisis Committee.
POM I remember that, yes.
MM I also made my individual interventions and they didn't now need any public repudiation by the UDF. What it needed was us to be more sensitive what we had to do and people like Frank Chikane continued to contact Winnie to try and engage her and to assist her. The bottom line of course was disband the Mandela Football Club, distance herself from them and begin to work in a more collective way. So there was no dissension, one treated the UDF statement not as a basis to differentiate ourselves from the UDF but rather to put a position that was more sober but at the same time engage with the UDF comrades saying we understand the pressures under which you have done this but now in your conduct those of you who have access to her continue to reach her but be firm that she must disband the club, etc., and do not look askance if you find that a George Bizos comes up to defend her, etc. And they understood the point, they took the criticism well.
You've reminded me of this incident. It therefore goes to a much lengthier communication which I have made, I can't date it at the moment, to OR over anticipating Madiba's release and putting together all the information one had on Winnie's conduct, etc., and saying that the regime we'd better plan now for the release of Madiba and that post his release my estimation of what the regime would do is that they would release him, they would allow him to be received as this mystical figure and then they would unleash their dirty tricks to demystify him and erode confidence in him and I said they would use everything they had, not in one burst but in a systematic campaign to try and demystify him in the minds of the people and his Achilles' heel would be the conduct of his wife and family. I sent that report to OR to say this is how I read the situation.
POM That would have been before
MM It may have been before because when was this UDF statement?
POM I think in 1989 or 1988. For some reason I think February but I'm just saying that. I can check the date.
MM If it is 1989 it's just a question of when, when in 1989? Late 1989? It would have been before the release of Walter and Kathy?
POM It was early 1989.
MM That would before October. So my reports of let's start preparing for the release of Mandela would have been Govan would have been released in 1988, 1987/88. My report would have been late 1988, early 1989. But that's the event and I don't know if Claudia will remember it. She might well remember it because I now remember very clearly that I was driving when we were leaving Jo'burg, we bought the papers and I had said to her read the papers aloud for me and I remember turning off the road at Zoo Lake and it was early enough in the morning for Zoo Lake to be relatively deserted, for me to park the car on the grass and walk away leaving Claudia alone in the car and I walked off just to give vent to my own feelings and try and get control of myself.
POM Was Mandela briefed on this before he left?
MM Before he got free?
MM OR communicated with him. I think Frank and them went and saw him also. I think Madiba saw Ayob, called George Bizos and told him that he should defend Winnie. In the meantime on the political side he didn't respond because it was just a thing how do we handle it, that was all. So that was OK.
POM But the report that you had prepared beforehand for OR saying that when they do release Mandela they'll allow this mythology to move for a while and then they'll begin to crack it. Was this communicated to Mandela that this is probably - ?
MM No I don't think that one would have gone to Madiba and I'm answering that because to me that affected tactics of a level that affected the strategy but it was a question of management from Lusaka's side. I did not feel that it's a burden that we should put on Madiba. As far as I'm concerned Madiba was engaging
No, I was saying, Padraig, aside from just informing him of the problem areas one would not be examining with him the problems of the regime scenario if they released him what would happen, because to ask him to manage that job was unfair. It's putting him in the front line where all his sense of loyalty, his affections are involved and that was a matter to be handled politically allowing him the space in his relationship with Winnie.
POM So was he informed of her close relationships with members of the security forces?
MM Yes. He would be informed of that, he would have been informed about the Mandela Football Club, about the behaviour and about Winnie's individualistic stance politically. But he would only be informed in the context that we are trying to manage the relationship, not in the sense that now overwhelms you now sitting in prison with this problem. That's why I feel very clear in saying that, yes, he would have been informed about the problems but he would not be informed how to manage the rest of the political fall-out. It is clear also from his own side, he was being appealed to by people and he was receiving information and he was intervening with her rather sharply. I think his relations with her had become very disturbed. I think he too was saying the same thing as OR was experiencing, namely that she would agree to one thing and do the opposite. With OR she would agree and then she would just do the opposite, just carry on. With Madiba she tried to disagree with him and then would still do her own thing.
