Zarina Maharaj is the award-winning author of 'Dancing to a Different Rhythm', a woman's perspective of what life was like both in the ANC-in-exile fighting South Africa's apartheid system and in the years of democracy following apartheid's defeat - years of glory but also of the abuse of political power and of personal vendettas.

An M.Sc in Mathematics from the University of Nottingham (UK), she joined the London-based international team, that had patented the concept of the fax machine, to help develop a prototype of the machine, subsequently teaching Mathematics at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique. Then, employed by the British Overseas Development Administration (ODA), and in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, she developed information technology applications for Zambia's Ministry of Education. Following which, working for the Geneva-based UN Centre for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), she developed information technology applications to facilitate regional trade among the thirteen member states of the Preferential Trade Area of Southern and Eastern Africa (PTA).

During this period in exile, she worked at night in the the ANC's communications team on a highly secret mission, 'Operation Vula' (Open the Road), an operation tasked by then ANC President Oliver Tambo to open the road for the ANC's leaders in exile to return clandestinely to South Africa. Zarina initially operated this system (developed a year pre-email by Tim Jenkin at the request of Vula's commander, Mac Maharaj) that linked the ANC's leadership in exile to the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) fighting apartheid inside South Africa. With messages sent through this system secretly reaching Nelson Mandela in prison, President Mandela later wrote of the system that 'it extended the boundaries of the struggle, and in doing that, transformed the nature of the struggle itself.' (see the foreword to 'Shades of Difference', Penguin Books, 2008).

In democratic South Africa Zarina wrote newspaper columns and journal articles on issues of gender and economic development, and was a consultant to business on women's economic empowerment, having obtained an M.A in Gender and Development from the UK's Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex.

She later wrote, directed, produced and narrated the PBS - acclaimed historical docudrama 'Flat 13' for ETV (now eNCA), an English-speaking South African TV channel with a global reach. Shortly thereafter she gained admission to the Professional Screenwriting Program at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television.

A long-standing trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, Zarina's then husband Mac Maharaj was among the first victims of the abuse of political power by President Mandela's successor, President Thabo Mbeki, who acted ruthlessly against his perceived political rivals, and who was later to be ousted as president because of the thousands of preventable deaths from AIDS he was responsible for causing through his refusal to allow AIDS sufferers the Anti-Retrovirals that could have saved their lives, recommending garlic and beetroot to cure them instead. This because he saw the advice by foreign governments to treat SA's AIDS epidemic with ARV's as a 'western conspiracy' against Africans, similar to the 'threats' he'd imagined against him by some of his colleagues. The words of the USA's First Lady Michelle Obama come to mind here: 'The presidency doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are.'

For President Nelson Mandela's views on the political climate spawned during Mbeki's term of office to discredit Maharaj's contribution to the struggle see Shades of Difference  and Abuse of Power. 

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The Memoir


Dancing to a Different Rhythm - a memoir .. more..
Making Films


Flat 13, made for ETV .. more..