Apartheid state secrets revealed in explosive new book

2017-05-10 06:08

People, organisations and entire countries profited from machinery that was created in defence of apartheid – and the lid is being lifted.

An explosive new book sheds light on the economic crimes that emanated during the apartheid era.

“I would like South Africans to have a conversation about economic crime,” is what Hennie van Vuuren, author of the highly anticipated non-fiction book, Apartheid Guns and Money, A Tale of Profit, said.

Van Vuuren was talking to journalists on Tuesday at a media briefing at the 10 Bompas Hotel in Johannesburg.

Van Vuuren hoped that his 624-page book would allow the nation to be able to understand more about the effect these economic crimes have had on the nation – which are still felt today.

Written in conjunction with a team of researchers at Open Secrets, as well with the involvement of civil society organisations such as the Right to Know Campaign, Lawyers for Human Rights and the South African History Archive and Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, putting together the pages of this book was no easy task.

“We worked through around two million documents and conducted 110 interviews, including former spies, politicians and a range of other eyewitnesses,” he said.

The book is expected to ruffle many feathers, considering the depth of secrets which have been revealed. But Van Vuuren looks forward to the public engagement.

After knocking on many doors, Van Vuuren and his team managed to get their hands on classified documentation, which reveals among others: people, organisations and entire countries which profited from machinery which was created in defence of apartheid, including heads of states, arms dealers, aristocrats, bankers, spies and journalists.

If South Africa is a nation billed to progress, Van Vuuren feels that it is important for us to understand the mechanisms around apartheid state secrets.

Seven myths are debunked, including the notion that apartheid was self-sufficient and that it was unprofitable. Van Vuuren argues, with evidence which has been collected, that this is simply not true.

Some of the key elements which readers can look out for include:

• Armscor, the arms procurement agency of department of defence had 844 bank accounts in 196 banks across at least 27 countries, most of them in Europe;

• A plan, approved by the Turkish head of state, to build a deep-water harbour in that country, which would have facilitated South Africa’s trade in coal;

• Details about international oil-for-guns barters that took place; and

• How very prominent Swiss bankers and some of the major Swiss banks actively supported the apartheid regime through lobbying in Switzerland and abroad.

The book is set to be a hot read, and is reminiscent of something straight out of a James Bond movie, with tales of collusions and corruption from the highest order at the forefront of many deals which were brokered during the apartheid regime.

“It is important to have an archive on Apartheid which can be accessed, in order to understand our past and our country. We must understand as a country who we are dealing with,” Van Vuuren said.

*The book is available for purchase from any Exclusive Books store nationwide. 

Avantika Seeth
Multimedia journalist
City Press
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