It helped enormously that I had a post to go to. Ronnie Kasrils was meticulous in requiring me to provide real information showing that I could indeed handle the post of Special Adviser in the Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry. It is a technical ministry and I am a trained civil engineer. The Ministry and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry have their offices in Pretoria and so Edelgard and I had to live there too.
We flew to Joburg and stayed in a flat in Pretoria we rented from our comrade Freddy Reddy, the ANC’s psychiatrist who lived in Norway, until we bought a house. Suddenly we had a bit of cash because the rand was very weak against the pound sterling, enabling us to buy a house for cash with no mortgage between arriving by air and our goods arriving six weeks later by sea in Durban and then by road to Pretoria. To save money we had done most of the packing ourselves. Our friend Kishor Shah who had been such a generous shipping agent for the ANC when we were sending large amounts of stuff from the UK to our settlements in Tanzania sent in his packers at the last minute. We were astonished that only one plate was broken and Edelgard said she had packed it herself. Our goods filled a shipping container so full that when the doors were opened at our new home in Pretoria things began to fall out.
It was exciting being back in South Africa even though I knew Pretoria only as the city of my imprisonment. But we both liked it. The sky was so high, unlike London where it seemed always to press down on one’s head. Finding our feet there, and for me getting to grips with my work as Ronnie’s Special Adviser, was not easy.
In my mind the Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry and its Department that implemented policy was involved on the one hand with taps and toilets and with trees on the other hand. I found that the focus was on the need to provide clean water and safe sanitation (taps and toilets) and a great reluctance to get involved in the promotion of peasant tree plantation for timber production. The State-owned plantations for which we were responsible were being allowed to deteriorate at an alarming rate, destroying job creation potential. Within a month of becoming the Minister’s adviser I had developed a comprehensive plan that could have transformed the rural economy of the Eastern Cape in ten years. The project extended also to KwaZulu Natal. It saddened me to see the way officials could block development by simply passing paper round and round and spending fortunes on external consultants who were former government officials in the previous apartheid government.
One example was that they took two years just to develop the terms of reference for an environmental impact assessment if trees were to be planted in a particular area of the Transkei in the Eastern Cape Province. Something similar happened in KwaZulu Natal but there we were able to push things along with the help of the then Minister in that Province, Mr. Singh of the Inkatha Freedom Party who received me at the request of my Minister. He was as distressed as I was that officials blocked tree planting because they said the poor should grow food for subsistence. The prospect of participation in the real economy was of no interest to the officials. They had not asked the people concerned why they did not plant food crops. Had they done so they would have found what I had learned: rainfall was too unpredictable, they lacked fertiliser and equipment, there was no market for their surplus product and it was cheaper in money terms and effort to buy what they needed from the supermarkets. In a short space of a year maps were prepared that are a model of what rural development planning should be, identifying land usable for different purposes so that environmental impacts could be done in advance with detailed work for each project done quickly, depending on the particular application. Having retired I am not sure what was done with this great piece of work.
I found it distressing that economic development was held back by what I believed to be a lack of political decisiveness. This left heads of Government Departments (Director Generals) to play games of turf wars, instead of getting on with the tasks of economic development. I believe that some Ministers were afraid of making decisions. Afraid of criticism, they wanted perfect projects, but as an engineer I know that there is no such thing. There are only good projects and very bad ones. There is the need to grasp a principle that all engineers learn, namely that there is a point at which design work has to stop and the work has to be implemented. Weaknesses will be improved upon, of course, and, furthermore, the implementation of major projects inevitably creates new conditions that require rethinking and adjusting what we do. Even at an ANC Economic Forum I was advised that raising these issues was inappropriate. If it was inappropriate to raise such fundamental matters at a closed forum of the governing party where else should one raise them? I was asked to prepare a paper based on my remarks, but it was not circulated for comment. I am sure it was ignored and I should not have been surprised because the people I was criticising were the very ministers and top officials who would not make the decisions required to implement policies endorsed by Cabinet.
