Apartheid Guns and Money - A tale of profit

Shining a light on apartheid’s corruption secrets

Shining a light on apartheid’s corruption secrets

“van Vuuren shows that the struggle against corruption is indeed a human rights struggle and that, as we know from South Africa’s own history, it can be won. But it must be fought for.” – Jacob Dlamini, author of Askari

“This important book seeks to uncover one of the key secrets of the last decades of the apartheid era. [It’s] a timely reminder that the founding values of our new Constitution are key to building a democracy.” – Justice Kate O’Regan, former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa

“This is a crucial book at a vital time in our history. It is a must read!” – Andrew Feinstein, fromer ANC MP, author of The Shadow World

South Africa remains a deeply unequal society battling the legacy of apartheid and the persistence of corrupt networks that seek to ‘capture’ its democratically elected leaders. As Hennie van Vuuren of Open Secrets argues, in the absence of accountability, corrupt networks of the past stay in business. Rather than face justice, they invite members of the new elite to the table.

In over 600 pages, this meticulously researched book finally lifts the lid on some of the darkest secrets of apartheid’s economic crimes, weaving together a treasure trove of newly declassified documents and eyewitness accounts. This is an exposé of the machinery created in defence of apartheid and in support of sanctions busting and the people who profited: heads of states, arms dealers, aristocrats, plutocrats, senators, bankers, spies, journalists and members of secret lobby groups. In creating the apartheid arms money machine they were complicit in a crime against humanity.

Whistleblowers were assassinated and ordinary people suffered. Finally, this network of profit is revealed.

In forging its future, a new generation of South Africans need to grapple with the baffling silence regarding apartheid-era economic crime and ask difficult questions of those who profited from it. This book provides the evidence and the motivation to do so.


• The role of banks in economic malfeasance during apartheid, at the centre of which is an ‘arms money machine’, a secret international system used to break the arms embargo. 
• The trail of money laundering that enabled the South African Defence Force to move secret funds to the value of over R500 billion (current value) on covert defence projects and weapons in violation of apartheid-era sanctions.
• A covert network of over 50 countries, including big powers and sworn enemies, was constructed to counter sanctions and illegally supply guns to Pretoria. This includes the members of the Security Council meant to police sanctions: China, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States. The book reveals many of their identies, hidden until now.
• Details of the National Party’s key funders during the 1980s.
• How mysterious murders of National Party insiders and anti-apartheid activists, such as Dulcie September, may have been linked to Pretoria’s sanctions-busting activities.
• The networks of oil and arms sanctions busters linked to the corrupt post-apartheid arms deal.
• Details of how crimes of the past continue to haunt and cost the South African public today. 


Hennie van Vuuren is a researcher and anti-corruption activist. He is Director of Open Secrets, a non-profit working on private sector accountability for economic crime and related human rights violations. He is a past fellow of the Open Society Foundation for South Africa and Director at the Institute for Security Studies. He is active in the Right2Know Campaign. He is the co-author (with Paul Holden) of the book The Devil in the Detail: How the Arms Deal Changed Everything (2011).

ISBN 978-1-4314-2484-9
GENRE Current Affairs
FORMAT Trade Paperback 
SIZE 235x155mm
EXTENT 624pp
RIGHTS Southern African rights
RELEASE May 2017