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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Operation Vula

Talking To Vula

The Story of the Secret Underground Communications Network of Operation Vula

by Tim Jenkin
The following item appeared as a series of six articles in the ANC's monthly journal Mayibuye from May 1995 to October 1995. They are brought together here to present the complete picture.

The Importance of Good Communications

In the mid-'eighties there was a great deal of soul-searching taking place in the ANC. While there had been some spectacular armed attacks against the apartheid regime, the underground struggle had not really taken off. There was very little to show for the years of struggle, only hundreds of activists in the enemy's jails and the loss of tons of precious weaponry.

Discussion raged among comrades at all levels about why the armed struggle had achieved so little and why there was no real underground to speak of. True, mass resistance had reached unprecedented levels and much of this was attributed to the courageous work of ANC activists who had been infiltrated back into the country. Nonetheless, there was no real ANC presence inside the country and the ANC could not legitimately claim to be the leading force behind the mass struggles taking place.

Underground work up to that point had largely been hit-and-run operations. Cadres were trained outside the country, briefed, equipped and sent into South Africa on missions. They carried out their tasks and, if not captured by the enemy, returned to the sanctuary of one of the frontline states. A number of groups had tried to engage in more prolonged activity but the attrition rate was extremely high.

These were the armed propaganda years and the imperative was to concentrate on actions to keep alive the notion that the ANC was present and active in South Africa. There could be no stopping, as a hiatus would be interpreted as defeat. Little attention was thus given to the setting up of internal structures that would have made the war self-sustaining.

Those sent into the country were the ANC's soldiers. The generals remained at base. The soldiers had their orders, so could not become autonomous agents who could plan their own actions. If they had been able to, that would have made them the generals. In any case, their logistical supplies came from outside the country and, because it was so difficult to get anything in, the scope of their operations was extremely limited.

This was the crux of the problem. A rudderless army with nowhere to hide, with no contact with its leaders and with extremely fragile lines of supply. This meant that actions were limited to solitary operations. There was no way this could develop into a sustained onslaught against the enemy. Only the number of actions could increase but, because there were no generals on the spot, these could never be coordinated to achieve any strategic objective.

As the number of armed incidents increased, so too did the number of casualties. It is difficult to understand how it took the leadership so long to begin thinking about changing tactics but for ten years after the Soweto uprising this was the pattern of things. It was only after the Kabwe Conference in 1985 that many came to acknowledge that there was something seriously wrong and that there had to be a radical change in tactics.

Everyone agreed that the underground was ineffectual because there were no proper underground structures and there were no structures because there were no leadership figures based in the country. 'Armed propaganda' could not turn into 'people's war' because the groundwork had not been laid for rooting the 'liberation army' among the people.

Key leadership figures had not been sent into the country because it had always been deemed too dangerous to do so. There was a kind of vicious circle in operation: leaders could not go in because there were no underground structures in place to guarantee their safety; the underground structures could not develop because there were no key leaders in the country.

Sending leaders into the country, however, was only part of the solution. Even if leaders had been sent in, the resources for carrying out the armed struggle would still have had to come from outside the country. And how would the leaders have co-ordinated their actions and issued their orders to the soldiers in the field?

The problem was not so much a political one about who was where and doing what, but a practical one about an almost complete lack of decent communications.

It is astonishing that so few were able to see this, as communications is the most important weapon in any conflict situation. Without good communications the battle is lost even if your side has an overwhelming advantage in physical and human terms. This has been confirmed in countless wars and struggles throughout history. Good communications means effective conduct of a struggle; bad communications means ineffective conduct or defeat.

It could even be said that the entire nature of a struggle is determined by the effectiveness of the adversaries' communications. The side that lacks sophistication in this field will not be able to issue commands to its soldiers and they, in turn, will not be able to coordinate their activities as they will not know what their compatriots are doing and where they should concentrate their efforts. In other words, the fighters will not receive their orders and be left to face their enemy without leadership.
Poor communications had determined the shape of our struggle. It was because our fighters and cadres could not communicate with their leaders and between themselves that the underground never developed and People's War never became a reality.

It is hard to explain how our leadership failed to grasp the importance of good communications, especially as they were trying to lead a struggle by remote control. Perhaps it was that they were too used to seeing all problems and solutions to problems in political terms that they were unable to see that the problem was to a large extent a technical one. Perhaps they had a fear of technical things, a suspicion of things they did not fully understand.

When this is put to comrades who were involved in underground work they all confirm that the lack of proper communications was the main hindrance to their work. They felt cut off and their activities could never develop into anything meaningful. The absence of proper communications meant there was a lack of political leadership. This reduced most activities to anarchic actions as they were seldom part of a planned strategy. Many comrades lost faith in the organisation as the lack of contact made them feel that they had been forgotten. Many became so disillusioned that they engaged in actions which often did the cause more harm than good. Others simply gave up because their discipline would not allow them to do their own thing.

My own experience as an underground operative in the mid-'seventies confirms this. Our little two-man propaganda cell could never develop beyond the mandate given to us simply because we could not communicate properly with our handlers. The use of cumbersome book codes and complicated secret inks made us view communications as a tedious activity that was best avoided. Contact was so infrequent and irregular that most of the time we felt that we were operating in a vacuum. There were instructions but no leadership, acknowledgements but no encouragement.

There is no doubt that our poor communications contributed to our arrest, as was the case for countless others. We were aware of surveillance but could do nothing, for our communications were too slow to be used as a tool for seeking guidance.

Seeking new ways

After escaping from prison in 1979 I ended up in London and one of my tasks as an ANC activist with underground experience was to train others in the skills and techniques of underground work. As their trainer I became the person responsible for handling their communications. Over the years I trained dozens of people but one thing I soon noticed was that there were always fewer messages than people. It was always the same pattern: comrades would go back home feeling enthusiastic and begin by sending a series of messages. They soon came to realise that it was a futile activity as it took so much effort to say so very little and the responses, as few and far between as they were, contained little encouragement and advice. There were only instructions which usually lacked any connection with the reality they were experiencing.

A lot of effort went into training these people but it soon became apparent that there was extremely little return on the investment, simply because the communications were so poor.

I was determined to do something about this so set out to revamp the communications methods being used from London. The first to go were the awful book codes we had always used. In their place I substituted proper numerical ciphers. Next to go were the complicated invisible inks. In their place I substituted ultra-violet, invisible-ink, marker pens and a whole variety of concealment methods including microfilms, secret compartments and audio cassettes.

All of this made little difference though, as it was the manual encryption that still took the time. A short message of a few hundred characters would take all evening to encipher. I tried various schemes to streamline the process but made little headway because it remained a boring, manual task. There was no help from our leaders for they were not concerned with the methods of secret communications. They were only interested in the clear messages that came out of and went into the communications. How the messages were transferred was none of their business. That was the concern of the comms officers like me.

It was at this time, the early 'eighties, that personal computers were becoming affordable. In them I saw our salvation. A computer, I read, was eminently suitable for boring, repetitive tasks - and that's what we had on our hands. The purchase of our first computer led to a revolution in our communications that ultimately made possible operations such as Vula.

Developing an Electronic Communications System for Operation Vula

In the early eighties, at the time I was considering the purchase of a computer to assist me with my secret communications work, I met Ronnie Press. He was an old stalwart of the struggle who had left South Africa in the first wave of exiles in the early `sixties.

Ronnie, with a few others based in the UK, had founded the ANC 'Technical Committee' - a body whose task it was to provide technical assistance for the armed struggle. He had access to computers at the polytechnic where he taught and had also come to the realisation that they would be a powerful aid in communications. The two of us knew very little about programming but set about getting one of his work computers to emulate the manual operations of one of our book codes. While it did what we wanted it did not take us very far as there was no one to communicate with.

In 1984, when prices were low enough, I lashed out and bought my first personal computer. It was quite a pathetic little machine by today's standards but it gave me the opportunity to learn how to write elementary computer programs. Inspired by this Ronnie bought one too, so at last we could communicate with each other. As these were pretty basic machines there was not much we could do with them apart from swapping cassette tapes that held our secret messages. Nevertheless this was a major advance, for what used to take hours to encrypt now took a matter of minutes.

One day Ronnie arrived with a pair of modems. I had never heard of such a thing but apparently they would allow our computers to talk to each over the telephone. This was the breakthrough, I thought, for these devices would allow us to communicate with our operatives in South Africa. No longer would communications be a chore - it would now be fun.

Getting the modems to work properly was a nightmare as neither of us knew anything about the vagaries of digital communications. It made us realise that using computers to communicate with South Africa would not be as easy as we'd first imagined. How would the communicating parties know when the other side had a message to send? Also, would not the mere act of communicating, especially with encrypted messages, endanger the user in South Africa? How too could we get the equipment to our activists at home? In any case, only those with access to electricity and phone sockets - usually white comrades - would be able to use computers for communicating.

These uncertainties dampened our enthusiasm but we managed to set up a link between London and Bristol, where Ronnie lived, using an electronic mail service. We showed this to our chiefs but failed to impress because everything went wrong on that occasion. They gave our project their blessing, but what we wanted was not moral but financial support.

On one of his regular trips to Zambia, Ronnie took his computer and modem to see if we could communicate between Lusaka and London. The test failed miserably as the crackle and echo on the line drowned the modems' pathetic signals. The Lusaka chiefs were impressed with the speed and ease with which the computer enciphered and deciphered messages but were quick to realise that it would have no immediate practical application. No one would be able to use it as a computer would be out of place in a township and those who would be in a position to use them would not last long if they communicated with Zambia.

We continued to improve our communications system but without a concrete application it did not progress very far. Our initial enthusiasm waned as there appeared to be no way of bridging the gap between ourselves and users inside the country.

Our next project was one that led to the breakthrough we had been waiting for. We had received a request, as members of the Technical Committee, to find a way for activists to contact each other safely in an urban environment. Ronnie had seen a paging device that could be used between users of walkie-talkies. A numeric keypad was attached to the front of each radio set and when a particular number was pressed a light would flash on the remote set that corresponded to the number. The recipient of the paging signal could then respond to the caller using a pre-determined frequency so that the other users would not know about it.

Since the numbers on the keypad actually generated the same tones as those of a touch-tone telephone it occurred to us that instead of merely having a flashing light at the recipient's end you could have a number appear corresponding to the number pressed on the keypad. If you could have one number appear you could have all numbers appear and in this way send a coded message. If the enemy was monitoring the airwaves all they would hear was a series of tones that would mean nothing.

Taking this a step further we realised that if you could send the tones by radio then they could also be sent by telephone, especially as the tones were intended for use on telephone systems. Ronnie put together a little microphone device that - when held on the earpiece of the receiving telephone - could display whatever number was pressed at the sending end. Using touch-tone telephones or separate tone pads as used for telephone banking services two people could send each other coded messages over the telephone. This could be done from public telephones, thus ensuring the safety of the users.

To avoid having to key in the numbers while in a telephone booth the tones could be recorded on a tape recorder at home and then played into the telephone. Similarly, at the receiving end, the tones could be recorded on a tape recorder and then decoded later. Messages could even be sent to an answering machine and picked up from an answering machine if left as the outgoing message.
We gave a few of these devices, disguised as electronic calculators, to activists to take back to South Africa. They were not immensely successful as the coding still had to be done by hand and that remained the chief factor discouraging people from communicating.

The next step was an attempt to marry the tone communications system with computer encryption. Ronnie got one of the boffins at the polytechnic to construct a device that produced the telephone tones at very high speed. This was attached to a computer that did the encryption. The computer, through the device, output the encrypted message as a series of tones and these could be saved on a cassette tape recorder that could be taken to a public telephone. This seemed to solve the problem of underground communications as everything could be done from public telephones and the encryption was done by computer.

While working on this system in early 1987 I was called down to Lusaka to train a group of activists in the use of some specialised radio equipment. While there I was approached by Mac Maharaj, now Minister of Transport. He had heard that we had been experimenting with computers and various methods of secret communications. I demonstrated the use of the tone pad system using radios and we agreed to set up a trial system using the telephone model between London and Lusaka.

The system worked, but as our computerised version was not ready the coding was still done by hand and this limited the amount of information that could be transferred.

Later in the year Mac visited me in London and explained that the ANC was planning to send leadership figures into the country but that this could not take place until a suitable communications system was in place.

This surprised and pleased me for Mac was the first ANC leader I had come across who had the foresight to realise that nothing serious could happen in the underground until people could communicate properly. He was happy with our tone pad system but wanted to use computers to do the encryption as hand coding would be too limiting.

I promised to investigate but explained the fundamental problem of attempting to communicate secretly with computers: it was too dangerous to use a computer from a listed telephone and simply not possible to take one into a telephone booth. Our computerised tone system could be the answer but we were having major problems getting it to work reliably.

Ronnie and I had thought about using modems in the same way as our tone device but the problem was that modems worked in pairs. The modem signal could not be recorded on tape because one modem had to be talking directly to another before anything would happen.

By chance a friend gave me an acoustic coupler that he was about to throw out. This is a special sort of modem that clips onto a telephone handpiece instead of being plugged into a wall socket. I was using this one day when I happened to lose the connection with the remote computer. I noticed that, despite this loss of contact, the message I was sending continued to be sent, unlike what would have happened had I been using a normal modem. Could it be true that these devices did not require another modem at the other end to work?

To test this hypothesis I wrote a little program to send some computer output to the modem. Sure enough the sounds came out of the modem's speaker. These I recorded and played back into the microphone end of the modem while running a communications program on the computer. Eureka! The characters appeared on the screen. I had done with a modem what we were attempting to do with our tone machine.

This seemed to be the real breakthrough. I adapted our encryption program to work with the acoustic modem and recorded the output on a tape recorder. This I took to a public telephone booth and played back to my answering machine. Then I played the answering machine 'message' back into the modem and the computer deciphered it successfully. As the plaintext message appeared on the screen I realised that we had finally discovered an absolutely safe method of communicating with the underground using computers.

The next problem was to adapt our encryption program to work reliably with this system. When two computers are communicating in the normal way through modems they 'talk' to each other and if an error is detected the receiving computer can ask the sending one to resend the message or the part of the message containing the error. But with our system you had a computer talking to a tape recorder - a completely dumb device. We knew well that if an encrypted message got corrupted while being sent, then everything following the point of corruption would be garbage. And over a distance of ten thousand kilometres there were sure to be errors.

After a lot of serious programming I managed to develop a system that could ride over errors. You could not recover the text where the corruption occurred but all was not lost if errors occurred. The message continued to decipher to the end.

After fine tuning this system I demonstrated it to Mac. He was so pleased that he adopted it immediately. We tested it from Lusaka and our conclusion was that if it worked from there it would work from anywhere!

After a few more meetings with Mac I got a clearer picture of the operation being planned. This was no Mickey Mouse affair. The amount of preparation and security involved indicated that for once the comrades were deadly serious. Mac was insistent that nothing could happen until the communications had been sorted out.

Around this time - early 1987 - I was introduced to Conny Braam, the head of the Dutch Anti-Apartheid Movement. She appeared also to have been informed of the planned operation and was assisting with background preparations. We were brought together to discuss communication methods. She had been investigating some commercial encryption and communications devices. One of these, a pocket-sized 'encryption computer', was particularly impressive. To send a message you simply held the device on the mouthpiece of a phone and played the code to another similar device on another phone. We tested this with an answering machine and it seemed to work fine.
To be absolutely certain if these devices were going to work from South Africa we needed to send someone in to test them. We also wanted to know everything about the South African phone system: whether there were card phones, the dimensions of phone handpieces, what the local phone plugs looked like, whether there were suitable public phones, and so forth.

Conny found a suitable playboy type that no one would suspect of being a 'spy'. I briefed him on what we needed to know and told him where to find it. A short while later he was sent in on his mission.

Our 'spy' did a magnificent job. He photographed public telephones, located nearly every suitable phone in Johannesburg and Durban and brought back a number of 'samples' that he pulled out of sockets and ripped out of phone booths!

Most exciting of all, he found out that radio telephones had just been introduced in South Africa. These were huge monsters, very unlike the dainty cell phones in use today. The batteries used to power these phones were so heavy that they could only be used in a motor vehicle. However, after negotiating with a dealer he found that it would be possible to mount one of the units in a suitcase. If we could get one of these our underground operators would be able to communicate safely using computers from just about anywhere.

Tests with the communications equipment showed that Conny's dedicated coding/transmission machine was hopeless. It simply didn't have the power of our unconventional acoustic modem/tape device, which worked a charm.

After assessing the results of our 'spy's' mission Mac concluded that the radio telephone would be so useful that it was essential to get one. But how to do it? There was no one in the country who could get the phone and it was going to cost around R16,000.

Fortunately the ubiquitous Conny had managed to find a sympathetic KLM air hostess who was working on the Amsterdam-Johannesburg route. She was willing to do just about anything for us, including smuggling into and out of the country whatever we wanted.

I went over to Amsterdam to find out if she was willing to go on a special 'shopping trip' for us to get the phone. She was honoured to be asked and pleased that she would be doing things more exciting than pure courier work.

I had managed to convince the telephone supplier in Johannesburg that I was a British businessman who needed the telephone for my 'business' and that a 'friend' would be passing through Johannesburg to make the purchase for me. My problem, I explained to him, was how to pay the bills as my work required frequent, quick trips to South Africa. The dealer was so keen to make the sale that he worked out a scheme whereby the phone could be registered in his name but could physically be in my possession. All we had to do was 'top up' his bank account every month and everyone would be happy!

On her first trip the air hostess was unable to get the phone because her plane was late. The second time the salesman didn't show up but finally she got it. For her it was a major victory as she felt she had let us down on the previous occasions.

Back in London we made the final preparations for the start of Operation Vula, which was due to begin in July or August 1988 when the first operatives were to be smuggled in. Among those in the first group was Mac Maharaj.

I had two new phone lines installed in my flat: one for incoming calls from South Africa and Lusaka, the other for the South African operatives to pick up messages directed to them. On both I connected specially doctored answering machines that could record and play messages for up to five minutes without cutting off. The system would work more or less the same from Lusaka as from South Africa, except that there was no need to use public phones in Lusaka.
It was hard to believe that this rickety system would work under real conditions. Only when it was tried by the comrades after they got into the country would we know.

Vula Starts

In the early months of 1988 Mac Maharaj and 'Ghebuza' (Siphiwe Nyanda) were readying themselves to be infiltrated into the country as the first group of Vula operatives. To most people, however, Mac was a very sick man who was suffering from a serious kidney ailment. He hobbled around on a stick and failed to turn up for the string of important meetings that leadership figures were expected to attend. It was said that he was about to go to a sanatorium in the Soviet Union to wait for a kidney transplant. Ghebuza was also withdrawing from his regular activities because he was about to go on a long 'officer training course' in the Soviet Union. No one other than the President, Oliver Tambo, and a few others involved in the preparations for Vula knew the truth. So tight had the security around the preparations been that no one doubted what they were told about Mac and Ghebuza.

The two had been well prepared with a range of professional disguises and false documents. An extremely contorted route had been worked out for the pair to reach South Africa from Zambia. Indeed they would depart for the Soviet Union where their appearances and identities would be radically altered. They would even leave a 'trail' so that people could confirm that they had been seen in that country. From Moscow they would fly to a few European cities to fuzz the trail, from where they would move on to east Africa and ultimately to Swaziland where they would be assisted to hop the border into South Africa. Everything along the way was well prepared and well rehearsed.

