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SPY, Uncovering Craig Williamson





ISBN 978 1 4314 2149 7

The beauty of the South African story of liberation lies in telling it - warts and all, as Jonathan Ancer has so eloquently done here.

It is difficult to love Craig Williamson - the subject of the book. Mother Theresa would most likely have battled to show empathy for this man, the so-called “super spy”, code-name Agent RS 167.

It is still a thing of wonder how this Joburg boy, not the sharpest arrow in the quiver even from St. John’s College in Houghton. He did not acquit himself well with books as a schoolboy at that exclusive home of the offspring of the well-heeled.

By the time he moved to Wits University, his focus was on infiltrating the student activist movement, NUSAS.

This is where South Africans and those parts of the world that cared to look have come to know the story of Craig Williamson.

He did well selling out his fellow student activists to the Apartheid security police.

Those whose gut told them he was a spy were not sure. Those he sold out would later kick themselves for not trusting their instinct. More often than not, it was already later by the time they saw he’d betrayed their trust in him.

It was through NUSAS that he would worm his way into the then banned ANC. He was so convincing in his cover as a freedom fighter that even many in the top echelons of the ANC, like Thabo Mbeki, were ready to vouch for his bona fides.

Ronnie Kasrils wants to believe that he saw through Williamson’s treachery.

So too does a combative Mac Maharaj who, were he to run into Williamson in a dark alley, would do something silly.

Today, Aziz Pahad battles to exonerate himself from falling for Williamson’s wiles way back then before the spy’s cover was blown.

Years later, Robert McBride could only speak to Williamson with one eye on his AK-47.

But these are the lucky ones. Not so fortunate were mother and daughter Jenny and Katryn Schoon.

On 28 June 1984, a bomb exploded in their Lubango flat, a flying distance away from Luanda, Angola.

The bomb was intended for Marius Schoon, and maybe even his activist wife. His life ended the day his wife and daughter were killed. His son, Fritz, at the time only two and a half years old, has never fully recovered from the gruesome episode.

Marius Schoon died a broken man when the sham that was the TRC failed to assuage his loss.

On 13 June 2000 Williamson was granted amnesty by the TRC for the Schoon murders.

He was also pardoned for the 17 August 1982 assassination of Ruth First in Mozambique.

The letter bomb addressed to First exploded as she opened the package. With her at the time in her office at the Eduardo Mondlane University were fellow activist Pallo Jordan and academic Bridget O’Laughlin, who was pregnant.

The Slovo family - First was married to Joe Slovo - have also not found comfort from the TRC. Her children Shawn, Gillian and Robyn still reel from the shock of the unpunished killing.

It is difficult to think of a more repulsive human being than Williamson who, up to this day, still wears his past like a badge of honour.

He lives freely in a democratic South Africa, the beneficiary of the very freedom he denied others.

Jonathan Ancer was not going to fail to pull off this project. He had a fascination with his subject, from his own university days, that is the foundation of this genre of biography.

The end result is this offering, one of South Africa’s most telling tales. And he did not do it disservice.


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