29 October 2010

NEW COLLECTION: AL3283 - The De Wet Potgieter collection

Building on his document collection collected throughout his career, investigative journalist and author, De Wet Potgieter, was employed by SAHA as a contractor during 2009 to 2010 to conduct, transcribe and translate interviews with former high-ranking officials in the South African Defence Force (SADF) and the South African Police (SAP). The interviewees include Lieutenant Vic McPherson, SAP security branch policeman; Major-General Chris Thirion, deputy chief of staff in SADF Intelligence; General Johann van der Merwe, apartheid South Africa's last police commissioner; Major-General Herman Stadler, head of the SAP security branch intelligence unit; Colonel Henk Heslinga, head of the Pretoria murder and robbery squad, double agent, and member of the Goldstone Commission; General Tienie Groenewald, chief director of military intelligence; Colonel Lucas Ras, SAP security branch; Inspector Joppie van Staden, police inspector attached to the bomb disposal unit, and Detective Warrant Officer Drummond Hammond, attached to the organised crime intelligence unit. Most of these interviews were conducted in Afrikaans, with only one interview in English.

The document collection consists of materials pertaining to many covert operations and front organisation of the South African Defence Force (SADF), and the undercover operations of the Security Branch of the South African Police (SAP). The section on the right-wing organisations in South Africa contains materials relating to the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), the Boerestaat Party, the Boeremag (Boer Force), and include splinter groups the Blanke Bevrydingsbeweging van Suid-Afrika (BBB), Boere Weerstandsbeweging (BWB), Huis van Oranje, Orde Boerevolk, Wit Wolwe, and the Afrikaner Boerevolk.

In his narrative to the collection De Wet Potgieter explains:

"As a result of my work as court reporter I came into contact with a lot of security policemen and intelligence operatives who made a point of talking to members of the Afrikaans language newspapers and passing on bits and pieces of information that the "lefties" did not get. Little did I realise at that stage that this was part of a very deliberate well orchestrated campaign in sowing dissent and disinformation to the media."

All through the years he was to keep "each and every document, top secret information and other material leaked" to him carefully collected in boxes. Due to the nature of this collection a substantial portion of the material is in Afrikaans.

The selection of his colleague Doug Lee's images complements the oral narratives and the document collection as it contains many images of the individuals, events and activities portrayed and documented in both. Long-time friends Doug Lee and De Wet Potgieter started working together at the Afrikaans Sunday newspaper "Rapport" in the early 1990s. Together the two covered many groundbreaking stories, forming a formidable team as investigative journalist and news photographer. Doug Lee's photographs, many of which are a result of his teamwork with De Wet Potgieter, document historic events leading up to the first post-apartheid democratic elections in South Africa in 1994. The photographs are also significant for their wide coverage of right-wing activities and events, including many images of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader Eugene Terre'Blanche, as well as images of former South African presidents PW Botha and FW de Klerk, Freedom Front leader Constand Viljoen, and former South African police commissioner, General Johann van der Merwe.

De Wet Potgieter is the author of "Contraband, South Africa and the International Trade in Ivory and Rhino Horn", published by Quellerie Publishers in 1995 and "Total Onslaught", published by Zebra Publishers in 2007.