“Various leaders moved into surbubs with the help of business people. Moreover they sought to organise jobs for spouses and family members of leaders in order to enable them to settle in post exile and imprisonment. This was often welcomed as an act of kindness.” Siboniso Ndlovu
My history teacher at Sobantu Secondary used to tell me that, in politics, things are never what they seem. Largely because politics is about money and resources and business people colluding with politicians to achieve their objectives.
Secret services are a critical link in this chain. They infiltrate the ranks of their enemy and recruit spies from within the enemy through torture, blackmail and bribery. This becomes interesting in South Africa when you look at the period leading to the negotiations that delivered the Codesa settlement.
I have argued that the arms deal was not meant to be a priorty for the new government, least of all buying arms from the West which did not support the armed struggle. But to understand why it happened, you have to understand the impact of sanctions on apartheid South Africa. Apartheid was essentially a police state and miltary power in the region. Therefore it would not have allowed its weaponry to lag behind because of sanctions.
The military intelligence set up a network of front companies and secret agents to bypass the sanctions in a scheme informally called sanction-busting. Various multinational companies and western governments were secretly involved in this scheme, most notably France. The key agent for SA was Craig Williamson (the superspy who later became advisor to De Klerk) and Alain Guenon for the French.
These two ran perhaps the most successfull infiltration operation of the ANC. Williamson was posing as a socialist administering a bursary scheme assisting comrades to study in exile and inside the country. This gave him access to a database with sensitive information of anti-apartheid activists and he did much damage, including masterminding the killing of Ruth Fist in Maputo, Mozambique in 1982.
Alian also posing as a member of the French Socialist Party of Francios Mitterrand managed to befriend people like Winnie Mandela, Tokyo Sexwale and others. To be infiltrated does not mean that you sold out. In fact, seeing the imminent political changes, big companies and business people were practically scrambling to associate with those who would form a future government.
Various leaders moved into surbubs with the help of business people. Moreover they sought to organise jobs for spouses and family members of leaders in order to enable them to settle in post exile and imprisonment. This was often welcomed as an act of kindness. Unknown to many, this also exposed leaders to surveillance by the intelligence services of the apartheid government and to being indebted to business interests.
For instance, Micheal Buchanan, the neighbour of Chris Hani in Hakea Cresent who was the first person on the scene of the murder, was a NIA operative. The strategy that had been practiced for years in the secret service was to devise an elaborate scheme to house the enemy in chosen locations through front estate agents handling the logistics.
The same strategy was used when the ANC changed location for the France/Switzerland office in Paris. The location was offered to the ANC at a bargain rental price. The neighbour was a sports magazine, a front for French intelligence. Dulcie September, the chief representative of the ANC was to be killed two-and-a-half years later in November 1988. She had uncovered a sanction busting scheme involving nuclear material between France and South Africa.
Even though the French ended up not being the main beneficiary in the arms package, they had done much background dirty work to secure the main contracts. In the end, British arms giant British Aerospace (BAE) got the lion’s share. They had made the most key inroads in the MK High Command which would likely take over the department of defence.
The whole arms wheeling and dealing that began in the mid eighties during the sactions bypassed international law and further deepened corruption of the apartheid state. Around the same time business was beginning talks with the ANC, including arms dealers. The settlement began to take shape between the business, Afrikaner nationalist and moderates within the ranks of the ANC.
Ultimately it was the arms dealers who would decisively destabilise the left and water down its impact on the final settlement.