Letters to the editor: August 7 to 13 2015

Undercover spook: Olivia Forsyth (front), with activists Bridget Hilton-Barber (second from left), June Esau (fourth from left) and others. (Supplied)

Undercover spook: Olivia Forsyth (front), with activists Bridget Hilton-Barber (second from left), June Esau (fourth from left) and others. (Supplied)

Spy still stringing a line

  I enjoyed Phillip de Wet’s piece on the book by security police spy Olivia Forsyth (Scant sauce in honeypot memoir). From an extract of the book sent to me by a friend, it is clear that she is still dissembling. She briefly mentions me, saying: “I was kindly offered temporary accommodation at the Yeoville flat of Gavin Evans, whose flatmate was away.” Neither of these claims are true.

A month before Forsyth arrived in Johannesburg in 1986, Grant Rex, then the president of the University of the Witwatersrand Students Representative Council, warned me that she was relocating and that she intended to apply to two anti-apartheid organisations for a job.
Grant had spoken to a Grahamstown student leader, Mike Kenyon, who convinced him that Forsyth was a spy. I therefore warned leaders of the two organisations not to employ her.

When she arrived in Johannesburg, however, I was away in Cape Town. She told my flatmate, Maxine Hart, that I had said she could stay there while I was away. This was untrue.

When I arrived back, I was shocked to find Forsyth in my flat. I told her that she had to leave, which she did.

A week or so later there were signs of a break-in in our flat. When we looked further we found an inhaler, the same sort used by Forsyth.

  Incidentally, she did apply for jobs at the two anti-apartheid organisations, was turned down, and then accepted a job at Business Day. But, two days before she was due to start, her handlers whisked her out of the country, which led to her ill-fated bid to infiltrate the ANC. – Gavin Evans, London

• Mine was a fairly long conversation with your correspondent and, if he thought I had stated Forsyth was of “pure heart”, that is incorrect. I never trusted her, nor could I forgive her role as an enemy agent and the harm she caused.

But, during her period of detention by the ANC, I thought it possible she was changing her ideological views. After all, the rehabilitation and education of detainees had that as an objective. Chris Hani and I were of the same view: detainees should be as decently treated as possible in a difficult context. We did not wish to see women detainees incarcerated at Quatro, which is why we had five or six of them removed to house detention in Luanda, Forsyth among them.

We hoped to exchange her for Umkhonto weSizwe prisoners on the apartheid state’s death row. Instead, the opportunity to escape presented itself, which she took with alacrity.

  Before the decision to detain her, I for one was prepared to test her offer to act as a double agent. You win some, you lose some, in that game. I have not yet read her book and her true position remains her secret. – Ronnie Kasrils

  Editor’s note: There will be a debate on our coverage of Olivia Forsyth’s memoir in the August 14 edition of the M&G.


Chemical industry must adapt

  Deidre Penfold’s warning (Climate policy may harm industrial growth) is myopic. Penfold, executive director of the Chemical and Allied Industries’ Association (Caia), invokes “the economic freedom of its citizens” to argue that South Africa should further delay measures to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic climate change.

Climate policy won’t harm human industry, nor will it retard the growth of services and value, if government is decisive and consistent. Requiring some industries to contract does not equal deindustrialisation. Transition to a low-carbon economy requires re-industrialisation as we develop better ways to deliver the services and goods society requires, including infrastructure to harvest renewable energy on an industrial scale.

Caia is right to identify electricity generation as the leading mitigation opportunity and argue that continuing “to expand its fleet of coal-fired power stations … is contradictory to South Africa’s overall climate change mitigation policy”. This does not justify blocking deliberation on the desired emission reduction outcomes (Deros) climate policy that was required by October 2013 but those at risk of harm without timely climate action aren’t Caia or Business Unity South Africa (Busa)‘s constituency.

The energy industry must adapt and grow, decentralise and provide far better resource efficiency; it won’t be harmed by the decline of domestic coal consumption over a few decades, the only strategy consistent with keeping global warming below 2°C.

To claim “there is no urgency” is wilful ignorance. It is dishonest for Caia, ignoring the socioeconomic assessment work presented last November at the national climate change response dialogue, to “advise updates to … the peak-plateau-decline trajectory be undertaken”, when, with Busa, they were instrumental in shutting down the Deros process to update and clarify the peak-plateau-decline range required by policy adopted in 2011.

Stonewalling by organised business seeks to prevent South Africa from following the agreed timeframe to table the intended nationally determined contributions towards achieving the global mitigation goal ahead of international climate negotiations in Paris this December.

  Since the department of environmental affairs announced provincial workshops to consult all stakeholders on South Africa’s climate change response, including the scale and pace of mitigation, we can expect self-serving invocations of threats to “growth” actively denying the social potential of re-industrialising South Africa. – Richard Worthington, Johannesburg