The launch of London Recruits: The Secret War Against Apartheid, edited by Ken Keable, was held at The Book Lounge earlier this week. This lively event offered readers who attended an unusual display of the tools and tricks of those who contributed to the struggle in clandestine ways. Ronnie Kasrils, former Minister of Intelligence and author of The Unlikely Secret Agent, joined Keable in an intriguing discussion and recollection.
Kasrils welcomed the various “London Recruits” present in the audience, as well as the Dutch activist, Klaas de Jonge, whose “footprint in our history is rather large.” He and his wife, Helen Pastoors, brought weapons into the country from Maputo over several years, burying equipment in dead letter boxes, and providing sketches to incoming MK cadres.
The book, which was first published in the UK by Merlin Press, is a collection of narratives written by those who served the anti-apartheid movement, mostly recruited from the Young Communist Party.
Dennis Walsh showed the patterned inside of the false-bottomed suitcase that deceived the eye in order to conceal its contents. It was one of some 200 similar pieces of luggage that were constructed to serve this purpose. “It worked brilliantly,” said Walsh. “It was a small contribution but we were very proud to have made it.”
Tim Jenkins unpacked a shopping bag which contained “a real live leaflet bomb”. Initially conceived of as the “bucket bomb”, the design that Kasrils had taught him to create. However, “a nice white boy like me would never be seen carrying a bucket around town” so a modified plan permitted him to wander around town undetected carrying a supermarket packet instead. “Beneath my green tea, facial tissues and poppadums,” said a grinning Jenkins, as he unpacked his groceries, “is this big fat battery, the timer, the explosives…”
A vibrant and fascinating question and answer session ensued, with many old friends in the audience recollecting and reconnecting, concluding a tremendously successful launch.