There was also a culture of bonuses paid to top officials for “exceptional performance.” They got these bonuses every year and therefore the requirement of exceptional service was ignored. I believed this was utterly wrong when the annual salary of top officials was so high in relation to workers in the field. The bonuses were sometimes equal to a lower paid worker’s annual salary. Our revolutionary élan did not last very long. There is a negative effect of a bonus culture in the civil service. Officials are reluctant to take initiatives to find novel solutions to the massive problems of service provision that have been inherited from the apartheid past. Novel ideas if they do not work out ‘perfectly’ might lead to losing a bonus. Therefore it is safer to do nothing!
Our Ministry was directly responsible for providing taps and toilets, i.e. water and sanitation projects and exercised tight control over the newly established Municipalities that came into existence in 2000. National Government insisted that all the powers be transferred to these new municipalities at the stroke of a pen on a certain date. It was a serious error because they had neither the (financial) capacity nor the (human) resources to carry out the responsibilities given them in the Constitution. It was also in my opinion after a thorough analysis of the relevant laws that it was unconstitutional to transfer these powers at a stroke because the Constitution said explicitly that the powers were to be transferred when a municipality had the capacity and resources required to carry out these functions, therefore each had to be assessed before the powers could be transferred. I wrote a very detailed paper on this and hoped it would be fully argued by Government. It had little impact on minds already made up. Today we see the consequences of many local governments unable to fulfill their development functions.
. Worse, the Central Government frontline Departments have lost the trained and experienced personnel who should have been the expert teams guiding municipalities in the fulfillment of their tasks. In part I came across the need for tight central control and the use of expert ‘strike teams’ from a study of development institutions in Malaysia during the training programme I was sent on by the ANC.
Working as an Adviser gave me wonderful opportunities to visit many parts of the country as a “trouble shooter” and I gained an appreciation of the magnitude of the problems our country faces. I am appalled by the widespread negativity that persists within our country and abroad in relation to how much has been achieved. Having provided nearly three million homes, albeit small ones, there are still more people who need homes. The latter say nothing has been done. Similarly for water and sanitation where millions have been provided with safe water and sanitation, but a few million still need these services and they say nothing has been done (for them). Our hospitals are overcrowded and often not well maintained because they are serving many time the number of patients they were designed for. They are failing because of their successes in providing for millions of people for whom there were previously no medical facilities because under apartheid they were not recognized as people who needed such services. I can be critical of some aspects of our health care systems but I have to recognize that medical personnel and resources are being overwhelmed by the needs of our people.
After two years Ronnie Kasrils was given another Ministry and Ms Buyelwa Sonjica became the new Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry. I was pleased that she took me on as her Special Adviser for a short time to get to know me and then for a longer period. When she was moved to another Ministry two years later in 2006 I was a little disappointed to end up being retired. We had however moved to Cape Town and Edelgard’s cancer flared up and I needed to be with her. She had survived major surgery and I had nursed her back to health from a weight of under 50 kg and throughout two rounds of chemotherapy. When the cancer flared up again in 2006 she started a third round of chemotherapy but with no great hope of success.
During the prison years many of us in prisons around the country studied through the University of South Africa. The University initiated a process of having graduation ceremonies for students who could not attend the normal ceremonies because they were in prison or banned from attending gatherings for political reasons. I was pleased to help Professor Barney Pityana, the Vice Chancellor, to track down former prisoners. The Special Graduation in Pretoria was well orchestrated and the photograph shows that I was awarded three degrees obtained during my time in prison. That led to me being invited to give a talk at the University which I called “My Universities.” Important as my formal studies were at the University of Cape Town and through Unisa, I said that I also have the degree PG – Prison Graduate - and that was perhaps the most important one because it taught me so much about life, endurance, and trying to uphold one’s principles. It was a privilege that I hoped others could avoid.
The role of art and culture became a significant issue in my life. Through Tina Jerman in Germany I was invited to speak at conferences and seminars about Murals, about art in international relations and its significance for historically deprived people. My approach was I suppose always from the social and political point of view rather than as an art critic, and always with the thought of the poem of Berthold Brecht that I have cited so often in this book. He said that during the struggle there was no time for art and for beauty. And I can say that we always drew on artists and folk music, and in the rock era, that socially significant style as well, to draw people together in the struggle.
