Mac Maharaj began his political mission as a student in Durban in 1953 when he worked in many areas of anti-apartheid activities. In 1964 he was arrested, charged and convicted for sabotage in the so called “little Rivonia Trial”. During this trial, Mac was exposed to repeated bouts of torture, but he had developed a remarkable capacity to absorb physical pain and remain psychologically intact. He became known at the time as one of the most tortured men in South Africa.
He was released in 1976 and smuggled out of prison the manuscripts of Mandela’s biography, A Long Walk to Freedom. This was a risk Mac took willingly, with the knowledge that if he was caught, he would return to prison. Working together with a team, he transcribed the 500 hand-written pages to just sixty foolscap miniaturised encoded pages.
Flouting the five-year banning order prohibiting him from leaving home at night, he left South Africa in 1977 for Lusaka, where he linked up the African National Congress in exile. Mac was elected to the NEC of ANC, the highest organ of the ANC, in 1985 and served in it until the year 2000. He was also secretary of the internal political and reconstruction department; and a member of the ANC revolutionary council which was a sub-structure of the ANC’s NEC. He was the overall commander of Operation Vula, which was aimed at locating and integrating the external based ANC and MK leadership with the leadership that had developed internally. This also involved setting-up a communication system allowing the underground in South Africa to stay in touch with leadership including Mandela who was in Victor Verster prison at the time.
Mac, a father of two, put the struggle first and became a full-time activist in the movement from early 1961. His wife Zarina brought up their two children as a virtual single parent who was a working mother as well as being involved in the struggle.
While serving as Minister of Transport – ‘Infrastructure Finance’, a leading international infrastructure journal, chose him as one of the eight most innovative ministers worldwide in charge of developing infrastructure in developing countries. Mac holds a BA degree from the University of Natal in 1956 and a BAdmin degree from UNISA while he was in prison.
In all that Mac has done, he never yielded to a sense of victimhood. Despite all he was exposed to, it did not stop him from making choices that enabled him to lead an exemplary life.