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Hennie van Vuuren and Michael Marchant discuss seven key concepts in Apartheid Guns and Money

Apartheid Guns and MoneyThe apartheid state was at war. For two decades before 1994, while internal resistance grew, mandatory sanctions prohibited the sale of strategic goods and arms to South Africa.

The last white regime was confronted with an existential threat.

A global covert network of nearly 50 countries was constructed to counter sanctions. In complete secrecy, allies in corporations, banks, governments and intelligence agencies helped move cash, illegally supply guns and create the apartheid arms money machine. Whistleblowers were assassinated and ordinary people suffered.

This is an exposé of that machinery created in defence of apartheid and the people who made this possible: heads of state, arms dealers, aristocrats, plutocrats, senators, bankers, spies, journalists and members of secret lobby groups.

They were all complicit in a crime against humanity. Motivated by ideology or kinship most sought to simply profit from the war.

Many have until now relied on lingering silence to erase the uncomfortable truth.
This meticulously researched book lifts the lid on some of the darkest secrets of apartheid’s economic crimes, weaving together material collected in over two-dozen archives in eight countries with an insight into tens of thousands of pages of newly declassified documents.

Networks of state capture persist in our democratic political system because the past and present are interconnected. In forging its future a new generation needs to grapple with the persistent silence regarding apartheid-era economic crime and ask difficult questions of those who benefited from it.

This book provides the evidence and the motivation to do so.

Hennie van Vuuren is an activist, writer and Director of Open Secrets, focusing on accountability for economic crimes and human rights violations. He works from within civil society, challenging corruption and the abuse of power.

Here, Van Vuuren and Michael Marchant, a researcher at Open Secrets, expand on seven key concepts found in this remarkable book:

Secrecy breeds corruption

PW Botha’s apartheid government relied on legislated secrecy to shield his government’s economic crimes from scrutiny. In this context even government oversight bodies were prohibited from seeing into the arms procurement world, corruption thrived. Journalists were shut down and persecuted, and the public interest suffered. This is why current indications from the South African government of a move back toward securitization and secrecy should so concern us. It is also why South Africans must guard against the intimidation and pressure on investigative journalists who continue to tell the vital stories of state capture and corruption today.

Who funded the National Party?

Large South African corporations and their leaders went to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and argued that they had never supported apartheid and that it was ‘bad for business’. The archival records of the National Party and its leaders PW Botha and FW de Klerk tell a different story. There we found the annual cheques from business giants from all sectors, made out to the National Party, and often accompanied by fawning letters of praise to the party’s leadership. From billionaires like Christo Wiese to media giant Naspers, South African corporations were willing to grease the apartheid political machine.

Their influence was always suspected, but secrecy around the funding of political parties prevented the public from truly knowing how these relationships operated, and what they may have received in return. This problem persists today, with secrecy allowing big money to corrupt political parties and South African politics more broadly. Reform is desperately needed and must be demanded.

Kredietbank and the Arms Money Machine

While Swiss banks and their executives enjoyed cosy relationships with the apartheid state and private sector, profiting vastly off selling South African gold, it was a Belgian bank and its Luxembourg subsidiary that was at the centre of apartheid’s money laundering machine that was essential in keeping apartheid armed in times of the UN embargoes. Kredietbank Luxembourg, in exchange for vast profits, helped Armscor establish a global money laundering network of secret bank accounts and shell companies in order to bust the UN arms embargo against apartheid.

Based on the evidence we gathered Apartheid Guns & Money identified over 800 such bank accounts and over 100 secret companies between Panama and Liberia.

Continue reading here.

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