Over the years and many reading and lecture tours in Germany I have been to many places in that country. I have crisscrossed the land using its enviable train service to reach big cities and small villages where people have wanted to hear about South Africa and how we achieved our freedom. I have returned again and again and it was not just to enjoy the typical supper cuisine (Abendbrot) with its wonderful breads, cheeses and cold meats. I went back because I was also invited to return to the same cities and to the same Grammar Schools to address new cohorts of young people who were soon to be fully fledged voting citizens and I wanted them to become believers in the idea of human dignity and that democracy is best protected by using the rights it promises to all people. One such city that I am invited to over and again is Osnabruck where the Action Centre Third World and its Director, Reinhard Stolle, do such excellent work promoting the dignity of people in the less developed countries of the world. I have come to know the city well.
I know it is one of the cities where the peace treaty that ended the Thirty Years war was signed. It is a city that takes its heritage as a peace city seriously. It has wonderful museums, galleries and memorials to those who survived and those who did not survive the Nazi terror. There is the Erich Maria Remarque Museum with the papers and mementoes of that great writer’s life and work and his anti-Nazi beliefs that even led him to be ostracised after the Nazis were defeated! There is the Felix Nussbaum Art Gallery to that famous artist whose depictions of suffering through war and intolerance speak so eloquently of the need for peace. There are the memorials to the victims of the holocaust: homosexuals, Jews, Sinti and Roma peoples, and a City and Bundesland that keeps our awareness of the past alive so that we do not repeat the same horrors in the future. It is my kind of city. I like to return there. In 2007 I made a speech at the opening of that city’s Africa Culture Festival at a gathering in the Marienkirche.
Opening Address at the Africa Culture Festival-Osnabruck 17 June 2007
Madame Burgermeister, [In German:] There are many invited guests from Africa here today. I intend therefore to speak in English so that your guests, Madame Burgermeister, may better understand what I am saying. I am sure that most of the Germans present here today will also be able to understand what I am saying. As we say in English, All protocol observed,
Yesterday was the 16 June. That is the day we celebrate the courage of our young people who in peaceful protest against apartheid racism were shot dead. More than 600 were killed on that day by the racist regime and many more were wounded.
Their rejection of apartheid spread throughout the land, and we older veterans said: Roar young lions, roar.
We remember the famous photograph of a young boy, Hector Petersen, who was the first to fall on that day. That thirteen year old whose life was snuffed out like the flame of a candle was carried by a bigger boy with Hector’s sister next to him, with an agonised face and raised hands pushing away the horror of what had happened.
Today you can see the memorial to Hector Petersen in Soweto. That photograph and the memorial (denkmal) are part of our cultural heritage, part of Africa’s cultural heritage.
Frau Burgermeister, it is an honour to have been invited to participate in this opening ceremony of this cultural festival. I take part in the name of those who died and those who lived through our struggle for freedom, a struggle for a land where our people of many cultures are becoming a land of one nation.
Your Africa Festival is part of that dream that Africa with its many more cultures can again become a great continent. Where it can again become a continent of many people’s striving for the African renaissance that President Mbeki of South Africa has made the theme of his Presidency.
Our radio and TV show and report every day on the great diversity of Africa. It is wonderful that Osnabruck has invited cultural workers from numerous parts of Africa so that you in Europe can see and enjoy our continent’s diversity.
Nelson R Mandela says in his autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom, that he realised during his 27 years in prison, as I also realised in my 22 years in prison, that freedom requires that the oppressed and the oppressor must both be set free to regain their dignity as human beings. He said: To be free it is not enough to throw off one’s chains. One must live one’s life so that one respects and advances the freedom of others. (Um frei zu sein genugt es nicht die Ketten abzuwerfen; Mann muss so leben das Mann die Freiheit die Andere respektiert und foerdert.)
Without that respect for each others’ dignity we will fall short of creating a land, a continent, a world, of equal opportunities for all our peoples in a non-racist, non-sexist society. Please note in all this, the key word is DIGNITY. (Bitte beobachten das Stichwort: Menschenwurde.)
