The Tamsen Chronicles

They Spied with their ‘Red’ Eyes

Of Cabbages & Kings by Oscar Tamsen

The Australian Government recently revealed it had caught three Communist Chinese spies red-handed and had summarily despatched them from the country. This news immediately brought back to my mind the widespread intrusion of pro-Russian undercover agents into Africa during the last century.

When I worked there as a foreign correspondent and journalist during the 1950s and 60s, one of my news interests was to prove to an unwilling Western world that Communist intelligence officers were red-anting the countries from Cairo to Cape Town with the aim of a major continent-wide takeover.

In those early days of the Cold War, London, Washington, Ottawa and the rest of the post-WW ll Western Democratic World considered my predictions — and those of other observers — as being sheer exaggerations and would never happen.

It was not long, however, before I first came across my first professional Russian spy who was actively plotting terrorist and other anti-West activities from a bolthole in the Sudan.

I unearthed this KGB-trained operative while I was researching the Sudan’s new and fledgling cotton industry which was armed with plans to threaten the world’s then leading cotton growing countries and was therefore of considerable international news value to me.

I had discovered, quite by accident, that one of the Sudan’s foreign agricultural advisors involved in its new cotton industry was a Russian man with a contrived identity who had lived outside his home country for a few years but had mysteriously and repeatedly travelled back there and to Europe while on a relatively low income, much to the amazement of his colleagues. When I arranged to meet him to talk about cotton, he was very obviously evasive and peculiarly intent on not wanting to speak to me, even about his agricultural work.

These facts and impressions immediately gave my nose-for-news a feeling that my new-won acquaintance had something to hide. Subsequent detailed investigations, which I made, proved to me that the man was more than an agriculturist and actually possessed too much detailed knowledge of little-known political matters in London and Washington and had secretly boasted to one of his Sudanese colleagues that Moscow intended to one day run the world.

As a Soviet informer, it eventually became factually apparent that this man’s main interest was to spread the Russian Communist ideology among African political figureheads; to report back to Moscow on important local installations and on any government people showing distinct anti-Communist beliefs and actions.

When the African National Congress and its associated South African Communist Party were unmasked some years later, my Russian spy was pinpointed as having been a kingpin in a pan-African Moscow-run communications network which planted the seeds of destroying the Western Powers’ grip on the continent, but not necessarily Africa’s political allegiances.

The modus operandi adopted by this network was to prod Black Africa into ridding it’s lands of all British, French, Belgian, Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish government administrators. Where necessary, extreme terrorist force was advocated.

Using his profession of agricultural engineer as a front, my Russian acquaintance also set out to co-ordinate a massive undercover network of pro-Communist African teachers and other African elites who could be used to advance the Soviet Kremlin’s various political objectives in all corners of Africa.

Interestingly, although I wrote a guarded article on my discovery of a Russian spy in the middle of Africa, no official action was taken by the Western authorities at the time, and he was left to continue to do his dastardly work. One theory that was advanced to me some years later by an intelligence officer was that Britain’s Mi6 could not handle the large number of pro-Communist spies operating throughout Africa and the U.S. CIA initially had a policy of ignoring the continent’s overall security compared to that during the Korean War.

From my research, it would even appear to Blind Freddy that the current Chinese Communist interest in the Pacific and in New Zealand and Australia is a page out of the old Russian Communist intelligence handbook and grand plan which failed totally in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was eventually torn down as a result of the Soviet Union’s Glasnost.

Another prominent Russian spy who worked unsuccessfully in Africa was a decorated member of Moscow’s old WWll spy organisation. He was appointed as a colonel in the KGB, and he managed to successfully persuade South Africa’s A.N.C. leader, Nelson Mandela, to establish the South African Communist Party and supplied the A.N.C.’s armed wing, Umkonto We Sizwe (The Spear of the Nation) with ample terrorist training and arms and ammunition secretly obtained from behind the Iron Curtain, separating East from West.

As a pro-Soviet spy and terrorist organiser, he worked secretly for many years in dark political corners in South Africa, Rhodesia, South-West Africa and neighbouring Mozambique without any Western knowledge of his hidden activities. This was in spite of the fact that he was responsible for spreading the Communist word literally throughout the continent from Cape Town to Cairo.

In spite of his efforts — and those of countless other Russian spies — most of the now Independent Africa has not taken any real hold on Communism and has shown that spying with even many ‘boots on the ground’ has little lasting political effect. This knowledge may be a good omen to those Australians who currently fear this country is becoming a playground for foreign spies with possible Communist intrusions in mind.

Today’s rash of electronic cyber-attacks and on-line hackings are, however, a far different story, just as the Australian and other Western governments are now finding to their dismay. Hopefully, since the recent expulsion of the three Chinese spies from this country, Australia may now be a less attractive proposition for locally resident foreign secret service operatives. Time will only tell.

Yamba resident and former foreign correspondent Oscar Tamsen whose work around the world from the early 1950s saw him in Colonial Africa for nearly two decades as a working journalist. Oscar’s years in the ‘Dark Continent,’ as it was then known, had him travelling from Cairo to Cape Town, meeting some of the world’s top newsmakers of the time as well as participating in a number of wars and rebellions.