About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Maharaj, Sathyandranath Ragunanan (Mac)

Click here for list of interviews

Mac Maharaj was born on 22 April 1935 at Newcastle in Natal.

He became active in the political struggle in 1953 while attending the University of Natal, Non-European Section, Durban. He became a reporter for New Age, and took over as its manager for Natal when M P Naicker was among the accused in the Treason Trial.

He went abroad in August 1957 and studied at the London School of Economics. In the United Kingdom he was a founding member of the South African Freedom Association and succeeded Solly Sachs as its secretary. He was also a founding member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Her left the UK to undergo training in the German Democratic Republic in 1961 and returned to South Africa in May 1962 to serve underground. He was arrested in July 1964 and charged with Wilton Mkwayi and four others in what was known as the Little Rivonia Trial. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

He was released in December 1976 and immediately served with a five-year house arrest order. He escaped into exile in July 1977 and was appointed Secretary of the Internal Political and Reconstruction Department of the ANC in December 1977. This department was mandated to create and maintain the underground ANC within South Africa and to supervise the mass mobilisation of the people within the country. He served on the Revolutionary Council and its successor, the Politico-Military Council of the ANC, since 1979. He was first elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC in 1985 and re-elected in 1991, 1994 and 1997. He was a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) from 1958 to 1990, and served on the Central Committee (1963 - 1964 and 1978 - 1990) and the Politbureau. He retired from the SACP in 1990.

From 1988 to 1990 he was stationed underground within South Africa as the overall commander of 'Operation Vula'. He was arrested in July 1990 after he had received indemnity in May 1990. He and nine others were brought to trial in December 1990. The charges were dropped in March 1991. He became part of the ANC negotiating team in 1991, and was appointed joint secretary of the negotiating process. He was also joint secretary, with Fanie van der Merwe, of the Transitional Executive Council (TEC), which oversaw South Africa's transition to democracy.

After South Africa's first democratic election in April 1994 he was appointed Minister of Transport in the government led by President Nelson Mandela (1994-1999). He retired from parliament in the 1990 election.

He obtained a BA from the University of Natal (1956) and a B.Admin from the University of South Africa (1969).

Mac Maharaj was a member of the Board of Directors of FirstRand Holding Group, FirstRand Bank, Discovery Health and Softline Ltd. He resigned from the Bank in 2003. He is a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Source: Reflections in Prison: Ed. Mac Maharaj.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.