Apartheid’s chem­i­cal war on show

Deadly chem­i­cal war­fare ‘weapons’ dis­played in cen­tre

Daily Dispatch - - News - By ASANDA NINI

ABIOLOGICAL and chem­i­cal war­fare ex­hi­bi­tion on meth­ods used by the apartheid gov­ern­ment to elim­i­nate for­mer free­dom fight­ers and strug­gle ac­tivists, is on show at the Steve Biko Cen­tre in Gins­berg.

Among the items ex­hib­ited are food prod­ucts, al­co­hol bev­er­ages, cig­a­rettes, cloth­ing and house­hold items laced with dan­ger­ous and some­times deadly chem­i­cals, meant to poi­son those fight­ing the op­pres­sive apartheid gov­ern­ment of the time.

Among the vic­tims who sur­vived the poi­son­ing on­slaught were the chil­dren of for­mer Daily Dis­patch editor and Biko’s close friend, Don­ald Woods, lib­er­a­tion strug­gle veter­ans Rev­erend Frank Chikane and Pallo Jor­dan, to men­tion just a few.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, ti­tled Poi­soned Pasts: Lega­cies of the South African chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal war­fare pro­gramme, is spon­sored by Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, in con­junc­tion with the Nel­son Man­dela and Steve Biko Foun­da­tions.

Steve Biko Cen­tre’s tour guide Asanda Mbaxa said the ex­hi­bi­tion would run month.

“It shows how far the gov­ern­ment was pre­pared to go in fight­ing those who were fight­ing for lib­er­a­tion,” Mbaxa said this week.

Also listed in the ex­hi­bi­tion are the names of hun­dreds of lib­er­a­tion strug­gle ac­tivists who sur­vived poi­son­ing by apartheid gov­ern­ment un­til the end of next agents led by the in­fa­mous Dr Wouter Bas­son.

Bas­son was the head of the South African De­fence Force’s se­cret chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal war­fare pro­gramme dubbed “Project Coast” from 1981 to 1992.

The ex­is­tence of Project Coast came to light in 1996 after some of those in­volved ap­plied for amnesty to car­di­ol­o­gist, the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion (TRC). Dur­ing the TRC, it was re­vealed that the apartheid gov­ern­ment had de­vel­oped chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal as­sas­si­na­tion weapons at two sites – Rood­e­plaat Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries and Delta G Sci­en­tific – both front com­pa­nies set up to con­duct the busi­ness of Project Coast un­der Bas­son’s di­rec­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to an on­line search, the doc­u­mented ac­tiv­i­ties of Bas­son’s Project Coast in­cluded:

Ex­per­i­ments to de­ter­mine how best to in­fect tar­geted peo­ple with deadly poi­sons and how they could go un­de­tected dur­ing a post-mortem. Agents pre­pared for th­ese uses in­cluded paraoxon, an organophos­phate poi­son placed on the clothes of Rev­erend Chikane, which would lead to breath­ing paral­y­sis, and thal­lium, an un­de­tectable poi­son used to kill stu­dent ac­tivist Siphiwo Mthimkulu;

The de­vel­op­ment of new in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing drugs and ir­ri­tants used in the form of “knock-out drops” added to drinks that were of­fered to po­lit­i­cal de­tainees to cause them to lose con­scious­ness be­fore they were ex­e­cuted at point-blank range.

Ac­tivist Sizwe Kondile’s as­sas­si­na­tion on the top of the Le­bombo Moun­tain range out­side Ko­matipoort is one ex­am­ple of the use of so-called “knock-out drops”;

The pro­vi­sion of sam­ples of the bi­o­log­i­cal agents, an­thrax and bo­tulinum toxin to mil­i­tary and po­lice op­er­a­tors for the poi­son­ing of water sources for com­mu­ni­ties; and

The man­u­fac­ture of large quan­ti­ties of man­drax and ec­stasy tablets, al­legedly for crowd-con­trol pur­poses.

In De­cem­ber 2013, after four years of a mis­con­duct in­quiry by the Health Pro­fes­sions Coun­cil of South Africa, Bas­son was found guilty of un­pro­fes­sional con­duct for th­ese grue­some ac­tiv­i­ties. — asan­dan@dis­patch.

Pic­ture: SUP­PLIED

DARK TIMES: The ex­hibit at the Steve Biko Cen­tre in Gins­berg dis­play­ing bi­o­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal war­fare items used by the then-apartheid gov­ern­ment against its po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents

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