President Jacob Zuma says he has learned “with great sadness” of the passing on of Mike Louw, former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and later of the South African Secret Service (SASS). Louw died after a stroke last week.
“As government, we mourn the passing on of a South African who played an unassuming but pivotal role in our country’s transition to democracy,” Zuma said in a statement.
“At a time when many of his contemporaries remained determined to defend the immoral apartheid system, Mike Louw was prepared to reach out to those who even then were regarded as the enemy.
“I can recall quite clearly our first meeting, under conditions of utmost secrecy in a foreign country, meeting as representatives of forces that were engaged in a bitter struggle against each other.
While Zuma did not remind when or where this was, former Transport Minister Mac Maharaj recorded in a 2008 research paper for the German Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management that the first meeting between “two-person delegations of the ANC and the [NIS took place] in October 1989 in Switzerland.”
Maharaj did not name the participants, but Louw was NIS deputy director general at the time and Zuma head of the ANC’s intelligence department.
“Though we came from greatly different backgrounds, socially and politically, we were nevertheless all South Africans, seeking a resolution to a conflict that had engulfed our country for decades,” Zuma continued in his eulogy.
“The recognition of our common desire for peace in the country we both called home was a critical factor in the progress of those discussions and in the process towards the initiation of meaningful negotiations, which led to peace and democracy in our country.
“This desire remains at the core of our common nationhood, and our shared determination that we build this nation together.
“It was in precisely this spirit that Mike undertook the responsibility of contributing to building the intelligence institutions of the new democratic state; institutions that would truly serve the people of this country and protect and uphold its Constitution.
“This was a patriotic duty for which he deserves unflinching recognition,” Zuma added.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the Louw family, friends and colleagues, and particularly to his wife, Marie, and the children. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
“Mike Louw will be remembered for his courage and foresight at a crucial moment in our history.
“He will be remembered too for his contribution to building the new democratic state.
“He will be remembered as a South African patriot, and as a man who knew when the time was right to put the country first, over and above all other interests.
“He is one of those remarkable South Africans that we will always remember and whose contribution to the smooth transition to freedom and democracy must never be forgotten.”
Louw in November 2003 received a “intelligence lifetime award” for his contribution to peace and development of South Africa from then intelligence minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
A media statement at the time said the “Intelligence Lifetime Award – a platinum award, it is the highest honour conferred by the President through the Minister for Intelligence Services. The award is presented to South African citizens who have shown exceptional leadership qualities and made significant contributions and sacrifices serving South Africa.”
He was also credited with “making the South African Intelligence Community globally competitive.”
The statement added Louw was the first director general of the South African Secret Services (SASS) formed in 1995. In 2003 he was a part-time councillor in the then-newly formed Intelligence Services Council on Conditions of Service.
“The contributions of … Louw [is] significant and will have a lasting impact on the future of South Africa,” the statement further avered.
Pic: Louw at the time he was SASS chief.