Kasrils tells of ‘my wife as a spy’ at book launch

2010-10-06 00:00

FORMER South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils was at the Bessie Head Library in Pietermaritzburg yesterday to launch his book, The Unlikely Secret Agent.

It tells the story of his wife Eleanor, who died in November last year.

Kasrils described his book, which covers the turbulent 1960’s, as “a spy-type political thriller and very much a love story”.

But its underlying message, he added, is about people who stand for integrity and principles in life, a quality much in demand in today’s unequal society.

He said the world needs more people prepared to pursue something other than self-enrichment.

The launch took the form of a conversation between former mayor Omar Latiff and Kasrils. Latiff got to know the couple when he was chairpersonof Umgeni Water and Kasrils the Water Affairs minister.

Latiff recalled accompanying Eleanor around Abuja in Nigeria and hearing about her daring escape from Fort Napier Hospital after she had been detained there by the security police in 1963.

Kasrils spoke about the people in the city who helped Eleanor disguise herself after she had walked out of the hospital and through apolice roadblock undetected.

Eleanor’s other link to Pietermaritzburg was that her mother, Helen Logan, owned Logan’s Bookshop that had branches in the city and Durban.

The title of the book comes from a role which Eleanor played that most people involved in the struggle did not know about. According to

Kasrils said she was the go-between for the ANC underground leadership in Natal and the Transvaal. She would drive to Maritzburg in disguise then take a train to Johannesburg where she would hand over the Natal reports and bring back money and Transvaal reports.

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