Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Apartheid: Biological and Chemical Warfare Program

Front Companies

The first of the four front companies established by Basson was Delta G Scientific Company in November 1982. Delta G. was primarily responsible for the research, production and development of biological and chemical agents that ranged from irritating to lethal. Philip Mijburgh headed Delta G. and reported directly to Basson. A majority of the products developed at the company were tested at Roodeplaat Research Laboratories (RRL) which was established in November of that same year.

RRL, initially headed by Daan Goosen, was primarily responsible for the research, development and production of a range of biological and chemical pathogens to be used for defensive and allegedly offensive purposes. Some of the agents produced and tested at RRL during the 1980s included, anthrax, botulinum, cholera, plague, ricin, E. coli, Ebola and Marburg virus. Burgess and Purkitt state that genetic engineering research was also a component of Project Coast and led to the research of lethal bacterial agents which would affect only non-white people.

Bacteria for biowarfare
Bacteria for biowarfare
 
Protechnik was a large and highly secretive nuclear, biological and chemical warfare plant. Although it researched and produced many agents, it primarily developed defensive equipment for use against chemical weapons. The fourth front company, Infadel, dealt to a smaller degree with the research and development of the CBW. The company dealt mostly with the financial and administrative management related to RRL and Delta G. It is believed that Infadel, in particular was established in order to secretly channel money between military and research facilities.

According to Gould and Folb, not all of the scientists and medical staff employed by the front companies were aware of their role in the development and utilization of the CBW they researched and produced. The reason that many of the employees knew little about the Project Coasts objectives was primarily because of the intense secrecy surrounding the program. Moreover, many of them believed that the country was in a state of war and they were merely performing their patriotic duty to protect their country.

Allegedly, a large portion of the research and development of the CBW produced by the front companies under the direction of Basson was used in the assassination and destruction of anti-apartheid leaders, militants and other regime enemies. Basson was purportedly involved in several lethal covert operations that were believed to have led to the elimination of hundreds of regime enemies by use of various deadly toxins. The operations that were claimed to have occurred in the early to mid 1980s were Operation Barnacle and Operation Duel. Both operations were said to have resulted in the deaths of several hundred military prisoners and enemies of the state. Many of the bodies were allegedly disposed of by dumping them into the ocean.

There were also claims by black leaders in South Africa, Namibia and Angola that chemical weapons were used in an effort to control protesting crowds and against guerilla militants. The military and police were said to have frequently used substances believed to be more dangerous than standard tear gas on crowds, which supposedly caused long term health damage to their recipients. However, the South African government of the time repeatedly denied such accusations and even claimed that it was the black troops who used chemical weapons against them.

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