ANC—Umkhonto we Sizwe—South African Communist Party. ANC Senator.
The interview was held by Tor Sellström in Cape Town on 7 December 1995.
Tor Sellström: Did you have any contacts with the Nordic countries before the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe?
Indres Naidoo: No. Before that our contacts with foreign countries were minimal. We were involved in the struggle in South Africa. I come from a family that has been actively involved in the struggle from the latter part of the last century. My grandfather went to prison fourteen times. My grandmother gave birth in prison and my father was a very active person. He had contacts with the Scandinavian countries, particularly during and after the Second World War. Exactly what nature of contact it was, I am in no position to say. My mother had been an activist all her life. She died two years ago. My brothers and sisters, all of us, were active as youth leaders in the 1950s and the 1960s.
At the time when Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was formed, there was a lot of uncertainty about what was happening. However, one thing was quite clear to all of us, namely that becoming a member of Umkhonto meant tremendous risks. It meant that you could be arrested. Up to that time, we always believed that we were two or three steps ahead of the security branch and the police. We underestimated them. We felt that they would never be able to catch us. We had heard that a group of South African police had been sent to France for training, but we never took this matter very seriously. Little did we realize that they were going to France to train as a specialized force in torture methods and how to extract information. Little did we realize that on their return to South Africa they would form the Anti-sabotage Group, headed by the infamous Swanepoel himself.
When we were forming our MK group we discussed the possibilities of running away from the police in case we were being looked for. One of the things we always said was that we must choose countries that were friendly towards us. Here, of course, the Scandinavian countries were on top of the list. They were countries where we possibly could go to the embassies and ask for asylum. But I must tell you that it was merely talk. There was nothing concrete about it. This was the position of Umkhonto we Sizwe in the beginning.
Tor Sellström: You were then arrested and sent to Robben Island?
Indres Naidoo: Yes, in 1963. We were four in our unit. However, the Regional Command of MK instructed us to drop one of the four and get another person into the unit, who we understood as being quite an expert in the use of explosives and that had access to dynamite. He should be quite useful to us. However, he turned out to be a police agent. Little did we realize that he was working directly with the police, who for that matter gave him a whole case of dynamite. A hundred sticks, which he sold to us. On that particular campaign we used four sticks, leaving the remaining 96 in the box. We were arrested on the scene of our act in April 1963. He was with us, but when we were arrested he had disappeared. The police denied any knowledge of him. He was never brought to court. They claimed that there was no such person and that the three of us were solely responsible. The fact that they did not bring him to bear witness against us weakened the case quite a bit. If he had come, we would have got a much heavier sentence than we did.
Tor Sellström: But you got a heavy enough sentence, ten years?
Indres Naidoo: Yes, we got ten years in spite of that. You must bear in mind that we were among the very first Umkhonto cadres to be arrested. The judge wanted to set an example to other Umkhonto people through a heavy sentence. In the process of being arrested I was shot. In fact, I have the distinction of being the first Umkhonto person to be shot by the enemy.
We ended up on Robben Island. We spent the next ten years on that awful island, being tortured under very difficult conditions. We had to try to bring about changes. The Scandinavian countries played a great role in our campaigns. We would hear about it from our comrades who were arrested in Zimbabwe, trying to infiltrate the country.
Tor Sellström: Was that the Luthuli detachment?
Indres Naidoo: That is right, the Luthuli detachment in particular. They would tell us of the support that we were receiving from the socialist countries, particularly the Soviet Union and East Germany, and from the West. We would hear of the support that we were getting from the Scandinavian countries. That was very encouraging.
I personally believe that there were a number of factors that kept us going for the ten years. The first was the unity that we as ANC people had on the Island. We came from different walks of life. I came from the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress and the South African Indian Congress. We had people from the Coloured Peoples’ Organisation, from the African National Congress Youth League, from SACTU—the South African Congress of Trade Unions—and people who were arrested and charged for being members of the South African Communist Party. In spite of all this, we were united. When we arrived on the Island, we were only 35 ANC people. When I say ANC, I include the whole lot from the Congress Alliance, including the Communist Party. PAC numbered over a thousand.
