Craig Williamson: Apartheid careerist

Craig Williamson applied for amnesty for the murders of Ruth First in Mozambique in 1982 and of Jeannette and Katryn Schoon in 1984 in Angola. He also applied for amnesty for his role in the bombing of the ANC’s offices in London in 1982.

Williamson was born on April 23 1949 and matriculated from the exclusive private school, St Johns College, in Johannesburg, in 1967. The next year he joined the South African Police, becoming a sergeant, based at the Parkview police station. In 1971 he was recruited into the intelligence arm of the police.

On his handler’s orders he enrolled at Wits University in 1972 and began reporting on student activities. The next year saw him elected to the students’ representative council; by 1974 he had become a member of the SRC executive.

According to a fellow SRC member, who asked to remain anonymous, the six-person executive was evenly split: half of them were apartheid spies.

Williamson moved to Cape Town as national finance officer of the National Union of South African Students (Nusas) and was elected Nusas vice-president in 1975.

In 1976 Williamson ‘fled” South Africa for Botswana, where he met the head of the International University Exchange Fund, Lars Gunner Erickson, who gave him a job.

The ANC debriefed Williamson in 1977. He then took up his position in Geneva, which involved the clandestine channelling of funds to anti-apartheid organisations in Southern Africa through a network of agents. Some were genuine, others, including his sister, were suspect.

By 1979 there were financial problems at the IUEF, an issue Williamson used to try to blackmail Erikson in an attempt to stop him from exposing the spy’s true activities. But in 1980 his cover was blown by The Guardian in London.

Wiliamson returned to South Africa and continued to work for the security forces. He harboured hopes of a political career, but in 1987 failed to win a position as National Party MP for Bryanston.

He was appointed to the President’s Council in 1987, where he remained until 1991.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Belinda Beresford
Belinda Beresford
Belinda Beresford is an award-winning journalist and the former health and deputy news editor of the Mail & Guardian. She now lives in the United States.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Climate change bill: ‘One of the most important draft laws...

Bill moves towards the all-of-government approach required to mount effective climate response, but there are concerns that it is ‘toothless’

Yengeni’s complaint against Zondo is legally uncertain

The chief justice was acting in a non-judicial capacity when chairing the state capture inquiry, so the complaint probably falls outside the law but underscores the risk of naming sitting judges to investigate political scandals

Covid-19 escalates xenophobia in South Africa – Report

Politicians have increasingly come under scrutiny for their alleged inflammatory comments which have been taken as endorsement by anti-foreigner activists

Metaverse: Virtual economy to pump $40bn into African GDP

A study suggests that the virtual world platform could plug more than 40 billion US dollars into the African economy in its first decade.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…