chapter  1
12 Pages

Introduction: South African intelligence in revolution and counter- revolution 1948–2005

On 12 September 1989, two men checked-into the Palace Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland. Using the names Michael James and Jacobus Maritz, they were in Switzerland illegally – travelling on false passports, false documentation and under cover-names – but decided that the risk was acceptable, given the enormity of what they were about to embark upon. Waiting nervously in their rooms for their contacts – John and Jack Simelane – they considered the possibility that they, or their contacts, could be killed in the process of the meetings, or – possibly even worse – detected and exposed by the Swiss authorities, or the American, British, French or West German intelligence services. As the evening wore on, the Simelane brothers arrived at the hotel, and asked for James’ and Maritz’s suite. Approaching their door cautiously in case James or Maritz were waiting to shoot them down in their turn, the Simelane brothers turned the corner into the room, and stopped: standing before them were James (in reality, Mike Louw, the deputy director of South Africa’s National Intelligence Service) and Maritz (in reality, Maritz Spaarwater, its chief director of operations), with nervous looks on their faces. Entering the room, John Simelane (in reality, Thabo Mbeki, a leading member of the African National Congress’ National Executive Council) and Jack Simelane (in reality, Jacob Zuma, the deputy head of the ANC’s National Intelligence Department) grinned in relief. “Well . . .”, sighed Mbeki, “here we are, bloody terrorists and for all you know fucking communists as well.” The group broke-up in laughter, thereby starting the first moves by the intelligence services of both the apartheid state and its principal opponent of negotiating a settlement towards the end of apartheid, and a democratic future for all South Africans.1