AP NEWS
Related topics

Apartheid Spymaster Details Murders

September 14, 1998

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ Apartheid’s premier spy, seeking amnesty for a career built on betrayal, clinically detailed Monday the letter bomb attacks that killed two women and a 6-year-old girl.

Craig Williamson’s testimony about the slayings in Mozambique and Angola laid bare the former apartheid government’s efforts to strike at opponents, even outside South Africa’s borders.

At a hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the former police intelligence chief described the killings of Ruth First, wife of Communist leader Joe Slovo, and ANC activist Jeanette Schoon and her daughter Katryn in the mid-1980s.

Williamson, who is seeking amnesty for the slayings, said he arranged for the letter bombs used in the attacks on the orders of his superior, Brig. Piet Goosen, who has since died. Goosen’s boss, former police Commissioner Johann Coetzee, denied last week that he ordered the bombings.

Coetzee did, however, admit to another foreign attack _ the bombing of the London office of the African National Congress in 1982. The Truth Commission, set up after 1994 all-race elections to help heal South Africa’s racial divide, can grant amnesty to those who fully confess to politically motivated crimes.

Mrs. Schoon and her husband, Marius, were both longtime ANC members living in exile in Angola, where they were targeted to ``sew fear and confusion″ in ANC ranks, Williamson said.

``When I heard the results of the attack _ when I was told a child was killed _ it was like being hit by a bucket of cold water,″ Williamson said, as Marius Schoon looked on in the hearing room.

``There’s nothing that ever happened in my life that I regret more,″ he said of the 1984 slaying.

It was one of the few moments of regret expressed by Williamson, who befriended Mrs. Schoon when they were student activists in the 1970s.

Much of his testimony involved a description of Angola as a major source of Soviet support for the ANC and its Communist Party allies.

During a break, Schoon expressed anger over Williamson’s testimony.

``How would you feel about the man who killed your daughter?″ he said. ``It’s just bloody nonsense. It’s difficult to see sincerity in somebody whose entire career has been based on deceit.″

Williamson joined the police in the late 1960s and became an informer on student activists at Wits law school. In 1975, he was elected vice president of the National Union of South African Students and later went to Europe, where he befriended a number of ANC activists. He returned as intelligence chief in 1980.

Williamson testified that Goosen summoned him in early 1984, handed him an intercepted envelope addressed to the Schoons and told him to rig a bomb like the one that killed First in Mozambique in 1982.

``I’ve thought about this for many years,″ Williamson said. ``When you carry out an attack on a target which you don’t know, it’s one thing But when you make an attack on people you know, it’s another. It was a matter of great difficulty,″ he said.

AP RADIO
Update hourly