You can cut the flowers, but you can't stop Spring from coming.' Pablo Neruda
Zarina Maharaj is the writer/producer/director of the PBS-acclaimed TV docudrama 'Flat 13' (see Film) and the award-winning author of 'Dancing to a Different Rhythm', a woman's perspective on what life was like in the ANC-in-exile fighting against South Africa's system of racism-by-law, 'apartheid', which included the disenfranchisement of all SA's non-whites, with black Africans the overwhelming majority. Her perspective sheds light also on the years of democracy following apartheid's defeat in 1994, years of glory but also of the vile abuse of political power that started in 1999, post- President Nelson Mandela's term as Head of State. Such abuse included character assassinations, both through unproven allegations of plots against then President Mbeki, President Mandela's successor, and bribery and corruption allegations against some, including Zarina and Mac Maharaj. Yet no corruption charges were ever brought against them. (See Abuse of Power ). Sadly also, as at 2017, deep social divisions have replaced the legacy of struggle icons like the late Mandela, Albertina and Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada, who sought to unite the diverse peoples of this country across race. The struggle for such unity in diversity of South Africans remains as much a challenge today as ever: the so-called 'rainbow nation' is a myth.
A dual South African/British national with an M.Sc in Mathematics from the University of Nottingham (UK), Zarina joined the London-based Xerox International team - that had patented the revolutionary concept of the compact digital fax machine - to work in the team on developing this concept's prototype, which was to take the communications market by storm. Subsequently she taught Mathematics at Portuguese-speaking Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique. Then, 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 in exile from South Africa, she worked at night in 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. She initially operated the Vula communications system - developed by Tim Jenkin at the request of Vula's Commander, Mac Maharaj - 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.
With messages sent through this system secretly reaching Nelson Mandela in prison, President Mandela later wrote - in his foreword to 'Shades of Difference: Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa', Penguin Books, (2008) by Padraig.O'Malley - 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 newspaper columns and journal articles on issues of gender and social and economic development (see 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.
She then wrote, produced, directed and narrated 'Flat 13', an historical docudrama for ETV (now eNCA), a popular English-speaking South African TV channel with a global reach. This film was sought by the USA's documentary channel PBS for screening to US audiences, but PBS was refused the required permission by ETV. Zarina then gained admission to a beginners' online class for Screenwriting for Film and TV at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT).
Her then-husband Mac Maharaj was among the first group of perceived political rivals of President Mandela's successor, President Thabo Mbeki. whose feuds against his 'enemies' - with Zarina caught in the crossfire - began SA's downward spiral into grossly unjust abuses and centralisation of power, aided by Mbeki's still existing faction in the media. His distance from the rank and file finally led to his expulsion as President, an unceremonious ousting resulting also from the 300,000 preventable deaths from AIDS he had caused through his AIDS denialism (which continues to this day) expressed when he was President as his refusal to allow AIDS sufferers the Anti-Retrovirals (ARVs) that could have saved their lives. Why? Because 'HIV causes AIDS' is a false belief promoted by pseudo-scientists as part of a Western conspiracy! This is the kind of paranoia and power
the Maharaj's were up against, its impact on their children harrowing.
For President Nelson Mandela's views on Mac Maharaj's contribution to the struggle, a contribution which President Mbeki was intent on slandering, see Shades of Difference and Abuse of Power Not surprisingly, those with their own personal agendas latched onto this abuse through social and mainstream media.
For President Mandela's views on the role of wives and mothers in the struggle for freedom see Struggle Days .