Not a utopian, but not a negationist either, neither a nihilist. Rather, an unwillingness to be absorbed into the system neither a desire to be an agent or manger of the system. When Obama rebuked Harry Belafonte by saying, “when are you and Cornel West going to cut me some slack,” is this an acquiescence to white privilege and power or a weak moment. I believe the former, but not everyone bites the poisoned cheese…
Denis Goldberg: …I also remember when I was aged about ten, a group of us were coming home from school one day, and we saw a man who in South African parlance was coloured, running to catch a train. He was running so fast. Add to the story that our fourth grade teacher was the Western Province half mile champion. His nickname was Tinkie, because he was quite little. Somebody said, “Look at that man run. He’s faster than Tinkie!” Another ten year old said, “He can’t be faster than Tinkie, Tinkie is the half mile champion”. A third, and I wish I could remember his name, said, “But he can’t run against Tinkie, because he’s coloured.” There we were, ten years old and we knew these things.
In 1943 I knew about the Battle of Tobruk, the Battle of El Alamein, the Battle for Stalingrad, all of this. My schoolbook said, “South Africa is a democracy”,” which means that all grown-ups can vote in the elections and if a political party loses, it loses power. I went home and said, “It says all adults vote, but only whites vote”.” My parents didn’t say, like most others would, “Shush, shush, those are grown up things.” They said I was right. The book was wrong and what it said was not true. We knew about it, and the reason I’m stressing this is that still today whites say they didn’t know what happened. Here [very recently] General Malan, the Commanding Officer in Namibia said he didn’t know what happened when they found mass graves in Namibia. He had nothing to do with anything like that….
…Denis Goldberg: Those were two great moments, because we were living the future in utter defiance of all the laws and the pressures. We used to have picnics out at Camel Rock at Scarborough. There was a sign up with the Group Areas marked on it. There was one little triangle of land which had no Group Areas mark on it, so we used to go there for our multi-racial picnics. We were within the law and even though we had a long walk across sand dunes to get there they couldn’t touch us, not on that. We really tried hard to try to live up to a set of principles.
Madi Gray: At some time you slid from defiance to sabotage and your life changed?
Denis Goldberg: [That was when I joined umKhonto we Sizwe.] Then when the 90 Day Act came into effect in 1962, my comrades of the Communist Party and other organizations assured me I would be among the first arrested, because I was known as Mr Technico in our movement, and the police would want me. Even if I didn’t break, somebody would under the 90 Day Law, which was designed for the police to extract information by whatever means they could. It was thought that I would certainly get a minimum of ten years in prison. I was urged to leave the country, but to go via Johannesburg to get cleared by the umKhonto High Command and leave the country. As a disciplined person that’s what I did. I went to Johannesburg by train under a pseudonym and the High Command asked me to stay and be the weapons maker for the High Command for Operation Mayibuye.
Joe Slovo met me and was my contact there. I agreed to stay, because I had left Cape Town because I couldn’t be politically effective there any more. I could build bridges, roads and power stations, but couldn’t blow them up again! I bought a smallholding called Travallyn Agricultural Holdings in the Krugersdorp municipality for us to live on. It was a fairly isolated smallholding and we could use it disguising ourselves as a small farmer and his labourers. The Liliesleaf place in Rivonia was known to be dangerous as too many people had been there. We went back once too often, for one final meeting, and got caught. That showed how dangerous it was. Apparently the Security Police were only expecting Walter Sisulu to be there and they caught the lot of us. They were over the moon. And so it was that six weeks after I got to Joburg, we got caught.
Madi Gray: Was it that quick?
Denis Goldberg: It happened quickly.
Madi Gray: It was a fluke, catching everyone, wasn’t it?
Denis Goldberg: I think so. Nicholas Wolpe is running the Liliesleaf Project today and is turning it into a heritage project. He’s come a long way and done wonderful work. Their historian has dug up stuff in the archives, partly in the British archives. British Intelligence knew who was there. A caravan was parked nearby and we always suspected it was the South African Police, but it wasn’t.
Madi Gray: It was the British?
Denis Goldberg: Yes, we were quite convinced that they used to take a drive every morning to see who was at this place and to take photographs.
Madi Gray: In July 1963 you were arrested?
Denis Goldberg: I was arrested on 11 July 1963 and on June 12th 1964 we were sentenced at the end of the Rivonia Trial. Like most of us I was sentenced to four terms of life imprisonment.
Madi Gray: Four terms, for four different things?
Denis Goldberg: Yes, four charges. Life imprisonment for each and they run together. Four separate charges. For example, you buy a vehicle and you get convicted for that contribution to your conspiracy, but handling money to buy it is another charge. We were charged with conspiracy to overthrow
State by force of arms, with preparing to receive an army of invasion, our own ANC people, and I was charged in effect for buying a Volkswagen Kombi, into which I had curtains fitted so that nobody could see Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Ray Mhlaba and Wilton Mkwayi from Port Elizabeth. We could drive around and nobody could see in. Madi, never buy a Volkswagen Kombi. They’ll put you in prison for 22 years.
Madi Gray: You were in for 22 years?
Denis Goldberg: Yes, from the time of my arrest. I came out in 1985 and started travelling the world speaking for the ANC. That was the task I was given. I’d flown to Lusaka and met with Oliver Tambo and members of the National Executive who were there. I was introduced to the world media by the ANC and Thabo Mbeki chaired that press conference. A veteran struggle hero is back, he’s working with us, was the attitude …Read More:http://www.liberationafrica.se/intervstories/interviews/goldberg/goldberg.pdf