Before coming to the Island—in transit between Johannesburg and Cape Town—we spent six months in Leeukop Prison. It was quite obvious that they did not know what to do with us. We were the first non-Africans and they were not too sure whether to dump us on the Island with the rest, or what. So they kept us at Leeukop Prison on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Not far from the famous Rivonia. In fact, during the Rivonia raid a black warder came up to us in Leeukop Prison and said: ‘A number of your comrades have been arrested not far from here, in Rivonia, and among them are Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela.’ Of course, we could not understand this. What nonsense was he talking? Mandela had already been sentenced. He was supposed to be on the Island, serving five years imprisonment and now they said that he had been arrested in Rivonia. Subsequently we learned that it was true. Mandela had been brought from the Island and tried as well.
During the opening of the trial in Pretoria we were still at Leeukop Prison. This was the period when many poor people from the Pretoria area and from the Eastern and the Western Cape started to flood the Island. But when we got to the Island we found a situation where the PAC prisoners were very hostile towards us. Very hostile.
The Prison Department was cruel, barbaric, to all of us. In particular to the three young Indians. They would look for us and ask: Waar’s die koelies? (Where are the coolies?) and pick on us. Being dark in complexion and having no hair whatsoever—it was completely shaved off—I was a bit difficult to recognize. But the comrade who was lighter in complexion and wore glasses was clearly identified and picked on every time, beaten to a pulp. But as a result of the opposition to the cruelty of the warders and because of PAC’s attitude towards us—a total non-collaboration attitude: we were nobody; they had nothing to do with us; they would serve their sentences as PAC and not collaborate with us—the 35 of us became united as one. Our comrades were very good. If we smuggled one cigarette, we would all share it. Whenever we were able to smuggle tobacco to the Island we would share it. With PAC it did not happen. We developed a comradeship which stuck to the very end.
By 1965, the situation had changed completely. ANC now numbered almost a thousand while PAC had been reduced to about 500 or so. But we maintained that comradely spirit of always sharing whatever we had. All that you were able to buy was toothpaste, a toothbrush and soap. Nothing else. The few who had money would buy the toothpaste and soap and we would share it amongst all of us. There was that united effort. Of course, we very often tried to bring PAC into our campaigns for better conditions. One of the first things that we did was to refuse to use the word baas. We felt that the warders were demanding the word just to belittle us and therefore we were not prepared to use it. But the PAC prisoners were divided on the issue. Many of the militant PAC chaps would refuse to use the word baas, but there were others who did. Their attitude was that they had come to jail to serve, suffer and sacrifice. Not to make conditions easy.
Another thing that we campaigned against right from the beginning was the tausa. Tausa was when a prisoner must strip stark naked. He must then jump into the air as high as possible, and while in the air he must make a complete 180 degree turn, open his mouth, click his mouth and spread his legs and arms wide. All in the air. The purpose behind the whole thing was that if the prisoner had any article concealed in his body it would drop out. When you landed, you were supposed to completely bow to the warder, so that he could see everything. We found it humiliating, degrading and refused to tausa. ANC immediately went on a campaign against it. It was not organized. It was just a natural campaign. We tried to bring PAC in, but we failed miserably. When our numbers increased, we decided to act on our own and go into campaigns. The very first hunger strike on Robben Island was started by ANC. PAC were left standing. About fifteen PAC people, among them some of the top leaders, refused to participate in the strike, saying that it was a Communist plot. Anything that they could not explain was a Communist plot. This was a Communist plot to mislead the PAC freedom fighters and the fourteen or fifteen of them refused to take part. Others, of course, followed naturally and the strike went on for five days. It was quite successful.
It is very strange that everything that PAC found unacceptable was called a Communist plot. For example, they maintained that the Freedom Charter was drafted in Moscow and presented to ANC in South Africa and that it was a Communist document. This was said in lectures given by PAC people on the Island.
Unity was something very good to us. Of course, in the mid-1960s we were joined by comrades in exile. They found this society of ours and fell right into it. They would also tell us what was happening outside the Island.
Tor Sellström: Do you know if any Nordic country through its diplomatic representation in Cape Town visited the Island or in other ways tried to look into the conditions there?
Indres Naidoo: No, not that I know.
Tor Sellström: The only visits you had in those days were from the International Red Cross?
Indres Naidoo: That is right.
Tor Sellström: Quarterly visits or something like that?
Indres Naidoo: It was half-yearly! Later they became quarterly and then even more frequent. We had a few other visits. One by Helen Suzman. We also had visits from some cabinet ministers and a visit by an Australian right-wing journalist. But I cannot recall that there ever was a visit from the Scandinavian countries.
Tor Sellström: In his biography, Nelson Mandela mentions that he had visits by an International Red Cross representative who was Swedish and who was not very sympathetic at all.
