' You can cut the flowers, but you can't stop Spring from coming.' - Pablo Neruda
Zarina Maharaj is the writer/producer/director of the TV docudrama 'Flat 13', written for ETV - a South African TV channel with a global reach - and sought by the US's PBS TV channel for screening to US audiences (see Film) She is also the author of the award-winning book 'Dancing to a Different Rhythm' (see Memoir) .
A dual South African/British national with an M.Sc in Mathematics from the University of Nottingham (UK), she worked in the London-based Xerox International team - that had earlier patented the revolutionary concept of the compact digital fax machine - on helping develop the patent's prototype, which was to take the communications market by storm. She then taught Mathematics at Portuguese-speaking Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique, during which she also took up a temporary secondment by the university to assess the feasibility of designing a computer-based information storage and retrieval system for the office of President Samora Machel.
Subsequently employed by the British government's Overseas Development Administration (ODA), and in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, she developed information technology applications for the Ministry of Education of the Zambian government, 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, living in exile from apartheid South Africa, she worked at night in the anti-apartheid freedom movement'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. She initially operated this computer-based communications system that linked in real time, just pre- email, the ANC's leadership in exile to the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) fighting apartheid inside South Africa. Then helped train underground operatives in its use.
With messages sent through this system reaching Nelson Mandela in prison by subterfuge, President Mandela later wrote that 'this communications system extended the boundaries of the struggle, and in doing that transformed the nature of the struggle itself.'
In democratic South Africa Zarina wrote fortnightly newspaper columns as well as journal articles on issues of gender and socio-economic development (Publications), became 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) and became a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.
Then the historical docudrama 'Flat 13' that she'd written, produced, directed and narrated as a staffer at ETV (now eNCA) was hailed by the US's PBS TV channel but unsuccessfully sought by them for screening to US audiences (Film) .
For President Nelson Mandela's views on the abuse of power to which Zarina's family was subjected following his term as President of South Africa's first-ever democratically-elected government see Shades of Difference and Abuse of Power
And for his views on the role of wives and mothers in the struggle for freedom see Struggle Days .