Convicted, East German Trained Terrorist, to Speak at Auckland Girls Grammar


If you want to hear a genuine,convicted, East German trained former terrorist, come along tonight to the Dorothy Winstone Centre at Auckland Girls Grammar tonight at 7pm.

“Mac” Maharaj is in NZ for one meeting to promote a new biography of Nelson Mandela.

Hear one of South Africa’s key democracy fighters speak about his extraordinary life – including the 12 years he spent imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela.

Mac Maharaj has played a major role in the anti-apartheid struggle, both inside and outside South Africa, and was one of two editorial consultants on the recently published book, Mandela: The Authorised Portrait.

Now a banker and businessman, Maharaj was one of the key players in the South African revolution.

Of Indian/Muslim descent Sathyandranath “Mac” Maharaj was born in Natal South Africa in 1935.

He became active in the liberation struggle in 1953 while at university in Natal.

Maharaj worked on New Age magazine with communists Ruth First and Brian Bunting and joined the then-banned South African Communist Party in 1958.

He soon left South Africa for the UK, where he was a founder of Anti-Apartheid Movement and the South African Freedom Association.

Maharaj was active in the British National Union of Teachers and the British Communist Party and was also part of the UK-based collective of the SACP which produced The African Communist.

After the 1961 Sharpeville shootings, he was asked to return to South Africa, to work underground on a full-time basis in the underground. Before returning he was one of the first South Africans to undergo military training in East Germany.

Maharaj joined the ANC’s underground military wing, Umkonto we Sizwe in May 1962. He was arrested in July 1964, charged with no less than 177 acts of sabotage and sentenced to 12 years on Robben Island.

After release in 1976, he travelled to Lusaka to work in the ANC’s HQ in exile. He became the secretary of the underground section of the ANC in 1977 and was elected to the ANC’s National Executive Committee in 1985.

Maharaj was also a member of the of the SACP’s political bureau and central committee.

Maharaj officially returned to South Africa in May 1990 and was arrested in July as the commander of the ANC’s underground terrorist campaign, Operation Vula.

Maharaj and eight others were charged with terrorism and illegal possession of arms, ammunition and explosives. It was alleged that they had conspired to create a national underground network or “revolutionary army” to seize power should negotiations with the government fail.

The case against Maharaj and his comrades collapsed when they were granted indemnity.

After his release he played a major role in the negotations to hold multi party elections. He was joint secretary in 1994 of the Transitional Executive Council whose task was to ensure that the April elections was fair to all parties

Maharaj was elected to Parliament on the ANC ticket in 1994 and was appointed Minister of Transport.

He resigned in 1999 and since involved himself in some controversial business deals.

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8 thoughts on “Convicted, East German Trained Terrorist, to Speak at Auckland Girls Grammar

  1. Sounds like a freedom fighter not a terrorist. Remember the Nazis used to call partisans, who blew government buildings and German soldiers up sometimes, in Europe ‘terrorists’.

  2. The ANC used to blow up nightclubs and set bombs outside supermarkets Cameron.

    If a Maori radical did that in NZ, I’d be interested to know what you’d call him?

    The fact that Maharaj was a leading communist also disqualifies him from being a freedom fighter.

    A “slavery” fighter, maybe.

  3. Trevor, do you believe the South African authorities were following due and fair process when they imprisoned Maharaj and Mandela?

  4. From my understanding the trials were fair, though I stand to be corrected.

    Maharaj claims to have been extensively tortured in prison. If true I could never condone that.

    South Africa under Botha was a semi fascist state fighting a Soviet backed insurrection.

    Neither side were angels.

  5. I have been frustrated trying to find detailed commentaries on the legal system during apartheid, however I presume the fact that Maharaj would be regarded as colored under apartheid, he would have been denied what we would deem fair process. The fact that it was illegal for him to join a trade union, illegal to have sex with a white woman, was not legally allowed to buy liquor, was not legally allowed to attend a white church, was not allowed to swim on a designated ‘white’ beach and such like really makes me question the fact he was given a fair trial…

    Interestingly enough, one of the acts he was charged under was simply because he belonged to the ANC (The Unlawful Organisations Act) which in itself carried a 10 year prison sentence if the white judge decided it be so.

  6. From my own reading Oliver, I gather that the SA judicial system was relatively independent and fair in its judgements.

    The laws it was called on to enforce were of course often anything but fair. That was the fault of the government, not the judiciary.

  7. To be fair to Mr Maharaj, if my country was overrun by a pack of racist nazis and the West wasn’t prepared to do anything about it, I wouldn’t be above a bit of communist training myself.

    Would be interested to hear you cite examples of Umkhonto targeting civilians Trevor, as my understanding was that they only ran sabotage campaigns, or targeted military and police, which I don’t see as terrorist activity. Poqo may have targeted white civilians, but I don’t know enough about them or their activities.

  8. Google the Magoos nightclub bombing in Durban Blair. It was a nightclub frequented by some military personnel, but as far as I know, the two women and one man killed were civilians.

    As I said, supermarket carparks were a favourite target at one stage.

    There is a difference between fighting a war and targetting innocent people.

    Umkhonto We Sizwe crossed that line many times.

    As bad as Apartheid was, there is no comparison with the scale of murder and torture committed by the ANC against their own people in punishment camps in Mozambique etc.

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