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Something more sinister?

In a shocking confession, made on camera in a new documentary released last month, a former member of South Africa’s Apartheid-era intelligence service says that the Aids virus, and other diseases, were deliberately spread among the population in an effort to kill off as many blacks as possible. His confession, considered just the tip of the iceberg, has reignited the simmering debate about the whole phenomenon of Aids in Africa. Report by Baffour Ankomah. 

Ben Geer, a white South African who fought for Ian Smith’s government in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), asks awkward questions in his 1997 book, titled Something More Sinister, that probes the spread of HIV/Aids and the experimentation with other dangerous chemical and biological weapons in the Southern African region by the two white supremacist governments of Rhodesia and South Africa, using black people as guinea pigs.

Some excerpts from his book: “The Rhodesian security forces operated a Biological Warfare Unit during the Bush War. Why?” He goes on: “The continued annihilation of villages and refugee centres in Mozambique by the Rhodesian security forces – with no consideration given to innocent civilians, the elderly, women and children – seems incongruous with their Christian ideals. Why was the war protracted and these atrocities committed after agreement had been reached on Kissinger’s proposals? 

“Numerous true incidents … such as the account of Operation Eland when, in August 1976, [the Rhodesian unit] the Selous Scouts attacked the ZANLA base at Nyadzonya, Mozambique, and reportedly killed 340 ‘terrorists’ and 30 Frelimo soldiers. The UN later claimed the majority of the victims were refugees and not soldiers.

“The offensive military operations undertaken by the Selous Scouts were accompanied by specific orders to take captive and bring back hospitalised patients from ‘terrorist’ bases in Mozambique during the raids – for interrogation! 

“This seems strange in the extreme, whereas there were over 1,000 healthy persons at Nyadzonya camp at the time of this attack who could have been taken for interrogation. Why were the Selous Scouts instructed to take captive diseased or injured persons from the hospital, where it would clearly be impossible to identify their military rank or, indeed, assess whether they were civilians rather than soldiers?” 

Here Geer insinuates that the “diseased or hospitalised patients” were subjects of secret contamination or experimentation by operatives of the Rhodesian Biological Warfare Unit (BWU) and, after Ian Smith suddenly agreed with the Kissinger proposals to grant black majority rule, the government had to remove the evidence of contamination by eliminating the hospitalised patients before word got out. 

Geer reveals, however, that: “The Selous Scouts did not comply with this directive [the specific orders to take captive and bring back hospitalised and diseased patients from ZANLA bases in Mozambique]. It was said a chance tracer ignited the grass roof [of the hospital] and all the patients were burnt to death. Were [the Selous Scouts] aware of the risks of infection from any captives or did they simply ignore the order that jeopardised the safety of the mission as this suggests? 

 “Another equally strange event was the Karima village massacre in Rhodesia, near the border, which was described by the media as a ‘mysterious incident’. In the evening of 12 June 1975, the Rhodesian security forces opened fire on a gathering of men, women and children. A Rhodesian government communiqué denied their involvement and said that only 20 people had been killed – by black terrorists!

“The Rhodesian security forces removed all the bodies and told bereaved relatives that the corpses had been burned on a hill a few kilometres away. Later, the security forces returned and insisted on supervising the burial of the “blood-soaked clothing” that remained behind. What lay behind the callous and unexplained incident?” Geer asks, and goes on:

 “The Rhodesian security forces had a policy shortly after UDI [unilateral declaration of independence in November 1965] whereby they released certain captive terrorists, who were returned across the border into neighbouring countries to their comrades, purportedly to try to convince them to lay down their arms. Is this a plausible explanation?

Biological warfare technology

Geer continues by showing how easily South Africa could have acquired chemical and biological warfare (CBW) technology and personnel, by revealing that “after the Second World War, Nazi war criminals were able to take refuge in South Africa.” And not only that, but “the South African medical research into the immune system was extremely advanced as a result of the work of the pioneering heart transplant unit at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.”

Geer then turns his attention to important and controversial “dates of interest” in the annals of both South Africa and Rhodesia.

“3 September 1971: A comprehensive report by the British-based International Defence & Aid Fund, entitled Terror at Tete (Mozambique), describes how Rhodesian soldiers arrive at Singa village in the Mukumbura district and shoot the villagers – men, women and children. A report by Portuguese army officers, published in April 1971, confirms Rhodesian activity 100km inside Mozambique. ‘Operations consist of speedy paratroop actions in specified areas and the liquidation of any human lives (there being no military or civilian prisoners) and a return to their bases in Rhodesia’.

“February 1975: Two hitchhikers travelling through Zimbabwe near the Mozambique border are infected with the Marburg virus. One subsequently dies in Johannesburg. This is the first outbreak of Marburg disease on record in Africa. The case is well documented.

“September 1976: US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger makes an impromptu visit to South Africa; the Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith flies twice to South Africa in one week and agrees to the terms set out by Kissinger … without protest! Ian Smith announces [black] majority rule ‘within two years’ – something he had said would not happen in his lifetime!

“21 November 1977: Rhodesian security forces raid two ZANLA bases in Mozambique killing over 1,200 people in Tembue and Chimoio camps – again, including women and children. Several air and land strikes are launched by the Rhodesian security forces against the main ‘terrorist’ bases in Mozambique. The inhabitants of several other villages and camps are annihilated and the bodies buried in mass graves.”

Five months later, in March 1978, a transitional government is sworn in, in Salisbury (now Harare), ending white minority rule in Rhodesia. In September 1978, Johannes Vorster resigns from the South African premiership and in June 1979 from the presidency. One of Vorster’s most remarkable feats was working with Henry Kissinger to persuade Ian Smith to grant black majority rule in Rhodesia while he himself remained stridently opposed to any such future for South Africa.

By asking such questions, Geer’s intention was to alert the world to the fact that the Rhodesian and South African governments had been using their CBW programmes to do harm to black people in the region long before Ian Smith agreed to grant black majority rule, and as independence approached in Zimbabwe, the two white governments went into overdrive to obliterate the evidence.

Geer thinks the involvement of the US and Britain in the CBW shenanigans in Southern Africa was not incidental; hence they had to put pressure on Ian Smith to capitulate so that the evidence could be completely wiped out before the nationalist forces became triumphant in the Rhodesian bush war. NA

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Written by Baffour Ankomah

Baffour Ankomah is New African's current Editor at Large. He has spent much of his 39 years of journalism at the magazine, having served as its Assistant Editor for 6 years, Deputy Editor for 5 years, and Editor for 15 years, retiring from active service in 2014. In 39 years of his journalism career - Africa and his many causes have been his passion. His personal column, Baffour's Beefs, which has been running continuously in New African since 1987, is a big hit and a must-read for the magazine's worldwide readers. He is now based in Zimbabwe, where he and his wife Elizabeth run their own media consultancy and fashion house called "African Interest" which trades under the trademark "I am African".

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