Apartheid Guns and Money – a tale of profit


“Apartheid Guns and Money – a tale of profit” is the latest addition to the stable of South African non-fiction providing much-needed and valuable insight into the darker workings of government, both pre- and post-apartheid.

Veteran and indefatigable researcher Hennie van Vuuren, who famously refused to give evidence before the Seriti Commission, has turned his eagle eye on to worldwide documentation providing insight into how the Apartheid-era National Party government made a mockery of international sanctions. This was done primarily to arm the then SA Defence Force (SADF) and ensure the “rooi gevaar” of Communism would never taint the lives of South Africans. All sound very PW Botha-like? It is and Van Vuuren and his co-researchers have ripped massive holes in the web of secrecy many South Africans knew bits about or had only heard of in passing.

In more than 600 pages Van Vuuren goes from South African government Cabinet meetings and Ministers to the then SADF, it commanders, the spooks and spies, including well-known names such as Craig Williamson and Vic McPherson, who assisted in breaking arms embargoes, to foreign countries where banks, arms manufacturers and middlemen were all only to keen to make money from the apartheid regime.

Van Vuuren and his co-researchers also put the pariah states of the time including Taiwan, whose citizens were granted “honorary white” status in South Africa, under the microscope. South Africa’s dealing with the people’s Republic of China are also detailed showing the level of avariciousness of government leaders, bankers, financiers, arms manufacturers (including State-owned ones) and the ubiquitous middlemen who took their share and more when it came to the commissions payable for structuring deals and opening channels.

This reviewer is not one of the “celebrity” ones quoted on the dustcover, but agrees with the views of Thuli Madonsela, Jacob Dlamini, Andrew Feinstein and Justice Kate O’Regan that it is a “must read”.

There are in all probability many defenceWeb readers who will read “Apartheid Guns and Money” with more than a touch of nostalgia – “after all we were only following orders” – and remember what must have been at the time heady days.

Older and wiser now they, like this reviewer, will acknowledge the wrongs of that time and hope they will not happen again. Sadly, they already have, as Van Vuuren points out with South Africa’s multi-billion Rand arms deal in 1999.
“Apartheid Guns and Money”, for my money, should be on the list of prescribed books for high school students in Grades 11 and 12 as well as university students, especially those majoring in political science, economics and forensic investigations. It would be a bridge too far to hope politicians of all parties will also read Van Vuuren’s latest work and remember it when it comes to budget votes in the National Assembly.
“Apartheid Guns and Money – a tale of profit” is published by Jacana Media.