Indres Naidoo: I would not know that. But talking about visits from the Nordic countries, I must tell you one little story before I go any further. In 1960, there was a very attractive Swedish journalist who came to Johannesburg to report on the Treason Trial. Her name was Sara Lidman. We used to meet her quite often. She was very attractive. I think that she was reporting for a left-wing newspaper in Sweden. She was arrested in Johannesburg under the Immorality Act with one of the treason accused by the name of Peter Nthite. What happened was that Peter went to her flat in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, where they were sitting talking about the trial. The immorality squad burst into the place and arrested them. Immediately, the Swedish government protested and demanded their release. They released her and put her onto the next plane back to Sweden. Of course, now they could not charge Peter. However, they wanted to. He was an ANC Youth League leader and a treason accused. It would have been big publicity for them if he had been arrested under the Immorality Act.
Tor Sellström: Was he African?
Indres Naidoo: He was African. A married man with children, arrested under the so-called Immorality Act! Now that she had been put on a plane and flown out they could not charge him. They had to have the co-accused to charge him. They had to acquit him.
Tor Sellström: She is a very famous author. When she came back to Sweden she was instrumental in the development of the solidarity movement with South and Southern Africa.
Indres Naidoo: The reason why I have given you an outline of the prison conditions and how we fought them is to show you one of the reasons why they started improving. But this was not the only reason. The second important reason was the constant struggle that the people in the country put up on our behalf. Our people demanded that we should be unconditionally released and that we be recognized as political prisoners. That we should be given treatment as political prisoners. This campaign was very strong throughout the country, in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and the Eastern Cape. The third, very important aspect was the international solidarity.
I remember very clearly that in 1963 about half a dozen or a dozen people would stand in the cold weather outside South Africa House in London, demonstrating and demanding our release. I remember quite clearly that in Paris, outside the South African embassy, anything between ten and twenty would stand, and I remember that even in Stockholm you would find a handful of people coming together, demanding our release. But what is important is that this handful grew as the years went by. This was absolutely fantastic. In the 1980s, we were now talking of tens of thousands—no longer a handful—in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, Bonn or London. In 1988, I was involved in the Free Mandela 70th Birthday Campaign. I took part in the walk from Glasgow to London and 250,000 people gathered in London on Mandela’s birthday. Compare that with 1963, when we had anything between 20 and 30. This had a tremendous impact on bringing about change. Here, of course, Sara Lidman and others who took a prominent part in educating the people of Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries of the horrors of apartheid played a very important role.
On the Island we constantly had new arrivals. The irony, of course, was that we were very happy to see new prisoners coming in! Our comrade was coming with a 25-year sentence, and we were happy that he came to join us! Because he was coming with news of what was happening in our country and what was happening externally. We learned more and more of how the Scandinavian countries had given not only moral support to the liberation movement, but also financial, material support.
When I came out of prison in 1973, one of the first names that really struck me was Olof Palme. I think that he already was the Prime Minister of Sweden and his name was on the lips of every person as one of the champions. I do not know why, but he actually chose South Africa—and in particular ANC—as an important issue. He gave us tremendous support.
Tor Sellström: How do you view this? You were supported by the socialist countries, led by the Soviet Union and the GDR, but also by the Nordic countries.
Indres Naidoo: Well, in Britain we had anti-colonial forces in a very big way. People like Bertrand Russel and John Collins. Britain was a mighty colonial power—‘East to West, North to South, the sun never sets on the British Empire’—and these people took a leading role in the anti-colonial struggle. In France we also had people who were involved in the anti-colonial struggle. I viewed Olof Palme as one of these people. This is how I looked upon it and I found that his contribution to our struggle came from an anti-colonial background.
Tor Sellström: Fundamental to Olof Palme’s vision and politics, as well as to the Social Democratic movement in a broad sense, was the right of small nations to self-determination. I think that this, to a large extent, explains the involvement with countries such as Cuba and Vietnam, but also with the independence struggles in the Portuguese colonies, in Namibia and, of course, the struggle against white minority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa.
