South African operatives are allegedly still assisting Unita rebels in Angola, reports Stefaans Brummer
CLAIMS are being investigated by policethat renegade Military Intelligence operatives are still supplying Angola’s rebel Unita forces, and waging an undercover campaign against a Pretoria company backing Angolan government forces, .
SAPS spokesman Major Burger van Rooyen said this week: “We can confirm that certain information has been given to the SAPS. We are in the process of verifying it.”
Details of the alleged web of operations — some run “from within a state agency” and some by “splinter groups on the periphery of that agency” were revealed this week by Eben Barlow, managing director of Executive Outcomes, the Pretoria-based company that says it trains Angolan government troops, but is widely regarded as recruiting “mercenaries” who actively engage Unita.
The state agency against which the allegations are being made is reliably understood to be Military Intelligence.
Barlow claimed to have information on groups within the state agency and on its periphery, who “help Unita with propaganda, the supply of equipment and smuggling diamonds and ivory”. He said the information had been handed to police investigators.
Barlow said he had also given police information on a group of about 40 operatives of the state agency, commanded by a senior officer and operating from Pretoria premises, whom he claimed wanted to sabotage and “discredit” his company. He and two colleagues had received death threats, he said.
Barlow — himself once a career soldier, Military Intelligence operative and CCB member — claimed he had sympathetic sources inside the group. He said he had a document originating from the group instructing operatives how to hack into Executive Outcome computers, and tape recordings of operatives trying to persuade his employees to pass information to the group. Military Intelligence had assured him there was no official policy to investigate Executive Outcomes, he said.
Although military aid to Unita by the National Party government was officially terminated before the 1992 all- party Angolan elections, allegations of government help to the rebel movement have surfaced several times since Unita rejected the election results and went back to war.
Last year the Angolan government alleged South African military aircraft were flying into Unita-held territory. The claims were backed by the governments of neighbouring countries, who said their radar had picked up unauthorised flights.
But should the latest allegations prove true, they would point to an inability on the part of the new government — with traditionally strong ties to Angola’s MPLA government — to stamp out renegades still supporting Unita within its own bureaucracy.
Barlow said a typical supply operation to Unita would be set up by satellite phone from rebel headquarters in Huambo. Supplies would be purchased in South Africa and a legitimate flight plan would be filed from South Africa to the Zairean cities of Lubumbashi or Kinshasa.
Zairean authorities — known to support Unita — would issue a false end-user certificate as “proof” that the supplies were destined for Zaire. The aircraft — belonging to a private South African company — would then fly to Huambo, where the supplies would be exchanged for “commodities”, often contraband.
If possible, the commodity would be sold in South Africa — or else in one of a number of European countries which have no laws against the possession of uncut diamonds.
Diamonds are known to be Unita’s main source of income to fund its war effort, and of late many of the major battles have been over the control of strategic diamond-producing areas.
A National Defence Force spokesman, denied the allegations.