Apartheid Guns and Money

A Tale of Profit

November 2018 9781787380974 448pp


In its last decades, the apartheid regime was confronted with an existential threat. While internal resistance to the last whites-only government grew, mandatory international sanctions prohibited sales of strategic goods and arms to South Africa. To counter this, a global covert network of nearly fifty countries was built. In complete secrecy, allies in corporations, banks, governments and intelligence agencies across the world helped illegally supply guns and move cash in one of history’s biggest money laundering schemes. Whistleblowers were assassinated and ordinary people suffered.

Weaving together archival material, interviews and newly declassified documents, Apartheid Guns and Money exposes some of the darkest secrets of apartheid’s economic crimes, their murderous consequences, and those who profited: heads of state, arms dealers, aristocrats, bankers, spies, journalists and secret lobbyists. These revelations, and the difficult questions they pose, will both allow and force the new South Africa to confront its past.


‘Van Vuuren’s monumental work is a gripping story of conspiracy, assassination, bribery and two-faced global dishonesty . . . [he] methodically and relentlessly exposes what he calls ‘the arms money machine.’ — The Spectator

‘It’s not very often that a book really reshapes our perception of an issue, but Hennie van Vuuren’s Apartheid Guns and Money is one . . .the result of a decade of meticulous, painstaking work . . . [it] is a compelling and convincing narrative.’ — The Conversation

Apartheid Guns and Money is a must read for any researcher aiming to learn more about the global politico-economic arrangements which sustained apartheid in South Africa for decades.’ — African Studies Quarterly

‘[Apartheid Guns and Money is an] extraordinary compilation and analysis of the deep layers of state crime.’ — State Crime Journal

‘This book was long overdue. Hennie van Vuuren follows the money and the weapons and thereby shines light on the role of Western enablers in keeping the South African Apartheid-regime in power. Corrupt Western banks, arms companies and governments helped to bust sanctions, to buy arms and oil and thereby became the driver for the conflict. Van Vuuren makes sure that the shame of the past will haunt them.’ — Frederik Obermaier, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money

‘Shines a glaring, necessary light into the darkest corners of the apartheid state – and its enablers — at a time when South Africa is once again wrestling with the slithering, infectious curse of state corruption.’ — Andrew Harding, BBC Africa Correspondent and author of The Mayor of Mogadishu

‘Probably the single most important book that has been written about South Africa for the last twenty years.’ — Professor Achille Mbembe, author of On the Postcolony

‘A labour of political passion, this admirably well researched book is a must-read. Its most important achievement is to show that illicit trade does not occur in some parallel realm detached from corporate boardrooms and governments; it is stitched into the fabric of everyday statecraft and the exercise of power.’ — Jonny Steinberg, Professor of African Studies, Oxford University

‘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, former ANC MP, and author of The Shadow World


Hennie van Vuuren is a researcher and anti-corruption activist. Formerly director at the Institute for Security Studies, he is director of Open Secrets, a non-profit seeking private sector accountability for economic crime and related human rights violations. He is co-author of The Devil in the Detail: How the Arms Deal Changed Everything.

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