Anyone who has some modicum of understanding of the dangerous and well-established world of international arms dealing comprehends that it is a ruthless milieu which flourishes on a few key unsavoury human characteristics including greed, pathological self-interest and a shameless proclivity for violence.
It is a terrain steeped in subterfuge, subversion, deceit, hostility and disinformation, enabled by limitless access to unthinkable sums of money as well as individuals with powerful political interests.
In 2010, after an extensive investigation by The Guardian, the “arms giant” BAE (which signed contracts for the supply of Grippens and Hawks with the ANC government as part of our R70 billion arms deal) was forced to fork out around £300m in penalties after admitting “guilt over its worldwide conduct in the face of long-running corruption investigations,” according to the newspaper.
BAE had refused for 20 years to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing with regard to international bribes and kickbacks, which the dealer prefers to describe as “false accounting and making misleading statements”. BAE made a simultaneous agreement with regard to penalties, with the Serious Fraud Office in England as well as the Department of Justice in Washington.
In the light of renewed interest in the possible parole of Clive Derby-Lewis, who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the assassination of SACP leader and MK commander Chris Hani on 10 April 1993, there have been renewed calls for revisiting alternative motives for the killing instead of the “right wing” destabilisation theory. The arms deal, some believe, was at the heart of the murder.
Dutch activist, author and journalist, Evelyn de Groenink, who has been investigating the murders of Dulcie September, Anton Lubowski and Chris Hani for over two decades, wrote this month that all three victims were in some way aware of shady arms deals and were about to expose these when they were assassinated.
September, an anti-apartheid activist who had been jailed in South Africa for five years in 1960 and who fled into exile in 1973, was an influential member of the Anti-Apartheid movement in the UK. Later, she worked for the International Defence and Aid Fund for South Africa (which financially supported political prisoners and their families in South Africa) and was appointed in 1983 as the ANC’s Chief Representative in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
September was gunned down outside the ANC offices in Paris in 1988, writes De Groenink, just as future arms contracts between France and the ANC were on the agenda.
“SWAPO man Anton Lubowski, ditto, in front of his Windhoek home in 1989, shortly after befriending an arms and diamonds dealer; and the ANC’s beloved Chris Hani was murdered in 1993 (one year before the first democratic elections in South Africa), in the midst of massive bribe-offering by arms dealers to key people in the ANC military,” writes De Groenink.
She continues, “In the case of Chris Hani, former comrades explained to me how he was an obstacle to the …arms deal that was being negotiated with others in the ANC leadership at the time. From the police docket in the case, I found that a crucial part in the Hani murder was played by Peter Jackson, a chemicals transporter with arms trade connections, who was the employer of Hani’s convicted murderer Janusz Walus, and who seemed to have been telling Walus what to do. The police had been kept from investigating Peter Jackson by a written instruction from the Security Police that read: ‘Inligting oor Peter Jackson sal nie opgevolg word nie’ (Information about Peter Jackson will not be followed up).”
De Groenink notes that the Hani murder docket reveals the extent to which the investigation was manipulated to result in the sole convictions of Walus, the shooter and Derby-Lewis, the man who sourced the weapon.
“Not only did the investigating officers ignore witnesses like the neighbour …they also refrained from interrogating Janusz Walus’ employer, chemical trucker Peter Jackson. The Security Police (who were in charge of the investigation, according to Brixton Murder & Robbery Squad’s chief inspector Michael Holmes), told Holmes’ men not to bother exploring the man or his arms trade and secret service contacts. This, even though a list of these contacts (including an Armscor man called Colin Stier) is also neatly contained in the docket. ‘Jackson is cooperating fully and does not need to be questioned,’ the instruction to the police officers says.”
In 1999, after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Maggie Davey, Publishing Director of Jacana Media, became interested in a book De Groenink had published, in Dutch, about September’s murder and how this had led her to also investigate Lubowski and Hani’s killings.
