Her husband Mac Maharaj, a major figure in the South African freedom struggle worked closely with Nelson Mandela. In Mandela’s presidency he was Minster of Transport between 1994 -1999. He spend 12 years on Robben Island with him.
Zarina Maharaj: My mother had a strong sense of social justice and from a very young age I absorbed her values. And when I was a young school girl I witnessed a lot of violence against black people - even very young whites were not afraid to attack older black people. This outraged me.
Zarina: Life as the wife of a high-profile activist was very difficult indeed. First, political activists hardly had any time to be with their families so I was effectively a single parent. Second, the threat to his life was something that was always there, so we had to learn to overcome that kind of fear. Third, his high-profile activism made others see me not as a person in my own right but as nothing more than 'Mac's wife'. So that was quite a lot to deal with.
Q: You were involved in “operation Vula”. What was it all about and what was your role?
The Vula communications system which I helped devise and operate was a system that allowed cadres of the movement to communicate secretly with each other - using telephone lines - to send encrypted messages to each other. This was pre-email, but the messages could be sent and received almost in real time too.
Q: You made a film called film “Flat 13”. What made you interested in doing a film on the struggle against apartheid?
Q: Sixteen years after South Africa's democratic transformation, what do you think of the future of South Africa as a freedom activist?
Zarina: The Chinese say that when a bamboo has been trampled on for generations then it will take time for it to stand straight again. So I think there is a great chance that the future that we fought for will become a reality, but not overnight. It will be a process. But if you consider how long it's taken established Western democracies to become established, then even if it takes a generation to realize the democracy we fought for, that is not unusual.
This interview was translated into Persian (Farsi) and published in Shahrzadnews website