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Book: Shades of Difference: Mac Maharaj and his struggle for South Africa
Author: Padraig O'Malley
Reviewer: Musa Zondi
Perhaps two quotes in Business Day of November 6 provided the perfect summary to a review of Mac Maharaj's Shades of Difference.
The English author and mystery novelist GK Chesterton is quoted: "He may be mad, but there's method in his madness. There nearly always is method in madness. It's what drives men mad, being methodical."
He might not have been referring to Maharaj per se, but this is a summary of his life and times.
Maharaj was born a year earlier - in 1935 - before the said author died. Even Chesterton could not have foreseen the amount and scale of the method in the madness that was to define Maharaj's life. From growing up in economically depressed Newcastle to his never-ending brushes with the law, his life is full of irony, betrayal, deceit, struggle and a really brilliant mind.
Maharaj betrayed his family, was not there for his wives - Tim and Zarina; caused untold pain to his children Milou and Joey who became a laughing stock when his Vula shenanigans were exposed as well as his supposed corruption; lied to the movement about his whereabouts and generally became, as Mandela once referred to him, a troublemaker.
Which brings me to the second quotation. Penned by the Greek slave and fable author Aesop aeons before Christ was born, it simply says: "We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office."
Not much seems to have changed. O'Malley writes Maharaj's story with a great deal of emotion about how allegations of impropriety which were announced with great fanfare by the National Director of Prosecutions, have ended up confining him to the dustbin of history and left him jobless.
After all, who would want to employ someone who has allegations of impropriety hanging over his head? FirstRand eventually let Maharaj go - something he himself asked for even though an investigation by the bank had cleared him.
Is he innocent of everything of which he was accused? I don't know. The only thing is that his accusers have provided no evidence of his wrongdoing. Unfortunately this rings true for several former comrades, who have been turned on by people they considered highly.
Mandela writes a moving foreword to the book.
"And finally, there is a question that O'Malley (the author Padraig) raised and Mac addresses forthrightly and with poignant eloquence - the question that each of us raises on occasion when we are alone with our own thoughts: what did we do to the people who loved us, our spouses, children, family?
"What price had they to pay for the choices we imposed on them? . The fact is that we inflicted irreparable damage to those closest to us. We were selfish. Our vision for our people blinded us to any other view. And perhaps that's the way it has to be."
Maharaj's family and the countless people who made the ultimate sacrifice, suffered for the cause of freedom. But in his case, they still do.
His book is one of those seminal works that every South African should read. If you have read Mandela's Long Road to Freedom and other annals of our struggle, it is imperative to add this one to your collection because it provides an important and vital thread to the understanding of South Africa, then, now and into the future.
This is a personal yet public journey of one individual whose impact on multitudes is incalculable.