By Norm Dixon
Anti-African National Congress vigilantes and Inkatha fighters engaged in vicious attacks against township residents may have been the beneficiaries of 40 tonnes of grenades, shotguns, rifles and ammunition illegally shipped from the United States according to a recent report in the progressive South African weekly New Nation.
Citing the San Francisco Bay Guardian as its source, New Nation reported that three US arms companies were indicted in early August in connection with shipments of arms to South Africa in violation of the United Nations arms embargo.
USCommerce Department agents investigating the shipments said the weapons, supposedly destined for Zimbabwe and Namibia, arrived in Cape Town but went no further.
The disappearance of such a large cargo must have been facilitated by the deliberate bypassing of complicated customs procedures. This suggests the involvement of the dirty tricks department of the South African security forces.
Both the Johannesburg-based US commercial attaché, Richard Jackson, and the South African customs and excise department claimed to be unaware of the shipments or that an investigation was under way. US Commerce Department officials said that post-shipment verification checks carried out by them show that the arms shipments did in fact arrive in Cape Town.
Meanwhile, the US Congress has voted to donate US$2.5 million to Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, choosing to disregard the "Inkathagate" scandal, which has exposed Buthelezi as little more than a puppet of the apartheid regime. Congress has also ignored the organisation's murderous attacks, which have cost the lives of thousands of defenceless township residents, often in collusion with South African police and soldiers.
The donation was part of the Bush administration's "Transition to Democracy" project. Following revelations that the South African government had secretly channelled millions of rands to Inkatha, the US actually doubled the original proposed donation.
The US will give the African National Congress just $4.5 million despite the fact that the most recent opinion poll showed that 68% of South Africans wanted the ANC and its allies to govern the country. Inkatha failed even to register double figures. The money is to provide office equipment for the organisation.
The South African Council of Churches was granted $1 million on the condition that the money was not passed on to the ANC or other organisations for "political purposes". A further $2 million is to be distributed within South Africa at the discretion of the US Information Agency and the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy "to enhance the negotiating process".
Inkatha has received generous support from the pathologically anticommunist tame-cat leadership of the US trade union federation AFL-CIO over many years, reported David Pallister of the British Guardian recently. The AFL-CIO has often provided a secret conduit for CIA funds to anticommunist groups operating inside the labour movements of the world. The AFL-CIO has been especially supportive of Inkatha's trade union front, the United Workers' Union of South Africa (UWUSA).
UWUSA was recently found to have also received millions from the de Klerk regime. Documents leaked to the South African Weekly Mail showed that UWUSA was virtually a joint creation of the state security police and the authorities of the Inkatha-ruled KwaZulu bantustan.
UWUSA was created to counter the powerful anti-apartheid Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which is allied to the ANC and has a membership of 1.2 million. Immediately after UWUSA's formation in 1986, it launched attacks against COSATU's membership, killing and injuring hundreds in attacks that have continued to the present.
Employers have consistently favoured UWUSA — not surprising considering that it has never taken industrial action to secure pay rises or defend workers' conditions. Its executive is dominated by business people and managers.
In 1982, Buthelezi was given the AFL-CIO George Meany human rights award. That same year Irving Brown, the head of the federation's international department, visited South Africa. He offered funds to unions opposed to the liberation movement's strategy of calling on the international community to impose economic sanctions to fight apartheid. The vast majority of unions rejected his advances.
Brown was widely known to be a CIA operative who played a crucial role in constructing anticommunist trade unions in Western Europe after the second world war and then in Africa.
Buthelezi sought out Brown in Geneva in 1983, looking for money to allow Inkatha to involve itself with the trade unions. In 1986 UWUSA again approached the AFL-CIO, asking for "large-scale assistance" which, according the UWUSA's general secretary (and prominent KwaZulu businessman) S.Z. Conco,
were provided. Funds were also advanced from Israel and West Germany, he said.