Ronnie Kasrils (1938-) was born and educated in Johannesburg at King Edward VII School. He started off as a script writer for a film studio in Johannesburg and then for Lever Brothers. Kasrils spent a few years in Durban occupying various roles. He worked in an advertising agency in Durban's Victoria Embankment. He also worked at the Durban-branch (Grey Street) of the New Age newspaper. He was later arrested in Durban for anti-Apartheid activism.
Prompted by the Sharpeville massacre, Kasrils joined the ANC in 1960. He became a member of the armed wing of the ANC Umkhonto we Sizwe, the following year, and participated in many sabotage operations, some of which were with his wife, Eleanor.
Pursued by the police, the couple fled into exile in 1963 after Eleanor’s brave escape from detention. Exiled for 27 years, Kasrils was based in London, Luanda, Maputo, and Lusaka. He worked underground for the ANC in South Africa during Operation Vula, a plan by the ANC to have a structure in place designed to overthrow the apartheid regime.
After the first democratic elections in South Africa, Kasrils was appointed Deputy Minister of Defence from 1994 to 1999. He then became Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry from 1999 to 2004, when he was appointed Minister of Intelligence Services until he submitted his resignation in September 2008.
Author of bestselling autobiography, Armed and Dangerous (1993), Kasrils emerged as the country’s Sunday Times Alan Paton Award winner in 2011, for The Unlikely Secret Agent, a memoir based on the life of his late wife, a leading figure in the apartheid struggle, who died in 2009 at the age of 73. The Unlikely Secret Agent, Kasrils says, “[It] is a testament and tribute to Eleanor […] I wanted people to realise who she was and what she had done. I also wanted South Africans to realise what our people are like and how the ordinary, average person has within themselves the most amazing qualities [...]”
Excerpt from Armed and Dangerous: From Undercover Struggle to Freedom (2004:24):
That very morning thousands of people had begun marching into the city from Cato Manor – a sprawling shanty-town behind the Berea. Their aim was to reach the city prison and demand the release of their leaders. Like a river, they split up into various streams to avoid the police. A group of marchers were blocked by a hastily-erected police barricade right on our doorstep.
There were people of both sexes and all ages, poorly dressed and down at heel, unarmed save for a pitiful assortment of sticks carried by some of the men. Blocking their paths were lines of police with sten-guns pointed straight at them. There was silence from the people. They remained calm and dignified.
White suburbanites sheltered indoors, peering nervously from behind barred windows. A couple of white men, pistols in their belts, strutted out into the street and took up positions behind the police lines. A young black man with a beard, dressed in a ragged coat, parleyed with a police commander who towered over him. The police line gave the appearance of nonchalance but you could make out the nervous twitching of trigger-fingers. I debated whether to join the township people. Before I could decide, the crowd turned about and marched peacefully back to Cato Manor.
1993. Armed and dangerous: my undercover struggle against apartheid. Oxford: Heinemann.
2004. Armed and dangerous: from undercover struggle to freedom. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball.
2010. The Unlikely Secret Agent. Auckland Park: Jacana Media.
Academic Articles and Speeches:
1996. Defence and democracy. Durban: University of Natal
1997. Steckbrieflich gesucht undercover gegen Apartheid. Essen Neue-Impulse-Verl. Available at: Worldcat.
2002. (With M. Ozinsky). Declaration of Conscience on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by South Africans of Jewish Descent. Middle East Policy, v9 n1 (March 2002): 58-63. Available at: Wiley Online Library.
2003. 2003 budget votes National Assembly and National Council of Provinces. Pretoria, South Africa: Dept. of Water Affairs and Forestry. Available at: WorldCat.
2005. South African Intelligence Services: meeting the challenges of the 21st century: spies, soothsayers, sangomas!: budget vote address. South Africa: Ministry for Intelligence Services, Republic of South Africa. Available at: WorldCat.
2006. Who will guard the guards? Budget vote address. Pretoria: Ministry for Intelligence Services. Available at: ArticleFirst.
2007. Speech to the South African Parliament on the 40TH Anniversary of the Israeli
Occupation. Middle East Policy, 14, no. 3: 45-48. Blackwell Publishing.
2007. David and Goliath: who is who in the Middle East. Marshalltown, South Africa: Umrabulo. Available at: Worldcat.
2008. To spy or not to spy? Budget vote address. Cape Town: Ministry, Intelligence Services, Republic of South Africa. Available at: Worldcat.
2008. Tribute - The Constant Communist -- Brian Percy Bunting (1920-2008). London, South African Communist Party. The African Communist. no. 176: 43. Available at: ArticleFirst.
2008. Tribute - A time for war and peace -- In memory of Cassius Maake. London: South African Communist Party, 1960-. The African Communist. no. 176: 51. Available at: ArticleFirst.
2008. Anniversary of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale - Turning point in the struggle against apartheid. London, South African Communist Party, 1960-.
The African Communist. no. 175: 54. Available at: ArticleFirst.
2010. Coming to terms with the legacy of cde Joe Slovo. London, South African Communist Party, 1960-. The African Communist. no. 183: 42. Available at: ArticleFirst.
2012. (With J. Jimenez). Armado y peligroso. Tafalla, Nafarroa Txalaparta. Available at: Worldcat.