Back in London the communications equipment stood idle waiting for Vula to start. The first ring of the telephone attached to the 'incoming' answering machine would signal the start of the operation we had all worked and waited for so long.

Although we had thoroughly tested our equipment it was hard to believe that it was really going to work under the actual conditions for which it had been designed. Yes, messages had been sent successfully from South Africa but only from the 'ideal' conditions of a comfortable hotel room. A public telephone was different. Would not the sounds of the street, the dropping of the coins and other extraneous variables not distort the delicate computer messages and render the system worthless? Real life was different to the laboratory, we well knew.

As Mac and company would not have the computers on arrival in South Africa - they were due to be smuggled in later - we had set up a voice-mail system linked to a tone pager at the London end for initial communications. This allowed the comrades in South Africa to deposit voice messages in an electronic 'voice bank', and when they did so we in London would get bleeped. We could listen to the message from any phone - though we only used public phones for security - by punching in a special code on the dial buttons. We could also leave messages but there was no way the comrades would know there was one waiting for them except by dialling in periodically to check.

I started carrying the pager from the beginning of August 1988, for I knew that from around that time the comrades would be in the country. A date in the second week of August had been set for Mac to meet Antoinette, our KLM courier, who was going to hand over the radio telephone she had earlier acquired.

Suddenly, one day in the first week of August, the pager began to bleep. Could this be the start of Vula, or just a wrong number? Sure enough, the familiar voice of Mac played out of the voice 'mailbox'. He wanted to clarify some final details about the planned meeting with Antoinette, but more than that it was a message to tell us that they were safely in the country. I quickly informed Lusaka of the good news.

The meeting with Antoinette went successfully and Mac got his telephone. After that there were a string of 'voice bank' messages but very little real information could be transferred with the limited set of codewords that had been established beforehand. It was clear that Mac was getting frustrated by the non-arrival of the communications equipment. As Antoinette was due in Johannesburg again in two weeks we decided to buy another laptop and send it in with her, complete with all the other bits and pieces needed to communicate.

This was handed over to Mac on her next visit to Johannesburg. I expected Mac to begin communicating immediately but the receiving equipment in the London 'communications centre' remained silent for another week. I grew increasingly sceptical that it would ever be used: 'It's too complicated. Give them a few more weeks and they'll throw the whole lot out and start speaking in whispers over phones again. I know these guys!'

Then suddenly on the last day of August, as I was sitting hacking away at another program on my computer, the 'receive' phone started ringing. The answering machine played its usual outgoing message and then the yellow 'receive' light came on, followed by the familiar high-pitched tone of a computer message. It was music to my ears. I tried to picture Mac cowering inside the acoustic hood of some grubby public telephone in Durban. I could see him nervously holding the little speaker against the mouthpiece of the phone while looking worriedly over his shoulder. His heart must have been racing like mine. It was hard to believe that the sound I was hearing so clearly was coming from a small tape recorder ten thousand kilometres away.

I quickly played back the message into my computer and proceeded to decipher it. As the plaintext message appeared on the screen I leapt for joy. There it was - Vula's first message - as clear as daylight. Now we're in business!

As I was reading the printout the phone rang again. Another message. After that there followed another three. Five messages in the first go and all of them deciphered okay. 'Boy, these guys sure mean business' I thought.

There were a few corruptions in the messages but the error-handler had coped well. In all cases it was possible to guess the lost words from the context. I joined all Mac's messages into one and sent the file down to Lusaka. 'That's the quickest any serious message has ever reached our leaders' I realised as I was sending it.

The received messages were typically Mac: not a sign of emotion, just straight down to business. It was clear that he had already been extremely busy. There were details of how he was spending the money that he had taken in and which had been brought by Antoinette, how he had found an untraceable way of registering vehicles (I hope, as the Minister of Transport, he has now forgotten how to do this!), details of the setting up of a propaganda project, a list of publications he wanted from London, proposals for setting up bookstores in Durban and Johannesburg, progress in setting up a reception committee for Nelson Mandela in case he was released from prison, details of meetings with key MDM leaders, and so forth.

The next day I prepared a response for Mac and placed it on the 'out' answering machine. That same day he picked it up and the next day came a reply. This time the message contained some emotion. Mac was excited at the prospects of being able to communicate with the leadership in such a short time. However, there had been some problems. He had not been able to pick up my message using a public telephone as the sound of the coin-drops had corrupted it too badly. He'd had to use a private phone to retrieve the message - and that wasn't good for security.

If the comrades had been in Johannesburg this would not have been a problem as they would have used the radio telephone, but as it did not operate in Durban where they were based it was quite serious. As I was pondering how to solve this problem another message arrived from Mac. He had discovered in the city a number of public telephones that used phone cards. Apparently Telkom had implemented a pilot project to test the viability of introducing card-operated public telephones. From then on we never looked back.

The Link Begins to Pay

Within a couple of weeks of the establishment of the computerised communication link with South Africa the value of good communications began to show - much sooner than anyone had expected. For the first time in the history of the underground struggle there was a group of operatives inside South Africa in dynamic contact with the leadership outside. What this meant was that there could be true dialogue between the soldiers and the generals. No longer did you have a situation where blind commands were issued which the soldiers obediently had to carry out. The leaders were now properly informed of the situation inside the country and any suggestions they made could be corrected by those 'in the field'. Mac and Ghebuza could air their ideas with the leadership and the latter in turn could ask for more information before any decisions were taken. In short, there could be true political leadership instead of one-sided military orders.

The link not only served as a channel for dialogue and information transfer but also for a number of other purposes such as making requests, issuing criticism and arranging meetings.

Most requests were for money, documents, additional equipment for communications and the like. When the first request for weapons appeared on my screen my eyes stood out on stalks. I had seen the comrades packing some light weaponry when I was in Lusaka in June but now they were asking for an arsenal: AKM automatic rifles, TNT, detonating cord, hand grenades, RPG rocket launchers and rifle silencers, amongst other things. Any ideas that I'd had about Vula being purely a project to get political leadership into the country were quickly dispelled. This was serious stuff.
When a planned rendezvous in Botswana was botched by the comrades from Lusaka severe criticism flowed back from South Africa. Never again were the same mistakes made.

Over the years we had heard so often that the main factor holding back our revolution was the logistical problems associated with the long lines of supply. Now suddenly these problems melted away. The comrades could during the week demand a supply of weapons or other equipment and have it 'delivered' by the weekend. Details of meetings could be arranged more or less instantaneously, complete with legends and passwords. If anything went wrong at the last moment both sides could be informed timeously and take the appropriate action.

The ability to communicate in (almost) real time began to have a profound affect on the nature of the project itself, and the personnel at both ends - and in the middle - had to adapt to a new style of working.

At first the comrades at home were patient in waiting for responses from a leadership who were not accustomed to responding rapidly to events. This quickly turned to impatience as they became aware that speed of response was an organisational problem and not one that could be blamed on inefficient modes of communication.

On the part of the leadership in Lusaka the inertia of the old ways was soon swept aside by the enthusiasm of those at home. The number of questions and requests coming down the line made them pull their fingers out. The messages also for the first time gave them a window onto what was going on, making them feel part of something live. This added spirit to their former languid manner of responding to events.

For our part in London, we at first felt like passive spectators watching the messages shuttle back and forth. Soon we realised that we could play the role of facilitators by prodding Lusaka for responses and reminding them of what they had to do. Printouts and disk files of the traffic provided a convenient record of what was demanded and what needed to happen. We could often short-circuit things by responding on behalf of the other side when we got a better feel of what was happening at both ends.

After the initial contact had been established between South Africa and Lusaka and a pattern of working had been established, many requests started to get directed at London. The idea that London would simply act as a 'hub' linking the 'spokes' from South Africa and Lusaka soon evaporated. A multitude of requests and instructions flooded in from both sides. Deposit money in this bank account, collect £50,000 from the ANC office and forward it to that destination, buy more computers, prepare and send us these documents...

The System Expands

From the start we were never completely certain how secure our encryption program was. As it employed an 'in-house' algorithm (formula) it had not been subjected to the rigours of testing by experts.

According to the experts there is only one theoretically unbreakable cipher - the one-time pad. This system is one where the communicating parties each have a pad consisting of pages of random numbers. The numbers on a particular page are added to the numeric values given to the letters of a plaintext message. After the message has been enciphered the pages of the pad that were used are ripped out and destroyed. Provided the numbers are truly random and are never used more than once there is no theoretical way to crack such a cipher. Every possible answer is correct because there is no relation between one (encrypted) character and the next.

Our system was based on the one-time pad, though instead of having paper pads the random numbers were on a disk. Each time the computer enciphered a message it read the correct number of characters from the disk, used them to perform the encryption and then wiped them from the disk so that they could never be recovered. While this provided the maximum security it had the disadvantage that the numbers got used up fairly rapidly and new 'key' disks had to be sent into the country. Fortunately Antoinette was able to take these in but the traffic in disks was considerable and each one represented another risk. It also had the disadvantage that it was a one-way system. You could not decipher your own messages; only the other side could do that. This meant that there was no way of safely storing old, but needed, information.

The only way this system could be cracked was if the enemy somehow got hold of the 'key' disks and made copies of them. But after a while it was clear that nothing of the sort was happening. If the enemy was reading the messages then they would surely have acted on the information they contained. There was too much at stake to ignore their content in the interests of not letting on that they were privy to what was going on.

The comrades called for a system that they could use to secure their own information, one that used regular keys so that the encryption could be reversed. After much serious programming we came up with a system that used a long key typed in from a book. This key was used by the program to generate its own random numbers so that it didn't have to take them from a disk. To ensure that the same 'key' line was never used again we sent them special invisible-ink pens to mark the lines used and ultra-violet torches to see which lines had been marked.

The amount of traffic increased by the day and in order to streamline operations Mac acquired a message pager. Using a special set of code words we in London could now let him know when there were messages waiting to be collected. It also allowed us to inform him if his message(s) had deciphered successfully or if he had to resend it/them. He could do the same with us using the voice mail system linked to our pager. As all this phoning had to be done from public telephones I decided that it would be a lot easier if I bought a cellphone. This I did using a false identity I had set up for myself. The cellphone turned out to be a most valuable addition to our communications setup. In combination with the 'voice bank' and pagers we could now talk to each other in almost real time without our voices ever coming together. New code words could easily be added through a computer message. Often a question posed in a computer message could instantaneously be answered with this voice mail/pager system.

The answering machines clicked and whirred all day long with messages to and from Lusaka and South Africa. Mac's messages would often come through in the middle of the night as well. Not only did the frequency of messages increase but also their length. As the phone cards being used by the comrades in South Africa lasted a mere minute and a half, messages often had to be split up into chunks. Sometimes a single message would consist of up to ten parts.

The demands on the system increased rapidly over the months forcing us to extend it to Conny Braam in Holland, to some comrades in Yorkshire who were assisting with documentation and to Canada where a Vula operative was involved in recruiting activists to be sent in to assist Vula. There was no need to use the complicated acoustic modem/tape recorder system with these 'nodes' as the security demands were not of the same nature. Ordinary e-mail links were set up using commercial providers. The same encryption program was used, however, to maintain the same level of security as with South Africa and Zambia.

Inside South Africa Mac spent much of his time travelling between Durban and Johannesburg to attend meetings and set up structures. When he was 'out-of-town' Ghebuza would take over the communications. Often Mac's trips to Johannesburg were timed to coincide with Antoinette's flights to South Africa. And each time she flew to South Africa I had to go to Holland twice: once to take things for her to take to South Africa and once to pick up whatever she brought back. On the out trips she would usually take great wads of £50 notes, new 'key' disks, upgrades of the encryption programs, disks containing (encrypted) documents and longer analytical messages from Lusaka, micro-photographs or heavily concealed copies of ANC and SACP publications, new tape recorders and so on. On the return trips should would usually bring back disks of encrypted messages giving fuller details of the ongoing projects and the political situation in general.

Whenever I was out of the country Ronnie Press would take over control. He was by this stage also living in London and had in his flat an identical set of equipment. All that had to be done to switch the traffic to him was to inform the comrades at both ends to use his numbers instead of mine. Between our two flats we set up a number of links and backup systems using commercial e-mail, our own private bulletin board system and even a radio link that could transfer the messages using radio modems. We could also use the answering machine/acoustic modem system as a last resort.

At the Lusaka end one of Conny's soldiers, Lucia, was put in charge of communications. From that point on the efficiency of that station increased markedly. A matchbox house in one of Lusaka's squalid townships was rigged out to serve as the comms centre, a place no one would have suspected of serving such a purpose.

By early 1989 Vula was ready for big things, and it was clear that what had been achieved in such a short time could not have been done without the ability of all concerned to talk to each other so easily and so securely.

Vula enters 1989

As Vula entered 1989 the secret communications network connecting South Africa to Lusaka via London was buzzing with activity. Considering the unconventional nature of the link it is surprising that it worked as well as it did. The comrades in South Africa and Lusaka took it for granted, but none of us realised how dependent the entire operation had become upon it.

In the middle of January we met our first hitch. Mac Marahaj's 'key' disk got corrupted and so he could no longer encrypt - which meant he could no longer communicate by computer. Fortunately there was a separate backup system, a second set of program and 'key' disks kept for such an eventuality. However, it made us realise how fragile the system was. If the second set of disks somehow also got corrupted - or damaged or lost or stolen - the whole operation would be in jeopardy. The communication link had become so crucial to the functioning of Operation Vula that losing it was like cutting the umbilical cord to a foetus. Something had to be done, and quickly.
Fortunately I had been working on an encryption system that operated in a more conventional way with keywords that could be entered by hand. It was obvious that this capability had to be built into the communications encryption program in case a 'key' disk got corrupted again.

Some months earlier the comrades had asked us to develop an encryption system that would allow them to encipher and decipher their own files for safekeeping. The special encryption program used for the communications could not be used for this purpose because it was a one-way system: you couldn't decipher your own messages because you never knew the key. The encryption program grabbed the key data it needed from the 'key' disk, did its work and then destroyed the data.
The new 'diskless' system allowed the comrades to decipher their own messages and had been sent to them a while earlier, but I had warned them not to use it for communications as we were uncertain of its strength.

So, off to the bookshops and libraries I went to find out about secure encryption algorithms. Nothing impressed me very much and all I discovered was that cryptology was an arcane science for bored mathematicians, not for underground activists. However I learned a few tricks and used these to develop a system to meet our security needs.

In normal conditions a single key is used for a lot of messages. We wanted to avoid this because we knew that if one of the comrades got captured by the enemy and was made to divulge the key, all intercepted messages could then be deciphered. By using a different key each time, security would be greater and it would be much more difficult for the enemy to find out what keys had been used.
This presented another problem. If we were going to use a different key each time how would we get these keys to the other side. The solution was to go back to our old book code system. Send the comrades a book and get them to use a different section of text each time as the key.

The books would be changed frequently and then destroyed so that no record of the keys were kept. The position of the key - page and line - would be encrypted with the message and would re-appear when the other side proceeded to decipher it.

In February Antoinette, our airline courier, took the disks containing the new program in to Mac and shortly afterwards the comrades started to use it. The new program defaulted to the 'key' disk version but could switch to the hand key version in an emergency. This innovation saved the communications several times when 'key' disks got erased by mistake, got forgotten in some other place or got corrupted.

All the way to Mandela's cell

In April Mac sent details of how it might be possible to set up a link with Nelson Mandela, who was at this time being held in a house in the grounds of the Victor Verster Prison near Paarl.

During this period Mandela was meeting various government bigwigs to discuss his possible release and various scenarios for the future. He was also meeting leaders of the Mass Democratic Movement. Such meetings were closely monitored by the enemy, so it was never possible to get to Lusaka the precise details of what was being discussed. Mandela realised the fragility of the situation and was reluctant to engage in any activities that could be interpreted as underhand. Mac, however, was convinced that if Mandela could be shown that a truly safe and absolutely confidential line to Oliver Tambo in Lusaka was available, and was operated by Mac he could be persuaded to use it.

Such a link could be set up by one of Mandela's lawyers, who was allowed to meet him at regular periods to discuss particular issues. Mac had over a period of months debriefed the lawyer intensively in order to determine the exact circumstances under which the meetings took place. Mac had worked in the communications team on Robben Island so he knew how Mandela would respond and what would be required to persuade him to participate in the scheme.

The first step was to receive authority from Lusaka for the lawyer to disclose Mac's presence to Mandela. Once this was granted, the lawyer would demonstrate to Mandela the method of camouflaging the memos. The method was based on one that we had used extensively during the previous months - books with secret compartments in their covers.

Conny Braam had brought into her team a professional bookbinder who had devised a method of creating re-useable compartments in the covers of books.

These proved to be extremely effective and absolutely undetectable. At first the bookbinder made these books for us in Amsterdam but because the demand for them was so great I had a few lessons from her and took back to London the skills and implements needed to create them on our own.

Mac realised that if the lawyer could take one of these books to Mandela each time, with a note concealed inside the cover, Mandela could read the note and respond by concealing details of his meetings with the government in the same compartment.

At first Mandela was reluctant to participate but when he began to grasp how it would work he changed his mind. The decision must have been difficult for someone cut off from modern technological developments for so long.

Suddenly one day a message from Mandela appeared on my screen. I stared at it for a long time. It was not the content that excited me but the very fact that here, for the first time ever, was an electronic message from the mythical man who had inspired us all so much. A real live message from Mandela here on my computer screen. Vula's ultimate coup!

After that messages from Mandela became a regular feature and in response there were long memos from Oliver Tambo in Lusaka. The two were now talking in confidence for the first time since the early 'sixties. I couldn't help chuckling to myself each time one of these messages went past when I thought how the regime's chiefs must be thinking they were entirely in control of the situation. They wanted to create the impression that they were talking to Mandela alone and that his responses were his personal opinions. Little did they know that they were talking to the ANC collective.

The system under stress

As the months passed it became clear that the communications work was taking up too much time for Mac and Ghebuza (Siphiwe Nyanda). The basic preparatory work of Vula had been completed and now the comrades were busy setting up structures around the country. Often they were away from base for days at a time but the need to move information was increasing all the time. This meant that they had less and less time to go to public telephones to do the sending and receiving.
After a while we started to notice that things were being done slightly differently. Messages arrived at different times and at different frequencies. Then different voices began to come out of the voice mailboxes. It was apparent that the comrades had trained a couple of people to handle the communications. This was later confirmed in a message.

After these new comrades took over, the number of messages increased even further. Huge batches of messages would regularly be dumped on our answering machines and we were often kept up till late at night changing tapes on the 'pick up' machine. It was not long before it became clear that our system was reaching the limits of its capacity.

As an interim measure I modified the London setup such that when there was a great batch of messages to send, they could be sent directly from the computer instead of from the answering machine. When the 'pickup' phone rang, the computer would automatically squirt the messages down the line. By cutting out the answering machine the quality of the signal was improved. A special amplifier in the circuit ensured that the signal was really loud and crisp.

All the while we knew that we would ultimately have to move over to a regular electronic mail service as our existing system had definite limitations. But this brought us back to the original problem: it was too dangerous to communicate from a known telephone line. Our whole quirky system had been designed to get around this inescapable fact. But what if the person who used the phone was someone who would normally communicate by computer and had no known affiliation with any political organisation? Surely this would not attract attention. Even using encryption should not raise eyebrows for businesses used it all the time to protect their information and it was built into ordinary programs such as word processors. In any case, did the enemy have the capacity to determine which of the thousands of messages leaving the country every day was a 'suspicious' one?

