‘I was trying to do the right thing’ – former apartheid spy Olivia Forsyth

2015-09-04 12:11

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An apartheid-era lieutenant who was regarded as one of the former security police’s best spies insists that her intention was actually to contribute to the fight against apartheid. 

Olivia Forsyth addressed the Cape Town Press Club yesterday following the release of her book, Agent 407, A South African Spy Breaks Her Silence. 

Forsyth was deployed at Rhodes University in the 1980s and infiltrated several organisations as an ardent anti-apartheid activist. Her intelligence-gathering played a key role in the incarceration of several student activists, who were her close friends. 

A storm has raged over the book’s release, with her former activist friends whom she betrayed expressing cynicism – and anger – about the explanation she has given for her actions. 

According to Forsyth, her book is an apology for what she did. 

The question that has provoked the most controversy is why it took her so long to acknowledge the hurt and betrayal, and why she continued to work for the security police if she had realised that she was on the wrong side. 

Forsyth said she was naïve when she was recruited, and had found her “political home” at Rhodes University and only then started to understand the reality of apartheid. 

“The intelligence that I gathered was a secondary consideration. I found my political home and could not just leave it there. I thought the best thing to do was to wait for the right time, when I could be a double agent for the ANC and contribute in that way. 

“I was really trying to do the right thing.” 

She described her efforts to make her services available to the ANC by becoming a double agent as: “It was not the major intelligence coup for the ANC that I had planned.” 

Instead, Forsyth was held in the ANC detention camp, Quatro, in Angola. 

She added that she was not bitter, but could not understand why the South African security police had not rescued her from the camp. 

Forsyth, who now lives in the United Kingdom, described Quatro as frightening, but said she had not been assaulted. She escaped from the camp seven and a half months later. 

“It never made sense to me that the ANC did not at least see how valuable I could be for them.”

Read more on:    rhodes university  |  spy

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