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S. Africa Says British Woman Spied on ANC

February 04, 1989|From Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A British woman who fled from an outlawed guerrilla group last year was actually a South African police officer assigned to spy on the anti-apartheid movement, the government said Friday.

Olivia Forsyth, 28, was held captive by the African National Congress for 22 months before she fled in May to the British Embassy in Luanda, Angola. She holed up in the embassy for six months before returning here.

Until Friday, neither she nor South African police would comment on the African National Congress' allegation that she was a spy who had tried to infiltrate the guerrilla movement. Her father, Peter Forsyth, had insisted she was a journalist.

The head of the police security branch, Maj. Gen. Basie Smit, said in a statement that Forsyth was a police lieutenant who gathered "valuable information" after pretending to defect to the guerrilla group in 1986. Smit said she was tortured at an African National Congress camp in Angola.

Names Another Spy

Smit also identified another police spy, Joy Harnden, who infiltrated leading anti-apartheid organizations in South Africa such as the Black Sash civil rights group and the End Conscription Campaign.

Both women, who are white, "performed a great duty for South Africa . . . in exceptionally dangerous circumstances," said Smit. He said details of their missions were being disclosed to counter a "twisted account" that might come from the guerrilla organization.

Police released a long statement by Forsyth, who holds British and South African citizenship.

In the statement, she said she was beaten while in custody and said the exiled leadership of the African National Congress did not want their leader, Nelson R. Mandela, released from prison in South Africa because they felt he was more useful as a martyr.

She also said Mandela's wife, Winnie, was an "embarrassment" to the group because she "never does as she is instructed."

She also asserted that a leadership struggle between two young guerrilla leaders, Chris Hani and Thabo Mbeki, is likely whenever President Oliver Tambo steps down.

Tom Sebina, an African National Congress spokesman based in Zambia, denied a leadership split and said Forsyth had not been mistreated while in custody. He said Britain should take away her British passport because she had spied for another country.

Regarding morale problems within the group, Sebina said it was possible there had been shortages of food and supplies in Angola.

The National Union of South African Students, one of the anti-apartheid organizations that Forsyth infiltrated at Rhodes University, issued a statement saying Forsyth was believed to have caused the detention of at least four human rights activists whom she pretended to befriend while at the school.

The African National Congress was outlawed by the South African government in 1960 and began a bombing and sabotage campaign in 1961 aimed at undermining the white minority-led government.

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