The only way to test out this hypothesis was to try it, and that's what we did.

During the preceding months I had been training an 'agent' whom the ANC was going to send back to South Africa in order to penetrate critical computer networks. The 'agent' was a South African who had been living abroad for many years and had worked as a computer programmer for major British electronics companies. He was also 'clean', having never been involved in exile politics.
In order to report on his activities he would need to be able to communicate abroad in much the same way as Vula. But because he would not be 'underground' in the same sense as the Vula operatives we decided to use an open, commercial electronic-mail service rather than our 'in-house' Vula system. This would serve both as an efficient, secret communications channel for his own work and as a test for Vula.

Later in the year the agent was sent in. He had already secured a position that was an excellent launching pad for his 'career'.

Immediately on arrival in South Africa he started communicating. This was a most normal thing for a person in his position to do. His training revealed no surveillance so we quickly realised that this was the way forward for Vula - find someone who would normally use a computer for communicating abroad and get that person to handle the communications. This would remove the constraints of the current system and allow the channel to be opened up for much greater things.

Mac comes out for a rest

After returning from one of her regular trips to Johannesburg, Antoinette reported that Mac had seemed very stressed and looked tired and overworked. This impression had been conveyed through the messages too but it was never possible to tell with Mac. He always appeared to have boundless energy and kept us all on our toes with his demands. His messages often came through in the middle of the night giving the impression that he never even stopped to sleep.

But after a while it became clear that the stress of the situation was beginning to take its toll and the Lusaka leadership suggested that Mac should come out for a rest. On top of this the word was getting around that he had been seen in South Africa and was not in the Soviet Union waiting for a kidney transplant, as everybody had been told. It was essential for the continuation of Vula that this legend be shored up.

Through the messages it was arranged that Mac would come out in early July and make his way back to the Soviet Union. There he would 'emerge' in full public view and announce that he was indeed still waiting for his kidney transplant, but that interim treatment had been effective enough to allow him to visit his family for a short while.

In London we booked a ticket for Mac to fly to India via Mauritius. Using yet another disguise and false identity Mac was able to make his way to New Delhi and then on to Moscow. All the time we were in contact with him through voice mail.

After a couple of weeks in Moscow Mac returned to London where we were able to discuss the question of communications. As we had suspected our quaint tape recorder system was beginning to creak and groan under the load. A new system had to be found that would allow much greater amounts of information to flow. More than that, the scope of Vula had changed and with it the scope of the network had to change. While the external links were still crucial, there was now a need to connect all the outposts of Vula that had been established throughout the country.

We explained to Mac how the system used by our 'secret agent' worked. If Vula could move over to a similar system, Mac suggested, it would not only allow more information to flow but it would also serve as a coordinating tool. It would link everyone internally and eliminate the need to travel around the country all the time. Also, because it was an error-free system, external machineries could produce fully-formatted propaganda material and send it in. Mac was convinced that they could find suitable people to do the comms. So many people and structures had been linked to Vula that it was now necessary to look at secret communications in an entirely different way.

Vula Moves into Top Gear

Mac's respite abroad gave him the opportunity to recover from the stress of the previous year's work. The washed-out look with which he had arrived was explained as the effects of waiting for a kidney transplant in a Soviet sanatorium. The Mac who went back to South Africa a few weeks later looked much healthier, though he had to pretend that appearances were deceptive. A new kidney was expected any time now and that was why he had to scurry back to the Soviet Union.
During his time in London we discussed with Mac the future communication needs of Vula. It was clear that the existing system using acoustic modems and tape recorders had more or less reached its limits. Its life had been extended by employing other comrades to handle the communications and by modifications at the London end, but it nonetheless had severe drawbacks that could not be overcome by any improvements to the system. Chief among these were the inability to send formatted documents and the length limitations imposed by using public telephones.

The current system could only send plain text documents because it was not error-free, and files had to be broken up into small parcels for transmission. The adoption of a system that could transmit error-free with no time and, hence, length limitations would greatly improve its usefulness. This would permit fully-formatted documents - such as laid out publications - to be prepared outside and sent into the country for immediate publication. Vula also needed the ability to communicate internally and this was just not possible with the current system.

We discussed the various options and Mac agreed that we should work towards implementing a scheme such as the one being used with our 'secret agent' sent in a few months earlier. This involved using a regular electronic-mail service. Since it was being operated by a person with no history of political activism it drew no attention from the authorities. Although Vula had no one in that position, Mac was going to do his utmost to find someone.

In the meantime the 'old' system would continue and we were to continue investigating all alternatives. The dangers had not lessened even though the political situation was in a state of flux and it was clear that the apartheid regime was going to have to release ANC leaders from prison, including Nelson Mandela. This signalled that they were contemplating a major shift in policy as they could not have Nelson Mandela freely moving around the place preaching the gospel of a banned organisation.

Protecting Vula

Ronnie and I had long been investigating various communications options. Every day new products were coming on the market and we had to be ever watchful of new developments in the computer and communications fields. We attended countless exhibitions and subscribed to a range of magazines and journals. There was no shortage of funds so we were able to invest considerable amounts in 'research and development'.

As it was difficult to pursue our technical investigations and speak to businessmen in the name of the ANC we decided to set up false identities for ourselves and pose as businessmen. To become businessmen we needed a business, so we set up one. By speaking to some sympathetic businessmen and lawyers we were able to establish a 'front company' through an outfit that provided businesses 'off-the-shelf'. It surprised us to find out that we could literally purchase a brand new company over the counter. All we had to do was give some indication of the nature of our business - 'computer consultants' - and pay some money. For the price they prepared the contracts, the books and provided all the paraphernalia required by a business, right down to letterheads and an embossing stamp. Even the name for our business could be chosen from a list they provided!

At last our two working-class heroes were members of the capitalist class. New suits, ties and tidy haircuts completed the picture. Amazingly, it worked. Where before salesmen shunned two anorak-clad scruffs, they were now sickeningly helpful. At exhibitions we could flash our business cards and make calls on our cellphones. As 'directors' of a company (that changed its nature like a chameleon according to whom it was relating) it became so much easier to get the attention we required.

To go with our new company we opened a bank account and acquired a post office address. The absence of a 'secretary' who could answer our calls worried us but even that could be arranged through a secretarial services company that would answer our calls and advise overzealous salesmen that we were in a 'meeting' or 'out of town' at that moment. A couple more voice mailboxes rounded off the communication requirements of a well-heeled company.

Through one of Conny's people who had been sent into the country some time earlier I had set up a mail address in Johannesburg through a local secretarial service company. This we linked to our new company in London so that mailed answers to information requests made in South Africa could reach us quite anonymously.

In addition to our company we managed to acquire a number of other safe mail addresses all over London. These proved useful for acquiring information about specialised equipment that would have attracted attention from the local bobbies. We had no doubt that the British secret services were also keeping an eye on us and there was no reason for us to believe that they were not working hand in glove with the apartheid authorities, whom their leader, Margaret Thatcher, so dearly loved. Some months earlier a right-wing MP stood up in parliament and claimed that I was working with the IRA to make bombs that were sent into South Africa to blow up innocent civilians. This later turned out to be a cover-up for the fact that the South African regime was supplying weapons to Ulster extremists.

To protect Operation Vula's information we acquired a safe box in the underground vault of a security company just off London's exclusive Bond Street. Here we rubbed shoulders with millionaires who were hiding their gold jewellery and diamonds. In the vault we stored encrypted copies of all Vula's communications as well as copies of the source code of our encryption programs. The disks were wrapped and signed so that if anyone from the company had access to the locker and looked at our stuff we would know about it.

The next step was to make it even harder for potential eavesdroppers to bug our phone lines. Already there were three regular lines coming into my flat and two cellular phone links. The latter operated through a marine antenna on top of the roof to give the very best reception for computer communications. In Holland I acquired a cordless phone unit with a range of 15 kilometres. A sympathetic Briton a few kilometres away had a phone line installed and to this I connected the main unit of the cordless phone. At home the handset was connected to another antenna on the roof. This radio phone provided a secure line that worked perfectly with our computers.

Yet another two antennas beamed radio signals between Ronnie's flat and mine. Soon there were so many antennae sprouting out of the roof that the place got nicknamed 'GCHQ' after the government's communications headquarters which was responsible for monitoring electronic communications in the UK.

Every morning Ronnie and I would make contact by radio to discuss what had to be done that day. A set of code words and regular frequency hopping made it difficult for anyone to follow what was going on. The radio link also provided yet another link for our computer system in case any or all of the phones went down.

New systems

Ronnie and I experimented with various new systems as time went on. Many of these could not have been contemplated at an earlier stage because the technology simply wasn't available. All the time computers were getting smaller and new gadgets were appearing on the market.

Towards the end of 1989 the first pocket computers appeared in the shops. These could be used with regular modems which now too were appearing in miniaturised form. One system we developed used a pocket computer that could dial into a remote computer and send and receive messages error-free in the normal way. Since these computers were so small they could be taken into a phonebooth and be used in much the same way as our current tape recorder system. Instead of an answering machine at the other end there was now a computer operating as a simple bulletin board. A program was developed to do everything: it dialled in, made the connection, sent the message(s), picked up any messages that were waiting and logged off. All the user had to do was press a button to set the thing in motion.

This system would have been adopted but events on the ground changed so rapidly after the unbanning of the ANC in February 1990 that it became unnecessary.

Another system was designed for urban communications. This used miniaturised packet radio TNCs (Terminal Node Controllers - radio modems) with bulletin boards built into them. Two users could exchange messages in absolute secrecy. At an agreed time the 'passive' user would simply have to be within range of the 'active' user. The former would have a walkie talkie radio attached to one of these TNCs. This could all be secreted inside a plastic shopping bag and the user could even be walking around in the street. The active user also had a walkie talkie and TNC unit but required a keyboard (a pocket computer was adequate) to operate the equipment. Connection between the TNCs was made and messages could be exchanged. The passive user then returned home, connected the TNC to his or her computer and transferred the received message(s). We even tested this system from a moving vehicle and it worked perfectly. This too never got adopted because of the developing political situation.

The Final System

It took another six months after Mac returned to South Africa before a new communications system came into operation. This was shortly after the unbanning of the ANC early in 1990. It took so long to move over to a new system because of the problems of finding and training the correct people to operate it. Inertia too played its part in keeping the old system in place.

Eventually one of the Vula operatives and not an 'outsider' was selected as the 'chief communications officer'. This was Janet Love, now an MP, who had in fact been in the country from well before the start of Vula. She had made contact with Mac several months earlier and was by the end of 1989 one of the key operatives in the Johannesburg area. Her disguise was so deep that it was decided that she would be a suitable candidate to run Vula's communications.

Janet managed to leave South Africa in the latter part of 1989 and during this period we trained her in the new system. There was nothing extraordinary about the way we planned to do things. We would be using regular electronic mail through a commercial provider. Connections would be made from known business addresses. No more telephone booths and phone cards. The new system would allow files of any length to be sent, and as it was error-free all kinds of files could be sent.
The special encryption program that we developed to work with this system had four levels of security. The first level used a book for keys, much the same as our earlier programs. The second level used a long fixed length key taken from a disk containing random numbers; the third level used a variable length key proportional to the length of the file; the fourth level a key the same length as the file. Before encryption the plaintext files were compressed with encryption and then re-encrypted. This offered the maximum security and to dispel any doubt really confidential memos could be re-enciphered over and over.

The new system moved Vula's communications into a different league. It allowed operatives in different part of the country to communicate with each other in confidence. It also meant that there were no restrictions on what could be sent in from the outside.

Immediately the demands on London increased many fold but this had been expected and we were prepared for it. There were now three of us working full time at that end. Using desktop publishing programs we were able to prepare fully-formatted publications and send these in. The comrades in South Africa reproduced and distributed these in their thousands.

For years I had been assisting groups in London to post movement literature into South Africa. Everyone knew that most of this ended up in the security police incinerators yet they kept on doing it because no one could think of another way. This continued right to the end and I couldn't help chuckling to myself every time I helped stuff envelopes: "If only these people knew that this very same publication is already in the country and being distributed by the thousand". But the exigencies of Vula did not permit me to utter a word.

Vula now moved into top gear. Even though the ANC had been unbanned the high point had not been reached. Several new operatives secretly entered the country, including Ronnie Kasrils, now Deputy Minister of Defence. He entered with all the skills required to operate Vula's communications channels. Although he was my teacher in the mid-'seventies, I have to admit that he was not my best pupil! Nonetheless he took in with him some valuable new skills.

The link with Lusaka was also refurbished to cope with the increased flow of data. The old answering machine system was thrown out and replaced with a computer that served as a host for Lusaka. Messages from London were deposited on this machine and picked up from Lusaka. Messages from Lusaka were deposited directly on it and then transferred to the electronic mailbox for South Africa.

A trip to Zimbabwe extended the network to Harare. Further trips to Botswana and Swaziland were planned but never took place due to the rapidly unfolding chain of events in South Africa.

Separate electronic mailboxes for each Vula 'region' allowed comrades to communicate with each other in complete secrecy. Dial-in was made through local nodes so even though the mailboxes were located on foreign computers there was no need to dial overseas.

Vast amounts of encrypted data flowed along the wires. Publications, press statements, manuals, discussion documents etc. were sent into the country and passed from region to region. Every item confirmed that Vula's greatest strength was its ability to communicate.

Vula Winds Up

Nineteen ninety was a momentous year for the ANC. It was the year that the illegitimate apartheid regime unbanned the organisation and released its leaders from prison. Although this should have been accepted with jubilation as it was in fact a sign of capitulation by the regime, most of us were extremely sceptical and carried on as if nothing had happened. It was too difficult to trust a regime that had always acted with such duplicity. This was just another trick.

Certainly there was no slowing down of activities related to Operation Vula until much later in the year, well after negotiations between the ANC and the regime had got under way. In fact, the high point of Vula was reached in the middle of the year, only to be brought down by the arrests of a number of key activists in July.

At the time of the announcement of the unbanning on 2 February 1990, a number of people were lined up to enter the country to bolster Vula. Ronnie Kasrils was the most important of these, but a number of others, mainly recruits from Conny Braam's stable, had been prepared and were later sent in to do support work.

After a number of delays Ronnie Kasrils entered South Africa on 23 March. Under heavy disguise and with false documents he made his way through passport control at Johannesburg airport with no problem, and was able to inform us from the airport of his successful passage.

As far as the communications were concerned, Ronnie's entry marked the changeover to a far more sophisticated communications system. He brought in with him the soft and hardware required to allow the comrades to use proper electronic mail via an international service provider. This moved Vula's communications to a higher level and allowed us to put aside our quaint, but effective, acoustic modem/tape recorder communications system.

The amount of information moving along the 'hotline' immediately increased ten-fold. This was measurable by the number and size of the 'monthfiles' - the record of the communications kept by London.

The implementation of the new system appeared to release the pent-up literary strivings of the comrades. Report after report flowed down the line to Lusaka. To the frustration of the comrades very little flowed in the reverse direction. The unbanning of the ANC had thrown all structures in Lusaka, including Vula's, into turmoil. Everyone wondered what happened to all these reports and Lusaka took on a new code name - the 'black hole'.

Despite the apparent void at the Lusaka end reports were carefully scrutinised and distributed among the leadership who were preparing to return to South Africa. There is no doubt that the reports helped brief the leadership about the situation 'on the ground' and gave them a feel for what to expect when they returned to the country.

The flow of arms into South Africa during the first months of the ANC's unbanning also did not decrease, despite the changed political climate. On the contrary, the number of 'contacts' increased as the months passed. There was a great debate on the role of the underground in the 'new South Africa'. If negotiations with the apartheid regime did not work out the ANC needed an 'insurance policy', and this would be provided by the underground. And it had to be a strong underground, not one that had no weapons at hand.

Mac resigns

Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11 February and by the end of the month was in Lusaka to meet the ANC leadership. The following month he was in Sweden to meet the ailing president of the ANC, Oliver Tambo.

His release stirred up activity on all fronts and for a month or two attention got diverted from Vula. Key comrades became scattered or were spending their time in meetings debating the way forward. Instead of keeping the comrades at home informed, little information on the movement's responses to the unbanning and releases reached them. The only news they got was from the local media and from press statements.

When minutes of meetings did begin to be sent in this only aroused the ire of the comrades, for it appeared that important decisions relating to internal matters were being taken without consulting them. Most of those attending these meetings were ill-informed about internal conditions, yet it appeared as if their decisions were having major influence. Other internal structures that had not been operating underground also appeared to be exerting undue influence.

Despite repeated criticism from Mac and others the views of the Vula comrades were largely ignored. Part of the problem was that no one was supposed to know that they were in the country, making it difficult for those in the know to give much weight to the views emanating from the underground.

This so frustrated Mac that on 24 February he announced his resignation and asked for the structures to arrange his exfiltration. This shocked everyone greatly for his extreme reaction seemed unwarranted. The best way to respond to this, everyone agreed, was to not respond. The tactic worked, for by the time there was a response several weeks later Mac had simmered down considerably. Eventually he was spoken to by Mandela and at the beginning of April he retracted his resignation.

Once again, the value of a dynamic communications channel showed itself. If there had not been the capacity of all to discuss the matter Vula would have been seriously incapacitated. Of course it could also be argued that the ability to communicate freely creates its own problems, but it is the getting out of the problems that is crucial.

Comrades leave in order to return

At the beginning of June it was becoming clear that Mac and Ronnie would have to leave the country in order to return. They were to return as members of the ANC NEC in order to attend NEC meetings now being held in South Africa. For obvious reasons they couldn't just pop up, so elaborate plans had to be made to get them out of the country and back in again. Ronnie, everyone had been told, was in Vietnam recovering from a serious motor accident. Suddenly there was a remarkable recovery and he would soon be released from the hospital and return to South Africa. Mac had also made a miraculous recovery in the Soviet Union. The comrades were now going home and the truth could come out if necessary. In any case, everyone had their attention on the exciting developments at home so never noticed that the personal tales of these two did not match reality.

Bad news

On July 14 some bad news arrived:
VERY URGENT. It appears that Vula may be facing serious and major casualties.
Three days earlier contact with Ghebuza had been lost. Shortly before this Ghebuza had reported that a certain comrade had been missing for a week. A number of other comrades had been arrested, as well as Ghebuza's assistant. This created a 'BIG PROBLEM RE COMMS' as the assistant was in the habit of moving around with Ghebuza's program and 'key' disks as well as his data files. This was against all the rules though we had always suspected that some of the comrades were less than meticulous about observing them.

All these disasters had taken place in Durban and so immediately all comms with that area were stopped. It was possible that all the 'key' disks and books of that area had fallen into police hands, and as they probably had the program disks too they could gain access to the links in use. There were e-mail links between Durban and London and between Durban and Johannesburg. The old acoustic modem/tape recorder system was still operational too, which meant that the numbers of the answering machines in London would be known. There were pager and voice mail links too and these would also probably become known to the police.

Fortunately our communications system was so sophisticated by this stage that it took but one day to repair the damage. It was easy enough to alter the access passwords of the suspect e-mailboxes and switch the most important links to other channels already in existence. The voice mail system too had excess capacity so it was easy enough to bring on line a new set of numbers. New code words were devised and new coding books agreed upon.

To assess the damage and assist with damage control Mac and Ronnie, now legally in South Africa, dashed down to Durban. Their first report was that, while considerable damage had been done, the structures were developed enough to contain the damage and prevent any further arrests and police penetration.