In her Ruth First Lecture delivered at Wits in 2009, Davey recounted how De Groenink wrote that her Lubowski file had shown how French oil and arms interests, an Italian mafia group as well as elements in the South African military, had tried to corrupt Lubowski – Swapo’s ‘investment man’.
“Months before that, Lubowski was approached by Vito Palazzolo, and French arms trader, Alain Guenon, for the delivery of some services: Palazzolo wanted casino rights in Namibia and Guenon wanted Lubowski to support an oil transport project (a railway line from Angola to Namibia) in which he had a stake.”
De Groenink, said Davey, had recognised Alain Guenon’s name because she had come across it in her investigation into September’s death.
“At our very first meeting I knew that I wanted to publish the book, and almost immediately commissioned a cover design. After receiving the completed manuscript, I realised that I may have been a bit hasty, and instead, I should be putting my energies into finding a good lawyer.”
The story that De Groenink told was “startling”, said Davey, in that she had uncovered information that September had stumbled on information on “nuclear issues”, a fact Aziz Pahad, who worked for the ANC in London at the time, later confirmed to De Groenink.
“Evelyn’s (De Groenink – ed) investigation led her to the intricate network and seamy business world of ex-sanctions busters, military confreres and oil and minerals specialists. These same people now serviced a new elite, and were of course, not happy to have their old ways raked up and their new ways looked over. In particular, her investigation led her to scrutinise several of the gentlemen of La Francafrique and their fixers and enablers here in South Africa.”
“La Francafrique”, Davey explained, “is a term used to describe how businessmen who are usually involved in oil, nuclear energy, mining, arms and government, carved up anew the already whittled down resources of African states who were open for business. Achille Mbembe calls it a ‘system of reciprocal corruption tying France to its African feudatories’.”
With regard to the Chris Hani murder, De Groenink wrote last week that Jacana had been “made to fear bankruptcy by arms dealers’ lawyers, some of whom threatened expensive pre-publication litigation. Military vehicles dealer Witold Walus, brother to Janusz Walus, sued for real.”
Davey added that the founder of “one of the biggest private suppliers of soldiers to the Iraq war, and a competitor of Blackwater and Haliburton” had called her “out of the blue” and “in a calm and reasonable manner, he threatened us with a legal action which would close us down, were Evelyn’s contentions ever to be published.”
Davey said on another occasion “we were told that the Scorpions were on their way to our offices, (they never pitched), and one former provincial premier laughed angrily and told me that I would make him ‘very, very rich’. ”
The court case brought by Withold Walus, Janusz’s brother, demanding full access to the manuscript and threatening to seize all material to be published by Jacana, had caught the publishers unawares, said Davey.
“Walus had been approached for comment, and this was the reply. But we won the case on the basis of having been fair in our approach to Walus, thus upholding his constitutional right to dignity and on the basis of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.”
But, said Davey, winning the court case was not enough.
“I was spending increasing amounts of time on the book, and despite winning the case with costs, the entire project soaked up more money and resources than a small publisher could afford. We decided not to go ahead with the publication.”
In her article for The ZAMchronicle, De Groenink asserts that official police investigations had identified all three murders – September, Lubowski and Hani – as “motivated by Apartheid hate and perpetrated by death squads or (in the case of Hani) right-wing extremists. This official narrative is still dominant in South Africa: puzzlingly so, considering that, in two of the three cases, high ranking ANC- and SWAPO officials have suggested that the truth should indeed be sought on the terrain of shady contracts.”
That Chris Hani was killed because he knew about the corruption and kickbacks that were taking place surrounding the arms deal is an assertion that has been circulating for years and a claim that original arms deal “whistleblower” and intelligence operative, Bheki Jacobs, who mysteriously died at the age of 46 in 2008, had posited.
The animosity between Chris Hani and Joe Modise, Commander in Chief of MK and the country’s first Minister of Defence, was well known and documented and had its roots in the late 1960s when Hani penned the devastating “Hani Memorandum” criticising MK leadership.