That is why in fact when he came out there was an occasion when I was a bit disturbed, and that's why I say I have a peculiar relationship with Winnie, I think I've referred to this, but Madiba met me quite a few times in the underground in the country before I exited at the end of May and in one of them he stunned me. He just said to me, he said, "Look, I've spoken to Winnie. I need your help. She's constantly getting involved in the activities of MK, which is underground. I've told her that you are in the country and that she is to get out of all MK activity and that all her arguments that she's got all these contacts with people, all those contacts I've told her to pass it to you." Now I was very worried because my reaction when I left the meeting was Good God! I'm in serious danger now because she's surrounded by so many agents and policemen. But I got control of myself, I said well, this is Madiba's way of trying to re-focus and if that's the help that he wants from me I have to give it and it's not appropriate for me to sit down now and be in a whinging mood, why did Madiba do this? He must have been in quite a tight spot in discussion with her that the only argument he had to persuade her to desist from what she was doing by saying Mac is in town, he's living here underground, he's in charge and now get out of this activity, send all the contacts to him, he'll attend to that side. So she has no more excuse, I have to do it, I have to do it.
Now as it happened there was no follow-up from that, no meeting took place between Winnie and myself but then I go out of the country, I come back and Madiba arrives on 18 July, his birthday night.
POM This is when you inform him about the arrest of
MM Of Siphiwe. But I make arrangements to meet him, through Walter, at the airport and at the airport I'm told, no, proceed to the Soweto house. When I went to the Soweto house, it was the first time I went to the Soweto house, there were large numbers of people celebrating Madiba's birthday. But I went into the kitchen and there I met Winnie. It was my first meeting with her since 1963 and she was bubbling and she came and she embraced me warmly and she said to me, "You, I'm worried about you. I can't explain it but I have a feeling you're going to be arrested."
Now I had not yet briefed Madiba because he had just arrived that night so there's no way he would have told her. I have always seen that as one of those fleeting incidents that said to me that there was an empathy between her and I.
POM An empathy between?
MM Winnie and myself, that she should just embrace me warmly, obviously she knew I was in the country because he had told her some months previously. But to say in this embrace, "I'm worried about you, I just have this feeling in my bones that you're going to be arrested", was for me a great sense it told me that there's a great empathy between her and myself. I believe that that empathy, some level of that empathy still stands. There was a time subsequently when we were now in government that Winnie was involved in some problems with the ANC which the ANC was unhappy about. She had made some statements and we discussed it at the Working Committee and I was saying, "Comrades, have we discussed this matter with Winnie?" And they were saying, "Well we can't see her. We tried to meet her and she doesn't respond."In the end somebody suggested that I should meet her on behalf of the ANC leadership and I met her in my offices in Cape Town, asked to see her, she came, and I sat down with her and I said, "Here are the first statements attributed to you in the press which are causing problems. I've been asked by the ANC to discuss it with you." She explained, she tried to defend it and tried to fob it off, misquotation, etc., and I said to her, "No, let's discuss the substance and the impact of what is attributed to you and let's not just dismiss it as misrepresentation by the press. Let's draft a statement, a letter by you to the ANC. You can say that it's been misrepresentative but you have to state there that what is attributed to you is incorrect and that you do not agree with that viewpoint." The funny thing is that at the end of that discussion I left it to her to draft it and when I reported to the NWC that she had undertaken to draft this many of my colleagues in the Working Committee said, "Oh, you've made a mistake, she'll never draft it. She'll dodge you now." Indeed for a few days she didn't come forward. I then drafted something and again I asked to meet her and she came. I said, "You haven't prepared this thing", she said, "No I've been tied up, etc., etc." I said, "Here, I've drafted this. Look at it." And she looked at it. I said, "Read it carefully and sign it." And she signed it.
