Craig Williamson

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Craig Michael Williamson (born 1949, Johannesburg), is a former South African Police major, who was exposed as a spy in 1980, and was involved in a series of state-sponsored overseas bombings, burglaries, kidnappings, assassinations and propaganda during the apartheid era.[1]

South African "superspy"[edit]

Infiltration[edit]

In the late 1970s, Craig Williamson had inveigled Lars Eriksson, director of the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF) in Geneva, into employing him as deputy director and help in the award of IUEF scholarships to African students. He was thus able to infiltrate the banned African National Congress (ANC) and, at the same time, make high-level contacts in Sweden which provided most of the funding for the IUEF. Williamson's networking through prime minister Olof Palme's office in Stockholm put him in touch with a number of Palme's close associates including Pan Am Flight 103 victim, Bernt Carlsson, who had become secretary-general of the Socialist International in 1976 and was based in London until 1983.[2] In 1981, Williamson recruited the woman who would become South Africa's best-known female spy, Olivia Forsyth.

Dirty tricks[edit]

The same source accused Williamson of syphoning off IUEF funds to establish a dirty tricks operation in Pretoria known as "Long Reach" in order to target apartheid's opponents both in South Africa and abroad. This dirty tricks operation also involved arms trafficking.[citation needed]

Counter-intelligence[edit]

Again using IUEF funds, Williamson set up the South African News Agency to recruit and use journalists for apartheid South African counter-intelligence purposes.[3]

Bombing and burglary[edit]

PAC office in London[edit]

In 1982, a burglary took place at the Pan Africanist Congress office in London. Two suspects were arrested. One of them, a Swedish journalist, Bertil Wedin, was eventually acquitted by an English court. Wedin admitted, however, that he was working for South African intelligence and that he had been recruited by Craig Williamson.[citation needed] The other suspect, South African Defence Force Sergeant Joseph Klue had diplomatic immunity as a member of staff at the SA embassy in London and was ordered to leave the UK.

ANC office in London[edit]

Williamson applied for amnesty in 1995 from SA's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for bombing the London office of the ANC in March 1982. In the British House of Commons in June 1995, Peter Hain MP asked through the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, that the British police should interview and consider extraditing Williamson to stand trial for the London bombing.[4] The Home Secretary turned down Hain's request. Amnesty was eventually granted by the TRC to Williamson and seven others on 15 October 1999.[5] Following the TRC hearing, South African lawyer Anton Alberts commented to the "woza" news agency: "If you look at the Lockerbie disaster - this is very similar. I think Britain would like to see these guys are prosecuted in England even though they get amnesty here."[this quote needs a citation]

Kidnapping and assassination[edit]

Ruth First[edit]

Williamson ordered the assassination of Ruth First, who was an exiled campaigner for the Anti-Apartheid Movement, close friend of Sweden's prime minister, Olof Palme, and the ANC author of a pioneering study of Namibia. She was also the wife of the South African Communist Party's leader, Joe Slovo. She was killed by a letter-bomb in Maputo, Mozambique on 18 August 1982.[6]

Mozambique[edit]

In January 1984, minutes of the apartheid State Security Council, chaired by President P. W. Botha, recorded Craig Williamson as plotting the overthrow of the government in Mozambique[7]

Jeanette and Katryn Schoon[edit]

In mid-1984 Craig Williamson mailed a letter-bomb which on 28 June killed Jeanette Curtis Schoon, wife of Marius Schoon, and their six-year-old daughter Katryn, at the family's home in exile in Lubango in Angola. Both Jeanette and Marius Schoon were prominent South African anti-apartheid activists and members of the ANC. While in exile in Botswana some years earlier, the Schoons had broken[8] Williamson's cover internally within the ANC, several months before his public exposure in the UK, allowing the ANC leadership to attempt to manipulate Williamson covertly for their own purposes.

The Schoons' younger son Fritz, then aged three, witnessed the murder of his mother and sister at close hand; found wandering alone in the house, and severely traumatised, he developed epilepsy from which he never fully recovered. Following Williamson's application for amnesty for the killings, Schoon filed a civil suit against Williamson, seeking damages for his son. However, the suit was suspended pending Williamson’s Amnesty hearing.

