The Root of All Evil?

The love of money says the Biblical injunction is the root of all kinds of evil. In his new book ‘Apartheid, Guns & Money’ researcher, journalist and human rights activist, Hennie van Vuuren, follows the money that fuelled the apartheid state. It’s a tough road that leads him to conclude that we still live in ‘The Long Shadow’ (the title of the concluding chapter) of the past. In the first of a two-part series we explore Van Vuuren’s amazing findings and how the whirlwind he has unleashed will unsettle the powerful for a long time to come.

“The current struggle against corruption in South Africa is undermined by a basic lack of appreciation of the nature of that corruption and the criminal networks that facilitate it –namely, that they are continuities of a profoundly corrupt system that predates the first democratic election… The very wealthy need to show real contrition for these acts, which have been to their benefit. This cannot be relegated to a simple act of charity but … the super-rich in particular need to repatriate far more of their wealth and invest it in South Africa’s future. They and their children can no longer look away and pretend as if the source of the luxury with which they surround themselves is untainted.”

– Hennie van Vuuren, Apartheid, Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit

It is a cold Saturday morning. A weak winter sun settles on the simple office décor of Community House. It’s a place that used to enjoy the moniker ‘Struggle HQ’ in the old days. Nowadays it’s a hub of human rights organisations, where we sometimes go for a post struggle socialist fix.

Hennie van Vuuren the Director of Open Secrets has a quiet, unassuming air. Perfect for an investigator who has had to become a bit of a counter spy to delve into a dark and complex world. But the exterior is misleading. Behind the soulful grey green eyes and the boyish face is a rock-solid determination that has resulted in five years of research, a 624-page book and a mountain of documents that dwarf the end product.

And that’s not all… After publishing in almost forensic detail the complex and deadly networks the apartheid government used to bust sanctions, flout the UN Arms Embargo and fuel its ideology, he is preparing for the next step: Court cases and activism that aim to hold corporations and governments to account for their crimes.

Open Secrets, the organisation Van Vuuren now runs, aims to promote private sector accountability for economic crime and human rights violations.

Apartheid’s Global Support

His book’s meticulous research shows how apartheid thrived because the National Party government had influential friends and supporters across the globe, sometimes in the most unlikely places. Even ANC/PAC supporter China is up there among those named and shamed.


02_An Atlas of Apartheid Allies

“The fabulous profits made by oil traders and suppliers had a deep knock-on impact on social upliftment in South Africa, something for which these businessmen should have been forced to account. Instead, as we have seen, they were either accommodated in the post-1994 democratic South Africa or were even allowed to feast yet further on corruption in the arms deal of the late 1990s.”

– Apartheid Guns and Money

Read the full story at The Journalist

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