Four 'legals' and six underground comrades had been arrested. It appeared that the police stumbled on Vula quite by chance. Two comrades had been arrested while on a mission unrelated to Vula. These arrests provided the police with information about a meeting that the two were due to attend. Police waited at the venue to arrest whoever turned up, and this led to the arrest of further Vula comrades.

On 16 July police actions spread to Johannesburg when they raided the house of two Vula support personnel. Mac and Ronnie were unsure if they themselves would be detained by the police as they were leadership figures and had received indemnity from the regime. But they could take no chances so made sure that all existing 'safe houses' were cleared out and all communications equipment moved to safe venues. Arms caches and other incriminating materials were also moved. But on 25 July Mac was arrested. This prompted Ronnie to go back underground. Janet had never surfaced but moved even further underground as she was key in maintaining the communications links.

The comrades were able through the various modes of communication used by Vula, including pagers, to contain the damage almost totally. The police made very little headway in that region and within a very short time 'normal' activity was resumed.
The SACP claimed that the arrest of Mac was a clear move by the government to undermine the relaunch of the party inside the country, due four days later. Others in the ANC condemned the action as a provocation aimed at hindering the talks taking place between the ANC and the government.

The regime itself went overboard with the arrests, claiming that they had clear evidence of a sinister 'communist plot' to overthrow the government by violent action if negotiations failed. The evidence coming to light showed that the movement was acting against the spirit of negotiations by still maintaining an underground and smuggling weapons into the country.

The details of Vula that the regime released to the press revealed that indeed a number of important documents had fallen into their hands. It became clearer by the day that the comrades in Durban had violated all the rules of security that we had so assiduously tried to impress upon them. Data files of confidential information were kept 'in clear' on disk and keywords and key books must have been easily obtainable. The minutes of an entire underground conference were quoted by police as evidence of the plot to overthrow the government.

Those of us in London and Lusaka were shocked by the lack of measures taken by the Durban comrades to protect their information. What was the purpose of all the encryption programs and security manuals that had been sent in at such risk? Such measures are of no value whatsoever if the rules are not obeyed. The entire communications system had been designed to withstand this sort of disaster but when the time of reckoning came the police found an open book.

After this there was a tremendous tightening of activities relating to communications. Janet Love, now in charge of communications from the inside, made sure that all stored documents were kept in encrypted form and that the data disks were placed in the care of people who could only be reached through 'cutoffs'. Program disks were kept apart from 'key' disks and only brought together when files had to be enciphered or deciphered. Additional people more remote from the 'frontline' were recruited to do the actual transmissions. All printouts were carefully destroyed after being read.

Comrades in court

On 29 October Mac appeared in court with seven others on charges of 'terrorism'. The indictment was extremely revealing and exposed to the public for the first time the scope of Operation Vula.
The main charge was that 'the accused had between July 1988 and July 1990 performed acts aimed at causing, bringing about, promoting or contributing towards acts or threats of violence'. The accused had 'conspired to create an underground network the task of which would be to recruit, train, lead and arm a "people's" or "revolutionary" army to be used to seize power from the government by means of an armed insurrection'.

They had arranged for the transfer of large sums of money from outside to finance the project's activities. They had assisted with the infiltration of other persons who were to participate in the project. They had rented a number of "safe houses" and set up a communications network by means of which the accused and their co-conspirators could communicate in code. They had also procured equipment for communications by means of invisible writing and modified cars for the clandestine importation of arms.

It went on and on. The accused had smuggled in and secreted weapons and explosives, procured material to prepare propaganda, recruited people for training inside and outside South Africa, provided training in the art of warfare and approached foreign powers. They had assembled and kept intelligence on the location of strategic targets, such as police stations, fuel depots and army unit headquarters, as well as personal particulars of members of the police.

There were lists of foreigners who had been infiltrated to assist the project and details of 15 "safe houses" in Johannesburg and Durban. There were details of vehicles and vast numbers of "revolutionary" documents.

On 8 November the comrades on trial were released on bail totalling nearly R300,000. It was clear that the regime's hopes of using the trial to drive a wedge between the ANC and SACP while negotiating with them had backfired. There was no more mileage to be gained from pursing the trial so the trialists were released.

At the same time the police announced that they were looking for four suspects - Ronnie Kasrils, Janet Love, Charles Ndaba and Christopher Manye - in connection with the illegal importation of arms, ammunition and explosives. The suspects were said to "armed and extremely dangerous" and continuously made use of "all sorts of disguises" to hide their identities. Rewards were offered for information leading to their arrests.

The timing of the announcement by the police - four months after the arrests of the others - raised suspicion that they were using it to cover up the possible deaths in detention of Charles Ndaba and Mbuso Shabalala. They were the first comrades to be arrested in July and were never heard of again.

In mid-December Mac again 'retired' from the ANC and SACP. No reasons were given but suspicions were raised that he was angry with the way he and the others had been ignored while the ANC leadership continued negotiating with the regime.

On 22 March 1991 the nine trialists and Ronnie Kasrils were indemnified against prosecution in terms of the government's commitments to the Pretoria and Groote Schuur Minutes. This put paid to the trail and nothing more was heard about it after that.

Ronnie and Janet remained in hiding because the police never said that they had given up their search for them. But three months later the two were instructed to break cover and did so with little fanfare. No further action was taken against them.


Right up to the early months of 1991 the channel to Vula remained open and continued to carry heavy traffic. Most of this was in the form of prepared documentation that the comrades could use internally. It saved them the bother of having to prepare such documents and allowed them to concentrate their efforts on production and distribution.

The question of the role of the underground remained unresolved. So long as the regime maintained its arrogant attitude and the situation could not be said to be irreversible there was a need to maintain structures that could be aroused to carry on the struggle. Even after the ANC renounced the armed struggle there was a need to ensure that weapons were securely stored in the event of a sudden reversal.

Vula's communications network had proved so valuable that there was talk of moving it to South Africa, lock, stock and barrel. There was no need to keep the London outpost as there was no longer anyone to communicate with in Lusaka. With the entire leadership now based in South Africa it made sense to bring Vula's external resources home to ensure that internal links were maintained and strengthened.

But as the months passed the underground came closer to the surface and it was soon indistinguishable from the surface. The communications needs of the movement did not disappear but no longer was there any need to maintain a clandestine network. Communications too could come in from the cold.

The lessons of Vula are clear. Without first-class communications you cannot carry out a successful underground operation. Underground does not mean silence, it simply means operating at a different level - one that operates in parallel but separately from the above-ground. Both levels need to be able to communicate in order to operate effectively but in the underground communication links are more critical as they are the cement that binds together the parts.

Vula carried out its activities over a two-year period and during that time more structures were created than during the previous twenty years. Although perhaps fewer weapons were smuggled in than during the previous twenty years, fewer ended up in enemy hands and fewer people were captured.

It is clear that the regime received a major shock when they uncovered Vula. They had no idea of what was going on and it would be fair to say that the sophistication of the operation must have convinced the enemy's negotiators that they were not dealing with the ANC of old. When they discovered that their security apparatus was thoroughly infiltrated with 'moles' who were passing confidential information to the ANC via Vula they must have felt very unsafe indeed. And when they realised that they were dealing with an underground that could easily contain itself after receiving a severe knock their complacency must have been shattered.

Vula should serve as an example for the present. The need for good communications are as important today as they were in the days of the underground. Good communications will ensure that the party shares the same information and approaches key issues with a united voice.



ANC exile prison camps precursors to Marikana massacre

sipho on marikana 27 March.jpg

      Apartheid's Sharpeville massacre 1960                    ANC's Marikana massacre 2012

(This article was not written by Baruch Hirson but by Paul Trewhela. Shortly before his death Baruch insisted that this piece, published in "Searchlight South Africa" No.5 in July 1990 should get maximum exposure on a website).

End of an Era

The first-hand testimony by former combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) about the ANC prison regime, together with press reports that began to appear in Britain in March this year, are an event in South African history. Never before has such concentrated factual evidence been presented about the inner nature of the ANC and its eminence grise, the South African Communist Party.

If people wish to understand the operation of the ANC/SACP, they must look here. This is the view behind the proscenium arch, behind the scenery, where the machinery that runs the whole show is revealed in its actual workings.

The ANC/SACP did a very good job in preventing public knowledge of its secret history from emerging, and the testimony of the Nairobi five shows how. (Two other South Africans, both women, are with the five in Nairobi at the time of writing, but they have not yet gone public about their experiences). Those who survived the Gulag system of the ANC/SACP did so knowing that to reveal what they had been through meant re-arrest, renewed tortures and in all probability, death. They had to sign a form committing them to silence.

As they repeat in this issue, the ex-detainces in Nairobi have revealed that other prisoners, including Leon Madakeni, star of the South African film Wanaka, as well as Nomhlanhla Makhuba and another person known as Mark, committed suicide rather than suffer re-arrest at the hands of their KGB-trained guardians. Madakeni drove a tractor up a steep incline in Angola, put it into neutral and died as it somersaulted down the hill (Sunday Correspondent, 8 April).

The ex-guerrillas in Nairobi displayed immense courage in speaking out publicly, first through the Sunday Correspondent in Britain on April 8 and then in the Times on April 11. It was another indicator of the crack-up of Stalinism internationally: a snippet of South African glasnost.
Their courage might have contributed to secure the lives of eight colleagues who had fled Tanzania through Malawi hoping to reach South Africa on the principle that better a South African jail than the ANC 'security.' This group, including two leaders of the mutiny in the ANC camps in Angola in 1984, arrived in South Africa in April, were immediately detained at Jan Smuts Airport by the security police for interrogation, and then released three weeks later. The day after their release they gave a press conference in Johannesburg, confirming the account of the mutiny published here.

This regime of terror, extending beyond the gates of the ANC/SACP `Buchenwald' of Quadro, was a necessary element in the total practice of repression and deception which made the Anti-Apartheid Movement the most successful Popular Front lobby for Stalinism anywhere in the world. No international Stalinist-run public organization has ever had such an influence and shown such stability, reaching into so many major countries, for so long,

In its thirty years' existence, the AAM put international collaborative organisations of the period of the Spanish Civil War and of the Stalin-Roosevelt-Churchill alliance to shame. Extending to the press, the churches, the bourgeois political parties, the trade unions and the radical, even the `trotskyist' left, the AAM has been an outstanding success for Stalinism, as the review of Victoria Brittain's book in this issue shows.

Vital to its success has been a practice of open and covert censorship now blown wide open, in which individuals such as Ms Brittain have played a sterling part. The ANC's prisoners were its necessary sacrificial-victims.

The KGB in Africa

The prison system to which they were subject goes back to the late 1960s. It was the successor and the complement to the prison system on which blacks in South Africa are weaned with their mothers' milk. In 1969 one of the editors of this journal met two South Africans in London who said they had fought in the first MK guerrilla operation in mid-1967 - a disastrous fiasco across the Zambezi River into the Wankie area of Rhodesia, along with guerrillas from the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), then led by James Chikerema. (The ZAPU president, Joshua Nkomo, was in detention). The two men described how they had eventually succeeded in escaping from Rhodesia, and how their criticism of the operation had led to their imprisonment in an ANC camp in Tanzania. An article on the theme appeared the same year in the British radical newspaper Black Dwarf then edited by Tariq Ali.

The revelations by the Nairobi five indicate how little has changed. In his book on black politics in South Africa since 1945, Tom Lodge, (Black politics in South Africa Since 1945, Ravan, 1987), writes:

In 1968 a batch of Umkhonto defectors from camps in Tanzania sought asylum in Kenya, alleging that there was widespread dissatisfaction within the camps. They accused their commanders of extravagant living and ethnic favouritism. The first Rhodesian mission, they alleged, was a suicide mission to eliminate dissenters. In political discussions no challenge to a pro-Soviet position was allowed (p300).

From 1968 to 1990, nothing basic altered in the ANC's internal regime in the camps, except that in the high noon of the Brezhnev era it operated para-statal powers under civil war conditions in Angola, where a large Cuban and Soviet presence permitted the ANC security apparatus to 'bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.'

From the account of the ex-mutineers, ANC administrative bodies ruled over its elected bodies, the security department ruled over the administrative organs, and KGB-trained officials - no doubt members of the SACP - ruled over the security apparatus. Umkhonto we Sizwe functioned as an extension in Africa of the KGB. Its role in the civil war in Angola was to serve primarily as a surrogate to Soviet foreign policy interests, so that when the ANC rebels proposed that their fight be diverted to South Africa this counted as unpardonable cheek, to be ruthlessly punished. Over its own members, the ANC security apparatus ruled with all the arrogance of a totalitarian power.
There is a direct line of connection between the ANC reign of terror in its prisons - which a UN High Commission for Refugees official described as more frightening than Swapo prisons - and the 'necklace' killings exercised by ANC supporters within South Africa, especially during the period of the 1984-86 township revolt, but now once again revived against oppositional groupings such as Azapo. (The ANC's' necklace' politics was also a definite contributory element provoking the carnage in Natal). Two former ANC prisoners, Similo Boltina and his wife Nosisana, were in fact necklaced on their return to South Africa in 1986, after having been repatriated by the Red Cross (letter from Bandile Ketelo, 9 April 1990).

This is the significance of the `Winnie issue.' When on 16 February last year, leaders of the Mass Democratic Movement publicly expressed their 'outrage’ at Winnic Mandela's 'obvious complicity’ in the abduction and assault on 14 year-old Stompie Mocketsi Seipe, leading to his murder, this was in response to very widespread and very well-founded revulsion among Soweto residents - especially ANC supporters such as members of the Federation of Transvaal Women (Fetraw). They were enraged by the jackboot politics of the so-called Mandela United Football Team, whose 'coach` - to the satisfaction of Fetraw members - has been convicted of Stompie's murder.
This squad of thugs, based in Mrs Mandela’s house, acted within Soweto in the same way that the ANC/SACP security acted abroad, in Angola, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Uganda. (According to the ex-detainees, the KGB-apparatus in the ANC even sent its troops to Rhodesia in 1979 to fight against the guerrillas of the Zimbabwe African National Union, ZANU, which was not a Soviet client).

For this reason, the integration of certain members of MK into the South African army and police - as the MK commander, Joe Modise, and his second in command, Chris Hani, are seeking - should not present any serious problems. They speak the same language, they are 'all South Africans.' The welcome of Captain Dirk Coetzee, head of the regime's assassination squad, into the arms of the ANC is an indication of the future course of development, as is the decision by the new Swapo government in Namibia to appoint a number of top South African security policemen, including the former chief of police in the Ovambo region, Derek Brune, to head its secret organs of coercion.
The South African prison system was replicated in the ANC prisons even into everyday terminology, above all at Quadro. This is a name that requires to become common currency in political discourse: it is the Portuguese for `No.4' the name used throughout South Africa for the notorious black section of the prison at the Fort. Sneers by warders at soft conditions in 'Five Star Hotels', the common description of punishment cells as 'kulukudu' (Sunday Correspondent, 8 April) and the whole atmosphere of brutal crassness is quintessentially South African, spiced with the added sadism of the Gulag. The ANC prison system combined the worst of South African and of Russian conditions fused together, and it is this new social type - as a refinement and augmentation of each - that is now offered to the people of South Africa as the symbol of freedom.

Beginning of an Era

In returning to South Africa, the ex-ANC detainees have the advantage of the Namibian experience before them. They need an organization of their relatives, along the lines of the Committee of Parents in Namibia, and an organization of former prisoners themselves, such as the Political Consultative Council of Ex-Swapo Detainees (PCC). The ex-detainees who returned to Johannesburg in April have already mentioned that they intend to form an association of 'parents of those who died or were detained in exile' (Liberation, 17 May).

These young people - the Nairobi five are aged between 28 and 33 - represent the flower of the generation of the Soweto students' revolt. This was the beginning of their political awakening. The experience of Stalinist and nationalist terror at the hands of the ANC/SACP represents a second phase in a cruel journey of consciousness. A third phase is now beginning, in which these young people will be required to discover what further changes in society and thought are needed to bring a richly expressive democracy into being in southern Africa.

Compared with the Namibian experience (see Searchlight South Africa No.4 and this issue), South African conditions are both more and less favourable. Unlike in Namibia, the churches in South Africa are not absolutely glued to the torturers. A letter from the group in Nairobi was sympathetically received by the Rev Frank Chikane, secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Archbishop Desmond Tutu met the ex-detainees when he was in Nairobi early in April and arranged for them to get accommodation at the YMCA there, paid for by the All-African Council of Churches. (Up to that time they had first been in prison in Kenya, since they had arrived absolutely without documents, and had then been living rough). The Archbishop later took up the mutineers' demand for a commission of inquiry with the National Executive Committee of the ANC. He got no response.

We join with these ex-detainees in demanding that the ANC set up an independent commission of enquiry into the atrocities perpetrated in the Umkhonto we Sizwe camps.

Mandela's statement acknowledging that torture had taken place was in any case very different from the ferocious silence of President Nujoma, the chief architect of Swapo’s purges. The ex-detainees' dernand for action against top leaders of the ANC, however, goes way beyond what the organization is likely to be able to concede. Therein lies its radical character.

These positive currents, however, are negated by the convergence of very powerful capitalist and Stalinist interests which together aim to fix the future with the utmost Realpolitik. The leaders of the unions, previously independent and now politically prisoners of the SACP, have become the engineers of the SACP/capitalist fix, and the workers - even when eager for socialism - are disoriented.

It is likely that there will be a very violent period as the ANC's drive for its supposed target of six million members gets under way, through which it aims to wipe the floor with rival groupings that accuse it of sell-out. It is possible that the methods of Quadro will become part of the daily metabolism of South African life. Future capitalist profitability requires in any case that a massive defeat be inflicted on the workers. The Young Upwardly Mobile (Yuppy) stratum of black petty bourgeoisie will ruthlessly attempt to enforce and secure the conditions for its material advance.
Under these conditions, the ex-detainees will need to find the route to the consciousness of the workers, both to win a base of support for their own defence (even survival) and to help speed up the process of political clarification about the nature of the ANC. In the meantime, defensive alliances need urgently to be made: with the left wing of the unions, socialist political groupings of whatever kind, opponents of the new capitalist/ANC autocracy, concerned individuals in the press, the universities and the legal system; and not least, with the ex-Swapo detainees in Namibia.

As a yeast in which the fermentation of new ideas can develop, the ex-ANC detainees on their return to South Africa will prove one of the most favourable of human resources for a democratic future. They know the future governors of South Africa from the inside. They need the greatest possible international and local support to protect them under very dangerous conditions of life in the townships.

They too will need beware the siren voices of their KGB-trained persecutors, who seek to persuade them that the Brezhnev wolf in Angola has been transformed into a Gorbachev lamb in South Africa. In particular, they will need to inquire whether Joe Slovo, the scourge of Joseph Stalin in 1990, and general secretary of the SACP, is the same Slovo who was chief of staff of MK in the glory days of Quadro. What did he know? When did he know it? And what did he do about it?


