The Demise Of A CIA Operative and SACP Member In South Africa
|An "how times have changed" item you may find interesting.
THE FULSOME PRAISE heaped on Frank Ferrari, the vice-president of
ProVentures Inc, the advisory group with a focus on Africa, who died
last week, aged 80, revealed clearly how times and political fortunes
have changed in the 17 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the
start of South Africa’s transition.
Yet there were quite a few eyebrows — as well as hackles — raised
following the local plaudits accorded Ferrari who was little known
among the general populace. But he was well known to the political
leadership and was described by minister to the presidency, Essop
Pahad, as “one of South Africa’s struggle heroes”.
In the fairly recent past Ferrari was also lauded by the likes of
Nelson Mandela's biographer Anthony Sampson and by Mandela himself.
Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu and President Thabo Mbeki both sent
Pahad went on to describe Ferrari as “one of our very own”. It was this
comment, as well as Mbeki’s reaction that raised eyebrows among a
number of veterans of the exile years. They recalled that Ferrari was
once regarded as one of the main diplomatic fronts for “the enemy”.
This attitude applied particularly among leading members of the South
African Communist Party (SACP) of which both Mbeki and Pahad had very
much been part. For Ferrari played a central role in the cold war
battle between the United States and the Soviet Union, a fact missing
from his obituaries.
The Soviet Union, of course, backed the ANC in exile and, largely
through the SACP, provided funding and logistical support. The US was
caught in a bind. Because of its investments in South Africa and, until
1975, its alliance with Portugal in NATO, it could not supply overt
support to the ANC or to the anti-colonial forces in Angola, Mozambique
In any event, by being linked to the SACP and therefore backed by the
Soviet Union, the ANC was seen by the bulk of the US establishment as a
“pro-Soviet” or even “terrorist” organisation. But, at the same time,
the US administration could not be seen overtly to support apartheid or
Yet the predicted winds of change were sweeping through Africa in the
second half of the last century. It was obvious that it was likely that
leading members of exiled opposition movements might one day become
leaders of newly independent or non-racist states. So, in the bipolar
politics of the cold war, it was deemed that political activists
should, so far as possible, be allied with the West as opposed the
It was for this reason that a variety of organisations were established
and financed through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the
United States. Other national security agencies, such as Britain’s MI 5
and MI 6 and their counterparts in France, Germany and Israel’s Mossad
were all similarly involved, but to a lesser degree. All helped, in
one way or another,, to provide assitance to the anti-apartheid cause
and to individual activists, often whilke the sponsoring governments
took a different, public, position.
The big, international “non-communist” fronts were set up with funding
from the CIA which also provided usually clandestine finance and
support for various radical, but anti-Soviet publications and groups.
Heavily involved here too, were the Swedes, especially those organised
around Prime Minister Olof Palme’s “kitchen cabinet”, which included
Lars-Gunnar Eriksson, head of the International University Exchange
This high-powered Swedish group shared the anti-Soviet views of their
Western allies, but seemed to be more uncomfortable with support or
even tolerance of the apartheid system Unlike the US administration,
they tended to be overt in their anti-apartheid opposition.
This was one of the main reasons the IUEF was targeted and penetrated
by South African security in the shape of police spy Craig Williamson
and his wife, Ingrid Bacher. So far as the apartheid government was
concerned, any opposition to the system — “communist” or
“non-communist” — was anathema.
In this cold war environment, Frank Ferrari was a vice-president for 30
years of the CIA-funded African-American Institute. He also played a
key role in the 1950s in the World Assembly of Youth (WAY) ,
established by the CIA to counteract the influence of the Soviet-backed
World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY).
Ferrari was also involved in the Foundation for Youth and Student
Affairs which funded both WAY and the International Student Conference
as well as the Co-ordinating Secretariat of National Student Unions,
known by the acronym, Cosec.
For the SACP and, therefore, the ANC in exile, the WAY and all
associated with it were “the enemy”. “Progressive” South African
students affiliated to the the WFDY which, in turn, hosted a number of
them, several whom are today in prominent positions in South Africa.
So there were obviously eyebrows raised at the fulsome praise accorded
Frank Ferrari by the likes of Essop Pahad, who was, until fairly
recently, a politburo member of the SACP. Many SACP members were also
unaware of how close Mbeki, an SACP politburo member until 1989, was to
Such information raised hackles among those in the SACP who still
harbour the memories of that cold war era. But hackles also rose among
some former Liberal Party members who inadvertently received funding
via Ferrari and the CIA, and, as a result, were castigated by the ANC
as “stooges” of the CIA.
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