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ANC leaflet bomb witnesses asked to tell story

Politics

Cape Town - A documentary film team are searching for eyewitnesses to a series of clandestine bombing missions carried out by the ANC across South Africa in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

James Barrett, the producer of London Recruits, said the film explored ANC missions organised from London and undertaken by young international volunteers
In Cape Town the leaflet bombings occurred during 1969, 1970, 1971 and again in 1981, he said. 

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In the late ‘60s, those who stood up against the apartheid regime had been put under severe pressure, according to Barrett. 

“In the aftermath of Sharpeville, mass arrests, and then the Rivonia trial, the liberation movement was determined to rebuild resistance. Exiled ANC operative and founding member of its armed wing uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Ronnie Kasrils, oversaw the top-secret operation to bolster the Struggle. 

“Working from London under instructions from Oliver Tambo, Ronnie recruited young workers and students to infiltrate South Africa on behalf of the ANC, posing as holidaymakers, newly-wed couples and business trippers,” said Barrett. 

Once inside the country, the recruits undertook secret missions in the heart of South African cities. 

Some of the missions included the planting of non-lethal “leaflet bombs” at strategic commuter sites, playing audio messages from exiled leaders and displaying banners at landmark buildings. 

On several occasions, explosive devices, smuggled by the recruits from London, sent thousands of resistance leaflets fluttering into the skies of Cape Town, Joburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London. 

A Cape Argus article published on August 11, 1971 said the “pamphlets scattered subversive ANC propaganda”. 

On August 10, 1971, five bombs were set to go off in the city centre, but only four did. According to the published article, most of the pamphlets were seized by police and security “almost immediately”. 

The article quoted a security source who suspected, at the time, it was the ANC responsible for the bombings. 

“The pamphlets were not written and printed in South Africa, but are from abroad - quite possibly London. What worries us is how they managed to get such a large number of pamphlets into South Africa.” 

Ronnie Kasrils noted how the execution of the leaflet bombings required a lot of technology “to explode 500 leaflets 20 metres into the sky”. 

“We used to go to parks in London at quiet times to experiment,” said Kasrils.
Barrett appealed to those who might have witnessed any of the missions to come forward. 

Director Gordon Main said: “To find South African eyewitnesses will be to find the missing voice in this great story. We are sure that you are out there and we really want to hear from you, so our nationwide appeal starts today. If you can help, please do get in touch.” 

Anyone with information can contact the film company on Facebook, Twitter @LondonRecruits or via the website www.isawit.co.za

 [email protected]

Cape Argus

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