Bandile Ketelo, Amos Maxongo, Zamxolo Tshona, Ronnie Massango and Luvo Mbengo
Prelude to Mutiny

On 12 January 1984, a strong delegation of ANC National Executive Committee members arrived at Caculama, the main training centre of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in the town of Malanje, Angola. In the past, such a visit by the ANC leadership - including its top man, the organization's president, Oliver Tambo -would have been prepared for several days, or even weeks, before their actual arrival. Not so this time. This one was both an emergency and a surprise visit.
It was not difficult to guess the reason for such a visit. For several days, sounds of gunfire had been filling the air almost every hour of the day at Kangandala, near Malanje, and just about 80 kilometres from Caculama, where President Tambo and his entourage were staying. The combatants of MK had refused to go into counter-insurgency operations against the forces of the Union for Total Independence of Angola (Unita) in the civil war in Angola and defied the security personnel of the ANC. They had decided to make their voice of protest more strongly by shooting randomly into the air. It was pointed out to all the commanding personnel in the area that the shooting was not meant to endanger anybody's life, but was just meant to be a louder call to the ANC leadership to address themselves afresh to the desperate problems facing our organization.
Clearly put forward also was that only Tambo, the president of the ANC, Joe Slovo the chief-of-staff of the army and Chris Hani, then the army commissar, would be welcome to attend to these issues. An illusory idea still lingered in the minds of the MK combatants that most of the wrong things in our organization happened without the knowledge of Tambo, and that given a clear picture of the situation, he would act to see to their solution.

Joe Slovo, now secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), had himself risen to prominence among the new generation as a result of the daring combat operations which MK units had carried out against the racist regime. In 1983 the SACP quarterly, the African Communist had carried an article by Slovo, about J.B.Marks, another of the ANC/SACP leaders, who had died in Moscow in 1972. That article, emphasizing democracy in the liberation struggle, was a fleeting glance into some of the rarely talked-of episodes in the proceedings of the Morogoro Consultative Conference of the ANC, held in Tanzania in 1969. It might have been written for a completely different purpose, but for the guerrillas of MK it was a call for active involvement into the solution of our problems.

Chris Hani was one of the veterans of the earliest guerrilla campaigns of the ANC in the Wankie area of Rhodesia, against the regime of lan Smith, in 1967. He had had his name built by his 'heroic' exploits by claims that he escaped 'assassination attempts' against him carried out by the South African regime in Lesotho, where he had been head of the ANC mission. Despite these claims it is doubtful whether he could have survived over a decade in Lesotho (1972-82) if he had posed a threat as serious as those sometimes portrayed. Hani, it must be stressed, never carried out any major operations in South Africa, and there are no operations carried out in his name in the whole of MK combat history, unlike Joe Slovo for instance.

The guerrillas in Angola levelled their bitterest criticisms against three men in the NEC of the ANC, men who had had a much more direct involvement in the running of our army. The first was Joe Modise, army commander of the ANC since 1969. He was looked down upon by the majority of combatants as a man responsible for the failures of our army to put up a strong fight against the racist regime, a man who had stifled its growth and expansion. He was above all seen as someone who engaged himself in corrupt money making ventures, abusing his position in the army.

The second was Mzwandile Piliso, the chief of security. He was then the most notorious, the most feared, soulless ideologue of the suppression of dissent and democracy in the ANC. The last one was Andrew Masondo, freed from Roben Island after twelve years of imprisonment, who had joined the ANC leadership in exile after the 1976 Soweto uprisings. In 1984 he was the national commissar of the ANC, and was therefore responsible for supervision of the implementation of NEC decisions and political guidance of the ANC personnel. Masondo was to use this responsibility to defend corruption, and was himself involved in abuse of his position to exploit young and ignorant women and girls. He was also a key figure in the running of the notorious ANC prison camp known to the cadres as 'Quadro' (or four, in Portuguese). It was nicknamed Quadro after the Fort, the rough and notorious prison for blacks in Johannesburg, known to everybody as 'No.4.

Such was the situation when Chris Hani together with Joe Nhlanhla, then the administrative secretary of the NEC and now chief of security, and Lehlonono Moloi, now chief of operations, arrived in Kangandala under instructions from the NEC to silence the ever-sounding guns of the guerrillas. Chris Hani was suddenly thrown into confusion by the effusive behaviour of the combatants as they expressed their grievances, wielding AKs which they vowed never to surrender until their demands were met. What were these demands?

First, the soldiers demanded an immediate end to the war by the MK forces against Unita and the transfer of all the manpower used in that war to our main theatre of war in South Africa. Secondly, they demanded the immediate suspension of the ANC security apparatus, as well as an investigation of its activities and of the prison camp Quadro, then called 'Buchenwald' after one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps. Lastly, they demanded that Tambo himself come and address the soldiers on the solution to these problems. All that Chris Hani could do in this situation was to appeal for an end to random shootings in the air, and to appeal to the soldiers to await the decision of the NEC after he had sent it the feedback about his mission.

The Beginnings of Quadro

The demands mentioned above had far-reaching political implications for the ANC, which had managed to win high political prestige as the future government of South Africa. But for anyone to appreciate their seriousness, one must go back to the history of the ANC following the arrival of the youth of the Soweto uprisings to join the ANC. This historical approach to the mutiny of 1984 is more often than not deliberately neglected by the ANC leadership whenever they find themselves having to talk about this event. More than anything else, they fear the historical realities which justify this mutiny and show it to have been inevitable, given the genuine causes behind it.
The mainspring of the 1984 mutiny, known within the ANC as Mkatashingo, is the suppression of democracy by the ANC leadership. This suppression of democracy had taken different forms at different times in the development of the ANC, and it had given birth to resistance from the ANC membership at different times, taking forms corresponding to the nature of the suppression mechanisms. We shall confine ourselves to those periods that had become landmarks and turning points in this history.

The first such remarkable events of resistance to the machinations of the ANC leadership were in 1979 at a camp known among South Africans as Fazenda, but whose actual name was Villa Rosa, to the north of Quibaxe, in northern Angola. The majority of the trained personnel of MK had been shifted from Quibaxe in November 1978 to occupy this camp, where they were expected to undergo a survival course to prepare for harsh conditions of rural guerrilla warfare. With the promise that the course would take three months, after which the combatants would be infiltrated back into South Africa to carry out combat missions, everybody took the course in their stride and with high morale. After the first three months and the introduction of a second course, it became crystal clear that we were being fooled, to keep us busy. Voices of discontent began to surface in certain circles of the armed forces. The main cause of discontent was the suppression of our uncontrollable desire to leave Angola and enter into South Africa to supplement the mass political upsurges of the people. Alongside this were also complaints about inefficiency of the front commanders and suspicions that they were treacherously involved in the failure of many missions, leading to the mysterious death of our combatants in South Africa.

Mzwandile Piliso was accused of over-emphasizing the security of our movement against the internal enemy, at the expense of promoting comradely relations among the armed forces. He was promoting unpopular lackeys within the army while suppressing those who fell to his disfavour, branding them as enemy agents who would 'rot in the camps of Angola'. Most of those lackeys defected to the racist South African regime whenever they found it opportune. Such was the case with the most notorious traitors in MK like Thabo Selepe, Jackson, Miki and others, all of whom wormed their way up in the military structures assisted by Piliso.

The late Joe Gqabi [assassinated in Harare in 1981, while ANC representative in Zimbabwe] attended one such explosive meeting and cornmended the soldiers for their spirit of openness and criticism. Fazenda was getting out of hand, and the feeling of discontent began to spill into certain nearby ANC bases.

Something had to be done to stamp down this resistance. The security organ of the ANC, which till then had just been composed of a few old cadres of the 1960s, began to be reorganized in all of the camps. Young men from our own generation who had recently undergone courses in the Soviet Union and East Germany were spread into all the camps. It was during this time that construction of a prison camp near Ouibaxe was speeded up, which later took the form of the dreaded Quadro. ANC general meetings, which were held weekly, and had been platforms for criticism and self-criticism, were now terminated.

The very first occupants of Quadro prison were three men from Fazenda: Ernest Mumalo, Solly Ngungunyana and Drake, who had defiantly left Fazenda to go to Luanda, where they hoped to meet the ANC chief representative, Max Moabi, to demand their own resignation from the ANC. The ANC did not accept resignation of its membership [still the same ten years later, in January this year, after the authors of this document had presented their resignations]. Worse still this was in Angola, a country where lawlessness reigned. After being beaten in a street in Luanda by ANC and Angolan security, they were bundled into a truck and taken straight to Quadro. Solly was released after two years, Ernest in 1984 and Drake's end is still unknown. The camp remained highly secret within the ANC. Everyone sent to work there as a security guard undoubtedly had to have proved his loyalty to Mzwandile Piliso, and was expected not to disclose anything to anybody. Even among the NEC, the only ones who had access to Quadro were Mzwandile Piliso, Joe Modise and Andrew Masondo.

An Internal-Enemy-Danger-Psychosis'

To completely efface the spirit of resistance in Fazenda, the majority of the MK forces there were taken to Zimbabwe, where they fought alongside guerrillas of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkorno against the Smith forces as well as the guerrillas of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), led by Robert Mugabe. Many worthy fighters perished there. Fazenda camp was closed in 1980, and fighters there were distributed among the two main camps of the ANC, Pango and Quibaxe, both to the north of Luanda. The chapter on Fazenda was closed.

But a burning urge to liberate South Africa, with the only language the boers understood, the gun, could not be trampled on as contemptuously as that. Yet it had become very dangerous to raise even a voice against the leadership. The ANC had become divided into a force of the rank and file and that of the leadership clubbed together with the security apparatus, which had grown to such enormous levels that practically every administration of whatever ANC institution was run by the security personnel, and practically every problem was viewed as a security risk and an 'enemy machination'.

In a bid to strengthen their repressive apparatus, Andrew Masondo created a security crack force in a camp known as Viana, near Luanda. This unit, known as ODP (Peoples' Defence Organization), was composed mainly of very young men or boys. Its tasks were to guard the ANC leadership when they paid visits to different camps, to enforce discipline and bash up any forms of dissent and 'disloyalty'. By this time, after the Fazenda events, the ANC leaders had begun to whip up an 'internal-enemy-danger-psychosis,' and whenever they visited the camps they had to be heavily guarded. Worse still if it was Tambo who visited: the whole camp would be disarmed, and only the security personnel and those attached to it would be allowed to carry weapons.

The next hot spot for the ANC was in Zambia, where the headquarters of the ANC was based and where most of the leadership was living. This was in 1980. MK cadres, who had been drilled for months in 'communist ideology' of the Soviet-East European type to denounce all luxuries and accept the hazards of the struggle, here came into direct confrontation with the opposite way of life lived by the ANC leaders. It became clear that the financial support extended to the ANC was used to finance the lavish way of life of the ANC leadership. Corruption, involving rackets of car, diamond and drug smuggling, was on a high rise. The security department itself was rocked by internal dissent between those who supported a heavy-handed approach and the predominantly young cadres who opposed it.

There was also the burning problem of the insignificant progress made by our forces in South Africa, at a time when our people were alone locked into bitter mass struggles against the racists. This aspect was further complicated by the decision of the NEC to send back to Angola a batch of MK forces who had survived the war in Zimbabwe and were discovered by the provisional government authorities in the assembly points, disguised as ZAPU guerrillas. These guerrillas, still itching to go to South Africa and aware of the conditions in the camps in Angola, refused point blank the instructions to return to Angola.

Faced with these and many other related problems, a meeting was arranged between the leadership and the representatives of the three detachments, the Luthuli, June 16 and Moncada detachments. Among their representatives, the June 16 Detachment was represented by Sidwell Moroka and Moncada by Timmy Zakhele, both of whom later ended up in Quadro. The June 16 Detachment advanced the proposal to hold a conference of the whole ANC membership where these issues could be settled democratically. This proposal, which had popular backing from the overwhelming majority of the young cadres, was rejected by the ANC leadership, which never accepts any idea that puts in question its competence and credibility to lead.

It was in the process of these discussions that a discovery of a spy network was disclosed and a clampdown on the 'ambitious young men who wanted to overthrow the leadership of Tambo' was put into operation- The ANC security went into full swing, detaining the so-called enemy spies and those who were proponents of the conference. It was said that this spy-ring was not only concentrated in Zambia, but was everywhere that the ANC had its personnel. Many of these young men - Pharoah, Vusi Mayekiso, Kenneth Mahamba, Oshkosh and others - were later known to have died under torture and beatings in Quadro prison camp. Others such as Godfrey Pulti, Sticks and Botiki were released years later, after torture and the failure of the security department to prove their treachery. Men who were bodyguards of President Tambo and were unwilling to continue serving in the notorious security organs were almost all sent to serve punishments in other camps in Angola. Sidwell Moroka, James Nkabinde (executed at Pango in 1984), David Ngwezana, Earl and others were among those men. The guerrillas from Zimbabwe who refused to return to Angola were flogged and beaten and were later smuggled into Angola.

After this clampdown, and with the majority of the membership panic-stricken, a strong entourage of ANC National Executive Committee members, including President Tainbo, took the rounds in all ANC camps in Angola in February 1981. Appearing triumphant but with agonizing apprehension, the ANC leadership addressed the cadres about a spy net-work that had besieged the ANC, and emphasized the need for vigilance. Some awful threats were also thrown at 'enemy agents and provocateurs' by Piliso, who rudely declared in Xhosa 'I’ll hang them by their testicles'.

Soon thereafter, a- tape-recorded address by Moses Mabhida, the late general secretary of the SACP, was circulated, criticizing dagga-smoking and illicit drinking in ANC camps, and calling for strong disciplinary measures to be taken against the culprits. Commissions to investigate these breaches of discipline were set up in April 1981 in every ANC establishment. They were supervised by camp commanders and security officers in 4 the camps, and all those implicated were detained, beaten and tortured to extract information. The issue was treated as a security risk, an enemy manoeuvre to corrupt the culprits' loyalty to the ANC leadership. Most of those arrested were known critics of the ANC leadership and were labelled as anti-authority.

During the whole period of investigation they were tied to trees outside and slept there. In Camalundi camp in Malanje province, Oupa Moloi, who was head of the political department, lost his life during the first day of interrogation. Thami Zulu, (the travelling name of Muzi Ngwenya) who was the camp commander, and who himself died in ANC security custody in 1989, addressed the camp detachments about the death of Oupa, threatening to kill even more of these culprits who, at that time, swollen and in excruciating pain, were lined up in front of the detachment. Zulu/Ngwenya died in the ANC security department's hands in 1989 for alleged poisoning.

In Quibaxe, Elik Parasi and Reggic Mthengele were `finished off' at the instruction of the camp commander, Livingstone Gaza, at a time when they were in severe pain with little hope of survival- Others like Mahlathini (the stage name of Joel Gxekwa), one of the talented artists who was responsible for the composition of many of the first songs of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble, were taken from Pango to Quadro, where they met their death.

It is important to realize that most of these atrocities were carried out in the camps themselves, and not in the secrecy of Quadro, where only a few would know. The operation succeeded in its objectives. Fear was instilled and hatred for the ANC security crystallized. Every cadre of MK took full cover, and the security department was striding, threatening to pounce on any forms of dissent. Camps were literally run by the security personnel. Many underground interrogation houses were set up in all places where the ANC had its personnel, and underground prisons were established in the places known as R.C.' and Green House in Lusaka and at a place in Tanzania disguised as a farm near the Solomon Mahlango Freedom College (SOMAFCO) at Mazimbu, the main educational centre of the ANC in exile. In Mozambique a detention camp was set up in Nampula where 'suspects' and those who kept pestering the leadership about armed struggle in South Africa were kept.

MK began to crack into two armies, the latent army of rebels which kept seething beneath the apparent calm and obedience, and the army of the leadership, their loyal forces. The former was struggling for its life, kicking into the future, but all its efforts were confined within the suffocating womb of the latter. Security personnel were first-class members of the ANC. They had the first preference in everything, ranging from military uniforms and boots right up to opportunities for receiving the best military, political and educational training in well-off institutions in Europe.
Face to face with this state of affairs, disappointment and disillusion set in and the cadres began to lose hope in the ANC leadership. The rate of desertion grew in 1982-83. There occurred more suicides and attempted suicides. The political commissars, whose task was to educate the armed forces about the ideological and moral aspects of our army, became despised as the protectors of corruption and autocracy. It became embarrassing to be in such structures. Cases of mental disturbance increased. This was mostly the case with the security guards of Quadro, rumoured by the cadres to be caused by the brutalities they unleashed against the prisoners. It was this worsening state of the cadres that made Tambo issue instructions in September 1982 to all the army units to discuss and bring forward proposals to the leadership about the problems in which the ANC was enmeshed.

A Change of Forms

Series of meetings followed and the MK cadres, thirsty to exploit this oasis of democracy which the ANC president had decided to have them taste, levelled bitter criticisms about the state of our organization. Once again the issue of the need for a conference was put forward. Among the questions raised by the paper issued by Tambo was what our response would be if the South African military decided to attack Mozambique. Were we ready to lay down our lives for a common cause with the Mozambican people? This question was treated by the combatants in a simplistic way, for it bore no significance to the nature of the problems we were faced with in the ANC. But the answer to it was right, in that the cadres emphasized the importance of intensifying armed action in South Africa, rather than fighting in foreign territories.

The reasoning behind such an approach by the MK cadres stemmed from their realization of the weakness of our army, both numerically and in relation to the quality of training. This was a time when the heroic P.L.O. guerrillas were locked into bloody battles. against the invading Isracli army in Lebanon. One could not but call this to mind eight months later, when the overwhelming majority of our armed forces were mobilized for counter-insurgency operation against Unita in the Malanje and Kwanza provinces. One could not but note the similarities when Tambo appealed to the NIK forces to 'bleed a little in defence of the beleaguered Angolan people,' as he addressed the MK forces in preparation for launching a raid against the Unita bases across the Kwanza River.

With the discussions over and papers from different camps submitted to the leadership, Masondo took rounds in all the camps expressing the disappointment of President Tambo about papers submitted from Pango camp and Viana. Claiming to be echoing the views of President Tambo, he said the papers were 'unreadable' and that Tambo had not expected that this opportunity would be used for launching attacks against the leadership and military authorities.

In April 1983, some structural changes were announced. The Revolutionaery Council, adopted at the 1969 Morogoro Conference, was abolished by the NEC and a new body was set up, the Political Military Council (PMC). Announcements of personnel to man the Political Council and the Military Council were also made. The mere mention that Joe Modise would remain the army commander demoralized many cadres, who had speculated that he would be sacked as commander after rumours that he had been arrested in Botswana for diamond dealing (some cadres were severely punished for circulating that account) and because of his dismal failure to lead our army into meaningful battles against the South African racist regime.

All the changes announced by the NEC became meaningless and a farce for the armed forces. Meaninglessness stemmed from the fact that the cadres had come to realize that the change of structures was not the main issue: the personnel that manned these positions had to be changed. Their farcical nature derived from realization by the membership that these changes had been advanced to forestall any demands for a democratic conference where the NEC could be subjected to scrutiny. This contempt for the demands and ideas of the grassroots, at a time when the balance of forces was turning in disfavour of the leadership, could only have the result that the ANC would pay dearly for it. To understand this scornful behaviour, one needs to understand the deep-seated Stalinist ideological leanings of the ANC leadership. We will consider this later. For now, having briefly set out the general outline of the background to the 1984 mutiny, let us examine the course of events.

The Mutiny at Viana

Having received a dressing down from the rebellious armed forces at Kangandala on 12 January 1984, and having been presented with a package of demands, Chris Hani sped back to Caculama. where he delivered the news to Tambo and his NEC. During his address that afternoon in the camp at Caculama, which was composed overwhelmingly of new trainees, President Tambo felt the need to introduce his NEC to the recruits and to lay stress on certain political issues. Pointing at the NEC members on the rostrum, he said: 'This is the political leadership of the ANC...,' and suddenly turning his eyes to a man next to him,, he declared: 'This man founded this army...,' patting him on his shoulder. That man was Joe Modise, the man whom the armed forces, in their majority, were saying should be deposed.