It is good that Osnabruck, a city born out of the violence of long ago, and having lived through much violence and brutality since then, should take its name, the Peace City, so seriously, that we can today in this cultural festival enjoy each other’s cultures. I read to you a quotation from Erich Maria Remarque, your so very famous author: “One must believe in the future, in a better future. The world wants peace in spite of certain politicians. And the world wants the things back in which it can believe. The problems are – as always – utterly simple: humanity, understanding, progress, willingness to help. Man is good, in spite of everything.” (1946) Your city is so rich in its museums and memorials to the terror and those who acted against it.
What is truly significant about this festival is the respect shown to the diverse cultures of Africa. In respecting these cultures and bringing performers from various parts of Africa, we respect and advance their freedom to be human beings. We respect their dignity!
I hope, I do hope, that that respect is shown not only during the festival, but every day of the year, every year!
Picasso took his new art form from the old art of West Africa and changed European art forever. A century later Paul Simon took the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to revitalize his own music. I think of Fela Kuti of Nigeria, of the church choirs of the former Belgian Congo that created the vital liturgical music of the Missa Luba. I think of the slaves who died in the “middle passage” from Africa to America, and the pain and suffering of such indignities that led to the blues and jazz and gospel music. Please think of how African culture has shaped music around the world.
I return to my opening words about freedom. Dignity requires that people be able to feed themselves and not to be so exploited that they cannot survive. Dead people have no culture, and people whose weakness due to hunger makes them excessively susceptible to diseases, do not have the energy to be cultural beings.
Europe must take the lead in getting rid of agrarian subsidies that are destroying the lives of African people and depriving them of their dignity.
It is in the interests of the people of Europe to enable Africa to reclaim its dignity. For moral, social, political and economic reasons, cultural events such as this one in the Marienkirche in the Peace City of Osnabruck must help us to move towards a world of respect for DIGNITY.
I wish you all a wonderful African Culture Festival.
I thank you.
Joel Joffe, at my request, had given Edelgard permission to translate his book, Story of the Rivonia Trial. She had completed the translation and it was to be published by the Dietz Verlag in Berlin as Der Staat gegen Mandela: ein Protokol ueber den Rivonia Prozess. That came about because Arndt Hopfmann, a fellow German Africanist, had been sent by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation to open its office in Johannesburg. He got the Foundation to fund the publication of the book and he personally made a significant contribution to editing the German translation. Edelgard was so determined to see the book launched at the first Frankfurt-Cape Town Book Fair in 2006 that she went to Germany herself and came back with 6 copies of the book just in time for that event. There our roles were reversed because she read excerpts and spoke in German and I was her translator into English. Shortly afterwards Joel brought out a new edition in English of his book using the title Edelgard had worked out, The State versus Mandela and used large parts of her epilogue that I translated into English for that edition.
On her return from Germany to Cape Town it was found that she had a newly developed breast cancer which was surgically removed. She recovered from that operation but the chemotherapy was not controlling the original ovarian cancer. The chemotherapy made her very ill and was not even going to prolong her life. With her cancer specialist she made the very tough decision to stop the treatment, knowing that she did not have long to live. I found her one morning a crumpled heap under her blankets quite shriveled up from vomiting and had to half carry her, half drag her, into the back of my car to rush her to the hospital. The nurses were magnificent, swiftly taking control and in a few minutes had a drip going to re-hydrate her. She pulled through, but the cancer was wearing her down and eventually I became her nurse at home, changing drips, and meeting her needs until her condition and my utter exhaustion required that she go into hospital some weeks before the end of December 2006. On one occasion I was caught on the horns of a dilemma.
The hospital phoned me to say my Edel was very weak and I should get there as soon as I could. Again I dashed the 20 kilometres over a winding road that was Edel’s favourite drive in Cape Town. When I got to the hospital she was in a diabetic coma. In a short while she would have been free of all pain for ever. But what if a doctor or a nurse came in and pulled her out of her coma but perhaps too late to avoid brain damage? Then she would lie there as a helpless cabbage and she would have hated that. I called a nurse who was not very efficient. She fumbled around until she got the drip going and Edel opened her eyes as though she had taken a short nap. But she deteriorated quite quickly over the next weeks becoming ever weaker and able to speak only in whispers. We spoke of many things in her last days and she said how sorry she was that she could not look after me until I should die. She had wanted to do that she said because in our time together she had enjoyed the happiest years of her life.
