Camp and cowardice

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: The British National Party (BNP), the premier neo- fascist organisation in the United Kingdom, is reeling from worse-than-expected results in local elections last week — not least in London, where the campaign was coordinated by some- time South African Arthur Kemp. The 41-year-old Kemp, whose high point of notoriety came from his role in the assassination of Chris Hani in 1993, is a close friend of BNP party leader Nick Griffin, who drafted him to coordinate its bid to win a seat on Ken Livingston’s London assembly. It failed.

Born in what was then Rhodesia, raised in Cape Town and now living with his family near Oxford, Kemp is a strange creature with an even stranger political past. I first met him in 1982 when I was a member of the students representative council at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Kemp, then in his first year, was elected as a “joke” candidate in an uncontested by-election. Unintentionally camp, weedy and unsmiling, his contribution extended no further than planting stink bombs at public meetings.

After one such incident, a left-winger threatened to thump him and Kemp immediately backed down, leading Tony Karon (then a leftie student, now a New York-based Time editor and television pundit) to dub him a “gutless fascist”. It wasn’t long before Kemp was heading determinedly in that direction.

It had already emerged he was a member of the New Republic Party (a short-lived, right-of-centre, English-speaking affair). Soon after, however, he made a brief and futile attempt to ingratiate himself with the “broad left”. Making no headway, Kemp helped revive the Conservative Students Alliance — a right-wing group funded by the security police. But unlike most of his right-wing student allies, who drifted towards the National Party and later Tony Leon’s Democratic Alliance, Kemp took a more idiosyncratic path — serving the apartheid security and intelligence machinery on the one hand, and the extreme right on the other. He joined the police and then the security police after leaving university while drifting steadily towards a harder-line, pro-apartheid political stance than he was prepared to own up to in his UCT days.

He became a prominent stalwart for the South African Conservative Party. Surrounded by burlier men, he had acquired a more confident swagger along with his supercilious sneer. He seemed to be doing well in his attempts to inveigle himself into their circles, working as political secretary to party leader Andries Treurnicht and writing a sympathetic book on the Afrikanerweerstandsbeweging (AWB) in 1990, and becoming a prominent writer in Die Patriot.

As an English-speaking right-winger with a dramatic flair, he appealed to the flamboyant side of the Pretoria- based CP couple, Clive and Gaye Derby-Lewis. Kemp supplied Gaye with what became a list of the names and whereabouts of prominent anti-apartheid activists, including the name and address of Hani. Clive passed the list on to his hitman, Polish-born fascist Janusz Walus, who murdered Hani. Kemp’s list was later found in Walus’s flat.

What the Derby-Lewises did not realise was that Kemp also informed the National Intelligence Service (NIS) of his list and where it had gone (although the NIS later claimed it had no role in Hani’s murder). Kemp was arrested along with Walus and the Derby-Lewises and held for a couple of days. He became a state witness, admitting his role in supplying the list, including Hani’s details, while denying prior knowledge of its purpose. By this stage Kemp was regarded as a gutless sell-out by his extremist comrades and further infuriated them with his reluctance to assist their amnesty bid.

He emigrated soon after South Africa became a democracy and settled in Britain, where he promptly got to work building on his past ties with neo-fascist groups. In 1996 Searchlight, the anti-fascist newspaper, exposed the fact that Kemp had addressed pro-Nazi meetings in Germany and had written for the fascist publication Nation und Europa. He later wrote a 32-chapter racist history book entitled March of the Titans: History of the White Race, and his musings have been highlighted on the Nazi-supporting website Stormfront.

Kemp developed a close relationship with BNP leader Griffin and began to make regular contributions to the party’s website and publications on subjects ranging from the Iraq War to “non-white” immigration. One of his most quoted is a lengthy racist diatribe entitled Third World Immigration: Importing Poverty, not Prosperity — a kind of reworking of Enoch Powell’s notorious Rivers of Blood speech, arguing against black immigration to Britain. He joined Griffin at a rally of BNP supporters in Bromley.

As with so many things in Kemp’s past, this one did not work out (mainly because of the relative success of the more mainstream right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party). The BNP is defensive about the exposure of Kemp’s past. “He’s a fantastic fellow and I don’t see anything wrong with what he’s doing,” said a spokesperson.

However, some British neo-fascist activists are pointing to Kemp’s role as an informer against right-wing comrades in South Africa, saying that he is not to be trusted. If his past is anything to go by, they may have a point.

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