That was not the normal experience of others with her, that once she was forewarned she would by every means avoid a meeting, you'd never get it out. Now she had been forewarned, we had discussed it she and I. She knew that I wanted her to sign this letter and when I called for her to see her again the easiest thing would have been to avoid me but, no, she turned up and we discussed it and we had it signed, so we resolved that part of the problem. But I'm saying her behaviour was not the way others had known her to behave with them and I still attribute it, maybe wrongly, to a level of empathy between her and myself. I know that Madiba's children, both girls again are always extremely, extremely warm to me. It doesn't matter where we bump into each other. We have never sat down to discuss anything seriously but even Zarina has commented that each time we've met either of the girls they have a great level of warmth for me. In fact Zeni once said, in front of Winnie, we had bumped into them, and I am usually joking and Zarina was with me, Zeni jumped in and she said, "No, no", and Winnie said, "Mac, this is the problem with my daughters, nobody can say anything bad about you, not even myself because they immediately jump down my throat to defend you. To them you are something special." It was a joke, and so if I bump into Zeni or I bump into Zindzi we will greet each other warmly and we will joke about this and they will call me Uncle Mac and I'll say, "How can a smart girl like you call me uncle, I'm not an old crock. I suppose you people think I'm a bloody sell-out.""No, no, Uncle Mac, nobody can say that, nobody dare say that about you." And that can't be that the girls developed that extraneously on their own. There is something there that lies there in the way Winnie has talked to them about me and it remains there although she and I will avoid any serious discussion and I know how she has from time to time made all sorts of derogatory statements about me but I never go and raise it with her. I just do as if it doesn't exist.
POM I'm maybe far more perverse in my thinking than you are. If I had gone to see Madiba to forewarn him that I was probably going to be arrested and his wife was there with whom he would not have discussed it because you hadn't discussed it with him and she gave me a fore-warning that I might be arrested
MM You were painting the scenario that you would have taken a different line with Madiba?
POM No, that after she had forewarned you of her feeling of your imminent arrest, that she had information that you were going to be, given her close ties with some members of the security forces.
MM Yes, no, I've long examined that possibility, instantly and with time after that and dismissed it.
MM No, I've led many, many incidents, many episodes, I do not buy that she was working with the apartheid state. I do buy that she was in an environment where she was surrounded by informers, agents and even policemen and to the extent that she knew the identity of some of the policemen she worked on the basis that she would be turning them around to be instruments for her rather than she becoming their instruments and in that framework there was nothing that would warrant her to confide in them about my presence in the country and there was nothing in their interaction that gave them knowledge that would have led them to tell Winnie because they would have no knowledge whether she would tell Madiba. So it was of no interest nor any convergence in her work and my work that would have led to anything advertent or conscious sharing of this information. I had already had my independent information, we're talking about 18 July. As I say, I knew the damage that had been done to Vula by the 10, 11 July. I knew the arrest of Siphiwe and Billy Nair and others on the Thursday of that week and I had information from inside the enemy side that three senior people were going to be arrested and that was the context of my meeting Madiba on the morning of the 19th and a day or two later I had information not a day or two, the NEC met then on 20 July - 20th, 21st.
POM The draft resolution for
MM The draft resolution. So by 22 July, the day after that I knew I was under constant surveillance and I communicated that to Madiba. So enough facts to indicate that even if the enemy knew they would not have passed it to the policemen who were working close to Winnie so there was no way that she consciously or unconsciously transmitted to them or they transmitted it to her and therefore I have described her reaction as one of those little fleeting moments that stand in my relationship with her which I have described under the general term of her sense of empathy.
POM You talked of preparing this scenario for OR of what the government would attempt to do when they did release Madiba. You were aware that the government was talking to Madiba, you were aware that meetings had been going on between Thabo and
POM You were not aware of that?
MM No, not aware of the Thabo meetings in London and Zurich. It would be wrong for OR to communicate that knowledge to me.
MM Because it was irrelevant to - my assessments needed to be made by what I was seeing on the ground. My political readings had to be communicated to him. It was not for him to throw information from outside on to my consciousness to impact on my analysis of the situation. That knowledge was relevant to him.
POM So if Vula had become the conduit for passing information from Lusaka to Mandela and vice versa would they not be advising Madiba?
MM Mandela? No. I still wouldn't regard it as relevant to advise even Mandela. That would have been to expose
POM OR would not have advised that?
POM He would not?