Indres Naidoo: What is baffling is that they chose the so-called authentic liberation movements. In South Africa, we had ANC and PAC and for that matter also the Unity Movement; in Namibia, we had SWAPO and SWANU; in Zimbabwe, we had ZAPU and ZANU; in Angola we had three, FNLA, UNITA and MPLA. In Mozambique, we had COREMO and FRELIMO. Yet, they chose FRELIMO in Mozambique, ZAPU in Zimbabwe, SWAPO in Namibia, MPLA in Angola and ANC here. These organizations had close links. They worked together. They exchanged information and, in fact, it has been recorded that ANC people fought in Angola, in Zimbabwe and in Mozambique. These were the authentic liberation movements. Sweden, in particular, supported the so-called authentic struggles. I cannot explain it.
Tor Sellström: Could it be the result of the close personal relationship between some of the Nordic leaders, particularly Olof Palme, and people like Mondlane, Tambo, Neto, Nkomo and Nujoma?
Indres Naidoo: I think that a more important aspect was the integrity of not only the leadership, but the movements as a whole. Subsequently, of course, we had the situation in Zimbabwe where ZAPU and ZANU came together to form the Patriotic Front. Sweden and the Scandinavian countries continued to give support to the Patriotic Front. I think that they were quite realistic in their outlook. They found that these were definitely genuine movements. They were not only talking, but they were actively involved.
It was difficult for PAC to state what it was doing in the country. I remember clearly—it must have been in 1977 or 1978—when I was involved in a discussion with SIDA in Maputo. PAC had applied to Sweden for assistance and SIDA was considering whether they should grant that. They sent out word to all the missions in Southern Africa to give their opinions. I was invited, amongst others, to the Swedish embassy in Maputo and said: ‘Look, if you want to support PAC, that is your business. However, I will tell you what ANC is doing in the country, what our programme is and what we have done.’ I was fresh out of the country and able to give a good account of what was happening in South Africa. I also went on to show that there was no record of what PAC was doing. After giving our side of the story, the Swedish mission in Mozambique was quite convinced that they were going to turn the application down.
Tor Sellström: I think that one important factor was this, namely who actually was delivering the goods. The other important factor was that PAC appeared to be exclusively African. I think that it was a combination of practical and egalitarian policies. When did you leave South Africa?
Indres Naidoo: I got into exile in 1977, not long after the Soweto uprising. My ANC underground unit was recruiting young people and sending them out of the country. We were all ex-Robben Islanders, so we were very careful how we worked. After the Soweto uprising, the number of people that had to leave South Africa increased tremendously. In fact, it threw the whole underground into a bit of a chaos and we had to do things unplanned. We were sending young people out by the dozens, because they were being looked for by the police.
On New Year’s Eve 1976, I was on my way to see comrade Joe Gqabi when I was stopped by somebody who asked where I was going. I said that I was going to see Joe and the person said: ‘Don’t go. He has just been detained’. This worried me a great deal. He was the leader of our group and he had the keys to our underground office, which was under my name. I came home later that day, just before I had to be indoors. This was in Johannesburg. I found a young lady sitting waiting for me and she said: ‘You know, I have been sitting waiting for you for the last three hours. I have been told to tell you to leave the country immediately!’ Of course, I was in a panic. It was New Year’s Eve and, in fact, we were having a gathering at home, which I was not supposed to be attending because I was under house arrest. I kept quiet about the whole thing. People came home that evening and enjoyed New Year’s Eve in my house. I did not say a word to anybody. New Year’s Day I also kept quiet, but the day after I revealed to my family that I had to leave the country and that ANC would be taking me out. I was taken via Swaziland to Mozambique.
I then went around all over Europe and was finally based in Maputo. I developed a very good relationship with the various solidarity movements that were set up in Mozambique. Mozambique was a dynamic area. A lot of people came to Mozambique seeking the challenge to build a new society, a society that we all had been talking about. From Canada we had CUSO sending people. From England we had MAGIC. Mostly professional people, teachers, agricultural workers, experts on water etc. In Sweden we had the Africa Groups, recruiting young people to come and work. From Denmark we had people from WUS and other organizations and from Norway people from the solidarity movement. Then, of course, we had people from the socialist countries. Large numbers from the GDR, Hungary, the Soviet Union and Cuba, coming to help.
Tor Sellström: There were also many from Latin America, from Chile and Uruguay, that came via the Nordic countries?
Indres Naidoo: There were lots of Chileans. Most of them were refugees and a lot of them were based in the Nordic countries, in Sweden in particular. There was also a very large number of Brazilians. However, in the beginning we found that the only people who were properly organized were the Africa Groups’ people. They came as a group and they used to meet us as a group. We made contact with them immediately and they gave us both moral and material support. I must emphasize that the moral support was absolutely excellent. We would organize a demonstration and find them there with their banners. So what did we do? We decided to get all the other groups organized as well. MAGIC was not difficult. CUSO was not difficult either.