I wept because there was nothing else I could do. When we had got together I hoped that we could enjoy a companionable relationship. But the happiness I felt with her was extraordinary for it was much more than just companionship. One morning after many months of knowing her I woke up and saw that her face was free of its usual stressed look, and in the corners of her eyes laugh lines had appeared. I fell in love all over again. In the words of a poet I once read, her smile turned my desert into an oasis. There had been a great closeness and the opening up of new friendships and travel in various countries. We spoke about the weekends away in the countryside of the Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and kwaZulu Natal Provinces. We had driven through Botswana to Zimbabwe to visit her former home and her daughter in Bulawayo.
One of the things that kept her alive so long was her wish to see the house we were building in Cape Town where we would end our days. She did get to see it and live in it for 15 months and made it very beautiful. We visited art galleries and museums and did many things together like exploring some of the beauties of the Western Cape that in the days “before prison” there was never time for. Now I was going to be alone again. It was devastating and my exhaustion deepened the sense of doom. Her death on top of losing Esmé and then Hilly all in the space of six years seemed just too much to bear. I felt emotionally battered as never before. I went through the motions of living but it was hard to pull myself together to do anything useful. Paperwork lay around, and I waited for my energy levels to rise again.
Throughout her time with me Edelgard continued to report on and analyse developments in South and Southern Africa. She kept well-organised working files and at her request they were bequeathed to the University of South Africa (Unisa) Archive together with her magnificent library of German literature both classical and modern and her cook books and books on numerous topics so that students of German and Germanistics could get a real feel for the language and its people. That wish of hers was like the closing of a circle because it was through her study of Africanistics that she made her connection to Zenzo Nkobi and then to me and lived in various countries on the continent, spending the last years of her life in South Africa.
Zenzo had trained as photographer in Leipzig and that is where they met. He wanted to return to take part in the Zimbabwe and South Africa freedom struggles. They lived in various countries and for a long time lived in Lusaka among the representatives of various liberation communities. Zenzo was for a time Joshua Nkomo’s personal photographer and that gave him access to many of the great leaders such as Kaunda, Nyerere, Tambo, Nzo, Mugabe and others. He also photographed the aftermath of the brutal raids on refugee camps by the Rhodesian Air Force. When he died he left an archive of some10 000 negatives. Edelgard preserved them in her deep freeze after they returned to free Zimbabwe. She hid them from the raiding Zanu gangs who were after Zenzo. Zenzo having died of a stroke, she took them to Germany when she returned. She brought them to London and when we moved to South Africa she brought them too. I bought equipment so that we could digitally scan them and Edelgard worked at identifying places, occasions and people he had photographed. Eberhard Neugebohrn came from Germany for a few weeks to scan images.
Edelgard’s younger daughter did a bit of scanning. Then Edelgard’s ovarian cancer returned and the third round of chemotherapy made her very ill and working on the scans and negatives became difficult for her. In the meantime she drew up a proposal for the South African History Archive to house them, scan and identify them and make them available for historical research in a way that none of us could do as individuals. As the illness took hold she lost interest in the negatives and after her death I shipped them off to SAHA so that Zenzo’s work could be made available for historical research and to honour his work with his camera in the struggle for freedom. Neither Edelgard nor I had any interest in making money out of the images and SAHA would have to find considerable resources to make the archived images useful. They have been taking the project forward. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is providing significant financial support for the project.
We were going together to present a copy of her translation of Joel Joffe’s book to Nelson Mandela in December 2006 but Edelgard was too weak and she was not able to take part in the handover. She died on 26 December 2006.
Neighbours came to commiserate when Edelgard died. Among them were local ANC members and they dragged me back into the sunlight of activity. One of the activities that has helped me enormously is to be the active chairperson of a cultural organisation called Sentinel Experience that functions in our suburb of Cape Town called Hout Bay about 25 kilometres south of the city centre, along one of the most beautiful coastal roads that I have ever seen. Our suburb is surrounded by mountains and the sea and is a microcosm of the ethnic distances between communities that in the main still occupy the land in the same pattern as that imposed by the Group Areas Act. Local people who had set up the organisation asked me to join them in this work.