Acclaimed as a man of wisdom, a man no-one could match in the way he had led the ANC, President Tainbo saw the need even at that hour to firmly entrench Joe Modise in the MK, commanding position. Tambo did not see a need to respond to the calls of the cadres to come and address them, in spite of the fact that he was only an hour's drive away. But, perhaps, nobody knows about armed soldiers, and the life of the most important man must be secured. Tambo and his entourage left Caculama for Luanda that same evening, without having addressed even a message to the mutineers.

No sooner had the NEC left for Luanda than mutiny began to grow to higher levels. The whole of the Eastern Front was engulfed in sounds of gunshots, and there were stronger demands for the closure of the front and the deviation of the whole manpower to a war against Pretoria. A few days later word came from the NEC that the front would be closed and that all the soldiers must prepare themselves to leave Malanje for Luanda, where they would meet with the ANC leadership. The first convoy of a truckload of guerrillas left, followed by a second the following day, all eager for the meeting which they expected to put the ANC on a new footing.

Located at the outskirts of the capital city, Luanda, the ANC transit camp of Viana had been evacuated of all personnel, who had been sent to an ANC area in Luanda to prevent contact with the mutineers. Strict orders were circulated by the ANC security personnel that nobody in the district of Luanda should visit Viana or have any form of contact with the mutineers. Guerrillas from the Malanje Front entered Viana in a gun salute, shooting in the air with all the weapons in hand. Later the security personnel in Viana, under the command of a man known as Pro, a former security guard at Quadro and then also a camp commander at Viana, also very notorious among the mutinying guerrillas - demanded that every soldier surrender his weapons, explaining the danger they posed to the capital. The demand was dismissed summarily with the reason that arms provided security for the mutineers against the reprisals the security department would launch, given that situation. Instead, all the security personnel within the premises of the camp were searched and disarmed, but never even once were they pointed at with weapons. The administration of the camp deserted to other ANC establishments in Luanda.

In one of the metal containers, used for detention, a corpse was found with a bullet hole in the head. It was the corpse of Solly [not to be confused with the earlier named Solly], one of the strong critics of the ANC military leadership. At some stage he had tasted the bitter treatment of the security department and had in the process got his mind slightly disturbed. At the news of the mutiny in Malanje he had become vociferous and fearless, and that was the mistake of a lifetime.
That same day, some crews of guerrillas volunteered to round-up ANC establishments in Luanda to explain their cause and to understand the political positions of others. Even though this was a dangerous mission, given the mobility of the ANC security personnel in Luanda and the likely collaboration with them of FAPLA [armed forces of the Angolan state, controlled by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA], the task was fulfilled. That very same day again, people from all ANC establishments came streaming to Viana to join and support the mutineers. 

The efforts of the leadership to isolate the mutineers were shattered and they resorted to force by laying ambushes to attack those who were travelling to Viana with guns. In one such an encounter, Chris Hani with an AK submachine gun, made his appearance on the side of the loyalists by chasing and firing at those who wanted to join the mutineers. For the first time since the mutiny began, a series of mass meetings were held in an open ground in Viana. Everybody was allowed to attend, even members of the security department.

The Demand for Democracy

It was in these mass meetings that the political essence of this rebellion began to solidify. A committee was elected by the guerrillas themselves, to take control of the situation and serve as their representative in meetings with the leadership. This body, which became known as the Committee of Ten, was chaired by Zaba Maledza. (his travelling name). Zaba was a former black consciousness activist in the South African Students' Organization (SASO) during the days of Steve Biko who had joined the ANC in exile during the early seventies and served as one of the foremost propagandists in the ANC Radio programmes alongside Duma Nokhwe. A brother to Curtis Nkondo, one of the leaders of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in South Africa, Zaba had landed in Quadro in 1980 after some disagreements with the ANC military leadership while working for the movement in Swaziland, and was released in 1981 He then rejoined the Radio Broadcasting staff of the ANC in Luanda, where his unwavering opposition to men like Piliso and Modise, and his clarity of mind, had earned him the respect of both friends and foes within the ANC, something which even the ANC security begrudgingly appreciated.

Other members of the Committee of Ten, their real names given in brackets, included: 1. Sidwell Moroka (Omry Makgale), who was formerly Tambo's personal bodyguard and was one of the group of security personnel who were punished by being sent to Angola following a mop-up operation in Lusaka in 1981. At the outbreak of the mutiny he was the district chief of staff in Luanda; 2. Jabu Mofolo, wlio was at that time the political commissar of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble,3. Bongani Matwa, formerly a camp commissar in Camalundi, 4. Kate Mhlongo (Nomfanelo Ntlokwana), at that time part of the Radio Propaganda Staff in Luanda, 5. Grace Mofokeng, also attached to the Radio Staff; 6. Moses Thema (Mbulelo Musi), a former student at the Moscow Party School and at that time serving as the head of the political department at Caxito camp, 7. Sipho Mathebula (E. Mndebela), formerly a battalion commander at the Eastern Front; 8. Mwezi Twala (Khotso Morena) and 9. Simon Botha (Sindile Velem).

Also adopted at those meetings was a set of demands addressed to the ANC National Executive Committee. They were:

1. An immediate suspension of the Security Department and establishment of a commission to investigate its all-round activities. Included here was also the investigation of one of the most feared secret camps of the ANC, Quadro.

2. A review of the cadre policy of the ANC to establish the missing links that were a cause for a stagnation that had caught up with our drive to expand the armed struggle.

3. To convene a fully representative democratic conference to review the development of the struggle, draw new strategies and have elections for a new NEC.

The demands were a backhand blow in the face of the ANC leadership. They threatened to explode the whole myth of a 'tried and tested' leadership. No wonder Chris Hani in one of those tense and emotionally charged meetings, in bewilderment retorted: 'You are pushing us down the cliff. You are stabbing us at the back!' And like a cornered beast they used everything within their reach to destroy their opponents. Election of people to leadership positions was long preached and accepted as unworkable within the ANC. The last conference had been held in 1969 in Morogoro, and it had also come about as a result of a critical situation which threatened to break the ANC, and as a result of pressure from below. The very elevation of Oliver Tambo from the deputy presidency in 1977, something that never received support at Morogoro, was done behind the backs of the entire membership, without even prior discussion or announcement. Not that it did not have the support of the membership, but such decisions in a politically prestigious body such as the ANC needed at least a semblance of democracy, even if a sugar-coating.

The demand for a conference had been deviated in 1981 through the discovery of a 'spy-ring’, and all those who talked about it then, feared even the word thereafter. When the same demand had been voiced out in 1982, the ANC leadership came out with its own fully worked-out changes and structures without the participation of the membership, even changing structures adopted at the past conference. And this time, as Joe Modise said later, a group of soldiers thought they could send the ANC leadership to a conference room 'at gunpoint'. Those demands were clearly unacceptable to the leadership.

Commission of Inquiry, And After

In anticipation of a heavy-handed reaction from the ANC leadership, the committee members felt it was necessary to secure protection by the people of South Africa and the world. Placards calling for a political solution and reading 'No to Bloodshed, We Need Only a Conference? were plastered on the walls of Viana camp. Journalists were called, but they were never given the slightest chance to get nearer the mutineers. Two men, Diliza Dumakude and Zanempi Sihlangu, both of them members of the Radio Propaganda Staff, were intercepted by the security personnel and murdered while on their way to the studios of Radio Freedom.

While all this was happening, the presidential brigade of FAPLA (the Angolan army) was being mobilized and prepared to launch of an armed raid on Viana. The decision was that the whole mutiny must be drowned in blood. The ANC could not be forced by soldiers to a conference hall 'at gunpoint'. Early the following day, the mutineers were woken up by the noise of military trucks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) as the forces of FAPLA encircled the camp. An exchange of fire ensued as the guerrillas retaliated to the attack with their arms. Shortly thereafter, shouts of' `Ceasefire' emerged from one of the firing positions and Callaghan Chama (Vusi Shange), one of the commanders of the guerrillas, rose out of a trench beseeching for peace. One MK combatant, Babsey Mlangeni (travelling name), and one FAPLA soldier were already dead and an Angolan APC was on the retreat engulfed in flame.

What followed were negotiations between the national chief of staff of FAPLA, Colonel Ndalo, and the Committee of Ten. An agreement was reached after lengthy discussions with the guerrillas, with the Angolans trying to convince them that there would be no victimizations. Weapons were surrendered to the FAPLA commanders and they promised to provide security for everybody who was in Viana, and that even the ANC security would be disarmed. Two member of the OAU Liberation Committee arrived together with Chris Hani who delivered a boastful address denouncing the whole mutiny and its demands as an adventure instigated by disgruntled elements. Then the usual political rhetoric followed, that the ANC was an organization of the people of South Africa, and that those mutineers were not even a drop in an ocean and that the ANC could do without them. To demonstrate this, Hani called on all those who were still committed to serve as ANC members to move out of the hall. The hall was left empty. All the mutineers were still committed to the ideals of the ANC, they were committed to ANC policies. Nevertheless, they could discern deviations from the democratic norms proclaimed in those policy documents and declared on public platforms. It was a concern for this that had forced them to use arms in conditions where criticism of the leadership and democratic election of NEC members by the rank and file was branded as counter-revolutionary.

During the period of these events, another rebellion was breaking out in Caculama, the very camp in which President Tambo had delivered his address about the illegitimacy of the mutiny which had then been in progress in Kangandala. Some groups of trained guerrillas and officers, including the staff unit commissar, Bandile Ketelo (Jacky Molefe), moved out of the camp, boarding trucks and trains to join and support the mutineers at Viana. The training programme for the new recruits came to an abrupt stop, and this was another slap in the face of the ANC leadership because Caculama camp was their last hope to counterbalance the popularity of the mutiny. With the support from Caculama, the mutiny acquired a 90 per cent majority among the whole trained forces of MK in Angola, which was then the only country where the ANC had guerrilla camps.

The Angolan government authorities played a very dishonest role thereafter. They began to throttle this popular unrest in collaboration with the ANC security, dishonouring all the agreements they had made with the guerrillas. The security personnel of the ANC were allowed to enter the camp armed, which was defended by the Angolan armed forces with their weapons. Later Joe Modise and Andrew Masondo arrived, together with five men from headquarters in Lusaka. The five men, James Stuart, Sizakhele Sigxashe, Tony Mongalo, Aziz Pahad and Mbuyiselo Dywili, were introduced as a commission of inquiry set up on the instructions of Oliver Tambo to examine the whole episode. The following day, 16 February 1994, a group of about thirty guerrillas, including all the members of the Committee of Ten, were shoved with gun barrels of the ANC security into a waiting military vehicle of FAPLA. The tension that had captured the moment was eased when a group of guerrillas inside the closed truck broke out into a song, Akekh’u Mandela, usentilongweni, Saze saswel' ikomand' ingenatyala (Mandela is not here, he is in prison, we have lost a commander). The trucks and some ANC security officers left for the Maximum State Security Prison in Luanda, where the guerrillas were locked up. The rest of the mutineers in Viana were transported to the two camps of the ANC north of Luanda, Ouibme and Pango. Once again the Angolan authorities dishonoured the forces of change within the ANC, and added another point in their collaboration to abort a drive to veer the ANC towards democracy.

The mutineers in prison in Luanda were thrown into dark, damp cells with very minimal ventilation. The cells had cement slab beds without mattresses and blanket, and the toilets in the cells were blocked with shit spilling out. The gallery in which the mutineers were held was the one which housed Unita prisoners, and it had last preference in all prison supplies, including food. Starvation and lack of water was so acute that prisoners were collapsing and dying of hunger and thirst, the only ones surviving being those who were allowed visits from their families and relatives, who even brought them water from their homes.

Several days later, the commission of inquiry arrived at the prison led by James Stuart [a former trade unionist and ANC stalwart from the 1940s]. Interviews and recording of statements followed. 

Five questions were asked:
  1. What are the causes of the unrest?
  2. What role have you played in the mutiny?
  3. Why do you want a national conference?
  4. What can you say about the role of the enemy in this?
  5. What do you think can be done to improve the state of affairs in the army?
In the process of these interviews, those in prison were joined by Vuyisile Maseko (Xolile Siphunzi), who had some head injuries he had received while resisting arrest in one of the ANC centres in Luanda. He had then decided to explode a grenade inside the military vehicle in which he was being transported, which contained also Chris Hani and Joe Modise, who had accompanied a group of security personnel to round up those who had escaped arrest in Viana. Hani and Modise managed to escape unharmed, and in the confusion that ensued Hani issued instructions to the security personnel to shoot Maseko on the spot, but Modise had intervened, saying 'he (Maseko) must go and suffer first'. He had since 'suffered', and was left in prison in Luanda when most of the mutineers were released in December 1988, where he probably still is, if not dead now.

Interrogation and Torture in Luanda

The James Stuart Commission concluded its work after more than a week. What followed were interrogations conducted by the security department under two of the most notorious security officers, Itumeleng and Morris Seabelo. These interrogations were conducted not in the way the ANC security was used to. This was because, firstly, the armed revolts that had surprisingly engulfed the whole army had been characterized by open denunciation of the ANC leadership and a call to investigate the crimes of the security department and Quadro. It was a great shock to the entire leadership of the ANC to learn about their unpopularity within the army. They therefore had to exercise caution in dealing with those arrested so as not to confirm the allegations of atrocities that they were accused of, and they therefore had to restrain their interrogation teams. Secondly, the Angolan State Security Prison contained a lot of foreigners from different parts of the world, and the Angolan authorities had to make sure that those prisoners did not leave prison confirming the brutalities of the ANC security.

But if you are trained and used to extracting information through beatings and torture, it becomes difficult to sustain a laborious and tedious process of interrogation without falling back to your usual habit. So, here too, they started becoming impatient with this sluggish method, and they resorted to torture and beatings. The prison became more often than not filled with screams from the interrogation rooms as the security personnel began beating up mutineers, hitting them with fists and whipping them with electric cables underneath their feet to avoid traces. Kate Mhlongo, a woman who was a member of the Committee of Ten, had to be hospitalized in the prison wards for injuries sustained under interrogation, followed by Grace Mofokeng, who was also subjected to beatings.

The mutineers decided to take the matter up with the Angolan prison authorities and, in particular, with a Cuban major who was at the top of the prison administration. Promises were made by the prison authorities to stop the torture, but the beatings continued and no action was taken. When Angolan and foreign prisoners began to express their indignation to the authorities about these tortures, beatings and screams, the ANC prisoners decided to take action themselves. In mid-March they embarked on a hunger strike, demanding an immediate end to physical abuses, that they be charged and tried or released immediately, and that President Tambo himself should intervene and understand the political position of the mutineers. The hunger strike was broken up in its second week when the ANC security took away to Quadro about eleven prisoners, including Zaba Maledza (chairman of the Committee of Ten) and Sidwell Moroka.

The ANC security complained that Luanda prison was a 'Five Star Hotel' and felt that we were taking advantage of that. They told us that they would take us to 'ANC prisons' where we would never even think of taking any action to secure our release. The ANC interrogation team was saying that the mutiny was an enemy-orchestrated move to oust the leadership of President Tambo, and they wanted to know who was behind this. They could not accept it as spontaneous, and to confirm that they cited the sudden response of support the mutiny got from all the centres of the ANC in Luanda. Coming out of one of those interrogation sessions in Luanda prison, Zaba Maledza pointed out that the ANC security had decided to frame him up as the one responsible for the whole unrest. They had questioned him about his relationship with [first name?] Mkhize, the chairman of the ANC Youth Section Secretariat, who had paid a visit from Lusaka to Angola shortly before the outbreak. Mkhize had since been deposed from the Youth Secretariat by the NEC.

Later in March while still in Luanda prison, we were joined by Khotso Morena (Mwezi Twala), who had been in military hospital following an incident in which he had been shot from behind in the presence of Joe Modise and Chris Hani during their round-up of other mutineers. A bullet had pierced through his lung and got out through his front, and he was still in a critical condition. Later still, in April, another three men were imprisoned for their role in the mutiny. The conditions in the prison were worsening and almost everyone was sick, their bodies skeletal and emaciated by lack of food and water. Some began to suffer from anaemia. Their bodies were swollen because, of the dampness of the cells, which they were not allowed to leave for exercise or to bask in the sun like the other prisoners. To make things worse, the prison itself had no medicines or qualified medical doctors and all our efforts to appeal to the ANC security personnel to grant us medical treatment, which we knew they could afford better than the Angolan government, were ridiculed. They said the mutineers 'chose to leave the camps, and what was there was only for committed ANC members.'

In that 'Five Star Hotel', Selby Mbele and Ben Thibane lost their lives in a very pathetic way. Selby was speeded to an outside military hospital through the pressure of the mutineers themselves when he was already losing his breath and he died the same day in the intensive care wards. Ben Thibane was also speedily admitted into an internal prison hospital on a Saturday evening, again through the pressure of his colleagues, at a time when he could hardly walk In spite of his critical condition, he did not receive any treatment and he lost his life early the following Monday. Both these deaths happened within a space of ten days of each other. With a clear probability of more deaths to follow, the Angolan prison authorities and the ANC leadership were in a state of panic. It was only then that we were allowed, for the very first time, after nine months in that prison, to go out of the dark cells and do some exercises in the sun. Lawrence, a Cuban-trained ANC security official, who coordinated between ANC security and the Angolan prison authorities, for the first time brought us some medicines and even two ANC doctors, Peter Mfelana and Haggar, to examine us. He also brought some food from ANC centres outside.

In February 1985, we received the first visit in Luanda prison from the leadership of the ANC: from Chris Hani, John Motsabi (who died in 1986 after he was taken out of the NEC at the Kabwe Conference in 1985) and John Redi, the director of ANC security. The meeting, which was held in one of the lounges of the Maximum Security Prison, was never fruitful as the guerrillas for the first time levelled bitter criticisms directly at Chris Hani for the treacherous role he had played in suppressing the mutiny. They further called directly on him to stage a public trial of the mutineers. Hani tried his best to defend his position and announced that the NEC had decided to hold a conference. The ANC is committed to justice,' he said, and the mutineers would be given a fair trial'. He left the prison ashamed of himself. From that time on, Chris Hani who had managed to win the support of the armed forces before the outbreak of mutiny through false promises, would never even wish to meet with the mutineers on an open platform, except with them as prisoners.

From the Pango Revolt to Public Executions

It will do at this stage to go back a bit, and have a look at one of the bloodiest episodes in the history of MK. This was in Pango camp in May 1984, two months after the suppression of the mutiny and the arrest of the first group at Viana. After the group considered to be the main instigators and ringleaders of the mutiny had been arrested on 16 February, the remaining soldiers at Viana were transported in military vehicles to two camps of the ANC to the north of Luanda, Pango and Quibaxe. These two were the oldest camps of the ANC in Angola and had been evacuated following a mobilization of the whole army in preparation for the war against Unita, leaving them with only a few guerrillas to man their defences. On their arrival, the guerrillas from Viana had to go through interviews with the Stuart Commission. With this over and the commission gone, life began to be tough for the mutineers as the authorities of the camp - composed squarely of those who were loyal to the military leadership - started enforcing castigative rules on people whose emotional indignation at the ANC leadership had barely settled.