It has never been determined[8] whether the letter-bomb had been addressed specifically to Marius Schoon or to both him and his wife; Williamson claimed to his subordinate, the bomb-maker Jerry Raven, that the former was the case. In June 2000, a year after Marius Schoon died of lung cancer, TRC amnesty for this killing and that of Ruth First was granted to Williamson[9], despite Marius Schoon's earlier testimony[8] strongly opposing amnesty. Schoon had argued that the whole truth about the murder of his wife and daughter had not, as required, been revealed by Williamson.

Williamson's bomb-maker, Jerry Raven, testified[8]:

"I did not know who the letters were intended for. It was only after the death of Jeanette Schoon and her child and the congratulations from Mr Williamson, that I realised that they had been the targets for one of the devices I had manufactured. On questioning Williamson about the Schoon incident he said that the letter had been intended for Marius Schoon but it served the[m] right. He alleged that the Schoons had always used their daughter as their bomb disposal expert. On requesting clarification he said that whenever they received suspicious parcels they would throw them in the back yard and let the child play with them until such time they deemed it fit to open them."

Other incidents possibly linked to Williamson[edit]

  • On 21 February 1986, prime minister Olof Palme addressed the Swedish People's Parliament against Apartheid in Stockholm. A week later, Palme was shot and killed after attending the cinema with his wife. The subsequent Stockholm police investigation into the murder was criticised for its lassitude and incompetence for not quickly solving the crime. Five days after Palme's murder, Swedish journalist Per Wästberg reported twice to the Swedish police that apartheid South Africa must have been involved, but no action was taken by the police. Ten years later, Williamson was named in a South African court for Palme's murder, as were three others: Anthony White, Roy Allen and Bertil Wedin.[citation needed] However, no South Africans were ever charged with the Palme assassination (nor was anyone else, save for Christer Pettersson, who was convicted, then acquitted on appeal).
  • In 1987, plans for kidnapping the entire ANC leadership in London were uncovered. The thwarted operation was generally attributed to South African intelligence. Two Norwegians with a mercenary background and a British national were initially arrested, but never charged - a fact that at the time gave rise to newspaper allegations of possible involvement by British intelligence.[citation needed]
  • On 4 February 1988, the ANC representative in Brussels, Godfrey Motsepe, narrowly escaped an assassin's bullet.[citation needed]
  • On 29 March 1988, the ANC representative in Paris, Dulcie September, was shot and killed. Williamson's protégé – former SADF Sgt Joseph Klue – and South African spy, Dirk Stoffberg, were in the frame[citation needed] for both the Brussels and Paris shootings.

Propaganda[edit]

Williamson was one of the main collaborators with Peter Worthington in the pro-apartheid video The ANC method - violence which was distributed by Citizens for foreign aid reform throughout Canada in 1988.

In the summer of 1988 the US-produced film Red Scorpion was made on location in South-West Africa (Namibia). South Africa helped finance the movie and the SADF provided trucks, equipment as well as extras. The action-packed movie was a sympathetic portrayal of an anti-communist guerrilla commander loosely based on Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA – the Angolan rebel movement – supported by both Washington and Pretoria. The film's producer, Jack Abramoff, was also head of the International Freedom Foundation (IFF). Established in Washington in 1986 as a conservative think-tank, the IFF was in fact part of an elaborate intelligence gathering operation and, according to Craig Williamson, was designed to be an instrument for political warfare against apartheid's foes. South Africa spent up to $1.5million a year – until funding was withdrawn in 1992 – to underwrite Operation Babushka, the code-name by which the IFF project was known.

An article about the "enigma" Craig Williamson in the SA Sunday Times of 20 September 1998 entitled "The spy who never came in from the cold" concluded with the Williamson dictum:

"I respect a person who's willing to die for his country, but I admire a person who is prepared to kill for his country"

In a television interview early in August 2001, Williamson told the BBC's Tim Sebastian that the actions he took during the apartheid era had to be seen against the background of the Cold War and were in support of the West. The NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999, he said, killed far more civilians than his dirty tricks brigade ever did.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]