Struggle Days
 
 
 
Read more THE PARALLEL STRUGGLE IN THE HOME
Read more THE VULA COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM
Read more PAID JOBS IN LUSAKA, ZAMBIA
Read more THE STRUGGLE IN POETRY AND SONG
 
 
THE PARALLEL STRUGGLE IN THE HOME


Those whose partners had to be away from home to be in the front lines to carry South Africa’s struggle for freedom forward were in a struggle of their own: to keep family and home intact by keeping hope alive in the face of uncertainty about the safety and survival of their loved ones, by trying to uplift the morale and courage (and absent-father syndrome) of their children.

This struggle, referred to by Professor Fatima Meer, women's leader, sociologist and author as ‘the 'parallel struggle' of the family waged by the women and the children’ still remains largely invisible, even though President Mandela has forthrightly acknowledged it.

He says, for example: ' We are ... indebted to Mac's wife, Zarina, and their children - and to the families of all comrades - for the contribution they made. Were it not for their selfless support when husbands and fathers were away, often in very uncertain circumstances, for their bearing with the uncertainty, for absorbing the pain of loss and the loneliness of separation, our struggle would never have stayed the course. In our absence they became our surrogates, and the contribution they made to the struggle for freedom is no less than ours.' (p.19 of President Mandela's foreword to ’ Shades of Difference - Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa by University of Massachusetts Professor of History, Padraig O’Malley, Penguin, 2007).

‘Dancing to a Different Rhythm’ is Zarina's own account of this parallel, invisible struggle, both before South Africa won its freedom from apartheid in 1994, and in the ongoing struggle post-apartheid to attain the democracy envisioned by President Mandela and the co-leaders of his time, giants whose dream of a better country for all its people is yet to be realised.

 
THE VULA COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM

‘Operation Vula's most spectacular achievement - the creation of the communications system that linked Vula in South Africa with Lusaka via London in real time - was a team effort with the bulk of the credit due to Tim Jenkin and his partnership with Ronnie Press, both in London, and the technical expertise of Zarina Maharaj in Lusaka. That three-way collaboration produced a system of communications that eluded the best of the state’s tracking devices‘ writes historian and political biographer Professor Padraig O’Malley of the University of Massachusetts (Boston)‘

In his foreword to O'Malley's biography, President Mandela says of this system, which pre-dated email by a year:

‘It reached into my quarters at Victor Verster Prison, ensuring that my communications with Lusaka were directed through a more secure and quicker channel … [it] extended the boundaries of the struggle., and in doing that transformed the nature of the struggle itself. For the first time ever the ANC was able to connect the various tentacles of the struggle...The communications system…allowed for direct communication between the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the ANC underground structures, and between the underground and Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), creating a synergy among them, allowing each to re-inforce the other in a dynamic context…. ’.

A lone parent of troubled children ('..it's not when, but if, we'll ever see Dad alive again' Zarina's young son Amilcar often agonised), Zarina found operating this communications system from Lusaka - and training underground cadres in it use - fraught, especially done as it was in the homes allocated to her by her employers, first, as a 'Technical Co-operation Officer' working on behalf of the UK government's Overseas Development Agency (ODA) with the Zambian Government, and then on behalf of the United Nations Centre for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) working with the Southern Africa Preferential Trade Area, both positions rewarded with all the perks of diplomatic status, which on some occasions she had to draw on to bridge funding for the underground Vula project inside South Africa.

 
PAID JOBS IN LUSAKA, ZAMBIA

As sole breadwinner and sole parent of the family she was lucky to have paid jobs, but struggled to juggle them with her family responsibilities and her clandestine work with Vula.

Small wonder she fell asleep at the steering wheel on her way home from her full-time job one night while Mac was working underground in South Africa, and woke up two days later in hospital, with 19 bone fractures! And many life fractures to follow…..
 

 
THE STRUGGLE IN POETRY AND SONG


While living and working in London Zarina had become a member of Mayibuye, the ANC's London-based cultural unit. Through song and poetry Mayibuye took the message of the South African struggle to the British people. The unit was later invited to Europe, where they became a hit, and were often asked to return to perform. They even cut a disc!
 

Her stint with Mayibuye ended when she headed southwards for newly-independent Mozambique, a much-needed personally liberating experience after London’s stifling, claustrophobic, 'holier-than-thou' exile politics, dominated as it was by the Stalinists in the movement.
 

An attempt she made to debate with one of these leading Stalinists regarding Marxist theory remains etched in her mind. As she recounts in her memoir, 'Dancing to a Different Rhythm', she'd asked a certain ANC leader,Ronnie Kasrils, to explain why he saw the Marxist theory of history and society as the undisputed 'winning horse' in the race of social theories. His intolerant rebuke shocked her because it simply closed off any debate about the validity of other paradigms for understanding society and the world. 'It is the only horse in the race!

Then how could the 'only horse in the race' have ended up losing the race? One wonders if, or how, Kasrils continues to justify this paradigm of world history and society as the only lens through which to understand society.

 

Performing with Mayibuye in Stockholm, Sweden

 

Protesting apartheid murders in London in the 1970’s

 

With friends in London. Dulcie September (left) later assassinated In Paris by apartheid agents
 

 

With colleagues and friends in Mozambique

 

With Mac at the Indian Ocean, Zarina's 'backyard' in Maputo.