- My wife and I first met her when she visited South Africa in 1973 as the U.K's Minister of Education. I was teaching at Wits University and we were invited by the British embassy to meet her. Our first meeting with her in London during my ambassadorship was shortly after I had arrived and was specially arranged by Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer at their flat in Eaton Square. It was an intimate dinner with much of the conversation about the situation in South Africa at the time. My wife remembers her as particularly feminine - a quality she was to experience also later. There is no question that Thatcher had an intense interest in developments in this country, some part of which I think would have been encouraged by her husband Denis’ considerable business interests in the country. In fact, the story is told of how he came down from the family quarters at Number 10 and spotted somebody's luggage in the hallway. He asked who it belonged to, and where the person was going to. Told the name and that the destination was South Africa, Denis Thatcher is said to have responded: "Lucky bugger!"
- My dealings with the British government were understandably mainly with Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe. When we arrived in Britain the miners’ strike was in full swing and dominated the first months of my ambassadorship. It was a fight to the finish - which is one of the reasons Thatcher’s period in office was controversial. Once that was over, and the left-wing had more or less reconstituted themselves, they turned their attention to South Africa. The protest outside the embassy in Trafalgar Square increased in intensity, and we had to close the main door admitting visitors via a side entrance. Once a week, I think it was on a Tuesday, a Dixie band turned up and played for a couple of hours on the pavement just below my window. Geoffrey Howe and I had an excellent relationship which he acknowledges in his memoirs. But because of our problematic situation, with a lot of the anti- apartheid activity directed at the embassy and at selected private sector companies (notably Barclays Bank), Geoffrey Howe and I had an arrangement whereby once every fortnight I would breakfast with him at his residence to talk about our relationship. On one occasion I took a Dictaphone with me on which, sitting at my desk I had recorded the Dixie band - which was in violation obviously of all the conventions relating to diplomatic and consular premises. Geoffrey expressed his sympathy, but nothing was done to move those protesters from the pavement outside the embassy to the pavement surrounding Trafalgar Square.
- It is quite mistaken to suggest Margaret Thatcher supported apartheid because she opposed sanctions against South Africa. Aside from the UK’s very considerable business involvement in Southern Africa, she could invoke the support on this issue of Alan Paton, the author of “Cry the beloved country”, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Helen Suzman. And she took the lead in introducing the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group at the 1985 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. She was also responsible for taking the extraordinary step of sending a message to me as ambassador in London before she was in contact with the South African Government. Her message “Please tell your government not to reject this initiative" which, of course, President P.W Botha subsequently did in the crudest of ways imaginable. Once I had resigned as ambassador, which was of course for political reasons, I had to immediately return to South Africa, leaving my wife to do the packing and sorting out our boys education etc. Nonetheless, Margaret Thatcher saw to it that Anita was invited to the Tory victory election victory celebration at the party's headquarters in London. After rousingly thanking all the campaign workers she said: “now enjoy yourselves but don’t spill orange juice on our new carpets!
- During this period, Anita received a visit at Highveld, the official residence from three Conservative Members of Parliament. They informed her confidentially that Thatcher wanted to help me in my campaign which was, of course, standing as an independent. If I were agreeable, she wanted to send the Conservative Party’s Chief organiser in Scotland, Duncan Macmillan, to help in Helderberg. Anita conveyed this to me in guarded terms over the telephone - suggesting that Macmillan should give as the explanation for his presence in South Africa the fact that he was writing a book about the election. But when President P.W. Botha in a speech somewhere in the Free State, referred to me as the British governments’ candidate in the election I asked Duncan who had paid his airfare and what airline he had used. It turned out that he had travelled on SAA and the cost was covered by the United Kingdom South African Trade Association! This subsequently led to an official enquiry as to who was funding my campaign. This quietly disappeared when the people involved learned that the main funders were Gavin Relly of Anglo-American, Anton Rupert and his son Johan, Donald Gordon founder of Liberty Life, and Hans Schreiber the German owner of the wine farm Neethlingshof. And I might add 161 ordinary citizens!
- I saw Margaret Thatcher very frequently after the Helderberg election. Whenever I visited London, I would phone Charles Powell and tell him I was in London. He would say “I can squeeze you in at 3h00 tomorrow afternoon”. What pleased me is that when we met she invariably produced the latest edition of Insight with lots of penciled comments and questions.
- The last time my wife and I saw Margaret Thatcher was after she had resigned as Prime Minister. She had to vacate Number 10 but her own house in Dullich was not available so she was staying in the borrowed flat of the Fords. It was a late evening meeting, and as the taxi drew into Eaton Square one saw where she was because of the lights and the police presence. The reason for wanting to see me was that she was planning a big speech on Africa and she wanted some advice. She had an aide with her who was taking notes. A phone rang and the aide took the call and on his return she asked with some anticipation: "Is it Mark?" No, he replied. It seems that it was some Tory politician. Her disappointment was palpable, and my wife and I felt immensely sorry for her in these completely impersonal surroundings, with not a vase of flowers and only Ford family photographs. The impression was an abiding one which we recall to this day.
Dr Denis Worrall