||Work In Progress Nightadders
by Ernst Havemann
When I talked about getting some
white infiltrators, the Congress chiefs laughed at me.
So I decided to do it myself
OF COURSE I belong to Mkhonto, Umkhonto we Sizwe, the Spear of the Nation. Everyone who wants to get anywhere in the movement tries to get into Mkhonto. It shows you are dedicated to the Armed Struggle. I worked with Mbaimbai Ntombela on a couple of operations and then lost faith. If we had tanks and rockets and recoil-less rifles like the PLO or the mujahedeen or those South American guerrillas, that would be an Armed Struggle. But blowing up an electricity substation or a councillor's house, that's not Armed Struggle, mfowethu, that's Unarmed Struggle. It's just Angry Gesture.
Mind you, I'm not against a bit of violence, just to keep the temperature up. These kids who do their toyi toyi jumps in the air at funeral processions or throw stones at armoured cars and get shot, they're making a contribution too. It's the Anger Struggle, the Adrenalin Struggle, and it keeps tempers hot, keeps people resentful.
The trouble about Angry Gesture is this: half the time the poor heroes that make them are nervous or clumsy and haven't had practice with live materials, and so they blow themselves up. (You don't hear of policemen doing that, do you?) Or else the bloody East Germans or Chinese have given us the wrong kind of bomb; like those hand grenades at Market Street. Do you know about hand grenades? They have a cotter pin that you pull out to set the explosive off. There's a delay of three or four seconds before the explosion, so you can pull out the pin and throw the grenade and still have time to duck behind shelter before it goes off. At Market Street we had four Mkhonto boys all set to throw the grenades simultaneously at the army battalion marching through town. Well, these bloody Russian grenades -RDG5's or some other impressive number like that -- they didn't have a delay. They went off as soon as the pin was pulled, like a booby trap. We lost the four men, blown into bloody pieces, and 10 or 12 spectators. Nice gift from our friends abroad.
The fellow who brought the grenades from Zimbabwe disappeared, but the teenage Comrades found his girlfriend. Have you ever heard 30 or 40 kids chanting "I -- Kentucky! I -- fry!" and dancing around a girl that they've doused with petrol and set alight? It tells you we shouldn't let the adrenalin thing go on for too long, eh.
I did not enjoy it. So I got into A.N.C.'s diplomatic section and after a bit they put me in Lesotho, to watch what was happening across the border in the Republic.
Every week or so there was an incident, and a lot of the time you could tell the authorities knew in advance. It was because of their nightadders. A nightadder is a very small poisonous snake. It comes out at night and lies in a footpath, I don't know why. Then if anyone treads on it, it swings over and sinks its fangs in the person's foot. A man can get a nasty shot of venom that way, yet never see what bit him. That is why we call government informers and collaborators nightadders. There are hundreds of them. Some are big people, like head teachers or shopkeepers, and some are beggars. Most do it for money, but some believe they're doing what is right.
I thought, Why haven't we got our nightadders, too -- in the police, in the public service, in the president's office? Why don't we have our Rosenbergs and Kim Philby and Burgess and such?
To be really useful, they would have to be white of course, but white and cool, not white and angry. Not like that girl Monica we had. Remember her? Before she joined us she had blown up the Progressive Offices -- the Pink Fucking Progressive Offices! And why? Because they were not revolutionary enough! Then, after all our indoctrination and training, and sending her overseas, she comes back and blows up a courthouse lavatory. She kills a few white policemen and a few black civilians and then gets caught carrying dynamite. She had balls, that girl, balls as big as bloody hydroceles, man, but mostly she had Anger. And what did she achieve? One less washroom and 25 years in jail. Have you seen the wardresses in the political wing of that women's prison? Ilse Koch, man.
When I talked about our getting some white infiltrators, the Congress chiefs laughed at me. So I decided to do it myself. And one day the Lesotho police brought in a big, fair-haired young Boer, Daniel Moolman. He had crossed the border pretending he was fly fishing -- there are lots of trout in the streams that start in Lesotho and flow down into the Republic -- and walked into the nearest Lesotho government office and said he was a refugee.