We have had our second documentary film festival in the hope that it will help to draw together elements of our community deeply divided by our legacy of apartheid separation. We are slowly creating a track record of helping with music instruments for a children’s brass band and also for music lessons through a music teaching project and in other ways.
A friend came to comfort me after Edelgard died and she has become a special friend who helped put some sparkle back into my life. I think however that there were times when I must have been very boring. In some magical way, however, we seem to each provide something the other needs because we see each other frequently and phone and text many times a day. It is nice to have a companion to go to lectures and the movies with and not to be totally alone again.
Slowly my life has come together again. I still travel to Germany to undertake lecture tours on the need for committed action to transform our country in defence of democracy. I have a simple thesis that the primary way of defending democratic rights is to use them. If we do not vote in elections we get elected politicians who have no regard for those she or he represents. If we do not use our rights to gather together in praise of good government and we do not use those same rights to criticize bad government we will soon find that ‘they’ have taken our rights away from us. In the past two year I have been speaking to Cape Town school goers in the eleventh and twelfth grades as part of a programme entitled “Facing our Past“ organised by Shikaya, an NGO which seeks to make the history of the struggle for liberation come alive for young people and for their teachers.
I take part sometimes in my ANC branch but find the efforts through our cultural organization more personally satisfying. I have no personal political ambitions and find the jockeying for position by those who are ambitious very tedious and a distraction from the task of rebuilding our society.
In Hout Bay, a suburb 20km south of the Cape Town city centre, I came across a music project started by a remarkable young woman, Dwynne Griesel. She is a trained musician and multi-talented. She invested the whole of her father’s bequest to her in the project which she intends should use the universal language of music to bring together young people from our still ethnically divided community. I have become a patron of this Kronendal Music Academy of Hout Bay and have helped the project to grow to include 120 young musicians and the number is rapidly increasing towards a target of 200 students.
In July 2012 we were able to take the jazz band component of 7 young people and the Director on a two week tour of Germany. Numerous local people helped in cash and in kind and the Goethe institute kindly agreed to pay the airfares. Tina Jerman coordinated the whole tour which was a huge success. Each of the musicians grew musically and perhaps more importantly as personalities with a whole new perspective on their lives. The band also improved mightily. Most of the musicians would not have been able to go abroad without the funds we were able to raise. The tour was made possible by the many years of my speaking tours in Germany.
Reinhard Stolle in Osnabruck was important as were Henry Schneider and Gareth Lubbe (a South African) of the Gewand House Orchestra in Leipzig and friends in Siegen at the Bertha von Suttner Comprehensive School. The tour included performances at the Hochschule in Essen, The Afrika Fest in Osnabruck, eight schools and the climax was the Musiek Festspiel in Stelzen bei Reuth to which we were invited by Henry Schneider who founded this Festival some ten years ago.
As I have previously described, I was arrested with my comrades on July 11 1963 on the Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia in Johannesburg and ended up sentenced to life imprisonment. The farm has been bought by the Liliesleaf Trust. The Director Nicholas Wolpe, the son of Harold Wolpe, has restored the buildings as they were in 1963 and using the most modern electronic and audiovisual techniques has created a museum that recaptures the spirit of what we were trying to achieve. This museum has its place beside the museums on Robben Island dedicated to the Triumph of the Human Spirit, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg that records the nature of apartheid and the resistance to it; the Red Barrack Museum in a former township of Nelson Mandela City (Port Elizabeth) that memorialises the migrant workers of the eastern Cape Province.
The Liliesleaf Museum records in the place where it happened the dedicated planning and commitment to the ending of apartheid and the spirit of selfless courage of those who were there and those elsewhere who put their lives and freedom on the line for freedom. I made one of the speeches, and Andrew Mlangeni a co-survivor of the Rivonia Trial also spoke at the opening of the Museum in the presence of President of the ANC Jacob Zuma, later to become President of South Africa, who made the speech inaugurating the Liliesleaf Museum. I kept changing the speech as others spoke and what follows are excerpts from my ‘Notes’ for the speech at the Opening Of Liliesleaf Museum , 30 May 2008
Madame programme Director. All of those here tonight are important. I shall not greet specific people, but simply say, “All protocol observed.”