The Chileans were very well organized in Maputo, although there were different factions. There was the Communist Party of Chile, MIR and a few other groups. But in Mozambique there was no difference. They worked as a Chilean solidarity group. Of course, the GDR and Cuba were not a problem. We had all these groups that would give us support.
SIDA, on the other hand, would give us large sums of money. Our numbers fluctuated from hundreds to thousands. There was a time in the late 1970s when the number of people fleeing the country was incredible. We could at any given time have 200 people just coming in and we had to look after these people. Here SIDA played an important role. We would inform SIDA and say that we had so many refugees coming in and that we would need support. SIDA’s funds were controlled from the ANC Head Office in Lusaka and Lusaka would allocate the money to us. But we would also go directly to the SIDA office in Maputo and explain our needs. They would then help us to bring in more money and more material.
There was SIDA, NORAD, DANIDA and FINNIDA. All of them were officially involved with ANC. But then there were the solidarity people. On the May Day demonstrations they were all there. They would come en bloc to our meetings. I also remember when the Matola raid took place in January 1981 and thirteen of our comrades were shot dead. SIDA, NORAD, FINNIDA and others gave us material support, but the solidarity groups came to us and said: ‘What do you want us to do?’
I must tell you that very often our people would use the Africa Groups’ people to go to South Africa on quick missions via Swaziland. I would think that there might have been some SIDA people too who would have done that, but they were more official. They had diplomatic status. This was very useful to us. If I ever wanted something in Swaziland and I wanted it urgently, I would not hesitate to go to somebody from the Africa Groups and say: ‘Please, go to Swaziland and do this or that for me’.
There was a case in point where we had to send a person to South Africa to do certain work. A Swedish woman got into her car and went to South Africa. They were instructed not to go there, but she went to South Africa, did the job, came back and phoned me. Of course, we had a code. I went and met her in Julius Nyerere Avenue, got into her car and while we were talking I noticed that we were followed. I told her to turn and she drove towards the beach, but I noticed that we were still being followed. I then said to her: ‘Listen, we are being followed. I do not know who is following us, but we are being followed and we got to lose our tail’. She was fantastic. She drove up the hill from the beach. I think that they used to call it ‘Lover’s Walk’ or ‘Lover’s Hill’. She drove up to Karl Marx Street, pulled into the bushes and waited until the car passed us. We waited some time and off we went. These were little things which helped a great deal.
Tor Sellström: Did you work with other Nordic organizations in Mozambique?
Indres Naidoo: Yes, there was also a Danish group. In fact, the person who was in charge of the Danish group for a long time was Alpheus Mangezi’s wife, Nadja Mangezi. Through her a lot of work was done. Then there was another group that was very idealistic. They put up tents and brought along their little kids to live in the tents with them.
Tor Sellström: Danish Aid People to People, DAPP?
Indres Naidoo: Yes, People to People. We had good relations, but, of course, we found it difficult to work with them. They were very idealistic. In fact, they would criticize ANC for having all the cars that we had. But, all the same, their support was unending. I appreciated it and the farms that they put up, the dams that they were building and so forth.
Tor Sellström: Do you feel that the official support from the Nordic countries was given with political conditions attached to it?
Indres Naidoo: After the Nkomati Accord our official numbers were drastically dropped to ten families. We came down from ten thousand to maybe twenty people. We then faced a problem with SIDA. We had to inform SIDA and they said: ‘Well, we are cutting your allocation by 80 per cent’. Of course, we had to tell SIDA that many of our people had gone underground and that they were in more need than before. How were we to look after them? I was among the ten that had to see SIDA about this. SIDAs agreement was to give purely humanitarian assistance. No support to the armed struggle. Working with SIDA, I very often spoke about MK and I made no bones about the fact that we were involved with the armed struggle. The SIDA people listened to us and it was quite obvious that we were taking some of the money for MK activities. But, what they did not see and what they did not talk about we kept quiet about. Now, all of a sudden, the allocation was to be cut by 80 per cent. How were we going to manage?
