Posts Tagged ‘SADF’

Kevin Carter

On the 24th of July 1994 South Africa lost one of its greatest photographers, his name was Kevin Carter. He died under suspicious circumstances with his death being reported as a suicide. Carter was born in 1960, the year of the banning of the ANC, into a Catholic family that accepted Apartheid. He, like many of his generation questioned the regime and saw the inherent injustice that the Apartheid system carried; he would often have serious quarrels with his father about it.

He was conscripted into the South African Defense Force (SADF) as was normal for any young white male at the time that was not disabled or could not obtain a student deferment. He loathed upholding the Apartheid regime and was once severely beaten and called kaffir-boetie (“nigger lover”) by some of his comrades in the SADF for trying to take sides with a black mess-hall waiter.

After completing his military service he got a job at a camera supply store and this is where his journey began. He made his name as an upcoming photographer with the local newspapers. By the year 1984 riots began sweeping the black townships and Carter aligned himself with other young photojournalists who sought to expose the brutal regime. He was the first to photograph a public execution by the cruel method of “necklacing” where a tyre is put around the victim, doused with petrol and set alight. This was a common execution specifically for individuals identified as working for the oppressive state as informants.

He also captured images from the unsuccessful invasion of Bophuthatswana by white right-wing outlaws. Their intentions were to give support to the setting up of a black homeland which was part of Apartheid’s separate development policy. These images were quite jarring as they graphically displayed the dead bodies of the right-wingers after having been executed by black Bophuthatswana policemen.

This blatant exposure of the ills of the Apartheid state was reaching far and wide and increasing the calls that would rally the world against the immoralities of the regime. One begins to foresee the kind of attacks that would most likely arise from the tyrannical state known for having units of assassins and unscrupulously eliminating any opposition. Knowing the background of the government would surely lead one to worry for the safety of Carter.

On April the 12th, three months before his death, the New York Times called him and notified him that he had just won the most coveted prize for a photographer, the Pulitzer Prize. The prize was awarded for an eerie picture he shot in famine-stricken Sudan which depicted a gravely malnourished child being watched by a vulture waiting in anticipation for the child’s death. He was jetted to Manhattan, New York where he was celebrated and he wined and dined with the top echelon of the photographing industry.

Two months later he was back in South Africa. He did little work in this period. During a lunch with a colleague he mentioned that he was thinking of forming a writer-photographer free-lance team and traveling Africa. This clearly shows that he was harboring ideas for the furthering of his career. It is therefore strange that barely a month later he was found dead in what looked like a death by suicide.

The Pulitzer Prize gave him a much greater status and only served to popularize his pictures that visually divulged the usually state-censored inner workings of the Apartheid regime to the world. The prize also meant that he would not find difficulty in finding work as a photographer and was an omen of good luck for his future. Why then would this gifted, budding photographer take his own life? The absence of evidence pointing to murder leaves a shadowy cloud around the circumstances of his death. At the end only he would know the events which would lead to his ultimate demise.

The following post contains information from The South African Chemical and Biological Warefare Program: An Overview, by Chandré Gould and Peter I. Folb.

While many details about Project Coast have not been made publicly available, one particular covert operation that has been partially documented is Operation Barnacle.

Operation Barnacle was established in the early 1980’s and involved members of the South African Defence Force and former Rhodesian security forces. The primary goal of Operation Barnacle was to eliminate the enemies of the Apartheid Government.

A number of these covert assassinations were carried out by utilising a variety of toxins and chemicals developed by Wouter Basson and other Apartheid scientists.

The majority of victims targeted by Operation Barnacle  were members of the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO) in Namibia. It is estimated that the number of deaths of prisoners of war and those who were considered “security risks” were well into the hundreds.

Johan Theron, who testified at Wouter Basson’s criminal trial, said that he was ordered to inject his victims with overdoses of muscle relaxants tuberine and scoline. This caused death by suffocation. All bodies were disposed of by throwing them out of aircraft into the sea.

Other victims of Operation Barnacle included members of the ANC, members of the United Democratic Front, individuals in the South African Council of Churches and its associated organizations and even  members of the SADF who threatened to reveal the workings of the Apartheid Government.

Operation Barnacle was just one of the many covert operations initiated by the Apartheid Government under Project Coast. But how many similar operations were there? How many deaths were the Apartheid Government responsible for? And what other atrocities did they commit.

We might never know.