There is a great continuity of links to Liliesleaf. President of the ANC Chief Albert Luthuli agreed, albeit reluctantly, to the armed struggle. He said, “when thieves come to steal my people’s chickens they have the right to defend what is theirs.” Nelson Mandela was the first Commander in Chief of MK and he lived here for a time. The great O.R. Tambo, was the President of the ANC and as such commander in chief of MK, and was a co-accused in the Rivonia Trial. Nelson Mandela on his release became President of the ANC. He was followed by our current National President Thabo Mbeki who officially launched the Liliesleaf Trust at an event held at this place. Now the current President of the ANC, comrade Jacob Zuma is here to officially open this Museum, this heritage site. He was a warrior, a deputy head then head of intelligence; he came back courageously to pave the way for the negotiations that led to the end of apartheid and negotiated the peace in the civil war in kwaZululNatal. Forgive me if I say, President of the ANC, Zuma, that the former herd boy negotiated with kings and princes, traditional leaders, business people and statesmen, to achieve peace. He negotiated the peace settlements in Ruanda and Burundi. It is appropriate that he should open this museum. Liliesleaf was the headquarters of the underground peoples’ army, Umkhonto we Sizwe.
We speak of heritage. What is that heritage? We need to know because, [to make a variation on something we often repeat] unless we know where we came from, how do we know where we are, and how do we decide how we should continue to shape our future.
Like other people all over the world, we tend to take for granted what we have, those who count ourselves among the “haves” and forget how we came to have it, and even more we tend to forget those who “have not.” It was for the “have nots” that we made our struggle and that is what Liliesleaf is about.
Liliesleaf helps us to remember, so that we and those who come after shall not be able to say, but we did not know!
Liliesleaf is an irony of history. But for the tip off the secret police got from intelligence agencies of countries that said they opposed racism, Liliesleaf might have remained in obscurity. If we had been more diligent in our housekeeping, Nelson Mandela’s documents might not have been found in the coal bunker. He might not have been accused number 1.... and he might not have made his “I am prepared to die speech” that made him and the ANC famous throughout the world. Let me say now that I am very pleased that though we were prepared to die, and indeed did not expect to live, I am pleased that we did not. It is a matter of record, as lawyers like to say, that I told my Mum, who had not heard the sentence, that we had got “Life, and Life is wonderful.’
There are sadnesses on occasions such as this: there are comrades who are here in spirit only. One of them is Bram Fischer who with his team of lawyers got us life sentences. As I said, life sure as hell beats death sentences. How I regret that comrades like OR Tambo, Raymond, Govan, Rusty, Elias, Walter, and Bram Fischer cannot be with us tonight.
Let me say that the Rivonia trial was a marvel of dignity, of courage, of nobility, of people who “rose above themselves” in their willingness to serve. I feel very privileged to have been part of it, to have shared in the highs and the lows of that time. You might recall the judge saying that he doubted our altruism because Revolutionaries expect to take power. I saw no signs of that as the driving force in my comrades.
Let me return to one of the great highs: Nelson’s ‘I am prepared to die speech.’ What an honour it was to be sitting almost alongside him when he closed with his famous last words, that the ideal of living together in harmony was one he hoped to live to see achieved, but if needs be, it was an ideal for which he was prepared to die. In effect he challenged the judge to hang him, and the rest of us too. But there was another high: life, we laughed with relief, and joy.
My comrades were always calm during the trial. But I saw anger, and distress, when Elias Matsoaledi’s wife Caroline was arrested; when Andrew Mlangeni’s wife Beauty was arrested; in Walter when his son Max was arrested in the courtroom. Esmé was also arrested. I think we do not give enough honour to our wives and children who paid a very high price for the freedom of our country. Our wives took part in the struggle in their own right and supported us and brought up our children. We take the credit that is due to them! Let us honour them. Think too of the courage of Arthur Goldreich and Hazel, his wife, who fronted as the owners and occupiers of Liliesleaf Farm knowing that they were sitting on a secret that like high explosives could go off at any time blowing away their freedom and comfort and that of their children.