MM No. Remember, where is the head office of the ANC? It's in Lusaka, it's in OR's hands. You don't start diffusing all the information to everybody and especially to people who are sitting, one sitting in jail there, another one operating underground and therefore in highly vulnerable environments. You don't just give it to them. I don't think OR gave it even to the National Executive. He would have shared it with a few people in the executive but he wouldn't just make it a common the NationalExecutive from his point of view had to continue with its work. These are potentials that are arising, you don't grab at every potential and occupy yourself. For example, sitting here at the bank today, yes I need to know what rival banks are doing and everything, but if I'm seized with problem A, let him continue, pursue that work, don't let him now lose balance and start thinking of all the other possibilities that are arising all over tangentially. No, pursue.
POM What I'm getting at is that when you were preparing this memorandum of what the regime might attempt to do, you were doing it without the knowledge that Thabo and whomever were meeting with Mike Louw, and I think Spaarwater was at that time at one of those meetings.
MM I don'tthink OR would have passed that information to Thabo.
MM My reading of what is happening.
POM That you were reading what was happening on the ground here.
MM About the assessment of what the regime's plans are. I am extrapolating and analysing and OR would not give that to Thabo who is engaging in discussion with Mike Louw. He would want an arm's length and he would want to know how are your discussions, Thabo? Yes, this is the factual report, this is what's happening, this is what they are saying. What's your assessment? Are they serious? Yes. What are the implications? You tell me Thabo. But he wouldn't tell Thabo, look this is what is the alternative scenario. No, he would keep it in mind, he would not be challenging and engaging in a debate about scenarios. He would be looking, which one is maturing and has the time arrived to put it on the table for a wider discussion, because you were busy probing and you were collecting facts and you were collecting interpretations and judgements. You needed to allow each of those to be uninfluenced by other developments. They can add on other developments but you shouldn't consciously throw on other things. That will close your room to challenge and interrogate the frameworks that they are setting up.
POM Just going back to the time at which Vula was first conceptualised where OR went around the table to each person and said, "You're going back, you're going back, you're going back."
MM He just sat down at the meeting, there were about 30 or 40 of us and he said, "Do you realise the implications of this decision because it means that any one of you sitting around this room would be subject to that I've now got the authority to tell you to go home and I tell you that you're not to tell anybody else. It means none of you in this room can turn it down."
POM Was that the end of all discussion on Vula at the NEC?
MM Finish, klaar, gone, off the table.
POM So the NEC never heard of Vula again?
MM At that stage it didn't even know it's name was Vula.
POM It was just a concept of what
MM Concept authorising, mandating the President assisted by Joe Slovo to send senior people, including members of the National Executive into the country.
POM So who in the end knew that you were here? OR knew you were here, Joe Slovo knew you were here.
MM My wife knew. Ivan knew. Ivan made the arrangements.
POM Ivan Pillay? Yes.
MM He was the administrator. When I got to Swaziland and the person who crossed me, Tootsie Memela, was able to identify me. And then of course in the Politburo of the party about a month before I left Lusaka at a Politburo meeting, two maybe three months before, at a Politburo meeting Joe Slovo surprised me and informed the Politburo that very soon I would be going into the country on an ANC mission and that he now wanted the party to give me a mandate to perform party work. I challenged him outside the meeting, I said, "Why did you do that? This sort of thing is not even discussed in the Working Committee of the ANC, that only he and OR knew but now he has gone and told all the members of the Politburo."
POM Who would have been among the Politburo?
MM Bit of a problem there. It has never been divulged. The membership of the Central Committee in the party has never been put on record by anybody and we will decide how to handle it but let me tell you who was there. Joe Slovo, John Nkadimeng, Jacob Zuma, Thabo Mbeki, Chris Hani, myself and Sizakele Sigxashe most likely.
POM That was it? Who were the last two? Sizakele - ?
MM Sizakele Sigxashe was a member of the Politburo I think at that stage. I know the venue where we met in Lusaka, I still have a picture of the room and I said John Nkadimeng, Jacob Zuma
POM John Nkadimeng is? Just refresh me.
MM I told you about him being put up in Limpopo Province for the Chairmanship of the party against Ngoaka Ramathlodi.
