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Wouter Basson, head of CBW
program, on trial for drug charges.
The following is excerpted from a major article on apartheid South Africa's chemical
and biological warfare program in its battle to maintain white minority rule.
(The full article with footnotes is available from CAQ.)
DIRTY TRICKS AND DIRTIER GERMS
As details of South Africa's CBW program emerge, tales of abuse and evil boggle the mind. These are among the cases that have emerged thus far:
* Using black units as guinea pigs. Confidential military sources have suggested that members of the 31st Bushmen Battalion and other black units in the old SADF were used as guinea pigs for experimental drugs while they were treated for diseases and wounds in 1st Military Hospital in Pretoria.
* Impregnating clothing with deadly toxin. During the 1980s, Roodeplaat Research Laboratories worked to develop a poison that could be applied to T-shirts so that the wearer would absorb the poison slowly. As the toxin entered the bloodstream, it would form a blood clot causing heart failure. An autopsy would thus show the cause of death to be natural. The plan to target black student activists failed when the police hit squads who were to distribute the T-shirts "chickened out."
* Developing race-changing drugs. In one of the most bizarre projects, the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research worked on a pill that could turn whites into blacks so that apartheid operatives could infiltrate the ranks of the enemy.
* Breeding killer dogs. In addition to developing a CBW capability, Roodeplaat Breeding Enterprises also had a breeding program to develop a wolf-dog for military tracking and guarding. The resulting crossbreed of a Russian wolf with a German shepherd was "reluctant to submit to the authority of their trainers." Scientist Peter Geertshen said proudly of his first wolf-dog, "One problem is that he doesn't like blacks because he was trained in the army Ñ and he's become temperamental in his old age." Geertshen pointed out that the pups from this first animal were raised in a non-racial environment, "Our dogs don't discriminate Ñ they're trained to attack blacks, whites and women." An even more vicious animal-a cross between a Rottweiler, a Doberman, and a bloodhound Ñ was also created at Roodeplaat. The 175-pound "boerbul" was so ferocious that even international pitbull fan clubs called for a ban because the dogs were "virtually uncontrollable." The boerbuls were advertised in the 1980s by the extreme right-wing Herstigte Nasionale Party as a "racist watchdog" bred "especially for South African circumstances."
* Poisoning enemies. Apart from developing new macabre technologies, the CBW program - often in collaboration with the CCB - planned numerous "conventional" poisonings. In the late 1980s, the CCB decided that Dullah Omar Ñ a member of Lawyers for Human Rights and now the Justice Minister Ñ should be killed for defending "terrorists." They hired a Capetown gangster to exchange Omar's heart pills with poison pills, but the assassin ultimately aborted his mission because he admired his intended victim too much.
* Contaminating drinking water with disease pathogens. During the transition to Namibian independence, the CCB hatched a plan to contaminate the drinking water of swapo refugee camps in northern Namibia with yellow fever and cholera bacteria. Fortunately, the bacteria died from the high chlorine content in the water supply.
* Planning to poison Mandela. Confidential military sources have claimed that there were also plans to contaminate Nelson Mandela's medication with the toxic heavy metal thallium while he was at Pollsmoor Prison. Colorless, odorless, tasteless, and difficult to treat, the poison is alleged to have been used by South African agents on many occasions.
* Poisoning Biko with thallium. Recently seized documents also suggest that a thallium compound was administered to Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko while he was being tortured by police.10 According to documents, the effects of thallium are easily mistaken for hemorrhaging of the brain resulting from a blow to the head; thus, a case of premeditated murder may have been disguised as an "accidental" death during a rough interrogation session. Dumisa Ntsebezi, head of the TRC investigative unit, has stated he has an unnamed source who is prepared to testify under oath that he was in the room in 1981 when another officer allegedly administered the poison to Biko.
* Using carcinogens, CBW, and napalm. President Mandela was also contemplated as a target of the defense force's CBW research into the effect of organophosphates and other substances that enhance cancer. Deputy President Thabo Mbeki testified before the TRC that the apartheid government used chemical weapons, poisonous gases, and napalm in attacks on neighboring states. He also said that scores of the apartheid government's opponents were assassinated with poison.
* Paralyzing enemies with gas. An investigation by the UN and the World Health Organization found that during the 1978 "mass murders at Kassinga" in Angola, victims were paralyzed with gas before they were shot. The South African Special Forces conducted the raid, which is regarded as one of the world's most successful hit-and-run operations in which the entire force was deployed by helicopter gunships.
* Poisoning food. In 1977, during the so-called "Black September" incident, apartheid forces tried to poison the food of 500 Umkhonto we Sizwe cadres (the now disbanded ANC military wing) who were undergoing training in Angola.
* Proliferating poison gas. In Mozambique, poison gases were provided to the South African-backed Renamo rebels in their fight against the Marxist Frelimo government. In 1983, Frelimo troops discovered bombs containing a "poisonous substance" when a Renamo base was overrun. According to the AC, chemical weapons were also used in 1992 in an attack on Frelimo forces which 80 government troops died.
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