My conscience has troubled me for over forty years. We said we would tell the whole truth, but I as a trained engineer was not just a consultant on weapons manufacture to the High Command. I was a member of the Western Cape Regional Command and of the High Command structures. The Security Police did not know that and I did not feel the need to enlighten them. I am not sure how the Judge would have reacted if I had enlightened the Court on this matter. I also did not say that the famous camp at Mamre was in fact the first MK training camp inside South Africa. We will never know if that would have tied the rope around my neck and those of my comrades. I also did not feel it necessary to say that whether or not Operation Mayibuye was agreed upon, we would have started to make our weapons to carry on with armed propaganda. I have to apologise to our lawyers who are here tonight, Arthur Chaskalson, George Bizos and Joel Joffe that I kept this information from them. It might have troubled them to know these facts!
Comrade President Zuma of the ANC, I have a task to lay upon you: Inspire our civil servants at all levels of government to deliver services to our people. We have seen the most awful violence in the past few weeks stirred up in the fertile ground of a belief that our government does not care about our people. So much has been achieved, but much more must be done. We have a slogan for our civil servants, servants of the people: Batho Pele, people first. But unless we move forward faster we, if you will excuse me for mixing up languages, shall end up with Batho Pelile. Batho,the people, pelile, finished). The matter, Comrade President of the ANC, is urgent.
I said earlier that we decide how we shall go forward. That is the task that lies before us.
All of this is what Liliesleaf is about.
President Zuma was charming when he responded off the cuff to my remarks. He said: “My Western Cape Commander has spoken. I accept the task he has laid upon me.”
Professor Goerling of the University in Dusseldorf had seen my speech to the UN Special Committee for the Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Southern Africa. I was invited to participate in the conference on torture he was organising at his university. I spoke of my personal experience of torture and the way it was used against some us and the life-long mental scars torture leaves. At least a thousand people were murdered by apartheid interrogators and the police. I pointed out that torture has been forbidden by the Constitution of the new South Africa. There is a difficult problem of implementation. Education and training of the police, firm administrative control over personnel and determination to stamp out the practices are essential. For the first time, more than forty years after my own experience I became very emotional when discussing this topic and at times had to pause to regain control.
A journalist reported as follows: “Over and over Denis Goldberg fell silent. He spoke haltingly of some episodes of torture and brutality that appeared in his own report. Sometimes he stopped reading, his gaze directed downwards when he described particularly brutal scenes. Psychologically and physically he has not completely recovered. He asked, “Am I normal? I don’t know.”
My paper, Torture and the Future plus the report by the journalist Maksim Hartwig “The brutality was immense,” are to be found in Appendix 3.
On 27 March 2009, sometime after Mr. Mbeki had been recalled and President Mothlanthe had been sworn in I was awarded the National Order of Luthuli (Silver) for my part in our liberation from apartheid and service to the people of South Africa. I have to say that it was a proud moment and I wished that Esmé could have been with me. I asked her cousin Rochelle to represent her at the ceremony. Having received the medal, high ranking ANC and Government members commented or asked why it had taken so long for it to be awarded to me. My answer was simply that I did not know but it was nice to receive it while I was still alive. I was more surprised that others who should have been honoured years before received similar awards at the same ceremony and so I guess, but it is only a guess, that personal likes and dislikes and a refusal to give up one’s right to be critical of one’s own government had something to do with it. I often said that though I did not agree with every detail of government policy it was great to live in a political system where I can say that and not be imprisoned for it.
Since then the German President has awarded me the Order of Merit (Verdienstkreuz am Bande) for developing the relations between the peoples of our two countries. President Zuma has awarded me the Military Veterans Medal in Platinum Class II for my contribution to the armed struggle against Apartheid. The Ghandi Development Trust in Durban has awarded me their Mahatma Ghandi Peace Award for my contribution to human rights in South Africa. The Glasgow City College in Scotland has granted me their World Scholar Award.