S. Africa's police: men of many letters?
Another major scandal has erupted to embarrass the South African government. Opposition members of Parliament are outraged because of the publication of documented allegations that the country's supersecret security police, members of the Department of National security, have been intercepting the mail of highly respected politicians and churchmen, tapping private telephones, and keeping voluminous files about their activities.
One of the politicians whose mail has been intercepted is Helen Suzman, a member of Parliament and outspoken member of the main white opposition party, the Progressive Federal Party.
The leader of the Progressive Federal Party, Dr. Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, who is also the formal leader of the opposition in the south African Parliament, says the allegations are "extremely disturbing and shocking. "He plans to raise the matter in Parliament when it sits again in a few weeks.
Another of the prominent names the secret police allegedly have on their files is the richest man in South Africa, Harry Oppenheimer, a multimillionaire mining magnate.
There also are alleged to be files on all the main South African writers.
the source of the information is Arthur McGivern, a former member of the Department of National Security, who resigned last September and went to Britain with a bundle of incriminating documents wrapped in a towel.
He says he joined the security police in 1972 to penetrate the South African power structure and "find who was running thins" in South Africa.
His story has been published in London exclusively by the Observer, a leading British Sunday newspaper. It has been widely reprinted in South Africa -even by newspapers that have no rights to the material.
After the first installment, entitled "Inside BOSS's super spook headquarters ," South African Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha called for a full report on the activities of the Department of National Security (formerly widely known as the Bureau of State Security, thence BOSS).
Meanwhile, Mr. McGivern's previous employers have acknowledged that he worked for them, but have tried to make out that if he was some sort of spy, he was only a small and unimportant part with no access to the real secrets of the operation.
UNonetheless, the documents Mr. McGivern has produced to support his allegations are, no doubt, highly embarrassing to the security department. One, for example, is a copy of a letter from the British Conservative Party Member of Parliament, Winston Churchill (grandson of the famous wartime leader), to Mr. Suzman.
It is stamped "geheim" -meaning secret and there seems no explanation except that it was deliberately intercepted. mr. McGivern says the letter comes from the police file on Mrs. Suzman.
Among the authors the security police are alleged to have spied on is dr. lan Paton, world-famous author of the best-selling novel, "Cry the Beloved Country."
He said this past weekend that he was not the least surprised at the Observer report and confirmed that he had known for many years that the security police had a file on him. Security police had followed him "all over," he said.
Another writer, Prof. Andre Brink, said he knew the police had a file on him and that they had tapped his telephone.