Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login.

September ‘shot for nuke secrets’

South Africa’s former deputy minister of foreign affairs, Aziz Pahad, has stated on camera for the first time that anti-apartheid activist Dulcie September was assassinated 23 years ago because of her knowledge of nuclear military trade between South Africa and France.

According to Dutch journalist Evelyn Groenink, Pahad was speaking in a documentary made by Pascal Henry for French television channel Canal Plus. Groenink originally reported the nuclear motive in a 1998 article published in the Mail & Guardian.

Both the South African and French governments maintain that September’s assassination in Paris, while she was opening the local ANC offices on the Rue des Petites-Ecuries one morning, was conducted by an apartheid-era death squad and due solely to her anti-apartheid activities.

The issue of September’s knowledge of nuclear trade during apartheid arose in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings in 1998, but was not ­followed up. “I was always surprised that you can write an article, it gets published by a prestigious newspaper and then nothing happens,” said Groenink.

“The TRC continued as if nothing was written and kept on questioning Eugene de Kock [the former Vlakplaas hit squad commander]. Only people in journalism circles talked about it. The TRC has consistently refused to acknowledge what Pahad [originally] said.” She said that from Pahad’s claims, “everything points to French mercenaries”.

“Everything that happened in the late Eighties and early Nineties was about contracts being in danger if blacks came to power. I believe the French were involved in giving the order to have September shot,” Groenink said.

In 2009 the Jacana publisher and then-Ruth First fellow, Maggie Davie, gave a lecture on the difficulties she faced in trying to publish Groenink’s book, Dulcie September: Murder in Paris. She mentioned the numerous threats she received and legal action she faced from people who had been sent questions for comment.

“Dulcie’s files were notoriously hard to find,” said Davie. “You can’t get access to them through the department of justice. It says that’s because there is an ongoing investigation. But if you speak to the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority], it says there is no such investigation. There has been lots of obfuscation. A few of the files have gone missing, but we don’t know which ones are missing.”

John Daniel, who worked as a member of the research department for the truth commission, said that no serious investigation had been conducted into Dulcie September’s death.

“There were some TRC people who went to France. They supplied us with considerable documentation, but it was all in French. The only part that was translated was the summary report of the presiding judge. Other than that, no investigation was done. We were never given the files of French intelligence. The September case should have been prioritised, but it wasn’t.”

September was 52 years old when she was shot five times in the head. She was the ANC’s chief representative for France, Luxembourg and Switzerland. On the day of her murder, 60 000 people took to the streets of France in various marches to protest against her killing.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Khoikhoi versus US giant Amazon

The controversial River Club development gets the go-ahead, but opponents say they are heading for court

SIU moves on eThekwini housing scam

The developer allegedly secured illegal funding from the housing regulatory authority

More top stories

Why South Africa stopped making vaccines

The high demand for Covid vaccines means there is a limited global supply. Local manufacturing is one solution. So why isn’t South Africa making its own jabs?

‘He can’t just write letters out of anger’: Mantashe reacts...

That is not how decisions are made in an organisation, the party’s national chairperson warns as Magashule sends suspension letter to Ramaphosa

Hlophe’s attorney found in contempt of court

The high court said Barnabas Xulu acted with impunity and contempt in the saga of getting him to repay millions in state funds

Aced: ANC secretary general suspended from the party for the...

Magashule is barred from carrying out his tasks and cannot talk on behalf of the party

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…