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Police Identify British Native as Spy

February 3, 1989

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ A British-born woman who escaped from black nationalist guerrillas in Angola had been a South African police spy since 1981, police headquarters said today.

Olivia Forsyth, 28, spent six months holed up in the British Embassy in Luanda, Angola, last year after she escaped from African National Congress guerrillas who had held her under guard for 22 months. She was allowed to leave Luanda in November, flew to London, and then returned to South Africa.

Until today, neither she nor South African police would comment on the ANC’s allegation that she was a spy who had infiltrated the guerrilla movement. Her father, Peter Forsyth, had insisted she was a journalist.

The head of the police security branch, Maj. Gen. Basie Smit, said in a statement that Miss Forsyth was a police lieutenant who gathered ″valuable information″ after pretending to defect to the ANC in 1986. Smit said she was tortured at an ANC camp in Angola.

Smit also disclosed the identity of another police spy, Joy Harnden, who infiltrated prominent anti-apartheid organizations in South Africa such as the Black Sash civil rights group and the End Consription Campaign.

Both women ″performed a great duty for South Africa ... in exceptionally dangerous circumstances,″ said Smit. He said details of their assignments were being disclosed to counter a ″twisted account″ that might come from the ANC.

Police also issued a statement from Miss Forsyth, who holds British and South African citizenship.

In the statement, she asserted that the ANC was wracked by ethnic conflict, disillusionment and alcoholism. She said the ANC’s exiled leadership did not want ANC leader Nelson Mandela released from prison in South Africa because they felt he was more useful to them as a martyr. She also said Mandela’s wife, Winnie, was an “embarassment” to the ANC.

The ANC was outlawed by the South African government in 1960 and began a bombing and sabotage campaign in 1961 aimed at undermining the white-minority government.

Miss Forsyth said she tried to convince the ANC that she was a defector from the South African security forces and made a pre-planned confession containing both factual and false information.

While the ANC investigated her claims, she said, she was held under ″diabolical″ conditions at the guerrilla movement’s Quatro rehabilitation camp in Angola. She later was taken to a house in Luanda and escaped from it in May when her guards became drunk, she said.

Miss Forsyth said her first spying mission came in 1982, when she was assigned by police to infiltrate anti-apartheid student organizations at Rhodes University, in the eastern Cape Province town of Grahamstown.

A reporter for South Africa’s Argus newspaper group interviewed Miss Forsyth prior to the release of the police statement, and quoted her account of being a campus spy.

″I had to adopt a radical left-wing lifestyle in every respect, from dress, language and manners to living in left-wing communes,″ she was quoted as saying. ″My parents at this stage knew nothing of my real role and they were extremely disappointed.″

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