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Monday, September 04, 2006

International Criminals - Craig Michael Williamson

Former South African police major Craig Michael Williamson was exposed as a spy in 1980, and was involved in a series of state-sponsored overseas bombings, burglaries, kidnapping, assassinations, sabotage and propaganda during the apartheid era.

South African "superspy"

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 Lockerbie victim, Bernt Carlsson, who had become secretary-general of the Socialist International in 1976 and was based in London until 1983.

Williamson syphoned off IUEF funds to establish and head a special unit in Pretoria to target apartheid's opponents abroad. This was an assassination squad known as Koevoet (Afrikaans for Crowbar) which had links to the mercenary organisation Executive Outcomes.He also used IUEF funds to set up the South African News Agency to recruit and use journalists for apartheid South African counter-intelligence purposes.

Bombing and burglary

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 - specifically for Craig Williamson. The other suspect, SADF Sgt Joseph Klue had diplomatic immunity as a member of staff at the SA embassy in London and was ordered to leave the UK.

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. It is believed that, contrary to the TRC's full disclosure rule, Williamson did not reveal in his application that the purpose of this bombing was to kill the then ANC president, Oliver Tambo. Tambo was understood to have been tipped off by Bernt Carlsson that Bertil Wedin, Carlsson's compatriot, was out to kill him and warned not to attend the meeting in the ANC office on the day of the bombing. 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. The home secretary turned down Hain's request. Amnesty was eventually granted by the TRC to Williamson and eight others on October 15, 1999.

Early in 1986, the ANC office in Stockholm was blown up. Williamson and Wedin were thought to have been involved but the perpetrators were never found.

Kidnapping and assassination

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

Minutes of the apartheid State Security Council, chaired by president P. W. Botha in January 1984, recorded Craig Williamson as plotting the overthrow of the government in Mozambique.

Williamson addressed a letter-bomb to exiled anti-apartheid activist, Marius Schoon, in Angola but killed Schoon's wife Jeanette and daughter Katryn on June 28, 1984. In June 2000, TRC amnesty for this killing and that of Ruth First was granted to Williamson.

On February 21, 1986, PM Olof Palme addressed the Swedish People's Parliament against Apartheid in Stockholm. A week later, he was shot and killed after attending the cinema with his wife. The Stockholm police investigation was criticised for its lassitude and incompetence for not quickly solving the crime. 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.

In October 1986, president Samora Machel of Mozambique, returning from a meeting in Zambia, was killed when his presidential aircraft crashed in mountainous terrain after a decoy radio beacon caused it to stray over the border into South Africa. As if forewarned, one of the first to arrive at the scene of the crash was South African foreign minister, Pik Botha. SA's internal Margo Commission of Inquiry was held at the Rand Supreme Court in Johannesburg from January 20 to 28, 1987. The inquiry was delayed by South African General Lothar Neethling's failure to hand over the aircraft's black box, which he had seized at the site of the crash. The Margo Commission found that pilot error was to blame for the crash. However, a Soviet delegation entered a minority report disagreeing with this finding and blaming the South African security forces. Ten years later, under a democratically-elected South African government, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) conducted its own inquiry into the crash. The TRC concluded that there was no conclusive evidence to support either the Margo Commission or the Soviet theory. The TRC did, however, conclude that circumstantial evidence presented to them required "further investigation by an appropriate structure" of the false beacon and the absence of a warning from the South African authorities questions. On February 9, 2006 the South African minister for safety and security, Charles Nqakula, announced the reopening of the Machel aircrash inquiry, to be conducted jointly by South Africa and Mozambique.

In 1987, plans for kidnapping the entire ANC leadership 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 public suspicions of possible involvement by British intelligence.

On February 4, 1988, the ANC representative in Brussels, Godfrey Motsepe, narrowly escaped an assassin's bullet.

On March 29, 1988, the ANC representative in Paris, Dulcie September, was shot and killed. Former SADF Sgt Joseph Klue and South African spy, Dirk Stoffberg, were in the frame for both shootings.

On December 21, 1988, Pik Botha and a South African delegation of 22, including defence minister, General Magnus Malan, and head of military intelligence, General C J Van Tonder, arrived by South African Airways from Johannesburg at Heathrow Airport with an onward booking by Pan Am Flight 103 to New York for the signing ceremony, on December 22, at UN headquarters of an agreement relinquishing control of South-West Africa (Namibia). The South Africans cancelled their booking on PA 103 and Pik Botha, plus a reduced contingent of six, took the morning Pan Am 101 Flight. The remaining 16 in the SA party turned around and went back to Johannesburg. Bernt Carlsson, UN Commissioner for Namibia, had his travel plans interrupted and, instead of flying by Sabena from Brussels to New York for the same signing ceremony, he was re-booked to travel on the doomed PA 103 flight. One Lockerbie theory implicates Williamson and South Africa's military intelligence directorate for the bombing


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 September 20, 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.

South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid


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