I interviewed him wearing my stocking mask. I explained it was so that we wouldn't have to kill him to keep my identity concealed. You should have seen him stiffen.
He had an M.A. in economics, and he played rugby for the University First Fifteen, and he thought South Africa needed to change. He had just received his military call-up notice and he was damned if he was going to shoot blacks just because they wanted the same rights as he had. No, he didn't know the difference between the A.N.C. and P.A.C. and Azapo. No, he didn't think he would be prepared to derail a passenger train. But he was against apartheid.
I said to him, "Mfowethu, mfowethu, Daniel. You are an embarrassment. If the South Africans hear you are here, they can use it as an excuse for a raid on Lesotho. You don't know about sabotage techniques, and if we teach you and send you back there you'll be recognized immediately: you are a big, fair, dropkick rugby hero. You don't want to kill us, but you don't want to kill them. Perhaps you've come to the wrong office, man. Perhaps you should try going into social work."
He looked a bit despondent. He had probably thought he'd be welcomed and lionized a bit. I didn't offer him a bed in my house, but put him in a hut, on a mat on the ground, with two shepherds. They smelt like men do who are out in the mountains all day and never have more hot water than they need for making porridge.
Next morning Daniel Moolman looked a little less like a South African golden boy.
"Do you still want to join us?" I asked, and be smiled his friendly smile and said yes. "Well," I said, "You can he a big help to US. Go back, do your military service, become an Officer, learn about weapons and intelligence and counterinsurgency. Then go into business as you had intended, join organizations, but nothing left or liberal. And one day perhaps we'll need you. O.K.?"
His eyes widened a bit, but he nodded enthusiastically. (And why not? He could salve his conscience and still have a career.)
"Meantime, we'll keep in touch." I cut a corner off a sheet of paper to make a triangle a couple of inches across and gave it to him. "When you find a triangle like this lying about, it's from us. Like a friendly postcard just to say, 'Sabona, mfowethu.' That means 'Hallo, brother."'
The shepherds guided him back to South Africa, showed him a pool with big trout, and left him to make his way back to the Troutbeck Hotel and tell a story about getting lost in the mist.
That was 10 years ago. He's a major in the reserve of officers now and is high up in a mining group. Every year or so -- when he got commissioned in the army, when he got married, when he was called out for the Mbani Riot -- I send him a triangle. He finds it in a jacket back from the dry cleaners, or on his desk on a Monday morning, or in his mail box. Once the triangle said "Presbyterian church 10 a.m." He was there and my man watched him until he left at 11 o'clock. Another time the triangle asked him to put a neighbour's car key in a certain mail box. It wasn't there when it should have been, and that evening when he got home there was a red triangle in his kid's pram. He spent the night burgling his neighbour, and next morning the key was in the mail box. We made no use of it. It was a trial, that was all, like turning a tap to see if the water is running.
I've known Danny Moolman and all about him for so long, he's almost a friend. It would be heart-warming if he thought of me in that way, but that's not to be expected. I'm not even sure that he would be comfortable to have a black man to a meal in his house: the only black people he knows are the cook and an Indian taxi driver that fishes off the same rocks as he does near Durban; and that is how it has to be.
He's never even seen my face, and if he did he would not believe that in private life I am the Rev. Mbopa, who is always the most moderate voice on deputations begging government for a gentler apartheid.
I've got six other white men, and two women (one in the president's office) and about 30 black agents. I'm still in the A.N.C., of course: I'm their local manager. It's good to have the job, but my nightadders are my own show, and I don't want any decrepit old men or those bumblers-in- exile at Lusaka to know of it. I test every one of my own fellows with little exercises from time to time, and each one of them knows that one day I'm going to ask him or her to do something really big, something that will make history. It will be quite soon now.
This story is from a manuscript in progress by Ernst Havemann.