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Archive for August 2nd, 2017

Declassified: Apartheid profits – Who funded the National Party?

The 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.

Open Secrets recently ran the following piece via the Daily Maverick as means to inform the public about the crimes committed as means to fund apartheid:

While researching the recently published book Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit, Open Secrets collected approximately 40,000 archival documents from 25 archives in seven countries. This treasure trove contains damning details of the individuals and corporations that propped up apartheid and profited in return. Many of these documents were kept secret until now. Most remain hidden despite South Africa’s transition to democracy. Open Secrets believes that it is vital to allow the public to scrutinise the primary evidence. Here we invite you behind the scenes to look at the documents that informed the book.

The Archive for Contemporary Affairs, a four-storey brown facebrick building at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, is an unassuming place. Yet its 3.5km long shelves of files contain some of the shadiest secrets from South Africa’s past. Many of the National Party’s (NP) most prominent politicians sent their collections, including official NP documents, to this archive. There is no longer a National Party, and it is unclear whether anyone really wants to “own” this memory of oppression that delivered so much paperwork. It is nonetheless a national treasure worthy of far more attention by researchers from across the country.

Despite reading through hundreds of folders from PW Botha’s and FW de Klerk’s archives, the Open Secrets team never expected to be delivered a series of folders marked “National Party donations”. Out of the folders came the signed cheques, fawning letters of thanks and promises of anonymity that secretive party funding demands. Around 70 individual donors were identified in these pages.

The names in the folders? Some of South Africa’s most prominent businessmen, past and present, a few of whom we highlight. While the story of party finance is often revealed only through whispers, in this unassuming archive we had found indisputable documentary evidence. The letters featured here provide a glimpse into the complicity between big business and the oppressive apartheid regime that was, until now, kept secret.

Some donors were unsurprising, given their long-term complicity with the regime. In a letter written in 1988, FW de Klerk informed PW Botha of a R50,000 donation from Barlow Rand (now trading as the large conglomerate, Barloworld). De Klerk notes, “They prefer to keep their contribution confidential…” before stating that one of the companies directors, D.E. Cooper, would handle the donations. Barlow Rand was one of the chief suppliers of technology to the government. Between the 1960s and 1980s the corporation’s leadership sat on PW Botha’s Defence Advisory Board, all the while presenting itself as an enlightened opponent of apartheid. The two-faced nature of many of these corporations and their executives is a theme that runs throughout this collection.

Continue reading here.

Apartheid Guns and Money

Book details


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