How the apartheid government turned the ocean into a graveyard

Ex-security force members describe how, from the late 1970s, activists were murdered and dumped in the sea

27 September 2020 - 19:29 By Michael Schmidt

In the late 1970s, as the apartheid government fought a desperate and dirty battle to stay in power, its security forces devised a chilling tactic. A shadowy, top­-secret unit called Delta 40 was established, tasked with the murder of hundreds of ANC, PAC and Swapo members. Victims’ bodies were flung from aircraft into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South West Africa (Namibia). Michael Schmidt’s new book, Death Flight: Apartheid’s Secret Doctrine of Disappearance, exposes these sinister missions. In this extract from chapter 28, informants Danie Phaal and Johan Theron testify to crimes committed in some of apartheid’s darkest hours...

There’s never been a more important time to support independent media.

From World War 1 to present-day cosmopolitan South Africa and beyond, the Sunday Times has been a pillar in covering the stories that matter to you.

For just R80 you can become a premium member (digital access) and support a publication that has played an important political and social role in South Africa for over a century of Sundays. You can cancel anytime.

Already subscribed? Sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.