AGENT 407, a South African spy breaks her silence

: Forsyth (O.)

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331pp., b/w & colour illus., paperback, Johannesburg, 2015

 

Olivia Forsyth was recruited as a Security Branch officer in 1981 and sent to Rhodes University to infiltrate pro-ANC structures. Deeply involved in student politics, she led various campaigns opposing the apartheid regime. In 1985 she approached the ANC in Zimbabwe and offered to be a double agent, but was interred in Quatro prison camp in Angola. Chris Hani and Ronnie Kasrils intervened and had her transferred to a safe house in Luanda, hoping to exchange her for ANC prisoners on Death Row in South Africa. Forsyth managed to escape the ANC and sought refuge at the British embassy. When she returned to South Africa she claimed that her defection to the ANC had been a successful ploy by the Security Branch to infiltrate the ANC, but has since maintained that this claim had been a misinformation campaign. Forsyth currently lives in Italy.

"Described by her publishers as “South Africa’s most notorious apartheid spy”, Forsyth manages to recall the music she danced to and what she served at parties, but not details of police raids by her Security Branch colleagues on the leftist publications with which she worked. She can offer a comprehensive list of what she read in an ANC prison but can’t describe exactly how she betrayed her student comrades. The highlights of her spy career appear to have been stealing a set of car keys so duplicates could be made and mistakenly moving a bright red flowerpot from one window to another. For those who are still puzzled by Forsyth many years later, this is most unsatisfactory." Phillip de Wet, Mail & Guardian