We had sent hundreds and hundreds of people out of the country, but who did we send out? We sent out old men, women and children. We were not sending out names, we were sending out numbers to Tanzania and other places. The others had all gone into hiding, like ‘Guebuza’ Nyanda, who is now Chief of Staff in the South African National Defence Force. Jacob Zuma and myself went to see SIDA and put our cards on the table. We said: ‘Yes, it is true that we officially are only ten ANC families in Mozambique, but we also have lots of children. We got to look after them’. They said: ‘OK, give us the names. No problem’. We then said: ‘We also have others that you do not see, but we cannot give you their names’. We put it to them and, of course, it was a problem. We also said that the flow of refugees continued, although it had come down quite a bit, and that we had to look after these people as well. After some debate on the issue they said: ‘OK, just give us a list of names, meaningless names, and we will accept it’. Which they did.
So, we managed to convince the SIDA people. We did not, in so many words, say that we had underground people. It was accepted and they continued to give us the full funding.
Tor Sellström: Well, within the SIDA budget to the ANC there was an allocation for so-called home front activities. It was also granted on trust. When it came to reporting, the only requirement was a political statement.
Indres Naidoo: That is right. I know about it. Of that, probably 50 per cent went directly to the armed struggle. Anyway, it was interesting that the SIDA officials in Maputo accepted our argument. We never told them about our underground people.
Something similar happened with the Mozambicans. The Mozambican Minister of Security, Jacinto Veloso, called all of us and said: ‘Well, you know your status now. You are diplomats’. He spoke in Portuguese, giving us the official line. After that he dismissed the translators. We were having drinks and he said: ‘When I was in exile in Tanzania, the government said that we must stop carrying arms! But we still carried our arms and we got to Mozambique. What they did not see did not hurt them’. That is all he said. He did not say anything else. I will never forget that.
I must tell you of another incident. In about 1985 we went to get our allocation from SIDA, but the SIDA officials said that there was something wrong. ‘You guys are getting money from somewhere else, because the ANC account has a quarter of a million dollars. How did you get that? Until you tell us who has given you the money we are not going to give you the allocation’. We said: ‘Nonsense, there is no quarter of a million dollars!’ Then we went to check and discovered that there was a quarter of a million dollars! Bobby Pillay had just taken over the treasury and I said to him: ‘Bobby, go and check. How come that we have a quarter of a million. Who has given us this money?’ SIDA insisted that they wanted to know who else was supporting us, but Bobby said that this particular account was only for SIDA, nobody else. Eventually, I went to the bank and they let me see a quarter of a million’. There was no explanation how this money had got there.
We then had a meeting and said: ‘There is this quarter of a million, but we do not know where it comes from’. We decided not to use the money. How were we to account for it? But since we were not getting any money from SIDA we were forced to. We met again and said: ‘OK, let us use it, but very carefully. Let us not overspend!’ We started to use the money, being very worried. Somebody was Father Christmas, giving us money. I went back to the bank and said: ‘Please, let us check this money’. The woman who was the manager of the bank sat with us the whole day until they finally found the mistake. One extra nought! The bank had added an extra nought by mistake! So we said: ‘Now, what do we do?’ Knowing nothing about finance matters, I simply said: ‘Listen, we now have a big overdraft, but you must not charge us interest on that. After all, it is your fault, not ours’. She was in a bit of a mess. Eventually we agreed that they would give us a year of grace to settle the amount. We then went to SIDA to explain the whole story.
Tor Sellström: After Mozambique, you were invited to Sweden?
Indres Naidoo: That is right. In 1987, ANC was celebrating its 75th anniversary and at the same time the Swedish ABF (Workers’ Education Association) was celebrating its 75th anniversary. On a very cold January evening they had an open air ANC meeting in Stockholm, where the Swedish Foreign Minister read out a letter from the Prime Minister. He offered scholarships to come to Sweden and study local government administration. I was in the first ANC group that was chosen to go to Sweden. By this time I had already left Mozambique.
Let me tell you why I left Mozambique: I survived the Nkomati Accord and was one of the ten ANC people that remained in Maputo. On Christmas Day 1986, P.W. Botha wrote to President Chissano and said that there were six terrorists in Mozambique who were responsible for 90 per cent of all terror activities in South Africa. He named them as Jacob Zuma, Susan Rabkin, Bobby Pillay, Mohamed Timol, Keith Mokoape and Indres Naidoo. He then went on to say that if they were not removed from Mozambique, he could not be held responsible for what would happen to them. At the same time, he threatened to block the port of Maputo and disrupt the Beira Corridor project.
