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ANC letter bombing story of 'courage'

Crime & Courts

Cape Town - Between 1967 and 1973, the ANC’s operatives in exile carried out daring missions involving the recruitment of young individuals abroad and arranging for them to smuggle pamphlets into South Africa.

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Sandra and Millie met Tom and Ron Bell in 1970 when Tom and Ron undertook the leaflet blast missions in Cape Town. The filmmakers of London Recruits would like to find Sandra and Millie.

These leaflets were aimed at educating citizens about the oppression the apartheid government was exercising on the majority of the country's people, while also creating awareness of the ANC and its armed wing uMkhonto we Sizwe.

One of these operatives was former minister of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils, who recruited people in England and arranged for them to be flown in.

They would have with them hundreds of pamphlets, usually concealed in the bottom of their suitcases, which they would then release via “letter bombing” - detonating a package of pamphlets which would shoot them some 20m into the air allowing the wind to carry the message to people.

It was dangerous work, with the threat of security police ever present.

The recruits would often pose as honeymooners and travel as couples.

For many, it was their first trip abroad and their first and only visit to South Africa.

To minimise the risk, the same recruits would rarely be used more than once.

The missions were carried out in the country's major cities, Cape Town included.

The clandestine missions have inspired a Welsh film company, Barefoot Rascals, to make a documentary about the letter bombings.

The film, London Recruits, is to be told from the perspective of the recruits who carried out the missions, but also seeks to incorporate the accounts of eyewitnesses who saw the letter drops and picked up the leaflets.

“These were sensational missions which pierced the wall of silence established by the regime. The London Recruits played no small part in the ultimate success of the struggle and I’m thrilled to see this important moment of our Struggle documented on film for the first time.

“Post-Rivonia, we needed to get a message across to our people that the ANC, the liberation movement, was alive, that people should not give up hope.

“The London Recruits were prepared to go on dangerous missions into South Africa and carry this message.”

Kasrils said it was a story about tremendous courage in a period filled with the spirit of internationalism and solidarity.

“And it is this central message of the film that we need today.”

He said the recruits did not brag about what they did.

“The Struggle saw immense sacrifices by South Africa’s own people.

“But as Thabo Mbeki and others have said, the recruits played a vital role in this period.

“We hope the film revives many universal lessons of serving a good cause, and exposing those who exploit and oppress.

“It is a story that we hope inspires and brings people together in solidarity for real change today.”

If you witnessed the letter drops during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, you are encouraged to visit www.isawit.co.za and contact the film’s producers.

The producers would like to incorporate as many eyewitnesses as possible. All contact details are provided on the website.

Cape Argus

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