POM Sure, yes.
MM Used to be in Swaziland, was in the Internal Committee based in Swaziland, a member of the NEC, one time prisoner. I think by that time Dan Tloome had passed away. That would be the membership. Let me count, Joe, Chris, Thabo, JZ, myself, Sizakele. I think the Politburo was a six member Politburo, six, seven. Seven maybe. But I certainly am clear about these names except for Sizakele as being present at the meeting. And of course the party gave me a mandate then to represent them and work inside the country and to build the party.
POM Did you inform OR that I should let you know that these other people know?
MM No I didn't. I took it up with JS outside the meeting. I thought that divulging that I was going home was wrong. He said that he did that because unless I was given that mandate by the Politburo it would be very difficult for the political reports that I would be sending on the party side to be processed by the party and secondly, that there were huge problems going to come on the way about my disappearance and for that reason he thought it should be properly done. I objected on the security grounds but it was done.
POM You didn't say, have you discussed this with OR?
MM No I didn't say that but subsequently while I was in the country I had a report from JS as the General Secretary of the party to say that a problem had arisen in the Lusaka region of the Communist Party. The Lusaka region had passed a resolution that all party members, particularly those who were in the Central Committee and the Politburo, they never had the identity of the Politburo, there was a reasonably broad number of the membership who knew who were in the Central Committee because we were now having broader and broader conferences where the Central Committee would be elected, so there was a fairly wide knowledge in each region of each one. The Politburo then was elected by the Central Committee so the identities were not divulged. But we had reached a relationship with OR where well before Vula we would inform him when the Central Committee would be meeting and we would give him the names of the people who were serving in ANC structures who needed to be released from duty because if we met in Moscow you had to be away from your duty for a week or so. So we had that relationship and I never raised the question had he discussed it, it would have been improper for him to discuss with OR in advance to putting it before the Politburo, it wouldn't have been a big shake but I didn't raise it with him whether he was going to go now and inform OR. I just debated this issue and said I was unhappy about what he had done but it's done, it's done.
Then when I'm in the country I got a report that the Lusaka region had taken a decision that all members of the Central Committee and Politburo who were not attending their unit, their regional and district meetings and therefore were not doing their party work, were expelled. This decision in the case of the Lusaka region meant that I was expelled and so was he.
POM So was?
MM Joe Slovo. And he said, well he has a bit of a problem. He said first of all, "You've just been expelled by the Lusaka region that as a Central Committee member you're not attending their meetings. They are aware that you are supposed to be ill in hospital but notwithstanding that they have expelled you." But he said, "If it's any consolation to you I've also been expelled. It's a problem to manage it but we will sort it out. It's beyond the competence of a regional committee to just expel a Central Committee members." He said, "We'll manage that without disclosing that you are at home." I said to him, "Do what you want. That's your problem, not my headache."
POM Just to end this. Did it not make you feel odd to feel that as far as OR was concerned he knew you were going into the country and Joe Slovo was aware that you were going into the country but nobody else was while in fact he didn't know that Jacob Zuma knew, that Thabo knew, that Chris Hani knew, that John Nkadimeng knew, that five other people knew and he was in the dark?
MM No it was a disturbing feature. But you see, Padraig, what do you do? It's done. Do you now sit down and fight with your colleagues to say right, now this was wrong?
POM No. I suppose I would, one can't obviously project, but to go back and say, by the way I should let you know.
MM That's his responsibility.
POM Who, Joe's responsibility?
MM Yes, that's Joe's responsibility. He is the General Secretary of the party, he sits on the Revolutionary Council, he's been mandated by the ANC together with OR to manage this operation. I've alerted him he has a problem. You handle it.
POM Is he not extending your mandate?
MM Yes he is but it's his problem now as the General Secretary of the Communist Party to communicate with the President of the ANC because if I pursue it I'm making the problem bigger and I'm busy pointing fingers. It's not the climate in which you want to come into an operation.
POM Then were you making two sets of reports? One to the party and one to -
MM Oh yes and whatever I reported to the ANC was in relation to ANC work and MK. What I reported to the party was on party work. Separate, separate code names, same channel of communication.