SA military's nuclear bombs

2008-08-06 00:00

No wonder Al Venter has been able to publish three dozen books. He uses the buffet approach to writing in which the author selects related topics, throws them together randomly and then starts planning the next title. The standard of writing in this book is generally poor and the editor should think of looking for another job.

But it does have its redeeming features, covering an important part of South Africa’s recent history that is not well documented. It provides a new perspective on the suspected nuclear test in the southern Indian Ocean in September 1979; and considerable detail about collaboration between South Africa and Israel on missile development. Reproduced as an appendix is a report by David Albright of Washington’s Institute for Science and International Security — a readable summary of the history of South Africa’s military nuclear programme.

Most important of all, Venter addresses the question of why South Africa developed the atom bomb. As its immediate use would have been suicidal, he concludes logically that it was a diplomatic weapon of last resort to encourage Western support. But the issue of possible battlefield use of nuclear-enhanced munitions remains unresolved.

Christopher Merrett

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