Chissano called our President and had long discussions with him. The Mozambicans did not insist that we leave, but it was quite clear that they would like us to go. It was too dangerous for all concerned. Tambo agreed, but we insisted that we were going to see in the New Year in Mozambique and that we were going to see the 1987 anniversary of ANC there. We did so and then all six of us left.
I got to Zambia and while I was there, I was appointed to go to Sweden. It was chaotic. Only two of us were on the plane instead of nine. There was chaos between ANC and the Swedish embassy in Lusaka. The two of us landed in Stockholm and a week later the others joined us. The Social Democratic Party was having a congress in Stockholm and Prime Minister Carlsson invited us to have lunch with him, all of us. But, unfortunately, because only two of us had arrived they had to cancel that. However, there was a big welcome for us. We also went to attend the Social Democratic Party congress. I looked around and the first thing that struck me was all the red banners and the letters SAP. I started to laugh and said: ‘Oh God, SAP—South African Police— everywhere’. But I realized that SAP was short for the Swedish Social Democratic Party.
When the others pitched up we were taken to the LO school at Brunnsvik, where we spent two weeks studying the theory of local administration, the civil structures of Sweden, the laws, the police force etc. It was a very exciting course. I enjoyed it very much. The Swedes seemed to have prepared it very well, the materials were there and the living conditions were absolutely fantastic. The school was really top class. I travelled quite often to Stockholm, because each time there was some meeting I would be asked to go there. After we had completed the course, we were then allocated to different areas to see the local government structures in operation.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was not paired up. We were nine and as a result I was alone. The people who were in charge of me drove me all the way to Sundsvall, where they rented a flat for me. A fully furnished flat, right in the centre of town. I got a daily allowance for food, but I never ate at home. The only thing that I ever had at home was breakfast, because I was out at lunch-time. I went to factories. I went to schools. I went to government offices, and I used to have my lunch there.
Tor Sellström: Was it the local ABF office that set up the programme for you in Sundsvall?
Indres Naidoo: Yes, the local ABF. The agreement between ANC and ABF was that we should spend time with all political parties, the Social Democrats, the Communists or Left Party, the Liberal Party and the Centre Party, and that agreement was kept. I was very busy. I sat in at meetings of the local council and they took me along to show me how the local administration worked. I spent two days with the police force. I went on the road with the police and I stayed at the police station. I spoke to the prisoners. I also spent some time with young people who had a club which was controlled by the police. It was a very good way of keeping the kids off the streets. A lot of them were drop-outs, but they controlled them and kept them together, which was very exciting.
I then spent two days with the Centre Party. I was taken to a farm and it was very impressive. On the farm there were a husband and wife and two adult sons and a daughter. Just the five of them controlled the entire farm. It was a dairy farm and they had fields of alfalfa. They worked very hard. They were up at five in the morning, milking the cows, collecting the eggs and so forth. It was the first time in my life that I stayed on a farm and saw it in operation. I am a city man. Smelling the cow dung it was very exciting!!
Tor Sellström: What was your impression of people’s knowledge about apartheid and the South African struggle?
Indres Naidoo: Well, it was good. I addressed a number of schools and colleges in Sundsvall. I was very impressed by the way they would question me, especially the young kids. They would challenge me: ‘Look, you cannot tell me that blacks were not allowed into certain buildings?’ It was difficult to explain it to them. They would not believe it. When I told them that blacks had never represented South Africa in sports and so forth, they would question me. Generally, I think that most of the adults had quite a good knowledge of what apartheid was. But I was also challenged, sometimes to the extreme.
One thing that I will never forget was when I was travelling from Stockholm to Sundsvall by train. There were only two of us in a compartment, myself and a young man. He introduced himself and I introduced myself and we started to talk. As we went on our night journey, I realized more and more that this chap was a right-winger. I then became a bit concerned. I was with a right-winger and he was digging into my background. I was avoiding certain questions. It was at the time when a Russian spy had escaped from a Swedish prison and they could not find him anywhere. They put up roadblocks and the seas were being searched. This guy was challenging this. ‘How did this spy escape? It is definitely the government’s work. The government and the Communists are responsible. Moscow is responsible’. He was attacking Moscow, left, right and centre. I just shrugged and kept quiet, saying yes, yes. He insisted that Russian submarines were violating the Swedish waters and he was absolutely certain that this chap was in one of the submarines! Of course, he went on to talk about terrorism. But I kept my cool and did not let out who I was. This was the only time something like that happened during my six months in Sweden.