A course was introduced arrogantly called 'reorientation'. The political motives behind that were not difficult to know. Mutiny had to be understood as the work of enemy provocateurs, who had been detained, while others had just been blind followers who had fallen prey to their manipulation. The immediate response of the whole group of guerrillas was negative, arguing that their demand for a conference was not disorientation and that they saw no need for the course. Through intimidation, some of the mutineers conformed to pressure to undertake the course but another group refused to comply. It is worth noting that the only people who had weapons in the camp were those loyal to the leadership, and fear and panic had gripped some of the guerrillas about the possible retaliation of the ANC security. Already by that time the security department was conducting interrogations on soldiers, and had been detaining others secretly and sending them to Quadro. The fate of those still in Luanda prison was becoming a concern of everyone, and a serious state of insecurity had set in. This state of insecurity and harassment reached a peak in Pango after some guerrillas had been beaten, tied to trees and imprisoned by the camp security and administration, following an incident in which the camp authorities pointed weapons at a 'culprit' who was between them and the assembled guerrillas.

That Sunday, 13 May 1984, the guerrillas stormed the ANC armoury in Pango camp, disarmed the guards and shot one who refused to surrender his weapon, injuring him. Having laid their hands on the weapons, gun battles ensued throughout the night between the rebel guerrillas and those loyal to the administration of the camp. Zenzile Phungulwa, who was the camp commissar and a staunch defender of the status quo, Wilson Sithole, a staff commissar, Duke Maseko (another loyalist) and a security guard who was guarding prisoners in the camp prison were killed during the fighting that night. Cromwell Owabe was found dead in the bush with bullet holes; Mvula and Norman were missing in combat. The camp commander and other forces loyal to the administration managed to escape and the camp was occupied and run by the mutineers.

The mutineers tried to reach the local authorities of the nearest town to report the matter, but the squad was intercepted by the security forces and after a short battle managed to retreat safely. It became clear then that the ANC commanders had mobilized a crack force of all its loyal cadres in all its camps and establishments in Angola, and they were encircling the guerrilla base. Running battles ensued from five o'clock in the morning the following Friday and continued the whole day as forces under Timothy Mokoena, then a regional commander in Angola and now the army commissar of MK and Raymond Monageng (then regional chief of staff of MPC, arrested in 1988 by the ANC as an enemy plant) struggled to overcome the camp occupied by the mutineers. At dusk that same day the battle ended. About fourteen guerrillas were down, and a lot more captured from the side of the mutineers.

Some managed to break out of the encirclement and marched through the bushes further up north. Those captured were subjected to beatings and tortures under interrogation, with melting plastic dripped on their naked bodies and private parts, whipped while tied to trees and forced under torture to exhume the bodies of the ANC loyalists who had died several days before and wash them for a heroic burial. A military tribunal was set up shortly thereafter, headed by Sizakhele Sijashe, now head of ANC Intelligence, and composed predominantly of security personnel such as Morris Seabelo, a former commander and commissar at Quadro, and at that time chief of security in the whole of the Angola region of MK. Seven men were summarily sentenced to death by public execution by firing squad. They were James Nkabinde (one of Tambo's former bodyguards), Ronald Msomi, Bullet (Mbumbulu), Thembile Hobo, Mahero, Wandile Ondala and Stopper.

Motivated by a genuine desire to democratize the ANC and push it forward to higher levels of armed confrontation for people's freedom, they demonstrated a bravery and a spirit of sacrifice as they walked tall to the firing squad which shocked even their executioners, not budging an inch from the demand for a national conference and the release of their imprisoned colleagues. Chris Hani, a man who endorsed their execution, was himself forced to comment that 'had this bravery and self-sacrifice been done for the cause of democracy and freedom in South Africa, it would be praiseworthy.' But history teaches us that the jackboot of autocracy knows no limits, and should therefore be opposed limitlessly, starting from wherever you are.

The executed MK soldiers were buried in a mass grave in Pango. Later in the week a group of about 15 who had managed to break through the encirclement of the loyal forces were caught in the province of Uige. After many days marching through the bush, they had decided to stop at one of the Soviet establishments in the region. After explaining their cause, they requested temporary sanctuary and requested the Soviet officials to inform the Angolan government and the ANC president about the matter. To show that they posed no harm to them and to the local population, they surrendered their weapons to the Soviet-FAPLA authorities. The Soviet officials sent the message to the security department of the ANC, whose personnel arrived in a convoy of military vehicles. The men were surprised in their sleep, tied hand and foot, and under whips, lashings and military boots they were thrown into the trucks, and all the way from there to Pango they were tortured and beaten. In Pango, torture and untold brutalities were unleashed against them, and in the process one of the captured mutineers, Jonga Masupa, died. Others like Mgedeza were found dead in the bushes nearby with bullet holes in them.

The mutineers were kept naked with ropes tied on them for three weeks in the prison at Pango, and any security officer or guards (who had been temporarily withdrawn from Quadro) could satisfy their sadistic lusts on the helpless prisoners. The head of the ANC Women’s Section, Gertrude Shope, appeared on the scene from Lusaka at that time and was taken aback by what she saw. She ordered an end to executions and tortures, and that the prisoners should be allowed to get clothes, which was done. Eight of those arrested were taken to Quadro and the rest were given punishments which they served in the camp.

The end of the episode at Pango closed the chapter of armed resistance to enemies of democracy within the ANC. Zaba Maledza, the elected chairman of the Committee of Ten, died in Quadro shortly after these events in an isolation cell in which he had been kept since 16 February. The spectre of these young fighters will never stop haunting those who, for fear of democracy and in defence of their selfish interests at the expense of people's strivings for freedom, had nipped their lives at a budding stage.

The Kabwe Conference - and Quadro

Overwhelmed by shock as a result of the great momentum of the forces for change, the ANC National Executive Committee succumbed. Shortly after the events at Pango, it announced that it had decided to hold a National Consultative Conference the following year, in June 1985. Defensively, ANC leaders rushed to deny that they had been forced to comply to the demands of the mutineers, and that it was the political situation in South Africa that had made them take this decision. Equivocally, they declared that the conference would not be the type of conference that the mutineers had demanded. And what did they mean?

In April 1985, two months after Chris Hani's visit to the mutineers in the State Security Prison in Luanda and two months before the National Consultative Conference at Kabwe, in Zambia, thirteen mutineers were released from the Luanda prison and one from a group imprisoned in Quadro. Propaganda was whipped up within the ANC membership that those who had been released were innocent cadres who had been misled, and that those remaining in jail were still to be thoroughly investigated. On 12 April, all the remaining mutineers in prison in Luanda were transported to Quadro in handcuffs under a heavy escort of ANC security personnel. What followed, even as the conference proceeded at Kabwe, was their humiliation and dehumanization in a place talked about in whispered tones within the ANC.

Quadro was best described in a terse statement by Zaba Maledza, when he said: 'When you get in there, forget about human rights.' This was a statement from a man who had lived in Quadro during one of the worst periods in its history, 1980-82. Established in 1979, it was supposed to be a rehabilitation centre of the ANC where enemy agents who had infiltrated the ANC would be 're-educated' and would be made to love the ANC through the opportunity to experience the humane character of its ideals. Regrettably, through a process that still cries for explanation, Quadro became worse than any prison than even the apartheid regime -itself considered a crime against humanity - had ever had. However bitter the above statement, however disagreeable to the fighters against the monstrous apartheid system, it is a truth that needs bold examination by our people, and the whole of the ANC membership. To examine the history of Quadro is to uncover the concealed forces that operate in a political organization such as the ANC.

Quadro, officially known as Camp 32, was renamed after Morris Seabelo (real name Lulamile Dantile), one of its first and trusted commanders. He was a Soviet-trained intelligence officer, a student at the Moscow Party Institution and a publicized young hero of the South African Communist Party. In late 1985 he mysteriously lost his life in an underground ANC residence in Lesotho, where none of those he was with, including Nomkhosi Mini, was spared to relate the story. Located about 15kin from the town of Quibaxe north of Luanda, Quadro was one of the most feared of the secret camps of the ANC to which only a selected few in the ANC leadership (viz., Mzwandile Piliso, Joe Modise, Andrew Masondo and also the then general secretary of the SACP, Moses Mabhida) had access. The administration of the camp was limited to members of the security forces, mostly young members of the underground SACP. Such were most of its administrative staff. for example, Sizwe Mkhonto, also a GDR-Soviet trained intelligence officer and former political student at the Moscow Party Institution, who was camp commander for a long time; Afrika Nkwe, also Soviet intelligence and a politically trained officer, who was a senior commander and commissar at Quadro, with occasional relapses of mental illness; Griffiths Seboni; Cyril Burton, Itumeleng, all falling within the same categories, to name but a few.

The security guards and warders were drawn from the young and politically naive fanatic supporters of the military leadership of Modise and Tambo, who kept to strict warnings about secrecy. They are not allowed to talk to anyone about anything that takes place in an 'ANC Rehabilitation Centre.' The prisoners themselves are transported blindfolded and lying flat on the floor of the security vehicle taking them there. Upon arrival in the camp they are given new pseudonyms and are strictly limited to know only their cellmates, and cannot peep through the windows. From whatever corner they emerge, or any turn they take within the premises of the prison, they must seek 'permission to pass'. Any breaches of these rules of secrecy, whether intentional or a mistake, are seriously punishable by beatings and floggings. To crown it all, when prisoners are being released they must sign a document committing them never to release any form of information relating to their conditions of stay in the prison camp, and never to disclose their activities there or the forms of punishment meted out to them.

The place has seven communal cells, some of which used to be storerooms for the Portuguese colonisers, and five isolation cells, crowded so much that a mere turn of a sleeping positiori by a single prisoner would awaken the whole cell. With minimal ventilation, conditions were suffocating, dark and damp even in the dry and hot Angolan climate. Even Tambo was forced to comment, when he visited the place for the first time in August 1987, that the cells were too dark and suffocating. In every cell there is a corner reserved for 5-litre bottle-like plastic containers covered with cardboard, which serves as a toilet where to the eyes of all cellmates you are expected to relieve yourself. With a strong stench coming from the toilet area and lice-infected blanket rags that stay unwashed for months or even years on end, the prison authorities would keep the doors wide open and perhaps light perfumed lucky sticks before visiting ANC leaders could enter the cells. Outside, the premises of the camp are so clean from the beaten and forced prison labour that again Tambo found himself commenting; The camp is very clean and beautiful, but the mood and atmosphere inside the cells is very gloomy.'

In the Hands of the SACP

The life activity of the inmates at Quadro is characterized by aggressive physical and psychological humiliation that can only be well documented by the efforts of all the former prisoners and perhaps honest security guards combined. Confronted by questions from the MK combatants before the outbreak of the mutiny, Botiki, one of the former detainees who had lived through camp life in Quadro during its worst period, simply answered: 'What I've seen there is frightening and incredible.' For a long tinie, Quadro had been a place of interest to many cadres, and it was so difficult to get knowledge of the place from ex-detainees. The ANC security had instilled so much fear in them that they hardly had any hopes that the situation could be changed. The meek behaviour and fear of authority shown by ex-detainees, the intimidating and domineering posture of the security personnel, attempted and successful suicides committed by ex-prisoners such as Leon Madakeni, Mark, and Nonhlanhla Makhuba when faced with the possibility of re-arrest, and the common mental disturbance of the guards and personnel at Quadro, and what they talked about in their deranged state, threw light on what one was likely to expect in this 'rehabilitation centre.'
In Quadro the prisoners were given invective names that were meant to destroy them psychologically, names 'closely reflecting the crimes committed by the prisoners.' Among the mutineers, we had Zaba Maledza named Muzorewa, after a world-known traitor in Zimbabwe; Sidwell Moroka was named Dolinchek, a Yugoslav mercenary involved in a coup attempt in the Seychelles; Maxwell Moroaledi was named Mgoqozi, a Zulu name for an instigator; and there were many other extremely rude names that cannot be written here. Otherwise, generally every prisoner was called untdlwenibe, a political bandit.

The daily routine started at six with the emptying of toilet chambers, during which prisoners would run down to a big pit under whipping from `commanders' (security guards) who lined the way to the pits. After this, prisoners would be allowed to wash from a single quarter-drum container at incredible speed. The whole prisoner population was washing from a single container, with water unchanged, taking turns as they went out to dispose of the 'chambers.' The last cells out would suffer most, because they would find water very little and very dirty. The very activity of prisoners washing was a very big concession, because before 1985 it was, not even considered necessary for the prisoners to wash and they were infested with lice. Each group of prisoners was required to use literally one minute to wash and any delay would lead to serious beatings.

Back to the cell after washing in the open ground, the prisoners of Quadro would be given breakfast which would either be tea or a piece of bread, or sometimes a soup of beans or even tea. They were normally given spoiled food that was rejected by the cadres of the ANC in the camps, and it was normally half-cooked by the beaten, insulted and frightened prisoners. The two other meals, lunch and supper, were usually mealie meal and beans, or rice and beans, sometimes in extremely large quantities, which you were forced to eat. To make certain that you had eaten all, there was an irregular check of toilet chambers to detect a breach of this regulation. Alongside the emaciated prisoners there were security guards who lived extravagantly, drinking beer every week: privileges unknown in other ANC establishments. During periods of extreme shortages of food for the prisoners, those who were working would bank their hopes on the left-overs from the tables of the security officers and guards.

Simultaneously with the taking of breakfast, those who wished to visit the medical point would be allowed out. A clinic at Quadro was one of the most horrible places to visit. Usually manned by half-baked and very brutal personnel, a visit to the clinic usually resulted in beatings of sick people and a very inhuman treatment for the prisoners. Errol, one of the mutineers, who had problems with his swelling leg, was subjected to such inconsiderate treatment and beatings whenever he visited the clinic that he finally lost his life. Some prisoners would be forced to go to work while sick, for fear of revealing their state of health that would land them in the clinic. Even reporting your sickness needed a very careful choice of words. For instance, if you had been injured during beatings by the 'commanders', you were not supposed to say that you had been beaten. In Quadro, the 'commanders' don't beat prisoners, they 'correct' them: this was the way the propaganda went. A prisoner receives a corrective measure.'

After the prisoners had shined the boots of the commanders and ironed their uniforms, at eight o'clock the time for labour would begin. In Quadro there are certain cells that are earmarked for hard and hazardous labour. During this period, the cells predominantly containing mutineers were subjected to the hardest tasks. Lighter duties such as cooking and cleaning the surroundings were given to other groups of prisoners, while the mutineers carried out other work such as chopping wood and cutting logs, digging trenches and constructing dug-outs, and-most feared of all-pushing the water tank up a steep and rough road.

A South African Labour Process

Every kind of work at Quadro is done with incredible speed. Prisoners are not allowed to walk: they are always expected to be on the double from point to point in the camp. The group that is chopping wood would leave the camp at eight to search for a suitable tree to fell. Everybody had to have an implement, an axe. With work starting after eight, chopping would continue without a break until twelve, and you were not even expected to appear tired. 'A bandit doesn't get tired,' so goes the saying. Whipping with coffee tree sticks, trampling by military boots, blows with fists and claps on your inflated cheeks (known as ukumpompa) became part of the labour process. A work quota you are expected to accomplish is so unreasonable and you are liable to a serious punishment for any failure to fulfil it. Many prisoners at Quadro, had their ears damaged internally because of ukumpompa, which was sometimes done by using canvas shoes or soles of sandals for beating the prisoners. The same situation prevailed in other duties. Unreasonably heavy logs for dug-outs had to be carried up the slopes. Every prisoner was cautious to get a piece of cloth for himself to cushion the heavy logs so as to protect his shoulders, but you would still find prisoners doing these duties with patches of bruises incurred through this labour form.

The most feared duty in Quadro was the pushing of the huge water tank, normally drawn by heavy military trucks, by the prisoners themselves for a distance of about three or four kilometres from the water reservoir to the camp. Like cattle, they would struggle with the tank and the 'commanders' wielding sticks would be around whipping prisoners like slaves whenever they felt like it or when the pace was too slow.

Prisoners in Quadro behaved like frightened zombies who would nervously jump in panic just at the sight of commanders, let alone at a rebuke or a beating, In the process of these beatings during labour time, prisoners who could not cope with the work were sometimes beaten to death. Such was the death of one prisoner who died from blows on the back of his head from Leonard Mawen~one of the security guards. Two others were unable to carry some heavy planks from a place far away from the camp, after the truck that had been carrying them broke down. Upon arrival in the camp they were summoned from their cell, under instructions from Dan Mashigo, who was the camp's chief of staff, and were taken for flogging at a spot near the camp. One never came back to the cell, and the other one died a short while after returning to his cell.This was in complete conflict with what Dexter Mbona - the security chief in Quadro and later 

ANC regional chief of security in Angola - told the mutineers when addressing them on their very first day of arrival. On that occasion, he said: 'This camp is not a prison but a rehabilitation centre, and it has changed from what you portrayed it to be during the time of Mkatashingo [the mutiny].'Quadro was still a place of daily screams and pleas for mercy from physically abused prisoners. Saturday was the worst. It was a day of strip and cell searches, the 'comunanders' would enter each cell with sticks and the search would commence. At the slightest mistake made by a single prisoner as a result of panic, the whole cell would be in for it, and to drown the noise of their screams, other cells would be instructed to sing.

As already hinted, the whole matter about this camp needs to be investigated to establish who were the masterminds behind these gross violations of human rights. Both psychologically and physically, the camp has done a lot of damage to those who unfortunately found themselves imprisoned there. Some have become psychological wrecks, while other have contracted sicknesses such as epileptic fits: for instance, Mazolani Skhwebu, Hamba Zondi and Mzwandile, three colleagues of the mutineers who were left in Quadro when other members of the group were released in 1988. What is certain is that Andrew Masondo, Mzwandile Piliso and Joe Modise were highly involved in these sinister political machinations. But was the topmost leadership of the ANC unaware? Let justice take its course, and with fairness and honesty let nothing be concealed from the people of South Africa.

From Quadro to Dukawa

Such were the conditions of imprisonment in which the mutineers were held without trial for almost five years, with the sole purpose of breaking their commitment to the democratization of the organization they loved. Occasional visits by the leadership of the ANC only served further to frustrate the rebel inmates, to drive them to admit their guilt and to reduce them to tools manipulated by enemy provocateurs. But, if anything, the conditions in Quadro confirmed the justness of their cause and strengthened their commitment to cleanse the ANC of such filth.

The conference on which the detained mutineers had banked their hopes materialized at Kabwe on 16 June 1985, but to their disappointment it never carried out the expected reforms. The delegation from Angola, the main centre of internal strife, was predominantly composed of selected favourites of the ANC military leadership, who drowned the few who were sent with them as a compromise to give the conference a semblance of representativeness and democracy. The presidential report of O.R.Tambo never even touched the events that had rocked the ANC and led to so much bloodshed, and which had forced the convening of the conference. When the issues behind the mutiny were put on the table by some of the cadres from Angola, the matter was hushed up by Tambo under the pretext that it could divide the ANC. Mr Nelson Mandela had sent a statement to the conference appealing for unity and rallying support for the leadership of Tambo, and it was tactically read at the opening of the conference. It was a further weight against the rebels. Unity, once again, as always, was pushed forward at the expense of a fair and democratic solution of the problems that had beset the ANC. The culprits were saved and further strengthened their positions within the ANC. It was a miscarriage of justice.