In their book on the arms deal, The Devil in the Detail – How the Arms Deal Changed Everything, authors Paul Holden and Hennie van Vuuren recount the response to Hani’s 1969 memorandum criticising MK leadership in exile and which almost cost him his life, were it not for the intervention of Oliver Tambo.
“The person most upset at the memorandum was Joe Modise, the Commander-in-Chief of MK, and who had come in for eviscerating attacks in the memo, alleging that he had a ‘posh and militarily irrelevant car at his disposal’, was receiving salary payments not given to other MK commands, was guilty of nepotism and ran MK as his own personal fiefdom.”
There are those who point out that Hani was murdered in 1993, long before the 1994 elections and the signing off on the arms deal in 1999, but it is well known that behind-the-scenes negotiations and machinations had already begun in the early 1990s.
In 1993, write Holden and Van Vuuren, Joe Modise travelled to the UK as a guest of Britain’s Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), along with the future Chairman of Armscor, Tielman de Waal.
“It was a remarkable statement of intent, coming as it did nearly five months before negotiations between MK and the SADF were finalised and Modise was installed as Minister.”
There is more speculation in the extensive O’Malley archive an important collection of interviews with a wide range of key South African figures, compiled by Padraig O’Malley, respected scholar and author of one of the most comprehensive and significant biographies published in the last 15 years, Shades Of Difference – Mac Maharaj and the struggle for South Africa.
The O’Malley archive, now hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, contains an entry titled “Who Killed Hani?” which sets out several scenarios and theories leading up to the assassination on April 10, 1993.
O’Malley reports on an unsuccessful attempt on Hani’s life in 1992 in Johannesburg when he was followed by a gunman as well as an event, a major “anti-ANC campaign”, organised by Patrick Dlongwana – a “security policeman” with a “lengthy and brutal career as an agent” – using former detainees. (Dlongwana had appeared on SATV in 1992 and had threatened to kill ANC and K*** leaders.)
O’Malley warns that disinformation campaigns that were instigated by various nefarious players – including the SADF Department of Military Intelligence Comops and former Sunday Times (UK) correspondent Richard Ellis – have muddied the truth about Hani’s murder and the motives.
“A matter of public record is a consistent campaign of disinformation, which, as we have tried to show, included a major character assassination of Chris Hani in the months and days before his physical assassination. Whether the character assassination and the physical assassination were connected in a conspiracy, or whether they simply coincided in time is a matter of speculation.”
In her article De Groenink says that most South Africans believe “that two right-wingers, Polish immigrant Janusz Walus and ultra-conservative former Mayor of Krugersdorp, Clive Derby-Lewis, are to blame. The two are still in jail. There is a massive popular outcry every time even a mention is made of amnesty or health parole.”
She says that there are alternative motives for the killings and she has spent years investigating matter, because “the story of freedom fighters who stumbled upon corruption and wanted to stop it is worth telling”.
Ultimately, she suggests, it is Janusz Walus alone who could tell the truth and help prevent the story from “falling into silence”.
“So why doesn’t he talk? Perhaps because he knows that it wouldn’t help him – after all, he was still part of the murder plot and it would be unlikely that he would be freed. Or because he has a sister, other relatives and friends in South Africa, among whom a brother who maintains excellent relations with the SA military. Or is it the debt that his family, according to Peter Jackson, still owes to Walus’ former boss? Jackson had ‘helped’ the Polish immigrants during the Apartheid years to set up and run a glass cutting factory in the Qua Qua Bantustan,” writes De Groenink.
Whatever the truth, the bullets that slammed into Chris Hani’s head that Easter Saturday in Benoni and that left him lying in a pool of blood in his driveway, robbed South Africa of one of its beloved leaders. We will never know how he might have influenced or contributed the country we find ourselves in today or whether we would, 15 years later, still suffer the fallout – both economic and political – of the Arms Deal. DM
Photo: Secretary General of the South African Communist Party Chris Hani was killed at his home in surburban Johannesburg on 10 April 1993. Photo taken December 1991. REUTERS.
The Hindenburg had a smoking room.