New light on anti-apartheid activists’ deaths

Chris Hani in 1991.
Chris Hani in 1991.

An explosive book to be released this week shows the role of powerful foreign and local interests in the murders of activists and freedom fighters Dulcie September, Anton Lubowski and Chris Hani.

Written by journalist Evelyn Groenink and compiled after an investigation spanning 30 years, publication of the book was halted 13 years ago because of legal and physical threats made against the then publisher Jacana Media.

Groenink has now published the book on her own.

She details how September, Lubowski and Hani tried to prevent their organisations – the ANC and the South West African People’s Organisation (Swapo) – from being corrupted by powerful international interests and various mafias.

September was killed at the ANC offices in Paris on March 29 1988, shortly after a nuclear deal between the apartheid and French governments was concluded.

The French interior ministry arrested a local communist for the murder as a smoke screen to allow the real killer to get away, Groenink writes.

She quotes from an interview with apartheid spy Craig Williamson, who told her that apartheid foreign minister Pik Botha “did all the arms deals with the French”.

On Lubowski’s murder, she includes the allegation that a former member of the SA Special Forces Brigade, known as Recces, killed the Swapo lawyer – allegedly on Botha’s orders.

She writes that alleged Mafia kingpin Vito Palazzolo tried to involve Lubowski “in acquiring a stronghold in Windhoek – a casino – where Palazzolo intended pursuing his favourite hobby, laundering money from drugs and diamond transactions”.

Lubowski had not played along.

When Groenink and her former publishers sent Botha requests for comment, he responded with “phone calls that lasted for hours”, a 20-page letter denying wrongdoing of any kind as well as arms deals with the French and a number of threats, including “the world is a dangerous place you know”.

Besides appearing in the book, Botha’s responses are on her personal website.

In the book, Groenink reveals that police buried evidence from at least three witnesses who saw another man – besides convicted killer Janusz Walus – at the scene of Chris Hani’s murder. But they didn’t see the state’s star witness there.

In his foreword to the book, newly appointed Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan writes that Groenink “has unearthed how these comrades were murdered to make way for unscrupulous business deals, self-enrichment and political and military power”.

“There are glimpses of a different species of state capture. Evelyn Groenink’s research shows us, firstly, that state capture is indeed not new; that unethical people in the public and private sector have collaborated for a long time for the purpose of removing or sidelining those who stand in the way of their hunger for power and wealth,” writes Gordhan.

. Incorruptible will be launched at Wits University’s Graduate Centre in Johannesburg at 5.30pm on Tuesday, in Durban on Thursday and in Cape Town on March 13

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