Members of the National Executive Committee were to be elected from a list of candidates drafted by Tambo. At the end of the conference we were confronted by our jailers in Quadro and some members of the leadership boasting about unity in the ANC. Our demands for free and fair elections and for an inquiry into the activities and crimes committed by the security apparatus were ridiculed, and they bragged about how isolated the rebels had found themselves in the conference. Pro, one of the camp commanders of Quadro, commented to the mutineers in the cells: The people in Lusaka did not even want us to send your lieutenants to the conference, but we insisted here in Angola that they should go, and they experienced bitter isolation when they wanted to raise the disruptive issues of Mkatashingo.' Andrew Masondo was the only one who was sacrificed on the NEC, and that was simply because he was so discredited in Angola that he could not be saved. But the masterminds remained intact.

On 16 November 1988, exactly four years and nine months after the beginning of their imprisonment, the mutineers were summoned to the biggest cell in Quadro. There were about 25 of them in all, and they were required to sign documents committing them to keep the crimes of Quadro a secret. A security officer signed the same documents, as a witness. After an emotional and angry address by Griffiths Seboni. threatening to shoot anyone who repeated anything concerning such problems within the ANC, the rebels were transported to Luanda and kept secretly in a storeroom to avoid contact with MK cadres. [By this time the international negotiations concerning the removal of Cuban troops from Angola were well under way. The removal of the prisoners from Quadro preceded the departure of the bulk of ANC personnel from Angola-Eds.] After two weeks they were secretly taken to the airport and flown to Lusaka, where they were kept in the airport until late at night. The following morning they were transported in an ANC bus to the border between Zambia and Tanzania where, without documents, they were crossed into Tanzania to an ANC Development Centre at Dakawa, near Morogoro. The whole journey took place under the escort of the security personnel and upon arrival in Dakawa they were interviewed by the security officers in one of their bases called the Ruth First Reception Centre. The main purpose of the interview was for the security officers in Tanzania to check on the mutineers' commitment to what had landed them in prison in 1984. To the disappointment of the security officers, the rebels still justified their cause. Again to the disappointment of the security officers, the welcome they received when they came into contact with the community was unbelievably warm and unique.

The political mood within the ANC in exile had remained shaky since the mutiny of 1984. The divisions between the security personnel and the general membership had continued to widen in spite of cosmetic changes of personnel in the apparatus. Piliso had been shifted from heading security to chief of the Development of Manpower Department (DMD), replaced by Sizakhele Sigxashe, who had been part of the commission set up to probe into the details about the mutiny in 1984. Workshops had also been convened to look into the problems of the Security Department, with the aim of reorganizing it in order to change its monstrous face. But these were half-hearted efforts, and could not improve the situation because they evaded the sensitive issues and left out the views of those who had been victims. The old security personnel were, above all, left intact. There was also the pressing issue of the running battles against Unita that had resumed in 1987, in which MK cadres were losing their lives in growing numbers. Armed struggle inside South Africa, one of the central issues in 1984, was caught up in a disturbing state of stagnation. The leadership of the ANC had become more and more discredited among the exiles, and it was hard to find anyone bold enough to defend it with confidence, as was the case earlier. Even within the security personnel you could detect a sense of shame and unease in some of its members. But it was still difficult for the membership to raise their heads, and the ANC security was in control of strategic positions in all structures.

As a result of this political atmosphere within the ANC, frustration and disillusion had set in at most of the ANC centres. Dakawa, where the ex-Quadro detainees were taken after their release in December 1988, was also trapped in political apathy, with political structures in disarray. The Zonal Political Cominittees (ZPCs), Zonal Youth Committees (ZYCs), Women's Committees, Regional Political Committees and all the other structures whose membership was elected, were either functioning in semi-capacity or were completely dormant. Only the administrative bodies were in good shape, and this was mainly because their membership was appointed by the headquarters in Lusaka, and was composed of either security or some people loyal and attached to it. These are the structures that, contrary to the ANC policy of superiority of political leadership over administrative and military bodies, wielded great powers in running the establishments and which suffocated political bodies elected by the membership. This state of affairs reveals clearly that after more than 15 years without democracy and elected structures, the ANC was finding it difficult to readjust itself to the democratic procedures it was forced to recognize by the 1985 Kabwe Conference. The leadership found itself much more at home when dealing with administrators than with bodies that drew support from the grassroots. This strangled political structures, and drove many people away from political concern to frustration and indifference.

Between Democracy and Dictatorship

When the mutineers arrived in Dakawa, the political mood began to change as they managed to show the people, and those who had taken part alongside them in Mkatashingo, the need to participate and to demand to participate in all issues of the struggle. They themselves took part in all the labour processes of the Dakawa Development Project and showed a sense of keen interest in political matters. When the ANC secretary-general Alfred Nzo visited Dakawa shortly after their arrival, he commended their example and called on the community to emulate them. He also announced in the same meeting that the ex-detainees should be integrated into the community and were allowed to participate in all structures. This never excited the ex-detainees, who took it for granted that they were full members of the ANC whose rights were unquestionable, even taking account of the leadership's half-hearted and concealed admissions of past errors, and even if the leadership still did capitalize on the methods used by the mutineers.

With the decision to revive the political structures, a general youth meeting was convened on 18 March 1989 and in the elections a Zonal Youth Committee (ZYC) was elected into office, dominated by former detainees and other participants in the mutiny. Out of its nine members, five were ex-prisoners who had mutinied in 1984, including three members of the Committee of Ten. This initiated the revival of other structures such as the Cultural Committee and the Works Committee (a trade union-like body for labourers in the project) at whose head we had former mutineers. The ANC leadership was clearly eyeing this situation with a sense of discontent, but it was difficult for it to interfere directly with the democratic process under way, without provoking indignation from the community. To them this was a move that absolved the people they had tried to destroy and have ostracised.

The first political encounter between the Dakawa ZYC and ANC headquarters was at the Third Dakawa Seminar, held on 24125 April 1989. The first and second seminars had been held in 1983 and 1985 respectively and had provided guidelines for the development of the Centre. The objectives of the Third Seminar were to review progress achieved, to establish an autonomous administration for the Centre, to consider new project proposals and to establish proper co-ordination between the Centre and regional and national structures. The Dakawa ZYC was not invited to be one of participants. It challenged that decision, and was ultimately allowed to send one delegate, Sidwell Moroka, its chairperson, who was able to deliver its paper. This paper was prepared after taking stock of the views expressed by the youth meeting of 7 April. Among the participants at the Third Seminar were heads of departments from headquarters including Piliso and Thomas Nkobi, the national treasurer. The paper of the youth of Dakawa. was criticized by the leadership. The main theme of the seminar was the need for the setting up of bodies of local self-administration, with the youth pressing for elective bodies and the other side, led by Piliso, dismissing the idea as unrealistic. After lengthy discussions with the chairman of the ZYC uncompromising on the issue, Piliso noted that the chairperson of the ZYC was 'stubbornly opposed to appointed personnel.' However, the result was that a recommendation in favour of the position of the ZYC was adopted.

After this seminar, the ANC leadership was to reconsider its attitude towards the former detainees. In June 1989, when the ANC youth section was to attend a World Youth Festival in Korea, a telex was sent to Tanzania from headquarters in Lusaka cancelling the names of four delegates democratically elected by the youth in Dakawa to represent the zone. The four names were all of former mutineers. When an explanation was sought, nobody in the HQ claimed responsibility, but it became clear from discussions between the Dakawa ZYC and Jackie Selebi, chairman of the National Youth Secretariat (NYS), that this had the hand of security. The Dakawa ZYC and other upper structures in Tanzania expressed their discontent with this practice that undermined democracy and infringed on the rights of the membership.

The Dakawa Youth Committee had by this time already established its Youth Bulletin and was also making its ideas clear in the paper of the whole community, called Dakawa News and Views. The local security department and its administrative tools became very uneasy about the articles that began to appear sparing nobody from criticism and with a clear stand for openness and democracy. On several occasions the ZYC found itself a target of attack as instigators, and its office-bearers were intimidated to the point where some of its full-time functionaries, such as Amos Maxongo, were forced to abandon their post. Following a paper prepared by the ZYC in September on 'housing problems in Dakawa,' the committee was called to account to the Zonal Political Committee and Administration meeting, and its members were threatened that they should either terminate their contributions in the local newspaper or change their language. The ZYC refused to back away from its position and called for freedom of expression.

This state of political wrangling and the rise in popularity of the Dakawa ZYC approached its climax in September 1989. At this time, the Regional Political Committee (RPC) - a supreme body responsible for political guidance and organization in different ANC regions - was elected into office in a meeting attended by delegates from all ANC Centres in Tanzania. Sidwell Moroka was elected its chairperson and Mwezi Twala its organizing secretary. Both of them were former members of the Committee of Ten elected by the mutineers at Viana in 1984. The closing session, on 16 September, was filled with tension as some of the ANC leading personnel who attended, including Andrew Masondo, Graham Morodi and Wiffle Williams, and the members of the ANC security, showed clear expressions of disapproval of the results. Morodi, then ANC chief representative in Tanzania, forced himself to occupy the platform and made a comment insinuating that the results should be sent to the NEC for approval. On 18 September he sent a letter to the incoming chairman, Sidwell Moroka, suspending accession of the new Regional Political Committee into office with the excuse that he was still awaiting approval from Lusaka. On 5 October the body was dissolved by order of the chief representative, Morodi, who stated that the decision had the backing of the office of the secretary general of the ANC, Nzo. The reasons advanced were that there had been violation of procedures in the meeting and that nominees had not been screened prior to the election: meaning that the ANC security has powers to determine who is eligible for election to the political structures of the ANC. It has a right to dissolve a democratically elected structure if it dislikes those elected by the ANC membership.

Later a body was appointed from ANC headquarters called the Interim RPC, to replace the democratically elected RPC and to fill the 'political vacuum'. The ZYC circulated a letter in which it disapproved of the imposition of 'dummy structures' and suppression of the democratically elected ones. It further raised the matter at the annual general meeting of the youth on 14 December. Rusty Bernstein, head of the ANC department of political education, and his staff, and the regional chairman of the youth, Gert Sibande (that is, Thami Mali who was responsible for the 1985 stayaway that rocked Johannesburg), had been invited to attend, and were present. At the annual general meeting, the youth in Dakawa called for the refusal of the personnel appointed to this structure to participate in it. Members of the department of political education and the regional chairman of the youth, Sibande, also expressed their disapproval of this undemocratic action and promised to consider their positions in relation to it. This meeting, which Bernstein admitted had shown unheard of openness in the ANC, signalled the doom of the Interim RPC, which had until then failed to take office due to its unpopularity and the hesitation of the appointed personnel to play the shameful political role allotted to them. At this point the ANC leadership collected its strength and could not restrain itself any longer.

The Destruction of Democracy

Under instruction from the NEC, Chris Hani and Stanley Mabizela arrived in Tanzania from the HQ shortly thereafter and called for ANC community meetings in Mazimbu, and on 24 December 1989, in Dakawa. At these meetings, Stanley Mabizela announced the decision of the NEC concerning groups of people who had been imprisoned by the ANC. There were three categories that they mentioned: 

1. A group of self-confessed enemy agents who had been imprisoned and released unconditionally. These had a right to take part and even occupy office in ANC structures; 

2. A group of enemy agents who had been imprisoned and released conditionally. These had no right to take office in the structures of the movement; and 

3. A group of 1984 mutineers who had been imprisoned by the ANC. These were also not allowed to take office in ANC structures. And hence, he concluded, the NEC had decided to dissolve the RPC. He then instructed the communities to support and strengthen the Interim RPC.

This announcement was immediately challenged by the people in the meeting and the former mutineers themselves, with the following arguments: i. That the National Executive of the ANC was acting autocratically, as it had no moral or political justification for taking a decision so important that it infringed on the right of the membership without even prior consultations with the general membership; ii. That the very issue of the mutiny and the causes behind it had never been opened for discussion by the entire membership of the ANC, and that the mutineers themselves had been denied platforms on which to explain their actions, and that they had never been tried by any court or competent body in the movement; and iii. That the very people who took the decision to dissolve the RPC were still continuing with tortures and murder of detainees and their political opponents.

The last point related to two young men who had escaped from the prison in SOMAFCO at Mazimbu, and who had reported themselves at the Morogoro Police Station. One of them was Dipulelo, who had headed the Dakawa News and Views, and who had been accused of subversion, and detained and tortured by a security department man called Doctor. They arrived at the Tanzanian police station in handcuffs and naked, the way they had been kept in prison at SOMAFCO [where the secondary school principal by this time was Masondo]. They had been detained in July 1989, and they related horrifying stories about the torture to which they had been subjected until they escaped in November.

At the meeting at Dakawa on 24 December, Chris Hani felt he could not tolerate the confrontation and howled from the rostrum at those who challenged the decision. 'The decision is unchallenged, it is an order from the NEC,' he shouted, beating the table with his fist. A commotion ensued as Hani's security tried to arrest those who talked, and a reinforcement of the armed Tanzanian Field Force was called to the hall by Samson Donga. The meeting ended in confusion and the whole community was astonished by the autocratic behaviour of that ANC leadership delegation. On 28 December a paper was circulated, officially banning nine members of different committees in Dakawa. This time again, those who sought the democratization of the ANC were arrogantly silenced by a decree from the strong opponents of apartheid undemocracy. What an irony!

Resignation from the ANC

Widespread discontent filled the air in Dakakwa, and it spread to nearby Mazimbu, as the leadership reversed the process of political and cultural renewal that had marked the period in which the ex-mutineers had been free to develop their ideas among the ANC membership. This process of renewal was suppressed, not because there was anything wrong with it but because it threatened the ANC leaders with democracy, which they were not prepared to tolerate. Some members of the department of political education, such as Mpho Mmutle and Doctor Nxumalo, were summoned by the security department and questioned about their association with ex-mutineers, and instructed never again to visit Dakawa. A sense that anything might happen at any time set in, as the community awaited the reprisals that might follow. The whole of the ANC in Tanzania was filled with tension. From sources close to the security department, word came to the ex-mutineers about meetings held to decide on action to be taken against those who embarrassed the ANC leader and the man who wanted to take Mandela's mantle, Chris Hani.

It was at this time, on 31 December 1989, that the ex-mutineers considered the issue of resigning from the ANC. The reasons are glaring to any realistic minded person. There was a need to pre-empt the actions of the security department, which would have definitely followed. There was a need also to look for better avenues for continuing the struggle against apartheid, given that the ANC had banned the cx-mutineers from freedom of political expression. And there was also a need to relate this state of affairs to the leadership of the ANC inside South Africa, to the leadership of the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) and to all the people of South Africa.

We appeal to the people of South Africa and the members of the ANC to support our call for an independent commission to investigate these atrocities.

YMCA Shauri Moyo
P.O.Box 17073

Dear Cde Mandela Revolutionary Greetings!

The news through the press about our horrific experiences at the hands of the ANC security organs must have left you in a state of bewilderment. Fully aware of that, we realise the need to write you this letter giving an account of our vicissitudes in combating the enemies of democracy within the ANC and putting across also our incessant efforts to have these problems resolved democratically with the full participation of the entire membership. By this we hope to dispel any misunderstandings regarding our decision to expose this disgraceful and shameful page in the history of our organisation, which we hold at high esteem, even at this hour.

First, it is a fact, undisputable indeed, that the 1984 mutiny was a spontaneous reaction of the overwhelming majority of the cadres of MK to crimes and misdeeds, incompatible with the noble and humane ideals of our political objectives, carried out by certain elements in the leadership of the ANC. These included, among other things, acts of torture and murder through beatings, committed by the ANC Security personnel under the leadership of Mzwandile Piliso; brutal suppression of democracy denying the membership of the ANC any opportunity, for a period exceeding thirteen years, to decide through democratic elections who should lead them; and misleading our people's army by locking it into diversional battles from which our struggle did not benefit, thereby weakening and destroying its fighting capacity.

Second, it remains our firm belief that, had the ANC leadership acted honestly at the very early stages of mutiny, and most of all, had President Tambo responded responsibly to our appeal for his immediate and direct intervention, many lives could have been saved. Regrettably, in a manner identical to our political enemy, the South African regime, the ANC leadership fished out the "ringleaders" and their most plainspoken opponents and unleashed virulent brutalities against them.

Third, having gone through close to five years without trial in the most notorious prison within the ANC, and having endured the humiliating, dehumanising and hazardous conditions in which some of us perished, we remained committed to the ANC. This was in recognition of the justness of our cause, in honour of men like you and the multitudes in our beleaguered homeland who languished in racist dungeons and got murdered in this noble cause, and lest we forget our comrades whose lives were cut short by those who deceptively made noise and declarations about democracy on behalf of our people.

Fourth, embarrassed at the way the ANC community in Dakawa absolved us by electing us into the political structures in the Tanzanian ANC region, Chris Hani and Stanley Mabizela, acting on behalf of the National Executive Committee, then muzzled us by banning us from participating freely in ANC political life and dissolving democratically elected structures. Our efforts to challenge such an undemocratic action and to explain the causes of the 1984 mutiny for which we were being unjustifiably treated were answered by shouts from Hani himself, taking us down [from] the platform and even calling for armed Tanzanian Task Force Unit to surround the hall.

It's the realization of the last-named factor that sealed and shattered our long-standing commitments and hopes to reform the ANC from within, and we resigned in December last year. But let it be stressed still, that even at that time, we still limited our activities to consulting the internal leadership of our movement to avoiding embarrassing the organisation we so dearly loved. We contacted through letters and attempted to send our document (captured at the Dar-es-Salaam Airport by ANC and Tanzanian security) to such stalwarts of our anti-apartheid struggle as Frank Chikane, General Secretary of SACC leadership from prison and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Knowing you as a personality who distinguished himself by unflinchingly fighting and standing for human rights and ideals of highest democracy, " we receive with bitterness your praises showered at these corrupt and atrocious elements, whilst a shroud of secrecy wraps around the noblest sons and daughters of South Africa who perished in pursuit of the same ideals as yours[,] at the hands of these fake custodians of our people's political aspirations. It is this that pricks our conscience to remove this shroud. Nothing can be more treacherous than to allow such crimes to go unchallenged and unknown. Nothing can be more hypocritical when some of us even at this hour are languishing in those concentration camps. Even much more disturbing is that these enemies of democracy are to be part of that noble delegation of the ANC to negotiate the centuries-long denied democratic freedoms of our people. What a mockery! What a scorn to our people's sacrifices for freedom! We back your tireless efforts and of all those peace-loving South Africans who see the need for a peaceful settlement of our problems, but we also believe that our people's yearnings for justice can only be competently secured by a morally clean leadership.

We know how difficult it is to accept these bitter but objective truths, and how mammoth the task is of taking appropriate actions against these individuals. But we know also how [undermined ?] they are even within the ANC membership, and we are certain also that, if only they could talk, much more horrific stories will come out of those who tasted the bitterness of the ANC security's treatment. Hence, our sincere call to you and the fighting masses in south Africa and within the ANC to back our demand for a commission to inquire into these atrocities. This, contrary to short-sighted ideas, will not weaken the ANC, but will demonstrate to our people and the world the ANC's uncompromising commitment to justice and democracy. No better guarantee can be made to our people that when our organisation ascends to power, their rights and freedoms will thrive in competent and responsible hands.

Amandla! NGAWETHU!!
Yours in the Struggle,
Ex-ANC Detainees
(Copy from fax-message)

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